Deep in the desert between American Falls and Rupert, Idaho an old trail, barely visible in places, winds across the windswept Wapi lava flows. Dubbed Wood Road, this trail was built by early settlers who drove their horse-drawn wagons over the lavas to the Big and Little kipukas to cut the junipers that thrived there. I had heard of several ‘wood roads’ traversing different areas of the lavas, but in all my ramblings never saw a stretch I would dare attempt with anything other than my feet. Maybe a motorcycle in a few places, but not without donning a lot of padding because a spill out there would really hurt. Besides, too often you find yourself staring down a crack coming up out of nowhere, or on loose scree with a hard time finding good footing, let alone tire traction. On second thought–forget the motorcycle. If you don’t want to walk, you’ll need four tires and some serious ground clearance.
But back to the story. One of my brothers had made the trek over Wood Road and, always ready for another adventure, volunteered to take me out there. I jumped at the chance. On a sunny October morning we loaded onto four-wheelers and RZRs for the fifty-four-mile round trip. The first few miles we sailed over sand dunes and then along a dirt track, bouncing through ruts and dodging rocks. Over all, it wasn’t too bad, but we did hit spots that slowed us down. During a long sandy stretch fifteen miles out we came across some spun-down tire tracks where someone must have gotten stuck. A while later while stopped for a breather we noticed a trail of oil down the middle of the road and surmised that an oil pan must have lost an argument with a rock. Again, ground clearance and four-wheel drive in this country.
After another hour we skirted a potato field and then took a gravel road toward the lavas and the Wood Road trailhead. As our ATV’s eased up the first rock I thought, “People actually brought horses and wagons up here?” They surely did, although I understand they filled in the worst cracks with brush and the roughest spots with earth. In most places the road is well-defined:
In others, not so much. Yes, the photo on the right is part of the road.
Either way, our ATV’s had their work cut out for them, as you can see in the following videos:
A choppy ride but loads of fun. We passed through some rugged but beautiful country!
Nearing the kipukas, we passed sawed-off stumps from bygone days:
These shots were taken as we entered, first Little Kipuka and then Big Kipuka:
I will never figure out why the lava stopped and left this land untouched. At any rate, we decided to give the ATV’s a rest while we explored the surrounding lavas. I found the knots and curvatures in these pieces of wood fascinating:
I’m truly grateful for this opportunity to view God’s handiwork and experience first-hand a piece of Idaho’s rich history. And I didn’t have to travel far to get there! Amazing what you can find in your own back yard if you just get out and look around.
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