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The Big Hole Mountains

PSA: Please remember to fully extinguish your campfires before leaving your camping spot. I found a firepit with red-hot coals and smoking wood in an empty campsite in Kelly Canyon today. Even though we've had lots of rain lately, and it is unlikely there would be a forest fire right now, the habit of not putting out a campfire can lead to extreme consequences in the future. Thank you.


The Big Hole Mountains sit between Swan and Teton Valleys. These mountains have back-road access points at Kelly Canyon, Wolf Flats, Packsaddle, and from many of the farm roads that snake across the foothills. This peninsula of mountains protrudes into the Snake River Valley, and connects to the southeast with the southern-most extent of the Teton Range. The Big Hole Mountains separate Rexburg from Teton Valley, and obscure the majority of the Tetons from most of Rexburg and Idaho Falls' view. These mountains aren't jagged and rugged like their neighbors, but instead feature dense pine and aspen forests with an abundance of ephemeral and perennial streams and creeks. These mountains are a go-to vacation spot for the locals, often filling with campers and motorists on the weekends and holidays. Though, today I found the crowds much smaller than I expected, and nearly non-existent once I ventured deep into the heart of the mountains.


Wildflowers were abundant in the higher elevation! The valley's flowers are all but gone now, but the mountains are still blooming in a grandeur and color that is sure to stop you in your tracks. Entire hillsides were carpeted in yellows, whites, and deep blues. The greenery, too, has to be near the peak of anything I have seen here in East Idaho since moving here 5 years ago. We've had so much rain lately that the forests and hills are bathed in rich greens. Today's weather was no different, with light to moderate rain falling nearly the entire afternoon. Fog and mist rose off the forest floor and shrouded the distant hills and forest in an off-white haze. The shading and gradient of the scene left me speechless.


My route through the mountains began at Kelly Canyon on mountain road 218. This moderately maintained road courses through the western corner of the Big Hole's, before exiting into the high hills and farm fields above the valley. The road was washed out in several areas with deep ruts more than a foot deep running across the extent of the road, evidence of the high volume of moisture in the area. These ruts wreaked havoc on my Rav4, even when I slowed significantly before hitting them. I've had issues with a faulty sensor, and I'll admit, the rough roads triggered the warnings again. In some areas, streams and puddles inhabit the road, especially on the adjacent roads that branch off of 218. I learned the hard way that once you begin a drive down a narrow road, only to find it impassable with your car, the only way out is to reverse 200 yards on slick, narrow, and steep muddy roads. Not my brightest idea. The remarkable beauty I witnessed today was contrasted by several harrowing minutes, including nearly getting in a wreck just before leaving town to start my adventure (a fella decided not to stop at his stop sign). Life has a funny way of reminding you of your mortality and frailty. The mountains are not a force to bet against, even on a harmless sunday drive. It is important to stay alert, prepared, and use common sense on every outdoor excursion!


Enjoy a few shots from today! They really don't do justice in expressing the peace I found even in the midst of so much else.


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Catherine Sweet
Catherine Sweet
Jun 19, 2023

Very relieved you were kept safe today!

The photos are gorgeous!! Love, love the beauty, including the flowers!!

Your travel companion sure is cute; glad she can come along!

Very pleased you could go; thanks for the visuals both written and through your camera lens! 💓

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Catherine Sweet
Catherine Sweet
Jun 19, 2023
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Much appreciated on both accounts!

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