Lava, Rattlesnake and Devil Creeks

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April 19, 2015
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An idea to ride overnight in the Upper Reynolds Creek area gave way to a simpler day ride to check on my old friend Lava Mountain and see if I could connect from there across Bear Gulch for a half-day of riding single track by myself.

Oregon Trail
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Oregon Trail
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Concrete obelisks have been made redundant by old televisions, mattresses and jugs marking the route of the old Oregon Trail behind Micron. Seeing all the beer cans and hearing gunfire while riding here, in Boise’s foothills and south of Kuna, I count myself lucky to have yet suffered no lead piercings.

Passing three shot-up trash heaps makes me think of putting together a photo essay of desert redneck detritus. I have several heretofore unshared images of the subject. I bet someone’s already done it, though.

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Some offer tips to mellow the KTM’s torque and twitchy throttle but I get a rush when it tries to buck me off for a slightly jostled hand. And there’s plenty of jostling on this rutted and rocky stretch of trail up to Bonneville Point.

Curious but skittish cows, however, put me back on the seat. Like any seasoned rider, I’m haunted by accounts of animal impacts.

Bender Creek trailhead
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Bender Creek trailhead
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I am surprised to see trucks parked at the Bender Creek trailhead. I didn’t think Danskin was open yet or it might have been on my route today. Maybe they represent folks out doing trail work.

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I quite enjoy outdoor adventures with my wife, family and friends but as something of an introvert, I need intermingled solo rides where I can stop and spend thirty minutes playing with long exposures, sing in my helmet and swear loudly at branches.

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I pull off to explore the flowered point above where the Boise River pours into Arrowrock Reservoir. I think fondly of walking here with Hunter, looking at flowers and spotting a nesting bald eagle.¹

  1. Trail Image, “Stalled in Willow Creek”: trailimage.com/stalled-in-willow-creek
Pinnacle
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Pinnacle
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Arrowleaf
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Arrowleaf
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South Fork tradition
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South Fork tradition
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Little traffic means I can enjoy the Blacks Creek Road speedway. I don’t need a 180 MPH bike when 60 can feel insane. Before parting ways with the river, I pull off to another point from which I can see a commonly rafted stretch of water and the northern limits of the Danskin OHV area beyond. It’s over there where I just about killed Jessica.¹

  1. Trail Image, “Bad Day at Danskin”: trailimage.com/bad-day-at-danskin
Bitters
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Bitters
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Couldn’t help myself
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Couldn’t help myself
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Although Jessica packed me a nice tuna fish sandwich and I have plenty to drink, I find myself unable to pass by the Y-Stop without stopping. I imagine places like these need all the business they can get.

The store is empty but the smell of cooking is wafting out of the back. After a minute, the owner (the guy I always see there, anyway) walks out wiping his hands on an apron.

The kitchen isn’t always open so I verify, “you cooking today?”

“Depends on what you want,” he answers.

“Whatever you’re making is fine.” Truth is, I’m not even that hungry. But I grab a beer from the store cooler and take a seat at a table in the back, still in my riding gear. After a moment to look at the menu, I poke my head into the kitchen.

“Cheeseburger sounds great,” I say.

“‘kay.”

Riparian right
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Riparian right
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After lunch, I settle up, grab a couple cookies for the road, and head north to the Lava Mountain turn-off. Here a couple thousand feet higher than Boise it’s still early spring. Blooms and buds are peeping yellow and green but many trees are still bare.

Lava Creek campsite
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Lava Creek campsite
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There is a campsite right at the singletrack trailhead. When last I came this way¹ it was occupied. It’s empty today so I’m curious to check it out, see if it could be worthy of a family visit.

  1. Trail Image, “Flowers Erupt from Lava Mountain”: trailimage.com/flowers-erupt-from-lava-mountain
Cabbage
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Cabbage
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Filtration
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Filtration
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Fresh air
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Fresh air
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New life from old
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New life from old
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May be blocked
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May be blocked
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I have been curious to ride Lava Mountain since 2013’s big fires. I saw last year that much of House Mountain burned¹ and thought I’d heard the fire also approached Smith’s Prairie from this direction. I’ll feel sad if it’s equally burned.

