Saturday, June 7, 2014

Camping Big Lost River Valley - Part 1

We moved to Idaho late in July of last year, and in September we drove through part of the Big Lost River Valley for the very first time, on the way to a VA appointment at the tiny clinic in Salmon.
It was a very hectic and long up-and-back drive on winding and quiet two lane highway.
Hectic and long, but it was also the first time that LC and I had seen the valley and we knew on that trip that we had found.......beautiful.
The Lost River Range is filled with some of the highest peaks in the state:
It is only one mountain range in a sea of mountain ranges that dominate this region of the country.
They are rugged, majestic, stunningly beautiful mountains, and during that first trip both LC and I decided that he had made the right call by signing up for the VA in Salmon instead of the closer Idaho Falls or Pocatello.
The clinic was smaller.  The staff were caring.  LC walked out of the clinic feeling comfortable with the level of care and attention he received (as opposed to the care that our veterans have received in larger centers all over the country in unconscionable fiascos that are now screaming headlines in the news).
Good care, a beautiful drive on quiet two lane highway.
Yes.......the right decision.
The first of a four part blog post on our whirlwind first trip to Salmon in September of last year:
It was during that first trip that LC and I hoped that next time we visited it would be in a camper.
After much looking and hand wringing and swapping around, we went camping this past week in our new-to-us 18 foot Nomad Camper.
First to Salmon and then back down the valley to Challis.............
We had only had the Nomad for a couple of weeks, and even though it needed some work we did very little to it in preparation for this trip.
NOAA claimed sunny and warm for the duration of the trip.
There had been water damage to the ceiling of the camper in the past, and even though doubtful claims of repairs had been made we decided to risk it anyway.
The structure felt sturdy.  
We fixed some minor issues before leaving AC, and called it a day.
We could work on the camper in between camping trips.
We needed to camp.
The VA appointment had been made, we had a camper, and after living in increasing heat and increasing dryness for umpteen weeks, both LC and I were eager for green.
We needed to see trees around us.  Water.  Mountains close instead of in the far distance.
LC needed to relearn his rusty fishing skills and learn how people fished in this part of the country.  
I needed to kayak and to see Kory playing in the lakes and rivers.
We needed to get away for a while and we both knew it.
So whatever shape the camper was in..........it was in.  
Whatever hidden problems that camper had would just have to..........be.  
It would only be for four or five days and however the untested camper held up would be more than good enough for the three of us.
We needed away...................
These pictures were all taken on the drive between Mackay and Salmon.
After leaving the muted and pale and barely-there greens of the Snake River Plain, I could feel myself relaxing more and more as we headed further and further into the valley.
The days before we left for our trip had been hectic and tiring, and so it continued the morning we were scheduled to leave.
One unexpected obstacle after another slowed our departure, until we could finally pick up enough speed to break free from the vortex in Atomic City that kept sucking us back in.
As we drove through the desert on our way to Arco at the base of the Big Lost River Valley, I breathed a sigh of relief.
Happy to be in this increasingly beautiful and mystical and isolated place.................
A long and deep canyon section of highway, located about 20 minutes north of Mackay............
The day before we left for our camping trip a new friend of ours (who lives in Arco) sent us a link to a Craigslist ad.
There was a small, very light, circa 1960 Shasta camper for sale in Idaho Falls.
It was being sold very cheaply because it was all but gutted out on the inside and all the windows were broken out of it.
We would never have considered an 11 foot camper just a few months ago, but the outgoing, gregarious, retired marine in Arco who told us about the Shasta, picks up these little tin boxes all the time on the cheap, and now has a side business renovating and reselling such things.
We have seen first hand what they can look like when complete.
With a yard full of Shastas and Kit Kampers and other tiny metal tents, he let us know about the one for sale in Idaho Falls.
A few hours and $130 later, we were the proud owners of a windowless tin box on wheels.
Will we keep both the Nomad and the Shasta?  
Will we do some renovating and sell one of them?  
Who knows.  But a deal was a deal and options are always better than no options.
A story and pictures for another day................
By the time we reached Challis we all three were ready to stretch our legs.
It had been a wonderful trip on quiet and isolated two lane.
With wiring set up for the Ford but not the Tahoe yet, and with LC uncertain exactly how the Nomad would do on its maiden voyage, we elected to drive the stronger truck on this trip.
Kory (as always) spent half of the trip curled up sleeping in the cab between us, and the other half standing on my lap with her head stuck out the window.
I had thought that by the first week in June we might pass many other travelers on our journey.
It was summer.  School was out.  Campgrounds were open and tourists should have been numerous but surprisingly they were not.
As LC filled the truck with gas I walked across the road with Kory, and explored a small park that was adjacent to the highway and which looked out over the mountains.............
While at the gas station LC asked the attendant where in Challis we could get a good burger.
In typical small town fashion he was informed that the bowling alley just down the road was the best place to go.
Also in small town fashion the burgers were fine but nothing better than what you would expect a bowling alley burger to taste like.
Kory had a chance to walk once more in and beside the fast moving creek adjacent to the facility.
We spent longer than planned simply walking up and down alongside the creek - partly because Kory loves the water and partly because LC and I were also enjoying the simple sight and sound of rushing water.
It seemed like a long time since we had experienced either of those things, and the sheer joy and novelty of it compelled us to stay in this place for a while.................
One more stop beside the Salmon River, mid way through the last 60 mile ride from Challis to Salmon.
I like the desert just fine, but I UNDERSTAND this terrain...............
And then suddenly and finally, we were there.
A campground located right off the highway, and a campground that we had happened upon accidentally during our last trip to Salmon 9 month before.
It was a tiny campground (only 8 camp sights), and aside from running water and restrooms there were no amenities, and that was all perfectly fine with us.
As we pulled into the campground I was surprised to see only one other camper parked at the far end of the small place.
LC pulled into a shady spot at the opposite end of the camp ground right next to the Salmon River.
As Kory and I eagerly climbed out of the truck and immediately headed down to the water, I looked down at the river, then up at the mountains, then behind me at the trees and sheer, overwhelming green of the camp site.
I knew that we were going to have a good trip.
I knew that I was very pleased to be in this beautiful place...............

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