On the third and fourth days of our annual Brother Ride, we leave the beautiful campsite along the shore of high mountain Big Trinity Lake with plans to descend to historic Atlanta, Idaho, then venture on trails unknown to camp along the North Fork of the Boise River before returning home.
The ride along Trinity Ridge is one of my favorite forest roads. My mind’s eye flips through memories here with Jessica, Laura and on my own, each an ebullient passage through crisp air carrying faint forest smells, earthy and herbal, among unlimited vistas.
My brothers Joel and Jeremy and I are leaving last night’s campsite on the shore of Big Trinity Lake for another day of mountain adventure. Today’s departure is an easygoing contrast to yesterday’s morning workout.
I start some rough mileage calculations across the Boise River Middle Fork bridge as I wait for my brothers. Yesterday’s washed-out road and retreat added a lot of unplanned miles. There’s no gas in Atlanta so we have to make do until tomorrow.
We have a little think and agree the extra miles to Atlanta will “probably” work out.
Joel served on the Farmington, Washington city council a few years so I think he’s interested to see the public works of an even smaller municipality. We stop to look a minute at the little hydroelectric dam a mile outside of town. At least they have electricity, unlike Silver City.¹
“By 1864, Boise Basin and Boise Valley had become southern strongholds … Unhappy with the way the war was going, Idaho’s Confederate majority showed little sympathy for those who favored Abraham Lincoln and the United States.”¹
It was with this sentiment that the town was named in celebration of the Civil War battle over Atlanta, Georgia. The name stuck even after residents learned the inspiring news of Confederate victory had been fake. In fact, the North took Atlanta.
We had camp neighbors and a marshy shore (not to mention the scary moose) last night so didn’t bathe in the lake. I feel grimey today. I’m sure my brothers do too. How about a hot shower? We’ve never had that on a ride.
Actually, now that I think about it, that isn’t totally true. In 2011 we were unable to access another high mountain lake, Crystal, and had to resort to Benewah Campground,¹ which had some showers we put to use.
But a hot spring — we’ve never done that on a ride.
At first the water feels too hot but after a minute we acclimate and would be glad to stay a while. But I’m kind of eager to get the remaining miles and mystery trail behind us.
“Shall we get a burger and beer?” I ask when we’ve all finished washing.
I couldn’t quite remember which Atlanta buildings the winter’s heavy snow had lain flat. I’m glad to see it wasn’t the lodge. After that nice shower, getting all pretty, a stop at Beaver Lodge will be sublime.
We are reminded inside that Atlanta Days is this coming weekend. Sherri, our easy smiling, grey-haired waitress, describes some of the festivities we’re going to miss out on, like chicken poop bingo.
That one takes some explaining. Luckily, we’re represented by the PR firm of Jeremy and all inquiries are made with aplomb.
Sherri explains that you put your name on a big bingo grid underneath a caged chicken. If it poops on your name, you’re on your way to winning. It sounds like something our mom should set up on her farm.
We leave Atlanta, fed and washed, and backtrack a dozen dusty miles along the Middle Fork and beyond. Clouds are building overhead but it’s still uncomfortably hot.
At Alexandar Flat, we turn onto an abandoned road, now a rutted ATV trail, to pop over the ridge to the North Fork of the Boise River. It’s still hot enough that Joel’s clutch goes out again while climbing up and we have to wait for it to cool.
We are speeding along the North Fork when I notice on the GPS we’ve passed the Short Creek trailhead. I hit the brakes, spin around and ride slowly back to find the narrow path dropping quickly off the edge of the road into Rabbit Creek.
I wade across and decide it’s doable after clearing some brush. I make it with one unfortunate stall but Joel hits an unlucky underwater rock. He and his bike go completely in. Another first!
Fortunately, Jeremy was right there to immediately help lift the bike so it’s not waterlogged. Only Joel is. If this is the first fifty yards, what will the rest be? It seems best not to think about it.
Jeremy and the TW power through as usual.
Across the creek, the trail meets the river and climbs along its bank, steep enough to give us occasional pause. We stop and help each other past a couple spots. We’re all hoping it gets easier before it gets harder.
Jeremy’s chain slips off and gets a kink because his motorcycle is only two inches (or something) off the ground and scrapes everything.
The satellite selected campsite is only a bit farther. After the bit of work getting here, I’m relieved to see it looks like a nice spot. Joel drains Rabbit Creek water out of his gear as the rest of us begin to unload.
We begin hustling to zip and stow as strong wind, rain and thunder bear down upon us. I guess we made it just in time. My upwind tent stakes pull out of the ground and I have to find heavy rocks to keep them in, so my tent doesn’t blow away.
We all turn and look when we hear loud cracking up the canyon side across the river. “I haven’t seen that before,” Joel remarks. “... a tree breaking off and sliding down the hill.”
The trees there look just like the ones around us, some already snapped off from earlier windstorms. We look up at their green tops bending above us and move farther into the clearing.
“I hope that didn’t drop any trees on our trail,” I think aloud as the wind and rain begin to subside.
We stay a while under the hastily erected tarp, invigorated by the storm and glad for reduced fire danger.
Once the sun is out and the tarp has been converted back to Jeremy’s tent, we walk up the trail to see if it does anything worse than what we’ve ridden, to make our ride plan for the morning. It all looks doable until we get down river and midway up the side of the canyon. There we face a long hillclimb that, based on tracks dug everywhere, has been troublemaker to many.
“I don’t think I can do it,” I offer. I don’t know about Joel and Jeremy but I think it would be a “maybe” for me even without camping gear on the bike. We’re always disappointed to retreat but we’re already low on gas and counting the miles to town. Battling to get up a climb isn’t going to help. Tomorrow we’ll ride back to the road.
“That’s a neat flower,” Joel remarks.
“Alright, I’ll take a picture.”
We laughed and talked around the fire as usual last night. We awake well-rested to a perfect sunny day then, also as usual, boil water for coffee and breakfast before packing leisurely for the day’s ride.
The trail is a little faster going back the other way — no surprises and nobody going underwater.
We get safely back to the road and briefly swap storm stories with a couple fishermen parked at the trailhead.
“I didn’t know you could ride motorcycles on that trail,” one of them says.
I just say “yep,” though I’m tempted to point out the motorcycle icon on the sign we’re next to.
My low fuel light went on yesterday and the bike has been stuttering today (though it doesn’t look that low) so Jeremy agrees to give up some of his gas when Joel runs out after a few miles on the road. The siphon is our most used tool by far.
Joel and Jeremy would like to get on the road back to their homes today so after topping off fuel in Idaho City, we opt for the highway home. Dual sport!
“It’ll be fine,” I assure Jeremy. The TW isn’t a speed machine but should be perfect for the winding, 45 MPH highway to Boise.
It is a happy home coming when we roll in my driveway and find the Husky, trailer and everything in its place. Thanks Nick (and any who helped)! We knew he’d made it safely home and the bike had made it as far as Bonneville Point but didn’t know how it all turned out.
Do I even need to say it? It was another great ride. The Husqvarna gave us day one grief that sadly meant the end for Nick. But like riding itself, we can only look forward and keep going. Until next time ...