Not quite the summer paradise people look forward to Memorial Day weekend, but I'll tell you, I wouldn't trade today's beautiful experience! Having been in the desert of southern Utah for a couple of weeks at my geology field camp, I am more than happy to spend time in the snow and rain surrounded by sweet smelling pines shrouded in a thick fog.
This is my first time visiting the abandoned train tunnel location (off the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway) outside the winter months. I must say, I am impressed! Targhee National Forest does not disappoint. We drove first on the Ashton-Flagg Ranch road in search of wildflowers but quickly realized it would be a few weeks before they emerged unlike last year's May bloom. The dirt road was surprisingly in better condition than expected but still difficult to drive even with 4 wheel drive. Puddles and snow made for quite the adventurous ride! We drove only to about the state line before turning back as actual streams were crossing the road. After turning back, we made our way north to the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway and parked at the large lot (with bathrooms - hard to miss). After crossing the road, we walked for a mile to the south before retracing our steps to then head east to the train tunnel.
Several words of caution: Since my last time visiting this train tunnel only 5 months ago, the main entrance collapsed. This tunnel is incredibly unstable!! I wouldn't recommend entering. We chose instead to hike around the tunnel with full view of the Warm River below. We found 2 lumps of bear scat, one of which was only a few hours old. We also saw a blood puddle on the rocks below, and an elk or moose carcass on the side of the trail. Bears are active and hungry, be cautious as you hike. Make lots of noise and carry bear spray if you can.
All in all, a great adventure with friends! A nice break in the middle of my extensive field camp experience; more on that later! If you want a sneak peak, check out my Instagram: @paintings.byscott.
Enjoy a few pictures from today!