July 3-4, 2018.
A bit windy when we'd arrived, by morning the wind had died down and Seafoam lake was a glassy surface. We'd slept soundly - warm in our respective beds (in fact, everyone but me was still asleep when I looked out the window and noticed that the cloud pattern could be an interesting one for sunrise.
Hoping for the best, I donned my clothes and grabbed the camera - no time to spare now, the light was starting to work it's early morning magic.
But really, I had absolutely no idea what was in store over the next 5 minutes. It was perhaps the most beautiful display of fire-in-the-sky that I've ever seen. Literally the entire sky turned amazing shades of orange, magenta, and purple; all reflected in the glassy surface of the lake. Truly a special moment.
But boy, it was early! Just a minute or two after 5:00am. As quickly as the sky lit up, it was over - and there was only one smart move at that point - crawl back into bed and get another hour of sleep!
That was just fine with @mrs.turbodb and we snuggled for a bit, enjoying the early morning sounds around us until the sun just started peeking over the ridges and I got my normal urge to go explore in the morning light as the earth warmed up around me.
The sun rising over the far side of the lake, I hoped the view of our camp site would be splendid, so I set off to find a way across the creek separating us from the rocky scree field that plunged down to the water's edge. I eventually found a way across about a quarter-mile up-stream and beckoned Venice (one of @m3basman's pups) to follow - through the water, I assumed, not over the log I'd used to cross.
Alas, she couldn't find a place she was happy with to cross, so I made my way back down towards the lake to skip some rocks and take in the sights - of the lake, our camp, and the moon just rising to the south.
I spent a good half hour on the far side of the lake, warmed by the sun as the rest of camp arose - first Ben, then @mrs.turbodb and Kirsten almost simultaneously. It wasn't long before Mikey @pizzaviolence and his gang of girls were up as well - an indication to me that I should head back to eat breakfast and start breaking camp, so we wouldn't hold up the train.
As we packed up camp, Mikey let us know that they were going to part ways with us once we got back to the highway - our destination for the day was the opposite of where they needed to end up, and it'd already been a very full first trip for the whole family (where they and their Tacoma had performed well!).
A bit bummed but totally understanding, we headed out - back down the way we'd come.
The descent initially had Mikey a bit worried, but he'd gained a lot of experience the day before, and with the use of Descent Control and 4L, we made it down without incident - Mikey remarking how much less stressful yesterday would have been if he'd known that today would be so easy!
The way down a bit slow-going, that alloted @mrs.turbodb and I plenty of time to get out and capture spring in full-effect at these higher elevations. It really was spectacular, many species of wildflowers blooming across the terrain - bathed in sun given the burned forest and lack of trees.
Eventually we found ourselves at the Seafoam creek crossing - shallow and easy but still a great place to capture a few poser shots. Naturally, we all took our turns.
Not long after, we pulled to the side of the road - it was time to air up and part ways - Mikey's family heading home and the first gen's heading east to more adventure - our goal the summit of Railroad Ridge, one of the highest roads in all of Idaho.
But first, we had some highway miles to get under our belts. Having gotten a bit of a late start to the morning, we opted to snack in the trucks as we drove up the Salmon River Canyon, rather than taking the time to stop for lunch.
We did make a couple stops however before we hit dirt again. Most of the morning, I'd been hearing a faint "clunking" sound at various points - nothing consistent, but a clunk here and there as we'd crest a hill, change gears, or go over a bump. To me, it sounded as though it was coming from the front driver corner of the car, and I'd carefully checked all four corners when we'd aired up to make sure I wasn't missing any bolts and that the suspension looked OK (which it did). So you can imagine my surpise when I saw my rear swingout click into the open position as we were rounding a gentle curve on on the highway.
So that was our first stop. I don't know if I'd not fully locked the swingouts or if a bump on the way down the hill had popped the latch, but I was glad to have found the source of the clunking, and that it was something non-mechanical!
Our second stop was much more normal. As we drove east, Ben came over the radio at one point to say "Just let us know when you want to stop for photos." - at which point @mrs.turbodb and I looked at each other quizzically - there wasn't really much to stop for as far as we were concerned.
Until there was. As the canyon opened up, the view of the Sawtooth's was spectacular. It wasn't the last time we'd see them, or the best view we'd ultimately have, but it might be the most memorable, being the first time.
And not long after that we hit dirt on our way into the White Cloud Mountains and Railroad Ridge where we aired down again and started our dusty climb up, up, up.
