Jess and I narrowly avoid fire closures as we make our way north of Ketchum to spend the night high within historic Boulder Basin. The last five miles are quite challenging. They take longer than the first 200. It’s evening when finally we make it to the breathtaking basin.
We turned off Interstate 84 to the parallel, old highway then slowly curved north over Immigrant Road toward the Sun Valley Highway. Straight roads and no traffic allowed a lively pace until we stopped at an outcrop above the Snake River Plain, behind us, to stretch our legs and sip some water.
Hard sun, haze and brown hills around did little to delight the senses. Underfoot artifacts of fun—bullet casings and glass shards—and a rusting wrecked car in the ravine below suggested some popularity, nonetheless, with the men of Mountain Home.
He doesn’t know it but it was daxm’s picture¹ in Tyson’s Tiger thread² on the Adventure Rider forums that was the inspiration for our Boulder Basin destination. A little clicking around on the internet convinced me it would be a great place for Jess and I to spend a night.
With wildfires still out of control in Banks, along the Trinity Ridge near Featherville, and north of Stanley, we faced a triumvirate of roiling smoke and road closures. With help from InciWeb¹ (I could overlay multiple fire boundaries with my route in Google Earth) and IDT’s live highway cameras,² I determined we could sneak through.
Where normally we can see some of Idaho’s biggest mountains, we saw only smoke.
Four years ago, Sam¹ led an IAMC² group ride this way and along Castle Rock Road by Skull Rock.³ Jess and I hadn’t been back so it seemed a good shortcut over to the Anderson Ranch Reservoir highway.
A few orange cones positioned haphazardly at the turnoff made us curious. Routing a bike race? Caution for a bit of road washed out? Since there wasn’t a sign, we weren’t sure, so continued as planned.
Without a group this time, we stopped to walk around the rocks a bit.
Continuing from Featherville on South Fork Boise Road, we came from behind a “Road Closed” barrier to see an approaching truck and just behind a rapidly approaching sheriff set to tell them, I’m sure, they would have to turn back. I guess we really were lucky to get through.
Some ways on we took a moment to look at Worsick Hot Springs¹ just off the road. It was much too hot to contemplate a dip.
“The GPS likes to tease me sometimes,” I lamented as I began to realize the ATV track we’d followed off the road was likely the wrong way to get over Dollarhide Mountain.
“I know,” Jessica breathed with a sardonic sigh.
But it was a fun bit of trail so I continued to hope it would connect. We passed a few cabins and structures that I learned later were part of Carrietown, a ghost town.
The trail above Carrietown became a little sporty before starting to peter out. We wrestled the svelte GS under one deadfall before a washed out section convinced us to retreat.
We pulled off to the Jeep trail at Dollarhide Pass and rode to the end for a restful view at 8,830 feet.
Neither of us had been on Dollarhide. It felt great to take our jackets off and enjoy the refreshing breeze.
The view from Dollarhide was obscured by smoke all around.
After Warm Springs Road from Dollarhide and lunch in Ketchum our destination was finally in sight. Several trucks and trailers at the turn off warned us of ATV traffic. Apparently it’s a popular trail.
The easy trail had me believing we’d be setting up camp in no time.
The first Boulder Creek crossing was pretty smooth. I took a little more care on the second one since tumbly rocks give the GS spasms. In the XR days, Jess and I rode everything but on the GS we’ve learned it’s safer and faster if she doesn’t mind walking little stretches.
After the little crossing we stopped to cool off a bit around the creek.
After that second creek crossing, the trail became increasingly difficult. Big, loose rocks are the bane of two wheels, at least mine. Jess was gracious to walk some additional stretches while I stood on the pegs and played a kind of “Space Invaders” with oncoming hazards.
Sometimes Jess would get back on and we’d ride just fifty feet before spinning out or tipping to the side. Then she would start walking again.
Hiking and motorcycle wrestling in coats and boots made us hot. I was sweating like a pig. It was nice to stop when we could (a level place to park) for a little splash in the creek.
The rock, water, flowers and trees were lovely at the Boulder Creek waterfall. We stood long minutes there in the shade.
The front tire bounces abruptly sideways and I release the throttle like a hot potato to avoid a tree or drop off. And now we’re stuck.
It was an exhausting pattern. I didn’t get many pictures of the difficult sections but we caught it on the helmet camera.¹
We learned later from some ATV riders that by keeping right at the wyes we’d gone the hard way. This picture is an example. We went right (or forward). The creek and stair step rocks are to the left. But up around the corner we’d get stuck in a mud puddle deeper than the hubs. Among other pleasure.
We scouted ahead and saw this ledge. I didn’t know how I’d get over it but at the time it looked better than the alternative route. We were pretty sure the basin was just ahead. It had been a long struggle to get here and we just needed to pass this final obstacle. So we tackled it.
We had it all the way over once and it slipped back down because the front brake alone couldn’t hold it. That was a sad moment.
This basin was mined from the late 1800s¹ and sometimes home to thousands of workers, enough to be called Boulder City. “By 1882, Boulder had a hotel, store, corral, and saloon, along with a post office that ran from August 1, 1881 to August 28, 1885.”² There are structures scattered around the mountain sides and meadows. We took a small detour to see the old three story mill³ before continuing up to our campsite.