My brother Joel and I explore the ATV and single track trails around Skyline Drive in McCroskey State Park before setting up camp in view of Moscow Mountain.
“Why is it so bright?” my wife Jessica asked groggily from the reclined passenger seat.
“The moon,” I answered.
Plans for a quick jaunt north to ride with my brother Joel had grown into a Memorial Weekend family event. Jessica was attending a seminar in Sun Valley Friday¹ so night was upon us when finally we could depart Boise together. Beef jerky, energy drinks and the curiously bright midnight moon kept me going through the wee hours of morning while the others slept much of the way.
Morning at my mom’s house in the forested hills between Moscow and Troy was bright and beautiful.
My mom has long worked for the small farm life she enjoyed as a girl, fashioning an empire of horses, cats, dogs and chickens; a hammock and fire pit under tall pines. It took me some years of adulthood to fully appreciate the great mother she is, grounded and gracious, and a few more to see what a great woman she is.
On that day when my pulse too falls silent and regions of my brain begin going dark like boroughs of a city in a midnight storm, a silhouette of Moscow Mountain, a sight seen for so many formative years, will be among the final lights to flicker out.
Some twenty-five years ago when I began riding the mountain with my friend Brett, we’d go month after month, year after year, without seeing another person up there, following every trail we could, up behind Spring Valley,¹ from C.C.C. Dam,² Umbarger Road, Tamarack Road and many unnamed tracks through the woods. It was our mountain.
Moscow Mountain stands between my mom’s house and Joel’s and Jill’s place in Farmington where this brother-ride would begin. I was glad to route across those familiar roads.
The first trail I was looking to follow, a steep climb up from Warnick Road¹ enjoyed several times in years past, was fenced off. I could see the small meadow there had been torn up by ATVs or four-wheel-drives so the restriction was regrettable but understandable.
I was less understanding of the homemade signs, a little farther on, making blanket prohibition of motor vehicles from all trails. They have no more legal force than would a sign at my house saying everyone must wear pink hats.² It seemed impertinent and egoistic.
At least that was my first reaction. With more time to reflect (riding is good for that) I realized irreverent motor vehicle operators were the proper targets of disaffection, tearing up meadows, leaving trash, failing to advocate a workable compromise. The mountain wasn’t taken from us. We abdicated.
Moscow Area Mountain Bike Association³ members, by comparison, have done a great job of forming alliances and improving trails. They are the better stewards.
The sixth annual five-day motorcycle ride with my brothers is planned to depart from Headquarters, Idaho this year to camp, fish and explore within the pristine North Fork Ranger District of the Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forest.
Unless motor users abdicate there too and we lose access. Around the same time I was riding over Moscow Mountain, four wheelers were tearing up the area around Camp 60.¹
Forest Service officials have discovered evidence of extensive resource damage near Camp 60, a popular site for camping and off-highway vehicle use, on the North Fork Ranger District of the Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forests. An area that was, until recently, a beautiful meadow, has now been transformed into a giant mud bog … If anyone has information pertaining to this incident, please contact Law Enforcement Officer Steve Bryant at (208) 875-1131.²
Warnick Road became more of a trail as I continued up the mountain, cedar boughs pressing ever closer, their distinct scent filling the air.
I turned out of curiosity up the narrow Gemini Trail¹ past a decrepit cabin. I was curios about the history of the cabin — what was here so long ago? — but haven’t found any information yet. I went up a couple more switchbacks then turned back to Warnick Road. The trail is too tedious for motorcycle speeds, not worth irritating bicyclers.
After climbing the rest of the way up the ever deteriorating Warnick Road, what the bicyclers are calling Jump Trail,¹ I enjoyed a speedy ride west along loamy Ridge Road and Foothill Road in dappled shade past Four Corners and Paradise Point, every sight triggering a memory.
From Moscow Mountain I did a short stint on Highway 95 before turning to Highway 66 toward Palouse and Farmington, Washington. Highway riding makes me miss the GS1200 but on balance I’m glad for the change.
My brother Joel and his wife Jill moved to Farmington last Fall¹ for Joel’s new position at the world headquarters of Audiopile.² They’ve worked incredibly hard on home improvements ever since. I was half surprised he found time for a ride.
There aren’t any stores, restaurants or gas stations in Farmington so Joel and I headed first over to Tekoa where we visited Jill and had burgers at C&D’s¹ then procured items from the next door store essential for a night in the mountains.
