Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Springtime amid Idaho's loftiest peaks

Pass Creek Road

MACKAY, Idaho -- As usual, the first long weekend of vacation season brought two days of steady rain, even snow in the mountains of eastern Idaho. So when Memorial Day itself dawned partly cloudy, I thought that a long highway ride west across the Snake River Plain to the mountains of central Idaho was better than nothing.

It turned out be an exhilarating spring day of Rocky Mountain riding.

Pass Creek Pass, looking west
After greeting some fellow ADV riders in Arco, then following U.S. 93 north to Mackay, I decided to turn northeast onto Pass Creek Road, a beautiful little dirt-and-gravel road through a gap in Idaho's highest mountain range, the Lost River Range.

I thought I would just ride until I was stopped by mud and snow, then return to the highway.
To my surprise, however, the condition of the road could hardly have been better ... enough moisture to keep dust at bay, but enough for mud. While there was some snow on the hillsides as I rode higher toward the pass, there was none on the road.

When I reach the summit of Pass Creek Pass, the sight east across the Little Lost River Valley to the snowy crest of the Lemhi Range was inspiring indeed. So was the road ahead, for it was in perfect condition for riding.

Pass Creek Road and Lost River Range
I descended into the valley, then veered to the northwest, and rode for mile after mile to the Pahsimeroi Valley. Perhaps because it was late in the day at this point, on the last day of the weekend, it seemed as though I had this vast region of broad, basin-and-range valleys and skyscraping summits all to myself.

Eventually I reached Doublespring Pass Road, which I followed westward, back into the Lost River Mountains in the shadow of Borah Peak, at 12,662 feet (3,859m) Idaho's highest. As I ascended to the pass, the road eventually became snowy, but still passable. I simply followed in the treadway of a vehicle that had gone through previously. Once over the summit, I dropped down into Thousand Springs Valley, lush with its high water table replenished by springtime snowmelt.

From there I turned south, passed through Mackay again, then Arco, then made the long 65-mile ride east across the Snake River Plain. There was no traffic to speak of, just memories of an exhilarating day of riding through one of the greatest adventure-motoring landscapes in the northern Rockies.

Looking west across Thousand Springs Valley

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