“The keys are in the fuel door”, my dad said. It’s the one thing he always reminds us of whenever we embark on an off-road journey. The water and snacks are my responsibility.
The day couldn’t have been much better considering it was the middle of August in the parched Idaho high desert. The heat was made tolerable thanks to a light breeze and clouds that dotted the sky moved lazily along in the sunlight. The only thing that would’ve made it better would have been a rain storm to settle the dust. Some of which had already began to accumulate on the RZR. But it’s just something you get used to if you’re up for desert adventures.
We set off South down a gravely dirt road that had been maintained between the mounds of lava rock and sage brush. The only other living things around besides the three of us in our party were the cows that were grazing on their summer pasture and the occasional hawk using the wind tunnels to search for prey.
We were in no hurry to get to any particular destination, nor were we familiar with this particular trail. My dad and I were in the lead, with our companion, Mark, trailing far behind to avoid our dust cloud. With a last minute decision we took the right side of the fork in the road. The road turned west and climbed higher in elevation. It was a road we hadn’t been on before. After about fifteen minutes it became clear that the road dwindled into a cow trail that dissolved into large rocks that were impossible to traverse in the RZR and four wheeler. Only cows bothered to travel beyond that point to get to the water tank.
Once we returned to the main road, we continued south to Mahannah’s Cabin; a one-room cabin tucked between two large pine trees and fenced off to keep the cows away. Any visitor is welcome at the cabin and we parked in the shade next to the front door to have lunch.
The cabin is fairly well maintained, with a wood stove and stock of firewood, a piece of plywood on top of bare mattress springs, and a small table. However, the mice and spiders are the only creatures that have lived there for a long time. The wood stove would surely be a welcome relief for anyone stranded.
In true small-town southern Idaho fashion, my dad’s friends – who were out and about on their own trail ride – happened to stop at the cabin. Beers and bullshit were exchanged, and we all signed the cabin’s guest book before locking the door and shutting the gate. The other group continued west and we continued south.
Not far from the cabin we found ourselves next to the cliffs that face the Salmon Falls Creek and Salmon Dam. The drop off was steep and the wind was gusty so we didn’t dare to get too close, but the views of the dry Owyhee Canyonlands spreading wide as far as the eye can see are truly a sight to behold.
The trip back to the trucks was largely uneventful in a good way. We forged our own way over the barren, rocky plain and went slow down the barely-there trail that wove between the sagebrush. Once we reached the main road, we took turns taking the lead. Still, the only living creatures we saw were the cows that call this strange and wild land home every summer.