Ambrose managed to injure his thumb with a pretty deep cut. We didn’t want to expose that cut to the dirt of the woods without giving it more time to heal, so it was agreed that he couldn’t go out that weekend. But I could. 

And so, I did something different. Something Ambrose used to do when he lived in California. 

After work, and a quick shopping trip, I drove out to the Willow Creek Transfer Camp, with no tent and no intention of using a tent. No, I was there explicitly to cowboy camp. If possible, on a picnic table. 

The drive out was uneventful. There are more miles to cover on this trip than the one to the Queens River Trailhead, but the drive takes about the same amount of time thanks to long stretches of paved road with a speed limit over 60mph. I hadn’t driven this route for a couple years, but it came back to me as I drove. The curvy section descending to the reservoir and Pine. The winding pavement between Pine and Featherville. And finally, the turn off to Willow Creek. 

The main campsite was pretty full; I didn’t attempt to go and look for a spot there, because I didn’t want to have to pay. Instead, I drove on to the Transfer Camp. I hoped it would be empty or nearly empty, but as I drove along the road it seemed that every possible dispersed campsite was occupied. 

The Transfer Camp was occupied, but not fully occupied. I was able to snag a spot with a picnic table and the other campers were not loud, though they did have a fire. 

Then I set up my bed for the night: 

One picnic table. Add tarp. Add bucket.

Then sleeping pad, quilt, overquilt and pillow. Ta da! Bed!

I was a little nervous about the possibility of rolling off the table at night. So much so that I actually dreamed that I had decided the risk was too great and that I pulled the whole assembly onto the ground. Thus, when I woke up later and had to go pee, I was quite surprised to find that I was still on the table. 

Luckily, I didn’t fall. I do think that I should put a blanket down between the tarp and the sleeping pad next time to help keep the pad from sliding on the table. 

There were clouds when I arrived, but by the time I went to sleep the sky was clear enough for stars to start shining. Unusually, for me, I didn’t put my glasses on when I got up in the night to pee. I had put them in the bucket, and it just seemed like more trouble than it was worth to dig them out just for that. 

I set an alarm on my phone, and put the phone in the bucket in case it rained, but I really ought not have bothered. The birds got me up before the alarm went off. I’d set it for 6, so I let myself have some time to read before getting ready. Oh, and I ate the hard boiled eggs I’d packed for breakfast. The other part of breakfast would be a cookie on the trail. 

Breaking camp was super easy, especially with the trunk so nice and empty. I got changed into my hiking clothes and stuffed everything in the trunk. Then, as rain drops started sprinkling down, I got in and drove to the trailhead of Virginia Gulch. 

The trail starts just across the Middle Fork of the Boise River.

There was already a truck parked at the trailhead, and I wondered if I would see the people it belonged to on the trail. I wore my raincoat, both because it was chilly and because it was supposed to rain. And also kind of actually already raining, a little. But it didn’t really start raining when I left the car. 

Kind of flat to start, but that changes fast.

I wasn’t feeling very well, but I wanted to get this done. I was tempted to drive home without the hike. I missed Ambrose and I didn’t feel like hiking. But that’s a really good feeling for me to have when I’m on a training hike. Because when you’re backpacking, there are days when you don’t want to hike, but you absolutely have to. I’m training myself to hike when I don’t feel like it so I know I can do it when I need to. 

I got warm quickly, opened my pit zips, and then took the whole jacket off. Just too hot for it. I did leave it wrapped around my shoulders and draped over my pack like a cape, either to keep my pack dry if it rained or, more likely, because I was being lazy and didn’t want to stop and put the jacket up. 

I didn’t think my pace was very fast, but it wasn’t long before I saw people ahead of me. Then I caught them! Two young men! And I caught them. They had a dog with them, a large dog that took an instant dislike to me. I guess dogs don’t like being passed on trails, but the guys didn’t seem to upset about it. 

I never saw them again, so I don’t know how far they made it, but I like to think that they turned back soon after I passed. Because soon after I passed, the rain began to fall in earnest. A real shower, not just Idaho sprinkles. I kept going with my jacket cloak-style, because I was climbing, and it kept me quite warm. I just couldn’t stop until the sun came out or until I dried off. Or until I got back to the car. 

It just keeps going up.

And up.

And the chipmunks have no fear.

Virginia Gulch is a great place for a training hike. There’s a lot of elevation in a very short distance. It’s brutal. So it’s great! I had thought about going all the way up to Grouse Butte, which would have been about 11 miles round trip, but by the time I made my way up to the top of the gulch, I was done for the day. My legs were aching, and I didn’t want to push myself so hard that I couldn’t drive home. 

The storm moved on.

I’m not sure what this post is for.

A very faded ICT sign.

I’m not sure what these flowers are, other than pretty.

I love the Sawtooths.

I decided to turn back here, rather than push for Grouse Butte.

I did a slightly different route on the way down, taking the road around rather than turning to go back the way I came. I think that was a wise decision, both because it slightly increased my distance traveled and because as I approached the trail I could hear a motorcycle coming up. If I’d gone back the way I’d came, I would have run into the motorcycle (hopefully not literally). 

But I did take the road back to where it intersects with 039. 

Functional gate.

Not a functional gate.

Back to 039.

Yeah, it gets a little steep.

The down was a lot faster than the up. I used my trekking poles to help keep my balance, but this trail was easier to go down than 6125. The trail doesn’t have as much “ball-bearings” type rocks, so I didn’t actually slide or fall on the way down. 

I’m not sure how motorcycles get up this part.

I did have a good laugh, though. A large family group of hikers was just at the bottom of the switchbacks, where it starts to get hard. They were taking a break. Did they ask me how the trail was? Nope. They didn’t ask me anything, and I laughed after I had passed them, because I really didn’t think they were going to make it to the top. But maybe they did. 

When I got back to the car, the truck that had been there was gone. I don’t think they made it to the top. 

Next time, I’m going all the way to Grouse Butte. 

As long as Ambrose is driving 😉

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