RAGBRAI Day 6.

What a day. I started at 7 AM when the overnight rains stopped. It didn’t take long for them to start again though. By 9 AM I was in the little town of Tripoli about 27 miles along when a lightning bolt hit close enough that there was no gap between the flash and the bang. I decided it was a good time to join the crowds in the halls of the high school. Some people even ran into hail in the storm.

By 10 AM the rain was stopping, although the wind was not. Then the next 10 miles was some of the worst pavement we’ve seen. After a brief stop in Sumner, we turned south into a 25+ mph headwind that lasted the next 35 miles.

So rain, thunder and lightning, hail, bad roads and headwinds. The only thing we were missing to make it truly epic was a plague of frogs.

Tomorrow is our last day and we will be starting before dawn in order to get home tomorrow night.

RAGBRAI Day 3

It was a hot and muggy night. I was dripping sweat just packing up. In addition today was the long day, 80 miles. The forecast was for highs in the 90’s so I started at 6:00 am. As we rode out of town the sun rose out of the steam and above the corn.

In the 90 degree heat I decided that the basic 80 miles were enough and skipped the extra loop to add 28 miles. The wind was out of the northwest so it was more of a help than a hindrance most of the day. But at the end of the day, five miles from town we turned north into the wind and a series of long hills. Most people found the sign saying “5 miles and 5 hills to go” discouraging at that point.

I skipped most of the food and just concentrated on liquids, having emptied the water bottles pretty quickly.

RAGBRAI Day 2

Today was a short day, 42 miles. So I started a little later and made several stops at the roadside stands to take on ballast: the Pork Chop Guy, the Iowa Craft Beer and Beekman’s homemade ice cream. The stops allowed me to slow down the day and not arrive at our camp site until 1:00.

RAGBRAI Day 1

I started at 6:30 this morning when they opened the road. It was a nice setup with the road lined with flags.

It was a 72 mile day, but I got to the finish line at 12:30 and our team didn’t have the signs for the camp location out yet. So I rode too far and ended up having to come back, finish with 100 miles, which was OK, but it was too much time in the sun.

The towns really do things up, with the hay bales decorated and signs hung from farm equipment.

The church ladies sell pies and such in the day time and spaghetti dinners in the evening.

RAGBRAI

Early this morning 67 of us gathered at a school north of Chicago to load gear and bikes on a truck and board a bus for a ride across Iowa to the Missouri River.

Tomorrow morning we start the ride across the state to the Mississippi. It’s about 420 miles, so it averages 60 miles a day.

There will be 8,000+ people riding, so it should be a crazy scene.

Gathering for the bus ride

Hike to Sawtooth Lake

Today was our last Sawtooth Mountains hike. We saved Sawtooth lake to the end because we heard it was still frozen and because with 1,700 feet of climb and a 10 mile hike it was going to be at the limit of Cathie’s ability.

The hike is in another beautiful valley with sharp granite peaks on either side, wild flowers all around and great alpine lakes along the way. The reason these are called the Sawtooths is very clear.

I have to say that the Sawtooth Mountains are a hiker’s dream. There are great day hikes and doubtless even better multi-day backpacking trips. There are few people besides serious hikers. The locals seem to want it under the radar to keep out the bus tours, etc. and it seems to be working. The local town, Stanley, has a population of 63, several small hotels and restaurants and outfitters. You could easily miss the town, especially if you are gawking at the mountains.

Tomorrow morning we drive to Boise and take a plane home, our summer adventure is done.

4th of July Creek

Today we decided to do a short hike up 4th of July Creek to Washington Lake. The idea was a half day, 5 mile hike. But Cathie quickly discovered that the area was full of wildflowers. So the hike took a little longer as we admired, photographed and identified all the various flowers, but for Cathie it was a good exchange for a longer time on the trail.

We did get to both 4th of July Lake

and Washington Lake.

I’m sitting on the deck outside our room overlooking the Salmon River, which we listen to all night, and watching the light fade at 9:30 PM. A lovely way to spend an evening.

Hike to Alpine Lake (South)

There are two Alpine lakes in this mountain range, just a few miles apart. It does cause confusion when discussing hikes and directions.

We took a ferry across Redfish Lake to the trail head on the other side, it saves several miles each way and certainly made the hike more doable. With the ferry the hike was about 13 miles round trip and 1,900 feet of differential according to my GPS.

The mountains started at the far shore of the lake.

We hiked several miles up the valley between granite peaks on either side.

There was a snow covered circ at the end of the valley.

But before we got there we headed up a long series of switchbacks on the north side.

All along the way the hillsides were covered with flowers.

Alpine Lake had thawed but was still surrounded by snow.

The Sawtooth Range

The Sawtooth Mountains as seen from Stanley Idaho.

I am amazed that these mountains aren’t better known. But they aren’t in a park and to get close to them requires hiking.

The Sawtooth Mountains - Almost Alice Lake

We are back in Stanley Idaho for 4 days of hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains. The weather is beautiful, sunny and a high of 80. A great day for a hike.

Today we went down to Pettit Lake
to hike up to Alice Lake. We almost got there.

A couple of miles in we forded the knee-deep fast, cold stream,
then we crossed it on a large log
and continued up the slope past meadows that really needed a moose,
over the scree slopes to another crossing of the stream. The logs were small and not very secure, but I tried the wading and it was going to be waist deep. So across the logs we went.
Shortly we came to another crossing, but this time no logs, but just as cold, deep and fast. We decided we’d had enough so sat on rocks above the wet meadow and had lunch before heading back down.
After crossing on the small logs we noticed small cairns as trail markers where we hadn’t looked before. There was a way up to Alice Lake without the last several stream crossings. But another scree slope crossing wasn’t that appealing either, so we headed back down.

