My brothers and I ride for the first time as adults to camp in the mountains of the St. Joe Ranger District that we remember fondly from childhood.
Two of my younger brothers have purchased 250cc-ish dual sport bikes in the last eight months or so, their first since we were kids as best I can remember. So obviously a ride was in order.
I live in Boise. They’re 300 miles north in the Moscow area. I have the better bike for distance so I got the five day version of the three day trip. I got out later than I wanted to Thursday so cruised in the dark (no pictures) along the rivers, mountains and prairies that define central Idaho. Riding alone with no traffic for long distances in the dark feels like being on a space voyage. It’s pretty cool.
I got in late at my mom’s place in the countryside. The next morning we did some shopping for the trip and got ourselves packed up to head into the mountains. Filled with visions of bonfires, beer and fast single track (in reverse order), we head out. Bye mom!
We had a route in mind that would keep us on dirt or gravel roads over Moscow Mountain to Princeton, around Gold Hill to Laird Park and on to Clarkia. But we’d all ridden much of that same route recently¹ and were eager to get straight to the higher mountains and set up camp. So we simply took the two lane highway through Troy, Deary and Bovill over to Clarkia. It follows hills and curves through tall pines—a lot of fun on my GS but not so much for my brothers, vibrating along, full in the wind at their top speeds of about 60 MPH. Poor fellas. Their tanks hold only a few gallons so we stopped for gas in Clarkia.
These small towns seem always to have a single gas station/bar/store. In Clarkia it was the J&E Stop. In near-to-Boise Prairie, Idaho, it’s the Y Stop. This is pretty much the entire town of Clarkia, only a few buildings out of frame.
The GS seems to draw a bit of interest for folks in these towns. On my night ride up to Moscow I stopped in Cascade, Idaho, to zip in my liners and had three different guys stop to ask about the bike. Two of them asked the same question: “how high you jumped that thing?”
In Clarkia some older fella stopped to comment on the GS (“that one of them BMWs?”) and tell me about the Harley Glider he’s modifying for dirt riding. “Good luck!”
Full of gas and ambition, we left pavement for gravel then just dirt. It took only about twenty minutes to reach our cruising altitude of about 6,000 feet. We notice a little pull out with an area map and decided it was a good place to break.
We didn’t rest long. We were eager to camp so we could lighten that load of beer.
The rocks on the ridge up yonder were a standard destination for family outings when we were kids. There’s a small lake over the other side. We stopped and considered it but decided to continue on in search of better seclusion.
It was great to ride along the dirt road with the setting sun at our backs, miles of views and autumn colors painting the slopes around us. After some miles, we stopped to consider another campsite candidate.
I noticed some shiny metal on the rocks and suggested Jesse should go check it out. He obliged, reporting it’s a memorial plaque for someone. Then he started yelling about a spider and came scrambling back up like his hair was on fire, a big spider still hanging off him.
With that drama behind us, we posed for a timer shot, for which I offered my cheesiest smile.
A road and outhouse were nearby so, although this was a nice spot, it didn’t feel like camping yet. We decided we wanted to get up on the ridge. There was a hint of trail we followed up and then just rode cross country.
This was my part of the ride to struggle. I surely do wish the GS had a lower first gear or, better yet, a low range I could switch to. Part of the ride to this point was navigating through a tight patch of woods with tall grass and deadfall. My brothers rode through pretty easily but all the clutch feathering I had to do left the GS smelling like a lump of burning plastic.
There was a nice area above Crater Lake but not much room for tents. We retreated back along the ridge looking for the ideal spot.
Somehow I followed my brothers down the slope on the lumpy grass and back up to turn around without falling over, while in my head I continued to rant about needing a lower first gear.
We considered a spot on a mound among some boulders that would have felt like camping at Stonehenge or something but again we didn’t see room for the tents. We chose a relatively flat area right next to the mound.
This is what adventure riding is all about. Night came quickly as we got our fire going.
Since Jesse has that awesome milk crate zip tied to his tail, we tried to give him most of the beer load. He was glad for the occasion to lighten his bike.
Jesse’s phone does a surprisingly good job of pumping out the MP3s he’s loaded on there. Soon the party was started. I know it ain’t pretty but that’s just how us Abbotts get down. Even the night sky above seemed to blush.
The phone battery can only go so far. As Jesse went to turn in he found one of those same spiders (he reported) but even larger crawling around in his tent. There was yelling and knives came out. The perfect conclusion to a day.