Thursday, October 17, 2013

Relay Ridge

Susun loves maps. As we drove east on Idaho Highway 33, Susun happily called out the various landmarks visible from the newly-rebuilt road. “Look, there's Canyon Creek Butte,” she pointed, “And here comes Canyon Creek itself!”

Sure enough, the road dipped into a drainage with a large bridge across a step-walled basalt canyon. Susun said, “Look there's a road that goes up Canyon Creek!” That's when we hit the brakes and did a quick U-turn. “Well, let's go up there,” we said.

We hadn't planned a trip up Canyon Creek but it turned out to be a great little Monday side trip. The total mileage off pavement was probably about 25, plus or minus and the side trip took less than two hours. It was a great place to visit for all these reasons:
  • A sweet creek
  • Strange wind-eroded rock formations
  • A hot springs with a 1930's bathhouse
  • An dubious historical marker
  • A challenging, narrow, steep road
  • Bald & golden eagles flying close by
  • Driving into the storm clouds
  • Rain turning to snow
  • A sloppy, messy road
  • An interesting forest
  • Sweeping views from under the clouds
  • Golden aspens galore
  • and some small red potatoes

We could have probably continued farther into the foggy, snowy east side of the Big Hole Mountains on the Relay Ridge Road. However, the road slopes were turning icy and slick and the snow seemed to show no sign of letting up. So we picked a safe and solid place to turn around, set a GPS waypoint and drove slowly back the way we came. Going or coming, we didn't encounter a single other vehicle. We thought that was odd considering it was a holiday and deer season. Maybe the weather scared them all off.

Whenever we drive lonely forest roads such as this one, we always ask “Why is this road even here?” Perhaps you, too, have wondered about various Forest Service roads. Well, all of them had some sort of purpose, however specious, “back in the day”. Roadbuilding was once part and parcel of the agency's fundamental purpose to create, enhance and maintain “multiple use” of the land and its resources. The typical reasons for existence of most roads included: mining, grazing, logging, and infrastructure.

In the case of the Relay Ridge Road it would have been communications infrastructure. As the name suggests, the road dead ends at one of the highest accessible spot in the Big Hole Mountains and, yep, you guessed it, that spot is cluttered with tall towers serving who-knows-what purposes in shuffling waves of unseen signals to and fro amid humanity's sea of electronic devices.

Whenever we travel roads such as the Relay Ridge Road, we always give verbal “thanks” to whatever special interest group had the sway and money to coax creation of such a road out of the Forest Service bureaucracy. Without those radio towers, we would have never been able to visit such special scenes on Columbus Day 2013.

After we were back out on the back out on Idaho Hwy 33, we began looking for the road to Susie's Nipple.  Alas, we couldn't find the route as the clouds dropped down onto the deck and rain began turning to snow.  But we did find the Karma Way and knew everything was OK.  

Coming Soon: Teton Valley Cabins; Driggs; Nickerson Bridge; the Jackpine-Pinochet Loop; Bitch Creek; Felt Hydro; Susie's Nipple; the Packsaddle Loop; Daphne's Place; The Spud; Fox Canyon, Grand Teton Brewing; the Pine Creek Pass SNOTEL and home. 

Here's more photos from the Relay Ridge side trip:

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