Blog number two for today, July 31. We are spending the night in Grangeville, Idaho with full hookups and internet!!!! Monday we will head up Highway 12 into Montana.
Thursday morning (July 28) we left our spot on Nelson Creek driving to Elk City for laundry, grocery shopping, a little internet use and breakfast/lunch. Elk City is a community of only 200 people—there is a mid size laundromat and two grocery stores—both stocked with a surprising amount of groceries/hardware/camping gear/etc. There are several restaurants/bars and even a hotel. Elk City is a long, long way from anywhere—60 miles from Grangeville, Idaho and 110+ miles from Darby, MT via the Magruder Corridor.
And speaking of the Magruder Corridor, can you believe it—we rode the ATVs almost 120 miles in one day!!! Sometime in 2015 I read an article in our local paper about a road which traveled between two wilderness areas—the 1.2 million acre Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and the 2.3 million acre Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness—the Magruder Corridor. The road was open only in summer, could be traversed in a high clearance vehicle and went from Darby, Montana to Elk City, Idaho. Michael was intrigued and began his research. This past winter season in North Ranch the cowboy convinced Geri and Larry we should ride this 110 mile trail.
The original plan was to ride from Darby, MT and then spend the night in Elk City, Idaho returning to Darby in the next day or two. Well, Mother Nature intervened—this spring a large mud slide blocked the Magruder Corridor at about the halfway point. Geri and Michael hatched Plan B—ride from both ends to the midway point. The road will open on August 1 and we could have waited but decided to proceed with Plan B—ride to the halfway point from the Elk City area.
The road starts out as well maintained gravel for about twenty miles then gets worse—the road becomes more narrow with multiple tight switchbacks, ascending and descending several times. Starting elevation is around 4000 feet with the road climbing to almost 8000 feet and descending to 4000 feet several times. We met three pickup trucks on the road and it was a tight, tight fit for us to pass.
Scenery along the Magruder is breathtaking even with the hanging haze of smoke from forest fires. The Idaho side of the trail is heavily forested to start but as you travel, evidence of forest fires over years and years becomes the norm. We stopped to let a cowboy with truck and loaded horse trailer pass—he paused to talk and when Geri asked him when the fire occurred, he replied, “every year.”
The Margruder Corridor is named for Lloyd Magruder who in 1863 was using the trail to bring back gold dust earned from selling supplies to miners at Virginia City, Montana when four other travelers joined the Margruder party. These four travelers attacked and murdered the Margruder party fleeing to San Francisco with their stolen goods which included Margruder’s very recognizable horse. A friend of Margruder’s pursued the murderers to California, spotted the horse, arrested the party and brought them back to Lewiston, Idaho for trial and eventual hanging.
It was a long, long ride and a spectacular day!