After a recent trip to the wilds of Idaho I find myself asking, “Are Idaho RVers ‘crazy’ or just more seasoned than the rest of us?”
By now most readers of RV Travel know my preferred campsite is far from others, free and in the boondocks. No reservations required! I find my campsites in advance using Google Earth satellite view. For years I have also confidently used Google Earth to determine the condition of the road(s) to the campsite by seeing (via satellite view) what size and types of vehicles/RVs have been camped there before me.* My thinking has been if a 35-foot fifth wheel with slides can travel there and fit into the space, then my 27-foot travel trailer with higher-than-normal ground clearance, towed by a four-wheel-drive truck with off-road 10-ply tires, can also easily go there. I will then confirm my thinking by finding any online road reports/instructions to the campsite I am seeking.
*Note: I also check the date of the satellite image to make sure it was not hunting season when the photo was taken. I have found hunters are willing to drag their RVs up some very unforgiving roads.
Are Idaho RVers crazy? Read on…
Following are a few of the “surprises” that awaited us on our trip!
Yellow Pine, Idaho
For years I have wanted to visit an abandoned but very intact mining camp called Cinnabar. To get there you have to travel through the town of Yellow Pine, Idaho (population 32). It’s considered one of the most remote settlements in Idaho. Some say it’s the most remote place in the Lower 48 states. Yellow Pine’s current claim to fame is its annual Harmonica Festival, which draws people from far and wide, including those with RVs.
There is even (what I believed to be) a very detailed and informative website about the festival, which includes detailed driving instructions including those with RVs. The driving instructions provide three options to reach town. Option 1 was listed as the quickest and was suitable for RVs. Option 1 instructions state, “Once you are on Warm Lake Road, there are 2 summits. The first one is quite easy. The second one (after Warm Lake) is only 3 miles long, but it takes 10 minutes in a regular vehicle. If you are driving an RV or pulling a trailer, expect to take longer.”
The instructions also detail where the asphalt ends and the dirt/gravel road begins. Not wanting to take my travel trailer down any dirt/graveled roads farther than needed, I went to Google Earth and “saw” there were many places to camp near the end of the asphalt. Many of those spaces were occupied with large RVs. That led me to believe this was an acceptable route which I chose.
What awaited us at the “second summit” was much different than expected.
Rounding the first bend, we discovered the road began to climb dramatically before us. Farther along we saw the road high above us with switch backs. Being committed with no place to turn around, we had no choice but to continue. Once we hit the switchbacks (posted at 15 mph), my truck shifted into low gear and I thought we were done. Thankfully, we made the summit and coasted down the other side to near the end of the pavement.
The first campsite I had marked on my map was occupied by a group of RVs including large fifth wheels and class A motorhomes with multiple slides. “Surely they didn’t come the way we just did,” I said to my wife, “or are Idaho RVers crazy?” Luckily, the next campsite I had flagged on my map just before the asphalt ended was open and we pulled in and set up camp.
That night and the next few I didn’t sleep well wondering how we were going to get our RV safely back over the pass, as any workaround meant 30 to 40 miles of dirt/gravel roads. Fortunately, we arrived at the beginning of a weekend and as the weekend came to a close all the locals began to head home on Sunday. I watched them parade by our campsite heading out the way we came. Large and small RVs, along with those pulling boats who had been camped 30 miles away on Deadwood Reservoir via what we discovered was a very rough road, headed up the pass to face the steep decent and switchbacks (are Idaho RVers crazy or not?).
Maybe I was overreacting
I began to think it must not have been as steep as I remembered and I was overreacting. I started to sleep better, too, as I thought, if they can do it, so can I. As the fateful day came to break camp and head over the pass, I was confident (or had become as crazy) that I could safely traverse down the steep hill while keeping my speed down to navigate the switchbacks. I am happy to report we made it safely down.
Upon returning home and researching the pass, I found the elevation change of the “only 3 miles long” pass to be 2,000 feet! Doing the math equates to an average grade of 12.6%, more than twice that of the acceptable grade of an interstate highway which employs runaway ramps for when your brakes fail! (Idaho RVers crazy? I think so!)
We had similar experiences when traveling to other destinations in central Idaho. I will let the photos below speak to the craziness.
This brings me back to the opening question, “Are Idaho RVers crazy or just more seasoned than the rest of us?” I have always thought of myself as a rather rugged RVer, but after what I experienced I am beginning to think I am a bit of a wimp!
What are your thoughts? Please share using the comment box below.