Life off Interstate 84 - Idaho

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(19 April 2014)  My name is Tim Bondy and the owner of this website.  As of Jan 1st, 2014 we moved to a different domain.  Please head over to the Bondy Blogs Website at  Different address, different system but same type of great articles, photos, stories and information. 

You are here: Mtn Home Outdoor Rock Hounding and Gold Panning

Idaho Outdoor News

Rock Hounding and the Motherload

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Story about finding the Mother Load on the Boise River

As summer is starting to wind down, we decided to try our luck at some rock hounding above Atlanta, Idaho before the snow starts flying. It turned out to be one of the most scenic and relaxing trip we've ever taken. While the rock hounding wasn't stellar, we found some cool rocks and the motherload of all motherloads. It's not what you think, but read on anyway.

ATV'ing from Outside of Rocky Bar, Idaho
We got a late start out of Mountain Home and headed up to Rocky Bar. From there we headed up James Creek Road about 1 mile to a great little spot to park the truck. It was about 2:00PM by the time we unloaded the ATV and headed up towards James Creek Summit. With temperatures in the low 80's, crystal clear skies and no wind, the ride was wonderful.

From Rock Hounding and Scenic Motherload

Finding Waterfalls and The Creeks
Steel Creek parallels this road for a few miles and there was still water flowing but these creeks were mostly choked in thick brush and are hard to access. Four miles from Rocky Bar the road crosses Elk Creek. The Elk Creek waterfall, located just off the road was flowing strongly and this scenic wonder almost made the whole trip worthwhile in itself. From the Elk Creek waterfalls, the road climbs steeply towards James Creek Summit.

Smoky Quartz to the Middle Fork of the Boise River
Last week I hiked and rock hounded a good portion of the road from Rocky Bar and up towards James Creek Summit. Some locations held promise for finding good rocks but for the most part, this area is located in the infamous Idaho “leaverite shield”. Once we past James Creek Summit we set our sights on some serious rock rounding.

From Rock Hounding and Scenic Motherload

We spent a good amount of time searching in and around the small creeks from the Summit down to the Middle Fork of the Boise. We found some fabulous smoky quartz in most of the locations we stopped. Additional searching, hiking and getting dirty will be required on the next trip up to this area. While we brought home some specimens that required additional examination, there wasn't anything in our rock bag that hasn't already make it into our growing backyard rock quarry.

From Rock Hounding and Scenic Motherload

Finding the “Scenic Motherload” in the Middle Fork
We decided to explore a small logging trail off of James Creek Road. This ATV trail/very rough dirt road headed into an area with many signs telling us it was a “Federal Mining Claim” area. The trail deadended at the Middle Fork of the Boise River. It took us about 3 seconds to decide we found “the motherload”. But this motherload was something more valuable to us than was a platinum “5 star picnic lunch spot”.

Our picnic spot sported a close up view of the blue-green Middle Fork, a white sand beach and glorious view of the rugged mountain surrounding the area. Not only that, but there was a small pool of calm water that was perfect for swimming and cooling off. And the water temperature was just about perfect.

From Rock Hounding and Scenic Motherload

After a nice dip in the Middle Fork of the Boise River, we dined on home cooked roasted chicken, cheddar cheese, stale bagels and cold filtered water while sitting with our feet in the stream. The food wasn't world class, our drinks weren't served in fine crystal goblets and we were not in the bug-free sterile environment of a 5 Star restaurant. But...I challenge anyone, anywhere to offer us a more enjoyable and better tasting meal than we experienced right there on the Middle Fork of the Boise River.

From Rock Hounding and Scenic Motherload

Rocky Mountain Wildflower Dessert
As we headed back towards Rocky Bar, the shadows started lengthening and the air actually had a cool crispness to it. It was like we were seeing the all this scenery for the “first time again”. The roadside, hillsides and the stream valley all the way up to James Creek Summit were filled with wildflowers. It was a perfect way to top off great day in the Boise National Forest.

