Idaho’s Hot Springs and Cold Creeks, Day 3: to Smiley Creek Lodge

Route of Day 3, 41 miles.

Route of Day 3, 41 miles.

Elevation profile of Day 3. 4100 ft. el. gain.

Elevation profile of Day 3. 4100 ft. el. gain.

It was a clear and cold night, just around freezing I think. We hadn’t set up our tents, instead slept on the front porch of the cabin at Bowery Guard Station. In addition, the morning sun was blocked behind mountains, so in order to get warm, we just had to get going. Luckily, a 2000 ft. hike-a-bike lay ahead for just that purpose. Lee hadn’t had a good night’s sleep, and was up&gone a little after 6 am. I took my sweet time to get going, which meant I was getting really cold while fiddling around. With painfully icy fingers and toes, I started 40 minutes after him.

Packing up in the morning at the Bowery cabin.

Packing up in the morning at the Bowery cabin.

Can't wait to be up there in the sun!

Can’t wait to be up there in the sun!

Once out of the shade of the East Fork Salmon River valley, the sun’s powerful rays heated me quickly and had me shed all winter layers. Though the trail was occasionally rideable, the 17% grade would have been too steep to sustain and instead a sustainable hiking pace made much more sense to fully take in the absolutely gorgeous scenery.

Brrr, it was cold down in the valley.

Brrr, it was cold down in the valley.

Bowery trail

Bowery trail

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Deer peek-a-boo

Higher up on Bowery trail were aspen grooves and big trees. Even some possible bivy sites.

Higher up on Bowery trail were aspen grooves and big trees. Even some possible bivy sites.

Looking back, we didn’t take nearly enough pictures along this portion of the trail. I caught up with Lee at the top. After a tuna sandwich I was eager to keep going, while Lee’s stomach was unhappy and not gang-ho on continuing. After mulling it over, we made the decision to split up and meet again in Stanley in a couple days time. The plan was to keep in contact in the backcountry via my DeLorme InReach 2-way text messaging device, while Lee either rode to Stanley, or drove the car there. Half-ways down, I realized that I had forgotten to give him my car keys. Strike 1. I thought about dangling the key from a branch on the trail, but what if Lee decided to not ride this way? So I kept descending. BTW: The descent on Bowery trail (heading north) is not a worthy descent. It was steep, loose, and then got even looser and steeper. I rode most of it, which probably wasn’t the best idea – but it wasn’t exposed so the price for failure wasn’t astronomical. Also, there were basically no views, except a short glimpse of where the next hike-a-bike would go up to the White Clouds / Castle Divide mountains. Again, my topomap doesn’t have a name for this giant mountain shown below.
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At the bottom of Bowery trail, Germania creek was full with spring runoff. I scouted up and down for 1/2 mile, and ascertained that the best chance for crossing was just downstream of the normal stream crossing. I gave myself a 90% of making it. Having seen what Germania creek does afterwards (waterfall!), I was not terribly excited to continue. Strike 2.

So, I waited for Lee to arrive. He came down cheerfully and telling me that I didn’t have a pump as we only carried 1 between the 2 of us. Strike 3. We decided that it was all for the best to continue together and not split up in the middle of a backcountry adventure. Lesson learned. We took Germania Creek trail out towards Smiley Creek Lodge. Germania Creek trail was fun. Quite techy in a few places, and we were astonished that the 3 motorcycle guys from yesterday had come this way.

About a mile upstream on Germania Creek, we found this possible place to cross.

About a mile upstream on Germania Creek, we found this possible place to cross.

Or a bit farther upstream, we could (and had to) walk through Germania Creek.

Or a bit farther upstream, we could (and had to) walk through Germania Creek.

Along Germania Creek trail.

Along Germania Creek trail.

We met a small group of motorcycles who were clearing out the trail with chain saws. Thanks guys!

See that bridge? Yes, that was sketchy.

See that bridge? Yes, that was sketchy.

Yummy Germania Creek single track.

Yummy Germania Creek single track.

We then proceeded on Pole Creek Road. Quite a few stream crossings kept me trying to dry my shoes out, while Lee simply took off his shoes and put them on (dry) on the other side. He was picking up speed and waited for me several times, once even taking a nap. My energy level was heading down, while Lee’s seemed to pick up!

Finally, Pole Creek summit.

Finally, Pole Creek summit.

Down Pole Creek Road, we could see the Grand Prize canyon and drainage where we had been just 24 hours ago. This was a beautiful loop indeed.

Looking towards Grand Prize gulch trail.

Looking towards Grand Prize gulch trail.

Riding down next to Grand Prize canyon.

Riding down next to Grand Prize canyon.

We took the dirt road to Smiley Creek lodge. The long, windy road made it look like we were on the Great Divide Tour.

Down Forest Road 197 towards Smiley Creek lodge.

Down Forest Road 197 towards Smiley Creek lodge.

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At Smiley Creek lodge, we ordered a big lunch, and a room with shower! While I napped, Lee took up the invitation of Glasair fly-in pilots&family for a BBQ.
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Check out the other days and gpx track of route on the main page.

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One Response to Idaho’s Hot Springs and Cold Creeks, Day 3: to Smiley Creek Lodge

  1. Pingback: Bikepacking Idaho’s Hot Spring and Cold Creeks | 2wheeltrails

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