03-Jul-2010 -- Everyone knows that confluence visits are a meaningful part of family vacations. Well, some people, anyway. And that is precisely the reason why we decided to trek to 43 North 116 West one summer day. I had a bit of a marketing campaign to do with the family members, as some of them knew what we were in for, while others were, at best, mildly curious. Maybe. At any rate, the other reason we needed to do this is that I did not yet have a confluence point in Idaho. One of my goals is a confluence in every U.S. state that contains one. During the morning of our trek, and through early afternoon, we climbed the highest sand dune in North America, at the Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park. Now we were ready to tackle one more adventure. The confluence adventure turned out to be a bit more difficult of an adventure than planned. Read on.
We drove west-northwest along State Highway 78 to the turn off to the Strike Dam, along the Snake River. After a few twists and turns, and successfully crossing the river, we discovered a roadblock barring our entrance to the road to the north, leading to the confluence point. Due to the lava cap marking a steep cliff to our north, this road was the only access to the top, where we knew the confluence to be located. A bit disapppointed but still determined, we struck out along a small road on the north side of the river but, finding no access to the cap rock, ended up in Grand View. Then we turned north and northeast along State Highway 67 to the other end of the Strike Dam Cut Off Road. Sure enough, this end was blocked as well. We were wasting a lot of time but "it was all part of the adventure," said I.
We then traveled back down Highway 67 to an unnamed section line road and bumped along due east. Things began looking more encouraging. At the edge of the field, the road turned south and due to irrigation occurring that day, encountered an enormous mud puddle. At the next section line, the road turned west, and then we took the next T intersection to the south, where the irrigation gave out and we were among the pastures and open fields. The road took us right through a farmstead, where people in the yard seemed surprised to see us drive through. We got the sense that we were the first people ever to drive through here. Pressing on, but with the road becoming ever worse, I recommended that we stop just north of a Y-intersection where the land fell off toward the Snake River.
The GPS gave just a little over 1 kilometer to the confluence point, off to the southwest. We gathered supplies and set off, kicking up little dust piles as we walked along. It was quite hot, though not as hot as it could have been in midsummer. We had been walking down the road about 10 minutes when I heard a vehicle. Sure enough, Mark was driving along behind us. Incredible! The road was pretty sandy but he was making it through without getting stuck. We indicated to him as he drove up that we were just about ready to deviate from the road and scale the lava bluff to the northwest. He parked and we all gathered forces for the last section of the assault. The first five minutes were the most difficult, only because of the nasty burrs that clung to every piece of fabric they had contact with. We traversed a few abandoned irrigation ditches in a field that was now left to its natural vegetation. Once we climbed the lava bluff, it was a bit easier, not too steep, and the point lay less than 150 meters away from the top. We angled toward the north-northwest and less than 10 minutes later, had arrived at our Goal.
I'm not convinced that it was the most exciting afternoon the teens had ever had, but told myself that someday they would look back fondly on this moment. We were standing on 43 North 116 West under a hot July sun, in the middle of a field that had been grazed in the distant past. The views were magnificent, especially to the south and west across the Snake River. The view to the north and east were a few kilometers at most. The temperature was a hot but bearable 90 F (32 C). The confluence was on remarkably level ground. This was my first confluence point between Wyoming and Washington, although I had previously stood on 43 North in several states and also on 116 West in California. We saw no animals and just a few crows during our excursion, and no people since passing through the ranch a few kilometers back.
After filming and enjoying the moment for about 15 minutes, we hiked back to the vehicle. We then tried to continue down the road we had just traveled on, to the irrigated fields to the south, in the hopes of reaching pavement as soon as possible. However, for the third time that day we were thwarted - here, just 100 meters later: Another irrigation-caused large pond blocked our progress. This one definitely required a four-wheel drive vehicle to traverse. Reed successfully turned around, gaining new skills in off road driving, in a van no less. We bumped slowly back north to the farmstead, where once again, people stood there watching us pass. We waved. Reed also successfully navigated us around the final muddy pond, and minutes later, we were back on Highway 67. We drove back to 78, taking this wonderful back road along the Snake River to Nampa. We spent most of these quality hours picking burrs out of our socks. Everyone was a good sport about the adventure and I did appreciate it. All in all, it was a wonderful time hiking through the fields of Idaho.