McCroskey State Park was gifted to Idaho in 1955 by a local conservationist, Virgil T. McCroskey, who gradually bought up land endangered by logging and cobbled his purchases into a 4,400-acre parcel. To make the land more attractive to tourists, he cut viewpoints into some of the slopes, built picnic areas, planted flowers, and established a road. The Idaho legislature, however, had serious doubts about the new park – thinking it would not generate enough revenue to justify the loss in taxes – and agreed to accept the gift only if McCroskey, then in his late seventies, would maintain the park at his own expense for the next fifteen years. McCroskey accepted the terms, and lived exactly fifteen more years, fulfilling his obligation to the state of Idaho just weeks before his death in 1970 at age 93.¹
Passing ATVs clued us into the trail along Iron Mountain, one of several minor peaks within the park, a route I enjoyed more than all the others we rode. It was scenic and fun to maneuver through both open spaces and tree branch tunnels.
As we stopped for a little break at a campsite on Iron Mountain who should appear camouflaged by beard and sunglasses on an ATV but Casey, our two-time Abbott Brother riding buddy.¹
“Hey, it’s Casey!” he called out when at first we didn’t recognize him.
It was fun to catch up. As we talked, some dirtbikes came up a narrow trail, inspiring us to try it for ourselves on departure.
Purple, red and yellow flowers along the Dewey singletrack were beautiful but we didn’t find the straight-line ride very inspiring.
Joel and I followed many other trails recorded on video¹ until, a couple hours before dark, we turned our attention to finding a campsite. We wanted to get back to the site on Iron Mountain but were deterred by dead-ends. We weren’t feeling picky so were content to stop and setup at the modest spot labelled Lone Pine Tree.
Out of curiosity, I followed Fireplace Trail from our campsite a short ways but like the Dewey Trail it didn’t seem to go anywhere.
These alcoholic energy drinks were the bulk of our essential Tekoa supply run. Joel and I react similarly to beer and thought these might instead help keep us awake past dark.
The familiar mountain silhouette, in reverse from this latitude, was ever visible from our campfire as we overcame the noxious flavor of our beverages while exchanging freeze dried dinner nutrition facts.
I have never slept so well. At least not in recent memory. Maybe I should credit the Four Loko. It was already bright and warm when finally I awoke from curiously uninterrupted slumber.
Four Loko or freeze dried food: something didn’t sit well with Joel.
After a little recuperation, Joel and I made our lazy way the short distance back to his home, back from our itinerary to Jill’s. Our youngest brother Jesse, whose work had kept him from riding with us, was already there.
Only intermittently retarded.
Their spectacular backyard tree hummed with countless bumblebees.
You know you’re country-folk when you keep a truck parked in your yard.
Moms and Tekoa friends joined us for a Memorial Weekend barbecue with amazing strawberry cake from Jill’s mom Diane. I had a lot of cake.
Jesse got some riding in after all.
The brother ride didn’t stop just because we were home.
The motorcycle made Jack the dog a little crazy. Not running over him was the primary task.
Thanks Jill, Joel and Jack for hosting, cooking and letting us sleep over. It was a really nice time.
After some nerve fraying trailer coordination issues (fog of war stuff), everything was loaded for the trip home.
The extra time and travel to get the trailer sorted were just enough for the kids to claim one of my mom’s kittens.
The small white homestead where my dad and his brothers grew up can be seen through the trees on the next hill from his gravesite in Bethel Cemetery. After getting the new kitten Minny aboard and starting toward Boise, we turned off the highway a short distance into the farmed Palouse Hills to pay our respects to my dad and his mom.
If we could zoom to that next hill, to the summer of ‘58, we’d find a carefree cadre of Abbott and Yockey boys, my father Lee among them. In a few weeks I should meet up with my Uncle Pete for a night off our motorcycles, to laugh at the old family stories with flickering firelight in our eyes.
My Grandma Virginia’s photo and handwritten caption.
We were alone at the cemetery until a woman pulled up, come to look a moment at the same headstones, my cousin Heather Yockey. I’m not sure why Heather and I weren’t acquainted as kids, never on the same trail until that moment. We spoke a moment of the homestead on the hill over there, where she lives now, and the small canyon beyond that my dad brought us to when my brothers and I were kids, everything connected.
Photo from last Memorial Day when Brenna alone travelled north with me.
We stopped above White Bird to ease Brenna’s upset stomach.
Jessica’s maternal family, the Wrights, comes from White Bird. We drove across the cattle guard and under the trees opposite Hoots Café to remember the lives identified there, patterns of ourselves.