Can you stand one more Idaho Road Report?
It was an itch that needed to be scratched! We had taken a number of trips into the secondary roads of the North West US over the past few years. While we had thoroughly enjoyed the trips, we frequently found ourselves at the end of the pavement looking at a fascinating gravel road going off into the unknown. (Unknown to us that is.) While my ST is a great bike on the highway it’s not very happy on gravel.
In the meantime, we had each acquired dual-sport bikes in the past couple of years and had started exploring the less travelled roads close to home. However, some great road reports here on ADVrider kept me thinking about the back roads of Idaho. In the midst of last winter Tom came across an ad for the Stanley Stomp, a rally put on by the Idaho BMW Riders. The rally was being held in August at the Sawtooth Lodge in Grandjean, in the spectacular Sawtooth Mountains. We sent in our registrations and just like that we had ourselves a destination!
The next step was to plan a route. The goal was to travel north to south in Idaho by the most scenic route possible while avoiding major roads and highways arriving in time for the Stomp. After the rally we would return home through Hells Canyon and Oregon. I spent many hours were spent pouring over images on Google Earth and looking at topographical maps on Mapsource. In the end I had a number of possible routes planned and loaded on the GPS.
The team consisted of Tom, Adrian and me (Wayne). Tom was on his F650GS and Adrian prepped his beloved GS1000.
I wondered what kind of welcome I would get at the BMW Party on my KLR, nicknamed “The Toad”. As it turned out I had nothing to worry about. I think half the people there had fond memories of a KLR they had once owned. It seemed there was hope for me yet.
Since Tom’s idea of Roughing-It is to stay at a three-star hotel, our plan was to stay in motels. Our route would take us pretty far from civilization at times so we thought it was wise to carry some basic camp gear. You never know when a breakdown or navigation error might force a night out in the bush. The gear was packed, the bikes were serviced and we were off.
Day One – August 1st 2010
The goal for day one was to get to Sandpoint, Idaho from our home in Kelowna. We headed south on Hwy 33 and crossed into Washington at Midway. From there we stayed on secondary roads all the way passing through Curlew, Kettle Falls and Chewelah.
We arrived at Sandpoint in mid-afternoon and went walk-about checking out the town. In the process we made a dinner reservation at the Hydra Steakhouse. This was the first indication that we would not be losing any weight on this trip.
Not many pictures today as it was a straight shot through familiar territory. More to come tomorrow.
The route and stats for the day:
Day 2 – August 2nd 2010
We topped up our fuel at Clark Fork, crossed the Clark Fork River and headed southeast on River Rd. From there we got our first taste of gravel heading south on Dry Creek Rd. As relative dirt-riding noobs we were a bit apprehensive of our fully loaded bikes on the mountain roads. Any concerns evaporated quickly as we climbed high into the mountains. The road was in good condition and our bikes were handling great.
We were soon clipping along enjoying the scenery and the good roads. After climbing out of the valley, Dry Creek Rd winds along near the ridge top. We had a nice dry day but it was pretty hazy. We weren’t sure if it was smoke in the air but we couldn’t see any fires close by.
Most intersections were well signed but the names on the signs didn’t always match the road names on the GPS. At times like this, having the route pre-mapped took the guess work out of which way to go. At Buckskin Saddle the road forks several times. We headed down Buckskin Creek Road.
This area was riddled with streams. The roads and bridges are well maintained. This one was across Buckskin Creek.
We crossed the North Fork of the Coeur D’Alene River and began climbing again up and over Independence Creek Rd. I was feeling pretty comfortable on the KLR by now, but I would have to adjust the bar position in order to get comfortable standing on the pegs.
Adrian cruising along on Independence Creek Rd.
At the bottom of the hill we came to Independence Creek and a turn onto Teepee Creek Road. We were spreading out on the roads to keep out of each other’s dust so whenever we came to an intersection we would stop and regroup.
I seem to have a lot of photos of Adrian. I guess that makes sense since he was the only one without a camera. Here he is again on Teepee Creek Rd.
