Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Autumn makes up for wet summer of '09

The summer of 2009 will be remembered in southeastern Idaho as a wet one. So when a September dry spell finally arrived with the colors I look forward to, it was time to mount my KLR 650 and ride mountain roads that were new to me.

I packed tools, spare tubes, a hand pump and other items for roadside repairs. I also stowed clothing for inclement weather, a possibility anytime in the northern Rocky Mountains.

Most important, the bike had a new rear tire. Having dealt with flat tires far from help in the past, that inspires confidence, because I often explore alone.

I left Idaho Falls about mid-morning, and headed south on Interstate 15, toward Pocatello. The hamlet of Inkom would be my starting point.

My usually reliable Benchmark-brand Idaho Road & Recreation Atlas showed a particularly intriguing little dirt road, Inman Road, winding deep into the Portneuf Range, in Caribou National Forest.
 Inman Road
It was a gorgeous, early-autumn ride along Inman Creek, over Inman Pass, through forest and onward through grassy wetlands where beavers had been building dams.

After just a few miles, however, the road ended at a locked gate. Beyond were two trails for motorized use. At some 450 pounds, however, my KLR is too heavy for such trails. If I drop the KLR out there, alone, it can be impossible for me to lift back onto its wheels.

Disappointed, I turned back to Inman Pass. There, I headed south on Forest Road 13, some 7,000 feet high in the Portneuf Range. It was an ideal dual-sport road through scenic forest, with only one steep, rocky section that challenged me early on.

After 11 or 12 miles, I came to Pebble Creek Road, and asphalt. It was good to relax, and not worry about flats, rocks, loose gravel and other items on the backcountry motorcylist's roster of potential hazards.

Old Hwy. 30 brought me to Bancroft, and then to Soda Springs. After getting fuel, I continued to the small farming community of Georgetown. My goal was the road through Georgetown Canyon.

I knew nothing about the road or the canyon. But the topographic contours on the map suggested a rugged, mountainous landscape of ridges, peaks, canyons and meadows.

Georgetown Canyon Road (102)

Sure enough, Forest Road 102 through Georgetown Canyon passed below high rock walls and soon brought me into woodlands. Stands of flaming autumn aspens lined the road in places, and brightened the hillsides everywhere.

Diamond Creek Road

At the junction with Wells Canyon Road, I opted to continue northward on Diamond Creek Road. This good-quality riding road (meaning little or no gravel, mud or ruts) followed the mountains' complex contours, making for an exhilarating ride to my destination for the moment, Stewart Flat and the junction with Smoky Canyon Road.

A week or two earlier I'd ridden south on Diamond Creek Road to this same spot, where there is a Forest Service campground. That day, I took beautiful and fun Smoky Canyon Road to and through the massive phosphate-mining operation, continuing to U.S. 89 at Afton, Wyoming.

My objective now was to complete the southerly segment that I'd missed on that earlier ride. I was glad I did. It was the most ridable segment of Diamond Creek Road, which is graveled farther north.

I backtracked from Stewart Flat to Wells Canyon Road. It traverses a small, picturesque valley, then descends through forest. This rewarding, 4-mile native-surface road was quite a surprise. It is more primitive than Diamond Creek and Georgetown Canyon roads, providing a greater sense of adventure. It is easily ridable on a larger dual-sport bike.

Wells Canyon Road connects with Crow Creek Road, a scenic if unexciting county road that I followed to U.S. 89. From there, I headed north again through Afton and Alpine Junction, Wyoming, and into Idaho.

The twilight highway ride along Palisades Reservoir was relaxing as well as scenic as I headed back to Idaho Falls, some 70 miles away.

Beyond Swan and Conant valleys, at the rest area on Antelope Flats that overlooks the spectacular Snake River Canyon, I met two 77-year-old men. Both were on dual-sport bikes. One was on a Honda 650, the other a Suzuki 650.

They were wrapping up a day of adventure riding through the bucolic foothills of eastern Bonneville County, following dirt roads all the way.

They'd been friends for 64 years, and riding all the while.

1 comment:


Super !