Snake River Plain and Sawtooth Mountains

Since West Yellowstone, I’ve been heading across a section of Idaho that bike tourists might be well-advised to avoid. This isn’t the cool, high mountains; it’s closer to the basin and range of Nevada, at least in climate. I’ve been told the temperatures hit 105 one day! I didn’t actually feel that hot – the one nice thing about the constant headwinds (from the south, but also from the west whenever I’m heading west) is that they do keep you cooler. 

I’m now wrapping up a number of days off the bike, my longest break from the trip since Chicago. This is occasioned by another rear-wheel-related problem or two. The rear wheel is showing a number of rapidly-growing cracks, signs that it has just been ridden into the ground and might give out at any moment; a failure even more catastrophic than that time my rear tire exploded. Also, my brand-new rear tire was somehow pierced by a bolt which became stuck in the rubber; I’ve yet to figure out how this is physically possible, as the bolt had no sharp edges. Miraculously this latest piercing didn’t render the tire non-functional and the tube was undamaged. I made it the rest of the 128 mile day to Buhl, ID, the only effect of the bolt incident being that I had to pump up my rear tire every 10 or 15 miles due to a new slow leak back there. 

This dual disaster was better timed, as Buhl is home to Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Jim, who offered me the use of a car to go explore the Sawtooth Mountains to the north. What better way to spend the interval on which I waited for the bike parts I needed? They also fed me lavishly, including stocking up a cooler for me to take into the mountains; Aunt Elizabeth seemed anxious that I would not report here that I’d gone away hungry. Certainly no worries on that front! Sadly, I didn’t meet any other bike tourists with whom to share said cooler’s generous contents. More for me!

Tomorrow I should be rolling again and by Friday I hope to be in Boise where the rest of the Barker family lives. From there it’s probably under two weeks to the finish line. Wow!

State #11 down. That one went quick. The power outage that hit just as I was about it go grocery shopping, and blacked out the entire region, is a story that will have to wait until I do a full photo journal later on. 

I rapidly left the Rockies behind as I headed into the Snake River plain, a weird lava-leveled arc dividing the northern Rockies from the basin and range. 

No big climbs in the near future. Sadly, constant and strong high winds from the south seemed to be the new way of things. I was headed south. 

Semi-stealthy camping with a moon view. 

Tiny rain clouds and nice morning light. 

Wave goodbye to the Tetons. It occurred to me that this route was going to be largely a retreading of a drive I did with my parents nine years earlier, to a family wedding in Buhl. Not being desert people, it made a big impression on us. 

After a last minute route change necessitated a grocery stop in Rexburg, I was luckily taken in by a last-minute Warmshowers host there. Centered around a BYU campus, the town seemed to be all Mormon. Sadly, I was not holy enough to enter the temple and gawk. By coincidence (or was it?!?!?) and email reminder arrived the following day, reminding me to book spots to tour the Mormon temple now nearing completion in downtown Philly, before it is made off limits to all heathens, or rather Gentiles I believe the term is. Looks like there are still plenty of weekday times if you’re interested. 

I couldn’t tell if this was a real ghost town or a movie set or something. This is terrain that has had me wishing for a montain bike.

The very edge of the Rockies. 

Remains of volcanoes. The replacement camera does not have a perfect autofocus finction, I learned. 

The ridiculous headwinds aside, this was beautiful country. Or maybe I like deserts more than most people would. 

The smell of sagebrush brought me back to the mountains of the Sinai, where a related plant is added to tea for flavor and alleged medicinal benefits (though it sure didn’t help my food poisoning). I haven’t tried this species to drink yet. Then, enjoying the evening light and recovering from dehydration in Arco. 

This morning, having a fairly early start, I began to conceived of doing the entire distance to Buhl. Besides getting me enough miles to set a new lifetime record for distance in a day, it would also bring an early beginning to my planned rest and car-based hiking trip. 

Naturally, the trend of winds from the south and west, according to my direction at a given time, held up. Couldn’t have those 128 miles come too easy. 

Attempting to forestall the slow leak with a dollar bill boot. I don’t think it did much to help. After merely a week of service my new rear tire was nearly out of commission. 

Plenty of these views, to bore even what Bertie Wooster might term a “ho for the open spaces bird.” Accompanied by what my mom calls “country air,” someone local called “the smell of money,” and what I might euphemistically name the stench of cow output in Augean quantities. 

My last few hours of riding were in the dark; this faint view of the Snake River was about the last thing I saw. 

Enjoying some dispersed camping in the borrowed car, in the Sawtooth Valley. I especially liked that I could stretch out and sleep in the back, saving me the trouble of setting up my tent. 

Just a few shots of the truly classic hike up to Alice and Twin Lakes. 

I had another hike planned for today, but once again my decision to wear Chacos proved disastrous. An extraordinary amount of dust and grit led to some really painful foot wounds and I had to skip Sawtooth Lake which I’d planned to hike today. I’m pretty sure REI will still take these sandals back, and after that I’m never going hiking without shoes again. No matter how difficult they are to pack on a touring bike. 

As always, it felt too soon to leave the alpine lakes. 

Dusk at another blissful dispersed campsite. Once again a mountain bike would have been the perfect item here – the downside of the fast, skinny tired road bike is that I’m very limited in how far I can get from roads and developed, built up areas. 

With any luck, tomorrow I’ll be rolling again and now it’s the home stretch. Forecasts of “warm” temperatures, which is what people on the radio  who could use a good smacking like to call highs of 100 or more. If I’m lucky maybe the wind will still be from the south and at least be somewhat helpful. Haha, who am I kidding. 


2 thoughts on “Snake River Plain and Sawtooth Mountains”

  1. Wow! Inspired great memories of our epic trip to Buhl in 2007. Those Sawtooths certainly do look grand! Nice to have uncles, aunts and cousins scattered across the west.


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