Much to our surprise, Baumgartner turned out to be a fabulous place. In three words: WE LOVE IT! In fact, we've decreed Baumgartner is one of our all-time favorite campground and destinations. That's putting the place in pretty rarefied air. Even though this last trip consumed $115 in fuel, we plan to go back to Baumgartner at least once a year for as long as we are able. Luckily, our next two trips there are paid for by somebody else.
Baumgartner is a classic example of an NVUM bonus. It's always been that way since we started in January 2002. NVUM exposed us to so many tremendous places we never knew existed. That's what just happened with this new chapter of NVUM. If we'd not signed on for these interviews, we'd have no clue whatsoever about the existence of Baunmgartner. We would have undoubtedly gone through the remainder of our lives without ever knowing what a wonderful place we could have found had we been adventurous. Now that we know Baumgartner exists, we're hooked. Yes, the NVUM process is a LOT of work and it's tedious and often very annoying but the spinoff benefits are often huge. Such has been the case this time around. If we never do another interview past Big Cedar, June 6, we both already consider this NVUM gig to be a wildly successful venture simply for helping us "discover" Baumgartner.
Baumgartner is your typically heavily developed campground. It's totally paved. All the roads and campsites are paved. They've even paved the areas around the fire rings. The tent sites are defined with landscape timbers and each tent site is filled with carefully raked fine aggregate. At our age and station in life, we LOVE such paved campgrounds. There's NO dust! Dust is one of the banes of camping for us these days. Also, having a paved campsite keeps our tent a lot cleaner and it makes it a whole lot easier to camp in the rain and snow like we did for 5 nights this last time around.
Meanwhile, Baumgartner is in an Old Growth Ponderosa Pine forest that hasn't been molested (AKA: clearcut). Yes, there's been a few trees removed for safety. But all the gigantic 400-500 year old humongous Ponderosas are all still there in their stately glory. In addition to being awesome eye-candy, having all those trees sure makes it easy to string up tarps!
Meanwhile, Baumgartner sits beside a real river--the South Fork of the Boise River. This is not a whimpy river--this is a real river--robust even in a low flow year. Camping within sight of a real river is a huge amenity for us. We love camping beside water.
Meanwhile, Baumgartner has full time camp hosts who have a real landline telephone to the campground! Having camphosts is real common but knowing they have a landline phone is NOT common. In fact, it's very rare in the rural western states. It's great to know that emergencies can be handled with a real telephone and not the arcane call to "Dispatch" via a Forest Service radio. Plus, these camphosts are basically New Yorkers with a laid back attitude. They are not Bear Nazis or sticklers for the rules. Plus, they don't do campfires so they have offered all their firewood to us! Whoa, Nellie, this is awesome!
Meanwhile, Baumgartner has TILED TOILETS! You read that right. These are not the typical ugly sterile, industrial bunker-style concrete vault toilets. These are honest-to-gosh TILED toilets! The toilets are kept is tip top shape, too, no small feat in a high use campground. There's safe culinary water and bear-proof trash dumpsters, too. The water is pretty good tasting and the spigot pressure is awesome. These things count for a lot. If the pressure is low, it gets real annoying trying to draw water. Also, if the taste of the water is bad, it really detracts from camping at such a place.
Meanwhile, Baumgartner has a hot springs. At first, we were "ho hum" about this hot springs. Who cares? How could it be anywhere as good as Bowery Hot Springs where we spent four summers getting spoiled in Total MOAN Country. Well, trust us, it's every bit as good or even better than Bowery Hot Spring, even if it is completely and totally developed. The pool is very large. The incoming water temperature is 105 degrees. It's drained nightly and pressure cleaned and disinfected each Wednesday. Meanwhile, as most hot springers know, it's usually vacant in the morning. For some odd reason, 99% of hot spring users prefer to use them in the later afternoon and evening. Since Susun and I learned to appreciate hot springs in the MORNING rather than the evening, that means we have Baumgartner Hot Springs all to ourselves each and every day! How good is that? Very good!
Meanwhile, there's a great little nature trail, a swingset and a kick anatomy DEEP swimming hole in the river that will be a major attraction during the hot season.
Arguably the biggest draw for us at Baumgartner is two fold--the nearby trails and the "boatableness" of the river. There's a great little 3-mile stretch of Class One water from the campground down to Willow Creek. There's also other stretched ranging from Class Two right up on to at least Class Four and maybe even Class Five water within no more than 7 miles from the campground. Shuttles are insanely easy. Although there's a road that hugs the river, it's very lightly traveled and received virtually zero nighttime usage. That means it's stone quiet in this campground.
The nearby trails are too numerous to mention and totally outrageous. Practically all of them are adjacent to or within sight and sound of flowing water. Every one of the trails climbs a STEEP hill, often even a mountain or two. When all is said and done, our favorite trails are what we call the "workout trails." Yeah, it's fun to lollygag along on a nice flat, beautiful trail but those trails don't do a thing to get you into and keep you in good aerobic hiking condition. It's those STEEP trails that provide the conditioning. It's the STEEP trails that make your legs and lungs hurt and they are the ones that cover your body in sweat. Them's the trails that give more than they take.
Now, the trouble with really steep, sweaty trails is that you get real dirty when you're hiking them. Dust sticks to all that sweat. You come back to camp practically filthy. The beauty of Baumgartner is that we can go out and work our anatomy off and them return to camp and jump in the hot springs and clean off! WOW! Meanwhile, we don't have to hike every day--we can paddle our new inflatable kayak, too. Or simply drive around enjoying the sights and scenery. Or sit in camp and stare at the ancient trees.
Meanwhile, Baumgartner is nowhere near stores. There's NO way we're going to drive out of that area for supplies. Ice? Maybe. But even buying ice would require a 23 mile round trip to Featherville! So, when we go to Baumgartner, we're going to have to be fully locked and loaded with no thought whatsoever about "driving out" for something. Nope, ain't gonna do dat. We enjoy having stores nearby, yes we do. But they can be a big distraction and they can cost a lot of money. When we're at Baumngartner, we ain't gonna be spending a danged DIME more than what we spent to rig and travel to get there.
Meanwhile, Baumgartner is a great meeting place. Last Saturday, for example, Dear Friend and LBR Marti B. came to visit with us. It was GREAT to see Marti and we enjoyed a wonderful 24 hour visit. Thanks, Marti!
OK, one last thing--the fee there for us Old Codgers is a mere five bucks a night. You read that right. Plus, it's on the national reservation system, so we can lock in our favorite campsite(s) for a mere $9 additional. That means we can know in advance we can drive up and have our site waiting for us.
We took a lot of photos of Baumgartner on this last trip and we will undoubtedly take a lot more on the next two upcoming visits. Here's 7 photos. The hot springs pool is in the middle of the top row. The panorama was taken high up on the Virginia Gulch Trail (part of the Idaho Centennial Trail). Bottom left is at least a Class 4 rapid due to "wrap rocks" above and below this drop. Susun is standing next to a ledge hole a quarter mile above the campground. The stretch at right is probably only Class 2--we hope to run it soon.