Podunk Meets Paradise

Musings from Central Idaho

Archive for the tag “Mud Lake”

Tell Me Where to Go

Meadow Lake

Meadow Lake

I read somewhere that the Salmon-Challis National Forest is like the Sawtooth National Recreation Area but with fewer people. The truth is, once you get away from Ketchum’s Main Street, there aren’t that many people in the SNRA either. A more accurate statement is the Salmon-Challis is like the SNRA but without any signs.

The Salmon-Challis is home to the Lemhi, Salmon River and Beaverhead Mountains with gorgeous alpine lakes, streams, and views unparalleled. But there is a cultural aversion to telling anyone about it.

So one has to have a keen sense of direction (which I don’t) or be willing to take chances (which I am). As part of my eternal quest to make the trip to-and-from Idaho Falls bearable, I finally made it to Meadow Lake. About 65 miles from Salmon, Meadow Lake is reportedly the highest alpine lake in Idaho you can reach by car. It’s at 9200′ and the drive is an easy 5 or 6 miles from Highway 28. Bonus.

My traveling companion and 13-year-old son, the Odd Number, reluctantly agreed to check out the hiking trail at the end of the lake. This trail had a very helpful sign that read “Foot Traffic Only.” Even though the Salmon-Challis did not want to let me know where it went, the trail was beautifully maintained — wide and smooth with real-live bridges that crossed the unnamed creeks — and definitely led SOMEWHERE. They went to the trouble of placing nice overlooky benches along the trail.

Odd# and Podunk on Meadow Lake Trail

Odd# and Podunk on Meadow Lake Trail

The trouble is, the Odd Number is not a big fan of hiking. So if my gamble that we were on a loop trail did not pay off, I was going to have some serious explaining to do and an incredibly cranky hiking partner. This would be hard for me to take after traveling from Mud Lake and through the Idaho National Laboratory botanical garden on Highway 28. But I saw a fork in the trail and a sign in the distance so I knew I could clear this matter up in a hurry.

When we arrived at the fork, the sign that pointed up the hill read “Divide.” No mileage, no further explanation and no mention of where the trail that we were on went. Let’s see, it didn’t seem like in 20 minutes we’d hiked far enough to be near the town of Divide, Montana. And I was fairly certain we were on the wrong side of the Lemhi Valley to be heading toward the Continental Divide Trail.

We took the low road and ended up on the other side of the campground. I went home and looked at my Eastern Idaho Trail guide and discovered that we were on the handicapped-accessible 1-mile Meadow Lake campground trail. But, shhh, don’t tell anyone.

$20 Per Gallon Can’t Come Soon Enough

Podunk is the home of some damned expensive gasoline. Hovering close to $4/gallon, we’re a good 50 cents higher than the next closest city of any size, by which I mean Omaha, Nebraska.

But it’s not high enough. A few months ago, I wrote about Her Royal Highness’ desire at age 15 to take driver’s ed. If you don’t believe me you can read Not Licensed to Drive.

We eventually submitted, as we inevitably do, and now she has what is known in Idaho as a learner’s permit. Learner’s permit is code for “spend 50 hours scaring the living dog shit out of your parents.” Her Royal Highness is quite honestly the scariest driver I have ever ridden with. Her father — the Iron Chef — and I are trying to pinpoint the cause or causes of this affliction: legal blindness, fearlessness, club foot.

After a particularly frightening incident near Mud Lake (to understand my already despondent frame of mind, please see Remote Possibilities.) Allowing Her Highness to cruise through Mud Lake seemed fool proof, putting only tumbleweeds and feral cats in danger. But we hadn’t bargained on it being Combine Season. Now, if you are a Podunk, you might automatically get excited about Combine Season and even conjure up images of the awesome Lind, Washington Combine Demolition Derby.

Her Royal Highness hadn’t had a lot of practice passing cars, and in hindsight, practicing on a large tractor might not have been the right answer, especially with her entire nuclear family in the car. To make a short story long, she pulled into the part of the passing lane that the combine wasn’t crowding without acknowledging that what was our passing lane was also used by oncoming traffic as their primary lane. For a moment she seemed to acknowledge that she saw the oncoming vehicle not so far in the distance (but only a board-certified opthamologist can confirm this), but her resolve was iron clad … we would not retreat.

As we played chicken with oncoming traffic ahead of us, a large churning piece of industrial farm equipment to our right, and the barrow pit to our left, my own screams mingled with those of the Iron Chef in a melody that sounded like it belonged in the Monsters Inc Scream Extractor.

Boo in scream extractor

Our 13-year-old son — the Odd Number — looked up from his video game to see if anything was more interesting than his video game. He determined that it was not.

We made a new family rule that we would never again travel as a foursome with Her Royal Highness at the wheel, for fear that our genetic material might be chopped up and later stacked by a tractor.

And I determined that my light summer reading would be $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better by the Forbes writer Christopher Steiner.

$20 Per Gallon by Christopher Steiner

$20 per gallon can’t come soon enough.

Police Blotter

From the April 19, 2012 Salmon Recorder Herald

– Woman reported a large dark colored dog with a white face that was outside her fence causing her dogs to bark.

– Woman said that she was following a large moving van all over the road and she thought it could be the wind but she was not sure. She said she would continue to follow him and if it got worse she would call 911 again. The truck was headed towards the Mud Lake area on Highway 28.

– Woman said she was driving down Main Street when a silver Toyota Tacoma was driving without headlights on. She flashed them to turn them on and now they were swerving at her and flipping her off.

– Man said that his vehicle was on fire and he needed the fire department. He said he was too scared to open the hood.

Remote Possibilities

I don’t mind living in the middle of nowhere … it’s leaving that sucks. You have to get serious to leave Salmon, Idaho. The Idaho State girls hockey championship in Idaho Falls last weekend was one of those serious occasions. Luckily for me and my two 15-year-old passengers, the breathtakingly beautiful part of the drive — 60 miles of Highway 28 that follows the Lemhi Mtn Range — featured visibility of about 3 feet courtesy of an incredibly rare 2012 snowstorm.

Once we’ve passed Leadore and been blown sideways on Gilmore Summit (elevation 7169 ft) about 60 miles east of Salmon, the realization that Idaho Falls is still 100 miles away hits the passengers in the back seat like a ton of bricks.

“Why do we have to live 8 million years from anywhere?” the one who shares my DNA wails. I’d like to assure Her Royal Highness that she is overreacting, but — although I grew up on the Snake River Plains, for god’s sake — I have to admit that somewhere between the Idaho National Lab desert and Mud Lake I’m in need of a suicide watch myself. I picture myself living in Mud Lake …
 and I get the weepies.

Right before I slipped into a despondent stare-straight-ahead-and-drive coma, it occurred to me that my attempt to listen to the entire Mumford and Sons Sigh No More album was not helping matters at all. The quartet’s driving banjo and haunting vocals on the single White Blank Page had the three of us moaning Why do we live 8 million years from anywhere in unison. I unplugged the iPod and threw it in the back, breaking the hypnotic spell. “Fix the music!” I commanded.

By the time we passed the Mud Lake LDS stake center, the Pilot’s windows were vibrating with the Lemhi County teen girl version of club music — desperate times call for desperate measures, and all that. It is truly best to not even try to pay attention to the lyrics of Ke$ha’s Booty Call. We were able to limp into I.F. with a concessionary Shut Up and Drive ala Rihanna.

On the return trip, Mother Nature was in a more cooperative mood, and the Lemhis provided their own soundtrack welcoming us home.

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