Ambrose and I had planned on a backpacking trip over Labor Day weekend, but we had to change our plans again. On the Idaho Centennial Trail Hike, Ambrose’s waist belt ended up being too small and wore holes in his hips (yeah, he’s going to have to get a size medium before next season). Luckily, I remind him that his new day pack doesn’t have a hip belt. That meant we could drive out and camp and go on a day hike!
He agreed in principle, and then I suggested we hike Newman Peak. For some reason, I thought he’d done it before. He had shown me the trailhead for the trail he used to take to that way. So I thought revisiting it would be fun for him. He agreed, and thus our journey was set.
I had a work obligation for that Saturday, but once that was done, we drove out to Mountain Home, then Fairfield, then deep into the woods. There was a fire burning near the area we were going, but I had checked the Incident report, and there were no closures that should affect us. The fire was burning a few valleys over, and we could see and smell smoke in the air.
Despite the smoke, the campsites we drove by were quite crowded. We had hoped to camp at the same site as the trailhead, but there were groups at the main sites. There were a couple of potential spots near the trailhead, but they were less than ideal. The sun was baking them and little shade was on offer. So we got back in the car and I kept driving. I knew there was another campsite ahead, and this one had pit toilets.
Unfortunately, that campsite was closed. Kind of. I mean, it was in use, but only by firefighting personnel. So I turned the car around and headed back. There was a spot off the road we could use for dispersed camping that I’d driven by already, but before we sought that out, we tried one other road. Just after a bridge, there were spots available, but also trucks parked, including a fire fighter’s truck. There was a firefighter talking to the driver of a truck, and he came over to speak with us.
He told us the fire closure area had been expanded and that we needed to cross back over the bridge to get out of the closure zone. He had a map in plastic on a clipboard that displayed the new boundary. I was glad to see Newman Peak was outside, as I figured it would be. The firefighter also said that this expansion was a precaution, and that the fire wasn’t likely to come this way. I didn’t want to have to evacuate, so I hoped he was right.
I made for the dispersed site that I’d spotted. I’d noted that it was just before the road took a noticeable downhill dive with a slight curve. I drove slowly so I could pay attention right after I climbed back up that hill. I found the spot and pulled just far enough into the grass an dirt to be completely off the road. Then we got out of the car and explored.
It had clearly been used as a campsite before, but not very recently. There was a fire ring, but it didn’t have the look of one that had had a fire lately. There was also debris lying around, like metal wires and old tin cans. It wasn’t my ideal site, but it would do. There was a flat spot, and a number of trees offered shade. The shade wasn’t huge, and it moved frequently, but it was something we could work with. We decided to stay.
I went back to the car to pull it farther off the road while Ambrose began to set up the tent. I then got out the chairs and my laptop. My hope was to get some blog writing done on this trip. I made sure to bring my water bottle along before I sat down. I’d been driving for hours, and I knew I hadn’t been drinking enough water during that time. I needed to prepare for the next day’s hike by hydrating.
And so, instead of writing, I ended up reading for a bit while I worked on drinking water. If I were typing, I wouldn’t be drinking as much. I can hold my kindle with one hand and my water bottle with the other. It was the responsible decision, I swear. Of course, I later regretted not getting more writing done on that trip.
Ambrose was also a bit of a distraction. He hadn’t put up our big tent in a while, and we had a new footprint that he had never used before. I’d only used it once myself, and it was different than our original, even though it was for the same model tent. We got ours when the model was first released and bought the new one on clearance because the line had been discontinued. The original had six straps, one for each point of contact of the tent poles. The new one only has four, one at each corner. Neither the tent, nor, in my opinion, the footprint was a square (Ambrose begged to differ). The footprint had a label indicating which end was for the doors, but Ambrose didn’t think it mattered, and was setting it up with the label on the wall sides. I got up at one point to offer to help, but he told me to sit back down. Then one of the tent poles escaped its hole and thwapped me square on the foot. I made haste back to my chair.
I continued to read, and to snack a bit. I tried not to pay too much attention to Ambrose’s struggles. He did get the tent up, and it was fine. He also pumped up the air mattress, though that was a bit looser than normal. I thought it was because of Ambrose’s sore spots, so I didn’t offer to pump it more. He finally got his chance to sit down and start hydrating. We both moved our chairs a few times before dinner. During dinner, the sun disappeared. The sky was a little smoky, and the road was fairly busy, but we were snugged right up against a relatively high ridge. No more burning sun! The air finally began to cool and I reveled in the cool as I finished eating my dinner. Ambrose headed into the tent as soon as the sun had sank enough to leave the tent in shadow. I was outside until I started getting chilly.
Inside the tent, the temperature was very nice, even though the mattress was kind of bouncy and underinflated. I read a bit more before going to sleep.