Skip to content

My Thoughts on the 2013 IAMC Challenge

by John Dye
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, May 2014

2013 was my first year to participate in the IAMC Challenge. I have been with the club from very near its inception, but following graduate school, I left Boise in the winter of 2009/2010 prior to the beginning of the first Challenge. I remember talking to Ed Hiatt when he was working on the idea of a club activity that combined the fun of geocaching with riding, and I thought it was a stellar idea. Once I finally had the opportunity to participate, I was all in.

I started 2013 with a brand new out-of-the box Triumph Tiger 800XC. For years I had been doing my adventure riding on my trusty 2002 Suzuki DRZ-400E that I modded for adventure riding. For years I knew I needed something more capable at the higher speeds and comfortable for longer rides, and the Tiger fit the bill. It just so happened the 2013 Challenge was perfectly suited for a bike of this size.

The Tiger before and after farkling

After looking at all of the challenge sites for 2013, my goal was to ride the Tiger to all of them, and I found that was reasonable. The real challenge for me was learning to deal with a hefty bike, very nearly 550-600 lbs loaded with accessories and gear, after coming off of years riding a 300 lb dirtbike. Instead of floating through sand and gravel, it plowed; it followed evey rut, and seemed to want to tip over every time I got below 10 MPH, but with a little work on my part and new front tire, I found the Tiger to be a top-notch steed.

I believe I did this challenge as intended. I broke it up in to several larger rides that each had the goal of hitting several challenge sites in one shot. Some were single day outings and others trips were as long as 5 days.

First real dirt for the Tiger, two track east of Swan Falls Dam

I started by visiting a number of the local sites, including Bonneville Point and Swan Falls dam. The return from Swan Falls was via 2-track and single track in the desert that allowed me to get my first feel for this bike on something more technical than Level 1 Gravel.

The next ride tested me a bit more. It was an all-day ride with a plan to hit Barber Flat Cabin, the Pioneer Cemetery in ID City and finally Thorn Creek Butte Lookout. I started by headed up Arrowrock Reservoir and cutting over FR 376 down into Baber Flat. FR376 turned out to be a real workout, since it was a steep, winding and rutted and had some nice whoops from the drainage diversion humps. After hitting Barber Flat, I rode into ID City, got lunch, gassed up and hit the Pioneer Cemetery. I then proceeded up to Thorn Creek Butte, which was a nice ride, and only technical for the last 1⁄4 mile. The views from the lookout were outstanding, and the balsam root was out in force on the way down from the lookout.

Some great views from Thorn Creek Butte Lookout
Balsm root in full bloom on Bald Mountain Road, coming down from Thorn Creek Butte

The next several locations were done in two trips with mostly highway miles. These included the Old Fort Boise Marker, the Rock Island RR Crossing, Utter Disaster Marker, Shoofly Oolite and Three Island Crossing State Park. I didn’t expect much adventure with these, but leaving home without a tube and tire tools left me stranded in Glenn’s Ferry after slicing my tire on something sharp at Three Island Crossing. After getting a new IRC TR8 thrown on, I was back in business, and a week later I hit Boiling Springs, the FAA Radar Site, and Sage Hen Reservoir. Oh what a difference a good knobby made with the Tiger. This trip also served an opportunity to load the bike down a bit with some of my camping gear and see how it rode in preparation for my next outing.

Absolutely perfect day at Sage Hen Meadows
Camp at Iron Phone Junction near Hells Canyon (this was my first time camping off the Tiger)

My next outing was an overnighter just a couple of days later up towards Hell’s Canyon. I started out visiting Paddy Flat Guard Station (since I’d missed it on my previous ride up near Cascade), and then I headed north on up toward Sawpit Saddle. I ended up setting camp at Iron Phone Junction and then took my unloaded bike down into Sawpit.

The next morning I packed up and headed for Pittsburg Landing. The roads from Iron Phone Junction down to Pittsburg were amazing and so were the views.

View into Hells Canyon from Sawpit Saddle Overlook
Looking down into Pittsburg Landing
On the boat ramp at Pittsburg Landing, not a lot going on this morning.

After visiting Pittsburg Landing, I headed up to the Whitebird battlefield. The coordinates were off and I ended up heading up the old very twisty highway on the east side of Whitebird, but it was definitely a fun detour. From Whitebird I headed south to Riggins, then up the Salmon River to the Wind River Bridge. While heading up the Salmon, I was being paced by a jet boat. I would stop and take pictures as they went by, then have fun trying to catch them. They were carrying the mail! (I’m not sure which one of us had the better ride.)

After logging the Wind River Pack Bridge, I backtracked a bit, and headed up French Creek toward Burgdorf Hot Springs. Lucky for me the road was just recently free of snow, and I was able to make it over the top to Burgdorf. Apparently a few days before it was still impassible. By this point I was pretty tired, and decided to just hot- foot it back home, but the springs were awfully tempting.

Jet boat Klying up the Salmon River
The pool at Burgdorf was awfully tempting.

The next leg of the Challenge had me hitting 10 different sites on a single winding trip as I returned from Glacier National Park and visiting family up in MT.

A much needed beer at Grumpy’s after a long day.

I started from the north and hit the Bighole battlefield and the Bannack Ghost Town, which I visited before the road washed out. I then headed down to Lemhi Pass, and after a bit of searching, found the Indian Massacre Marker. The day was finished up with hitting the Camas Meadow battlefield and Fort Henry, then finally credit card camping in Idaho Falls. The next day I swung south and visited the Albion Normal School, cut through City of Rocks and hit Rock Creek State and Shoshone Falls on the way home.

