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Originally published in the Boise Weekly:

In previous Motojournals, I have explored Warren, Placerville, Garden Valley and Round Valley. Deadwood Reservoir is the final piece of this region’s puzzle—and a mighty fine piece it is.

Nestled high up in the Boise National Forest, Deadwood offers recreationists everything imaginable and just a few hours from Boise: fishing, boating, hiking, camping, backpacking and trails for riding horses and dirt bikes.

Getting there: Leaving Boise around 8 p.m., I made my way up Highway 55 to Banks-Lowman Road through the dusk of a mid-week evening. I stayed at a friend’s cabin in Crouch for the night, where I rigged the War Pig (my Honda Transalp) for the next day’s journey. A quick breakfast at the Garden Valley Market and I was on my way out Banks-Lowman Road to the Scott Mountain turnoff 13 miles up the South Fork of the Payette River.


The road in to Deadwood Reservoir is narrow and covers some very steep grades. Ascending Scott Mountain to an elevation of 8,000-plus feet left me stunned. From this height, I could see firsthand how the Sawtooth Mountains to the northeast got their name: The silhouettes of jagged ridge lines overlap one another as far as the eye can see.


From Scott Mountain, 16 miles of ridge-to-canyon road takes you to the dam that bottlenecks the Deadwood River and forms the reservoir.


I rode around the dam and past an airstrip to a spot where some friends had set up a massive camp. Campers, horses, bikes, boats—all the finer things in life.


Beyond Deadwood to the north is Warm Lake and the way to Cascade, the remote town of Yellowpine or all the way to Warren. Alternately, a single-track trail system goes over to Silver Creek Plunge, which runs back to Crouch, Boiling Springs or north to Round Valley on Road 670-600. You can also reach the Boundary Creek area near Stanley from Deadwood, which runs into a vast road-and-trail system that spans the Sawtooth Mountains. However you choose to connect the dots, the Boise-Valley County road systems offer some amazing opportunities for recreation and exploring and act as the gateway to many of Idaho’s best kept secrets.


Total distance: 198 miles, 71 on dirt

Check out Andrew Mentzer’s 2012 around the world motorcycle tour at

Originally published in the Boise Weekly:

Idaho has more than 30,000 miles of dirt and two-track roads, which makes it hard to imagine a single resource that is a key to them all.

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation met that challenge by creating one of the most comprehensive online trail and road databases out there.

Unlike many other mapping services, this one is free. The site’s interactive map allows users a detailed look at trail and road systems using unique search criteria based on what type of vehicle is allowed: non-motorized, high-clearance, motorcycles, ATVs and automobiles.

If you plan to go exploring, check out this great trip-planning tool.

Originally published in the Boise Weekly:

It doesn’t get much further off the beaten path than Warren, Idaho. As you enter this rustic mining relic, signage stating “Since 1862″ informs you that this place has been around for a very long time.

Warren was originally settled as a gold mining town. It still boasts an active mining culture but has broadened its horizons as a major access point for public-lands managers charged with maintaining the adjacent Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness—a dirt airstrip and some U.S Forest Service buildings are the first things you see when entering Warren.

Various scenic drainages abut the route to Warren, including the Secesh River and North Fork of the Payette on the McCall side and the South Fork of the Salmon on the Yellowpine side. The fishing is excellent during summer months in this region with its high mountain lakes, streams and rivers.

If backpacking is your bag, then this area is hard to beat. One of the best hikes in Idaho is the trek to 20 Mile Lakes just down the road from Upper Payette Lake. Fires from 1994 and 2000 have scarred parts of northern Valley County and southern Idaho County, making for an interesting landscape—with old torched trees towering above young conifers and green grasses.


Burgdorf Hot Springs is also a great relaxation spot along the way. Just 30 miles from McCall, the hot pools are a real treat, and camping and cabin rentals make it an easy overnight trip.

Getting There: Leaving McCall around 2 p.m. atop my KLR 650, I made my way north of McCall on Warren Wagon Road. Skirting the western edge of Payette Lake, the luxurious waterfront cabins became sparse as I neared North Beach.


