Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Return To Pass Creek - Part 1

Early in September (while LCs brother was visiting from Minnesota) we explored a place that LC and I had always meant to explore, but which we had never gotten around to.
Pass Creek Pass is located off the main highway between Moore and Mackay, and is an easy drive from Atomic City.
Within minutes of beginning our drive through the pass on that day I was already mentally kicking myself.
How could such a beautiful place exist so close to home, and we had not found it in the three years we had lived in this area??
Along with that mental admonishment was the knowledge that there must be MANY places just like this one, hidden in the mountains, off the beaten path, off the highway, that were patiently waiting for us to find them...........

With unusually warm weather this late in the year, and with the sky in a seeming holding pattern of endless sunshine and temperatures that barely fluctuated away from the mid-50's LC and I spent almost a month straight gutting out and redoing an old camper.
It's almost done but not quite done as I write this and (for the next couple of weeks at least) we're on hold.
The weather is finally crashing, and after visiting the four businesses in town that sell paint and stain, we are out of needed supplies until early next month.
One day in the middle of that month-long camper gut LC and I decided that we needed a break and that we needed to do something or go somewhere beautiful.
We needed the mountains..................

 On our last trip up and over Pass Creek Pass with Gary, we had all noticed a dirt road that veered to the right.
Right at the turn was a sign that told us that down that road was a lake and a campground.
As we passed by that road and sign a couple of months ago LC and I resolved that we would check it out one day.
Yeah sure.
Maybe we would and maybe we wouldn't.
And maybe (given our past history of resolutions) we would get back to it in.......a year..........or three..............

It turns out that we would get back there sooner than expected after all..............

The last time we visited we drove into the Little Lost River Valley, turned off the highway, climbed up and over the pass before coming out in the Big Lost River Valley between Moore and Mackay.
This time the plan was to go in on the Big Lost side, climb to the top of the pass, turn off to check the camp ground and then come back the way we came on the return trip.
View as we approached the entrance to Pass Creek Pass.............
Not far into the pass we pulled off the road and pulled into a circular driveway adjacent to a creek.
We had stopped in this same place on our last trip because it was so beautiful and we stopped again on this trip for the same reason...................
On a very beautiful and warm day we wandered -  pleased with ourselves for making it back so soon, for finally taking a break from gutting and rebuilding a camper, and for being together in this quiet and very wonderful place.
We had badly needed this trip.
The world was silent.
The sky was endlessly blue.
There was snow in the higher mountains, but around us was only running water, pine trees, and rugged and rocky hills.
This was a special place................
A couple of months ago, in early Fall, the hardwood trees were filled with bright yellow leaves.
Now, a couple of months later, the shadows from the rocky canyon we were heading into were longer, and the trees were bare..............
Moving along...................
At the top of the pass.
If we had continued straight we would quickly drop down on the other side of the pass.
The creek expanded "down there" - a long expanse of wider, tree lined stream with occasional signs boasting of exceptional trout fishing.
Instead of continuing straight we turned to the left.
Following the sign promising a campground and lake.
We were curious................
Immediately we began to climb.
And immediately the hills got steeper and we were greeted with more pine trees................
After continuing to climb amid pine tree lined dirt road we stopped the Suburban for a moment so I could snap this picture.
It was a small lake, surrounded by pines, and a thin layer of ice covered the surface.
Lower down temperatures had been in the mid-50s but now it was a good deal colder, and the lake was mostly still shaded by trees.
Was this the lake the sign described?  The one I had seen on the map on the Internet after our last trip?
If so, it was much smaller than I had imagined.................
10 minutes later we passed by a sign that said "group camping".
Was this the campground we had been looking for or was there another?
As we stopped in the middle of the road we looked in the direction of the group camping sign.
The dirt road to the right was much narrower than even the narrow road we were now on.
It was also very rutted out and dropped steeply.
Well............if this was the only campground it wasn't conducive for fifth wheels or pull behind campers, that was sure.
And I sure wouldn't tent camp in this place.
Not in the rugged mountains of Idaho.
We decided to drive further to see what was still up ahead of us.
10 more minutes and the road suddenly turned into a rutted out muddy mess. was time to turn back.
We were alone up here, had no idea what was up ahead, nobody knew where we were.
I didn't check but was fairly certain that there was no cell phone service up there.
Hell.........I was in Blackfoot yesterday and I dropped calls twice while talking to LC.
You know that red Can You Hear Me Now map?
There were patches of non-red all over the west including where we lived and where we were at that moment in the mountains....................

Disappointed that we could continue no further we gingerly turned the Suburban around and headed back towards the campground.
When we reached it again we this time turned into the long driveway, dropped down into the rutted out and narrow trail and drove beyond the campground sign, curious to find what we would find.
Right at the entrance to the campground we eased the Suburban beyond the sharp pine tree branches (no - a camper would not be able to get through here) and suddenly the world opened up again and we were greeted with  a huge expanse of grass surrounded by pines................
As LC slowed the Suburban down and then stopped before we hit the deep mud on the double track dirt trail, Kory eagerly began to bark and dance around in the back.
She had wandered with us for a few minutes near the creek when we first headed into Pass Creek, but after being in the vehicle for the past 45 minutes she was eager to get out of the vehicle and wander.
We all were....................
How do you even describe the feeling of freedom that we all had in this place?
A completely silent, completely wonderful place on a completely beautiful day.
In those moments it felt like we had the whole world to ourselves.
Every mountain, every pine tree to ourselves.
We wandered in the field for a while.  I snapped pictures in all directions.  We looked around for signs of another lake but found nothing.
It was obvious that this was strictly a primitive campground, and that those with campers did their camping in the many pulloffs adjacent to the stream lower down.
We found a trail and took it, curious to see where it led.
It turned out to be a huge semi circle that eventually found its way back to the field.
Pictures I took along the way..................
She is loving her new found freedom this year.
We're loving it as well................ 

How can you explain that you need to know that the trees are still there, and the hills and the sky? Anyone knows they are. How can you say it is time your pulse responded to another rhythm, the rhythm of the day and the season instead of the hour and the minute? No, you cannot explain. So you walk.................Author unknown, from New York Times editorial, "The Walk," 25 October 1967

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