2 1/2 day N. Idaho adventure into big-river & dark-forests

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Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 17, 2013 - 09:58pm PT
Last Friday afternoon after a quick sales-rep visit to Western Montana & North Idaho, I headed east from Moscow (Idaho) on a trip to re-visit the North Fork Clearwater. I hadn't been up its canyon for about 30 years.
On the advice of friends, I decided to try an "adventure-route" to the east, out through little logging towns to the end of pavement at the burg of Elk River and across Grandad bridge on Dworshack Reservoir.

I suddenly realized, I had not brought a Forest Service map of the area, but I could buy a Clearwater National Forest map along the way. Somehow the Ranger Stations that I remembered didn't exist anymore, but I found a forest map for $16.95 (a bargain!) at "The Lodge" general store in Elk River.

A kindly woman there also gave me their own map of the area around Elk River and advice on finding the road to Grandad Bridge. I never would have found the numbered, but otherwise unmarked road in the local maze of logging roads without her help.

The road was never bad, but as other unmarked roads peeled off, it gradually narrowed and got rougher, until at about mile 13 at 1300 on Friday the 13th, I saw this warning.


Then this cross was around the next corner.
Shortly after, two pickups full of loggers that were "knocking-off" early on Friday sped by. Those were the only vehicles I saw until I reached the bridge, after about 27 miles of dirt from Elk River.

A couple miles above the bridge, a big sign announced I was on Corp of Engineers turf and the dirt-road immediately improved to graded-gravel and stayed good after the bridge. I followed it up and out of the canyon for another 16 miles to the paved Pierce to Canyon Ranger Station road, that finally took me down to the dirt road that goes up the North Fork Clearwater.

I never saw a log-truck, but I had big semi-dumptrucks, hauling gravel for new logging roads, to contend with, after the reservoir.

Grandad Bridge! I was not certain I was going to find it until I finally saw it!

About 6:00 PM, miles upstream from Canyon Ranger Station, I managed to FIND! a river-side campground, with only one other person camped there!

Very-heavy forest up there, with snags from ancient fires along the river.


After setting up camp, I poured myself a glass of wine, and walked down to the other camper and introduced myself.

The gray-bearded camper, who introduced himself as Paul, was wearing a somewhat stained USMC sweatshirt & writting in his journal. I was instantly sorry to intrude on his privacy, but it is good for me to know who I am sharing a remote camp with.

He opened up a litle bit on the subject of fishing the area, but I sensed he wanted solitude, as did I.

Back to camp for a taco dinner!

More Big-river & dark-forest story & photos to follow!











Brandon-

climber
The Granite State.
Sep 17, 2013 - 10:43pm PT
Yeah, more!
rottingjohnny

Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
Sep 17, 2013 - 11:24pm PT
Sweet...
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Sep 17, 2013 - 11:38pm PT
Folks up there catchin plenty -o- kokanee outta that there lake at Door-shack. Catchin' good cutthroat upin Elk River all the damn time. Usta roll outta Moo-cow on a Friday night with a coffee can -o- night crawlers and case -o- Colorado Cool-Aid. Drive for hours an hours all the way up to Elizabeth creek. Water so damn cold in the N. Fork I though my testicles was gonna implode!

Now days I'm long gone and my nephews and their wives and numerous children like to go "camping" up there about every month in the warm season. By "camping" that is shooting the AR15s all over the place.


Did you see my cousin Elmer as you drove through Bovil? He hasn't been able to afford a dentist since they shut down the Potlach mill in the early 1980's.
stunewberry

Trad climber
Spokane, WA
Sep 17, 2013 - 11:43pm PT
didja' get as far as the anorthosites? Big core complex with Archean rocks and mylonites lurking up there.

Watch for log trucks, been taken out, wasn't fun. The Highway Patrol said, "well, it happens." A lot of crashes, it's just part of the scenery.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 18, 2013 - 12:12am PT
Thanks all for your favorable comments.

I hate log-trucks, but they seem to take weekends off in North Idaho.

Spider's post is just poking-fun at the shallow-end of the gene-pool in back-country North Idaho.

My Idaho history studies relate that almost the entire Confederate army captured at Vicksburg in 1863 got paroled,since the Union forces didn't have resources to hold or feed the mass of prisoners.

Some of those "Parollees" headed west to the new gold mines in Idaho & Montana. There was a gold-rush in Northern Georgia in the early 1800's in the Dahlonega area, so at least some of the paroled Confederates knew how to placer mine.

