Unplanned Beauty and Return to the Beast

Map with Driving Route highlighted through Washington, Idaho, and Utah
Map of the weekend’s adventure

As my allowed time at Rocky Lake came to an end uneventfully, I set off with plans to make it into Idaho for the next week. As the weekend unfolded, plans got changed quite drastically, and I found myself returning to Willow Springs, where I had quite the adventure back in June. However, it would take me getting through some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen to date before arriving at that final destination!

The mostly wonderful spot I had setup for myself on Rocky Lake outside of Colville, Washington only allowed 5 days stay, so I had no choice to leave. I was growing quite sick of the cold temperatures that never really rose enough for comfort all week, and my batteries were crying to get some real charge in them after the solar panels faced far too much shade to be effective all week. I set out a plan to head towards Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho for the next week, with some curious routes between.

View of a river in a canyon
Overlooking the Snake River

The first day, I dropped down to a canyon carved by the Snake River, where I found a nice camp site administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It was a wonderful spot, where I was even able to get some Verizon LTE using my cell booster.

View of a river in a canyon
Another view of the river

A funny thing happened there. In addition to chatting briefly with my neighbors for the night, I was approached by a police officer who was quite curious to see a car with California plates in the area. I didn’t realize for quite a while that I was talking to a cop, so I was carrying on like he was any old person who just happened to be particularly curious and concerned–a Good Samaritan of sorts. He was impressed with my solar panels in particular, but it was a friendly exchange. Part of me laughs thinking of how it may have been a somewhat different exchange had I realized he was a police officer sooner!

Nonetheless, after a good night of sleep–I was only woken by the train coming through once–I packed up and headed on. I’m not really sure why, but I convinced myself to head all of the way to Craters of the Moon that day. It felt like the right thing to do.

Early on, I stumbled across sections of the Nez Perce National Historical Park, which I had no clue even existed. Although I didn’t stop at many of the sites–most were simply plaques beside the road describing the history of that particular area–I enjoyed the historical significance of the area. (I did bother to read what it was all about, and found it really quite interesting!) From there, I also found myself stumbling into the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area; I mostly spent time around the Salmon River Canyon (The Canyon of No Return!), versus the even deeper Hells Canyon, but I found the area absolutely breathtaking.

Car next to a picnic table in an old lava field
Camp in Craters of the Moon

As this drive continued, I also passed through Payette National Forest, Boise National Forest, and Sawtooth National Forest, before finally arriving to camp in Craters of the Moon National Monument. All of the area was absolutely stunning, and I couldn’t believe the amazing beauty that I was witnessing!

I was disappointed to find that the information I had read online about the camp was inaccurate, and I would be paying $10 per night to stay there. Nonetheless, I went ahead and paid for that night. It was a cold night and a very cold morning, and the cell signal was a struggle. I quickly realized that it would be expensive and a major hassle to stay there all week. I packed up my things and spent theĀ morning visiting as much of the National Monument as I was comfortable with before heading on out.

About Craters of the Moon: I found it absolutely stunning! Unlike other areas of lava flows that I have visited in the past months, the lava flows there are actually from many small volcanoes along a large rift. The lava flows overlap one another, but are of significantly varying ages. Additionally, cinder cones and volcanic craters of different ages and varieties dotted the landscape. It is an absolutely stunning area, which I was very happy to have the pleasure of experiencing.

Although I could have easily spent all week at Craters, had I given myself the time, I made a decision to head towards Utah. I had spent some time scoping out the next leg of my journey, but really wasn’t prepared to move on any of it yet. Without any planning, I made a decision to return to Willow Springs; but not without an extra detour!

Five years ago, on my first major solo road trip, I had stumbled upon Echo Canyon in Northeastern Utah. I hadn’t returned to gaze upon the area since, so I made the decision to go out of my way to see it again. This took me through some absolutely wonderful, very historically significant areas of Idaho, before crossing south of the Tetons in Wyoming. I had to resist the urge to swing up and see Grand Teton on this route, as I entered this familiar territory.

After about five hours, I finally arrived in Echo Canyon, where I made a point to stop at the rest area and gaze upon the canyon walls. I really find the area magnificent, and it will likely hold a special significance to me as long as I can remember it!

Once I was through that canyon, I headed on into Provo Canyon. I had no idea what I was getting into going this route, but I soon found out and fell in love with yet another area of Utah. I haven’t quite figured out any area of Utah that I don’t love!

Although it was a magnificent drive, time began to become a concern as I drove through Provo Canyon and into Provo. The area was absolutely stunning, but I began to stop less and drive more. As I headed toward Price, I found even more wonderful scenery, especially Price Canyon itself. However, Price Canyon, as magnificent as it is, is really only one small part of the amazing drive I had from Provo to Moab. Although I did not take any pictures, I was at a complete loss for words by the time I hit the familiar I-70 again.

All of the driving this weekend was absolutely magnificent. I would definitely rate it as one, if not the, most magnificent weekend road trip I have ever done. It was long, but the views transcend any justice I could hope to do for it.

Car camped out in front of boulders
Camp spot at Willow Springs

At 8:30 PM Sunday night, I arrived into the Willow Springs camp. It was dark and late, and half blind in the dark, I hunted and found a spot to setup camp. I’m hoping to stay here for the next two weeks or so, weather and time permitting. Perhaps I will actually get to visit Arches and Canyonlands, and maybe even some of the other amazing areas of Utah I have somehow missed to date. Right now, I am mostly just excited to relax after such an amazing weekend!

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