Saturday, December 19, 2015

Atlanta to Willow Creek

On July 18th, my 11 year old son and I started my next portion of the ICT.  We were dropped off in Atlanta and took off for the Willow Creek Camp Ground on the South Fork of the Boise River.  It was a nice gradual climb as we headed to the Sawtooth Wilderness.  Things got quite interesting as we started hiking along Mattingly Creek.  The rain started to fall and we were coming across a lot of Bear scat on the trail, a lot!  I didn’t want to scare my son, so we kept hiking at high alert.  The Cat...  errr Bear was out of the bag as we came to a clearing and spotted a big ole feller about 150 yards north of the trail.  He was just sitting on his butt checking things out in the meadow.  We finished the rest of the hike in the rain, and 11 miles later we got into camp soaking wet.  We dried off the best we could and called it a night, all the while of being on guard from our fury neighbor two miles down the trail. 
I don’t know what time the rain stopped, but we woke up to a winter wonderland, as everything was frozen!  Unfortunately our shoes were still soaking wet, and they didn’t really dry out until the end of this hiking day.  Hiking in wet boots is no fun at all, and drained a lot of our enthusiasm and fun right out of our backpacking experience.  We encountered some other ICT hikers who were using Alpacas/Llamas; I might have to look into this!  We stopped and checked out an old cabin and carried on.  We found a nice camp site along the South Fork Ross Fork, right before it gets into some major climbing.  My feet were shot; 12 blisters and an unusual sharp pain in my Achilles tendon.  This is a really pretty area with a ton of huge deer!  We completed around 11 miles today. I’ve got to figure out this boot thing, I thought I had some good Merrell boots; maybe I need to carry hiking sandals?

I woke up the next morning in excruciating pain in my feet and Achilles, knowing that I had the worst part of the trip ahead of us.  Hiking up Ross Peak was tough, but nothing we couldn’t handle.  The highlight would definitely be coming within petting distance of an owl in a tree right on the trail.  I took some more pain meds on top, and we then started the slow and arduous trek down the 12.5 mile and 4350’ decent into Willow Creek.  I didn’t know what the hell was going on with my Achilles, but our breaks were longer than our actual hiking.  I have to give it to my son; as I had tears sneaking down my cheek, he was encouraging and had the “Let’s do this dad” attitude!  We encountered a couple of deer and a fox, and then eventually made it to our pick up crew.  The Podiatrist told me that I had Achilles Tendonitis, thus ending my backpacking for the year.  Well, see you next year!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thru-hike trip report

Hey all.  Long time reader, first time poster.  After hiking the AT and PCT, I've been eyeballing the ICT for years.  The thought of a long distance trail in my own backyard... how could I resist?  This year, the stars finally aligned and I set off to see first hand what this trail had to offer.  I referred to this board many times as I researched the trail over the years and so I would like to contribute my own experiences so that others may benefit.

This was certainly a high risk/high reward type of hike.  It is a full immersion wilderness experience.  As others have said, this trail isn't the PCT, or the AT, or even the CDT.  It is uniquely Idaho.  And uniquely ICT.  However, experience on some of our country's other long distance hikes will definitely help prepare you for this trip.  It is important to be confident in your hiking, your ability to successfully plan and execute resupply drops, and to be prepared mentally for long, arduous days.  Most importantly, it is critical that you can adapt and remain flexible as the trail will present new challenges every day.

The connection that you build with Idaho's backcountry on a trip like this will tie you to the geography of our state forever.  It is a level of intimacy that, so far, only a few have chosen to pursue.  To map the state out in your mind, from mountain to mountain and river to river, border to border; one yard at a time on your own two feet.  There are few ways to replicate that sense of closeness with the rugged topography of the Gem State.

Here is a link to my Trail Journal.  I updated this every day in a moleskin notebook and posted it to the website after the hike. 

Here is a link to the Boise Weekly article that some of you may have seen.  We even got voted 'Best Idaho Adventure' in the Best of Boise issue!  Reporter Jessica Murri joined us for 60 miles from Atlanta to Stanley and wrote a great article about the experience.  She is planning to hike the PCT in 2016 and this was her first long-distance hiking trial run.

And lastly, here is a video I put together documenting our trip.  It was made more for family and friends but anyone who is interested in the trail is welcome to check it out:

I'm happy to field any questions.  Leave a comment or send me an email at:  Many thanks to all the previous posters on this blog.  And to anyone who has dared to go out and bushwhack their way along the ICT, my hats off to you.


