Monday, June 13, 2016

Sundogs in Stanley

So we packed up the gear in the camper and took off to Stanley, Idaho for the weekend. Last summer we fell in love with the Sawtooth Mountains and I thought it would be a great way to avoid the inevitable cell phone calls from work. Plus, I wanted to test the truck/camper combination on a fairly challenging high pass climb and knew Galena Summit was the highest around at more than 8000 feet. The forecast was calling for cold temps on Saturday night so I thought the crowds would be minimal
 and I was right, except for some crazy Sawtooth footrace.

After a fairly uneventful interstate drive we passed through the Hailey, Ketchum, SunValley area and began the ascent. My truck has had a lot of work done lately. It is a Ford 6.0 diesel and has had a tough time of it recently through no fault of its own. I had some bulletproofing done and there were parts dropped into intakes and pistons beat up -- it gets really ugly so I will spare you the grief. Suffice it to say that it is back in one piece and is in better running condition than ever.

This is the first overlook once you cross over the pass to the Stanley side. Note the snow on the peaks and the clouds. It was a warm day in Twin Falls (85 degrees) but two hours later we were in 65 degree weather. Throw me in the briar patch! Sorry for the obscene amount of pavement included in the shot.

The ride into the upper Salmon River valley is serene and bucolic. It is so green and placid, yet the Sawtooths show a ragged vista that competes for the mood of one's soul.

Having left later than planned we had a camping destination figured out and made tracks for it sans pics. More of those later. On to our rendezvous with Mormon Bend Campground.

This is just one of dozens of U.S. Forest Service campgrounds located along the Salmon. There are others that are much more popular, particularly at the larger lakes like Redfish, Petit, and Altura. Those are breathtakingly beautiful spots but have power boats and tons of huge fifth wheels. The inevitable loud music, boat motors, yelling parents and slamming car doors are also present so we opt to find other, more placid locations.

We found Mormon Bend last year while we were wading for trout. The campground is quiet and features good access to the river, even a nice boat/raft ramp. It is suitable to launch a river dory there. We slayed the trout there and were going to try again. The river had other ideas. There was too much snow melt and it was raging. Perfect for rafting but not good for wading unless you have a death wish.

This required a change in strategy so we found pleasure in spending our first dedicated outing with the new camper getting to know a bit more about her. First up was installing a couple of insect screens over the heater and fridge vents. I had found them on line for about half the price of a typical RV store and was itching to get them installed.

The fridge vents were a no brainer too. I read in the instructions for these appliances where they don't recommend screens like this, but after my many run-ins with mud daubers I opted for protection. With all the recent truck work done I have been crawling around underneath the F350 to verify that work was done to my satisfaction. In one of these forays I found the back side of one of my rear wheels was throwing gear oil. On closer inspection I found gear oil beginning to exit the front of the differential where the drive shaft enters. NOT GOOD! I was dreading the aspect of having to tear down my axles and install new seals. Enter the Ford Enthusiast's website, knowledge base for all things Ford. One of the folks suggested that I verify the axle vent tube was not blocked before jumping off the cliff.

He was right!!! The daubers had plugged up the vent causing the lube to push out past the seals. With the weight of the new camper on a long trip home from Boise it all made sense. Some brake lube to clean it all up and get it dry was all it took to get it into a state where I can watch it closer. So far no leakage. But I digress...

Back to Mormon Bend. See how close this site is too the river? The bank became the location where the Admiral and I watched a dozen or more western tanagers intercepting moths over the rushing water. Fascinating. Also saw mergansers, geese with goslings, and other species of fowl as yet unidentified.

Yes! This is the kind of experience middle aged fat people crave! An excellent camping vehicle, lots of provisions, and a setting that rivals any other travel mecca! I have no more camper envy!

Of course there was still more camper features to explore. Yes, Carl at the RV dealership did go through and explain how to deploy the rear awning but were we listening? NOOO! We were still star struck camper maniacs totally distracted from any practical learning about how things actually work. But we finally did manage to figure out how the awning was intended to work without breaking any of the myriad plastic parts that beg to be destroyed. It is actually a fairly robust feature but could lend itself to some buffoon breaking something if not careful. Like me.

While I don't see us using this awning all the time it will come in handy to cut the heat from intruding into the rear door, not to mention the infrequent rain squall. It seems to be sturdy enough to weather some mild gusts, but I must be careful. This is Idaho after all.

Our one day escape had elapsed and the trip home began after a heavy frost on Sunday morning. I guess the temperature was near 28-32 degrees, so I was paranoid and ran the heat a bit around 3AM. We suffered no ill effects and after a hearty breakfast proceeded to the ranger station at Stanley, where I knew there was a dump station. What!!! Five bucks? It was free last year when we dumped our little porta-pottie! Pretty soon we are going to have to pay the government for the privilege of breathing air. However the view from the dump station is pretty phenomenal. Tetons, eat your heart out... no tourist crowds here... yet.

On our way out of Stanley proper I was instructed, "Quick, pull over! You've got to see this!" I figured there was a tribe of nude hippies bathing in the river but it turned out to be something even better. A sundog! Man, this was one of the brightest and biggest sundogs I've ever seen. Of course the Admiral finds even the rainbows on cereal boxes wonderful so she was really jazzed. It takes a really bright one to show up on an iPhone camera.

You know, there are all kinds of awesome mountain ranges in central Idaho. We chose to exit the Sawtooths to the east and travel down the Magic Valley from Challis to McKay (pronounced mackee). This would take us down the Salmon through its rocky gorge and up into the highlands of some really tall stuff. The highest point in Idaho, Mt. Borah (12,000 feet plus) is easily spied from the roadway and even has its own interpretive sign. These pictures do not do it justice. For those who are motivated, (ahem) younger, and have not lost their elasticity the summit is but a 6 hour hike and is rather easily accessible. Some rock scrambling is involved and it is not for the faint of heart. Just google the name and watch the videos of folks that have done it.

Alas it was time to boogie home and feed the water to the garden. We still immensely enjoy the travel through Arco and out onto the high desert where the antelope and lava rocks play. That journey is a good place for the Admiral to get a nap and for me to breathe in the fresh radioactive air from the Idaho National Labs. There is a tour of an early reactor there that we will have to visit one day, but we never seem to make time. Craters of the Moon or the Sawtooths are too powerful of an attraction.

Hope you enjoyed the travelogue and hope to post another soon. This new TC is just the ticket to get my writing off to a great start. Toodle-ooo!

1 comment:

  1. We had a 250 2004 6.0 diesel truck and finally had to get rid of it. I hope you don't have half of the problems we did. We own an Artic Fox 990 and love it. We took it to Alaska last summer and Maine this summer. One of the reasons we got the camper was because of the nice little campgrounds in Idaho. We stayed at Slate Creek a few weeks ago. 6 sites and a dump on the Little Salmon. Happy camping!