Thursday, May 25, 2000
I flew into Missoula last night, and my good friend Terbo was there to pick me up. Not much happened last night and this morning we were up early to get food and get hamping!
We met up with all the Hampers in North Fork, Idaho. Our drive took us down part of the Salmon River and then up along Panther Creek. The forest road up to the hot springs are marked pretty well -- it's not exactly a secret as we'd come to find out during the weekend.
Joining us this day was Ron and Randy from Livingston (dogs Bailey and Bo); Frank, Dave, Al and Chris from Boise (dog Foster). On Saturday, a few more hampers would show.
The parking area is actually upstream from the hot springs. It's about a quarter mile walk down to them. Mid-way down we found a nice campsite that was bisected by the trail. This was Gramp Camp.
It didn't take long for the celebration and soaking to begin. That, along with eating, pretty much took up the rest of our day.
The hot springs are enormous. They can easily fit 30 people. I shared my time in the spring with Ron, Bailey and Bo. The dogs stirred up the bottom, turning it dark and murky. All I could think of was eColi floating around my body. Next to the springs are two saunas. One is man-made and the other is a small natural cave. I poked my head into both. They were very steamy and had a strong sulphur smell. It appears that these springs were made by members of a few families. It's interesting to see how they diverted the cold creek across the three hot springs that come out of the ground. Also, each spring had it's own color -- grey, green, yellow and more.
Friday, May 26, 2000
We awoke to another beautiful Idaho day. Bright sunshine, nice mild temperatures. After a few soaks, some of the Hampers left Gramp Camp on our journey to Copper King Mine. Chris, Al and Randy stayed behind, while the rest of us hiked up the pack trail into the head of the drainage.
We hiked for two miles along a recently closed forest road. I believe it's closed because the recent USFS road closures. On the map, it looks like the only trail in the area. But in reality, many roads crisscrossed the mountainsides. In fact, we used this a scenic switchback in this well-worn road as our campsite for the night.
We'd soon discover our greatest obstacle of the trip. In previous years, it was snow. This year, it was the lack of snow and lack of water. We had to look hard to find tiny drainages or flowing springs to fill our water bottles. When we did find water, it barely ran and usually showed signs of being a watering hole for animals. Thus, we filtered every drop. I cleaned my filter many, many times on this trip. And as far as I know, no one got sick from drinking the water.
As evening progressed, we enjoyed a great view of the Bighorn Crags, made a nice bonefire and watched the stars and satellites pass overhead. Terbo and I didn't set up the tent, but slept outside to enjoy the crisp air.
Saturday, May 27, 2000
I awoke early to enjoy the sunrise over Copper Mountain. As the sun cleared the mountain, the wildflowers showed their best colors. Arrowleaf Balsamroot (sunflowers), Indian Paintbrush, and many others I can't name.
After breaking camp, Terbo, Dave and I hiked upward leaving two more behind in Advanced Gramp Camp: Ron and Frank. The road gently went up the hillside for a mile oor so. That was just too easy, so we decided to cut off a few of the switchbacks. It was nice geting off the trail and seeing more of the wildness of Idaho. We followed a ridge, walked through more wildflowers, and even got some sprinkles.
Although the country is fairly rugged, hauling a backpack up the hillside wasn't a killer. We worked up a good sweat for a while until reaching more of the extensive switchbacks. Figuring we had a ways to go before we got to more water, the roads were very enticing.
Once we reached the ridgetop, the views were great and my spirits soared. The best part of the hike was following the ridge and looking ahead to Copper Mountain.
During our trip I was trying out my new GPS. I found the location of the Hot Springs before the trip began and entered it into the unit. The coordinates were dead-on. I also estimated the location of the mine, and we checked it as we hiked. I think our map was probably more useful in finding the mine, but the GPS was useful. It gave us a general direction in which to head. When we found the mine, the GPS altitude was accurate, but my location estimate was 2/10 of a mile off to the north. Pretty close for an estimate.
The mine was suprisingly far down and around Copper Mountain. Even looking at the map now, it doesn't seem like its in the right location. Maybe it was all the side-hilling we had to do to get there.
Abandoned now, the mine originally had two shafts - one vertical above and one horizontal below. The vertical one had caved in with rock, but the lower shaft was open. We all poked our heads in it a ways. It was a little small to go in comfortably and we could see some sticks and brush at the edge of the cave's darkness. It also didn't help that a grouse far above us decided to give its mating call at the time we were hanging out at the cave. For me, the low bum-bum-bum sound came from an agitated bear in the cave. In reality, it was just another of the many grouse we'd see and hear on the trip.
As we explored the area, we saw some remains from the mining operation. The two halves of a large four-cylinder engine, lots of wire, iron rails, and a variety of other iron works. Perhaps the most valuable asset was the pile of raw copper ore that reflected the full spectrum of greens. I think we all put a few small chunks in our pockets. Plenty of heavy, large rocks were left behind.
My nerves got another good dose of bear-scare as we started down our new trail to the springs below. The trail used to be the road that the miners took up to work every day. A few chunks of iron littered the way, along with lots of elk scat. But it was the fairly fresh bear scat that got my heart thumping. A couple of live heartworms slithered through the shit. Plus, the woods quickly turned dark, thick and wet.
As we neared the spring, the frame of a building came into view. This was the miners' shed. Next to it, the miners house was collapsed and partially rotted. This would be our camp. We found the spring a few steps through the trees. Lots of animals also used this as their main watering hole. A thorough filter-job got us all the water we needed.
After exploring the buildings and cooking a nice dinner, we started a small fire and set up our camp inside the building. We put a tarp underneath the roof in hopes that it would divert any water that seeped through. Big mistake. We should have put the tarp over the roof. Shortly after going to bed, the rain started. It came through the roof easily and we got wet all night long. Except Spatz. He wouldn't budge out of the only dry spot. I'll never forget the rain coming in the sides, the water cascading down from the tarp, and ducking the drips that hit my head. While Dave just curled up and beared it, Terbo and I battled the constant wetness throughout the night. Sleep finally came as the light started pushing back the darkness of the valley.
Sunday, May 28, 2000
When we awoke, we started drying out our stuff in the sun. A few hours later, we were on our way back up the drainage, past the mine, up to the ridgetop.
Again, the views were outstanding in all directions. Although the wind was brisk, the sun was out and the temperature moderate. The wildflowers were abundant, along with an isolated patch of cactus on one of the small peaks we passed. Our highest point of the trip was 6885 feet. From our lunchspot up here, we could see Frank and Ron breaking camp. We yelled for them but they didn't hear us.
Our general plan was to follow the ridge until we found another good ridgeline that we could follow to the valley floor. We would find the trail down pretty much where we expected. A few years back, it looks like some smokejumpers cut a path along our steep descent to stop a forest fire on the hillside. It was a great trail although it dropped us down very rapidly. It would be a tough hike straight up our path. Sure enough, we followed it nearly to the bottom where we found another old logging road. Once we finally go to the bottom we could see where the trail came out.
From there, it was a short hike back to Gramp Camp. It's was a weird transition coming back.
A few more hampers made it to the Camp. Marvo and Rando (with dogs Elroy and Andre) and also Jolly were there. Naturally we had a great time catching up with each other.
Monday, May 29, 2000
As we all awoke, it was obvious that today would be our last in Hamp Camp for this year. Within a few hours, we had packed on were on our separate ways.
With a few days of vaction left, Terbo, Jolly and I headed to the Missouri River to try our luck. It would be my first time there since fall of 1995.