Monday, October 26, 2015

This past summer my girlfriend and I hiked the ICT from Featherville, ID (south of the Sawtooths), north to HWY 12. We had a great adventure and would be happy to answer any questions, general or specific, about trail conditions, resupply ect... The main takeway is that this trail is really more of a route; not at all similar to the PCT in that you'll actually be in the wilds alone and that signage and maintenance are sparse. We did about 12 miles/day and that was certainly tough enough in the jungle gym of the ICT. For naviagtion we used the ICT maps from the Idaho parks site, a compass, and a keen Sacajawea intuition.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I'm back from another trip on the ICT in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.  My objective was to walk south to the point where I turned around going north in 2013.  I didn't quite make it: too many burns and blowdowns in the Rhoda Creek basin.

I've posted a trip report at my website:

More importantly, I've written up the lessons from my 2013 and 2015 trips as "ICT Hiking Tips".  These tips are also available through the above website.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Murphy Hot Spring to Highway 20, April 2015

May 3, 2015

Over the past two weekends I biked the southern portion of the ICT.  The first weekend was from near Hill City to Hammett, Idaho.  This ride was mostly on gravel roads with about a 3 mile stretch of cross country travel.  The cross country portion well marked but not maintained.  I had to push my bike for about 1 mile along this stretch.  Water was available at several locations along this route although I suspect some of the sources would not provide water in the summer months.  This portion of the trip took about 12 hours total.  Overall it was enjoyable with plenty of songbirds for company.

The "trail " dropping off the bluffs from Mt. Bennett towards Hammett.

My second weekend was from Hammett to Murphy Hot Springs which took me about 24 hours over a period of 2.5 days.  I am posting this to give people an idea of the conditions out there.  The only water I encountered was at winter camp on clover creek aka east fork bruneau.  With 80 degree temperatures 1 gallon of water plus a full camelbak was enough to last me a day.  I did this portion unsupported without a water cache.  I would not recommend this desert portion when temperature get above 90F unless you have support and plenty of water.  Several trail junctions were missing ICT carsonite markers.  The spaghetti of roads near poison butte proved to be the most confusing. I got off route several times and had to rely on a GPS to get me back on the trail.

The road was too rough to ride for many stretches.  I had to push my bike for many miles due to nasty  conditions.    I agree with a previous post saying about 30% of the Bruneau stretch is hard pack easy riding.  The rest is rutted out, beat out by cattle or very rocky.  The trip was a great experience with plenty of type B fun.  Don't hesitate to ask me questions if you are thinking about doing this stretch of the ICT.

3 photos of the varying condition you will encounter along the ICT Bruneau desert portion.  The last photo is another reason I hate cattle.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hello all, My name is Claine and I just moved to Idaho recently. I was looking on the web for hiking trails, came across the ICT and it interested me.  I am planning to hike the complete trail in 2016.  I wonder if anyone can help me with some information: Which direction is best, and when to set out; can food be cached, or does someone have to meet you at a trail access point; any special permits, or permissions needed.
I have looked through everything I could find on the web but these questions are still open. If anyone can help me it would be greatly appreciated, Thanks.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hwy 20 – Willow Creek C.G.

On 8-1-2014 my 10 year old son, my father in law, and I started my next portion of ICT.  Because of my previous bad luck on this trail, and bringing my young son this time, you can bet that I had my stuff together on this trip.  We rode the 19 miles to Hunter Transfer Camp on mountain bikes, with no setbacks.  The Castle Rocks were pretty cool, but we really didn’t stop to admire their awkwardness.  The first two miles were downhill and the last two miles were downhill, but everything in between was a gradual uphill climb on gravel or paved roads.  We took a long good break at H.T.C. then threw our packs on and began the walking express.  We only hiked approximately 4 miles, and camped near Ellis Gulch.  Saw a few deer on the way there, but that was it for the rest of the trip.  As soon as we went to sleep that night, it started raining, and didn’t stop until right before we woke up.  Today’s hike would be approximately 9 miles, and a 2100’ climb.  I don’t know if was from all the rain, but we had to cross the creek approximately 12 times, and about 5 of those crossings were walking through the water.  Have your water shoes and towel handy!  Two miles from the top, there is a sign indicating 2-miles until Grouse Butte, make sure you get water here!!!  This is the last water until you hit the South Fork Boise River.  These last two miles were a little tough, but worth the view on the top.  The next day we walked down five miles to Willow Creek C.G.  This is a 2400’ drop, and got pretty steep in some points.  When we got close to the South Fork Boise River, I’m pretty sure I heard a rattlesnake in the bush, and then saw a dead one on the road along the river.  Keep your head up in this area!  I was pretty disappointed that we didn’t see much wildlife, especially after my wife bought me bear spray, because she wouldn’t let our son come without it.  Well, it now time to get some of this winter sludge off, and get ready for this summer, as I want to get to Dagger Falls before the end of hiking season.  Until next time, be safe out there!