Ben had a special treat for us on the way up - a stop a Livingston Mine, and old "ghost mine" that we planned to explore. As we arrived, the reaction in both trucks was the same - "what the hell?"
Someone had defaced the mine, painting TRUMP in capital letters on the walls and roofs of several buildings, as well as over a 100-yard swath of the neighboring field.
Upset but still curious, we ventured through the gate - also a bit strange in that it implied there were tours available.
It was only shortly after this point that Ben got pretty weirded out - not for any specific reason, but he just had a feeling - and suggested over the CB that we turn back. The suggestion was short-lived however, when he came back over the radio to inform us that
"Kirsten says I should grow some balls and keep going."@m3bassman
So we did.
And it was definitely weird. A yellow sedan surveyed the Trump field, and crazy yellow paint patterns adorned almost every element of the mine. Ben and Kirsten in the lead, I lagged behind, popping in and out of the truck to snap photos.
Over the radio, we kept hearing about how weird the place was - and as we rounded the corner, the creep factor definitely went up. A hillside meadow, with randomly placed rock cairns peaking out above the three-foot tall grass.
But we never found out what they were, because it was at that point that the CB lit up, "All the doors here have strange markings, and 'KEEP OUT' carved in them." said Ben. "Someone just came out of that cabin and is walking towards us! Go-go-GO" replied Kirsten.
As they came barrelling back down the road, we all decided it was a reasonable time to continue our trek up the ridge rather than sticking around in the mine - that would warrant a bit more research to better understand exactly what was going on there!
As we drove up and away, our new vantage point gave us a nice view of the site and the plethora of buildings - all seemingly in good shape, and a place I'd have loved to explore more - espcially the mill just up from the housing - hopefully on a future trip.
And then it was more up and up and up. Through seven-, eight-, and nine-thousand feet. Out of the trees and up high-mountain meadows litteraly covered in yellow, white, and blue wildflowers.
To say it was amazing when we reached the top - at just over 10,500 feet - would be an understatement. At that altitude the temperature had dropped but the sweet smells and views were intoxicating. Even @mrs.turbodb couldn't resist taking a few photos of her own!
"I can guarentee that these are the two highest Tacoma's in all of Idaho at this moment." said Ben as the four of us took in the 360° views around us and the dogs buried their faces in the snow.
Too soon (as it always seems) it was time to go - we had a few more roads on the top of railroad ridge to explore, and then a relatively long trek back to our planned camp site. So we set out through the meadow, unable to stay in the trucks long before needing "just one more" photo.
As we made our way down a mining road to the north, more spectacular views of granite ridges and their lakes below beckoned us to stop and enjoy - which we did, admiring the old mining road we saw allowing access to the lake; wondering how we could get ourselves onto that road!
Then it was back up to the top for a bit more exploring on a designated "Jeep road" - still impassable with a deep snow drift - before heading down from Railroad Ridge and the Livingston mine; an experience none of us are soon to forget!
Aired back up and early evening upon us, we were glad for the extra light afforded by summer as we headed back towards the Sawtooth's for camp. Ben had a spot picked out that he promised felt as though you could "reach out and touch" the mountains, and that sounded great to all of us.
And it was true - the view was spectacular. Unfortunately, others thought so as well, and the sites he had in mind were already occupied - likely for several days given the holiday weekend!
Still, we were able to find a great little camp spot (with a tee-pee!) away from the hustle and bustle of Idaho campgrounds (of which there are many - seemingly a campground for every resident!) where we setup our tents, made a fire, and ate tacos as the light waned.
We talked into the night about the day's events, knowing it was our last campfire - the next day we'd be headed home.
With similar "schedules" our routine the next morning was quick and easy - all of us up relatively early, breakfast a few-minute affair, and break-down of camp well-practiced over many trips. Soon, with the morning light spilling through the trees, and whispy white clouds in the sky, we were ready to go.
As we headed for the highway, Ben slowed to a stop and suggested I pull up next to him so we could get a few shots of the trucks with the Sawtooth's looming behind. That got no argument from me and for a few minutes we owned the road.
We had just one more stop before high-tailing it to Boise where Ben and Kirsten had family flying into town, and where we planned to refuel before setting off west towards California and the Bay Area.
The stop was one last overlook of the Sawtooth's - a view I think I could stare at forever and never be bored.
And then we were off - the mountains fading in the rearview mirror. Another trip in the books, another place where we'd just scratched the surface - as always it seemed, a place we'd need to to return for more!