Same, But Different

View out my front door this time last year.

View out my front door today.

Just love the bright red berries on the hawthorn tree – and so do the birds and squirrels!

© 2008 Idaho Explorer


Southern Idaho Outdoors in Picture Form – Another Foray into the South Hills

Adventurers: Myself, my Mother, and Collin (20 months as of two days ago!)
Location: South Hills/Shoshone Basin/Cottonwood Basin/Buckskin Ridge/Rock Creek Recreation Area/Sawtooth National Forest
Intended Destination: Eagle Hiking Trail (#243) by Petit Campground
Route There (Back-country Adventure): From Twin Falls on Blue Lakes, down Nat Soo Pah road, on Oakley-Rogerson road, into Sawtooth National Forest, along FS-500 to Magic Mountain
Route Back (Paved Assurance): FS-515 – turns into Rock Creek Road (also known as G-5), to Hansen, to Kimberly, to Twin Falls
Highest Elevation: ~ 7,000 ft (~2134 m)
Temperature: Hand-Numbingly Cold
Time: Left at 2:30 PM, returned at 6:30 PM (gets dark about 5/5:30)
Mode of Travel: Subaru Outback

Here is the familiar sagebrush and willow scene that I displayed on my last trip.

Further in, trees break up the horizon line.

Like a forest of skeletons – aspens leafless in the bitter cold.

My companions heading toward the creek – which creek exactly, I’m not sure. I can’t quite remember where we are at this point on the map (a USGS topo map – and if you’ve ever tried to use one, you’d see how easy it is to wonder where the heck you are). The thing is, we weren’t looking at the map as we were driving. I figured I had a pretty good idea where I was. As a member of the 2005 B.U.R.P Crew for the Department of Environmental Quality, we spent a good portion of the summer driving around this area. But still, there are a lot of roads out here and a lot of creeks. My best guess is Shoshone Creek up by Bear Gulch and I’m pretty certain that I am right. Look how well the two blend in with their surroundings.


The colors are so beautiful and the water so glassy.

That’s because it has froze over. My Little Boy thought this concept was quite amazing. “Ice!”

See that snowy hill in the background…that’s where we’re headed.

Good ol’ Shoshone Basin.
Look at this gnarled tree – what an interesting silhouette it has.

Here, I believe, are the Shoshone Wildlife Ponds. This, again, I can’t say with complete certainty, but there were a lot of ponds. There are also a lot of beavers and, incidentally, beaver dams. A beautiful place! The sun was setting so wonderfully and lighting up the sky with an array of sunset colors – unfortunately, my camera does not capture an array of sunset colors… (Update: This is not Shoshone Wildlife Pond. It turns out that the actual Shosone Wildlife Pond is some other thing in the vicinity that is just one pond and is fenced off. We (my husband and I) are calling them The Beaver Ponds, which certainly suits them.)

As you can see, there are patches of snow.

Further up, and there is more snow and more conifers.

What a perfect Christmas-like scene! Collin was SO excited about the snow. I gave him some to hold in his hand. After it would melt into a cold puddle, he would say, “More.” The whole trip he was very happy and never got upset about being strapped into the carseat with only occasional journeys out onto solid ground. He loved looking out the windows at all of the beauty around him. Plus, he had a couple of rocks, a stick, and a pinecone – bits of nature we had collected along the way – to keep him satisfied. He really looks forward to these sort of outings – especially when he can explore. He enjoys looking at maps with me and repeats “South Hills! South Hills!” whenever I mention them. He’s truly a Nature Boy!


OK, this is where we got a bit lost. Well not lost, per say; it was more that we were second-guessing ourselves. We knew we didn’t want to go on Buckskin Road…

…and we weren’t sure about this one either. But we headed down it any way, even with the name…

The road got skinnier, snowier, and bumpier as we traversed along it. This certainly helped in the decision making process – we only went so far before we decided to reverse.

But look at the view the road led to! Once again, my camera does not do the justice my eyes saw! I stood out in the freezing cold for quite some time wanting to take in every bit of this scene and experience the feelings it filled me up with. Mountains…I love mountains!!


Do you know what mountains these are? I’m quite sure they’re in Nevada, but I’m having a hard time finding out just which ones they are.