The mountains were great and there were lots of wildflowers; so it was a great hike, even if we had cold wet feet and we didn’t make it to the lake. It is all about the journey.

Rafting Report

We are back in Stanley, Idaho after our raft trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. It was a great trip, with six days of whitewater.

We had 23 guests plus 6 crew on 3 oar rafts, 2 paddle rafts and a sweep raft for equipment.
I paddled all but one day and Cathie rode the oar boats. The sweep is pretty unusual. I hadn’t realized anyone still ran sweep boats. Back in the 1800’s they were common on rivers for moving cargo down rivers, but since they can only go downstream and are only steerable in a current they went away as motors were added and rivers were dammed.

The canyon was sloping walls with lodgepole pine and large burned areas the first few days, but as we went lower the walls got rockier and the trees changed to ponderosa pine, and grass lands as it got drier.

We didn’t see a lot of wildlife, but did glimpse mule deer, big horn sheep and elk.
Several ospreys grabbed fish from the river, and magpies complained if we got close. Swallows darted back and forth catching insects over the water. There were a lot of wild mock-orange and a wild relative of hollyhocks.
The water was cool enough that we wore wetsuits. The sun was warm, but on cloudy, windy days it got considerably cooler. The splashes of cold water from the larger rapids were enough to make Cathie gasp. There were several hot springs along the river and a soak in one felt good after a dousing by the cold river.
But the sleeping bags provided by the outfitter kept us cozy during the chilly nights. Tent flies kept off the heavy dew that accumulated during the nights. We had sunny skies, clouds and rain; often all of them several times in a day.

There were lots of big rapids, including several Class 4, and almost no really flat water with nearly continuous mild whitewater between the rapids.

The group included folks from all over the US, plus 3 all the way from Australia. A barrister was spending 5 weeks doing 4 different raft trips, including several more days on the lower portions of the Salmon. We were happy to greet friends Lynn and Stephanie, surgeons from Las Vegas, whom we had met on a previous trip.

I am often asked by friends about toilet facilities when discussing rafting To protect the wilderness we are traveling through, the water quality and the camp site for the next user ALL solid wastes must be carried out. So we use a toilet box, placed away from camp, for solids and urine goes in the river. The box has a normal toilet seat and a lid that tightly seals before it is placed on a raft. In this View of the Loo, you can also see the screen cover and Pee Bucket. Often there is a nice view from the loo.

As always discussion with the guides and other travelers gave Doug ideas for other trips including possible rafting trips on the Tamur in Nepal and the Firth in Canada’s Northwest Territory. Cathie definitely isn’t interested in either of these.

Stanley Idaho and the Middle Fork of the Salmon

Today we packed up and moved to Stanley Idaho. Along the way we stopped at Craters of the Moon National Monument. As you may know there is a hot spot under the earth’s crust at Yellowstone. This hot spot has been moving eastward for millions of years. At one time it was under the area where Craters is now. Long after it moved on there were still molten materials that would make small eruptions here. So it wasn’t huge violent eruptions, but smaller ones that built small cinder cones and lava fields. It’s an interesting place, but very black with cinders and lava flows.

Tomorrow we head down the river for six days of rafting before coming back to Stanley. The mountains are beautiful here! It’s amazingly unknown and uncrowded. I’m looking forward to coming back and hiking here. Our hotel is right on the river and room opens onto a balcony over the river.

Next report will be in a week or so; there’s no wifi on the river.

Yellowstone Canyon

Today the plan was to hike Teton Canyon on the west side of the mountains. But after going over the pass and heading north we noticed the rain ahead and stretching to the west.
Since thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon, we decided it wasn’t a good day for hiking. So we headed back over the pass into the Jackson Hole valley and drove up to Yellowstone for a more typical tourist day.

Having been in the geyser basins several times we headed up to Yellowstone Canyon.

Along the way we hit several bands of rain and sleet, some of it pretty hard. So we were glad not to be out hiking.

So a lot of driving today and not much walking. Tomorrow is more of the same as we pack up and head for Stanley Idaho and a week of rafting on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

Blue Skies over the Tetons

We woke up this morning to blue skies, so scrapped the plans for the west side of the Tetons and headed north to get the shots of the mountains with blue skies and sunshine, our first chance at that.

What makes the Tetons so special is that they erupt right from the flat valley floor; no rolling foothills, no transition, just sharp jagged mountains. It’s really dramatic in a way few places are.

Turning around and looking east, after taking a lot of shots of the peaks, brings you back to big sky country.

We finally got around to hiking and headed up Paintbrush Canyon. The start of the trail went through an area that had burned 15 years ago, so while there weren’t a lot of big trees, there was a wonderful collection of smaller plants and young trees.

Then we headed up through the woods on wet, muddy trails and over the occasional snow bank. After several miles and 1,500 feet Cathie decided she wasn’t having much fun, so we headed back down the hill to the lakes at the bottom.

Paintbrush Canyon isn’t nearly as scenic as Cascade just to the south. There is a loop trail that connects the two, but that is a 20+ mile hike with almost 5,000 feet of climb. The pass is snow covered and ice axes recommended until late July. So we are too early in the season and too late in life to consider that!