On July 29, 2019, we headed to Porcupine Campground west of Bear Lake in Idaho. We left Smith’s Trout Haven late in the afternoon and headed east and then south a mere 78 miles. Porcupine Campground will be our last stop in Idaho on this journey and the last two nights we’ll spend with this son and family. Idaho campgrounds have been exceptional, and I wish Utah would step it up. The one thing I won’t miss about Idaho is the boat checks every time and place you enter the state.
We arrived before dark and took site 15 that we reserved earlier in the week. It was a nice back-in site and quite private as long as you didn’t need to use the tent site that seemed to be adjacent to the neighboring campsite. Our son and family occupied a site a few places west of site 15. We spent most of our campground time at their site where the children had their stuff, could be in the trailer and didn’t have to walk down to our place.
On July 30, 2019, we went to the Minnetonka Cave ticket booth and reserved a spot on the morning tour for all nine of us. We then drove to the cave entrance and waited for our tour time. The cave tour was enjoyable, particularly the relief from the outside temperature. While this isn’t a Carlsbad Cavern or Lehman Cave, it is interesting. While there are a lot of stairs, the level of exertion did not exhaust the small children in our group.
After our cave tour, we went to the northeast corner of Bear Lake and swam and played at the beach. The water was relatively warm, and the beach is very gradual. To get waist deep, I had to walk about 500′ out into the water. This feature makes it great for small children and fun for the rest of us.
After swimming, we ate dinner out and then headed back to Porcupine Campground, had a fire with the grandchildren and their parents, and ate smores. An enjoyable and exhausting day!
On July 31, 2019, we bid farewell to Idaho for the last time on this journey. We headed south to Evanston, Wyoming to shop for food and propane, and then headed south to the Uinta Mountains of Utah. We were hoping to find a campsite in the Washington Lake Campground, but without reservations, we left with trepidations.
On July 28, 2019, we traveled for about five hours and arrived at Smith’s Trout Haven. Seems like kind of a funny name given that the stream that flows through it is tiny and the “fishing” pond is grown over, mossy, and uninviting. However, aside from the name, this place has a lot to offer, and the owners/operators are amazingly accommodating. Truth be told, the pond is likely filled with large trout, I just wasn’t willing to try.
Smith’s Trout Haven has many sites with 30 Amp hookups, and every site is covered in grass, unlike the typical campground fare of dirt or gravel. We had reserved a spot a day or two earlier, but upon arrival, we were invited to take any spot, so we chose site 58. Our site had a fire pit, a picnic table, and a small Pavillion. We paid $30 for the spot and use of electricity, and an additional $10 fee for a late checkout. The late departure enabled us to leave our trailer in place until 7 pm the following day instead of trying to find a parking spot while we enjoyed Lava Hot Springs. While we began the evening alone, a couple of other campers arrived late, but we were all well separated.
The RV park is quite large, and the views are pleasant. It is essentially a large parcel in farming country. The neighboring farms and ranches are a good distance away. There are few trees, but overall this is an excellent place to stay while enjoying Lava Hot Springs.
On July 29, 2019, we began our day at Lava Hot Springs Mineral Pools. There are four or five small pools with water that varies in temperature from pool to pool from about 102 degrees Ferenheight to about 112. I enjoyed the coldest of the batch, while others were far more adventurous. After an hour or so, we walked downstream along the river to the Olympic Swimming Complex. There we met our son, daughter-in-law, and some of our grandchildren. We played for several hours and ate some mediocre snack bar food.
On our walk down the river, we noticed that many people were riding tubes down the river. At the bottom, they paid a small fee to have a truck take them and their tube back to the top to repeat the float. We’ll have to return and give that a try.
In the late afternoon, we returned to fetch the trailer and head to the next destination of our adventure. Smith’s Trout Haven was a great place to stay near Lava Hot Springs. Town and activities were only about a mile away. That is just far enough to be out of the hustle and bustle and traffic, but close enough to zip in and play. Next up is Porcupine Campground west of Bear Lake in Idaho.
On July 26, 2019, we left Luby Bay Campground in Idaho. We made arrangements to meet one of our sons and his family near Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, so we headed in that direction. We traveled to Indian Trees Campground in Montana.
We made reservations for site 13 at Indian Trees Campground, but I am quite sure that reservations are never needed for this place. We arrived on a Friday, stayed two nights, and the campground never reached even a third of its capacity.
According to the campground signage, it is named Indian Trees because Native Americans came here and peeled the bark away from the trees to get to the soft edible bits. The annual harvest left the trees scarred. Wounds that were made between 1830 and 1890 may still be seen on some of the campground trees. Evidently, we had plenty of food in our fridge because we weren’t tempted to give the trees a try.
