Sometime in 2015 I read an article in our local paper about a road which traveled between two wilderness areas—the 1.2 million acre Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and the 2.3 million acre Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness—the Magruder Corridor. The road was open only in summer, could be traversed in a high clearance vehicle and went from Darby, Montana to Elk City, Idaho.
In July, 2016 we along with friends Larry and Geri plus Elmer and Heneritta rode the portion of the Magruder from Elk City to about the halfway point. The road was closed past this point for a mud slide. Our plan was to then head to Darby, Montana and ride that half–Mother Nature intervened with a massive wildfire in Montana which closed that portion of the road for the year.
Four years later in September of 2020, Larry, Geri, and Lonn joined us to finally ride the Darby, Montana section of the road. Our Montana friends had heard us talk about the Magruder and a plan was hatched to ride the entire Magruder Corridor, 100 plus miles and spend the night in Elk City, Idaho at Red River Hot Springs Resort (pay attention to that word “resort!”–there is more to come!). Mother Nature once again intervened and the entire road was closed for a forest fire. We made other plans and were heading to the Jarbidge, Nevada area. Friday before we were to depart on Sunday, the Magruder opened again. I was getting dizzy!
The Margruder Corridor is named for Lloyd Magruder who in 1863 was using the trail to bring back gold dust earned from selling supplies to miners at Virginia City, Montana when four other travelers joined the Margruder party. These four travelers attacked and murdered the Margruder party fleeing to San Francisco with their stolen goods which included Margruder’s very recognizable horse. A friend of Margruder’s pursued the murderers to California, spotted the horse, arrested the party and brought them back to Lewiston, Idaho for trial and eventual hanging.
The road on the Montana side starts out as pavement of all things then gets much worse—the road becomes more narrow with multiple tight switchbacks, ascending and descending several times. Starting elevation is around 4000 feet with the road climbing to almost 8000 feet and descending to 4000 feet several times. There isn’t much traffic but when you come around a tight corner and end up face to face with a large dump truck it does make the heart beat faster!
Sunday we all gathered in Big Timber and headed out–with stops it took about seven hours for us to arrive at a boondocking spot we had used in the past near Darby, MT. The ATVs were unloaded, the dogs were released and we gathered for happy hour and dinner.
Monday dawned sunny and chilly. We got an early start as we had 100+ miles to ride and certainly didn’t want to be out after dark. Rest stops, lunch, more rest stops, a stop in Elk City for much needed gas and we rolled into Red River Hot Springs Resort just after 5pm.
We rode through a recently burned area and began seeing all these wrapped signs, outhouses and buildings. The historic ranger station bridge had sprinklers at either end.
We knew our accommodations would be nothing fancy–dry cabins–no electricity, no water. What we didn’t know was that they were very rustic, sparsely furnished, cold, dank cabins. In our cabin we heard mice all night, probably in the ceiling. The beds were awful, the linens terrible and it was so cold! We had a propane heater on the wall but it smelled so strongly of propane we elected to play it safe and turn it off for the night. Some of the cabins did not have a heater at all!!?? We thought we would start the heater in the morning to warm the cabin–not! The ignitor would not work, we needed matches or a striker neither of which was in the cabin. Using the word “resort” for that place is a stretch! The young couple who now own the Hot Springs has their work cut out for them–the place is in poor repair, there is no real restaurant, so much work needs to be done it’s mind boggling.
Happy hour when we arrived
We were served a mediocre supper and a good breakfast before starting the 100+ miles back to our RVs. Above I mentioned coming around a tight corner and being face to face with a dump truck. Well, we came up behind this dump truck who had a major problem. He had lost a tire a mile or so back behind us, we saw the tire by the road. When he turned this corner, his inside dual tire blew and the dump truck began to tip. He was a young guy but must have been driving truck a long time–he had the presence of mind to pull the lever to open the belly dump which stopped his tipping. But the road was blocked and help would be a long time coming.
The guys decided it might be possible to shore up the side of the road on the downhill side of the dump truck–enough to let us pass. I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea but it worked and the guy with the biggest rig–Greg–tried the new route first and off we went, back to the RVs.
The return trip in spite of the hour long delay seemed to go more quickly and we were back at the rigs before 5pm. Just in time for more food, conversation, laughter and dog loving. All the couples have at least one dog, Greg and Phyllis have two, one of which is a 10 month old lab named Toby who decided my lap was the place to be! I guess he thought if Emmi could do it, so could he! I laughed so hard as did everyone else!
Wednesday we took a shorter ride into the Painted Rocks State Park area and to a fire tower we had visited in 2020. The same guy was manning the tower, it was his 27th season of watching for fires in that tower.
All the above photos from the fire tower area were taken with my new iPhone–I am amazed at the photo quality from a phone camera!
The water level in the lake at Painted Rocks State Park is significantly low–maybe from irrigation, maybe from drought.
Wednesday night it rained and Thursday it rained all day. I love a rainy day in a RV–nothing to do, no chores on my mind, just a relaxing day. Ken and Lesley decided to head home a day early and Lonn also pulled out hoping to find better weather somewhere down the road.
Thursday evening when it came time for dinner it was still raining so we all gathered in our rig–it worked!
Friday it was time to pack up and head home–wet dogs, wet gear, messy rigs but we had a fabulous time and we can finally say we’ve ridden the Magruder Corridor in its entirety!
Phyllis took this photo–these are probably lightning strikes in the wilderness which the USFS is letting burn. Hopefully the rain put out these fire. The Magruder burns often–but we spotted a lot of new growth in the older burn areas.
Saturday was a catch up day–unload, laundry, etc. Sunday I finished a quilt for my friend Jeane and put some of the flower beds to rest for the winter. The Cowboy worked on some things in the RV that don’t work correctly–such as the electric jacks.
Life is indeed so good.