Led astray by evolving, unmarked forest roads, and trying to beat the rain, we end up bovine bedfellows, one of us nursing an injury.
After a night of restless sleep on the lumpy, high mountain grass, we arose for coffee, a fire and planning.
Jesse brewed while Joel advised then we stood around to contemplate the day.
Clouds and smoke obscured the sunrise but we had a decent spectacle from our campsite.
Joel said he’d always wanted to get into the Mallard Larkins area¹ so even though there didn’t appear to be any roads in, we’d shoot for a little trail on the Forest Service map. If it didn’t pan out, we’d only have to backtrack about five miles to a road that should get us to Dworshak.
It hadn’t rained but the roads were damp, which meant we could zip along without eating dust. Woo-hoo. My brothers needed smoke breaks so I used the time to double-check the map. It looked like we were on track.
The busted sign at the last intersection turned out to be the last we would ever see on this trip. This is another smoking/map checking break at an unmarked intersection. It seemed fairly clear which direction was the one we wanted, so on we went.
I wanted to climb but got the “meh” response from my brothers. Gone are the days when I can beat them up, I suppose. That’s okay, the scenery was awesome and the ride fun on the road itself.
If we had to backtrack, there’s hardly a better place to do it. After some miles down the road, we found the trail that the FS map showed could get into the Mallard Larkins area but it looked a bit sketchy even at the head so we decided we’d rather spend our time getting down to Elk River and hopefully Dworshak Dam.
That meant backtracking to the intersection with the spring. We stood on the pegs and made quick time of it. The road down was a lot of fun for many miles—bare dirt, moist that morning, let us zip right along. We endured gravel for some miles at the end but it wasn’t too bad. We stopped for lunch when finally we got to water.
I was the only one who brought a stool. I think I should have rented it by the minute.
We forgot to bring cards or any other games so, as we often do along rivers, we made a game of targeting various things with rocks. We started with small rocks and farther targets then saw who could be the first to dislodge a nearby log. It seemed like a good time but maybe you had to be there.
After a nice lunch of baked potatoes from our mom’s garden, it began to rain a bit so we decided that was our cue to be on our way. The gravel road from this point was well oiled and looked slick in the light rain. I tested that idea with some throttle out of a corner and, sure enough, it was slick. Joel and I slowed down and avoided any get offs but Jesse had different luck.
I came around the corner and there he was lying in the road. We weren’t going too fast so I figured he was alright. I helped him stand the bike up and collect strewn items. He seemed more shook up than hurt. He said he actually got stood back up but then slid over the opposite way.
As we were getting things cinched back on, checking the bike for damage, his wrist was hurting more and more. Joel and I tried to help with strong doses of sarcasm and poking fun but it wasn’t doing the trick. Jesse didn’t seem his normal, youngest brother self. That told us it must really be bothering him. I used some bandage wrap from my kit to immobilize it and figured we had nothing else to do but continue as planned. Surely everything would work out fine.
We found only scratches and scrapes on Jesse’s bike. I was almost looking forward to the challenge of some roadside repair but, alas, the bike was in good working order. Even his home brew luggage system held up. Mostly.
There were no markings for any intersecting roads from there. The present direction seemed like the main road and somehow it felt like the main road was surely the one going where we wanted to go. So we rode and rode.
And then we ended up at a very familiar intersection, back at the base of the road leading up to where we camped the night before. Gah!
So we had ourselves a little think. I consulted the Forest Service map and saw we should be able to reach our goal, Elk River, on a series of unmarked roads. We headed back the way we’d come a few miles before turning off.
We encountered active logging and a slew of roads that no longer matched the map. We made our best guesses. The road we were on became less and less like a road. Soon we were on a trail. It was a really fun trail, though. I was glad to ride it. I guess we weren’t in the mood to stop for pictures, though.
The trail dumped us back out on the road we’d come in on — another loop. It was time for more thinking. It was getting later in the afternoon and there was still a lot of good camping in the area we were in. We decided to shoot for Elk River the next day and just set up camp somewhere nearby.
So we headed back towards Clarkia and then to Marble Creek. We still didn’t want to camp by roads or amenities so we followed side roads and trails. After exploring various options, we followed a fun trail down a draw and soon came in sight of … Clarkia — the day’s third inadvertent loop.
By then it was starting to rain and getting dim. We just wanted a fire so we gave up and camped right there in sight of town.
And what a lovely spot it was. We wanted to get our stuff in under the trees, out of the rain, so we used a hatchet to prune them up six or seven feet. In so doing we noticed this copse was also a favorite hideout for cows but by then it was raining too hard to leave. I shoveled away the cow pies to make room for my tent, hoping for a strong fire.
My brothers were sure my tent would be full of water since my rain fly isn’t as good as theirs. I hoped they were wrong.