There is a small commercial hot spring near Indian Trees Campground. One afternoon we drove by it to see if we’d be interested in soaking, but it wasn’t tempting enough. After my ankle injury at the Pine Flats Hot Spring, I was done with hot springs for a while. However, they did have a very ingenious portable sprinkler that made us laugh.
On Saturday, we drove to Sula, Montana to buy new two-day Montana fishing licenses and then fished the Bitterroot River downstream from Sula. We were quite successful and had a lot of fun. We caught fish on red and green colored Euro Nymphs. The river was perfect for euro nymphing. It’s a river, but not too large, easy to cross as needed, and fun rapids that pour into reasonably deep pools. I’d love to return and fish it some more.
We enjoyed site 13 at Indian Trees Campground. The site was a pull-through that was plenty long enough for our 27-foot trailer and our truck. Also, there were trees between our site and the campground road, providing some privacy. However, the site itself was tiny, and the table and fire pit were very close to our trailer.
When we return to this campground, we’ll reserve, or hope to be lucky and acquire site 8. It is our favorite. It is a back-in site with a driveway that is at least 50 feet long. The site is all by itself at the end of the campground and has a large table and fire pit area.
On July 28, 2016, we left Indian Trees Campground and headed to Smith’s Trout Haven near Lava Hot Springs, Idaho.
On July 23rd, 2019, we traveled from Lindbergh Lake in Montana to Luby Bay Campground near Priest Lake in the Idaho panhandle. We only stayed at Luby Bay for three nights, but we would have loved to stay at least a week. It was a beautiful place with a lot of fun things to do. Unfortunately, our site was reserved by others for the weekend, and we had to move on. We will return to Luby Bay Campground and Priest Lake.
Rather than taking the direct route to Priest Lake, we traveled west on Highway 2 between Kila, Montana and the junction of Highway 2 and Highway 56. Along this path, we stopped at Kootenai Falls. The falls were spectacular, and the two short hikes are worth taking. One hike takes you across a swinging bridge, those are always fun, while the other takes you to the upper falls. The water is a spectacular glacier sort of color. The entire drive down Highway 2 and then south on Highway 56 were well worth the additional time it took.
We reserved our site at Luby Bay when we planned the remainder of our trip during our stay at West Mountain Campground. With such short notice, the only reservable sites were way in the back of the upper loop of Luby Bay Campground. We were disappointed not being right on the lake, but after arriving, we were thrilled.
Our site, campsite number 40, was terrific. It was well away from other campers, densely wooded, lots of flat terrain around our campsite, and the most beautiful light that trickled through the trees. In contrast, the sites in the lower loop are placed close together and not nearly as private. When we return, we will definitely choose a site in the upper loop.
That first night began routinely, we ate dinner, hung out at the campsite, and simply enjoyed soaking up the place. At about 11 pm we were sitting out under our trailer awning, probably the only people awake in the entire campground, watching another lightning storm blow in.
This one literally blew in. The wind whistled through the trees, the lightning flashed, and the thunder boomed. While watching, we heard a loud crack and a deep thud as a massive 30” diameter tree came crashing to earth just one campsite away from where we were sitting. Well, it didn’t quite make it to the ground because someone’s car attempted to stop its descent. The vehicle lost the brief battle. The trunk of the tree smashed through the car to the floorboards.
We ran over to their campsite to ensure that no one was injured. It’s a weird feeling being a first responder. You’re not sure what to expect. We yelled into the tent and received no response. Being afraid that they took refuge in their car, we peered through what was left of the vehicle in the hope that no one was there. Fortunately, the tent owner had temporarily returned to Spokane, and the car owner was camped across the road at another site. While no one was hurt, a few people were traumatized enough to leave camp. This experience certainly made for more sincere family and individual prayers that night.
The next morning, we inspected the damage and found that the wind had blown the top 40 feet off of a 90-foot tall tree, blew the top portion over a tent and canopy, and deposited it on top of that poor little car. Two other trees toppled during the night, and fortunately, no one was hurt.
After looking around the area and taking in the devastation, we left for Hill’s Marina to meet Rich Lindsey who we booked to take us fishing on Priest Lake. We had hoped to have our son catch some big lake trout or other large fish. However, the storm the night before messed up more than the trees. The lake was rough, the weather was unsettled, and Rich gave us little hope of catching fish. We tried for two hours and gave up. The lake is beautiful, and we’ll come back and give it another try. That evening, we licked our wounds from the fishing experience and ate dinner at Elkins Lodge. The food was fine, but frankly, I prefer the meals my wife and I make while camping.