The road begins to wind its way up past several trailheads before flattening out near the turnoff for Burgdorf.


Just past the turnoff, the road turns to gravel and runs alongside the Secesh River for several miles. I passed through the town of Secesh with the intention of stopping off at the old Stage Stop, but it has closed since my last trip up there many years ago.

The last 20 miles into Warren are punctuated by steep but well-kept grades and excellent panoramas. Dropping into Warren, remnant piles of rock from former dredge mining claims begin to appear along Warren Creek. A hop and a skip up the road—past the airstrip—and I had arrived at my destination.


A brief stop for refreshments at the local watering hole and I was on my way back to McCall in time for dinner.


If you are feeling ambitious, you can continue an additional 62 miles into Yellowpine, which leads back to Cascade and the heavily traveled Highway 55 corridor. Or you can tack an additional 57 miles on your trek and end up at Deadwood Reservoir between Lowman and Crouch (see alternate route below). Always check road conditions before you go, as these areas are remote and highly subject to the whims of Mother Nature.

Total Distance: 46 miles each way from McCall, 16 on dirt

Alternate Route From Boise:

The following is an account of my 2008 ride during the infancy of the Mexican drug war, in and around the state of Sinaloa.

My brother and I decided to ride from Boise, ID in sub-30 degree weather to Mexico February, 2008 with little more than a rough itinerary, a couple of KLR’s, and the necessary documentation for the border crossings… no reservations… no real plan at all.

While I wouldn’t recommend this approach, it did make for the following silly-assed time:

Day1: Boise to Vegas
Day2: Vegas to Phoenix
Day3: Phoenix to Douglas, AZ
Day4: Border crossing to Creel, MEX
Day5: Creel to Batopilas/BFE Canyon Country
Day6: Batopilas to near Choix… Banditos… back to Batopilas… back to Creel
Day7: Creel to Yecora (very dodgy town)
Day8: Yecora to Cuidad Obregon & north to Guaymas & San Carlos
Day9: San Carlos to Topolobampo
Day10: Topolobampo ferry overnight (across the Sea of Cortez) to La Paz, Baja
Day11: La Paz to Cabo San Lucas
Day13: Cabo back to La Paz
Day14: La Paz to Loreto
Day15: Loreto to Calavena
Day16: Calavena to border & north to Malibu
Day18: Malibu to San Francisco
Day19: San Fran to South Lake Tahoe
Day20: Tahoe to Boise

TOTAL: 5,065 miles in 17 days of riding (20 days total)…

This was my longest tour to date, so it quickly became a trial by fire approach to buffing out my Spanish and learning just how painful a 700 mile day can be on a stock KLR seat.

The first day we were slowed by 30-mph head and cross winds paired with 25-degree temperatures between Twin Falls, ID and just south of Ely, Nevada. The occasional snow flurry added to the fun, but we just kept riding… 13 hours and nearly 700 miles later we were just south of Las Vegas. The next day, the wind didn’t slow up, but it was a much shorter haul to Phoenix, so we took our time and enjoyed the warmer temps. We serviced the KLRs in Chandler, AZ.

Phoenix to Douglas was a surprisingly nice ride. We stopped and took a few photos at sunset in Tombstone, and pushed on to the Motel 6 in Douglas.

As many veterans of this region have noted, I can confirm that all you need to enter Mexico–at least at Douglas/Agua Prieta–is your bike’s registration, a passport and a drivers license. I suspect the border officials were supposed to confirm some sort of insurance, but I was never asked about it. We obtained our vehicle importation stickers, and headed slightly south… then considerably east (the highway from Agua Prieta runs east parallel to the border for several hundred kilometers). It didn’t really feel like we were in Mexico until the road jogged south again a few hours into it.

