Wyoming, Idaho, June/July 2023 – Part 3

We met up with family in Wyoming. This is part 3 of 3 with some impressions from this 3-week (20 straight nights of camping) trip. (Part 1, Part 2)

Since we did not have Idaho in our original plan we stopped in Jackson to get the DeLorme Topo-Atlas for Idaho. We also spent a little time on the internet while we had good service, to do some basic research. We expected the conditions re mosquitoes and roads to be similar to those in Wyoming.
Then we went through Idaho Falls (with a stop at Costco to provision) and with an overnight stop at the Mackay Reservoir, to Challis where we turned up the Salmon River. Along the way, Hwy 20 goes through INL (Idaho Nationa Laboratory) land and we saw a sign to the EBR-1 museum. This is the world’s first nuclear power plant. We stopped there and took the self-guided tour. They also have “curiosities” like the two aircraft nuclear propulsion prototypes in the parking lot. Yes, there were indeed development projects for nuclear-powered jet engines going on in the 1950s.

Gold Rush history tour
Following the Salmon River upstream from Challis made for a very nice drive. We also noticed that the mosquitoes did not attack us at stops. At one of those stops at Sunbeam, the displays were talking about a Gold Dredge up the canyon. What? Here? We studied the maps and decided to go up the Yankee Fork Canyon for some gold rush history.
The dredge made a real mess of 5 miles of the Yankee Fork and the road up goes through a wasteland of tailings. Touring the dredge and learning from the enthusiastic volunteers was a great experience. One interesting fact we learned is that it was only 30-40% efficient. So lots of gold left in the canyon. The dredge never was profitable.
We continued up to Custer, a gold rush ghost town. Then it was up the Yankee Fork to find a campsite. We found a perfect one by the creek. Mosquitoes only came out in the evening and didn’t like the campfire. We spent 2 nights here. During our day up there we drove the well-graded Custer Motorway all the way to Challis and learned about the miners using this route.

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Idaho Lookout Hikes
Since the mosquitoes were not as bad here we spent more time in Idaho and did a couple of hikes. In the higher elevations there was still lots of snow, so we did trail hikes to a couple of lookouts: Ruffneck Peak northwest of Stanley and Horton Peak east of the Sawtooth Valley. The area around Ruffneck had been devastated by 2 large forest fires in the last 15 years and looked pretty sad. Horton Peak and its surroundings were much more intact.

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Southern Sawtooth National Forest
Time to head further south. During our stop in Twin Falls at the visitor center we “discovered” the Teepee rocks. So we added a day and explored the southern part of the Sawtooth National Forest. Driving along the forest roads there we also visited Monument Peak, the highest point there. This area also had seen a number of forest fires and in large parts there was no forest left, just burned sticks.

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Drive home
To break up the long drive home from southern Idaho we stopped at Mt. Charleston outside Las Vegas for an attempt at climbing it. A big, steep snowfield forced me to turn around since I only would have considered crossing it with proper equipment (ice axe and crampons) which I did not have with me. The camp at the Hilltop Forest Service Campground was nice and cool and a huge contrast to the craziness of Las Vegas which we only experience in the traffic jams on I-15 (on our way up and down).

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