Sunday, April 12, 2009

Snake River canyon camp trip (pictures in backward order)

After I realized that this was the last weekend that Adam would be here and no one would be visiting, I knew that it was the weekend for Jasmine and I to make our break into touring world together. This is what I’ve been riding with her for. I debated about going to Arrowrock again but it has been raining and I figured the road (dirt) would be mud and that wouldn’t be any fun. The other place I really wanted to ride to was the Snake River gorge. It’s about 30 miles from the house and I was planning on going the entire distance by bike but decided that in order to have energy for the next day, I’d better drive to Kuna and bike from there making it a 22 mile trip, one way.

It took an hour to load everything from the car onto the bike and trailer. I didn’t want to overload the bike of the bike. Jasmine likes to see where we’re going so I figured out how to use the trailer as cargo space. I had to cut little holes in the canvas around the bars. I slipped velcro through the holes and stripped up my tent and my sleeping bag. Then, I threaded a utility strap around the exposed portion of bar and hung my pillow in between the two. Jasmine still had enough room to get in and out and to lay down. Perfect. As always, her Camelback travels in the floor of the trailer too.

I made a horizontal flag and a vertical flag. The horizontal flag was held onto the moveable brace bar toward the back. The metal cap slid on the end after threading it through the 2 zip ties was enough to keep it from slipping out. Cars really gave us a wide berth with that in place! The other kept finding its way through a hole in the canvas and dragging on the ground. Unfortunately, the last time it fell through the hole, it was dragging on the shock cord so I didn’t hear a thing until the shock cord was eaten away by the gravel and the plastic piece was making noise. I took that one off and stowed it in the trailer. I’ll have to fix it now and fix the hole too so it can’t fall through again. It was not fun holding the bike up and leaning back to try to grab the flag at the very back of the trailer.

After taking so long to load up, I had to go to the bathroom and decided a quick lunch break was needed before heading off onto a road with no services or even running water. I filled the 10 L Dromedary while waiting for the food. Well, not entirely full…maybe about 8 L. We found some shade and ate our mini corn dogs and taco.

Jasmine was ready to go but the heat soon slowed her down. She wasn’t happy at all about being put into the trailer but I wanted to get there before the sun went down.

From the turn off to this road to about 5 miles to the end, there really isn’t much too see. There are some farms (it’s too early for much to be growing so it was mostly dirt) and some mounds of volcanic rock scattered about. But then, it starts to open up to glimpses of the canyon.

I pulled her out of the trailer a few times and let her walk for a bit but grew tired of walking with the bike after about 15 minutes and would put her back. She really didn’t want to go into the trailer but the mid 60’s is just too much heat for her. I’m not sure if cutting her fur anymore will help or not. So, each time I tried to load her up, she would lay on the road like a sack of potatoes.

16 miles from the starting point, I came upon my first bathroom. Just an out-house type deal. But it was clean and it actually didn’t smell bad. I thought about taking Jasmine down the trail to see the overlook of where we were headed. I’ve never been down that trail. But, instead, I threw on my tights and long sleeved jersey and headed out again. I let Jasmine stay out of the trailer this time. We stopped on the side of the road and shared a pb&j sandwich and some beef jerky. Finally, about a mile from the downhill slope, Jasmine started running. It had sufficiently cooled off for her.

We explored the top of the ledge before heading down into the canyon. Jasmine had to take one last ride down into the canyon. It’s about a mile and a half of a seriously steep hill. It’s mostly straight but there are some wiggles and a hairpin turn toward the bottom. I was doubting my brakes ability to stop all the weight of me, Jasmine, her trailer, the bike and all that was on it so I feathered the brakes and even stopped 3 times to let the brakes cool…just in case. My brake pads are getting pretty worn now and I had this vision of my brakes giving out on me. Not a pretty picture.

The bathroom at the bottom had running water. I didn’t remember that part. So my 10 extra pounds of water I was carrying was unnecessary but that’s ok. Nancy Vogel (Nancy and her family are biking from Alaska to Argentina) is from Boise and has told me that you can camp down here if you follow the dirt road. So I set off that way.

I came upon some giant boulders and parked my bike. Jasmine and I went in to see if there were any good tent spots. I was having trouble finding one but Jasmine ran over to an area and sat down. It was perfect. It was behind a giant boulder so it was blocked from view and it was very flat. I dragged the train around the boulders into our home for the night. As I looked around closer, I saw all kinds of scat…coyote, I figured. I don’t know if that’s what it was though. I tried to find somewhere else but it was everywhere so I stayed with our spot.

