Little Trip to Durango, 3Up Style

Sometimes, although not often, we have to use our gas money not for driving to a trailhead or for Jeeping at 13,000 feet but to go to a city and take care of those “big city” shopping needs. For what was on our list yesterday, Durango (population 17,000) fit the bill.

We’ve teased Sprocket about stopping at Andrews Lake several times but we had some extra time and we know how much our puppy loves swimming. Turns out it is a beautiful spot. Just far enough off the highway to be quiet but close enough (less than a mile) that it’s an easy stop along US 550 (“The Million Dollar Highway”).


While Sprocket was swimming, an older gentleman and his dog came down from the Crater Lake trail. Sprocket and the pup had a blast running and swimming together. Finally, though, it was time to hit the road and keep heading south. Sprocket promptly gave us the sad, “But why am I not swimming anymore?” eyes.

After running errands in Durango (and an early birthday lunch at the Indian buffet), we headed north. It was a bit late in the day to plan for a hike since thunderstorms could threaten anytime so we chose to take the Old Lime Creek Road as an alternative to US 550.

As soon as we turned on to the road, we saw this sign and had a good laugh:

The road wound up past Scout Lake where we all looked for moose and Sprocket contemplated how great it would be to splash around in the shallow water:

After Scout Lake, the road climbs a bit more and the views open up to Lime Creek’s valley. The road is on a shelf high above the creek giving some amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

When the road came down to meet the creek, we noticed an abundance of beaver chewed trees. As we poked around, it became apparent this was one busy beaver! Poking along down the creek we found his two dams and the beaver lodge. Sprocket was really thankful for that pond!

Old Lime Creek Road reentered US 550 just north of Coal Bank Pass…and just in time for us to stop off at Molas Lake for Sprocket to do some more swimming. Standing next to the lake looking around at the mountains everywhere was perfect.

On our way to Silverton, we tried out a new dirt road. For awhile, we thought it might actually reenter the highway. Instead, we hit a cliff looking down onto the pavement… We got a cool view of Silverton though!

It’s nice we have such pretty Alpine Tour Co. Jeeps to adventure in, no?

Once we hit the road out of Silverton, Sprocket’s content sleeping said it all: there’s no such thing as a bad day in the mountains.

I forgot my camera so all photos from my iPhone.

Cabinet Mountain Backpacking, Part 2

This is Part 2 of my Labor Day backpacking trip to Snowshoe Lake. Part 1 is over here.

Our plan to make sure we checked out above the lake before heading out was a great one. It was simply gorgeous up there! After playing on some of the big boulders, we headed back to the lake, packed up and headed for the car. We made good time heading back out (except for that one point where we lost the trail, ended up in a bit of a swamp and had to resort to boulder hopping along the river for awhile before scrambling back up the hill to find the trail).

Snowshoe Lake
Sprocket and his snow
Hiking buddies
Waterfall near the headwaters of the North Fork Bull River
I had to make Sprocket wait to swim so I could capture the perfect reflection!

We really enjoyed our trip, it reminded me how much I love backpacking. We haven’t been nearly often enough and I look forward to doing more soon!

Waterfalls coming down a cliff next to the river


Cabinet Mountain Backpacking, Part 1

Cabinet mountains in the backgroun

I’ve been to the Cabinets a few times now and I really love them. They’re probably the closest range to us that features the beautiful rocky peaks above tree-line. In the past, I’ve used the Rock Creek road to access Cliff Lake and it’s surrounding area. That’s an awesome area since the road takes you wayyyy up and it’s an easy hike to the alpine meadows area.

Instead of going that route this time, I decided to head into Snowshoe Lake. It’s been ages since I’ve been backpacking and I was really excited to get out even if it wasn’t anything crazy intense. The trip report I read on getting to Snowshoe Lake was a little vague about where the trailhead was since the road (FS #2722) washed out a few years ago.

Lemme tell you. It’s not vague and you really shouldn’t think about it too hard. There’s a bridge where the Bull River Road used to be with clear parking spots just for you. Instead, I followed the directions I found online and went 3+ miles from the junction with Highway 56 and took a nice little 2 mile (each way) jaunt down a closed road that went…nowhere.

We hopped back in the jeep and went back down the road. When I looked at the sign at the trailhead (that clearly indicated this trail was the replacement for road 2722) I was a bit exasperated with myself that I hadn’t slowed down to look here before continuing up FS Rd #410 (aka South Fork Bull River Rd). There was nothing to be done though, so Sprocket and I shouldered our packs again and headed out.

It’s too bad that the road is washed out since it’s not particularly scenic on the way to the old trailhead. Sprocket and I made pretty decent time, said hello to some horse packers staying at the trailhead and continued on. The trail was narrow and didn’t seem to have many places to camp off of it so I started to get a little nervous. About 3/4 of a mile up the trail, I spotted a little spot on the river with some pretty small gravel so we scrambled down. It actually wound up being a perfect little spot. I was worried Sprocket would want to swim but he seemed pretty tired (Sprocket, you only did about 6 miles!) and just laid down when I told him to.

