I knew instantly what that sound was even though it was around twelve AM and just moments before I was blissfully
sawing a big ol pile of logs in my tent following a hot day of riding through 100+ degree temps up the Middle fork
of the Boise River. I instinctively crouched for a few seconds, but then sat up bolt straight in my Big Agnes
sleeping bag and froze while straining to hear every sound outside my woefully inadequate shelter - inadequate in
the sense that there was no way it would be a deterrent to a 180grain lead bullet fired from a high powered hunting
rifle that was surely a mere three feet from my head when it went off.
So began our adventure in to the land of the Nez Perce. We actually started the tour on Saturday, the day prior in
Walla Walla, WA (gosh I love saying that). Brent and I rode down the Skyline Road through the Umatilla Forest to
La Grande Oregon, then on up the Grande Ronde River to Sumpter; Baker City and finally to Boise to meet up with Jerry
who was returning from the Happy Trails Twin Peaks ride.
Our original plan was to ride down through Hells Canyon on the way to Boise but the roads had just been closed the day
before because of a couple of large forest fires; one to the North of the canyon, and one in the Seven Devils Mountains
on the eastern rim. As many as 100 separate forest fires were smoking up the sky in the Idaho mountains and fires would
be all along our route for the next seven days but thankfully for us none of them further detoured us from our intended
When I first heard the shot, and after making sure I was not the intended target for whomever was out there hunting who
knows what in the middle of the night, I quickly put my shoes and shirt on and began to plan my escape route.. not so
much as to run off through the woods like a whimpering lass (which did cross my mind briefly) but I was actually
formulating a plan where I could slip down the bank next to the river just outside my tent, circle around behind the
serial killer lunatic type while he was reloading and preparing to stalk my camp mates and bear hug him till he dropped
While working out the details of my plan, about fifteen minutes passed and I began to believe I had imagined the whole
thing when all of a sudden "CRAACKKK!" .. a second shot rang out.. even closer.. maybe it just seemed that way since I
was definitely fully awake this time and such things have a tendency to seem closer then they are. In reality though, it
was probably around 100-150 feet away and they were probably shooting at something on the steep hill side across the river.
Earlier that afternoon, after riding for hours we came upon a dilapidated log tavern leaning against the trees on the
dusty forest road we had been riding. It seemed we stepped back in to a different time. Speed bumps and "slow down" signs,
dozens of miles from anywhere.. no electrical service (other then a generator). The outbuildings and other structures
were made from river rock and were literally 130 years old (so claimed the weathered sign along side the road) and not a
single Harely anywhere to be seen.. it was like something out of a Louis LíAamour paperback. Don't get me wrong, I
applaud their efforts to keep a business running in such a remote setting, but it's just not something you see every day.
Twin Springs Tavern
Twin Springs Resort (directly across from the tavern)
We were seriously hot and tired so as uninviting as the place looked, it seemed like an oasis to us at the time. We
leaned our bikes up against the hitching post and stood listening for a few moments and once we determined there wasn't
any bar fights or pigs squeeling (flash backs from Deliverance, Porky's and Road House all came flooding to my mind at
once) ambled inside. Now I normally canít stand any kind of domestic beer from a can, but on that day, I donít think
anything could have tasted sweeter then those icey Coors lights. We didnít stay long however as two of the three patrons,
and possibly the barkeep was pretty hammered and were getting a little too friendly with us. You know the type.. once
they find out your on a motorcycle adventure, they want to be your guide to show you some of the areas best fishing, or
invite you camp the night on their "spread" - the guy I was talking to offered both services.
After making our exit and dusting the dirt off our proverbial sandals and roosting their pickups (just kidding), we
soon found a spot down the road along the river with a big flat area just off the road. At one end of the campground
there was a family size tent pitched but with no people or vehicles in sight. We chose the area at the other end as
far from their site as we could in order to give them, and us some space. We quickly downed some grub and hit the
sleeping bags hard.
Soon however, our rooting-tooting gun happy neighbors showed up and announced their presence by blasting rock music
(and it wasnít very good rock music either; I wouldnít have minded so much if it was some Dead or Pink Floyd) out of
what must have been a 1,000 watt system. Thankfully though, for whatever reason, that didnít last long and I soon fell
asleep until the first volley several hours later.
My buddy Brent whoís tent was closer to the road - and that was last time he camped that close to a road for the rest
of the trip - wasnít as able to get as much sleep as me because his first rude awakening came when our camp neighbors had
a visitor who came barreling through our area right towards Brentís tent with blinding lights and tires spewing gravel;
turning mere feet before flattening him and his tent to a pulp. I think Brent muttered something about finally getting
to meet our Sweet Lord Jesus face to face in those few seconds when he was sure he was going to not live to ride
Suffice to say, it did not take us long after sunrise to break camp and get on down the road after a night straight out
of a Steven King novel with the visit to the weird ghost tavern and the camp neighbors from hell. You know, come to think
of it, I never actually saw a single person over there. I heard em hooting and hollering a lot - but never did see em.
Sadly, in terms of storytelling, the rest of our trip was not nearly as gripping or dramatic, but that night we spent
alongside the Boise River was definitely one Iíll not quickly forget and it's the kind of story that makes adventuring
so entertaining. So sit back and enjoy the images and my recollection of some of the interesting history of the places
Here's a few more to whet the appetite
High mountain meadows and wildflowers in Umatilla National Forest
Heading down the Skyline road
Near La Grande Oregon
Sumpter Valley Railway in Sumpter Oregon
Dam at Lucky Peak Lake; just east of Boise
MORE TO COME!