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Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > Merriam Lake, Idaho - Trip Report

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insp1505

Oregon

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Posted: 06/26/12 01:55am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Merriam Lake sits at about 9600’ elevation in the Lost River Mountain Range of Central Idaho. I have never been there but I have read numerous times about it being one of the most beautiful lakes in Idaho. I have been to many beautiful lakes so I wanted to see this one for myself. I left town Saturday morning but didn’t actually get to Merriam Lake until Sunday morning. This is my adventure.

It was about 100 miles of freeway and highways that eventually changed into a good all-weather dirt road for the last 15 miles before I turned off on to a two track BLM road. I ended up putting on about 100 miles driving these Idaho backcountry roads. Pavement??? Who needs pavement when you have a TC? [emoticon]

Once I turned off the main road there were several creeks I had to cross that flow out through the bottom of this wide mountain valley. This one was still running so high from the snowmelt that it backed up into the road a little ways.

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Here is a view of the mountains where I am headed. The Lost River Range is home to the highest mountains in Idaho. Mt Borah on the right is the highest in Idaho at 12,662’. Leatherman peak is the second highest in Idaho at 12,228’ and it is just left of Leatherman pass, which is the low saddle in the center of the mountain range in this photo. I am about 18 miles away from the mountains in this picture.

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Another crossing. The water is running fast but because of the width of the crossing it isn’t very deep. The bigger problem is passing through the bushes and shrubbery next to the water. Yes, more pin striping on the Arctic Fox.

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There are many roads crisscrossing through the desert. It’s challenging to stay on the right path as nothing is marked other than a few signs with numbers that don’t correspond to my map. It’s a good thing it’s a clear day and I can keep my mountain destination in sight so I keep heading the right way.

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About 6 miles from my destination I came across this sign. I didn’t expect the roads to be great the whole way but it’s nice they warn people before they turn this corner and drop off into this canyon where the road conditions begin to deteriorate. It got quite rocky after this point so low ground clearance vehicles aren’t recommended.

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Bouncing over all these rocks and straddling these deep ruts made for some slow going.

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Every time I crested a hill I could still see my destination but I didn’t seem to be getting any closer due to how slow I was going. Bouncing over the rocks and climbing the boulder-strewn hills required 4-low to keep the gearing low so I didn’t overheat the engine and transmission. I wish I had manual front hubs because I didn’t need the extra traction, just the extra low gearing.

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I didn’t go this way but the rock formations really looked cool down the east fork. Maybe another trip I can explore this canyon and the lakes at the head of it.

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I started climbing up into a canyon towards the west fork and the left rear wheels broke through the soft bank of the rut I was straddling. The rear of the truck shifted to the right and it dropped about a foot into this rut.

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I tried to back out of it but that only increased the lean angle of the truck and camper. It felt really tippy so I got out to size up the situation. This is why it felt so tippy, I only had 5 tires on the ground.

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Since I couldn’t reverse any more due to increasing the lean angle and risking a tip over my only option was to power forward and try to get up out of the rut with the rear tires. Because my right front tire was in the air I had no front-end traction as that tire just spun in the air. I’m thankful for my limited slip rear end as it took all four rear tires pushing and digging like mad to get back up on top and put my front end back down on the ground.

Once I got back up on top of the rut it still wanted to be a five wheeler though.

[image]


Near the top of the climb the road really developed a tilt. I was trying to stay off the edge of the rut on my left side so I wouldn’t collapse it again. I wasn’t comfortable staying on the road with that angle and the risk of falling into that rut so I drove out through the sagebrush on the side to stay level.

[image]


That little canyon really increased my pucker factor. When I finally got to the top I found another road that ran down the ridgeline instead of the canyon to get to the same spot at the bottom. I took that route on the way home. When I finally made it to level ground on top it still looked like I had a long ways to go.

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The rest of the road was very rocky but I only hit my rear differential case once. Other than that I made it to a nice spot along the West Fork of the Pahsimeroi River to set up camp. I left Saturday morning at 9 am and got to camp at about 5:30. I did stop for a lot of pictures along the way but it was still a long day in the truck.

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I didn’t mention this before but Merriam Lake is only accessible by foot so I won’t have any cool shots of it with my TC on the shore. I was too late getting there Saturday evening to attempt the climb to lake so I would have to wait until Sunday morning. I camped about a mile below the trailhead so after I got camp set up I walked up to the end of the road at the trailhead to explore the area. My camp was at about 8000’ elevation so I had quite a climb of 1600’ in about three miles to look forward to in the morning.

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There were some cow elk were feeding on the hillside above camp.

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A few more shots of the sun going down on the peaks.

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And of course more waterfalls. There were so many creeks flowing out of the canyons I could spend the rest of the summer taking images of all the creeks and flowing water around here.

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Unfortunately I’m not a morning person because it would have been nice getting some sunrise pictures on the mountains and even the lake but I do enjoy my sleep in time. I got to the trailhead and started up the mountain about 9:00 in the morning.

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Here is a picture showing where I am headed taken from the trailhead. Merriam Lake sits in a basin between these two mountain peaks. Mt Idaho is on the right and as near as I can tell the one on the left is just an un-named elevation peak.