On July 25th, 2019, we arose late and had brunch at Hill’s Lodge. Afterward, we rented a third kayak from Hill’s Lodge and headed north to Beaver Creek Campground where my wife, son, Leo, and I launched our kayaks and headed towards what is known as the Thoroughfare. We paddled across the northern shore of Priest Lake and then turned north up the Thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake.
It was about 2.5 miles up the Thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake. The two main ways to get to Upper Priest Lake are by boat or hiking. There are numerous campsites scattered around the upper lake for those willing to haul in their gear. The scenery is breathtaking. The color and clarity of the water in places is impressive.
Along the way, we saw many birds, some fish, and plenty of beautiful sights. The roundtrip was about 5 miles and took us about 4 hours with plenty of stops and easy paddling.
After our paddling experience, we chose to have dinner at Hill’s Lodge, yes we were getting lazy and finished the evening streaming a little TV. What a fantastic day!
The next day was a moving day. While pulling out of Luby Bay Campground, we dumped the trailer for an additional $8 and headed to Indian Tree Campground in Montana.
On July 21st, 2019, we left O’Hara Bar Campground and headed for Tin Can Flats Campground. However, during this approximately four-hour trip, we discovered we needed to do some laundry, dump the trailer, and acquire Montana fishing licenses. While doing laundry, we determined to head to Holland Lake Campground to save time and settle us in before dark.
After arriving at Holland Lake, we found both loops full. We tried a local boondocking site, but it was full as well. We finally found a spot at Lindbergh Lake. Our site was a hundred feet from the lake, in a wooded and secluded campsite, and it was free.
We took our kayaks and float tube out on the north bay of this large lake. We tried fishing in the morning and then again near dusk. We had several bites each but didn’t catch a single fish.
The shoreline is densely wooded and makes for a beautiful lake. However, there are many cabins on the eastern shore, making the lake rather busy. This lake is popular for wakeboarding, skiing, and wave runners. These activities lead to a lot of wakes and a noisy environment.
On our last night there we walked to the northern shore and sat on the small boat ramp and watched a lightning storm roll over the lake. It was quite spectacular and made for an enjoyable evening.
On the morning of July 23rd, 2019, we left Lindbergh Lake and headed to Luby Bay Campground in Idaho. We made reservations for a site at Luby Bay, so we traveled with less anxiety and a willingness to see a few things along the way.
On July 16th, 2019, we arrived at O’Hara Bar Campground in Idaho. The campground has three loops. The first loop is closer to the river and more open than the other two, the second loop is heavily forested, and the third loop is heavily forested and better suited for smaller trailers and tent camping. The campground is immediately south of the Selway River and is an amazing spot to camp; I’d love to go back!
The last turn to the campground is at the confluence of the Lochsa River and the Selway River where you turn east off of Highway 12 onto Selway Road. Both rivers are quite large, and the confluence area is gorgeous. There is an RV park right at this intersection where toys can be rented, lodging can be found, and snacks can be purchased.
When we arrived, there were only a few available non-reservable sites, and we chose site number 9. The main campground road is quite narrow with lots of brush and trees on both sides. What appeared to be an easy site to back into turned out to be a little tricky due to the lack of space to maneuver the truck. However, with a bit of effort, my amazing wife put our trailer in the right spot, leaving room for the truck in front of it. While we weren’t on the river, this was one of my favorite places we visited. While we were here, I had to run the generator to charge the batteries due to the dense foliage overhead that reduced the effectiveness of our solar panels. Our favorite site at this campground is site number 32. Site 32 is the first in the campground from the entrance and is a back-in site right on the river.
The campground reminded me of Oregon, with the thick underbrush, large ferns, and fresh berries growing everywhere. It was a pleasant place to relax in, walk around in, and fish the nearby Selway River. On one of our walks, I heard what sounded like a rolling dutch oven chasing us. When we turned to investigate, we saw a boxer puppy, about a year old, tied to a trailer sway bar chasing us down. That little sway bar didn’t stand a chance of holding back a sizeable playful puppy that wanted to see us and our dog, Leo. Glad it was friendly!
There is one unique and sort of annoying thing at this campground. The water system is fed by a large water tank that is filled from a well with an associated propane-powered pump. On the weekends when the campground is busy, the pump runs every day for several hours to fill the water tank. The shed housing the pump is south and east across the road and up a hill from site number 9 and is quite loud like an open framed RV generator. It is certainly tolerable, but if it gets to you, there are plenty of beautiful places to go for a couple of hours a day.