We broke the hell out of rule #1–never ride at night–on our first day in Mexico. We rode for about two hours after sunset to get to Creel, the gateway to Copper Canyon. It’s about 390 miles from the border, but the going can be slow because there are little towns every 20km or so, not to mention those unreasonably large topes (giant speed bumps). We often observed a police officer snoozing in his truck on either side of these towns, and consequently decided to abide by all posted limits adjacent to said towns. This made for a sluggish ride as the route through some towns could be over a kilometer long (at 40kmh/26mph). One caveat: we came to learn that there is no real speed limit in most parts of Mexico. Cops don’t typically care how fast you are riding, as long as you aren’t being a nuisance. As noted, we kept to a respectful speed in towns, but ramped up to 80-85MPH on the open road.

We stayed at Margaritas on the plaza in Creel. The people were super-friendly and for about $17 each, we got a clean room with an awesome breakfast and dinner. The bikes were safe on the front patio. From Creel we decided to head into Canyon Country via Batopilas. This ride was incredible. We had missed much of the scenery coming into Creel the night prior because it was pitch dark, but heading south the next day made up for all that we missed.

Per the recommendation of the Lonely Planet, we crashed at the Batopilas hotel that night. We each got our own relatively clean but very basic room for $8/night. I woke up at 5am to a pig slaughter outside my window… freshest bacon I have ever eaten!

NOTE: Batopilas is an interesting place. It seems to be something of an oasis in the middle of nowhere. We noted several dodgy individuals driving new Hummers, Grand Cherokees, or other pretty nice rigs. This is when I began to suspect that Batopilas is the epicenter of a significant Central Mexico drug trade.

Batopilas is 140km from Creel, and takes 5-7 hours by bus. The first 80 or so km is tight, twisty hard top through some incredible scenery–by far the most fun paved riding of the trip. The last 60+/-km is on a gnarly switchback dirt road that skirts the canyon walls (also fun). We took our time and made it in 4 hours on the KLRs. This is relevant because there is generally only one way into Batopilas and one way out; except for a seasonal route that takes those who choose to venture it west to Choix, Los Mochis, and the heavily traveled coastal highway on the Sea of Cortez. This quickly became an appealing option because we didn’t really feel like doing any back tracking, and had entertained the idea of heading as far south as Nicaragua. The route to the coast apparently has several variations, but I was told that they all resemble each other. We chose the “short cut” which avoided the tiny town of San Ignacio, and sent us straight up Batopilas Canyon. A local guide had drawn us a pretty legible map on a napkin at the bar in Batopilas the night before. We had to stop twice to ask permission to cross private property, but the ride was fairly do-able… until the river crossings. The route we took required us to cross the Batopilas River 5 times. These crossings varied from 6-inch deep long crossings to waste deep short ones.

The crossings were not the problem. The road had turned into mostly deep sand, with occasional single track sections above the water line in the canyon. We asked a goat herder if we were heading in the right direction, and he told us (in some broken Indian-Mexican-Spanish dialect) to keep going. We did, which resulted in us bouldering up a dried up creek bed for a few hundred yards. This was not the right route. Heading back, our goat herder friend came back out of his tent and promptly informed us that we could either go up the hillside (canyon wall) where we had just been, or go back a few hundred yards to a mining road. He also kindly added that there was a camp of banditos at the top of the hill who made a living stabbing people and stealing their stuff. We looked up to the top of “la montana,” and sure enough there was a white Ford pick-up full of guys with guns parked on the ridge looking down on us. After an entire morning of river crossings and canyon switchbacks, we opted hi-tail it back to Batopilas. A little bitter, my brother and I took note of a few unique drainage and piping features along the trail. There were hoses running off of the side of the road that appeared to go to nothing. I cannot say definitively, but based on the geography, remoteness, and presence of a few unsavory characters we are fairly convinced that there is a massive pot grow operation going on in Batopilas Canyon.

It turned out that Choix was on just the other side of the mine where we were. We would have been in Mazatlan the next day, but instead we backtracked all the way back to Creel that night–dodging cows, goats, potholes, etc. in the road the entire way.

Frustrated and somewhat defeated, we had to reevaluate our itinerary. We came to find out that the alternate route south from Creel through Urique was at least as dodgy, and the rail route was “unpredictable.”