Comments Are Highly Encouraged
Some people lurk in the depths and some people speak up. My readers would certainly like to hear what you think about the James Creek Road area and the Middle Fork of the Boise River for rock hounding or recreation.

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 August 2011 19:40

Rocking Out Around Lincoln Creek

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Hiking, Rock Hounding Trip Near Rocky Bar, Idaho

Views from my Lincoln Creek Hike near Featherville Idaho

This easy to moderate hike roughly followed Lincoln Creek through the usual scenic beauty of the Boise National Forest about 3 miles south of Rocky Bar. Heading west from the primitive campgrounds on NFSR 158 I gradually climb along side Lincoln Creek. Then I headed up NFSR 157 and 157S4 to complete the “out” section of this out and back hike. Some great views along this hike.

National Forest Service Road 158 is an Easy Hike
From Lincoln Creek Hike near Rocky Bar Idaho

The Hike
We parked just off NFSR 158 and started hiking up this well used dirt road. The road heads west and climbs gently toward the headwaters of the creek. While not as wild as other places I've been recently, it's still a nice hike. At about the 1.5 mile point of the hike, we turned onto NFSR 157.

Approximate Area of the Hike

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NFSR 157 looked and felt a little more primitive than Road 158 and the scenery started getting a little more dramatic. We actually found some water up near the headwaters of Lincoln Creek off Road 157. After walking for about 7/10th of a mile, you get the opportunity to hike on NFSR 157S4.

From Lincoln Creek Hike near Rocky Bar Idaho

Getting Wild
NFSR 157S4 is where this hike gets interesting. It runs along a ridgeline high above Spring Creek (see my hike report) and the horizon really opens up. The views to the southwest through the north reveals sweeping panoramic views from the Trinity Mountains to Steel Mountain.

I'm pretty sure 157S4 is an old logging road and it sure doesn't get many visitors. Nature is doing its best to retake this road but it will be many years before that will happen. Definitely not a road for a full size vehicle but an excellent place to hike.

From Lincoln Creek Hike near Rocky Bar Idaho

We didn't make it to the end of 157S4 on this hike but far enough to know we will be back in the future. After 1 mile, the heat started getting to my dog Addie, so we has lunch and drank most of our water and headed back.

My Dog Addie is Heat Intolerant
After the last few hikes with my Plott Hound (mixed with something) I started worrying she couldn't handle long hikes or the higher elevations. I realize that for every mile I hike, she runs 5-10 times this distance. But after only 3 miles on this hike she sat down and refused to go any further.

After drinking all of her water and a goodly amount of my water, Addie was ready to get back on the trail. She started slowing down around the headwaters of Lincoln Creek where she found a pretty deep mud puddle. After taking a nice mud bath and cooling off, she hit the road running. Not too long after that, she found another nice shallow stream and took another bath.

After these 2 baths, Addie was like a mad dog chasing everything that moved like normal. I'm pretty sure this dog can run for miles and miles but just cannot handle heat. This is the reason I'm interested in hikes that have a good source of water along most of the route.

From Lincoln Creek Hike near Rocky Bar Idaho

Rock Hounding Lincoln Creek and 157S4
This hike didn't show much promise except in small pockets and even then the rock hounding wasn't great. There was one place on 157S4 where I thought I found some thundereggs but they turned out to be just round rocks.

From Lincoln Creek Hike near Rocky Bar Idaho

I spent about 15 minutes searching this small area, breaking these round rocks and hoping to find the typical thunderegg fillings. Each rock peeled liked an onion but the interior and exterior material was identical throughout. My dog enjoyed chewing the smallish round rocks I revealed each time. Good for the hound; bad for the rock hound.

Other Information
- Total Hike Mileage: 6.14 miles
- Elevation Gain/Loss: ~1,741 feet
- Water Availability: The higher you get the less there is in mid-late July. Upper reaches along NFSR 157 is basically dry when it comes to “dog drinking water”.
- Characterization of Hike: Nice hike along a dirt road. Spectacular views in places. Very good hiking adventure.
- Only 4.3 miles of dirt road to drive.
- More Photos from this Hike:

It's always great to read your thoughts. There's got to be some older type people out there who head to the mountains for some hiking action. I know there are a bunch of youngsters out there too. I also know there are rock hounds out there but getting you guys to loosen up your virtual voice is harder than the rock we find. Comments are OPEN!


