National Trails Day, June 2, 2018, dawned bright and sunny. A group of 30 Idaho Trails Association, BLM, and REI volunteers gathered at 7:00 am to form two work parties that would tackle the Perjue Trail that follows the West Fork of Shoofly Creek in the Little Jack’s Creek Wilderness Area (LJCWA) of southwestern Idaho. LJCWA is a young Wilderness Area with few trails and very little press. That makes it a delightful area to explore because it would be a rare day to encounter another group of hikers.
Perjue trail is the longest trail in the Owyhee Canyon lands so far. Following an old stock and game trail, it was originally mapped and roughly cut in 2013. Each year since has presented challenges in hacking out a surprising jungle of vegetation that grows in the moist creek bed, in the hopes of establishing a true through hike.
This year the crew tried a two-pronged approach with one crew starting at the Shoofly Cutoff Rd and hiking over two mile into the densely brushed area. The other crew started from the Perjue trailhead on Mudflat Road just west of the Poison Creek Recreation site. (Dontcha love these names?)
We had hopes of meeting in the middle, but despite a four and half mile hike from the Perjue Trail side and a three and half mile hike from the other side, thick, dense brush kept the two crews separated and we both had to leave before that anticipated meeting.
Hiking across the high desert landscape, nothing prepares you for the sudden appearance of aspen trees, willows, wild roses, and tall sagebrush. Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Red Columbine, and a plethora of plants I have no names for enliven the scenery. Mountain Goats, Great Basin Rattlesnakes, Pronghorn, deer, coyotes and mountain lions have been seen in this area. We, however, saw only a bull snake and one lone youngish coyote crossing the road. We did see and hear many birds. The creek is said to host rare Redband Trout, as well. Ticks were our major wildlife group, and they must have held a brief celebratory rally at the scent of sweaty humans approaching.
Shortly after passing the abandoned homestead, perhaps built by Frank Perjue in the early 1900s, the trail curves eastward and begins to descend through red rock formations into the unexpected jungle. I was so busy trying to keep up with the crew and not fall on my nose that I only snapped a few photos. This is a great spring hike, even if you can’t make it all the way through the canyon.
A note of confusion: The 2012 Idaho Benchmark map lists this area as Purjue Canyon, as does the sign at the beginning of the trail. However, Frank Perjue, for whom it was named, spelled his name with an “e.” I have no idea which spelling is correct.