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Photography

Jason Abbott

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Boulder Creek Creek Gravel Road

Louie Creek Road

I hadn’t expected any more overnight rides this year but when Ryan invited us¹ to his boyhood stomping grounds for what promised to be a beautiful autumn weekend, I had to sign up. On a scale of one-to-five, he categorized the trail to Louie Lake as level four,² fairly difficult. I was kind of worried about that but excited all the same for one more mountain ride.

The seven of us who went traveled in five groups according to whenever we could get out of town Friday afternoon. For most of us, including myself, it was highway until about McCall, then a few miles of country road and finally an ATV trail. I rode alone and caught up on This American Life³ episodes.

1.motoidaho.com/…

2.motoidaho.com/…

3.www.thisamericanlife.org/…

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BMW R1200GS Adventure Boulder Creek Creek Gravel Road Motorcycle

The real ride began when we turned off Boulder Lake Road to cross Boulder Creek on the other side of a gate blocking anything larger than ATVs. Low water made the crossing easy—one less worry.

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BMW R1200GS Adventure Dirt Path Motorcycle Path

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BMW R1200GS Adventure Dirt Path Motorcycle Path

Propelling a 600 pound machine with a fast first gear and clutch that can’t be slipped, up that incline and through the maze of rocks, required a somewhat moronic approach: pick a line, pop the clutch and hang on for dear life until the engine stalls (several times) or I run hard into something (a couple times). Then get pointed the right direction and repeat.

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BMW R1200GS Adventure Dirt Path Motorcycle Path

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BMW R1200GS Adventure Camp Chair Camping Chair Kermit Chair Lake Louie Lake Motorcycle Tent
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Lone tent along Louie Lake

It was with considerable relief that I crested the trail at the edge of the lake. Jim’s¹ tent and motorcycle stood near the water’s edge but he was nowhere to be found—hiking I guessed.

1.motoidaho.com/…

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Autumn Jughandle Mountain Lake Louie Lake Moon Mountain
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Autumn colors along Louie Lake

Ed (trailrider383¹) arrived not long after I had my own tent setup and then Jim returned, with that smile he seems always to wear, as Ed was unpacking.

1.www.advrider.com/…

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Autumn Camping Jughandle Mountain Lake Louie Lake Mountain Tent
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Autumn Jughandle Mountain Lake Louie Lake Mountain
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Jughandle Mountain reflected in Louie Lake

Aspens adorned in their autumn colors decorated the circumspect shore. Jughandle Mountain, crowned by a barely gibbous moon, looked stone-faced across the placid lake to our campsite, the last rays of sun just kissing its cheek.

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Jughandle Mountain Moon Mountain
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Gibbous moon above Jughandle Mountain

I think no aware person can but feel awe, the smallness of his own concerns, in places like this—“Nature’s Temples” as John Muir¹ was fond of saying.

1.en.wikipedia.org/…

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Autumn Lake Louie Lake Reflection
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Still shore of Louie Lake

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Camp Chair Camping Chair Eating Ed Fire Jughandle Mountain Kermit Chair Mountain trailrider383
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Campfire at the lake’s edge

The three of us sat by a small fire of driftwood and brush as afternoon faded toward dusk. The sound of engines revving and falling silent signaled the approach of others picking their way through the rocks. Buoyed perhaps by our own safe passage through the gauntlet, we made mirthful comment on their approach.

“Wow, did it take me that long?”

“Maybe I should go give them a tow.”

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Camp Chair Camping Chair Fire Jim JimE Kermit Chair Phil Smoking Tyson av_mech
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Stories around the fire

Headlight beams bouncing wildly in the trees atop the trail suggested they were making the final climb. Finally Phil (HeadingNorth¹) and his neighbor Joe emerged and found their way lakeside. Three became five around the fire.

Dusk was nearing dark when the familiar engine ruckus reached our ears from the trail below. A roar and then silence, repeating itself. I can’t imagine riding that trail in the half-light that remained.

