The day after failing to reach Sleeping Deer Mountain, I reluctantly pointed the Kia towards home. At Twin Peaks Cabin I eyeballed the road that winds up to the lookout atop the southern twin. The road didn’t look too bad. Narrow, but? Emerging from the forest, the roadlet begins a steep, rocky climb. Meanwhile, a nasty knocking noise in the vicinity of my left front tire had me chewing my lip. I eased the car over a few washed out places, and came face to face with a gully bisecting the two track road and transforming it into half a single track road. I couldn’t see around the bend and there was no place to pull off so I could walk the rest of the way to 10,000+ foot lookout (in the blazing sun). I sucked in my pride and began the treacherous process of backing down what I had just gingerly crept up.
So if I couldn’t make it to the lookout, perhaps I could explore the Custer Motorway, an old mining toll road that has intrigued me for years. This side road looked fine where it led off from the road I was on—inviting. But after a quarter of a mile of metal-on-metal thunking under the car, I was worried. I hopped out several times to peer into the wheel housing where I could clearly see the springs and a bunch of other stuff. Nothing looked loose, but how would I know? Contemplating 46 more miles of dirt abuse versus about five miles of dirt back to Challis and then pavement all the way home, I opted for the more sensible choice. Sigh.
Back on Highway 75, a side trip to Bayhorse Lake beckoned. But it was a dirt road. I forced the Kia to keep going. It was mid-afternoon when I arrived in the Sawtooth Valley. Plenty of time to be home before dark. Buuuttt…I really wanted another night out under the stars. Cruising past my favorite clearing, I glimpsed a little two track path that lead into the fringe of forest around the clearing. I backtracked to investigate. Less than half a mile from the highway, I had the entire valley to myself, except for some antelope and sandhill cranes. It was a clear afternoon. Camping at the edge of this little baby forest, whose trees were no more than ten feet high, I might have a chance of seeing that Neowise Comet.
The photo above is the view from the north end of this clearing where I have camped before. On that occasion, the next morning treated me to a heard of elk moving across the road in front of me from the river in the valley. I was dumbfounded by how many there were, and by their conversations with each other as they pranced across the road and into the timber.
I had the late afternoon to read, savor my Cutwater Margarita, and watch through my binoculars as the antelope played less than a mile away. And yes. They were really playing. The young ones were madly racing around their elders who either grazed or lazed in the tall grass. And there were several pairs of cranes kibitzing.
This clearing borders the southwestern edge of the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve. And I did see the comet, but didn’t even attempt to get a photo of it. The photo below was from the previous night at my campsite on Mahoney Ridge. It’s not a great shot, but it’s probably the best I’ve ever taken of the night sky. And it came from the iPhone, believe it or not.
To my great relief, the portentous racket under the car disappeared after I had the oil changed. I had my tire guys double check and they could find nothing wrong. We surmise that the skid plate under the car had come loose and the oil guys fixed without mentioning it to me. Noise all gone. 🙂