Waiting in the car ready to go – so I said goodbye to that mesmerizing view. We drove the three miles (but a very long three miles backcountry) to the Rock Creek Ranger Station (as indicated on the sign) and if we would have looked at the topo, we would have seen that this lead us right to our destination. But instead, we were looking at the South Hills Trail Map, which for some crazy reason, does not have the Ranger Station on it. Admittedly, we were getting a bit nervous. We weren’t 100% sure where we were and it was getting late. Even more nerve-wracking was that we were still gaining elevation and the roads were getting snowier. There were some spots completely glazed over with a sheet of snow. To many, this is no big deal, for me…it equated to driving slower than necessary and clenching the steering wheel a bit to tightly. Needless to say, when I finally arrived home, my shoulders were stiff from the tension. I hate snowy/icy roads! And these roads were curvy and had sheer drop offs. I could have let my more experienced Mother drive, but instead, I made up my mind to do it myself and get the practice (and confidence) I lacked. Obviously I made it out just fine, but I couldn’t know that until I did. (Does that make sense?)

After the long, anxiety-ridden drive, we landed right at the Ranger Station and Magic Mountain Ski Area. This is where we were headed – well not actually here. We meant to go hike the Eagle trail, but being that it is three miles we decided against it. At this point we were ready to head home.

You can see it’s fairly dark out, but because Ross Falls trail (#244) is only .4 miles round trip, we decided to do it. I had been there before with my husband in warmer temperatures and it is really very pretty. It was pretty this time too (even while lugging my sleepy bundled up toddler).

The following are pictures of the falls and the creek. It’s so dark, I had to brighten the pics just so they can be viewed. Use your imagination – it’s a refreshing and delightful sight. I think that these pictures, though dark, are interesting all the same.

Icicles, brrr. Mine and my mom’s camera batteries both died after we snapped a few pictures of the falls. Time to head home. Little did I know that my poor husband was at that very moment looking up Deadline Ridge on Google in order to come and find us and rescue us if need be. (He had just so happened to call me at that very spot we stopped to get our whereabouts and I mentioned to him the names – luckily we were at a high enough point to get service.) He figured we must have gotten stuck or something. He called numerous times when I had no service and my phone never showed any missed calls (but it did show voicemails later). The drive home (on paved roads!) was curvy and dark and my adrenaline was still a little high. I was just intent on getting home and kept thinking I would call my husband at such and such point, but didn’t ever release my death-grip from the steering wheel. Eventually he made one last call before heading out as a search party and it went through. We were just leaving Kimberly and I felt so sorry for not calling him! If it were me and I was the one waiting at home I would have been angry, but he was more relieved than anything and just a bit annoyed. He was glad to have us arrive safely at home and so was I!
More from the South Hills

© 2008 Idaho Explorer

Southern Idaho Places in Picture Form – North Cottonwood Creek, South Hills

About a week ago, my little boy and I took a trip out to the South Hills and ended at North Cottonwood Creek. The South Hills are a kind of sanctuary for me. I was born in Twin Falls and lived in a house “a mile North of Nat Soo Pah” (the way it was explained to others), right down the road from my grandpa’s house. We moved away from Idaho when I was just one, but my mom and the two youngest girls – my sister Dana and myself – moved back and lived at my grandpa’s house, where my mother grew up, when I was 11 years old. This area is know as the Salmon Tract and it is my ancestors (the Grays and Jones) who settled the area in the late 1800’s. I feel connected to the land and know that a part of my history runs in its waters and lies deep in the soil. When I wonder amongst the sagebrush, I feel at peace and am full of reverence for the land.

Southern Idaho is made up of the sagebrush steppe – a wonderful ecosystem full of life and beauty. (Though I didn’t think so when I first moved here in 1994.) The area is sometimes referred to as a cold or high desert. Many people see it as a wasteland, but if one looks, one can find vast amounts of beauty and life. Unfortunately, the sagebrush steppe is dwindling in size due to special interest groups. Much of what does remain is badly altered. Luckily, there are people working to preserve this amazing habitat.

A Sagebrush Community
A Lone Sagebrush
Here is the riparian zone of North Cottonwood Creek – the creek’s dry of course. Sadly, the cottonwoods are now far and few between.This is opposite of the creek – quite a starling difference in flora and color schemes.
Glowing willows with the blue hills and sky as the canvas.

Looking to the right…

and looking to the left – quite the contrast!

Willows with their seeds surrounded in cottony down, ready to float in the wind and begin new life.

A closer view.


This road leads to self-discovery, bliss, peace, happiness, or whatever it is you need. Care to travel along? Which way, which way? Looking Upstream…

and looking downstream.

I was very disappointed to find LOTS of trash – beer bottles, shotgun shells, plastic bags, pop bottles and cans, and the usual-out-in-the-boonies junk that seems to plague most isolated places. I can never understand how people can go out and enjoy these beautiful places and then leave their litter spread about. So careless and disrespectful they are!

Willows in a Sea of Sagebrush

Sun Shining Through the Cottonwood Tree

More from the South Hills

© 2008 Idaho Explorer