I hoped to see a pika but never did...
People, listen up: these are caves of molten stone! The trail is beautifully poured in black asphalt and wends its way about a mile to the caves.
The caves are wild. We check out a couple smaller ones...
Then we go into a big one--see tiny Art in the first picture? (Click to embiggen.)
These caves are immense, with a stairway down but then you're on your own.
They tell you to bring a flashlight and my small one is worthless, but Art's giant Fox Mulder X Files flashlight shows the way.
Crazy wonderful. Here's the map:
Driving Through the Sawtooth Range
It's clear one of the most important items to pack is a sense of wonder. You seriously never know when you'll need to pull it out. After Craters of the Moon, the run-up to the Sawtooth Range took us via Route 75 toward Hailey and Ketchum and Sun Valley, Idaho.
Talk about trendy ski towns...
More dramatic was the unfolding over the next 100 miles, with the Sawtooth ever more imposing...
...and the switchbacks more intimidating (well, for me anyway).
There seems to be little here except for a few fishing lodges. We have our eye on Stanley, the sole town on this route. It calls itself the Gateway to the Sawtooth Wilderness. We're elated to be in the Ponderosa Pine Byway, smelling scents of this lush forest.
A quick turn-off brings us to Bonneville Campground.
Soaking in Paradise
Forever grateful are we to the couple we met at the gas fill-up in Stanley. They wanted to know more about our Avion camper, and soon I met their elderly schnauzer and baby dachshund-schnauzer mix, the latter in a tiny crate in the back of their tow vehicle. (I won't go into the woman's story about how they also were traveling with a baby pet goat that had died the first night of their trip, sending them 90 minutes in the wrong direction for vet help.)
She cried when she told me.
You meet the nicest people on the road. They sent us here, to Bonneville, and specifically mentioned the hot springs. It would have been enough to pull into a pine-scented dream campsite with the pick of any spot, most of them perched above the roaring Peyette River.
I was already in heaven, the sun warming us as we set up.
After too many photos (dear readers, am I inundating you?) of the splendor around us--and a cup of black bean soup--the sun went down behind the mountains and we loaded up for the half-mile walk to the hot springs.
A tiny shack held an actual hot tub, fed by the springs...
But we were looking for some in-river action. Hot beyond touch, the first spring Art tested burned his foot.
He slid into a pool several levels down from the source and he found his temp at about 104 degrees.
Sliding over the smooth rocks into a shallow pool immediately above Art's, I found my perfect heat, likely about 107 degrees, with a slipstream of cooler water adjacent into which I could float to cool off. Amazing, incredible and straight from the earth hot springs.
This was heaven. We soaked for nearly an hour.
...and after the hike back, suits dry on the line and Art torches up a nice pine fire as the nearly full moon rises overhead, lighting the campsite like a torch.
A perfect day, pruney fingers and all.
And a pine bark screensaver for you.