P.S. J21st
Last Updated on Monday, 01 August 2011 19:42

Spring Creek Gold Panning and Hike – Featherville

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Closed road near Featherville Idaho

This July 2011 gold panning trip turned out to be a great day hike on a dirt road (NFS Road 170) that follows Spring Creek and the Johnson Fork near Featherville, Idaho. I walked almost 6.75 miles in mid 80 degree temperatures but you could easily add or subtract mileage on this “out and back hike” if you were to get up there. The scenery, weather and solitude made for a memorable day on the trail.

Getting There
NFS Road 170 begins where Spring Creek dumps into Trinity Creek on NFS Road 172 or Trinity Mountain Road northwest of Featherville. To get on Trinity Mountain Road you need to turn north off the Pine-Featherville Road just before entering the western portion of Featherville proper. The coordinates for this turn on to NFS Road 172 is 43.605535°, -115.266827°.

View Larger Map

Stay on NFS Road 172 for approximately 3.5 miles and start looking for a place to park and the northward turn onto NFS Road 170. I don't think there are any good places to park along Spring Creek/NFS Road 170 unless you head about ½ mile up the road.

The Hike Along Spring Creek / NFS Road 170
NFS Road 170 heads to the north or northwest and gradually climbs in elevation. It follows Spring Creek for the first 1.75 miles. Then it followed “The Johnson Fork” for the rest of my hike. The creek was flowing pretty good for an early July day but the streamflow is definitely decreasing. There are actually little sandbars forming in a number of places on the creek.

The Sandbars of Spring Creek
From Spring Creek or NFS Road 170 Hike and Gold Panning Trip

The mountains and nearby hillsides were extremely green but things are starting to dry out up in the Boise National Forest. I was amazed watching my dog running full bore down the road at just how much dust she kicked up...not that this is proof of how dry it's starting to get.

Overall, NFS Road 170 is suitable for any type of vehicle but there are a few places were downed trees narrows the available road width to the “just barely makeable” category for larger trucks. In any case, it's a wide open and very easy walk.

Is There Gold in This Creek?
From Spring Creek or NFS Road 170 Hike and Gold Panning Trip

Gold Panning the Creeks
I tried my luck at gold panning in both Spring Creek and the “Johnson Fork” during this hike. There was only one place where I panned up some black sand and possibly some color in the Johnson Fork. It wasn't really worth exploring any further but getting down into the shade and close to the cool stream during the heat of the day was refreshing.

As I have found during every trip to pan these types of small creeks, the deer flies can get bad. At one spot my panning technique was the “continuous swirl and swat” method. I also learned that my dog Addie is a horrible gold panning companion.

I'll come right out and say that Spring Creek and the Johnson Fork don't have much potential for a recreational gold panning trip but your mileage may vary. Give it a try and let me know what you find. I still had fun and it's a good way to refine your gold panning technique.

Learning the Ways of Closed Roads
My original plan was to hike NFS Road 170 and then head up NFS Road 170B. 170B heads uphill but eventually intersects and follows Spring Creek again. This road was closed on the day I was out there with a gate blocking access to it.

Yes, I know hiking on closed roads is permitted but the lack of water for my dog was a concern. I'll be back to hike that section in the future.

This was not the 1st road I have found to be closed but it could have been a big disappointment had I been on my ATV or trying to drive my truck on it. Big lesson learned is that I really need to do some research if I intend to use my ATV. The Boise National Forest Service office in Mountain Home should be able to offer better guidance as to what roads/trails are closed.

Solitude, Towering Pine Trees and Scenery Awaits You
From Spring Creek or NFS Road 170 Hike and Gold Panning Trip

These closed roads and trail can also be used to the “hikers advantage”. I will be researching these types of closed trails. They are perfect places to hike when trying to find complete solitude. And an old closed road is certainly easier to walk on than some of the highly rutted hiking trails I have been on.

