My brothers and I join forces a second time to ride with a friend Casey from home base in Moscow, Idaho to an idyllic spot along Marble Creek in the St. Joe Ranger District where we probe the mysteries of MREs and revel at a preternaturally bright moon.
It looks like this may become an annual pilgrimage. Last year we kept going in circles.¹ We had better plans this time.
Our brother Jeremy lives near the water over in Washington state and has somehow prioritized family friendly watercraft over the two wheeled variety. So this year a co-worker of Jesse’s, Casey, was our Jeremy proxy. We didn’t have time to coach him on our missing brother’s mannerisms but his acting was okay.
Like last year, we would ride in the St. Joe Ranger District of the Clearwater National Forest. It’s a beautiful mix of crystal clear creeks and lakes, high mountain crags and shadowy forests connected by interesting and sometimes technical dirt roads and trails.
Since I live down in Boise, my trip begins with 300 miles of slab going north. The twisty two-lane route through central Idaho is beautiful in its own right, though traffic speeds leave me with more TKC chicken strip than I wanted. I rode the last hour under a nearly full moon, heated grips clicked on, This American Life² podcasts in my earbuds.³
Arriving in Moscow, Idaho, I crashed on my brother Joel’s couch and awoke to what looked like a gear explosion.
While waiting for our brother Jesse and Casey to get off work, Joel and I shopped for interesting camping gadgets. There had to be something we still needed. I noticed Joel’s Action Packer tub and played with positioning it on the GS wondering if it could help the three day, two-up camping ride Jess and I have planned in a few weeks. Joel noticed and liked the idea for himself so it was off to the hardware store for some stainless bolts to mount the thing on his bike.
Finally Jesse and Casey showed up, all ready to go. With our morning of lollygagging and window shopping, Joel and I were a bit behind. Insults and epithets were exchanged.
Let’s get this show on the road!
As usual, the first gas-up was in Clarkia at the typical small town gas station/bar/store. Jesse and Joel topped off their bikes then shut off the pump for Casey’s turn. But Casey couldn’t get it to come back on. A lady inside yelled instructions from the window: turn it on, turn it off. Pump the handle repeatedly. And so on. Apparently malfunctions aren’t uncommon.
When we couldn’t make it work she came out to demonstrate proper technique. But it didn’t work for her either in spite of her husband’s (I’m guessing) similarly helpful advice yelled from the same window.
As with any mechanical issue, a hammer came quickly into play. When even that didn’t work it was clear fate was against Casey. Perhaps an omen. At least the rest of us had plenty of fuel.
So onward. Marble Creek was our destination. There was a sweet spot as soon as we descended from the winding mountain road to the water. Jesse and Joel said they’d never seen it available. It was unexpectedly quiet for a holiday weekend. Maybe we beat the traffic!
It isn’t camping until the fire starts and since the area had been picked clean, Jesse waded across the cold water for fuel while I tended to the important task of photography.
Soon we were set. Beverages came out and we watched in anticipation as Jesse broke open one of the MREs a friend gave him. What would it contain?
I enjoyed looking up as stars filled the sky, nobody else around.
The big moon that followed me from Boise emerged from the trees to bathe our site in silvery light.
Our beasts of burden, weary from the day, rested heavily while we finished drinks around the fire.