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The Juniper Hills

Spring has arrived here in East Idaho! Small buds have begun to emerge on the trees and bushes of the river valley. Despite the abrupt arrival of a inch of snow early this week, today's 60° weather and sunny skies promised warmer days ahead. Gratefully snowpack for the month of April has far exceeded initial estimates, welcome news to our drought-ridden state. The snowcapped peaks of the Centennial Mountains shone bright in the afternoon sun as my friends and I drove north. Our destination, Grassy Ridge Road, a red road that winds its way west behind the Juniper peaks which rise gently from the high plains north of town.

I have been asked several times recently if road access to the Civil Defense and Ice Caves is open. Yes! I mentioned this area in the previous post titled "Red Road" as one I hoped to visit again soon. From January 1st to May 1st the roads adjacent to and partially including Red Rd are off limits to the public as wintering elk, moose, and deer migrate to lower elevation. Today was the day we finally made it onto this mysterious dirt road that ventured west off of Red Rd, rather than east to the caves!

We were pleasantly surprised by a quiet and pristine landscape that stretched for miles before us. A few scattered cows and small fences lining sections of the road testified to the presence of some ranches and farms dotting the wide expanse. Compared to the south side of these hills, the sand dunes we found here were practically untouched by foot or tire with only a few tracks varying from the tight dirt paths that wound through the sage brush and up into the hills. It felt at times as though we were the only people within 5 miles out there. I can only imagine how star gazing and camping would feel as the low elevation peaks block most of the light pollution from the corridor of towns stretching from Idaho Falls to St. Anthony. For a moment we paused to breathe in the scene before us. Delicate sounds of a few insects, birds, and the soft breeze hummed in soft chorus, immersing us completely in the surrounding landscape.

It is not uncommon to find elk ranches here in the intermountain west! Today we found one such ranch or perhaps even a preserve tucked neatly into the rising hills north of the Juniper peaks. Sectioned off from the dirt road we were driving by a large fence, a couple hundred elk stared back at us as we drove by. I'm not sure what the purpose of the enclosure is, but we were excited to see so many of these elusive creatures in good health.

I hope you are able to get out this week and explore! Today's weather was perfect. Enjoy a few pictures from our drive this afternoon!

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Catherine Sweet
Catherine Sweet
May 06, 2022

Love, love Spring!!

Your description and photos bring it all to life too!

So glad we can live this vicariously with you! 😍💓😊

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