03-Jun-2017 -- As we were together in the same state for the first time in quite a while, and as it had been 7 years since we had visited 43 North 116 West in southwestern Idaho, we decided to use the few hours we had together to visit a confluence point. The easier one in the location we were near - Boise Idaho - would have been to travel to Ontario, Oregon, and walk out into the agricultural fields to 44 North 117 West. But then I got to thinking on the airplane flying to Boise that a journey to 43 North 117 West, which had only been visited twice before, would allow us a bit more of an adventure, a nice hike in the hills, and crossing the state line several times, to boot. And my colleague who visited here a few years ago wrote that it was a beautiful spot. That settled it.
And so, while June was only three days old, we set out from Boise, where the rivers were all in flood stage due to heavy winter snows, stopping first at the Dutch Bros for coffee in Caldwell. I had found out about Dutch Bros a few years prior, up in Washington State, and it was every bit as wonderful as I had remembered. Now supplied with a chai tea and an plain black coffee, we left the valley around the Snake River and afterwards up onto higher ground on US Highway 95. I had never been on this section of this highway--a new road is always a treat for me, and this one did not disappoint, rising out of the valley through some wonderful lava buttes and across the border into Oregon. After about 40 minutes we reached the isolated community of Jordan Valley, where about 30 square miles of irrigated agricultural fields surrounded the town. Here, we spotted an abandoned motel and made a mental note to return here after our hike to take photographs. We turned east toward the Idaho line and stopped at the first curve of the road, while still in Oregon. I knew there was another road that ran east-west to the south of the confluence, but the GPS gave 2.6 miles from the spot we were now on to the confluence, so we decided to try it from here.
Donning sunscreen, water, and hats, we set off up the trail that apparently a vehicle had traversed at some time in the past, because two faint tracks were visible. A few hundred meters to the northeast of our starting point, we crossed through a gate and a fence, where the remains of a coyote was upside down on the barbed wire with one paw facing skyward. We could only figure that it was trying to jump the fence, got entangled, and could not free itself. Something had consumed its head as that part seemed to be missing. It was only later when I realized that this fence must have been very close to the Oregon-Idaho state line, but it wasn't exactly on it and interestingly, the fence line did not run north-south so the fence line was askew to the border.
The trail we followed at times rather fortunately made a beeline to the confluence, but not exactly - it largely followed the floor of the ravine, and so veered north and northeastward. It gradually rose in elevation. Still, we were very fortunate that we were not climbing up and down ridges, because it was already fairly hot outside. We crossed through another gate and could see a herd of cattle ahead. We debated whether to climb the hills to the right and gain some elevation, but the ground was a bit rough there and we figured we were making better time to follow the trail as long as we could. We crossed the ravine bottom a few times, which held some water from the massive snows the region had experienced this past winter. About 15 minutes later we finally saw the bull of the herd, eyeing us and ahead of us, which convinced us to finally start climbing. Many of the herd stayed ahead of us but we eventually outpaced most of it; climbing higher and enjoying some wonderful views. We knew from the past visitor that we would be able to see Jordan Valley from the confluence, so we kept climbing and reached the confluence point after just about 1 hour and 30 minutes of hiking.
The confluence lies on ground sloping to the north, into a small bowl that was the last valley before the lava capped ridge to the east. The ridge prevented us from seeing much further to the east, but in all other directions, and particularly to the south, southwest, and west, we could see far into Oregon to snowcapped peaks in the distance. And, to the south, we might have been able to see into Nevada. As we expected, to the west we could also see the town of Jordan Valley with its cemetery ringed with magnificent pines that someone must have planted years ago and watered faithfully ever since. I think this was one of the best views from any confluence I had visited in quite a long while. This was the second confluence in Idaho for both of us. I had visited 43 North several times before, from Idaho on the west to New Hampshire on the east, and also I had stood on 117 West a few times before as well, far to the south, all in southern California. Therefore, it was a special thrill to be here. I do not have many points in this part of the USA. The snows of the winter had caused a burst of wildflowers to be blooming here in late spring, and some of them were even casting some wonderful scents into the air, along with the sage plants. About 60% of the hillsides were covered with shrubbery, which, combined with the lava and other stones, made for the need to watch where one stepped, but it was well worth the effort needed to reach this one, and fairly close to a road, besides. Fortunately we saw no snakes and there was really no cactus to speak of. It was about 84 degrees F with a steady wind blowing, with some high cloudiness, just about 1:45pm local time in late spring. We stayed at the point for about 15 minutes. We saw a few birds, the herd of cattle below, but no people, nor airplanes above. It was amazing to think of the vast lands to the west and south of us with very few people until one reached Reno to the southwest and Las Vegas to the south.
Unless one counts Winnemucca (population 7,500) as a major metropolitan area.
For variety, and as anyone who knows me knows I love to hike back along a different route, we kept to the high ground, hiking largely south-southwest. We did this for about half the distance back, enjoying the views, but also for the reason that we could see that the bull had descended back down the ravine below us. We finally reached the ravine and passed about 40 meters from the bull, all of us eyeing each other, and we made our exit out of the valley. From there, we followed the trail out to the last fence, where the coyote still stood guard upside down near the state line. We reached the vehicle with just under 3 hours round trip hike time. I made a 3D animation using Doarama of our hike here.
Just as exciting as the confluence for me as a geographer was the fact that we parked in Oregon, walked across the state line into Idaho, and then hiked back into Oregon. But since there was no marker at the state line on the trail, and wanting to see one, after returning to the vehicle, we drove southeast along the road in search of a proper state line sign. We found one, and then, interestingly enough, right underneath it was a smaller sign that said "private property." Is this, we wondered, where the phrase "private Idaho" came from? Once that visit was complete, we drove into Jordan Valley so I could photograph the wonderful abandoned Sahara Motel and adjacent abandoned gas station and gift shop, viewable here. Once this was completed, our adventure still was not over, for our next destination was the volcanic plug at Initial Point, Idaho, which took us an hour to reach. From this point, which commanded a magnificent view in all directions, all of the state of Idaho's lands were surveyed and mapped. The only thing that made us a wee bit nervous was that Mark found two ticks on the way back, crawling around on his clothing. We thus made sure to make changing clothes one of the first tasks back at civilization. But, everything turned out well. This was indeed a great day of geographic exploration!