After spending the night in the clouds (click here to check out previous blog post), we pushed forward into the Caribou-Targhee National Forest (C-T NF). Van life is exciting. You never know what you’re going to find. Each day brings a surprise—it may not always be good, but it will be something!
Caribou-Targhee NF South
After a long arduous drive on several back roads, we found the perfect spot. I mean, who could turn down a welcome greeting from two large shade trees, an open view, and what seemed like millions of wildflowers?
There were also 2-4 eagles in the area; one quite communicative one that we ended up watching for what felt like hours. Occasionally, they hunted in the filed right across from us! Watching them silently swoosh down in search of their next meal was quite a sight. Unfortunately, they came up empty handed but it was amazing to watch nonetheless.
While in the area we went on a leisurely bike ride down to the end of the road where we discovered a lovely section of the Henry’s Fork river. In the distance we could see several large pelicans, a few ducks, and more eagles (possibly the same 2 from camp).
After cooling off in the river, we biked back to camp and wasted the day away Jenni and Eric style: good food, some adult beverages, and tranquil solitude.
That evening, a large storm skirted by, leaving behind a captivating sunset which lasted an eternity. With a deep breath, we took in the views hand-in-hand as the sun slowly tucked itself in for the night.
Eric and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in the south section of the C-T NF. It was a great place to relax, decompress, and just live life.
The Caribou-Targhee NF is fairly large, so we made our depart on secondary roads in search of our next home. Initially we planned to go more northwest, but unsure we’d have enough gas, we opted to explore closer to civilization.
I’m so glad we did! At this point we were weaving in and out of Idaho and Montana. Beautiful countryside.
Quake Lake formed in 1959, after a massive 7.2 earthquake hit the Madison Canyon River area (visitmt.com). The quake caused a historic landslide which shifted over 80 tons of rock thereby blocking the Madison river. The result was this stunning lake.
I can’t even imagine the magnitude of that much falling rock! According to visitmt.com, over 28 people were killed in the disaster.
On a more uplifting note, ok, after a good amount of effort I’ve discovered that perhaps there is no happy ending. The lake was built from shear force—Both a geological wonder and a terrifying tale for those who survived. There is a nice write up by The Great Falls Tribune from 2019 which marked the 60th year anniversary of this horrific event.
Caribou-Targhee NF South
After scanning the maps for possible camp spots, we set our sights on a few FS roads and went to work. It didn’t take long before we hit the mother load and found numerous places deep into the forest. Unfortunately, so did everyone else. Nearly all the available spots were full! As luck would have it, we scored one of the last good spots available despite the “taken” sign hanging on the post.
Yep. A paper plate with poorly written out chicken scratch that said, “TAKEN”. Now we had a decision to make: Stay or Go? It was difficult to decipher how old the sign actually was. It was a really scenic camp. Decisions, decisions. We didn’t want any trouble BUT…
This back-and-fourth went on for was it minutes or hours? Initially, we searched the area to see if there were any signs of life. Fortunately/unfortunately we came up empty handed. Finally, we agreed to stay until the so called “owners” would return. Then, when or if they did, we would move along.
Personally, I believed that the sign was either old or that someone was trying to hold a spot until they could get back over the weekend. Eric was a little more apprehensive. Eventually, twilight settled in and we decided to make camp. Overall, the experience put us both a little on edge and we never seemed to relax. Despite the gorgeous views, the next morning we left. I’m sure we made someone out there a very happy camper, but being there just never felt right. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut!
All I can say is that we got lucky, or perhaps our timing was just spot-on but on the way out, we noticed a nearly perfect spot had opened up so we took full advantage of the previous guests departure. It was off the road, close to the creek, and provided lots of shade. What more can a person ask for?
It was a really nice area, but extremely busy. Perhaps the trailhead towards the end of the road was an attraction? We weren’t completely sure but we never did get the best vibe while in the area. There were lots of lookie-loos, random gunfire, and on-going traffic at all hours of the day/night which made us apprehensive about leaving the van for long periods of time. Since exploration was now out of the question, we were able to grill up some tasty dinners for the upcoming week, catch up on laundry and do some van chores.
Hey! Van life is real life.
The only difference, is that we get to do all those mundane activities with a view! Well, this time at least.
Once the van was clean and our chores were done we studied the map, got a good nights sleep and hit the road. Next stop?
Stay tuned for more adventures to come!
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Until next time friends…