Where, Why and How?
- Coordinates at the trailhead for NFS Road 170 (roadhead if you will): 43.630485°, -115.312045°
- Coordinates for the closed NFS Road 170B: 43.660556°, -115.334592°
- Distance from Mountain Home, Idaho to the trailhead: 65 miles with only 3.5 miles of dirt/gravel road.
- Topo Map for this hike: The 1:24,000 Rocky Bar quad.
- Why Hike It: It was a beautiful hike that is easily accessible and suitable for the less experienced and even the most experienced day hiker.
- The Johnson Fork Creek? I'm kind of clueless about the name the “Johnson Fork”. Normally it would be a fork of some other creek. So, until I'm educated on this, it remain “The Johnson Fork” of no other creek just as all my topo maps indicate.

NFS Road 170 near Featherville
From Spring Creek or NFS Road 170 Hike and Gold Panning Trip

Looking for comments ONLY from people who have interest in hiking, gold panning or those who like to or would like to get out into the great outdoors. If you fit any of these categories then leave a comment, question or remark.


Last Updated on Saturday, 09 July 2011 09:20

Tally Baker Creek Rock Hounding Hike

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Tally Baker Creek Hike in Idaho

Tally Baker Creek is located to the north and east of the Ice Springs campground in the Fall Creek area of Idaho. My thinking in choosing this area for some gold panning and rock hounding was it's semi-close proximity to some old mines in this area. It also seemed like a beautiful area to take a hike, explore and get into the great outdoors.

Hiking NFS Road 151C and NFS Trail 621
As usual, I planned out this hike using Google Earth, USGS Topo Maps and the Idaho Parks and Recreation website. I learned from my last hike that off-trail hiking in the Fall Creek area is a tough chore so I planned 4 different routes. It would be a last minute decision as to which route I would take.

From Tally Baker Hike, Rock Hound and Gold Panning Trip

Hiking the wide and smooth NFS Road 151C (all vehicles allowed) as it follows Tally Baker Creek was nice. While I only covered about 4.4 miles I did gain/lose a little over 1,400 feet in elevation. Overall, not an exhausting hike by any means while making it out to 43.506573°, -115.369698°.

Pine trees and some pretty steep mountainside dominate the scenery along Tally Baker Creek. And the main creek was flowing pretty good for a late June day. There was only one place where the road got muddy and wet but that consisted of only about a 20 foot section.

I also ventured up NFS Trail 621 about 1/3 of a mile and then off-trail following a small intermittent stream. The off-trail portion along the stream was rough going and quite soggy even away from the stream. I'm beginning to get the idea that off-trail hiking isn't fun and will likely give up on this idea. Just to let you know NFS Trail 621 is ATV legal and from the evidence I saw, I'd say the trail gets heavy hunting pressure in the Fall.

Gold Panning Creek 621
I'm calling the intermittent stream off NFS Trail 621 “Creek 621” at 43.507669°, -115.374779°. Well, this was my first real attempt at gold panning this year. It certainly was a small steam and after looking in a few spots, I knew there was little to no chance of finding any color.

From Tally Baker Hike, Rock Hound and Gold Panning Trip

But I got down and dirty on one section and cleared 3 pans of gravel and mud. Not a speck of gold to be found. On the 4th pan, I had the help of my every faithful dog Addie. She seemed to like the taste of the muddy water in my gold pan. I guess at least I was productive in one thing...keeping my dog hydrated. Laughing

Rock Hounding Tally Creek Road
Overall, this whole area has some fair to good potential for finding “cool rocks”. Lots of quartz, some of it smoky and many other interesting formations in the road cuts. I came home with less than a pound of rocks from this trip and 3 of them were keepers. The others are now part of my garden.

From Tally Baker Hike, Rock Hound and Gold Panning Trip

The 3 keepers I found fell in the “little sawtooths/drusy quartz” category. And I found them just off NSF Road 151C on a hillside. These rocks certainly made up for the lack of gold in my gold pan.