Hwy 20 - Snake River

After almost two years of an absence and one knee surgery, I decided it was time to get back to work on completing the ICT.  So, on 5-31-2014, two friends and I tackled the trail yet again.  This trip would be with Bill and Aaron, Aaron was the buddy who made it to our destination on my first segment.  We last left off at the Snake River, but decided to do this next segment in reverse. We would start our journey On Hwy 20 and proceed southbound rather than north.  So far our ICT journey has brought forth medical evacuations, laughs, tears, and bad trails, so why would this one be any different!?  So I will start this story out at my house, in my driveway loading our mountain bikes.  My bike rack is a Wal-Mart model, it’s not the best, but it does get the job down with some minor bike configurations.  You have to take the seat post out of the bike frame to get all of our bikes onto this rack.  This is no big deal, but it would add to our already story filled journey on this trail.  We get to our starting point and unload all of our bikes and gear.  Aaron and I get our seat post back onto our bikes and are already to go, but Bill is still working on getting his seat post back into his frame.  The seat post goes into the frame, but will not slide down into position.  On any other occasion, we would have brainstormed this issue and figured out the problem, but no, not on our ICT journey!  We had mistakenly thought that due to the elevation and temperature change that his frame had somehow tightened up.  So what do we do, but forcefully push this seat post into the frame of his bike.  It then occurred to us that we must have mixed up our seat post, and Bill was trying to put Aaron’s seat post into his bike frame.  The damage was already done, the seat post wasn’t coming out, and we had no tools to assist us with this issue.  Aaron and I suggested for us to go back home and try again some other day, but not Bill!  Even though he could barely touch the pedals, he wanted to get today’s segment done.  This was supposed to be an easy 5-mile ride uphill then a ton of downhill riding.  Four miles into our trip, Bill said enough, and he couldn't ride like this anymore!  So we put our heads together, got out all tools that we had, and come up with a plan.  Two hours later, and two saw blades completely grounded down to nothing from my multi-tool, we cut through the seat post and lower the seat to a more suitable position.  We get off Bennett Mountain road and start headed cross country to Steen road, but not before we get some lunch.  This cross country portion is pretty technical, and sketchy, but well marked.  Aaron and I are pretty avid bikers and had no problems with this part.  Don’t get me wrong, Bill is probably the most athletic/ in-shape out of the three of us, but today wasn’t his day.  During this portion, he flipped over his handle bars and somehow broke his foot (revealed by x-ray the next day) The rest of the trail is gravel or paved road, but our/Bill’s bad luck wasn’t over.  We had to stop and change two flat tires on Bill’s bike, but the tubes wouldn’t hold air for some reason.  So, we had to stop every 15 minutes to add more air to his tire.  Then after all of our bad luck, we finally finished at the Snake River, Thank God!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Owyhee Desert pt. 2

On 9-28-2012, my buddy Bill and I continued where some friends and I had finished off last time.  He had actually backpacked from the Nevada State line to the Bruneau Canyon Overlook over three days in the last part of the 2011 summer.  Like my previous bad experience on the first portion of this leg, he too ran into water issues.  Our journey this day would be on mountain bikes, and he didn't mind backtracking and starting at WinterCamp with me.  The first ten miles to the Bruneau Canyon Overlook went well.  We stopped and looked over the edge for a little bit, then continued straight north.  Problem is that you’re actually supposed to travel out to the east to continue on the ICT.  So, after two miles we realized our mistake and had to fix our predicament.  We made it back onto the trail, found the Clover 3 Creek Rd, paralleled the Bombing Range, and were able to see a few fighter jets flying by pretty low.  The ride down in Browns Creek was beautiful, and we didn't have to pedal for almost 4 miles, but then came the suck!  Apparently at this time of the year, every cow in the desert has used this road as a central highway, which doesn't make for a good riding path.  Almost 80% of the road was made up of 4” of super soft dust, which made it impossible for bikes.  A vast majority of our time on our journey was getting the dirt out of our gears and just walking the bikes.  We got to Pothole road and took a long well deserved break.  We continued northbound and met up with our pickup team at the Snake River Bridge on Hwy 78.  So we picked a great day to cover these 35 miles; as we didn't encounter any rattlesnakes, it never hit over 80 degrees, and there was partial cloud cover.     

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I'll be teaching a couple of classes in Community ED evenings this winter:
Long Distance backpacking
Lighten your backpack

If you want to read about the Idaho Boundary Trail, go to this page:
and download the Hiker's Guide.
Mike O'Brien