Part 26: Elk River, ID to Salmon River Mountains, ID


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The Trip

We made it to Elk River, ID and found that there was a new FS campsite right next to town so we decide to stay there.  We got our spot and then headed into town for dinner at the local cafe.  It was a quiet night.  Next morning, we headed south toward Orofino.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Our campsite in Elk River was somewhat unique.  This site had 30A electric service, but no water and no trash dumpster.  In fact, there was no trash dump at all in Elk River; we had to carry our (several days old) garbage all the way to Orofino.

We ate in the Elk River Cafe again because the food was good.  We headed south out of Elk River to Dworkshak reservoir.  This is a big body of water that sits behind Dworshak Dam.  The reservoir started filling in 1971.

The Dent Bridge is a 1,000 foot span and is the only way across the reservoir and North Fork of the Clearwater River for 50 miles.

The reservoir has boat launches and we saw both pleasure boats and house boats.

We traveled south from Orofino and along the way we spotted this osprey nest compliments of the local utility company.  This one is occupied.

We followed rivers and then crossed over a mountain range into Grangeville, ID.  In the parking lot of the local supermarket, we discovered a hissing sound from inside the cab.  At first, we thought it was a cooling system leak, but when we got back from shopping I examined the fluid dripping from the truck and concluded it was from the air conditioning system.  We ate lunch and found a spot at a local RV park to do laundry, etc.  Next morning we tilted the cab and discovered that it was in fact the air conditioning system.  Note the spot on the upper compressor hose that is ablated.  On deeper inspection, we discovered that the real leak was on the underside of the hose where it had been pressed against the compressor pulley.

I stuck the camera under the hose and shot a photo upwards.  The cut in the hose is visible in the center of the photo above.  This is lights-out for the a/c system for the duration of this trip, which promises a very hot return home to San Diego.

It was really, really smoky in Grangeville due to the nearby forest fires.  We spotted a fire attack helicopter approaching it's base.

The selected route took us south deeper into the Salmon River Mountains.  As we were descending the steep switchbacks to the Salmon River, we could see a fire lookout tower on the ridge through the thick smoke.  Given the very limited visibility due the smoke, this lookout was essentially useless.

There was a camping area right next to the Salmon River, so we took it.  The place is called Spring Bar and is a popular put-in location with the river rafting crowd.  Next morning, this group of young bucks showed up with a keg in a trash can.  It looked to us as one of the fellows had more than his fair share of beer.

Buses of rafters showed up too bringing tourists to the put-in point.

The rafts had already been delivered by another team earlier in the day.

We left the rafters to their fun and headed west down the Salmon River Canyon toward Riggins, ID.

Some of the bottom land and side canyons were private land and had nice dwellings.

The sign on the road said "Beware of falling rock".  Yup, true enough.

The lower Salmon River area had many nice sand bars and folks were camping there with their water toys.

We passed another set of rafters closer to Riggins.

From Riggins, we decided to check out the Seven Devils Mountains to the west.  The road was in pretty good shape, but narrow and steep.  The smoke greatly impacted visibility and made our noses and lungs very unhappy.

From a saddle, we got our first view of the Seven Devils Peaks.  These were quite rugged and were high enough to still have some snow.

Close to the saddle, we spotted a rancher with his working dogs herding cattle.  Above, the dogs are heading after a few cattle that were away from the main herd.

The dogs worked the strays close together.

The older cow on the left was bawling out of frustration and fear.  She attempted to kick the dogs multiple times, but the dogs were too fast and too smart; they had seen that trick before.  Eventually, the dogs got in front of the strays and worked them back to the herd.

We got to the crest and were surprised to see many cars with backpackers.  This family is heading out with 2 children and a dog.  And judging from the amount of stuff, they won't be going too far.  Camping with small children is the definition of "logistical nightmare".

This group of young guys shoulders their packs and head out.

We looked around the crest area, but it was not that interesting (due to the thick smoke) so we decided to head back toward Riggins and then over the mountains to south through steep, narrow French Creek grade.  On the river grade, we passed a trailer used for transporting helicopters to fire camps.

Further upstream on the Salmon we spotted this nice ranch in a side canyon.

The canyon walls were steep and travel was only possible in a small number of areas.  This trail is steep and narrow and fortunately it is not our route.

Closer to French Creek, we passed a series of cross-country motorcycles.

This bridge across the Salmon River was built by the CCC in the 1930s out of concrete, wood posts and steel beams.

The road took a lot of dynamite to build and some areas were impassible except for the path cut by the road.

We took the turn-off to French Creek and the road got steep in a hurry.  The switchbacks went right up the face of the cliff.  As a bonus, the narrow trail had plenty of washouts and other obstacles.  It was slow going and rather scary in a wide vehicle like Thor.

Further up the grade, we reached a clear area that allowed a partial view of the trail.

At the top of the grade we came upon this abandoned bus that may have been used by the loggers.  It has long since been stripped of anything valuable.  Plus, derelict vehicles make great targets for shooting.

The amount of dead-fall on the road was actually quite small.  Fortunately, the ones that we did encounter were at easy spots on the trail.

Higher on the ridge we could see areas that we recovering from fires.

We spent the night at a roadside remote area.  For whatever reason, we did not know that there was a FS camp only about a kilometer further down the road.  But, no matter.  We had a nice night.

Next, we head to McCall, ID for supplies and then back into the Seven Devils and down to the Snake River.

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