Here we go! In about 24 hours I'm off to Marsing, Idaho, on my first collecting trip of the season. It's an absolutely crazy thing to be contemplating -- the snow is still falling at the higher elevations, the snowpack is thicker than its been in a generation, and by all forecasts the weather will be freezing on Friday and Saturday nights. But it's time.
I haven't been on an overnighter since November, 2007, and I've got a serious case of cabin fever. All through the winter I've been trying to plot out a regimen of seven-day, three-day, and two-day trips that will cover Idaho. My contract with Falcon Guides requires a manuscript by December 31, 2008. While I have extensive experience up and down the state of Idaho, I have a lot of work to do. I need to visit at least 200 spots and collect photographs, samples, and GPS readings. From that superset of readings, I'll whittle down the grand total to 100 sites. But I may be able to collect geographically proximate locales and really pack them in.
Tomorrow I'm headed for southwest Idaho. From Portland I'll head out I-84 to Ontario, then take Exit 3 south on US 95 to Homedale, then Marsing. US 95 curls back into Oregon, and I'll probably drive all the way down, then double back. I have about 17 places plotted out, in conjunction with a field trip sponsored by the Idaho Gem Club, which I just joined last month.
If you know a little about Idaho, there are some amazing locales out along the Oregon border. Graveyard Point Road actually starts from US 95 and ends up in Oregon, so I won't have to go all the way out to those spots along the rim -- wrong state! There is an old mercury mine out along Poison Creek Road, and an agate locale as well, but those aren't my main targets. I will be collecting petrified wood at Coal Mine Basin (if not covered in snow) and opal and agate along McBride Creek. The last spot I visited last year was on the Idaho side of the road along McBride Creek, so there is a nice symmetry there. Then I'll head out Sommer Camp Road for a jaunt to Opalene Gulch and connect up a couple spots documented by the Great Lanny Ream in his 2004 guide.
I was hoping to camp at Jump Creek Falls trailhead, but it turns out that is a "day use only" spot. Too bad - there is an outhouse, some picnic tables, and a fire pit there. We'll be roughing it out along Sommer Camp Road, I expect. At least we don't have to worry about fire season restrictions in March. If I have room in the car, I'll bring a little wood.
My son Nelson, his friend Jake, and my uncle Doug will be in my car, while my friend Marty "Dusty Fingers" Schippers, a noted soapstone carver, will come down from Seattle. Marty and I have hooked up so many times in the dead of night that we're not too worried. Usually one of us gets to a pre-organized spot early, and when they spy a set of headlights bumping up the road, the connection is made.
Over-packing is a big concern. I try to keep it down, and there is not going to be any lashing of gear to the top of the rig, as it will probably rain. But tent camping out of a car isn't too demanding; as long as you have room for a couple coolers, you're fine.
Anyway, it's good to be headed out.