We spent the night at Margaritas again, and got up early the next morning to brainstorm another route. We ran into some fellow riders while using checking emails at the Creel Best Western. They recommended that we ride west on the main highway with them to Hermosillo for some coastal R&R. These guys had come from Choix through the Urique route, and been harassed and followed by banditos for two days. This made me feel much better about backtracking.

Now plus 3 riders, one of our collective party who had ridden ahead laid his Beemer down in road construction. We ended up at the hospital in Santa Juanita for several hours getting our fellow traveler squared away with an ambulance ride to Chihuahua.

Leaving greater-Creel at 2pm now, we figured we could suss out the 350+/- miles to Hermosillo by dusk… not the case. The highway is one tight, twisty turn after another; and it seemed like there was an animal, semi, 2-foot deep pothole or drunk local around every corner. I had a near miss with a large bovine, and made the executive decision to not become a statistic. We stopped in Yecora and got an overpriced crappy hotel for the night.

Yecora was super-sketchy, as the majority of the locals were kind of unfriendly in a generic sense. I doubt that many gringos come through this small industrial/ag town on vacation. Our neighbors were up all night playing loud tejano music, and driving their Jeep around the block… literally ALL night. We brought the bikes inside the room, and locked all the windows.

The next day we rode for about three hours to Cuidad Obregon instead of Hermosillo per the recommendation of some soldiers at a military checkpoint. This turned out to be a good call because the road straightened out nicely and we were able to crank out a more efficient pace.

NOTE: We asked a lot of questions in Mexico. I found it to be most effective to ask a minimum of 3 people the same question and then average any numerical answers, and determine a 2/3 majority for more subjective topics. The ride from Creel to Hermosillo was estimated by the locals to be between 5 hours and 14 hours. We did it in about 10. People WILL assume that you can do things in half the time because they see you as a high-strung supergringo, or because your bike is bigger than a 125cc. Calibrate accordingly, and always know that any individual answer you get will probably be at least a little bit misguided.

From Obregon, we headed north to Guaymas and San Carlos for some tourista time. We fronted for a nice hotel on the marina, met some new friends, drank too much, did some fun things I will leave out for now, and got up refreshed the next day.

From San Carlos, we took the toll highway back south to Topolobampo where we caught the overnight ferry across the Sea of Cortez to Baja. It was $160 (bike included), if you are curious. Ferry’s also run from Mazatlan and Guaymas.

Baja was fairly predictable. The roads were far better here than on the mainland, and the presence of tourists was exponentially greater. We rode south from the ferry port in LaPaz to Los Barillos, where apparently two days earlier federal agents had busted one of the kingpin drug lords of Baja in a violent shoot-out. We had no idea that this went down until we were informed later that day by a hotel manager in Cabo San Lucas. It’s really funny how much goes on in the underbelly of some of the sleepier Mexican towns and villages. Cabo was Cabo. I developed a strong dislike for the place after spending two days there. Its kind of like staying in a circus for tourists.

Heading north, we changed rear tires and serviced the KLR’s at a BMW shop just north of Cabo San Lucas. We rode north on the Trans Peninsular Highway to Loreto the next day. This was a really nice change of pace from Los Cabos. We had hoped to do some deep sea fishing, but the weather blew out the catch.

There isn’t much north of Loreto, so we began a long haul towards California. We went through Mulege, which ironically was where a pilot from Boise would be hijacked just a few days after we passed through by some local criminals. Again, it amazed me how violent the crime was in some of these sleepy little towns.

We stayed in Calavena for a night, and pushed north to the border the next day. Two decompression days in Malibu, then San Fran, then Tahoe, then home to Boise.

All said and done, I would have done a few things differently, but the trip was a tremendous success. The only advice I can offer is proceed in northwest Mexico and Baja with caution. The US State Department issued the same recommendation the day after we got back.

Below is an updated report I originally wrote about a year ago on an excellent ride into the clouds near Stanley.