Continental Divide Marker at Lemhi Pass
Trying to get myself lost near Great Salt Lake, I finally decided it was time to turn around.

Not one to settle on 10 Challenge sites, my next outing was the biggest yet with a plan to hit 11 more sites over 4 days. I had a wedding reception to go to in Twin Falls, so that served as my jumping off point. I camped with friends in the hills south of Twin Falls and set out the next morning for the Golden Spike Historic site via City of Rocks. My maps failed me, and I nearly ended up on the Salt Flats while attempting to work my way from City of Rocks down to Promontory, but I eventually made it.

Golden Spike was the southernmost Challenge site, so after checking out steam engines, my only choice was to head north toward the Bear Lake area. I hit the Bear River Massacre site along the way and then cut up through Preston to camp at Emigration Campground before heading for all of the Bear Lake sites the following morning. The last time I’d been to Bear Lake was the first IAMC Labor Day group camp out, and this visit brought back some great memories of that weekend.

After visiting the Paris Tabernacle Church and the Big Hill Oregon Trail Marker, I headed north on some familiar roads toward Caribou City. It was nice to get up in the mountains again and cool off a bit since the mid-August heat was oppressive down in the valley.

After a quick stop at Caribou City, I decided to slab it across the plain to Sun Valley to start picking up the challenge sites in the Ketchum/Stanley area. Before setting up camp, I visited the Sheep Bridge and Triumph and then headed into Ketchum for a little liquid refreshment.

The next day was the final leg of this trip, and it proved to have some of the best sites of the whole Challenge. The first stop was at the Pole Creek Historic Ranger Station and, since I was up early, the morning light had everything glowing.

The Sawtooths from the Pole Creek Ranger Station Parking area.
I imagine there were certainly worse places to be assigned.

I imagine there were certainly worse places to be assigned.

From here I headed to Redfish Lake, and then on to Seafoam Guard Station north of the Great Horn, finishing the day at what I have to say was my favorite Challenge site of the year, Josephus Lake. I had the place to myself. I will definitely be returning to camp here.

From Josephus Lake I hot-footted it home for a bit of rest, having just knocked out 11 challenge sites. This left only the four Challenge sites in Oregon for me to complete the

I’d heard about the Steens Mountain for years, but I had never spent any time in the area. The closest I had come was doing the Owyhee Backcountry Byway loop. What I wasn’t prepared for was the scale of things in Eastern Oregon. There is a whole lot of empty space in here, and it made me glad I’d finally invested in a SPOT GPS Locator.

Some much needed rest for my toes at Josephus Lake.
The Whitehorse Road cuts across parts of Malheur and Harney counties to the Alvord Desert on the way to Fields.

Taking off for Oregon just 5 days after completing the 11 site loop, I headed up over New York Summit in the Owyhees and dropped down into Jordan Valley, and from there, scenes of roads vanishing into the distance would become the standard.

My first stop for this trip was at the store in Fields. They do indeed have gas and even have the occasional plane stop in to Xill up. They also have a damn good burger and milkshake. I had some lunch and then headed on to Steen’s Mountain.

An airplane stops for lunch and gas in Fields.

I stopped first at the Historic Riddle Brother’s Ranch. Luckily, I came through when the caretakers were there and the gate was open. From there I began winding my way up the mountain, where I got some phenomenal views. I finally made it up to Kieger Gorge Overlook and was amazed to still see snow up there even at the end of August.

Kieger Gorge, you can see the small white patch of snow 1⁄4 over from the left hand edge of the photo.

Having logged Kieger Gorge Overlook, my only remaining site, Pete French Round Barn, would have to wait until morning because there was no way I was coming down off this mountain to camp in sweltering August heat. So I rode down to Fish Lake and set up camp for the night looking forward to a nice cool night. I didn’t have much for dinner, just some beef jerky and trail mix. Lucky for me, I was adopted by a couple of Portland firefighters in the campground who were interested in the Tiger. They ended up supplying me with dinner (hot dogs and fixins), libations and a breakfast burrito in the morning. I made out like a bandit.

Refreshed from a good night’s sleep and with a full stomach, I headed down off Steen’s Mountain to hit my final Challenge site for 2013, and then head home. I was able to get fuel in Frenchglen and then headed out for Peter French Round Barn, which like so many of the 2013 sites, I had all to myself.

Peter French Round Barn

Despite having finished the Challenge, I still had to get home, and this proved to be one of the more interesting sections of road I would encounter on the whole Challenge. I ended up working my way over to the Crowley Road, which turned out to be 80 miles of loose rock and baby heads. It amazed me that the nearly slick original rear Pirelli Scorpion given to me from the Triumph factory survived. It was also some of the most remote roadI’ve travelled, and I am quite sure had I broken down and not been able to fix the bike, I might have been out there a long time before someone found me.

All in all, I covered over 5,000 miles during the 2013 Challenge. I was able to get the Tiger to all of the sites with very little fuss. It allowed me to test my limits in new ways, and gave me the excuse I needed to get out and find new places. Some of the roads were familiar, but most were completely new to me. The Challenge is what adventure riding is all about – going places that few others go – free to pick your own route.

I hope this year affords me the time I had last year to complete the 2014 Challenge. It appears that the riding for the 2014 Challenge will be significantly more technical, some of which will definitely require a smaller bike than the Tiger. I look forward to getting out there and putting another 5,000 miles on my bikes.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments