Trip Report
Thursday July 12, 2018 7:10pm
I got home from 3 days in “deepest” Idaho late yesterday. My adventures started with driving to the roadhead for the Blue Jay Mine, west of Leadore, in the Lemhi Range & discovering that the biting flies & mosquitoes were quite abundant this summer.

Central Idaho has a good variety of biting flies that range from the large Horseflies down to nearly invisible Noseeums. A little study on the somewhat arcane subject had convinced me that like flies in the Black Fly family, their first life stages are in or near water.

In late June & early July, they know humans are very interesting, but in late July & early August they get really insane about acquiring a good blood meal so they can reproduce. Of course the females are the ones that bite, just like with woodticks & mosquitoes. The biting flies finally go away when Dragonflies appear in strength & eat them, or a hard freeze makes them go dormant.

I put on long pants & gloves, sprayed Deet on various strategic spots of my body & hiked 1,200 vertical feet of steep road/ATV track up to the Blue Jay Mine. It had been explored for copper, as late as the 1970’s, & although a lot of bulldozing got done, no economically-viable ore was found. I found lots of the Copper silicate Chrysocolla, but darn little of the once abundant Copper carbonates Malachite & Azurite. Other damn mineral collectors had nearly collected everything at this well-known site & I had to venture onto steeper slopes than most 68 year-olds enjoy, to find some decent specimens. I left the next collector some Chrysocolla.

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Fritz happy to be at the mine.
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The mine dump I needed to hike to find the good-stuff.
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Boytroidal Malachite
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Azurite (darker blue) surrounded by Chrysocolla (ligher blue).
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An old miner's cabin in the creek bottom.
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After getting back down to my SUV, in the creek-bottom, at about 6:30, I started to pitch camp & was suddenly swarmed by mosquitoes. I quickly threw everything back in the SUV & escaped the mosquitoes & most of the biting flies on a road that took me high above Big Eightmile Creek, onto a dryer, scenic, & breezy ridge, for a pleasant evening at 7,500’.

Camp photos from high above the Lemhi River valley.
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The darker red clouds at bottom are a big thunderstorm over Montana, a long way aways.
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The lights of Leadore & the upper Lemhi Valley.
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The next morning I was awoken near the first light by a mooooooo. I sat- up & looked out of my 4-Runner at a small herd of cows, who had grazed right up to my table. As soon as they saw me, they withdrew & left me to make coffee.
After some coffee, I drove back down to Leadore, noting that status among the long-term residents is apparently gained by collecting derelict vehicles, instead of having a fancy house or nice yard.

Scenic downtown Leadore!
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OK! Two more days of adventure to be posted, soon!

  Trip Report Views: 1,447
About the Author
Fritz is a trad climber from Choss Creek, ID.


Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Jul 12, 2018 - 08:44pm PT
Xcon: Leadore has been about the same, since I first drove through it in the 1960's. It was the center for a number of nearby mines starting in the 1890's, then it became a key station on the long-failed Gilmore & Pittsburgh Railway.

I have not drove through the little schist-hole for about 6 years, but on this visit, it appears to be growing, with a new Mormon Church & new houses, likely funded by VA benefits, Social Security, & Medicare. Despite those government donations, I'll bet Leadore residents voted 90% for Trump & gutting our government.

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
  Jul 12, 2018 - 08:48pm PT
Very up to date. Very colourful. Nice report.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jul 12, 2018 - 08:48pm PT
Bugs begone....Fritz is on the move!

  Jul 12, 2018 - 09:08pm PT
Bitchen! I'm going to the Lemhis tomorrow...big timber to devil's and park for a day or two then up to the Hayden creek zone.
Thanks for the mine hits Fritz, I appreciate it! Hhhmm, I wonder if the Smokey Cub zone will be less skeeterish?
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  Jul 12, 2018 - 09:15pm PT
Idaho 28 is a great road. I really enjoyed that day you sent me up there. That was June 21 the day it snowed in those mountains on the first day of summer.

Obviously more to do up there then just drive through.

Social climber
  Jul 12, 2018 - 09:51pm PT
hey there say, fritz!!! wow, this is SUPER WONDERFUL... :)

;) well-- except the ol' mosquitoes... :))

thank you so very much for sharing all this...