The sound of struggle went on for some time before the trail spat Tyson (av_mech²) from its mouth. It was fully dark. It sounded like he and Ryan had helped each other but their combined effort could coax the 950 no further. The trail was silent.

1.www.advrider.com/…

2.www.advrider.com/…

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Camping Jughandle Mountain Lake Louie Lake Mountain Night Reflection
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Jughandle Mountain under stars

“My grandpa and I used to come here,” Ryan began, after making peace with the 950 predicament and joining us around the fire. He went on to tell of their fishing trips, riding slowly between lakes on Trail 90s, and his grandpa’s defiant attitude. We could all talk about rides we’d been on, good or bad, and the wonders we’d seen. We had that in common. As the hour grew late, stories turned to El Diablo the elk and grizzly defenses.

I had left camera on tripod for one night photograph before bed. I realized when I stood from my seat at the fire that the sips of drink had added up. I had to concentrate to set the right exposure but I was glad to record the moment—water pooled at the foot of a dark mountain, reflecting infinity above.

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BMW R1200GS Adventure Camp Chair Camping Chair Jetboil Jim JimE Kawasaki KLR 650 Motorcycle Phil Ryan Tent Tyson av_mech ryanwilliamcantrell
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Six tents along the shoreline

I woke in the dark to the sound of rain and rushing wind. It seemed the year’s perfect record of camping and rain would hold. The wind could be heard whooshing, almost roaring, in the trees around the lake before it reached us in waves. By the sound of it, I half expected the tent to pull loose of its stakes but the wind’s strength did not match its sound.

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Autumn Lake Louie Lake
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Aspens in the cold light of morning

Our tents held against the wind but Tyson was unhappy to discover that his was setup in a slight basin. He had a wet night.

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Camping Joe Ryan ryanwilliamcantrell
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Check-up before the ride home

The morning was cold but not terribly so, and the sky was blue. Our individual cook stoves sprang up like hissing mushrooms to prepare coffee, oatmeal, even freeze-dried eggs. Bikes were checked, coffee shared and a homeward route planned.

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Camping Coffee Phil
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First things first

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Camping Jim JimE Tent
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Camping Eating Lake Louie Lake Tyson av_mech
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Boulder Creek Creek Jim JimE Kawasaki KLR 650 Motorcycle Riding Splashing

The possibility of a slower pace, braking instead of accelerating, simplified the trail descent. Soon we were back at the gravel road and ready for the next adventure.

A plan to ride the East Mountain ATV trail was deferred with Ryan’s expedited return to Boise. None of us remaining were prepared to lead that route. Instead we would simply take back-roads as much as possible as we made our way home.

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Gravel Road Lick Creek Road Riding
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Autumn trees along Lick Creek Road

We rode through McCall, northeast along Payette Lake to Lick Creek Road. We travelled a ribbon of asphalt black with the morning rain, laced with fluttering, golden leaves. The idyllic drive brought to mind the observations of Robert Pirsig.

“You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming” (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance).

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Autumn Gravel Road Lick Creek Road Riding
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Aspen filtered light

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Clear green water along the road

Road and creek entwined in a shadowy embrace as asphalt became dirt and we ascended titanic stone-scaled mountains.

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BMW R1200GS Adventure Dirt Road Gravel Road Jim JimE Kawasaki KLR 650 Lick Creek Road Motorcycle Suzuki DR-Z 400S Tyson av_mech
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Stopping for a break

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Stone like scales

Efforts to record the vast hinterland seemed futile. I stopped and stopped again, falling farther behind, unable to squeeze that land into my small black box.

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Mountain
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Mountain peak between pines

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An alien world inhabited by ancient lizards the size of mountains, large enough to support their own flora and fauna, was the subject of one of the short stories I listened to while riding home.

