A few months back, I came across a small article about a Sub24O ride from Crouch, ID to Boiling Hot Springs. After posting said article to Facebook, I find that I have 3 general types of friends, the kind that will click that little ‘heart button’ and then comment something like “you are so badass, I wish I could do something like this”, well dude you could, and you should. Then there are the people, who you probably haven’t spoken to in years, that will like and share the post and then go do it on their own, with their own bike touring squad. The best kind, however, are the ones that text you later, with genuine interest, and over tacos you start to develop a plan. Many beers and several puns later, a weekend was chosen and the gears were put in motion (pun intended).
The thing is about drinking beer while planning a bike trip, some of the fine details get lost in translation… A bit of advice I’ll share with you, something I’ve learned in my bike touring endeavors, always have a plan B, in fact always have at least a plan B, probably a plan C, and just for good measure, keep plan D tucked away in your back pocket. The weekend I picked for this adventure just so happened to be the first weekend after the start of Boise State’s Fall Semester, and with my touring partner in the middle of earning his MBA, he had to back out at the last minute. I’ve toured alone before, see ‘Crazy girl rides across Oregon’, so I had no qualms about setting out on my own, but when the Bike Hermit and Sky King caught wind of the trip, they felt it necessary to join in on the fun. And so, after a few beers, I left the two of them to pour over maps of the route that I had planned for months, double checking all the details and making sure I hadn’t just made the whole thing up.
The next morning I pulled up to Bike Touring News at 0900, gear spread across the entirety of the garage, Revelate frame bags, Surly junk straps, Hennessy Hammocks, BTN water bottles and various bits of clothing needing to be packed and loaded into the truck. I tried to keep my cool as I stuffed my sleeping gear into my handlebar bag, a Revelate SweetRoll that was fighting back. An hour later, we were heading out, driving in circles so the Bike Hermit could find an ethanol free gas station (Horseshoe Bend does have ethanol free for future reference). As the temps rose into the high 80’s we pulled into Crouch, finding a spot suitable for overnight parking, next to the log cabin that doubles as the town hall. Thankfully the City of Crouch offers free WIFI, thus I was able to get a shot of the fully loaded Karate Monkey off to my many instagram followers (all 50 of them). At noon, I headed up Middle Fork Rd, a few minutes ahead of the Bike Hermit and Sky King.
The first 8 or so miles are rolling pavement flowing past a mixture of old barns, open fields and modern homes perched along the Middle Fork of the Payette River. Once the road hits the boundary of the Boise National Forest, it turns to gravel with both designated and primitive camp spots every few miles. The steady climb takes you past several fishing and/or swimming opportunities, which despite their remote location seem to surge with popularity on weekends. Most of the motorists and ATV users were respectful to the ‘Share The Road’ signage, but without doubt, we did encounter the occasional driver who seemed to give zero shits about the lives of cyclists. I would highly recommend bringing an extra handkerchief to tie up bandit style for this exact reason, protecting yourself from the intermittent dust bowls. The 16 miles of gravel transitions from washboard, to packed dirt, to deep layers, making us thankful for the 3” tires in place on the Surly ECR, Troll and Karate Monkey.
In late August, the Middle Fork runs at just above 100 CFS, making it the perfect time to access the natural hot springs requiring river crossings to access. The low flow also leaves small pockets above sections of rapids where brook trout made futile attempts to hide from the Bike Hermit’s Tenkara Rod. The short distance from Crouch to our destination allowed us for plenty of time to stop and fish with daylight left to set up camp. At mile 16, the road forks, the east taking you along the traditional main route of the Idaho Hot Springs trail, the north taking you up to Boiling Hot Springs, our intended destination. Sky King’s research showed that the designated camp spot at Boiling Springs would cost $16.00, more than the cost of gas to get from Boise to Crouch, leading us to look for a primitive spot along the river. Just below Silver Creek, along a stretch of river where several trout could be seen with the naked eye jumping in the afternoon sunlight, we set up camp for the night. IPA’s supplied by Mother Earth Brewing were cooled in the sub 60 degree water and fly rods were rigged for slaying. As the sun set below the canyon, the fishing slowed and Sky King whipped up a delicious riverside happy hour consisting of crackers, cheese and red peppers. After refueling, the Bike Hermit and I headed north in search of undiscovered trout waters, scurrying down steep embankments to the deep pockets protected by downed trees and large boulders. We fished until dark before drifting off in Hennessy Hammocks to the sound of the river bubbling close by.
The quiet of the remote location and the lack of sun in the canyon allowed us to sleep in well past 0900 and we took our time packing up in the cool morning air. The Bike Hermit revealed his ninja fast packing skills, training from coffee drinking, jogger pants wearing, sunday breakfast type guy into the Bike Hermit in less than 10 minutes, a real Clark Kent to Superman type moment.
It wasn’t until we had gone a few miles before we realized how much of a steady climb we had undertaken the day before, making it a true Sunday Funday. The extra time allowed us to stopped at Fire Crew Hot Springs, the Bike Hermit fished while Sky King and I explored the warm pools on the west side of the river. We came out of the canyon in the late Sunday afternoon heat, making the last few miles a bit harsh. Thankfully The Dirty Shame serves up a good burger and the squad was once again smiling while reliving tales from the past 24 hours.
Bike Touring News endorses this ride for numerous reasons
- quick overnighter not far from home with options to go further.
- road surface is doable – could ride w/ 32 mm tires (mildly rough – washboards, sand and gravel)
- gradual climbing
- great shake down trip for new gear, new bike packers, new bikes etc.
- plenty of water at various campgrounds along the way (or take a filter)
- hot springs (is on the Adventure Cycling Idaho Hot Springs Route)
- successful fishing