We hit a stretch of pavement and rolled into the town of Murray. It was time for lunch at the Spragpole Inn and Museum. I had been here about 8 years ago and wanted to show the place to the others. All the buildings in the photo below are interconnected inside and contain an amazing collection of “stuff”. Everything from bottles, plates, guns, mining equipment and just about anything else you can think of was collected here by one man over his lifetime. All of this is on display and free. One could easily kill a couple of hours here.
The old post office in Murray is still in operation.
Right at the outskirts of Murray is the entrance to Kings Pass Rd. The sign describes it well which is a good thing as I was too busy enjoying it to take any other pictures.
Kings Pass Rd is a short climb up and over the mountain that avoids some pavement and meets up with Beaver Creek Rd. We followed Beaver Creek Rd down to a gas stop in Wallace. It had great pavement, lots of twisties and absolutely no traffic on this stretch. This was real bonus of this type of travel as on previous trips we would miss these great paved sections on the street bikes. The dual-purpose bikes allowed us to connect some great areas.
We left the Interstate Hwy and Wallace behind us and headed south on Placer Creek Rd.
Placer Creek Rd crosses Moon Pass at 4900’ before becoming Moon Pass Road and descending to the N. Fork St. Joe River.
Moon Pass Rd follows an old rail road grad for several miles. The Rail Road continued east over St Pauls pass and served various mining communities. The rails have been removed and the road paved through the tunnels and over the bridges. The rest is still gravel. We passed through nine tunnels and crossed several bridges and followed the N. Fork St. Joe River south to Avery.
This is one heck of a bridge for an old abandoned rail grade.
Below the bridge is the river and an alternate route alongside.
And more tunnels.
We stopped in Avery at the General Store for Ice Cream around 5PM.
My original plan was to head south from here to Elk River but we had overestimated the distances we would travel each day. We were poking along enjoying the ride and making many photo stops. We didn’t think we would make it anywhere close to Elk River by dark so we opted to follow the pavement down the St. Joe River to St. Maries. It was a good decision as it was a very nice ride along the river.
We checked into the Pines Motel in St. Maries, ate dinner and went to bed early. (After some evening libations of course.)
The day’s route and stats:
More to come.
Day 3 – August 3rd, 2010
We were up early and on the road heading south on Hwy 3 to Bovill where we would catch Hwy 8 out to Elk River so we could get back on our planned route. Hwy 8 was another of Idaho’s excellent paved twisty roads, which end in gravel. Travelling on road bikes we would have likely given it a miss. I’m glad we didn’t as it was a great way to start the day. The weather was clear and cold and there was virtually zero traffic and it made for a great morning ride. We arrived in Elk River chilled and hungry for breakfast. The Elk River Lodge was the logical (if not the only) place to stop.
While waiting for breakfast we broke out the maps and checked out possibilities for today's route.
Now that’s a breakfast! Huckleberry pancakes are a house specialty. Tom seems pleased!
After breakfast and topping up the gas tanks again, we returned to our gravel route heading south on Elk River Rd. An hour or so down the road, we found ourselves high above the Dworshak Reservoir. It was warming up a lot so it was time to strip off a layer or two.
This is an active logging area with lots of truck moving at a high rate of speed sending large clouds of dust into the air. I rounded a left hand corner only to find a very large log truck bearing down on me. On the plus side we were each on our own side of the road, but for a few sphincter tightening moments, I was riding completely blind from the dust. It was more good luck than good management that I was able to keep the bike on the road. I had to stop and remove the seat from my a$$.
As soon as Elk River road started descending to the reservoir we hit nice new pavement. It amazed me to see wide paved roads and suspension bridges on what are essentially logging roads. We crossed the Dworshak Reservoir over the Dent Bridge.
From the bridge, Wells-Bench Road is a well paved twisty bit of country road that climbs up the mountain ridge on the way south to Orofino. We managed to chase down some of the log trucks that had gone by us earlier. It was a lot less dusty this time.
