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Section 5

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

Lola Creek Campgrounds - Rocky Bluff Campground

Distance: 197 miles

Number of days: 10 days

Day 18 - July 9th

After a 4 week break from the trail we strap on our heavy packs and start the next section of the trail. We hope all our i’s are dotted and t‘s are crossed as we had around 650 miles remaining. 45 minutes before we were set to leave we receive an email from the Idaho Cenntenial Trail group warning about the fires ahead. The Dixie fire north of Campbell’s Ferry (one of our resupply points on the trail) was causing most of the concern. We go along as planned and get dropped off at our last location on trail. Dave and Nancy (pictured below) drop us off at the trail, we snap a quick photo and off we go heading into the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness. At the time even the name of the wilderness area has me thinking twice about this.

Day 19 - July 10

The alarm goes off at 5:30 but we casually sleep in till 8:30. The four week break did not help our sleep schedule. We hike past Dagger Falls and see a ton of rafters getting ready to float down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River at the boat launch packing everything besides the kitchen sink. One of them might even have a sink.

We were surprised to see how popular of a place the river was. Rugged, burnt and smoky is how I would describe the Frank Church Wilderness so far. We follow the Middle fork of the Salmon most of the day taking in the views and breathing in the smoke from the fires ahead. We talked with a few rafters that offer us a beer and continue to hike through burned forest from years past, arriving at Sheepeater Hotsprings. We are curious just how much of the Frank Church Wilderness has been burned by previous wildfires.

Day 20 - July 11

We hike to Pistol Creek Ranch where we pick up our food that we mailed the week before. We eat lunch under a large Ponderosa pine and watch small bush planes land and take off on the gravel airstrip. The small ranch was very busy for a Sunday afternoon in the 20 minutes we were there two planes had come and gone. It was hot, and our body’s were once again introduced to the 20 mile trek. We end the day hiking to the start of Marble creek and prepare for the next day. We have heard Marble creek is some of the hardest trails of the ICT. We set up camp next to a large group of rafters all having matching tents that are surprised that anyone would hike that far in. Steve catches a few trout right below our campsite.

By the time Steve gives me a turn with the rod and reel all the fish are not hungry anymore or that is my excuse.

Day 21 - July 12

Before the day started I told Steve I’d give him $100 if he kept his feet dry the entire day… Not one mile in we lost the Marble Creek trail and decided to hike in the river, reminding us of the narrows hike in Zion National Park. We soon found out that 16 miles in the river is exhausting and cold so we started to look for the trail. Although the trail was overgrown it was pretty easy to follow jumping over the occasional tree and crossing the creek about 30 times it did take a toll on our feet. We were surprised to see a trail crew maintaining the trail and thanked them for the work. We decided to camp in a meadow about 4 miles from Lookout Mountain ready to climb it early the next morning.

Day 22 - July 13

Every morning we check our inreach messages, a device that allows us to send and receive messages via satellite. We received a couple messages warning us of the fires ahead and decide our only option is to detour to the west ICT route and head toward Yellow Pine. We did not study this route, so we were nervous about what was ahead the next few days. We began by hiking a steep exposed gravel road.

Day 23 - July 14

We hiked though the Stibnite mine location, reading about the history and were stopped by a few workers curious why we are hiking. We arrive in Yellow Pine and see a closed sign on the restaurant door luckily for us there was a tavern right down the street. Connecting to the restaurant’s wifi we are able to check messages and communicate with our family. Our detour complicated our resupply boxes so we stock up at the general store on protein bars and mountain house meals. We continue hiking the gravel road to a nice spot along the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River, we wash up and do some fishing.

Day 24 - July 15

Waking up early to avoid the heat we hiked the road to connect to the west ICT route located near Secesh campground in the Payette National Forest. We break for the afternoon in the shade while we take turns fishing the Secesh River. The Secesh River Trail was well maintained but rocky in some areas and was burned in recent years. At one point Steve about falls on his face, tripping over a rock and running forward a few feet trying to catch himself under his heavy pack. We have to pause and laugh off the pain he just avoided. Running out of daylight we found a flat spot to put up the tent trying to avoid the dead trees.

Day 25 - July 16

We started the day hiking about a half mile off trail to the peaceful Loon Lake.

It would have been a nice place to camp the night before. Hiking past Burgdorf Hotsprings to Jeanette Campground we take the afternoon to assess how much food we had left. There is no way we would make it the 8 days to our next resupply so we decided to message Steve’s roommate Layne, who offered to cook us steaks at some point on trail. We arrange to meet Layne in two days at Rocky Bluff Campground. Just a quick 43 miles away.

Day 26 - July 17

The most challenging day yet. We made our way down to the Salmon River meeting a couple on an ATV that asks us where our car is parked. We enjoy telling them what we are doing and they offer us $20 to have a nice sandwich the next time we have the opportunity. We decline on the shot of Captain Morgan. Crossing the Wind River pack bridge we break under the shade of a large Ponderosa pine tree next to the river.

After filtering some water in the Salmon we begin the strenuous hike up the trail. 4,600 feet of elevation in 4 miles tops the list of most challenging thing I’ve done on a Saturday at 4:00 in the afternoon. Ask Steve to show you a video of how exhausted I was. Although we were not out of water we were refreshed by a spring about halfway up the climb.

Day 27 - July 18

We started early to meet Layne and his cousin Tanner at Rocky Bluff Campground by 3:00. Passing though New Florence, parts of the trail reminded us of a movie we watched as a kids “The Summer of the Monkeys“. The trail looked like it was compromised by someone or rerouted to a new location that we were unaware of. Our nerves had us thinking we would come across a moonshiner or someone who didn’t want us there. After a few miles the trail was more clear and we were back in business for our 3:00 feast. Oh man was it a feast! Layne and Tanner saved us, restocked our packs and fed us.

Later that day we all drove up the road to the Gospel Lakes to try and catch some trout though we had no luck it was memorable, because of the hike down to the lake. Let’s just say Layne took a tough route. We all make it back to camp alive and snack on Sprees and the leftover steak around a campfire. We sleep with full stomaches.


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