Cuddling in the tent

We both scarfed down some dinner and retired to the tent. And crashed. Sprocket was super happy to be able to snuggle! (Doggies who are not allowed on the bed <3 sleeping in tents!) In the morning, he didn’t waste one second before wading in the river. I barely started eating my breakfast before he started whining…he was ready for more hiking!!

Happy hiking dog.

The trail climbed steadily but we made pretty great time on our way to Verdun Creek (~3 miles from the old trail head). After the creek crossing, the trail became more of a way trail and was occasionally a bit hard to pick out. I ended up putting Sprocket in front of me…he seemed to be able to sniff it out and see it under the brush more than me. About 2 miles past the creek, we reached the “headwall” of the N. Fork Bull River. Sprocket and I chose to go up an old stream bed rather than going right up the face. I had to help him up onto a couple of boulders but this was definitely the right choice.

(Word to the wise: Sprocket and I made it up and down just fine; there were a couple of places he didn’t like but he’s been on similar stuff before. However, I wouldn’t recommend this as a hike with dogs.)

Headwall, North Fork Bull River

From the top of the headwall it was a pretty short hike to the lake. We were there by about 1:30 and spent the afternoon relaxing. Sprocket did some swimming and I read. The sun was shining but it was a little chilly up there…there were several large patches of snow visible above the lake still! (BRRRR.) Sprocket was less than pleased when I cut off his swimming time at about 3pm so that he could dry before getting in the tent. He’d just sit, look at the lake and whimper. Pathetic dog. We headed to bed early so we could get up and explore above the lake some in the morning.

Crystal Lake Hike

After playing in the river and grabbing lunch at the O-aces (a dive bar in De Borgia) we drove up Deer Creek Road to the trailhead for Crystal Lake.

We set out up the trail enjoying what are probably some of the last beautiful days of summer in the Bitterroots. Sprocket found plenty of things to sniff—including some wolf scat. It was about a mile and half from the trailhead to the lake on which we gained about 1300′ of elevation.

The lake was really lovely. It was another gorgeous mountain lake—this one backed by cliffs to south creating a very dramatic setting. The water was deep and clear and not too cold for a mountain lake. Sprocket didn’t mind the scenery and was just excited for some awesome swimming.

Hike Stats:
Distance: 1.5 mi each way.
Elevation gain: 1,300′ (started at 4,175′)

Priest Lake

After work on Friday, Forrest, Sprocket and I headed for Priest Lake. (About 2 hours to our northwest.) Robin, a work contact turned friend, had invited us up to spend the weekend at his lake place. We didn’t have any plans and it was a new place to visit so we were more than happy to accept his invitation!

Friday, we arrived at the lake and spent most of the afternoon relaxing on the deck and chatting and went out for dinner. We all called it a relatively early night so we could get up early on Saturday to head for “the Upper Lake.”

We didn’t get quite as early of a start as we would have liked on Saturday (but then, who does when they’re on vacation?). Forrest and I were up early took a walk with Sprocket before we returned to the house just as Robin was waking up. The three of us enjoyed some coffee and the newspaper before getting down to the boat about nine thirty.

The sun was shining and it was beautiful! We did sort of a “tour of homes” along the shore as we headed north towards the upper lake. By the time we got to the entrance of the “thorofare” (the passage connecting Lower and Upper Priest Lakes) I was down to my bathing suit enjoying the sunshine.

At the Upper Lake, Sprocket swam (and swam and swam); we ate our lunches; Forrest, Sprocket, and I went for a walk; and we all just generally enjoyed the sunshine. The upper lake is fairly quiet—there aren’t any roads that approach it and motorboats aren’t supposed to tow skiers or tubers up there—which was a nice change from the lower lake. After a few hours up there, we returned down the lake. After we unloaded the boat, Forrest and I (and SP!) went for a swim. The sunshine felt so good!

We spent the evening, as evenings on the water are spent, looking out over the lake before gorging ourselves on some steak, salad, and corn all of which were topped off by a huckleberry cream pie!

We had such a great weekend out on the water. Thank you so much to Robin and Patty for being awesome hosts. All three of us had a great time!

Sorry. I don’t have any pictures. I didn’t bring the new camera and the batteries in the little one died…and someone (me) hadn’t put new spares in. So no pictures of the lake, SP riding in the boat like an old pro, etc. etc.

“Shelf Lake” Hike

Forrest and I headed up into the mountains above town to check out a waterhole we’d spotted on Google Earth to see what it was. We jeeped up the ridge north of town and then took a spur that ended at quite a cliff overlooking the waterhole we were looking for.

Yeah, it’s a cliff.