[image]


It was a gentle climb at first with a few short steep grades; this unfortunately meant the last ½ mile was nearly straight up. At some point on the way up I tweaked my left knee. I don’t even remember when I did it but at some point it started to hurt and with every step the pain grew worse. I have had problems with this knee in the past but I didn’t want to miss out on seeing Merriam Lake after all I had been through driving here. I was less than a mile away so I pushed on only much slower now.

This is a view looking back into the canyon where I camped about 3 ½ miles below and to the left.

[image]



Almost there, Merriam Lake is just around the next corner.

[image]



I finally made it and yes it was beautiful. It had been windy this whole trip and being up here was no exception. Gusts were probably over 35 mph and I lost my hat a couple of times. The lake was very choppy so no cool reflection pictures this trip. I ran into a guy who had camped up here the night before to get some sunrise pictures and he said it blew hard all night long. One thing that was nice about the wind though was that it kept the mosquitoes down.

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The creek flowing into the lake.

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Looking back down the canyon over the lake.

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I did take both of my fishing poles but it was too windy to fly-fish so I threw some worms out instead and caught some of the lakes brook trout.

[image]



With my knee in the condition it was I knew it would be a long hike back down so I left about 3 pm. Yes it was painful and miserable but I made it down ok and I am glad I pushed through and climbed up to the lake. It was worth it. Nothing a few ibuprofen and some rest couldn’t take care of when I got back.


On the way back to my camp I walked over to see what was behind these wood walls. It’s the restroom facility at the trailhead. I can’t decide if they thought this would smell better to the operator not being all closed in like a regular outhouse is or perhaps they thought the patron might enjoy looking at the scenery while doing their business. And don’t forget your umbrella on rainy days. [emoticon] Either way I was thankful to have my TC with it’s private bathroom and I couldn’t have been happier getting back to it than I was today so I could get some pain relievers.

[image]



I had planned on doing a tin foil dinner on the campfire Sunday night but my knee hurt too bad to climb out of the camper and gather firewood so I just made it in the oven. I’ve never done this before but it actually turned out fine. There weren’t the typical burnt areas or cold centers in the potatoes but it was missing that great smoky flavor that only a campfire can provide. Maybe next time.

I woke up Monday morning and secured everything inside the camper for the rough ride out. When I started down the road I noticed my exhaust sounded louder than normal. I stopped and looked underneath and saw my pipe had separated. I was able to realign it and push it back inside the clamp.

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The exhaust probably came apart from all the bouncing around and the broken welds on it. I didn’t get many pictures of the rough road but these show it pretty well.

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Although, there were much worse spots, like this for example.

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I was crossing this dry creek bed where the road immediately started uphill at the bank. The rear jacks were too low to clear the road. I had to get out and dig away the rock and make a trench in front of the jack to get up the hill.

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I was able to get around that canyon that got my front wheel off the ground on Saturday by going down this ridgeline instead. You can see the road in the bottom of the canyon where the bright green grass is.

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Once I made it back to this sign I knew it would be smooth sailing home.

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It was an excellent trip, although shorter than I normally like but at least I got out and explored a new area. I pushed my rig and knee to the limit and was able to reach my destination. My knee is fine now and except for the exhaust pipe and a few scratches to the camper that will easily buff out there was no major damage, although a few spots got my adrenaline flowing. The scenery was unbelievable and this weekend was another example why I love my TC. Just another area where your only neighbors will be TC’s or tent campers.


This is the last picture I took on the trip. It looks back at Mt Borah from the Doublespring Pass road just east of Highway 93 north of Mackay Idaho. My adventures to Merriam Lake took place on the opposite side of the mountain than what you see in this picture.

[image]

Hope you enjoyed, Happy Camping!

weymard

NORMANDY

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Posted: 06/26/12 02:50am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great trip report on a beautiful area, you was close to the 'limits" for a DRW ! [emoticon]
Thanks for sharing


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Comeoutswingin

Castle Rock, WA

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Posted: 06/26/12 03:07am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Wow! I'm usually one to say "its only money" but no way in hell could I take my rig through what you just did when I think of the money I have invested in my rig. You really work that right to the extreme.


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DiscoChicken

Lawrenceville, GA

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Posted: 06/26/12 03:58am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

WOW!!! Incredible photography skills. You sure are an adventurous fella. Keep the reports coming.


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Camper_Jeff_&_Kelli

Seattle

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Posted: 06/26/12 04:08am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Glad I'm reading you only got the exhaust and nothing else like the rear jacks being pulled off. That is some serious truck camping. Good job on getting there and back and nice pictures.


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Charlie+Em

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Posted: 06/26/12 05:33am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great Pictures, Thanks for sharing...


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Posted: 06/26/12 06:33am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Holy crap...my pucker factor was up just looking at the your pictures.

Cool pictures, thanks for sharing.

Im sure my unit would have laid over...


Pete
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Phoenix, Arizona

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Posted: 06/26/12 07:08am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

That is some beautiful country. It looks like it was well worth the trip. I'm glad your rig survived it. It appears that you almost lost the jack. It is too bad the manufacturers don't make the type of jacks that used to fold up, out of the way when not in use.


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~DJ~

Boise, Idaho

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Posted: 06/26/12 07:58am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Can't stop an Idaho Boy and his dually!!!!

That is a beautiful area that is still on my short list!!!

Thanks for sharing.

cewillis

Tucson, az, usa

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Posted: 06/26/12 08:41am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Fantastic pictures of a great trip. That's wonderful looking country; I hope to try it myself one day.


Cal


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