When I returned home from the Bigfoot Trail Adam had a surprise- he had planned a bike tour!! Not just any old bike trip, but one that would be mostly on dirt roads and take us to over a dozen hot springs! I was stoked to get back on my Salsa Fargo and check out Idaho with Adam- a real summer vacation!
We drove out from Bend to Idaho past a few smokey fires, through the heat of the high desert, and past the smelly feed lots of the Snake River Valley to a small town along the Payette River, Crouch, ID.We chose to start our tour in Crouch because the southern portion of the 500 mile route was closed due to a landslide near Ketchum. Our plan was to ride the northern half of the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route (IHSMBR) clockwise, and take the Lowman Cutoff to return to Crouch, the lowest point on the route. After enjoying some fine beer from the Payette River Brewing Company we found a camp site and prepped our bikes. Velcro and buckles attach our Bedrock Bags frame bags, handle bar bags, and seat bags in a nice streamlined way. After some rearranging and finagling we were able to fit everything so we didn’t have to wear backpacks.
After driving around a bit we found the perfect spot to leave our truck (Chisos) during the ride: the Starlight Theater Parking Field. Crouch is a very tiny town that happens to have a large outdoor theater with camping and event parking. The woman I spoke to in the Box Office was more than happy to let us park there and wished us well on our adventure.
And then we were off!
After about an hour of riding we came to our first Hot Springs of the trip: Rocky Canyon. We waded across the river to the pools and soaked despite the 90 degree heat. Adam’s rear tire had a slow leak so he left the pools early to go work on it while I alternated between the hot of the pools and the chill of the river.
By the time we reached the second hot spring of the trip temperatures were up in the mid 90’s and getting in the 110 degree pools of Fire Crew Hot Spring didn’t sound very appealing. We opted for dipping our toes in the pools and dunking our heads in the river. I stabbed my hand with a pocket knife while de-pitting an avocado for lunch- ouch! Adam finished up lunch preparations while I stopped my bleeding palm and used some bandaids from the first aid kit.
After looking at the maps and road signs we decided to skip Silver Plunge Hot Spring and the two climbs that went along with it and continued up the Payette River to Boiling Springs instead. This choice cut about 10 miles and 1500 feet elevation gain off our route, and let us peddle by the cool river on this hot hot day.
Boiling Spring Campground was busy with campers and horses, but there was a nice water pump and clean privies. It was about 4pm when we arrived, so we rode up to check out the boiling spring cabin and hot spring. The springs were not misnamed- they were friggin HOT! WAYYY to hot to soak in, but super cool to see.
Pine Burl and Moon Dipper Hot Springs were about 2 miles up river along a “very rideable” trail according to the guidebook, so off we went. We forded the river a couple of times, but the trail was pretty mellow for a bit. We must have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way because we found ourselves pushing our bikes through overhead willows in a swarm of mosquitoes wondering where the “very rideable” trail had gotten off to. After some bug induced panic and shwack filled scouting we discovered a well trodden path on the other side of the river.
Pulling into camp near Moon Dipper Hot Spring was wonderful. The day had begun to cool down, the music of the nearby creeks were soothing, and one of the best hot springs I have ever seen was a short walk up the canyon.
Pine Burl Hot Spring is a work of art. The tub is built with cement and granite stone, a drain has been installed as well as hot and cold feeds, both with an incredible volume of flow. The pool fills within 10 minutes and the temperature controls make for a perfect soak each time.
After our first soak in Pine Burl it was dinner time! Adam and I use a Cat Food Can Stove (see the video to make your own) and boil water to rehydrate meals each evening. The first night of each trip we use a freeze dried meal and then re-use the heavy duty ziplock to make our dinners the rest of the trip. Being that this was night one, Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai was on the menu for the evening, garnished with fresh lime and avocado (we scored a bag of avocados from the Grocery Outlet before we left Bend and had to use 6 of them before they exploded in our frame bags).
A thunder storm rumbled somewhere higher in the mountains and it drizzled a bit as we crawled into the tent for a good night of sleep. I laid my head down on a stuff sack of clothes wrapped in a fluffy jacket that I would never be able to convince myself to carry on a backpacking trip I realized I was on a relaxing and fun vacation- a truly different kind of trip than a through hike. I drifted off to sleep wondering what was in store for day two of this fantastic adventure.