After we backed the jeep away from the precipice, we hiked down the ridge towards the lake. The hillside was pretty steep but we attained the lake pretty quickly. It turns out that the little lake is on a shelf about halfway down to the bottom of the canyon.

The cliff
The lake

We walked around the lake to take a look down into the valley before deciding how best to get back to the jeep. After looking at the cliff a little bit more, we decided to try scrambling back up the cliff. It was actually not too difficult of a scramble and certainly much more fun than hiking back up the steep hillside.

Aside from “discovering” the secret lake, we had quite a nice hike and scramble. It was a great after-work adventure!

Overlooking the valley at “Shelf Lake”
Scrambling out of “Shelf Lake”

Idaho Centennial Trail

Saturday morning we were busy with a flurry of selling firewood, putting together a load of stuff to take to the cabin, and general being adult things. Seeing as it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I pulled out some maps and insisted that we pick somewhere to go.

Testing out the platform.

We eventually decided to head over to Taft and hit the Idaho Centennial Trail. The ICT runs from Idaho’s southern border up through the state. In this area, it mainly runs on the Idaho-Montana border and is open to motorized use (here it’s mainly gravel/dirt roads). We took the ICT south-east to Dominion Peak (6,032′). Dominion Peak was a really fun viewpoint for us. We were able to see a bunch of the mountains that we see from the cabin from a whole different view point. We could also see the peaks of the Cabinet Mountains to the north.

Jeeping up Dominion Peak

After coming down off the mountain, we tried to continue further but were stopped by snow. We turned around and took a different cutoff back towards the valley. We passed under a recently renovated railroad trestle and found a road that took us up to it. The trestle is only open to foot and bicycle traffic so we walked over it and then through Tunnel 19. Instead of returning to the road we were on, we drove the railroad grade down to Saltese.

Restored trestle near Saltese

In Saltese, we picked up some snacks and headed up Silver Creek Road. The road climbed steeply back towards the state line (and the ICT) but we took the turn off to Silver Lake. Sprocket was sooo pleased! We let him swim. And swim. Roll in the snow on the edge of the lake. Then swim some more. Eventually we loaded him back into the Jeep and set off for home.

Sprocket in Silver Lake
Such a retriever

Memorial Day Weekend

I sorta begged to go somewhere for Memorial Day weekend. And we decided we should be grownups and “get stuff done around here” instead. And then we didn’t. Next time, I’m totally not acting like a grownup and throwing caution to the wind and driving an absurd distance for three days. Done.

Anyway, we wound up spending most of the weekend with Chris and Katie, neighbors who have a vacation house here in town. Saturday, I puttered around the house and Forrest went motorcycle riding with Chris. Then on Sunday, we went to Katie’s parents’ house on Lake Coeur D’Alene. The dogs got to swim and we all sat around on the porch. Occasionally someone would suggest we go for a walk and the consensus would be “in a little while.” We never went.

Yesterday, the four of us headed up to the cabin. We drove up to the gate and made it about 100 yards past where F and I made it last Monday. That corner is full of snow though so we had to give it up and hike the rest of the way (it’s less than a mile). We had a lovely lunch of canned chili and Katie hiked in a couple of beers and half a bottle of wine! After relaxing at the cabin and checking out the snow melt progress (tons of snow left on the road on “the back side,” patches of dirt starting to peak out around the cabin amidst 5′ drifts) we headed back to the Jeep. Katie, Chris, and I hiked all the way down the ridge line and met Forrest there.

Rock Climbing: Vantage, Washington

Last weekend, I went climbing in Vantage, Washington with Women Climbers Northwest. I haven’t been climbing since I graduated from Oregon State (that was two years ago! I can’t believe it!) so I definitely am not in “climbing shape”: weak fingers, feet not used to being shoved into climbing shoes. It was really fun to get outside on a gloriously beautiful weekend and enjoy the sunshine.

I drove over after work on Friday, driving out of the rain into the sun, stopping in Spokane to buy necessities for the weekend: lunches, breakfast, and a bottle of wine (Firesteed pinot noir!). By the time I got to Moses Lake I was quite hungry—I wasn’t really sure what I was in the mood for but the options were somewhat limited. Just as I considered heading back into the city center for some Subway (which I’ve had plenty of on EMT class nights) I found Woody’s. I was a bit turned off by the idea of $6-8 burgers at a hole in the wall but I was hungry and a shake sounded good. The burger, a bleu cheese burger, was worth every penny of its $6.75. The shake? Softserve based and not so amazing…

After eating my burger and shake over looking the odd pothole that is Moses Lake, I drove the last thirty miles or so to the climbing area. I’d actually driven right past the access road last year when I tasted wine at Cave B cellars on my way home from R2R. It was one of those awesome drives where you immediately drop down out of plain old desert into something fantastic. Continue reading “Rock Climbing: Vantage, Washington”