Jessica, Hunter, Brenna and I head to Boulder Basin north of Ketchum, Idaho, to spend the night at 9,700 feet among the tailings and crumbling log cabins abandoned some sixty years since metals were last dug and dissolved from the high rock arena.
It is hard to get anywhere without passing evidence of the year’s fires. “Firefighters say they’ve never seen fires burn the way they did in 2013.”¹ We see the charred aftermath of two or three as we drive east from Boise.
I have wanted to bring the whole family to Boulder Basin since I first saw it last year.¹ I knew the kids would love the open space and adventures running around rocks, creeks, tunnels and lakes.
Since the basin is accessible only to the daring drivers of high-clearance four-wheel-drives, or motorcycles, there aren’t many campers. I expect to get the nice spot by the lake I enjoyed by myself in July¹ but we find it occupied by a couple UTVs. We’re forced to continue up to the small bodies of water in the highest basin where we find a lovely site already prepared among the evergreens.
The site comes ready with a rock oven and skillet that the kids decorate with flowers.
The kids begin exploring our patch of evergreens, surrounding rocks and nearby meadow while Jessica and I set up camp.
There is a good reason to bushwhack with only shorts and flip-flops.
After camp is prepared, the kids take us on a tour of their discoveries, headlined by a waterfall.
We walk together through the high meadow, taking time to inspect every curious wood, stone, water or plant our eyes light upon.
Brenna stops to play on mounds of rocks (“castles” if you remember our trip to Silver City¹) while the rest of us circle back to our campsite.
Such a thorough meadow survey leaves us eager for dinner. The kids would like us to cook with the cobble oven but it’s under trees and not easy to sit around so we persuade them to endure a traditional fire ring near the tent.
There is plenty of wood lying around but the kids would still like to cut some. If only they were this excited to clean their rooms.
The sky glows orange and gold as the last light of day filters through smoky skies.
We awake to a perfect day.
We don’t stay long at camp, instead wanting time to explore other areas in the basin.
We stop alongside a hole we noticed yesterday and agree to let Hunter explore it.
Hunter gets to the entrance and reports it’s filled with rubble beyond.
I sold the kids on the lake so they’re excited to finally stop there today for some swimming. Yesterday’s campers are gone so we have it to ourselves.
It takes a couple countdowns but finally Hunter does it. Jump! He’s braver than I am. That water is cold.
Brenna sees Hunter’s reaction when he surfaces and decides she may be content with watching.
After the very brief swim, we hike above the lake and find a tunnel. It ends quickly but we keep going and find another farther up — a great little adventure.
The short tunnel emerges on the other side of an outcrop. We send Hunter above to reconnoiter what looks like another tunnel above. He reports that it doesn’t go anywhere else.
From the tunnels we continue upwards to a spire that overlooks the lake and an old rock mill in the lower basin.
We hiked above the lake and onto the point that sits between the lake and mill.
Finally we descend back to the Jeep and drive to explore the lower basin and mill.