1860's Idaho mining camp names confirm a heavy Confederate presence. Atlanta, Dahlonega Creek, Leesburg, & my favorite: The Sechesh River.

Descendents of those folks moved into the north Idaho river valleys, and in some cases, have been in-breeding since the 1860's.

Just for Spider: here's a couple photos of downtown Bovill, the last little logging town before Elk River.

Spider: I didn't see your cuzin Elmer in Bovill. I didn't see a living human in Bovill at noon on a workday.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 18, 2013 - 12:19am PT
Struneberry? Re your deep-geology question??

I'm somewhat clued on the subject, and appreciated all the metamorphic rock, while fruitlessly looking for garnets in road-cuts.

However, I confess I haven't a clue about: anorthosites & mylonites lurking.

Re your comment.

didja' get as far as the anorthosites? Big core complex with Archean rocks and mylonites lurking up there.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Sep 18, 2013 - 12:33am PT
Fritz, If you want garnets you'd a needed to turn left at Bovil and head up to Clarkia. Back in the day folks would go up there and pan marble sized crystals out of Emerald Creek. Maybe catch some trout too.

As usual, too many people did that and all the good garnets are in coffee cans, covered in dust, in barns and garages all over the county.


Everyone please take notice: There are no humans in Fritz' pictures. That's because they are very scarce in this area. (one reason I prefer to live in Los Angeles now)



Edit: That gray tavern in Fritz photo is for sale: http://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/Bovill-ID/2115125888_zpid/55421_rid/46.981072,-116.256809,46.815451,-116.468983_rect/11_zm/1_fr/
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 18, 2013 - 12:59am PT
The next morning I drove many scenic miles up the OK gravel road along the North Fork Clearwater, while watching for a noted Class V rapid, the Irish Railroad.

Few folks seek the North Fork for whitewater adventure, due to lots of difficult rapids, and a lack of launch points, and support.

Maybe this rapid is the Irish Railroad? I don't know, I either couldn't see the rapids for vegetation, or they all looked like Class V's at higher water levels.

Then I arrived at the now closed Weitas Bridge.
Weitas Creek was WETASS Creek until a politically-correct name change was made in the 20's or 30's. The original name reflected what you were going to suffer while crossing it. The old bridge is now closed to traffic. Weitas Creek at left in the below photo.

The next scenic stop was Survival Island.

I remember a large Forest sign marking the Survival Island Historical site when I last ventured up the North Fork in the early 1980's. It bore a short tale of a fire crew taking cover on the island during the "Big-Burn" of 1910, when most all of North Idaho and Western Montana burned in a late-August Firestorm.


The sign is gone, and internet history states the island is washed away & gone too, and the survivors were a couple horsepackers, two Indians, and a bear that retreated to the island during a 1919 fire.

Oh-Well----so much for historical signs.



Scenery, history, fish, otters, and much more to follow!
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Sep 18, 2013 - 01:15am PT
Some colorful history of this river:
[Click to View YouTube Video]
Banquo

climber
Amerricka
Sep 18, 2013 - 01:19am PT
My home turf. Dad was born in Fernwood, mom and her mom in Deary. I was born in Bonners Ferry. I went to school in Clarkia and Deary amongst many other places. My folks sill have the cabin on Couer d' Alene near Harrison.

Talking about those inbreeds you're probably talking about me.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 18, 2013 - 01:31am PT
Banquo! Likely, your relatives didn't inbreed too much, or you wouldn't be posting here!

Good to have you sharing that regional history! When I drove through Deary last Friday, it appeared unchanged in the last 30 years.
Gunkie

Trad climber
East Coast US
Sep 18, 2013 - 10:47am PT
Very enjoyable read. Looking forward to additional installments.

However, finding a remote campground with a single other person in it would sketch me out a bit.

The gray-bearded camper, who introduced himself as Paul, was wearing a somewhat stained USMC sweatshirt & writting in his journal. I was instantly sorry to intrude on his privacy, but it is good for me to know who I am sharing a remote camp with.

He opened up a litle bit on the subject of fishing the area, but I sensed he wanted solitude, as did I.


survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Sep 18, 2013 - 12:06pm PT
Fritz-type awesomeness is upon us again! CELEBRATE!

I love that country up there, although I am not well "steeped" or "schooled" in it. I was in the area a few times in the early 80's when I was stationed in Spokane. Heavy flashbacks....whoa....