Except it was real. The mountains northeast of McCall were covered in grey scales, wrinkled rocks as large as my yard, the thin spaces between them home to low bushes, red and yellow, and spindly evergreen trees. The landscape could hardly have been more impressive had it suddenly rose up, a titan to lumber across the earth.

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Dirt Road Gravel Road Lick Creek Road
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Descend to the valley

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Autumn Mountain
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Fiery shrubs among snags

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Autumn Dirt Road Gravel Road Lick Creek Road
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Blazing sentinels

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BMW R1200GS Adventure Dirt Road Gravel Road Lick Creek Road Motorcycle
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Parked for a moment of observation

We descended slowly along the shoulder of a wide valley, it’s forest floor hazy in the morning light. Small aspens stood among stone blocks above the road like children cautious but curious to see the passing strangers. Rocky crags rose high above, sharp against the bright sky. I wished to stop and spend a day watching light play across the many still forms. Another time.

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Autumn
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Bright children in the rocks

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Autumn Mountain
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Looking back through the brush

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Autumn
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Huge valley haze

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Lone little tree

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Autumn Dirt Road Gravel Road Lick Creek Road
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Turn you cannot miss

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Dirt Road Gravel Road Lick Creek Road
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Following along the river

The road eventually followed at the level of creek and river many miles to our expected turn south to pass the Forest Service helibase, Krassel, and Buckhorn Campground on the way to Warm Lake.

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BMW R1200GS Adventure Bridge Gravel Road Kawasaki KLR 650 Lick Creek Road Motorcycle Tyson av_mech
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Rest before the bridge

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Bridge Gravel Road Lick Creek Road
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Curved bridge

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Bridge Dirt Road Gravel Road Lick Creek Road
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Back at ya

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Kawasaki KLR 650 Motorcycle Sign Tyson av_mech
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Road closure

A big orange sign said our intended road was closed. The nearest alternative was to loop by the tiny mountain town of Yellow Pine, adding about thirty miles to the trip.

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Eating Ed Motorcycle Sign Suzuki DR-Z 400S trailrider383
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Vienna sausage

Tyson expressed uncertainty about having enough gas for the added distance. You can imagine our sympathy.

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Construction Riding
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Road work near Yellow Pine

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Autumn Motorcycle Phil Power Line Sign Suzuki DR-Z 400S Yellow Pine
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Entering Yellow Pine

Yellow Pine didn’t have telephone service until November of 1996.¹ There are no stoplights and no pavement. They don’t always have gas but Tyson got lucky. He filled his bike from a red five gallon jug at the town’s rustic market before we continued southwest along Johnson Creek toward Warm Lake and Cascade.

1.www.ruralnetwork.net/…

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Neon Power Line Restaurant Sign Smoke Yellow Pine
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Main Street

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BMW R1200GS Adventure Motorcycle Neon Phil Store Suzuki DR-Z 400S Yellow Pine
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Stopping for gas at the store

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Kawasaki KLR 650 Motorcycle Neon Store Tyson Yellow Pine av_mech
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Smile, you’re on the Internet

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Gravel Road Johnson Creek Road Motorcycle Riding
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Puddles in the road

Although we never experienced it ourselves, miles and miles of mud and puddles told a story of recent, steady rain.

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Autumn
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Copse along the road

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Dirt Road Gravel Road Johnson Creek Road
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Stand of burned trees

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Sign
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Highway intersection

And then we joined the highway, curving through the mountains around Warm Lake.

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Phil Riding
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Winding down to Warm Lake

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Warm Lake in the valley

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Highway Warm Lake Road
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Straight stretch

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Highway Motorcycle Power Line Riding Warm Lake Road
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Approaching Cascade, Idaho

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Bridge Highway Highway 55 Motorcycle Riding Sign
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Narrow bridge

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Highway Highway 55 Power Line
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Leaving the highway

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Gravel Road High Valley Road

Hanging behind the dust

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Gravel Road High Valley Road Phil

Good-byes

byJason Abbott