The road continued down to Orofino on the Clearwater River for another gas stop. We had climbed from 1700’ to 3200’, then back down to 1000’ in less than 24 miles. Our whole route would turn out to be a series of ups and downs.
We had adopted a policy of gassing up wherever possible as we found that some of the “towns” on our maps were not so much towns as they were wide spots on the road. I had the longest range of the bikes. I’ve managed 500 km on a tank before, but Adrian’s GS seemed to need fuel at the 350 km mark. It seemed prudent to stop whenever we could after 200 km or so.
Leaving Orofino we opted for Gilbert Grade Road on which we climbed way up onto the central plateau. There were lots of great views of the Clearwater valley from the road.
We popped up out of the valley onto the top of the plateau. It felt like riding through Saskatchewan with the wide open rolling farmland. It was quite a change from the forests north of the Clearwater River.
The temperature was well into the 90 degree range so we stopped for a drink in the only shade we could find in the center of Nez Perce.
From Nez Perce we found our way southwest on secondary roads to Cottonwood. At this point Tom was really feeling the heat so he opted to shortcut straight down Hwy 95 to Riggins. Adrian and I would take a less travelled route and meet him there later in the day.
After Cottonwood Adrian and I took Graves Creek Rd and Rocky Canyon Rd down to the Salmon River. We crossed the River at Rice Creek Bridge. At this point the pavement ended and gravel began again.
From the Bridge, Center Creek Road wound up a beautiful valley climbing over 3000’ back up onto the plateau, this time on the West side of the Salmon River. At this point we turned onto Canfield Road and were rewarded with a spectacular view south east over the Salmon River Canyon.
Canfield Road, far below.
Adrian heading down Canfield Road from Post Pile Saddle.
As we twisted back and forth down the hillside, I was amazed as some of the beautiful homes scattered over the mountainside, miles from any town. It would be a wonderful spot to live if you didn’t have to commute to work. Can you spot Adrian below the house?
I would ride a ways, stop for a picture, ride some more stop for another photo and so on.
We finally arrived back on the shores of the Salmon River near the Hammer Creek Recreation area.
I had another set of routes laid out on the west side of the Salmon River down to Riggins, but once again the clock was ticking. It was already 6PM and we figured there were several hours of riding yet if we took that route. We’ll have to leave that for another trip. So we crossed the Salmon River at White Bird and took Hwy 95 south for a quick run through the Salmon River Canyon to Riggins.
We quickly spotted Tom’s bike in the lot at the Iron Horse Motel. We pulled up next to his bike but there was no sign of him. We were only there for a couple of minutes before a fellow approached and asked if we were looking for Tom. We were told that he was taking a shower, but he had a couple of complimentary beers for us. It seems that riders staying at the Iron Horse Motel are entitled to such. You have to like that on a hot day.
After dinner, Tom demonstrated his renowned camping technique. This was the only way he planned to use his tent on this trip.
Route and Stats for the day:
More to come.
Some amazing photos....but those fonts are kinda hard to read.
Yes please, bigger font.
More please. I almost forgot about the snow and cold.
+3 on the font
+4 the photos and maps are great but your font selection sucks and I'm using reading glasses. Now can you read this better?? :clap
It might be color selection also........
Sweet. I saw that shot with the log truck and thought "looks like the road outside of Orofino" ... and it was :D
Good stuff. Can't wait to get back out riding again soon.
Thanks all for the positive comments on the photos. Lots more to come tomorrow.
i can always stand another!
love Idaho roads.
The inmates have spoken! With pics of rides like yours, we can take it time after time :thumb
Idaho is in my backyard but I never get tired of it. The Spragpole is one of my favorite places and no matter how many times I have wandered through the museum I always spot something I didn't see before.
Keep it coming the pictures bring back memories of rides I've done and is a good escape from what's outside now. :lurk
Now that is great and thanks for the re-work................:clap:clap:clap
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