Well, the simple answer is, you can’t get there from here. I’ve got a much longer more detailed version to share. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve posted and for those who have not been following along, Travis and I spent the summer of 2020 in Idaho. We mostly rode around on our dirt bikes but I also brought along my BMW Nine-T.
The previous fall I had also ridden that bike through Idaho on a solo cross country adventure, “19 Days On My Nine-T.” While on that trip I had mapped out routes near hot springs,(which are basically just littered across the state) and due to weather conditions wasn’t able to make all the stops on my original path. When I say weather conditions, I’m referring to raining ice and temps in the teens. It was October so I wasn’t exactly surprised, just disappointed.
This trip I was going to have the chance to finish out my previous routes. Travis flys to work every other week so, I decided to take an adventure up to Yellowpine. I had mapped it out to pass some springs along the way and not just run the highways, they won’t get you anywhere near Yellowpine anyways.
I took off out of the sawtooth wilderness and headed towards Stanley on HWY 21. It is an incredible scenic ride full of curves and critters. I took a right on the gravel road leading towards Deadwood Reservoir and rolled on through meadows and passed the ponds. After several miles and a few turns I wasn’t sure of, I popped out onto a stretch of pavement that wound me down an epic mountain towards a lake. I wasn’t expecting to find either of those things but was pleasantly surprised and very happy with both.
Warm lake is beautiful and has a nice little general store and bar. I sat by the water and had a sandwich, chatted with a crew of Harley riders from Boise. They were all retired law enforcement and out in their annual summer ride. Great group.
From Warm Lake, I rolled west a bit until I found South Fork Rd and headed north. Wow, doesn’t even begin to describe this narrow, winding, pathway through the hills. There were trails, and cliffs, and canyons, and rivers galore! Somewhere along this road I had been told, was a hot spring just off a curve down the hill in the river. I wasn’t exactly sure which curve, but then I was rounding one and smelled the sulfur. Naturally, I hit the brakes, made a U-Turn, and pulled over.
I walked up the road to the curve and found a narrow winding path down the steep hill side. I wasn’t quite to the bottom yet when I saw the two steaming pools. Basically, I had just found paradise…again, in Idaho. I made my way over to the smaller, hotter, pond and said hello to the couple enjoying the bigger pool with a water spout running out of the hillside into it.
Within seconds, I was down to my swim suit with riding gear scattered about the rocks. The water was perfect temperature, the river wash rushing by within arms reach, the sky was blue, the birds were swooping around and singing…postcard perfect.
After my soak, I climbed back up to the bike and continued around a few more curves. And then, there it was, right in the middle of what should have been my road. A giant crane type machine with large tracks rolling it along a man made hill of railroad rocks. Well, shit! I had a reservation for a room in Yellowpine and the only other way to get there from here would take the entire rest of the night.
So, I rolled up to the construction zone eyeing the ballast rock hill with a lot of “fuck my life” type nervousness. I parked the bike and approached a man standing by the giant machine. He informed me with a smile that the road was closed until 4 pm and I should have read the signs at the beginning. I probably saw a sign or maybe I didn’t because I’m usually looking everywhere but the road as I ride along. My watch said it was 3:45 so I only had 15 minutes to wait and then I’d be free to pass. If I could pass.
The man assured me that the machine would be out of the way and the road would be all mine soon. I walked back to the bike, took a picture of the mess leading up to the massive heap, thought about my decision a few times and went for it.
As the front wheel got its first bite of loose walnut sized rock, it trembled a bit side to side. Shit, ok maybe it’s like sand? Faster is better right?! I turned the throttle on a bit more, left my feet down like skis, said several words into my helmet, then decided standing would be better, (it was) and finally made it through to an audience of clapping construction workers. To which of course I just knodded and strolled by as if I hadn’t just been seconds away from wetting my drawers.
I was feeling pretty confident and a bit cocky as I rode around the next several curves a bit faster than necessary. Right up until I rounded one which preceded yet another bed of ballast rock. This one was not mounded into a giant pile, but instead, was spread out down a ¼ mile stretch of hill to a bridge. There went my cocky confidence. I sat at the top a minute and eventually just said, “ To hell with it, now or never!”
The down hill added an extra edge to the ride and I’m surprised I didn’t bend the bars with the tightness I was gripping them. I made the bottom and stopped in the road to get a picture, that of course does not come close to capturing the intensity of the scene.
