South and Central Idaho (State #45)

7/19/15

 

Idaho was therapy for me.

 

I left Wyoming on such a high that a crash was inevitable. Early on I felt directionless puttering around Idaho Falls. I burned through five hours at the library browsing pictures and articles on imgur and Reddit. The next morning (7/18/15) I woke up early and emerged from my car late. I ate two slices of yesterday’s pizza for breakfast and did what I knew I’d be successful at. I drove.

 

I made it out to Craters of the Moon National Monument (site / wiki) before mid-day, and I ate two more slices for brunch.

 


 

 

The North American tectonic plate is drifting west, and 10 – 11 million years ago the hotspot which now resides under Yellowstone used to be under central Idaho. Craters of the Moon sits on a massive lava field created during that period. The most interesting formation to explore are the lava tubes.

 

A tube called Indian Tunnel is open to hiking. The path is lit by caved-in skylights, and I recognized horizontal rock ridges on the walls indicating the level of the lava river. The cave walls were busy with small blue colored birds bringing food back to their noisy chicks.

 

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Indian Tunnel.

 

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Where’s a magnifying glass when you need one.

 

Craters of the Moon was worth the visit, but at the time I was just going through the motions. I ate the last slice and motored west.

 

I started north on Highway 75 through the town of Bellevue, but instead of staying on 75 and looping through Stanley, I commanded my GPS to take me on the most direct route to Missoula. My course jogged from northwest to northeast, and the pavement became gravel, then dirt. I submerged my excitement in melancholy, not yet ready to shed self-pity. The scenery didn’t make it easy though.

 

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Sawtooth National Forest. Service Road 408. Approximately: 43.811, -114.257

 

A couple hours and a family size bag of Doritos later, I pulled off the road near Ellis to start shopping for campsites. There I found a pair of climbers, Michael and Mandy.

 

They were in their 20’s and had taken a week away from work to climb around the Sawtooth Range. They were really friendly people, but again, I was on stilts just to make pleasant conversation, and I knew I couldn’t balance socializing for too long. Michael encouraged me to check out a pull-off three or four miles north. He said it led to a patch of dirt right next to the river complete with its own fire pit. I drove away and regained a little conviction. I stopped early and loaded my roof rack with lightweight drift wood.

 

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Salmon River off Highway 93.

 

I’m not certain that I found the exact site Michael was talking about, but I have no complaints.

 

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Sometimes the best sites are free.

 

The wood burned well, and I watched the fire and stars past midnight. The next morning I picked up some of the easier pieces trash around camp and left an armful of wood behind.

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