Empowering The Bicycle Traveler

Boise to Willow Creek Campground A24O (about 24 hours over-nighter)

Sky King riding

Sky King at the upper end of Lucky Peak Reservoir

Yes, I coined a new term; “A24O”- for “about 24 hours over-nighter”. The “S24O” or “sub 24 hour over-nighter” seems too extreme. Too much pressure to return home in less than 24 hours, especially from Boise where the distances to decent camping spots are greater than in some other shires.

We rolled out the front door at about 10 AM Saturday morning and by shear luck, even though it would be almost 100 degrees by the afternoon, there was a nice cloud cover most of the morning which even sprinkled a little rain. We followed the Boise Greenbelt out past Harris Ranch to Lucky Peak Dam. There is a four mile climb to the Hilltop store, which is open again (hope they can keep it going) and actually has a nice selection of beer, so there was no need to have lugged our adult beverages up that hill! A fast descent and a sharp right past the high bridge brings us to Spring Shores Marina. It’s another 5 1/2 miles of pavement before the road turns to dirt/gravel/sand which is severely washboarded in places by the almost steady (on the weekend anyway) traffic of recreationalites with their recreational vehicles.

Arrowrock Reservoir is bigger than I realized. We followed the road along the upper shoreline for about 14 miles to the upper end of the reservoir where the Middle Fork of the Boise River flows freely again. This is where the climate becomes more alpine too. Pine trees begin to replace the clumps of Black Locust growing at the lower, dryer elevations. Indeed, it seems a bona fide forest at Willow Creek Campground.

Riding ’round the rim of Arrowrock Reservoir. Big Country.


At Willow Creek Campground. Boise National Forest


MSR 4 Liter Dromedary Bag lashed on top of the Frost River Gunflint Trail saddlebag. First use of both!

I’m still undecided about the best bike for this kind of trip. Most of the miles are on pavement but the unpaved sections can be sort of jarring and tiring. I rode my touring bike with 700x35c tires while Sky King rode her Bleriot with 650bx42mm Grand Bois Hetre tires, and neither one of us had any significant problems. The smooth tread tires were nice on the paved sections. Bikes with even more voluminous tires would flatten out the bumps a little on the unpaved sections and provide better traction I think. So there are compromises on a trip like this. We will be covering the same ground on the last day of the upcoming Ketchum to Boise ride and we both want fatter tires. Sky King will be buoyed by 26″x2.4″ Schwalbe tires on the Disc Trucker. The Surly Big Dummy has unexpectedly risen to the top of my own short list of off road touring bikes. The frame is designed to fit tires up to 2.5″ wide, even if tire selection in that size is a little bit limited. And the long wheel base distributes the weight of the rider and the load more evenly between the two wheels resulting in better traction and more stable handling….theoretically. The longer wheelbase undoubtedly would smooth out the chatter bumps on these gravel roads too. In more remote areas drinking water can be the major challenge to doing off road back-country rides fully self-supported. With its 200 pound load capacity, not including the rider, and its capacious bags the Big Dummy unlocks that conundrum. The only downside I can see is if the need arose for some bushwhacking or log hopping to get to that perfect campsite, but that is not a deal breaker.

Oops….. this post has encountered a bit of metaphorical sand and could easily slide over the bank into the weeds of B.R.O.C.D. (bike related obsessive compulsive disorder). Careful, just a little body english, don’t over correct…..right, back on form. So figure on a solid 5 hours to do this 40+ mile ride one way on a loaded bike. There is drinking water at Hilltop, at Spring Shores Marina and at the Willow Creek Campground. The campground is a no fee forest service facility with picnic tables and plenty of trees and good access to the river. The area is very popular on summer weekends and the auto traffic is heavy, especially on Sunday afternoon.

8 comments… add one
  • sho pai guy July 30, 2013, 6:37 pm

    hell’s yeah

  • Pondero July 30, 2013, 8:02 pm

    I get the A24O refinement, I don’t any time pressure either. I already have that at work.

    • Bike Hermit August 4, 2013, 6:54 pm

      The sub 24 hour idea is great…. a tour that doesn’t require time off from work. “Sub” just seems better suited to some kind of personal best effort.

  • Don Rayburn July 31, 2013, 2:16 pm

    Jim, how is the loaded Big Dummy going to be on that long climb from Lucky Peak to Hilltop?

    • Bike Hermit July 31, 2013, 2:44 pm

      Don, That will be one of those compromises I mentioned. For this overnight trip, were I to do it again, I would probably ride Chief again. For the Ketchum to Boise ride, the bulk of which will be on un-paved surface, or for the Owyhee Uplands ride I think the Big Dummy or similar would be more suitable.

    • Travis Hartman August 14, 2013, 3:56 pm

      I can answer that. I have ridden this hill many time on my Big Dummy. Last time it was on my way to Idaho City. I only ride a Big Dummy so I’m a bit biased but I would venture to say it’s a little more difficult climb when compared to a traditional touring bike. Once I get to the top I concentrate on trying to hit 40mph going down the other side. One of these days. One of these days.

      I was carrying four bottles of water, an additional gallon to split between a buddy and I, along with all the normal camping stuff (tent, stove, food, clothes, etc.) We even hauled our bikes down a very steep hill to get some secluded waterfront camp spots, although it took two of us to get the bike back up the hill.

      Fun stuff. Buy a Big Dummy if you don’t have one. They make life better, I promise.


  • Linda Paul August 1, 2013, 9:08 pm

    Well that’s a hellacious road by car. I can’t even bear to think of attempting it on a bike of any stripe. I’m glad you made it and enjoyed it.

    • Bike Hermit August 4, 2013, 6:56 pm

      Hellacious is a good description. Of course it must be done on a bike! The challenge is finding the right bike.


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