  Jul 12, 2018 - 11:37pm PT
Looks like you found an excellent camp spot. Idaho is the land of unexpected adventure.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Jul 12, 2018 - 11:53pm PT
Not a valid TR without the obligatory iron display, but I’ll give an A anyway. 😉
Not a bad day at da beach in Norway if a tad on the cool side, knott that I’m complaining! FYI, sunset last night was EXACTLY midnight with sunrise EXACTLY one hour later!


Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Jul 13, 2018 - 08:38am PT
Thanks folks for your comments!

Here's the rest of the story:

I drove down the beautiful Lemhi Valley to Tendoy & followed Agency Creek up into the Bitterroot Mountains, where the Lewis & Clark expedition had first seen what eventually was named Idaho.

The first mine on my list for the day was the Copper King, which was mined as early as the 1890’s. Since it had also produced gold, I feared that someone with multiple firearms & paranoid tendencies would be living at the mine, but it was truly abandoned.

The flies were waiting for me & we spent several hours together, exploring the many mine dumps on both sides of the creek. I was looking for the same copper minerals as the previous day, plus the colorful Copper sulphide Bornite, aka Peacock Ore.

The mine railway that dumped ore into the Copper King mill.

Ore specimen with blue Chrysocolla.

Bornite, aka Peacock Ore.

I finally found one specimen of Bornite, & drove up the creek to the next mine on my list. I walked about a mile into a scenic meadow with an old cabin & horseflies & sat down with them for lunch.

After lunch the flies & I roamed several miles looking for minerals of interest & my blood. None of us had any success & I finally drove up to the continental divide, where still more voracious flies mostly kept me pinned in my SUV.
After driving north a few miles to Lemhi Pass & various signs commemorating the Lewis & Clark Expedition, I decided I was done with the Bitterroots & drove a better road back down to Tendoy, that the Forest Service had signed as the Lewis & Clark Route.
Here's the first view the white guys had of Idaho.
Along the way, I discovered Sharkey Hot Springs, which I was not aware of. The BLM rescued the once muddy & unsanitary hot springs from public abuse & has built 2 small concrete pools, changing rooms, & bathrooms, & only charges $3.00 per person for use. I sneaked in & felt the pleasantly hot water, but eschewed a medicinal soak, since the temperature had just hit 90f.

From Tendoy, I drove back south over Gilmore Summit, by the one-time mining town of Gilmore & the old grade of the Gilmore & Pittsburgh Railroad, & then up nearby Lemhi Union Gulch.

I had decided it would be a likely place to dodge flies & mosquitoes for the night, but I first had a few hours of daylight left to kill. Despite a truly shocking number of horseflies trying to eat me, I hiked up to where I had collected some nice green Diopside crystals years before. Since the location of the prospect hole is not publicized & a considerable hike is involved in getting there, I figured there might still be some collectable Diopside there. Happily I was correct & it was breezy enough to keep the flies from me, for the most part.

A view down the Birch Creek Valley from near my Diopside location.

I collected until about 6:00 & worked my way back off the mountain on a game trail. Camping nearby was unthinkable, since about 40 horseflies & other lesser biting flies were now swarming my vehicle. I drove back down-canyon past scattered groups of cattle grazing belly-deep grass, near their full water tanks. Although I was mainly thinking about camp, food, & wine, I reflected that those cows should be pretty content.

About a mile below the last cow, I found a little meadow beside the road with adjacent shade trees & decided this was camp. I was at least a mile from any water, so I shouldn’t have mosquitoes & the flies would mostly go to bed when the sun set, which was going to be soon in this deep canyon. I jumped out & rapidly applied more Deet to myself, then set up camp, occasionally swatting a fly desperate enough to try to bite me. One finally succeeded, as I was concentrating on a woodtick that was trying to be my friend.

Camp view up-canyon.

