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2014 IAMC Challenge: A Room with a View

by Wayne Smith – 2014 Challenge Gold Tire Level Winner
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, January 2015

The 2014 IAMC Challenge was another huge success and another great year to be riding the back roads of Idaho to visit the many challenge sites. This year I was able to visit, or get close to, 34 sites and logged close to 7,000 miles along the way. The sites I was able to visit lay in 4 different states and ranged in elevation from 750 feet at Palouse Falls State Park in southeast Washington to 9,265 feet at Mount Harrison Lookout in southern Idaho. Most of the sites this year were high elevation lookouts, so I had to wait for the snow to clear from these roads to visit many of these sites.

One of the first sites that I visited this year was #35IndianHotSprings. I found this site on Google Earth, and the roads looked pretty rough. This site is very remote, and ager watching some of the YouTube videos, I decided this route may not be suitable for solo riding. I ask a friend if he was interested in riding with me on this trip, and he was more than willing. On May 4 the weather forecast looked good, so Leland and I set out for the desert south of Bruneau. We stopped at the Bruneau River overlook, and the view of the canyon was awesome. The GPS guided us south and west unTl we came to the rim of the canyon.

Bruneau Canyon Overlook
Road into Indian Hot Springs

The road down to the river from this point looked like it would live up to its reputation of being rough and rocky. My GS 800 and Leland’s KTM 990 are big, heavy bikes, and we knew this was going to be a challenge. I only dropped my bike twice on the way in and once on the way out, and I felt pre_y good when Indian Hot Springs was finally checked off the list!

The ride to Bell Mountain Lookout was another great ride. I have fly fished Silver Creek near Picabo for years and have always wondered how to get up in the mountains located to the north. While checking the route to Bell Mountain Lookout on Google Earth, I could see that Muldoon Canyon Road runs east from Bellevue and crosses a few miles of private land before entering the naTonal forest and winds its way up a steep road to the top of Bell Mountain. I rode to Bellevue and headed east to what looked like an entry into a high dollar Sun Valley ranch, but the public road continued to the top of the ridge where Bell Mountain Lookout sits. At this point, I was looking down at Silver Creek and the enTre valley surrounding that area. The view from this point was truly breathtaking. During the Time that this lookout was operating, I’m sure the attendant working here would have agreed that this site truly had a room with a view.

Bell Mountain Lookout, a room with a view

The highest elevation of any of the challenge sites this year was the Mount Harrison Lookout at an elevation of 9,265 feet. On July 5 I chose the GS 1200 to ride to this site because it looked like the rode was good all the way to the top of Mount Harrison, and there would be a lot of highway miles traveled to get there. Riding south from Albion on Highway 77 to Howell Canyon Road, the road starts its accent past Pomerelle ski area and Cleveland Lake to the top of the mountain. I spent some extra Time at the lookout just to take in the cool mountain air and views of the mountains and farm land that seemed to stretch for endless miles. From this point you could look south and see the City of Rocks area and Utah. The view in every direction went on forever. I have not spent much Time in this area, but plan on coming back to do some exploring. There is a nice campground at Cleveland Lake, so in midsummer this area would be a great place to camp with the cool temperatures at this elevation.

Mount Harrison Lookout

The ride to Deadwood Lookout and then on to Whitehawk Peak Lookout in late July was another memorable one because of the unexpected clear air and views. On July 26 the fires near Garden Valley were still burning but were mostly contained. The wind had shifted to the southwest, thus blowing the smoke toward Boise and away from these lookouts. I got within sight of Deadwood Lookout before coming to the locked gate. I then rode north past Deadwood Reservoir and back through Bear Valley and up the road to Whitehawk Peak Lookout. When I arrived, I got off my bike and the attendant came outside to investigate who had interrupted his solitude. I quickly learned that he was a man of few words. MenToning to him that he probably had the best view in the world from this lookout, his only reply was, “Yep.” The view to the east of the Sawtooths and to the west of Deadwood Reservoir made me glad that I had picked this day to visit this site.

The view from Whitehawk Lookout towards Deadwood Reservoir

One of the most memorable trips of the year was a three day ride to the Island Park area with three challenge sites east of Ashton and then on to two more sites in Yellowstone NaTonal Park. I had been looking forward to this trip all year because it is such a great region to ride, so I plotted a route that took me through some areas of the state that I have never been in before. On August 22 the weather in western Idaho was partly cloudy with mild temperatures. I should have checked the weather forecast for eastern Idaho before I leg, but what can go wrong in Idaho in August? I made my way across the state on the GS800 and discovered that eastern Idaho had experienced two weeks of rainy weather before I got there. The first site that I visited on this trip was Bishop Mountain Lookout. This was an interesting lookout because it is a steel tower rather than wood construction and is listed as a historic site. The road to this site was wet, but I made it to the site without a problem. That afternoon I went as far as I could legally go to Big Springs Lookout before being stopped by posting signs that read, “No entry for motorized vehicles.”

The next site on my route was Warm River Bu_e Lookout which is east of Ashton. Sheep Falls and Cave Falls are also very close to this site, so I thought I could visit all threes before dark and camp for the night at Warm River campground.

Muddy road on the way to Big Springs Lookout
Fall Creek Falls

I started to ride up the dirt road to Warm River lookout, and the road was muddy but still decent for travel on two wheels. When I got within about a mile of the lookout it appeared that all was well unTl I came around a turn to find a very muddy stretch that looked like it was going to be a challenge. To make a long story short, I spent the night in the mud next to my bike that was laying in the road. The next morning I decided the only thing to do was put on my Superman cape and lift the bike up and ride it out. SoIdid. By the time I made it back to the asphalt, it was raining hard so I made the decision not to ride to Sheep Falls and Cave Falls because the roads that I had been on were muddy and getting worse. I had planned to cut across the Ashton-Flagg Ranch road to Yellowstone to visit Moose Falls and Jenny Lake but did not want to chance another mud encounter while riding solo. I headed back to Idaho Falls on the highway with my tail between my legs, but when I stopped for an Egg McMuffin, it gave me new inspiration. By this Time the rain had let up so I decided to visit Yellowstone and Fall Creek Falls by riding the highways. I rode in and out of the rain for the next day and a half but had a great adventure.

Nail in my rear tire
Middle Fork Peak Lookout

I took a five day ride with some friends near Stanley and Challis and got close enough to #15 Jureano Mountain Lookout. On this trip I visited two other lookouts in that area that were not on the list of Challenge sites for 2014. One of these is the Middle Fork Peak Lookout that lies about 27 miles as the crow flies southwest from Jureano Mountain Lookout. When we arrived there, I found a large nail stuck in my rear Tre, which amazingly was not flat. Not wishing to tempt fate, I road the next 30 miles to camp before I pulled it out, and unbelievably, no repair was needed!

The 2014 IAMC Challenge was a great adventure and I loved every minute of it. I don’t think that a person can live long enough to ride all of this area in one lifeTime. I can’t wait for the 2015 Challenge to start.

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