Banquo, do you know the McNair clan in Bonners?

Dwain is a homey of mine from the USAF Survival Instructor School, and Saudi Arabia.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 18, 2013 - 12:34pm PT
I found a little outpost of civilization at the USFS Kelly Work Center, looked at an updated forecast of rain by Sunday afternoon, and checked out their few historical exhibits.


This framed old article about a long-ago incident nearby, was rather bizare.

Nearby archeological digs on North Fork tributary Kelly Creek, have dated occupancy in the area back as far as 12,000 years ago.

North Fork temporal art near a campground.

Then it was time to go fishing. After looking for just the right spot and having little luck catching Cutthroat trout, I finally reached the end of the road and started hiking up the river.

No trout were rising, it was windy, and the only flies that worked at all, were tiny imitation winged black ants.

I managed to catch & release 17 Cutthroats in the afternoon, but it was never easy. Beats office-work though.


stevep

Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
Sep 18, 2013 - 12:41pm PT
Not sure I'd be too weirded out by other campsite occupants if I was packing bear spray and a 357.
Bonus points for being able to use the bear spray if your taco seasoning isn't spicy enough.
Banquo

climber
Amerricka
Sep 18, 2013 - 01:29pm PT
Survival-

I don't think I know anybody in Bonners Ferry anymore. We moved a lot and I was a baby. By the time I finished high school, I had attended 28 schools in Places like Clarkia ID, Ashton ID, Jordan Valley OR, John Day OR, Gila Bend AZ, Davenport WA, etc.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 18, 2013 - 08:42pm PT
Re comments on sharing a remote campground with one other person.

I have a fairly-accurate "bad-schist" meter, and it wasn't flashing.

The fellow had a late model pickup with Wyoming plates & a decent tent. No dogs barked at me as I drove by. I'm pretty sure he was a Marine-vet, since he had Marine Stickers on the truck too.

I think it's best to go visit your neighbor with a drink in hand, so they don't think you're trying to borrow liquor from them.


Soooooo- I stumbled back to my vehicle at about 5:00 PM and drove back down-canyon a few miles, looking for someplace off the road and near the river. I noticed an small opening in the trees, and discovered my dream river-side car-camp for the night.



The daytime temps had made it into the low 80's F., which is way-high for mid-Sept in North-Idaho's mountains. The evening was very pleasant, the wind died down, and I even built a small fire in the enormous fire-pit.


I couldn't sleep much past daylight, but the morning was warm, even with sunrise in the deep canyon still hours away.

I knew heavy-rain was forecast by afternoon, but I had also seen some Kokanee down-canyon the previous day.

The huge & high 1960's dam downstream killed the wild salmon & steelhead migration up the river, but Kokanee were planted in the reservoir, and run up the river to spawn in Sept.

When I again found the area where the Kokanee were concentrated, I was well-above the river and about 100 yards away. After a few seconds, I realized two otters were swimming up through the head of the big pool with the Kokanee. I started taking photos, but I wasn't taking big-enough digital images for sharp telephotos at that range.

The otters may have sensed my presence, and they quickly moved up through the white-water above the Kokanee pool and vanished. All I have left is my memories, and this blurry-photo of an otter moving onto a rock in the rapid. Red arrow points to the otter.

After the otters went upstream, the Kokanee rapidly reappeared. They certainly brighten up the water.

I knew that spawning Kokanee don't eat and are almost impossible to catch on a fly, but I had "the secret weapon"-----a fly that imitated a Salmon-egg. The theory is: the salmon will try to retrieve the mis-placed egg, and then you can catch them.

It worked!
After one "spawned-out" Kokanee made my day, I threw my egg-fly at many others without success. Then I tried other flies, and finally gave up.
When I got home, an internet search shows some fishing pundits claim throwing big-streamer flies at the Kokanees pisses them off and makes them strike the fly.
Next time!

The Kokanee die after spawning and either feed the stream-side bears or degrade into the stream-bed. This one was replenishing nutrients at the bottom of the river.

A little more adventure awaits! Stay tuned!



Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
Sep 18, 2013 - 09:17pm PT
Some of my favorite country any where Fritz,
Those fish pics are beautiful!!!!!
spud

climber
Sep 18, 2013 - 09:51pm PT
Close to my home turf-- St. Maries, on the St. Joe, my great grandparents homesteaded on the 'Joe around 1900. Now I am in the benighted Midwest in a suburb of Chicago. I love your Idaho trip reports Fritz!
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