Colorado is our home state, and it is one of the BEST places to see fall colors. Even though we both grew up in Colorado, and we've each seen 20+ Colorado falls already in our lives, this year we got extreme FOMO by having been away from Colorado the past three years during its prime fall season. In our three years of full timing, we've screwed up our fall plans 3/3 years. By this, ...
Blake’s been dreaming of completing the R’Idaho Grit 3 for years, a 600 mile point to point dirt bike ride through the Sawtooths, mostly singletrack, and decided to organize the trip for him and 5 other riders to complete in August 2020. There’s actually a bit of a cult following surrounding the R’Idaho Grit routes, and there’s die hard fans that follow your progress and give you bonus points for completing the most difficult routes and bonus loops. Some groups will complete the route in 4 days, riding 150+ miles in 12-15 hour days and camping off the bikes. Blake wanted to make the trip a little less “gritty” and planned it over an 8 day period, staying in cabins and hotels, with an off day, and with 5 hot springs to hit. Additionally, I drove the truck between each destination with additional tools, dirt bike parts, gear, and food supplies so they didn’t have to carry as much on their bikes. (We unloaded the camper at a friends house in Utah so that I only had to drive the truck without the camper and had space for loading the bikes.) So Blake’s crew may not have won the award for completing it the fastest, but they sure did the trip right in my opinion! This way, we also go to cook meals together at the cabins and wash some of their stinky gear each night. We were so grateful that all of the hotels and Airbnb’s we booked stayed open through the pandemic, and none of our reservations were canceled.
Blake broke a few of the days in half so that it made sense for where we could find lodging, but they were still doing 130 miles on a few days, and between 60-80 for most of the other days.
The first day was the longest and ended up being the toughest, because they had their first bike issue only 10 minutes after leaving the Airbnb, and one rider injured his ankle by getting it stuck between the foot peg and a rock. I was not expecting the boys to actually have to use the chase truck services on day 1, but I ended up quite busy that day. They were still on a dirt road a couple miles from the highway when the bike had it’s issue in the morning, so I was easily able to come bring them the tools. After this, I had to drive 200 miles back through Boise and around the forest to get to our cabin in Featherville, because there wasn’t a direct route through the forest that I would’ve felt comfortable driving alone (only 4WD roads). When Robert got injured, they ended up waiting it out for a couple hours and trying to figure out if he should still ride or not. They eventually asked me to try to pick him up, but the where and how got lost in communication because of bad service. I was texting their Garmin since they didn’t have service, but once I ventured father into Featherville I lost service and had to stop at a tiny locals’ bar to try to get some info on the best way to meet them that wouldn’t get me stuck on a dirt road out by myself. The local at the bar told me the dirt road I’d have to take was smooth as a highway and I’d have no problem, but we had some further communication issues because my map showed a different number than theirs for the roads they were on. Eventually Robert was able to ride down to meet me half way up the forest service road, but the whole thing took hours, and the rest of the crew was super delayed for the rest of their ride that day. They ended up getting in past 10 pm, having to ride in the dark for over an hour. They took a “shortcut” at the end of the day to cut off some time, but the shortcut ended up not being cut yet of downed logs, and they had to lift their bikes over tons of logs.
We learned three important things on Day 1:
- Texting Garmin to Garmin was a better option than me texting their Garmin from my phone in case I also didn’t have service, but we hadn’t figured out how to properly do this before Day 1. You can text another Garmin from your Garmin by typing in their username @ garmin.com . The username can be found in your account.
- Make sure I was using the same maps as the riders. The road number on Google maps didn’t align with what was on Gaia maps, and this caused extreme confusion for the boys when I said I would pick them up on the Forest Service Road that they were already on, but they didn’t know it was labeled that.
- Pick certain bail outs. Each day for the rest of the trip, we looked at the maps ahead of time, and pick certain bail outs that we knew I’d be able to drive up and meet them where their trails intersected. They could text me on the Garmins when they’d passed the bailouts so I knew I was okay to drive to our next hotel, so I wouldn’t end up having to backtrack. (We pay for 40 texts a month, and I think we only went 1 text over our limit after all the communicating back and forth)
Robert got to ride in the chase truck with me on day 2 due to his injured ankle, and one of the other guys also ended up making the tough decision to leave the ride due to a pre-existing injury that he became concerned about after how grueling day 1 ended up being. We had to load both of their dirt bikes into the truck, which barely fit with all of the other supplies we had, and we drove Max back to get his truck in Idaho City. On the way, we had a major tire blow out while going 30 mph in the canyon, which is crazy because Blake and I already had a flat from a cracked rim on our way to Idaho, and had to swap to the spare while the Discount Tire ordered in our new rim. We borrowed a temporary spare from a tire shop in Logan, Utah, that was pretty worn down, and was not the perfect fit, just so I’d have a spare for the 700 miles I’d be driving that week. Even though Blake had just refreshed the tire changing process for me when we had the cracked rim, I was so glad that I had those two boys with me to help change the tire since our tires are so big and heavy, and our truck is so high we have to add wooden blocks to the jack just to get it high enough for the tires to go on. Turned out the new rim we ordered had arrived to the Boise Discount Tire location that day, and after changing the tire, and getting Max’s truck, we arrived 15 minutes before they closed, and they had a comparable spare in stock. Talk about worst of luck, and then best of luck.