When discussing recreational opportunities in and around the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, many people’s immediate impressions include “inaccessible,” “extremely remote,” or “permit only.” While this is an accurate description of much of the Central Idaho wilderness, some of the best kept secrets abound just outside of the heavily regulated areas.

Last fall, a friend and I headed north from Boise on a Honda Transalp and a BMW Dakar to do a little exploring around the Stanley area. Fishing poles and camping gear in tow we headed northeast from Stanley towards Sunbeam Dam on Highway 75. At Yankee Fork we veered north towards Custer in search of a camping spot with decent fishing nearby.

As each mile passed, we encountered fewer people and more impressive scenery. Shortly after the road turned to dirt, we began exploring every intersecting access road and trail we came across while looking for the ideal spot. It wasn’t long before we stumbled upon a spacious treed creekside flat just north of Custer.

Custer is a wonderful little historic mining ghost town that has been largely abandoned, with the exception of some seasonal tourism functions. Founded in 1877, it was an operational hub for the Yankee Fork gold dredge well into the 1950′s. Its frozen in time feel and historic vibe make it a great spot to visit, even if its just on a summer day trip from Stanley. There is a mining museum with some cool artifacts, and there are tons of hiking and fishing opportunities in this area.

After an evening of fishing and motorcycling around the area, we hit the hay–eager to see how much ground we could cover the next day. The next morning, we cooked up a quick breakfast and loaded up the bikes with the intention of doing some bushwhacking. Leafing through some old Forest Service maps, we found a less traveled series of unimproved roads that connect the Custer area to near Banner Summit, by way of the Pinyon Peak lookout.

From just south of Custer, we headed northwest on Loon Creek Road.  As we ascended the summit adjacent to Loon Creek, the road transitioned from well kept to occasionally very rough, making for some fun technical riding, at speed.

The scenery from Upper Loon Creek up to the Pinyon Peak lookout is extraordinary. 360-degree panoramas from this 10,000 foot perch are what make this ride particularly good. You can see to the White Clouds in the distance, across the tops of the Sawtooths, and down into the Salmon River Drainage, depending on which direction you point your beak.

The long ridge to valley traverse from Pinyon Peak Loop Road to Seafoam Road–back down to Highway 21–is peppered with endless wildlife and crystal clear high mountain lakes.

From Lower Stanley to Banner is approximately 80-miles on primarily dirt roads. You’ll have to either go back to Stanley, or on to Lowman if you run low on fuel so pack for ALL possible conditions. Always check to make sure roads are open, and in passable condition.

Originally published in the Boise Weekly:

This quick out-and-back trip will take you to one of the best viewpoints in Southern Idaho. At the summit of Lucky Peak—the peak, not the dam—lies the Idaho Bird Observatory, which is run by Boise State’s Department of Biological Sciences. This facility serves as the primary field research hub for students and scientists to collect information on migratory and songbirds. The observatory is open to the public from July 15-Oct. 31 and offers opportunities to kick it with our fluttery friends on this scenic ridge.

For information on operating hours and the best times to see your favorite hawk, owl or songbird, check out the IBO website.


IBO operators said the facility is there for a good reason.

In 1993, we discovered that the Boise Ridge, just a few miles from downtown Boise, supports one of the largest known raptor and songbird migrations in the Western United States during autumn. A long-term project has been established at Lucky Peak, the southernmost peak on the ridge, to annually count the number of migrating raptors during fall to provide reliable population trend information on western species. Long-term raptor banding projects also have been established to identify migration routes, wintering areas, breeding areas and mortality factors.


Getting There
Leaving Boise around 3 p.m., I was eager to test a new set of DOT 60/40 off-road tires that I recently installed on Geronimo, my KLR 650. I headed east from downtown out Warm Springs Avenue before jumping on Highway 21 eastbound. Just before the Kodiak Grill (formerly the Hilltop Cafe), I made a left onto Highland Valley Road.


The road forks once, before heading up the steep—and occasionally very rough—final 3 miles to the IBO.


There are plenty of signs pointing travelers in the right direction, so navigation is a breeze.


