Joined: Feb 2008
Location: Pleasant Grove, UT
3 Days in the Idaho Backcountry Riding Singletrack
I need to start this ride report off by saying that this would have never happen if mknight had not posted his ride report found here:
I read that ride report while working on my MBA. I told my wife when I graduated I wanted to take that trip as a reward for all of my hard work. She agreed, (8 months before I graduated) a decision she would surely regret later. After a little planning and a lot of procrastinating the day came that we needed to pack and leave.
Here is a link to some video of the ride. Not the greatest ever, but it will help get the point across and as always, it doesn't really do justice to the difficulty.
(make sure and click to watch in high quality, it looks far better)
I am ridning a 2007 WR450 with a 3.1 gallon desert tank.
Curtis is riding a 2002 KTM 520EXC with a 3.3 gallon desert tank
We decided that we had no reason to ride the Island Park to Palisades section because it was mostly dirt roads. Mknight had a perfect reason to make that ride, but since we didn’t we decided that we would rather spend a day riding single track and then on day 2 go from Palisades to Soda Springs, ID. Day 3 would take us from Soda Springs to Ogden, UT where my lovely wife would pick us up at Pineview Reservoir. So for day 1 we started near Kelly Canyon Ski Resort and planned on riding into Palisades and camping for the first night.
Since neither of us has ridden any of these trails before we planned on using the forest service maps for our bible. I communicated with mknight and he helped me get all of the maps we would need and also gave me detail from Odgden to Bear Lake (the hardest sections to link together on a map). We planned on riding on July 30 through August 1, 2008. All of these trails are listed on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest Travel Map Palisades and Teton-Basin Ranger Districts. This is a free map and can be ordered by calling (208) 523-3278. I actually paid for a couple of maps so I could be wrong, this may be one I paid for, but I don’t think it is. You can also visit 630 West Broadway, Idaho Falls, Idaho 83402 and you can pick one up there. You can download some printable maps that are pretty good here as well: http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/caribou-targhee/caribou-targhee/palisades/maps.shtml
We also decided that we were going to really experience being in the backcountry and camp instead of staying in hotels. We would carry everything with us and camp wherever we thought would be a good spot to rest for the night.
Here is a quick plug for a very cool product. The SPOT GPS Personal Locator. Read about it here: http://www.findmespot.com/Home.aspx If you think it is cool and want one buy it here: http://www.mylivetracks.com/ I ordered mine here on a Friday night and it was shipped for free via USPS priority mail on Saturday and I had mine on Monday. Highly recomended place to buy.
Here is a list of what we took in our backpacks:
Plastic bag to store extra undies
Extra tube (21” since it will work in a front or rear tire)
CO2 inflator and 6 cartridges
SPOT Personal GPS Locator
Extra quart of fuel
Extra quart of oil
Money ($200 cash + ID & CC)
Nuts and bolts
I was able to fit all of this into my Octane 14+ Camelbak. My pack weighed about 25 pounds including my 100 oz. bladder full of water.
What would we take next time? Here is a real short list:
Bug Repellent (Duh! What were we thinking!)
Compass (GPS is great, but you have to walk all over to verify your directions, a compass would have been handy a few times)
Water Purification Drops If you run out of water and need to drink out of a creek, it would be nice to be sure that you didn’t get a case of Rocky Mountain Quickstep!
Small Tent or Bivvy Sack If it had rained we would have been screwed
I would have loved to have some sort of foam pad to sleep on, but hey, we could really rough it for 2 nights right?
Here is a picture of us at the trailhead where we started. We headed down River Road until we got to the trail head for Trail 68 (Burns Creek).
Here is my brother in law Bo. He was nice enough to drop us off here. Notice the look in his eye, he is thinking “do these guys really think they are going to make this? Neither on of them has ridden one inch of their planned route!”
After riding up trail 68 for a while we hit the junction to Hell Hole Canyon (Trail 70). I had read a review of this trail and it was supposed to be really hard. This picture will give you an idea of what it took to get out. It was pretty rough, but as we would soon find out, it was nothing compared to the trails in Palisades.
Here is a picture of us at the top of Hell Hole Canyon. We stopped to pat ourselves on the back for making it out. This is where we found out that 25 pound packs were much easier to carry when you loosen the shoulder straps and let the seat carry the bulk of the weight. We were ready from here to head down road 219 and hit trail 61 (Coal Mine Canyon).
Here are a couple of pics somewhere along trail 61 or 68
After we headed down trail 61 we got back onto the Burns Creek Trail (Trail 68) and headed up to Trail 121
More pics along trail 121
Here is a good shot of the Curtis on his KTM making it up a pretty tricky section…it actually almost looks hard in the pictures…that’s the about camera’s they never do the difficulty of the trail justice.
