Thursday, August 6, 2020

Find your Private Idaho at Harriman State Park, Ashton-Tetonia Rail-Trail in E. Idaho

Hi all,

Last week, I traveled to Salmon and Eastern Idaho to work on some conservation stories, and Wendy agreed to meet up with me at Harriman State Park last Thursday to stay in one of their yurts and spend time in that quiet, beautiful corner of Idaho.

We planned a long weekend to ride the cool bike trails at Harriman, do some fishing, maybe float the Big Springs section of the Henry's Fork in our double inflatable kayak, and ride the Ashton-Tetonia Rail-Trail. I always like to stop by Mesa and Lower Mesa Falls while I'm in the 'hood, too.

We got a great start to our little stay-cation Thursday afternoon. We checked into the Wythea yurt after 3 p.m., rode the bike trail around Silver Lake, saw a yearling moose in the woods, and then went over to the historic cabins overlooking Millionaire's Hole on the Henry's Fork and soaked in the grandeur of the scene.

Here's a long-form video that I produced several years ago for Life on the Range about the history, fishing, recreation and grazing at Harriman Park:

If you haven't ever been to Harriman State Park, it's truly one of Idaho's gems in the state park system.
Looking out into all of that gorgeous open space in the meadows surrounding the Henrys Fork leading up to Last Chance and Island Park is quite a sight to behold. If you hang out by Millionaire's Hole in the evening, you might see elk and moose wander out into the open at dusk. It's a place that always takes my breath away.

The Harriman Family gifted the property to the state of Idaho back in the 1960s under a provision that Idaho would have to create a state parks system to receive that incredible gift. Former Gov. Robert Smylieand the Idaho Legislature came through in 1965, creating the state park system and Harriman State Park became an official state property.

Wendy and I went out to eat at the Trout Hunter's Lodge in Island Park Thursday night, right on the banks of the Henrys Fork as multiple bug hatches were swirling above the river in the evening twilight.

I didn't sleep very well in the yurt that night. The next morning, I woke up with diarrhea. That continued through the morning, and I felt like crap. Must have picked up some bad water or food along the way, and it was hitting me like a ton of bricks. Wendy had reserved a room in Ashton that night, and I headed for the hotel to sleep it off being close to a bathroom. So much for doing anything on Friday for me. Wendy went swimming and met up with an old friend is Island Park for dinner.

I slept from 2-10 p.m. that day in the hotel room. I woke for a few minutes, and then slept through the night to 6 a.m. The diarrhea continued. But I had enough energy to drive home to Boise. I threw my stuff in the car and zipped home on the freeway. Because diarrhea is listed as one of the possible symptoms of COVID-19, I called Primary Health and signed up for a test at noon on Saturday to follow protocol.

Knowing that it'd take 3-5 days to get test results back, we had to cancel our Lower Salmon River trip, planned for Tuesday-Sunday this week before Quinn goes back to Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire to finish his senior year. DAMN! That pissed me off. And it was depressing.

I was pretty sure I just had a stomach bug. But my oh my, it was a doozy. It knocked me down with fatigue for three days. I finally started feeling a bit better by Sunday evening, and then Monday I felt much more energetic, but I still couldn't eat anything and had no appetite because of the Imodium I was taking to treat the loose bowels. Finally, Tuesday, I emerged feeling more normal, and Wednesday morning, I got learned that my COVID test was NEGATIVE. 

Anyway, I still would recommend a fun stay-cation in the Island Park area to do the things mentioned above. Here are some links to find the fun:

Harriman State Park - The 16,000-acre park has 22 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. You can go on a guided horseback ride, too. Rent a yurt or one of their cool cabins and stay in that gorgeous spot to soak up the scenery and enjoy all of the amenities right out the back door. 

Ashton-Tetonia Rail-Trail - The trail is 29.6 miles long. You can start in Ashton and ride to Tetonia or vice-versa. There's a local shuttle service available. It's a gravel surface trail with several very high bridges over Fall River and Bitch Creek (the tallest and longest one). You can see the backside of the Teton Range and the Grand Teton as you're riding the trail through seed potato fields and grain fields. Very quiet and lightly used trail.

Floating and fishing the Henry's Fork - There are many sources that are more knowledgeable than I am about fishing the Henry's Fork, but suffice to say, it's a very challenging stream to fly fish. People come from all over the world to do it because of the large rainbow trout that lurk below the surface. If you don't fish, there are numerous sections of the Henrys Fork that you can float in a raft, drift boat, IK or SUP. Pick up a map of the Henrys Fork in Island Park or Harriman Park. The Big Springs section is crystal clear. Really special.

Mesa Falls - 114-foot Upper Mesa Falls is the tallest and most spectacular of the two falls. Take the scenic drive from Ashton or Island Park to the falls and take the short walk over to an overlook to see the falls. Well worth the drive and the walk!

Have fun and be well!
- SS

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