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EPIC OVERLAND ADVENTURE – IDAHO, UTAH, AND WYOMING

EPIC OVERLAND ADVENTURE – IDAHO, UTAH, AND WYOMING

Editor: Eric Bewley, Photo: Matt Verley, Sara Bewley, Eric Bewley

BEAR LAKE, ID – Over the course of several years we have been embarking on adventures where the quote unquote goal was to find the border convergence of three adjoining States. Emphasizing that this is really not the goal but a convenient excuse to get out to the wilderness and find whatever is interesting on our way to and from this specific location on a map, our first expedition was to connect California, Nevada, and Oregon and check out that border convergence. From there we followed the bottom border of Oregon and hit all of the spots along the way where the borders get together. At the time we completed this adventure, we have covered thousands of miles in California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. We have seen some amazing and well hidden gems of the American west, worn out some tires, and shocks, and had a load of fun with great friends along the way.

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We definitely set an aggressive schedule for this adventure. The distances were quite a bit less than previous ‘Over’ adventures and the roads & trails more improved so the thought was that we could spend more time at specific, out-of-your-vehicle attractions. We did just that but was still unable to squeeze everything in. There was enough left on the plate that a return trip is definitely in order.

The adventure started with an initial group meeting at Promontory Point. This is the location where the ‘golden spike’ was driven into the rail road tracks where the west and east bound teams of rail builders met completing the first trans-continental railroad and changing travel across the continent forever.

Our travel was a bit slow and we were not able to make it there before it was too late.

Gil and Matt met up there and they were able to check out the area, the trains… and just a little ways from there is a rocket factory! Yes, next to this transportation milestone is a factory that is responsible for more rockets and missiles than you can shake a stick at. They’re on display too.

The First Transcontinental Railroad (known originally as the “Pacific Railroad” and later as the “Overland Route”) was a 1,912-mile (3,077 km) continuous railroad line constructed between 1863 and 1869 that connected the existing eastern U.S. rail network at Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs, Iowa with the Pacific coast at the Oakland Long Wharf on San Francisco Bay. The rail line was built by three private companies over public lands provided by extensive US land grants. Construction was financed by both state and US government subsidy bonds as well as by company issued mortgage bonds. The Western Pacific Railroad Company built 132 mi (212 km) of track from Oakland/Alameda to Sacramento, California. The Central Pacific Railroad Company of California (CPRR) constructed 690 mi (1,110 km) eastward from Sacramento to Promontory Summit, Utah Territory (U.T.). And the Union Pacific built 1,085 mi (1,746 km) from the road’s eastern terminus at Council Bluffs near Omaha, Nebraska westward to Promontory Summit.

The railroad opened for through traffic on May 10, 1869 when CPRR President Leland Stanford ceremonially drove the gold “Last Spike” (later often referred to as the “Golden Spike”) with a silver hammer at Promontory Summit.  The coast-to-coast railroad connection revolutionized the settlement and economy of the American West. It brought the western states and territories into alignment with the northern Union states and made transporting passengers and goods coast-to-coast considerably quicker and less expensive.

FROM: Wikipedia

The first night’s camp spot was Curlew campground just north of the border in Idaho. It’s a great campground and very peaceful. On the way, Gil spotted an Zebra! We didn’t believe him and I know I didn’t see it so on the way back from the adventure a week later, Gil stopped by on his way home and took a photo… Yep, Zebra in Idaho!

 I’m not sure what the motivation is to have a Zebra but there it is.

OK, back on track. We woke and got underway about midday and headed in a general direction of East from there. Our first stops were more utilitarian as we got fuel, supplies and a meal at the Malad drive in. There must have been something going on in town as there was parade floats parked about and some kind of farmer’s market in the park under the ‘jet on a stick’. Oh yeah, it’s the 4th of July weekend. That would explain it. From Malad we headed North on I-15 for a short bit to get up to our first off-roading which was to get over the top of Oxford peak. Map research and Google Earth showed clear two track roads but getting over the top on trails proved to be impossible as they have been now designated quad and side-by-side routes and fitted with a trail filter. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that a ZUKIWORLD reader and forum participant magically found us on the trail. Richard T. from Texas, who was on an adventure of his own purchasing, building, and driving a Sidekick sport from Seattle to Texas, met us on the road way kind of smack dab in the middle of nowhere. Just minutes later or earlier and we may have missed him. Anyway, after introductions and a little tire kicking, he joined our small group and made a great addition to the team throughout the rest of the week.