We took a small detour here down trail 76. This trail is a dead end a ways down at Castle Lake. It is probably a Lake in early spring, but in mid-summer it was more like Castle Pond. It was a short jaunt and was pretty fun, so we didn’t regret the detour
More pics along trail 121
I stopped here to try and figure out why my bike would rev when I turned right. We spent about 20 minutes looking at the throttle cables and adjustments. Then we finally figured out that my GPS (mounted on my handlebars) was causing the hot start cable to engage when the bars were turned right. When the hot start is pulled and th bike is running it has the same effect as pulling the throttle a little. We adjusted my GPS mount a bit and were good to go. We decided that since we were stopped we just as well have a snack of trail mix and beef jerky.
The junction of trail 65 and 66
These are pics at the top of Garns Mountain (we followed trail 121 to 65 then to 66.) We are now at 9016 feet. Notice the Tetons in the background in some of these pics.
Here we go unintentionally down a hiker only trail off of Garns Moutnain. Here are 2 reasons not to ride on hiker only trails:
Here is a shot of me thinking I look pretty good in my gear!
Another pic on the hiker only trail.
Here is reason 3 to not ride on hiker only trails. Curtis got a flat tire (which wouldn’t have happened had we not ridden down this trail) and we got a chance to change a tire on the trail. Thank goodness it was a front tire!!
Somewhere along trail 53 we started seeing a lot of fresh horse crap. It kept getting fresher and fresher and the smell got stronger and stronger. We knew we were moments away from running into someone on a horse. Horse sightings on single track are always a crap shoot. These trails are legal for horses, hikers, and motorcycles, but there are always a few horsemen out there who believe that just because it is legal motorcyclists don’t have the right to ride on their trails. We hoped for the best, turned off our engines and coasted up the 6 people on horses (2 guys and 4 girls). We stopped and asked the guy in the back (closest to us) what we should do so that we didn’t spook their horses. He said it would be best if we actually turned our bikes on and kept them running. We followed his instructions and began to ride out as slow and quiet as possible thankful we hadn’t run into one of the horsemen described above. Just as we were about past the last horse, the rider decided to show his manhood to the ladies by letting us know that we were in a National Forest and that we weren’t supposed to be on these trails. We respectfully let them know we were using a Forest Service map to navigate and were on a legal trail. He thanked us for letting him know (it didn’t exactly feel like it came from the bottom of his heart, but at this point, we’ll take what we can get) and we parted ways never to see them again.
We got back on the trail and headed out towards Victor, ID. Coming down Trail 66 we hit trail 53 and rode out to 79 which dropped us off on the highway. We rode into Victor from here. I think it was about 5 miles of pavement. Here is a shot of curtis looking at the map at a gas station in Victor. Notice the establishment across the street. I recognized it immediately. It was Pierre’s Playhouse. It is a melodrama theater that I have been to on a couple occasions. They are no longer open, but used to do a killer dutch oven dinner and play. To bad they are closed or I could have asked Curtis on a date for the night!
- They are illegal to ride bikes on
- They can be EXTREMELY difficult to come out of if they dead end or if you need to turn around
From here we rode back down the highway and hit road 250. We hit trail 87 from here and looped around to 65 then to 66. We then went to 90 which went to 115. That trail took us out to the highway and we rode into Swan Valley. Here are some pics along this string of trails.
We stopped at what used to be the Swan Valley Commissary (now called the Rainey Creek something rather) and we both got a huckleberry square ice cream cone. This is a picture of Curtis actually having his second one.
We left the commissary and headed toward Palisades to find a place to camp. I had to stop at the Dam Store and take a picture.
Here are some pictures of the Dam
We rode across the Dam and headed up above Calamity Campground and hit trail 37. We rod up this trail until it got to the top of a hill. This would be our resting place for the night. All in all we had traveled 90 miles on this day. 70+ of the miles were on single track. We had 15-20 miles of pavement. We were worn out and ready for some sleep. Here is a pic of Curtis getting his spot ready
Here is curtis bundled up and ready to go to sleep
Where did his face go? Oh yeah, we forgot bug repellant and didn’t have a tent. What do you do? You hide from the mosquito’s as long as you can and then come up for air.
Here we are the next day ready to ride
We are now ready to ride for the day and take off at 6:30 AM. You don’t really need much sleep when the mosquito’s are out and the ground is so hard.. Now that we are in the Palisades area we get signs like this (when the signs are there). The signs say trail names and the map has trail numbers. It is always fun to try and figure out what is what.
We continued following trail 37 to trail 35. Somewhere along the way we came across all of these pics
We weren’t exactly sure how far we were down the trail, but we were looking for the radio tower to get our bearings. We then found this sign, boy did this help, since all of the pertinent info was worn off
Not to far down the trail we found this sign
We rode up to the top of small ridge and found this, I’m assuming it was the radio tower
From the top of the radio tower ridge we took these pics of what we were about to come up against….seeing pics like this gets me all excited…I love singletrack!!
