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Sheep Falls: A Good Ride and a Wild Hike

by Craig O. Olsen – 2014 Challenge Platinum Tire Level Winner
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, January 2015

During this past calendar year of 2014, I clocked nearly 14,000 miles on my motorbikes, and roughly half of that was made while visiting the IAMC Challenge sites. Many thanks to Rick Skinner for the 2014 list of challenge site – mostly fire lookouts with some interesting water falls and lakes thrown in to add variety.

For 2014, I was able to visit 42 of the 45 challenge sites. The only three sites I did not visit (and not for lack of trying mind you – I was stopped by early snow on October 21 trying to cross into Bear Valley from Landmark) were the three lookouts northwest of Salmon, Idaho, Jureano Mountain, Long Tom and Oreana lookouts. My hat (or maybe I should say helmet) is off to Ed Torrey, the only person from the club to visit these three sites, and to Wayne Smith who got within 6-7 miles of Jureano Mountain Lookout.

Demolition of the Bell Mountain Lookout (photo taken Oct. 16)

When I visited Bell Mountain Lookout in mid September, about three months ager Wayne Smith’s post, I was greeted to a view without a room! The lookout was in the process of being torn down. All that remained was a small 4 X 4 foot building with solar panels about the size of an out door privy, the funcTonal purpose of which I am not sure.

Lone building on Bell Mountain

On September 16, I embarked on a three day journey to easter Idaho and western Wyoming to pick up 13 challenge sites. During this 1,450 mile, three day, whirlwind trip, I visited what has become one of my most memorable challenge sites – Sheep Falls. It is not only a spectacular site located in a remote, hard to reach region of eastern Idaho, I had a most unusual journey getting there.

On the last day of my three day adventure I leg Flagg Ranch Resort early in the morning traveling over the Anderson-Flagg Ranch Road through light rains, it having rained heavier the night before. The Garmin mapping software I used only showed a primitive forest service road off of the Cave Falls Road that stopped about a mile short of Sheep Falls, and the Benchmark maps did not shed any additional information on how to get there. I figured I could find a secondary route or trail once I got in the region. The road mapped by the Garmin software on my GPS ended in what appeared to be a crude turn around with space to park a few vehicles before I reached the end of the GPS route. This was about 1.5 miles as the crow flies from the falls. There was a trail leading out of there toward Falls River that had several fallen trees over it. It was not even suitable for dirt bikes, and I was on my KTM 990. So I started off on foot carrying the GPS by hand to guide me. Ager about 200 yards, the trail faded out in a small clearing, leaving me to “bush whack” my own trail from there basically downhill through dense forest and brush towards the river. I had to skirt around several areas of denser bush and rock ledges to make my way in the general direction of Sheep Falls. It continued to rain lightly, and the ground was wet and slick.

When I was within about 2-3 hundred yards of the falls according to the GPS, I encountered another trail running parallel to Falls River leading west toward Sheep Falls. As I came around the last turn on this trail, Sheep Falls came into view, and I could see a jeep trail right next to Falls River that led east from Sheep Falls probably joining back somewhere to the primitive forest service road I came in on or to the Cave Falls Road further east of where I had come in.

Sheep Falls is singularly spectacular. Photos of it really don’t do justice to how beautiful and majestic it is. The hike in was well worth it though it took me a little over an hour to go about 1.5 miles to get there making my own trail.

Sheep Falls on Falls River

Coming back out was much more difficult, going uphill in heavy rain that lasted about 45 minutes of my two hour hike back to my bike. I had hiked in and out to the falls in my riding boots, which were thoroughly soaked by the Time I got back to the bike. I suffered blisters on 8 of my toes as a result. On my way out I found the unmarked two track jeep-ATV trail to Sheep Falls coming off the road I had missed on my way coming in.

My hiking trail from the parked bike to Sheep Falls is shown in blue while the two track jeep-ATV trail seen on Google Earth is shown in white.

From there I made my way to Cave Falls and Warm River Bu_e, Big Springs, and Bishop Mountain lookouts that afternoon prior to riding back to Boise later that same evening.

Editor’s Note: The following article originally was submitted to the Wiki sec5on of ThumperTalk.com by Sean Goulart, Contributing Editor, on October 29, 2014, and is reprinted here in full with his permission and permission of the publisher of ThumperTalk, Inc., Bryan G. Bosch. The article contains many good suggestions about riding warmer in colder weather and should stimulate your thinking about how to prepare for winter riding. By the way, if your are not already familiar with the ThumperTalk.com website, I encourage you to visit it. It is a tremendous repository of off-road and dual-sport riding knowledge on a wide variety of topics.

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