After all this, Robert and I had to still drive 3 hours to get back to Sawtooth City. We ended up watching a pretty incredible lightening storm as we drove through Stanley, Idaho, and it was particularly eerie because of all the burned areas that we were passing, while thinking about the fires that were already raging in California and Oregon. The boys had beaten us to the hotel and already got dinner, but without their gear bags and clothes that were in the truck, we found them sitting around in towels having a toga party.
The rest of the trip went a lot smoother. Robert ended up riding with me one more day in the chase truck since he didn’t get to rest his ankle at all the previous day, and we went and soaked in the Cove Creek hot springs in the Salmon river while the rest of the boys rode from Sawtooth City to Clayton, Idaho, where we stayed at the May Family Ranch B&B, owned by “Granny May and Grandpa May”. Their B&B is made up of old miners cabins and bunk houses, and they’ve even installed a 200 ft long slip n slide. We ate at the old Sawmill Station across the highway, whose owners are also in the off-road industry, and made really great parmesan chicken tenders and milkshakes.
The whole group of us went to the Sunbeam Hot Springs that night, which are free natural hot springs also in the Salmon River. Compared to the Cove Creek that Robert and I did earlier that day, Sunbeam is a lot bigger, can fit probably 30-50 people, but also quite crowded. Cove Creek only has a two small pools that only fit a couple people each.
Day 4 Robert was back on the bike, and all of the boys rode from Clayton to Challis, one of the shorter days, and the scenery completely changed from dense pine trees to red bluffs and farm land. This was one of the best Airbnb’s because we stayed on a family’s horse ranch in their guest house which was literally inside the horse training arena. They had cattle dogs, goats and chickens running around, and a beautiful patio we could sit at and enjoy the landscape while grilling out.
This was the only place that we stayed at two nights in a row, because day 5 was an off day, and instead of completing the “bonus loop” in Challis, the guys took some time to repair a couple things on the bikes, and we hiked to Gold Bug Hot Springs. This was absolutely amazing, you have to hike a couple miles up to a hidden hot spring looking back down the mountain valley. The river feeding the spring is hot, and there’s several cascading pools down the mountain side. Some even sit underneath a hot waterfall. The hike was pretty busy, especially since it was a Saturday, and we spent the entire hike trying to pass people so that we could make sure to get a spot in the springs. Turns out there’s tons of space even for the thirty people we saw on the trail, and everyone can spread out into different pools with varying temperatures.
Day 6 they rode into Stanley and stayed at the Mountain View Resort, which has its own private hot springs in a wooden barn overlooking the Sawtooth Range, and is absolutely amazing.
Day 7 they rode to Haven Hot Springs by Lowman, Idaho, where we each had private hot tubs in the backyard of our motel room, and access to a large hot spring pool up on the hillside of the motel. Lowman doesn’t have any cell service, and not much of a town. There were two restaurants ten miles away to choose from, so we ate at the Sourdough Lodge, and had some of the best burgers we’ve ever had. We ate there again in the morning to get the sourdough pancakes. The final Day 8 was the shortest day, so we started the day by going to Kirkham hot springs, a natural hot springs flowing into a rocky slope by the side of the Payette River. It’s $5 per vehicle, and is one of the more iconic hot springs in Idaho in my opinion because the water flowing over the rocks is so beautiful. We did have to share with a few other people, but it was a perfect way to start the final morning. The boys had an easy ride back to Idaho City where we stayed at the same Airbnb as our first day, and everyone had time to repack and relax before the rest of the guys drove back to Colorado, and we headed back to Logan, Utah.
Blake’s already dreaming of going back to Idaho, and so am I, because I spent most of my time in the truck driving between spots. There’s a lot I need to see in the Sawtooths, and hikes I have on my list for next time.