Stanley to Deer Flat Campground

Idaho Hot Springs

Today, I have to confess, we cheated. Casey Greene and Adventure Cycling went through all this trouble to create another off-road touring route and here we go and decide to ride on the highway out of Stanley for the first 20 miles. But I tell you what, it felt really good to cruise on some smooth asphalt at 17MPH instead of some washboarded, sandy, dirt road at 8MPH.

It had rained the night before. You could tell it was coming by the look of the clouds gathering over the Sawtooths. Come morning and the highway was slightly damp and the air had a wonderful aroma of pine trees and sage brush, a summertime Christmas in the West.

Before we departed on our highway shortcut, we stopped at The Bakery to buy two enormous blobs of cooked dough mixed with cinnamon and sugar, smeared with a citrus frosting. To pair with these delectable buns, we drank chocolate milk. A better breakfast cannot be had.

After 20 miles of sweet pavement, we hopped back on familiar ground.
After 20 miles of sweet pavement, we hopped back on familiar ground.

We knocked out the twenty highway miles in a little under two hours. It was only 10am and we were already halfway through with our ride for the day. Turning onto the forest road we’d be taking the rest of the way to Deer Flat Campground, I admit that I was a little sad to say goodbye to our smooth highway. But hearing the now familiar crunch of sand and dirt under our tires reminded me of why we chose to ride this route: to see the quieter parts of Idaho, to understand why so much of this state is protected wilderness.

We climbed Cape Horn Summit without trouble and then descended on a rather washboarded road until we came upon a huge meadow. Signs told visitors to look for wildlife. In the middle of the meadow was a small landing strip, where we decided to have lunch. Then we heard a really strange noise coming from the edge of the meadow. Two sandhill cranes flew by, possibly mates, heading to other parts of the second largest protected wilderness in the country, The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, or FCRNRW, if you’re in a hurry.

We spent the next 10 miles bouncing along a heavily washboarded road. Just as my teeth were preparing to exit my gums, we spotted some heavy machinery up ahead. As we approached, it was apparent that the big machines were a water truck and, hallelujah, a road grader. The road grader was literally plowing a new smooth road for us. We followed the grader for about a mile before the driver stopped the machine. We waved our thanks as we passed and then proceeded to ride on smooth dirt road for the next four miles to our campsite at Deer Flat. It was wonderful.

The road grader creates a new, smooth road just for us, how kind.
The road grader creates a new, smooth road just for us, how kind.

We made camp at around 2pm, early for sure, but we didn’t feel like going further as the sky was threatening rain at any moment.