The Selway is a gorgeous river that I couldn’t pass up for fishing. I put on my waders and boots, and tolerated the pain they caused to my ankle injury for a few hours and caught five fish. I brought my son out to the place where I was fishing, and he caught what I think was his first fish using Euro Nymphing techniques. It was fun watching him find success. The river rocks in the Selway were very slippery. Wading was more like controlled slipping.
During our last full day, we traveled down the Canyon to Kooskia, Idaho to acquire groceries, so we didn’t have to shop on Sunday when we were moving to the next campsite. Kooskia is a small place, but the grocery store was quite sufficient for our needs.
On July 21st, 2019, we left O’Hara Bar Campground with the expectation of moving four and a half hours to Tin Can Flats Campground. We thought we would read from the Come Follow Me guide as we drove. However, the best-laid plans change. Our son informed us that he was out of clean clothes, so we had to figure out a laundry stop. We found a laundry mat in Lolo, Montana and spent a few hours there cleaning our clothes.
While we were at the laundry, our son got all excited about the nearby Subway sandwich shop. We decided to have lunch there. Earlier in the day, when we left camp, my wife told me there was one light on our black tank indicator, indicating that the tank was near empty and not needing to be dumped. However, there was really three light on, indicating the tank was two thirds full. We found a local dump station and spent another 45 minutes there.
While in Lolo, we came up with two possible destinations. The first was Holland Lake Campground that was only 1.5 hours away, and the other was our previous planned destination of Tin Can Flats Campground. We opted for Holland Lake. On our way, we passed through Missoula, Montana, and bought Montana fishing licenses. After arriving at Holland Lake, we found both loops full. We tried a local boondocking site, but it was full as well. We finally found a spot at Lindbergh Lake. We made every effort to keep the Sabbath day holy but ended up doing all sorts of things we didn’t have planned. The best-laid plans …
On July 14th, 2019 we departed from Pine Flats Campground and headed north towards White Byrd, Idaho. However, the combination of leaving late, being injured, and feeling exhausted, limited us to 88 miles of progress. We made it as far as Lake Cascade State Park before giving up and staying a couple of nights in the West Mountain Campground on the western shore of Lake Cascade. This campground wasn’t our dream location, but it served us well. I began recovering from my ankle injury, and my wife and son enjoyed kayaking and fishing on the lake.
While at West Mountain Campground, we stayed in site 147. The site was covered in grass, had several large shade trees, a moveable picnic table, a fire pit, nearby water, and a beautiful view of the lake.
While there, my wife and son went fishing on their kayaks on Lake Cascade. When they returned, I asked how the fishing went. I was so hopeful that our son would have a good experience that I was primed for a fish story. My son sensed my gullible nature and laid it on thick. He told me a fine tale of him catching a 20″ largemouth bass and I gulped the story down hook, line, and sinker. He left me thus inspired for a few minutes and then fessed up. I couldn’t believe I was so had, but I must admit he played me well.
Later that evening, my wife and I stayed up until 2:30 am planning the remainder of our trip and making a few reservations where we thought they were necessary. Having a little more organization set us at ease and made the rest of the journey much more enjoyable.
Before retiring to bed, I prayed that I might be guided to seek appropriate care for my ankle injury. I felt impressed to see how it felt in the morning and as needed stop in McCall, Idaho to seek medical assistance. When I awoke in the morning, I recalled how much it hurts to stand and resisted having to get out of bed. I struggled to my feet and slid into the shower. After showering, we bandaged my wound, and miraculously, it felt much much better. I was able to walk almost normally and prepared the trailer for travel. We stopped in McCall for groceries but chose not to seek medical attention. While I was waiting for my wife to complete the shopping, I enjoyed a bright sundog that filled my soul with joy and truly began my restful vacation.
After acquiring groceries, we stopped at New Meadows, Idaho, for lunch. After lunch, we headed up Highway 12 towards O’Hara Bar Campground. We arrived at 5 pm, found three vacant non-reservable sites, and occupied one of them.
On July 11th, 2019 we left home and headed to Pine Flats Campground northeast of Boise, Idaho. This was the first segment of our much longer journey depicted in the included map. We arrived late in the afternoon and found one available spot on the far side of the campground from the river. We camped for three nights and departed for cooler air on July 14th, 2019.
On our way, we decided to stop and view Shoshone Falls near Twin Falls, Idaho. These falls are 45′ higher than Niagara and 1000′ wide. They were very impressive and worth the stop. The associated park has a convenient parking area for RVs.
After arriving at Pine Flats Campground, we chose a site, the last available site. It was great, had sufficient shade, and was quite private. However, we learned that southwest Idaho at an altitude of just 3,700 feet in July is way too hot for relaxing around camp. The afternoon heat drove us to use both generators to power the air conditioning unit, something we rarely do.