Fourth of July? Sounds cool, lets go that way!
We keep following 4th of July Ridge here
Hmmm, now where do we go?
So we pull off of trail 35 and take 34 to go see the fireworks. We ended up pulling off of 34 to hit 144 before we got to 4th of July Ridge. We did not follow the trail 34 marker, we went left to Red Ridge. This took us down into a really easy and mild section. It was pretty welcome as we had been on some brutal stuff all morning.
Curtis decided that since we were in an easy section that he could go really fast. The trail decided to let him know that he needed to slow down. I pulled up just in time to see a huge dust cloud. Just as all the dust was settling I was able to snap this picture. Once I had taken my picture and put my camera away, I made sure and asked him if he was okay. He was so I got off of my bike and walked over and helped him get his bike back on the trail.
These pics are on trail 47
We are at this point heading east and want to go south and decide to go up trail 44 heading south. We were also trying to get up to the top of Big Elk mountain so we like this sign. Notice the creek crossing through the willows.
Wow!! Muddy Creek (Trail 44) was probably my favorite trail of the entire ride!! It was awesome! We got to the top around 10:00 AM and saw this sign and had another trail mix and jerky snack. Now we take trail 147 to Big Elk Mountain. If you ever see this sign in real life and plan on taking 147 to Big Elk Mountain, I recommend that you really know how to ride. This was by far the most difficult trail of the entire trip. This is the hardest section of single track I have ever ridden bar none (just for the record, I have ridden a lot of single track).
Here is a little proof of how hard the trails were. When I ride with Curtis he never wrecks. He had one “idiot” wreck earlier today, but this one was crazy, it probably took us 15 minutes to get his bike back on the trail and then another 5 minutes with both of us pushing to get him up this section. (Just for the record, I did have to push up this section, but I did it alone!!). If anyone has ever ridden this and has made this section without pushing their bike, I would like to know and I would be happy to kiss the ground you walk on! As usual, the pictures aren’t even close to doing justice.
Again, we keep going to Big Elk Mountain. Some really steep sections and a lot of climbing…it was awesome!
I’m 99% sure these pics are off of the top of Big Elk Mountain. We made it up there, it was awesome! It was 9476 feet. We didn’t quite make it all the way up to the top as the trail wound around near the peak. We were probably around 9,000 feet.
This is where things got ugly. I know, now your saying to yourself, ugly? I thought you already said things were ugly. Things weren’t ugly, they were wicked hard, but not ugly. Take a good look at this trail. Some jerk decided it would be funny to mark a hiker only trail with a trail marker meant for a single track motorcycle trail. This is where the fun starts, we go down this trail. We dropped 1500 – 2000 vertical feet in no time at all. It was so steep and so tight. The entire way down I was thinking to myself, “man, what happens if you hit this trail coming the other way?” We finally make it to the bottom and the trail comes to a dead stop. We realize that we just went down our second hiker only trail. We are now in a box canyon and the trail we rode down is pretty much impossible to ride up. We figured it would take hours and more energy than either one of us had to get our bikes up that trail. We looked at our map and our surroundings. Curtis, being an avid snowmobiler decides that all we need to do is get over the top of “that mountain” and maybe one other and we’ll be where we want to be. Seems simple right? Not even. We spent the next 6 hours riding cross country with no trails (other than the occasional game trail) and make it up over two ridges. We notice that at the tops of these mountains our cell phones actually work. I call my brother for a little help from Google Earth. We get a little direction as to how bad the canyon is that we are working on getting down into and decide to drop in over a ridge and hope for the best, knowing full well there is no way we will ever get back up here where we are. This makes the drop in very nerve racking. 6 hours after we hit the end of that hiking trail we hit another game trail that starts to switchback. I yell ahead up to Curtis (we are going downhill and our bikes aren’t running as we are trying to conserve fuel) and say, you know deer and elk don’t really switchback, they go straight up the bloody mountain! A few feet later we realize that we are on the trail! We are about halfway up Dead Man’s Creek (Trail 42). We are so beat at this point we decide to follow the trail and see where it goes. We start hitting creek crossings like this. There are so many we just can’t believe it.
We get to the bottom of trail 42 heading North. We get the junction of trail 42 and 48. We have two choices in direction. We still weren’t exactly sure where we were at this point so we go right and follow the trail for a ways. We come to this Elk Camp and think we must be close to getting out of this canyon. There are 3 other shelters around the corner, and one of them has canvas on it and looks like it is ready to live in year round. There was also a corral built for some horses.
This is just a picture of a meadow we ran across during all of this craziness
nada_scurb screwed with this post 08-24-2008 at 05:12 PM