See a few more pictures from this album:

I certainly had a good time on this hike, rock hounding and gold panning trip. Have any suggestions where I could go next to combine at least 2 of these activities? Leave a comment and let me know.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 June 2011 19:39

No Gold Panning on Gold Panning Hike

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From Westside Creek Gold Panning and Rock Hounding Trip

I found the perfect unnamed creek bed for some gold panning that was likely unexplored by very many people. The only question in my mind was “would there be enough water in the creek to pan for Idaho Gold”? My plan was to hike off-trail along the ridge line that bordered the stream. Then I would drop into the deep canyon and pan my way down about ½ mile of this creekbed. Ooops.

So What Went Wrong
With this hike fully planned out on Google Earth, USGS Topo Maps and inputted into my Garmin GPS unit I headed up into the mountains west of Fall Creek. I found cheating a little by hiking along a NFS trail for a short segment before getting on the lower reaches of the planned ridgeline was a good idea. Once off the trail, the going got steep and bushy.

It didn't take long to realize my route wasn't as open and easy to hike as it appeared during the planning stages. The heavy undergrowth, downed trees and the steepness made for a “10 steps up, 5 steps down routine”. So I changed my plan and headed for another NFS Trail that would makes things easier but put me in a place that would make my descent into the canyon more difficult.

From Westside Creek Gold Panning and Rock Hounding Trip

It turned out there wasn't any hard way down into the canyon. The heavy undergrowth and steepness made it impossible. Long story gold pan never saw the light of day and stayed buried in my backpack.

What Went Right? Plan B and Rock Hounding!
Seeing as I was standing on the upper reaches NFS Road/Trail 130 A3 I switched my focus to rock hounding. Plan B was taking the easy trail back to the truck on Fall Creek Road. The road cuts along this trail showed a crazy mixture of big chucks of pure white quartz, smokey quartz and feldspar.

Is this Idaho Gold?

We (me and my dog Addie) headed down the narrow road. I found some cool rocks but nothing to get excited about UNTIL! The bottom side of one rock was covered...more like “coated” with a coppery colored substance. It certainly appeared that I found either raw copper or I was holding a piece of rock covered in gold! I found a few other pieces just like it as I headed down the road. Read on to find out what that stuff was.

The Hike in General
This was quite a fun hike. While the off-trail portion was exhausting at times, the unspoiled views and scenery more than made up for it. Walking back on NFS Road 130A3 gave me views I would have missed if I headed back into the steep and brushy off-trail route I had planned.

From Westside Creek Gold Panning and Rock Hounding Trip

Considering I was on a NFS Road that apparently is suitable (and legal) for motor vehicles, one would think I'd encounter at least one person. But I don't think I even saw any tire tracks much less and footprints. The reason? There are a few downed trees blocking the road. This certainly makes hiking “the roads” much more enjoyable.

What was “That Gold Stuff” Coating the Rock?
Once I got home and examined the “stuff”, we discovered it shined up from a dull copper color to a semi-shiny gold color. This was certainly a good sign. Was it time to make a mining claim and get rich on some real Idaho Gold?

No! I'd have to have proof I was holding some real gold and to do this I headed down to Stoeckers Jewelry store in Mountain Home. I know these guys are rock hounds and gem hunters so I thought they might be able to identify what I was holding.

Long story, short! The mystery material coating that rock I found was “Mica”. But I heard Mr. Stoecker headed up NFS Road 130A3 on Sunday afternoon. Wink

Stats on this Non-gold Panning Exploration and Rock Hound Hike
- Coordinates of a random spot located in the middle of the canyon I wanted to pan: 43.471683, -115.405295
- Distance Hiked: 3.75 miles
- Vertical Gain/Loss: 1,185 feet

Gold Panning Comments?
Looking for a place to gold pan? Know a place where I should search for gold? Want to hit some Idaho gold streams with me? What say you my fellow hikers, ATV'er and/or rock hounders...leave a comment or use the Contact Us form.


Last Updated on Sunday, 26 June 2011 20:32

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