Napoleon Dynamite is a 2004 American comedy film produced by Jeremy Coon, Chris Wyatt, Sean C. Covel and Jory Weitz, written by Jared and Jerusha Hess and directed by Jared Hess. The film stars Jon Heder in the role of the title character, for which he was paid $1,000. After the film’s runaway success, Heder re-negotiated his compensation and received a cut of the profits. The film was Jared Hess’ first full-length feature and is partially adapted from his earlier short film, Peluca. Napoleon Dynamite was acquired at the Sundance Film Festival by Fox Searchlight Pictures and Paramount Pictures, in association with MTV Films. It was filmed in and near Franklin County, Idaho in the summer of 2003. It debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2004. The film’s total worldwide gross revenue was $46,118,097.

Next was Preston, Idaho with a quick stop by the film location for the movie Napoleon Dynamite. Over the radio we here Matt, in his best movie voice, say “Tina, you fat lard, come get some DINNER!… Tina, eat. Food. Eat the FOOD!” Not nearly as meaningful as the Trans-continental railroad but pretty cool nonetheless.

We then drove up a beautiful canyon called the Oneida narrows towards a really great hot spring that is located up there. This whole canyon was very busy with people floating the river and camping around the reservoir. A great place to pass by as it was too crowded for our likes.

We traveled on towards the Bear Lake valley and this is where, 4×4 wise, the adventure became very interesting. We were able to find a nice camp just off of a small two-track trail later in the afternoon and set up. It wasn’t very developed and was really only a fire ring and some dead fall to burn. It was on a ridge and the views were great. The next morning found us on a trail that started out smooth and continually got smaller, rougher, and tighter as the day drew on. It turned out to be quite a challenge by the end of the day and we all had our share of shrub pruning, dead fall trimming, and rock stacking. As I was driving the trail, I continually kept thinking about David C. in his super-mega tracker (Chevy Suburban) w/jumping jack trailer. He drove the entire trail that was tight and difficult for our Equator and Sidekicks with relative ease and no major or minor damage. Kudos.

This trail was georgous and full of views. We finally dropped into Paris canyon just West of Paris, Idaho and began looking for camp as the day drew to a close. This is a very large open area that had many OHV’ers camping and playing. It looks to be a heavenly spot for snowmobiles and I think I want to go back just for that…

The next day was a full one. David and his family broke off early to get some special cat food for their day’s old cat they were caring for and we went to explore two caves. First was the Paris ice cave, which is a small two chamber cave. The first is very easy with a board walking path down the middle and then the second is a bent over crawl into a space with a fair amount of clear ice. There was a substantial glacier between the two chambers that some climbed out of the cave on.

The number is 888. That is the number of steps one does by the time they go all the way into the Minnetonka Cave and then back out. Braving the crowds we signed up for a guided tour of the cave. This cave, according the guide, had been discovered by a local rancher and later “given” to the forest service. During the 1930’s, several groups like WPA and the Scouts constructed / carved a walking path into the cave for people to visit.

One can only see about half of the cave as the FS has decided that the back half of the cave need not be used or viewed. Even with this limitation, the cave is awesome, there are so many cool formations and interesting stories told. Mark this down as a ‘must do’ if you are in the Bear Lake area.

Next was Bear Lake. David and his family rejoined us and we headed for the North beach at the lake. As a kid, we would go here routinely and there was really no development to speak of so imagine our suprize when we saw all the pavement, fences, benches, and park fees associated with this lovely place. All worth it, we paid… found a spot on the crowded beach and took a dip in the lake. It was great!

Minnetonka Cave is one of the larger limestone caves in the state of Idaho. It is located in Cache National Forest in Bear Lake County, Idaho, United States, above the village of St. Charles (located at the north end of Bear Lake). Tours through the cave are offered from Memorial Day (weather permitting) through Labor Day by Scenic Canyons Recreational Services, the concessionaire that holds the special use permit from the United States Forest Service. The half-mile route through the cave is lined with stalactites and stalagmites.

The day was getting short as we pressed on towards the convergence. Although not the end of the trip, this was our “goal” for the adventure. We began our trek through great open cow-laden-ed and gate riddled country arriving at the border marker late in the day. The marker is located on the side a mountain and a steep climb is needed to get there. (This was not evident on the Google Earth) Only two of the vehicle could make the climb and others resorted to foot or didn’t make it to the spot. Sunset as we took photos and planned for camp.

Fossil Butte National Monument is a United States National Monument managed by the National Park Service, located 15 miles (24 km) west of Kemmerer, Wyoming, United States. It centers on an extraordinary assemblage of Eocene Epoch (56 to 34 million years ago) animal and plant fossils associated with Fossil Lake—the smallest lake of the three great lakes which were then present in what are now Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. The other two lakes were Lake Gosiute and Lake Uinta. Fossil Butte National Monument was established as a national monument on October 23, 1972.

Fossil Butte National Monument preserves the best paleontological record of Cenozoic aquatic communities in North America and possibly the world, within the 50-million-year-old Green River Formation — the ancient lake bed. Fossils preserved — including fish, alligators, bats, turtles, dog-sized horses, insects, and many other species of plants and animals — suggest that the region was a low, subtropical, freshwater basin when the sediments accumulated, over about a 2 million-year period.