I set up the tent & rain fly just as the rain drops started falling. I was pretty sad. There was only a 10% chance for rain last night. But the cloud drifted away and we stayed dry for the rest of the night.

After setting everything up in the tent, we went a little distance away and ate our dinner. I had 6 matches with me and the try as I might; the wind blew them all out before I was able to light my stove. So now I was short dinner and breakfast. And that meant that hot chocolate was out. I was really looking forward to warm myself up with some come morning. So I ate beef jerky, a granola bar, some trail mix, 2 rolls and dried apricots for dinner. Jasmine got some beef jerky and granola but ignored her food. I figured it was because it was a bit early for her. I shoved all my food in a dry bag and put it on top of a rock. Nancy said that’s what they did in bear country and never had any problems so I felt pretty confident about doing that.

By 9, we were in bed. Jasmine had a down throw over her and I was in my sleeping bag. This was my first time using my thermarest but not my bag. Jasmine seemed comfortable enough, snoring almost as soon as the lights were out but I was having trouble getting comfortable. My hip was touching the ground. I had blown air into it after letting it rise. Did I do something wrong? I have to go to REI and ask why their floor model was so much more comfortable. (Thanks Mom, Dad & Sheri. I used my $25 dollar gift card from my birthday to buy this. I have faith that it will work out.)

Finally, after 30 minutes, I drifted off to sleep too. At 11, I woke up to a sound. It was some sort of animal making a really loud noise by the tent. I wasn’t worried about it. It sounded like it might have been a ground squirrel. But it was so loud that I had trouble ignoring it. At 1:39, I woke up to a gust of wind pushing in the walls of the tent. I couldn’t tell if the sounds were the rain fly and tent brushing against each other or an army of ground squirrel surrounding the tent, trying to get in. It was then that I began to worry about my food bag. I thought for sure it would have blown away in the wind storm that passed through for the remainder of the night. At one point, it sounded like the footfalls of something large passing by the tent. I looked at Jasmine, she didn’t seemed bothered. I stayed as quiet as possible to listen. I never heard it again so I’ve concluded that it was just the rain fly hitting the dead grass. I hadn’t staked it down. Off to sleep again to be startled awake by the angry, terrifyingly close call of a pack of coyote not too far from the tent. Jasmine didn’t bark but she shot bolt upright in a hurry. I couldn’t see them but they sounded like they were between us and the canyon wall. Just a few hundred feet separated that and our tent. Of course, they might have been on the other side of the river. The canyon walls echo like crazy. The 4-wheelers people were driving sounded like a piece of sheet metal being smacked together as it echoed across the canyon. A few minutes later, I was comforted by the call of the coyotes again. This time, they were much further away. But my mind was fully awake now and I did not fall back asleep until 6. I slept for 5-6 hours but was in bed for 10. So it’s official. I’m a wimp when it comes to sleeping outdoors. It wouldn’t stop me from camping by myself again but I will be just as scared next time. Maybe it IS time to look into the concealed weapon's permit after all.

Finally, morning arrived. It was just starting to lighten up outside when I woke up at 6:30. I threw back my sleeping bag and pulled my shoes on. I had to go pretty bad. Jasmine had told me in the middle of the night that she had to go but I told her there was no way I was going out there until I could see. She came out with me but when I ran back to the tent to grab something, she went back in and didn’t come back out. She laid in my sleeping bag. I covered her with her down throw and she snuggled in so that only one eye was visible. I took off the rain fly and dried it off as best I could. Then I started packing everything else up…except my bed, and Jasmine’s.
I grabbed the food bag and water and called for Jasmine to come eat breakfast. She popped out of the tent and ran to catch up to me. I took her to the spot we had eaten dinner at the night before. We ate more of the same from last night, minus the rolls. Again, she didn’t touch her food unless she accidentally picked a piece up with the human food I was throwing in there. I went back to that spot because I had seen an owl pellet sitting on the rock next to us and wanted to grab it. My nieces and nephew will be visiting next week and I wanted to show it to them. When I was in elementary, our science class dissected some and I thought it was the coolest thing. I still do. It’s just a ball of these tiny little bones. I put it in an empty baggy and headed back to camp.

Jasmine tried to sneak back into my bag but I had to put everything away so instead of laying on her own bedding, she found a spot on the cold ground to lay on. I finally got the tent empty and she tried sneaking in again but made a bee line for the bike when I pulled the poles out.

