Friday, February 13, 2015

Idaho Centennial Trail - Part 8 - Highway 12 to Moose Creek Ranger Station in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness

Seeing that our goal was to explore more of Idaho, we opted for taking a week off from hiking to Farm-Stay in Kooskia. We had our own room in exchange for some work around a homestead with a family of nine kids ranging from six months to 15 years old.  Each child was home schooled, had never been vaccinated, and had no birth certificates.... Oh how I love Idaho.

From Kooskia, we hitched fifty miles back up Highway 12 to our trailhead at the Wilderness Gateway Campground. However, before heading out, we were sure to talk to the local rangers about the best route to take through the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness. The official route of the Idaho Centennial Trail is a real issue. In essence, the trails that the original creator walked on no longer exist... or didn't even exist when he hiked the trail for the first time. Strangely, no alternatives are suggested. People who have hiked the route often say that their journey was a tangled nightmare. Therefore, we were determined to do it right and intelligently.

We initially took the boulder creek trail from the Wilderness Gateway Campground to yet another lake called Fish Lake which was clear and to our liking. In some ways, we were a little nervous about what was ahead of us. Our goal was to make it to the Moose Creek Ranger Station on the Selway National Scenic River. However, pushing through our nerves and subtle fears brought us a sense of excitement and true adventure. No one we knew was really sure about what was ahead of us on this route.

At Fish Lake we headed south on a Trail 39 on the Wounded Doe Creek Connector Trail. 

Having arrived at Wounded Doe Creek (Trail 465) we found the first of many patches of burned areas along our route. Fires in Central Idaho's wilderness areas seems to be a yearly occurrence. Many of the interior trails have been abandoned.  However, on the paths that we were to take, either the forest service, or ranchers, or hunters maintain select trails to reach remote areas not often seen or experienced by people.

From Wounded Doe we tapped into Trail 620 on Rhoda Creek.  We spent the night in a very old and beautiful grove of Red Cedars.  From the connector trail to the North Fork of Moose Creek, the trail had not been maintained in a while... but was very doable.  There was just the occasional trees to climb over... but the trail was easy to follow.

Following waterways suddenly became our newest reality.  It was as if we were on a completely different trail in a different country. 

Trail 620 somehow became Trail 618 till we merged with the East Fork of Moose Creek in a very wide and yet very beautiful valley.  You could just feel the history oozing from this neck of the woods. In just a weeks time, we shifted from a snow based hike to one where the grasses were very dry and brittle.

From Trail 618 we merged with Trail 421 that took us into the Moose Creek Ranger Station.

Here a family was staffing this old facility which had its own grass runway.  Interestingly, runways in the backcountry are quite numerous in these parts.  Old ranches still often get their supplies and mail from some adventurous and daring bush pilots. Stories of old crashes still haunt the walls of these remote outposts. The caretaker of the Moose Creek Ranger Station generously gave us extra food that firefighters whom from previous years had left rations and supplies that they were not going to eat.

From Here, Stacey and I had our own special route planned to take us directly by foot into to Elk City to Resupply by hiking west along the Selway River. According to this Ranger Station, and those who have hiked the original route to the south of us, the trail is a nightmare or just simply does not exist anymore. However, the rangers offered this route as an alternative for those who wish to continue south along the Selway River corridor.  From the Moose Creek Ranger Station... head due south along the Selway River until you reach the Running Creek Trail  (Trail 533). This trail is supposedly maintained by hunters. Then follow the backcountry Magruder road system or the official trail, or combination thereof, till you reach the Bargamin Creek Trail (Trail 502) which has been maintained by ranchers.This trail will take you then down to the original trail along and on the Salmon River which is very well maintained. We offered this suggested route to a northbounder named Savant for whom we met in the Salmon Priest Wilderness.  He ended up taking this route and he reported that he had no problems. He too resupplied in Elk City but hitched in and out via the Magruder Road Corridor system which is used heavily by rafting outfitters putting in their boats on the Selway River.


Tap Here to Experience Part 9


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