While at Pine Flats, we enjoyed the local hot springs, rafted down the Payette River, and went to an outdoor play. The hot springs are a 10-minute walk to the west along the Payette River. They are not developed beyond what visitors can muster by stacking rocks and damming up the falling hot water. The resulting pools are about a foot deep and can hold three or four people. They were quite warm and enjoyable.
On July 13th, we headed down the canyon to raft down the Payette River, “The Main,” with Idaho White Water Unlimited guide services. This stretch of the Payette has class 2 and class 3 rapids. The price was reasonable, the guide, Justin, was fantastic, and the water was very refreshing. The experience made all three of us want to try the segment of the river just upstream from where we rafted that includes some class 4 rapids. I guess we’ll give that a try next time.
After rafting, we headed back up the canyon, changed our clothes, checked on our dog, had a quick dinner, and headed back down the canyon to an outdoor play. We saw Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat at the Starlight Mountain Theatre. The play isn’t my favorite, but the lead actors did a phenomenal job. It was a pleasant and rustic cultural experience to end our long, but enjoyable day.
On July 14th, we arose very early, walked down to the hot springs, and enjoyed a relaxing soak. I returned to the trailer to acquire a camera, but in doing so slipped on the rocks near the hot springs and seriously injured my ankle. I still made the 10-minute walk, fetched the camera, and captured a few memories before recognizing the severity of my wounds. We returned to the trailer, dressed my wounds, dressed for church, drove down the canyon, and joined the saints in the Garden Valley congregation. Afterward, we returned to our trailer and prepared it for departure and the next leg of our adventure.
On July 11th, 2019 our family of three hitched up our trailer and took off on our “July” adventure. We traveled to 3 states, camped for 31 nights, and put 2131 miles of road behind us. My wife, our 13-year-old son, and I thought it was great.
We began our trip with the idea of reaching the Washington coast and traveling down through Washington and Oregon before returning home to Utah. However, while traveling, we changed our plans, traveled less each day, and enjoyed a few things closer to home.
We traveled through Idaho, Montana, and Utah. We learned a few things along the way:
Southwest Idaho is much like Utah in terms of weather. In July it is hot and intolerable without air conditioning. Before heading north to a cooler climate, we broke out both generators to run the AC unit and cool the trailer.
Campgrounds in Idaho and Montana were, in general, far better than those in Utah. In Idaho and Montana, the campgrounds were generally less expensive. In a few cases where they were the same price as those in Utah, the facilities were far superior. Where Utah campgrounds lack water but ask you to put out your fire, Idaho and Montana campgrounds not only had water but provided a bucket at the faucet to borrow.
On this journey we traveled back and forth between Idaho and Montana several times. Each time we entered Idaho we were required to have our kayaks inspected for plants, animals, and water. We were asked where we last put them in the water and where we were headed. This became a sort of a joke. At one stop an older man, certainly not a gentleman, approached me on the passenger side of the vehicle. He barked through the window, “we are in Idaho where men drive.” Really, what year is it in Idaho?
This spring we upgraded our solar capacity from a single 150 Watt panel to three 200 Watt panels and a new solar charge controller. On this trip, we routinely generated a kilowatt of power per day, eliminating the need to use a generator unless we needed the AC.
Our adventure was amazing and most importantly relaxing. We participated in fun activities, beautiful scenery, interesting history, and just plain old fun. The next several posts will describe each of the places we camped at and summarize the things we saw and did. While this adventure had to end, it just means the next one is a few days closer.
On June 12, 2019 we returned, yet again, to the Riverside Campground in Island Park, Idaho. For this visit we reserved site A-21. We have thought for sometime that this is the best site in the campground, and we were excited to test our hypothesis. We stayed four nights. Due to vacation and work, we already have two more reservations this year for this campground. However, we were unable to secure site A-21; it is well sought after.
On the 13th I had business in Rexburg, Idaho. My wife drove me to work, enjoyed Rexburg for the morning, purchased our groceries, and then we returned to the campground around 3pm. When we arrived at the campground, we met our friends and spent the weekend together. On Saturday we drove to Big Springs and enjoyed the crystal clear water and gazing at the giant trout. We enjoyed the rest of the weekend relaxing, talking to our friends, and returned home on Sunday.
Site A-21 was amazing! Our trailer fit easily, we had peace and quiet, and the view was splendid. the view to the east was of the mighty Henry’s Fork River and the view to the west was a beautiful dense forrest.
In August and September, we will be staying in site A-2. We think this site is second best to site A-21 and we’ll soon see.