I topped off all the water bottles with the water from the dromedary. There was maybe one bottle of waters worth left in it but I dumped it out so that I wouldn’t have to lug anything extra up the nightmarish hill. The day before, Jasmine and I both drank about 1 ½ bottles of water each. Not nearly enough but I figured that her water bottle and the 2 liters in her camelback would be enough for her and the 4 bottles I had for me would be enough. Well, the hill took us an hour and a half of torturous walking/pulling to get that bike up the hill. Jasmine had it easy, she only had to pull herself up…I had the weight of all the other stuff too. It was nice and shady though. The sun couldn’t reach us that close to the wall.

After finally making it to the top, we had our second breakfast. I realized how short on food we were. And water was running pretty low too. I was sucking water down during that climb! So when Adam texted and asked if we wanted a ride back to the car, I debated. But in the end, I didn’t want to bonk on the side of the road with Jasmine with me. It wasn’t a risk I wanted to take.

Back on the road, I wasn’t quite ready to go fast so I let Jasmine keep walking even though she had just climbed that hill too and she showed no signs of wanting to load up. To my surprise, she started running. And she only stopped running when I made her pull over for water several times.

We made it back to the scenic overlook area. Since I wasn’t going to be able to bike the whole distance back, I decided that I would walk to the overlook and see what I had missed before. It was past the spot I had camped in so I couldn’t see it from above. I enjoyed myself and so did Jasmine. She was hunting ground squirrel and lizards. She didn’t catch any though...just put on a chase or two. I took apart the trailer and unloaded the bike to be ready for when Adam came.
A nice couple pulled up on a motorcycle and talked to me for a few minutes while I waited for Adam. I thought maybe Jasmine wouldn’t get in since she was having so much fun running but she jumped in and laid right down. We loaded the things quickly and headed for home. Not 2 minutes into the ride, Jasmine was fast asleep.

I may not have biked back the second day but I think it was a good trip. I learned a couple things I need to work on before I do another camping trip. I need to figure out how to make my sleeping pad more comfortable, figure out how to light a stove in the wind & figure out a way to make my left arm comfortable while being in a confined space (for whatever reason, I can’t sleep with my left arm in any position other than straight out across the tent without it hurting and it was too cold to do that this trip). And besides, I had a really good time (the night and hill notwithstanding)!

Jasmine was good company and she made me feel better at night when she stayed calm while I was freaking out. I will definitely do more trips with her when I am able (which won't be until fall at the earliest).

Jas running to the scenic overlook.

Scenic overlook

1 1/2 hours of this!

I had great views the whole time I climbed out of the canyon.

Great view of my reflector plate I made. I think it works. :o)

View from my tent.

Jasmine's claim.

Jasmine climbed into my sleeping bag and rested while I tore down camp.

Coming toward the canyon.

Just wanted you all to see my loaded rig. It's heavy!!

We made it.

Jas peering over the edge. Swan Falls Dam in the background.


Heather and Thomas Mann said...

WOW! That is pretty impressive! Glad you were able to get one last long ride in before the move. Glad you made it home safely!

Stella Andes said...

I haven't finished reading your blog entry, but I wanted to let you know (remind you, I think) that the REI card was a Christmas present from Jared, who drew your name.

You are such an adventurer!!!! I look forward to finishing this blog!

Tiff :o) said...

I haven't used that gift card from Jared yet. I was talking about the $25 American Express gift card (4/5 from you and Dad and 1/5 from Sheri). I had been saving it so I could use my REI dividend and the coupon that comes with the dividend so that I could afford it. It was the one I showed you while you were here.

Valerie said...

Nice to know what a treasure you have for the kids to see. :) I won't tell them.

The photos are great, but the camping with wild animals outside your tent is one reason I don't like camping. I wouldn't get any sleep. I'm glad you got some.

danwinnemucca said...

Wow, Jasmine is so cute! Yes, I am living on my family's ranch in Northern Nevada this spring and possibly summer, check out my flickr site ( for pictures from the ranch and of our super cute baby goat Bodie who is becoming quite the bicyclist herself. I'm hankering for a bike ride myself, so I enjoyed reading your account. I always carry a lighter as well as matches, and use a lighter always to light my stove unless it dies. The only comfortable way I've found of sleeping on a pad is on my back, which isn't my normal position but once gotten used to is ok. Personally I don't think the concealed weapon will make you feel safer in your tent, although I do sleep with a small axe in my tent. Coco and Dusty also always wakes up for coyotes, as well as just about any other critter. The first night I went out with Coco she escaped from the tent in the middle of the night and I thought coyotes had eaten her, but she was only chasing mice. I've made sure to completely zip the tent since then! or to tie her to me on a leash if we're sleeping outside. Yay I can't wait for summer, but there was snow here today.

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