Camp flies after sunset. The Horseflies went away, but these mentally-challeged smaller flies lingered in hopes of a blood meal.
I was awakened at first light by a crash, then loud mooooos. The purportedly happy cattle were moving down-canyon & had stopped by camp, knocked over my table, & slobbered on my chair. I chased them off, without provoking them to diarrhea-attacks. With my early start, I cleaned up the mess & enjoyed the cool morning & no flies. Happily, a mosquito or two stopped by to visit, so I wasn’t lonely.

After driving out to the highway, I drove a few miles down the Birch Creek Valley, then turned up Skull Canyon, which is apparently named for a Native American pictograph of a skull.

The road up Skull Canyon was rough & I abandoned my attempt to go back to a mine there I had once found nothing of interest at. Sometimes, I forget the first failure & hope a repeat visit will find something of interest. That seldom happens. It’s hell sometimes, being a pessimistic optimist.

I retreated back down the rough road to Birch Creek & went fishing. I normally scoff at fishing within sight of a busy highway, but Birch Creek is an amazing fishery full of willing Rainbow trout. The biggest one I’ve ever caught was only 12 inches, but the 8” to 10” trout are plentiful & willing.

I wish the rattlesnakes & Moose didn’t find Birch Creek also to their liking, but my flies had stayed up in the mountains. I fished for a couple hours, then started on the long road home.

Sport climber
  Jul 13, 2018 - 10:18am PT

Cool explorations to follow on ST. Keep them coming...

Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
  Jul 13, 2018 - 04:51pm PT
I see you have shifted gears to amazing. My attempt at restrained admiration is over. GREAT STUFF!!

Just livin' the dream
  Jul 13, 2018 - 05:20pm PT
I chased them off, without provoking them to diarrhea-attacks.

Yep, yer not only a brilliant OCD rockhound, but you've got the makings of a regular professional cowpoke, too.

Laughed out loud many times, Fritz. Thanks!

Sport climber
Sands Motel , Las Vegas
  Jul 13, 2018 - 06:55pm PT
Time to use that sidearm on the little flesh eating bastards...

Ice climber
  Jul 13, 2018 - 07:22pm PT
Fritz be trippin

Enjoyable chronicle

Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 14, 2018 - 03:27am PT
A good ramble around southern Idaho!

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
  Jul 14, 2018 - 04:43am PT
A really great TR. Thanks Fritz!

Social climber
  Jul 14, 2018 - 04:56am PT
Those are some sweet pieces of Copper!
I'm off to Idaho on Wednesday/Thursday-Best water anywhere!

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Jul 14, 2018 - 07:28am PT
Thanks folks for your kind comments. I do try to share the subtle fun I enjoy on my adventures.

Here's a photo I found in the early 1900's mining town of Gilmore when I briefly stopped by. The rich silver, lead, & a little gold mined in the Gilmore area justified the Pittsburgh investors building a railroad to the remote area from near Dillon Montana.

I liked the metal siding on the largest remaining building in town, The Gilmore Mercantile.

When I cleaned up the Diopside specimens I brought home, I found I had also collected some small black spinel crystals. Those in this photo are only 0.5mm tall.
Gorgeous George

Trad climber
Los Angeles, California
  Jul 16, 2018 - 10:49am PT
Alright Fritz, lets get down to the important stuff.

What kind of wine were you drinking to go along with that .38 caliber pistola? I saw two different bottles, both looked a cool red. Were they local?


Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  Jul 16, 2018 - 03:19pm PT
Gorgeous George! A cutting edge question!

First night's red wine was a Dona Paula Argentina Malbec, I'd had for a few years. It was delicious!

Second night I had a Bottle of Washington H3 Cab, which is a popular wine in our household.

But, alas, the pistol is my 1967 S&W 6" barrel 22 revolver, which I usually take on desert trips. Had I been a little less rushed when departing Choss Creek, I would have brought my stainless steel S&W 357 Magnum revolver, which I favor as a camp gun in bear, cougar, & wolf country.
Here's a camp shot of it on the right during a backcountry trip with my friend Mark.

Happily, I did remember my Pepper Spray, for hiking in the daytime.

As I always say: "Jest because I'm paranoid, doesn't mean them critters aren't out to git me!"


Trad climber
  Jul 16, 2018 - 04:12pm PT
Nice! Malachite is my favorite mineral... I thought it only came from Africa.