It was going to be a stretch to get to anything that looked like a good camping spot. This was an understatement and by the time we found a spot we all pitch our tents and hit the hay without benefit of relaxing around a fire.

How did this happen? Traveling in Wyoming is subtly different in this area. The ground needed to cover is much while the creeks and streams listed on maps are nothing more than sometime wet spots. Thanks to Matt’s expert map sleuthing and some luck, we ended up at a beautiful location just East of the next day’s adventure sport Fossil Butte National Park.

The group split in the morning as needs were different. This was the 4th and we agreed to meet in Soda Springs, Idaho for the evening for fireworks and rest in a hotel *(shower required.) We spent time at the Fossil Butte Monument and learned about how all the fossils got there. I’ve seen fossils before but the ones there are stunning. They are so complete and so well defined and preserved. It truly was amazing. Our kids did the Junior Ranger program as we do at all parks and got another badge for their collection.

Moving on we took the ‘scenic drive’ north from the visitor’s center. This was an excellent two-track and we made great time as we traveled through epic country. Many times we could see three mountain ranges away from our location. We saw a lot of wildlife as well and domestics such as cattle and sheep. At one point a small two person plane buzzed us on the ridge. Matt, who is an avid and new pilot, really liked that… as did we all.

Onward to Soda Springs… Our hometown, Sara and I haven’t been back in awhile so it was great to see the town and share with our adventure friends some of the ol’ haunts and fun things there is to do here. Yes, there’s the Geyser, Dinky Engine, Galloping Goose, Slag Pour, 2nd Bridge, Indian Peter Rock, Rabbit Hill, “S” Hill, Soda Creek, Oregon Trail wagon ruts, Octagon Springs, Hooper Springs… but the highlight’s highlight is the fireworks. Everyone in the group was amazed at the wonderful, large, and impressive show. Rivaling almost anything seen before by this guy, I totally recommend this and will be returning for the festivities.

On the 5th the group once again split as David’s family was driving on to Yellowstone, Richard had to catch a plane in SLC, and we were on for more back country adventure! We headed North from town towards Chesterfield and traveled along the original Oregon Trail for parts as we made our way.

A quaint settlement it is being revived by the LDS church and the family and church ties are well displayed in the Holbrook Store. After getting a Sarsaparilla and a couple lolly pops for the kids, we headed north again towards Bone, Idaho…

Bone is little more than a country store on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere. Awesome, right? This is a must do location (mark it down, go there.) They have a full kitchen, bar, and pool table. The place is done up real nice and the Nachos are amazing. Just remember: they do not have ice cream, repeat: no ice cream… This was a shock and a bummer but we got over it pretty quick.

Loading up and an exhilarating drive down Wolverine canyon and the ‘W’ found us pressed for time as we took full advantage of the high speed limit to try and make it to EBR-1. This is a location that several wanted to get to and we pushed hard but alas, we did not make it. The place was all locked up and closed when we rolled in. So we did the next best thing and checked out the other ‘stuff’ around the site.

Chesterfield is a ghost town in Caribou County, Idaho, United States. It is located in Gem Valley at an elevation of 5,446 feet (1,660 m).  The community includes a cemetery  and former buildings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) such as a former meeting house, amusement hall and tithing house.

Located along a route of the Oregon Trail, Chesterfield was founded by Mormon settlers in 1881. After a railroad line was built through Bancroft to the south, the community lost some of its momentum, and agricultural difficulties led to its desertion by the end of the 1930s. Today, the community is operated as a tourist attraction, with guided tours and a museum.

In 1980, the community was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district and is also on the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation’s Mormon Historic Sites Registry. The historic district includes 41 buildings and eight sites, spread out over an area of 2,160 acres (870 ha). Some buildings in the district are examples of the Greek Revival and Queen Anne architectural styles.

FROM: Wikipedia

That concluded our adventure and we broke off into separate directions. We headed to Blackfoot, Gil went to Hailey, and Matt took on his long-long drive to the Pacific coast which he did non-stop and arrived home in record time.

The ‘Over’ series of trips are now officially over and as we look back at all these great adventures we can’t help but feel nostalgic. Some we may do again, but there are sections and places we will probably never visit once more. There were some rough patches and difficult travel over the miles, miles, and miles we traveled but all in all we can say with the utmost certainty that this group of trips have been the most rewarding and one of the most wonderful experiences of our lives.

Trip Recaps:

HIGH DESERT EXPEDITION – Adventure To The Most Desolate Place In America.

Suzuki 4×4 High Desert Adventure – Traveling the High Desert of Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho

Yet Another One Over – High Desert Adventure in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Oregon

EPIC OVERLAND ADVENTURE – IDAHO, UTAH, AND WYOMING

 

ZUKIWORLD Online is on the trail!

 

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