Be aware that the 5-mile trek from Highway 21 is fairly rough, and a 4×4 vehicle with good ground clearance is recommended.


The panoramic views from Lucky Peak alone are worth the trip. You can see every landscape imaginable, from pine forest to desolate sagebrush desert, to steep rocky canyons, to grassy rolling hills, to high plains. The geography changes drastically in every direction when you travel this far up in the clouds.


As soon as you reach the observatory, it’s tempting to try to connect through to Aldape Summit at the top of Rocky Canyon Road, but that cannot be done legally.


There are several gates and restricted areas that exist to help conserve this unique ecosystem in the eastern Foothills. You have to be respectful of this area and proceed with the understanding that this is an out-and-back trip only. You can explore a handful of trails and dead-end roads that run down toward Harris Ranch, but you cannot connect through this time of year on motorized vehicles. There are a handful of private parcels as well—they are gated for a reason and trespassing is strictly forbidden.

Total Distance: 38 miles, 10 miles on dirt


Around The World

Originally published in the Boise Weekly:

This entry is partly a follow-up to a post I did back in April on Atlanta, Idaho. On that trip, I was fighting a serious snow pack and much cooler temperatures. All alternate routes were closed at the time, so I wanted to make another trip to explore some of the peripheral territory that I wasn’t able to access in the spring.

This time around, I met up with some friends on the Rocky Bar side of Atlanta near Featherville and worked my way west toward Mores Creek (a tributary of the Boise River) before riding to McCall. This route covers a good portion of the Boise River Watershed, a 4,000-plus-square-mile drainage for Central Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains—comprised of the North, Middle and South forks of the Boise River. From Mores Creek Summit, the route transitions into the Payette River drainage. The temperature outside was hot and almost all of the snow that was a hindrance in April had melted, filling area rivers and streams to capacity.


Getting There:
Leaving Boise around 6 p.m., the trip out Highway 21 to Middle Fork Road north of Arrowrock Dam was swift, albeit occasionally congested with summer recreation traffic. About 50 miles northeast of the dam, I headed east toward Rocky Bar on Road No. 255. A rolling ascent adjacent to Roaring River eventually led me to an excellent camping spot not far from several hot springs, where my friends soon joined me. An evening hike, some campfire philosophy, a salubrious night’s sleep under crisp Central Idaho skies and I was on my way further into the wilderness the next morning. I pushed into Atlanta for lunch at the Hub restaurant and bar, before doubling back on Middle Fork Road to Swanholm Road westbound. Swanholm Road meanders through some nice scenery before dropping down to the North Fork of the Boise River. Clear, clean waters run from just north of there back down to the Middle Fork, which then mingles with the South Fork from the Anderson Ranch Dam side, ultimately forming the Boise River that runs through Boise.

An excellent alternate route exists originating from I-84 eastbound. Getting off at the Blacks Creek exit just a few miles from town can take you through Prairie on the back route to Featherville. This is a fun area to explore, and offers better access to the South Fork of the Boise River. Slide Gulch Road also intersects Middle Fork Road about 16 miles from Arrowrock Dam, which goes to Prairie as well—although it does not provide direct access to the South Fork.

There are many open, shaded camping spots along the North Fork, and rumor has it the fishing along this stretch may be excellent during more moderate flows later this summer. Only the central portion of the North Fork is accessible by automobile from Swanholm/North Fork Road, but there is a public trail system in place for those looking to access the river by foot.

From the North Fork, I traversed over to Highway 21 near Mores Creek Summit on Little Owl Creek Road—just north of Idaho City. A quick descent to Lowman and I was on my way to Garden Valley via Banks-Lowman Road. I was tempted to take the sweet route north to McCall through Deadwood Reservoir, but fuel was getting low and I plan to do that ride later this summer en route to Warren, Elk City and the Magruder Corridor. The ride to McCall on Highway 55 was predictable, as was the ride back to Boise two days later. The more common route would be to come back to Boise through *Idaho City, which would make for a much shorter drive/ride, all said and done.

Total distance: 377 miles, 134 on dirt
*204, excluding McCall