  1. Trail Image, “Switchbacks to Goat Lake”: trailimage.com/switchbacks-to-goat-lake
Navigable
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Navigable
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The GPS unit¹ that served me well for years has locked up several times on recent rides. After some research it seemed I’d get the best value and functionality by replacing it with a bit of software added to my existing tablet. The view it provides is great but it turns out my old USB cable is flaky, not charging the tablet. It will die soon but that’s okay. It was just a test. I don’t need it today.

  1. Trail Image, “Delorme Earthmate PN-30”: trailimage.com/…/delormeearthmatepn30
Nothing big
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Nothing big
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The first deadfall I encounter is easily circumnavigated. Well, sort of — the low brush is surprisingly clingy.

Silky
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Silky
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I can’t get around the next tree across the trail so I get to break out the Silky BIGBOY for the first time. It’s getting harder each year to find something new to buy for the season. New gadgets are half the fun, though, so I came up with a saw. The Sven Saw I’ve used is really nice but setup time and harder blade replacement was just enough excuse.

Two in the hand
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Two in the hand
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Fitness program
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Fitness program
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I suppose if I were a more manly man I could easily manage a wheelie thing over the next tree. But I’m out here alone and my luck with wheelie things isn’t that great. I guess I’ll cut again.

My wheelies aren’t that good
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My wheelies aren’t that good
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Feeling forty
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Feeling forty
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Although the BIGBOY cuts these trees like butter, I’m still left heaving for air. Darn it. Time to work more regular exercise into my life.

No thank you
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No thank you
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I cut my way through another tree before getting to a stretch of woods that’s a mess. I can see the final ridge above but I’m not getting there today.

Along Jackass Creek
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Along Jackass Creek
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I backtrack down the trail to Long Gulch Road. The tablet has died so now I’m free to explore any side road that catches my fancy. I can’t tell where any of them go.

Tipton Flat Campground
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Tipton Flat Campground
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Instead of continuing to the river as usual, I turn up Rattlesnake Creek Road. I’ve never gone this way. After several speedy miles along the creek, I find an unimproved campground and stop for a little me-time.

Rattlesnake moss
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Rattlesnake moss
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Me and the tree
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Me and the tree
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No whip
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No whip
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Tri-tip
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Tri-tip
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Too late now
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Too late now
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Devil Creek trailhead
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Devil Creek trailhead
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Although my decision to turn up Rattlesnake Creek felt arbitrary, it turns out this is exactly where I would have come out if I’d been able to cut across Bear Gulch from Lava Mountain. Let’s see how far I can get coming at it the opposite way.

Keep your hands and feet inside
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Keep your hands and feet inside
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Do the limbo
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Do the limbo
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Devil’s Creek trail is idyllic and tree-free for the first mile or so. Unlike the Lava Mountain trail, there are fresh motorcycle tracks here. I have to squeeze under one big fallen tree but the continuing tracks give me hope.

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Six remain
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Six remain
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The fallen
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The fallen
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I am able to ride a few miles more up the mountain. I follow tracks on a steep hill around another tree and get hung up in some brush. I burn a lot of energy getting sorted and back on the trail so when I get to yet another tree across the trail, about three feet off the ground, I decide to call it a day. Scuffs in the dirt suggest the other riders actually drug their motorcycles under. I’d need my brothers or Michael along to help with that kind of work.

Glowing greens
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Glowing greens
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Young leaves become luminous in the low sun as I ride quickly back down the trail then on toward the river and reservoirs. I pop open my helmet visor to take in the smell of pine and water. It’s a beautiful time of day and year to be speeding through these natural places.

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Hidden campsite
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Hidden campsite
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I wondered when Brenna I were camping¹ if there was a way to ride into a campsite we found. There sort of is.

  1. Trail Image, “Willow Creek Campground”: trailimage.com/willow-creek-campground
High water marks
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High water marks
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Brimming
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Brimming
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Even on a motorcycle, the road around Arrowrock Reservoir, with its washboards and tight curves, is slow-going. I’m glad to reach the dam knowing pavement is a mile ahead.

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I pretend I’m back on the GS and slide off the seat into the corners around Lucky Peak Reservoir as guard rails and sage brush flash by. I pause a moment before turning onto the highway at the bridge and notice there an unlabeled cross fashioned of purple trimmed, teal skis. I remember the thing that such rides always bring to mind: it is a joy to be here.