I took the next several miles much slower anticipating more unwanted excitement but it never came. Both situations would have been much more enjoyable on a different motorcycle but, as they say in the race world, “run what you brung!”
From that point it didn’t take long for me to find a T in the road along a beautiful clear river and a gravel road. I hung a right and writhin 15 or so miles of gravel, found Yellowpine.
This little dirt road backwoods mountain town had me at first site! There were cabins, and forests, and off road vehicles of all kinds, and mountain peaks all around. I found my spot at the lodge on main st. Got checked into my cozy little upstairs room and enjoyed the view from the deck.
Next up, I walked over to The Corner Bar where I met Matt the owner, Haily, and a few other locals. There were 4 options on the menu: brisket, tri-tip, chicken, or chicken wings. You grab your own drinks out of the cooler and find yourself a spot outside or in. Excellent food, great service, and friendly people. Oh, and they have WiFi! My day was complete.
In the morning, I wondered down to the Tavern/Cafe for coffee and breakfast. I found more friendly people and more good food. By this point I think the whole town knew me by name and I felt right at home. I had a full days itinerary of places to visit be the time my breakfast conversations were over.
I set out up Stibnite rd, it of course leads to Stibnite. An abandoned mining town up in the valley between the mountains. Excellent gravel road along the river with a small waterfall and more epic views. Stibnite is just remnants now of a once booming little town. Dozens of foundations and other artifacts just scattered across the hillside telling the story of what once was. I’m a sucker for “cowboy trash” piles, I just love old cams and bottles and things. So I ended up roaming the grounds up there for several hours treasure hunting.
When I arrived back to town, I ventured down to the Pioneer cemetery. More history lessons there. It’s settled back off the road right near the river in the middle of a tall pine forest. Definitely peaceful place to spend eternity. All the graves are well kept some decorated and each tells a story. The cemetery had a side section that had me in aw for several minutes reading the inscriptions on these tiny rock piled graves I was under the impression it was a group of children buried there since the oldest one was only 16…then I realized it was for pets, which would also explain why there were 1st names only such as “Poco.” I don’t always catch on real quickly.
As I wondered back up the hill, I noticed a sign for golf. Interesting. I turned in and found the most adventurous golf course I’ve ever seen! And now I know why ther was a random barrel of clubs on front of the general store! There are 18 holes strewn about the pine trees in no particular order. Some have names and record holder plaques while others are just off alone hiding on the forest floor. I’m betting at least 1 beer has been drank out there.
Once I made it back up Main Street, I went back into the Corner Bar for another great sandwich and some beers. This time when I left, I was trying to figure out if I could take the owner up on his offer to come work there for next summer. My thoughts were interrupted by voices comping from the deck of the lodge as I walked in. I found two couples upstairs in the common area chatting about their day off road in their side by sides.
Before I could say no, I was sitting down and joining them for a drink. They were all from Boise and visit this area every year to get away. The subjects went from Yellowpine to life to kids to books and circled around for over an hour. Finally, I had to call it a night and find my bed.
The next day, I went over to the bar where Matt had offered to open for breakfast for myself and a few other motorcycle riders who were camped down the road. I had a cup of coffee and a giant plate of food handed to me as soon as I hit my stool. We chatted more about the bar and me coming back and various other things. But the other riders never came in. I paid my tab and headed out to get fuel and be on my way.
As I rolled towards the General Store, I spotted the other guys sitting in front of the Tavern eating. I stopped to chat and let them know that Matt had made them all food. They had gotten confused with where breakfast was and stopped at the wrong place. No big deal, none of the food went to waste and it was all even in the end.
I opted to run section 2 of the Idaho BDR back to Lowman and was happy I did. The route was gravel road through more beautiful country side.
Once I reached Banks-Lowman Rd I flew around the curves and admired the views until reaching a hot springs campground I had been meaning to visit. I stopped and hiked back onto the side of a mountain and had the whole place to myself. The entire hillside was one giant cascade of hot mineral water and someone had taken the time many years ago to build pools to catch it. I’ll I could see was blue sky, trees, rocks, and water. All I could hear were the sounds of birds and water falling around me. I could sit up under tiny waterfalls of hot water or just lay about in the steaming pools. What a way to waste a day.
From the springs it was only about 45 minutes back to my dirt road. From the dirt road it was another 20 minutes back to camp. And my Yellowpine adventure was complete.
I’m currently, back in Yellowpine on a different bike and traveling more of the Idaho BDR. Hopefully I get this adventure posted sooner than the last! Stay tuned!