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Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« on: February 23, 2009, 12:16:19 AM »
Not a trip report, as I haven't been yet, but my eye is drawn to the 2+ million acres of roadless expanse that is the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness of central Idaho. Anyone on this board have any experience there they'd like to share?

Looking for a 5-8 night backpack for this summer. I was considering the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier NP but don't want to deal with the crappy weather associated with that trail. So my gaze wandered, and focused on this blank spot in Idaho. Seems like a great place to lose oneself for a week or more, plus whatever time it takes to get there and back.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline Al

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2009, 12:32:51 AM »
That has to be one of the most incredible remaining wilderness areas in the 48 states of United States. Good weather will be very important even in the summer.  Don't know that I would want to do it solo.  Big Bend is almost suburbia in comparison.

Al

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2009, 06:30:23 AM »
Jeff, I lived in northern Utah for 5 years and passed thru that area a little but never hiked there. My memory is it is more like Yellowstone (more rounded peaks covered mostly with lodgepole and douglas fir) and less like the Grand Tetons. In other words no where near as spectacular as your Yosemite trip but you should easily find solitude and grizzlies  :icon_eek:
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
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Offline mountaindocdanny

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2009, 03:19:25 PM »
Jeff,

My family and I will be moving to a small town in Idaho next January and will be about an hour from the extreme western poriton of the wilderness. I haven't been to the Frank yet, but have done some reading and have some friends who have been. Generally, the Bighorn Crags are considered to be the prime area for backpacking in the wilderness. It also gets enough use that you aren't comletely on your own while solo. The Crags have quite a few lakes and a lot of exposed granite.

The Selway-Bitteroot WA is only seperated from the Frank by a one lane Jeep road (the Magruder Corridor) and offers another 1.2 million acres of wilderness. This area gets more rain than the FCRONRW and thus is more heavily forested. Finally, the 200,000 acre Gospel Hump wilderness adjoins the FCRNRW on the west side.

This whole wilderness comlex (plus many hundreds of thousands of acres of surrrounding roadless areas) is typically thought of as the greatest remaining piece of wildland outside of Alaska.

We'll be expecting a trip report.

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Offline russco

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2009, 06:50:06 PM »
Jeff- I've never been there but I have read about it at http://wildernessvagabond.com/salmon1/salmon1.htm ...Check out his other trip reports about Idaho...The Jarbridge, etc. You'll be able to tell that this guy is Democratic...but don't let that stop you from reading his reports! :eusa_dance: Anyhow hope this helps. Enjoy!
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oldfatman

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2009, 10:28:29 AM »
During my 5 1/2 years in SE Washington, I got to run around in that area several times.  I was not backpacking, just driving the "roads".  It is a rugged area and as beautiful as Bibe is spectacular.  Services are far and few so go in prepared.  A friend of mine from Boise did some horse packing in the area and loved it.  Weather is critical.  In reality you can have heavy snow from Sep through mid June and get isolated.  Please research it carefully and plan on about 1500 pictures a day when you are there.  While you are at it Hells Canyon can get very remote also.  There are hiking trails all over both areas and both can be as isolated as any place in Bibe or Gumo.

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2009, 10:59:35 AM »
I've ordered a couple of books to help with planning, as I know practically zilch about the area.

Quote from: mddanny
Generally, the Bighorn Crags are considered to be the prime area for backpacking in the wilderness. It also gets enough use that you aren't comletely on your own while solo. The Crags have quite a few lakes and a lot of exposed granite.

That's where my attention is focused. Getting to them is the challenge, as I doubt my vehicle can reach the trailhead. One of the attractions is, it's 3 million acres of roadless areas. One of the problems is, there's no roads.

I'm considering a loop route which leaves from the river (Middle Fork of the Salmon, I think), where I would be able to drive and leave the car parked. The result would be lots of elevation gain on Day 1 and at least a couple days of travel to reach a base camp somewhere in the Crags area.

Quote from: Al
That has to be one of the most incredible remaining wilderness areas in the 48 states of United States. Good weather will be very important even in the summer.  Don't know that I would want to do it solo.  Big Bend is almost suburbia in comparison.

That's what I hear. I'm aiming for mid- to late August, when the skeeters should be about done for the year and there may be a hint of fall in the higher elevations. Not sure I want to solo it either, but we'll see what happens between now and then. There's very little about the place online -- the Forest Service web site is useless -- and certainly no BBC-type of site.

Quote from: Mule Ears
you should easily find solitude and grizzlies

I think the grizz are all gone. Just black bears now, and they don't see many humans. And I expect I won't either, except around the Crags.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2009, 01:29:19 PM »
Quote from: Mule Ears
you should easily find solitude and grizzlies

I think the grizz are all gone. Just black bears now, and they don't see many humans. And I expect I won't either, except around the Crags.

While it is mostly true that it is only black bears now, the grizzlies are coming back it looks like.
http://www.fws.gov/mountain%2Dprairie/species/mammals/grizzly/bitterroot.htm

We went to school with one of the major grizzly researchers and it is amazing how far one of those big boys can range.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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oldfatman

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2009, 05:47:39 PM »
Jeff,
I left the area oct 7, 2007 and grizzleys were know to be in the wilderness there.  Not great quantity but definitely a presence.   The "roads" are mostly better than you would imagine by August. A high clearance 4X4 is very nice to have.  I wish I could be of more help, but none of the folks I worked with were backpackers or significant hikers.  Be assured that you can wear out a brand new camera in the area.  It is georgeous beyond my wildest dreams.  Just out of Stanley one May 29 a small boulder about the size of a volley ball came off the mountain and impacted my Camry.  All year long you can find natural land events happening so be very careful.

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Offline betteroutside

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2009, 03:05:03 PM »
Beaytiful place....and huge! I was up there in June 05 and spent a few days backpacking down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. That trail receives annual trail maintenance, so is in good shape. Some of the other don't, so get all the info you can before you go.Also, lots of areas have been burned in the past few years, so that is another factor.About as hard on foot wear as BB. Lots of rough rock. I went about 20 miles down the middle fork and then turned around and went back to where I started, at the Boundary Creek boat launch area. Lots of ticks in June, too. If you go, have fun!

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Offline Picacho

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2009, 05:31:55 PM »
Here is some more information on the area.

You can probably contact the author if you want some more information on the area.

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2009, 09:43:57 PM »
BTW, anyone looking for downloadable Idaho USGS quads can find them here for free.

Several crossings of the Salmon River are marked as "cable," including at least one connecting a trail to a trailhead on the opposite bank. Wonder if it means a cable footbridge, or just a cable.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline Al

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2009, 11:08:26 PM »
Jeff, Have you have found this publication and this appendix?

http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/sc/recreation/fcronr/rod/appendix/h.pdf

Al
« Last Edit: February 25, 2009, 11:19:11 PM by Al »

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2009, 10:36:31 AM »
Jeff, Have you have found this publication and this appendix?

http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/sc/recreation/fcronr/rod/appendix/h.pdf

Al

Hadn't seen that. It's an interesting look at the wilderness, providing much more information on "real" access than the forest maps do. The "sedan" trailheads are the ones I can probably use -- not sure I want to take my low-clearance sedan up the more primitive roads. The trails I'm looking at are a mix of maintained and cross-country. The trail guidebook I have ordered should help me nail down access and route conditions a little better.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

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Offline Al

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Re: Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2009, 10:58:42 AM »
You're welcome.

Al

 


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