Rolling Rocks, Forest Fires, “Peg Leg” Annie, and Dutch Em

If you plan to go see Atlanta, the Featherville route is to be preferred if you value your posterior and your time. We missed the turn off to Idaho City which would have shortened our return. Take a map.

It’s two-hundred-and-thirty-four (234) miles from Boise to Atlanta and back, most of them on washboard gravel roads through the Boise National Forest. Atlanta only barely qualifies to be a Ramble (our self-imposed distance limit is 125 miles from home) because it’s almost too far. We really should have considered a drive-time limit too. Next time.

On the whole though, the trip was more than worth it despite the never-ending return leg alongside the sinuous Middle Fork Boise River. It was beautiful but an interminable 4 hours from Atlanta to Lucky Peak Reservoir. If you take the loop, be ready to spend a lot time driving, getting beat to death. Four-wheel drive or a heavy duty truck is advisable. Do NOT take any passenger car you care about on this Ramble.

I recently posted my Retirement things-to-do-so-I-don’t-bore-myself list. Third on that list was Draw a 125 mile radius around my house, see what’s inside of it. I call these short day trips Rambles – the Professor and I identify a place we’re curious about and just go, returning to sleep in our own bed the same evening.

For our inaugural Ramble, the Professor and I decided to see what was up the road in Pine, a small mountain community southeast of Boise (el. 2,730′). The answer from what we could see driving through without stopping – unless you fish, boat, or ride ATVs – is apparently not a whole lot. Maybe you have to know someone. Sorry, Pine.

We left Boise before 8 am (good thing because the loop would take us 12 hours). Our route led us east on I-84 to Mountain Home where we joined a dozen or so bikers having breakfast at AJ’s. We were glad to see the pandemic didn’t drive AJ’s out of business – we hadn’t eaten and it’s the kind of a place where truckers like to eat (hearty portions, good food). We were hungry. Belgium waffle for me, burrito and 1 biscuit and gravy for the Professor. Definitely worth stopping for.

Heading up the road, we met a significant amount of outbound traffic (RVs and boats) on the way home from Pine (el. 4,232′). The water level in Anderson Reservoir was way down. At the top end folks were camped along the edges of the water. It looked hot. Since most of them had boats that apparently wasn’t a deal breaker. There aren’t many trees on the valley floor.

Since it was still early, we decided to head up to Featherville (el. 4,552′) where we hoped it would be forested, cooler, and pretty. We saw more campers there and lots of ATVs, but the outbound traffic lessened significantly.

We’d passed most of the way through Featherville when we saw the sign: Atlanta 23. Twenty-three miles didn’t seem too awfully far and I’ve wanted to visit Atlanta for at least as long as I’ve lived in Idaho. On trips to Salmon from Boise I invariably wondered why a town in Idaho would be named after a city in Georgia. What’s there? Why did they name it Atlanta? What does it look like? Questions beg for answers. I knew one day I’d go to find out. Sunday seemed as good a day as any and the Professor agreed.

Rocky Bar, Idaho (photo credit and more info)

We passed a “Road not Maintained in Winter” sign but since our truck has 4 wheel drive we weren’t concerned. Good thing. After winding through beautiful forests and meadows we reached Rocky Bar (el. 5,269′), 62 miles northeast of Mountain Home. A small ghost town with a one-time population of 2,500, it sits in “a historic district which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It included eight contributing buildings and a contributing site on 8,640 acres (35.0 km2), or about a ten square mile area’s a shadow of its former self.” So says Wikipedia, that fount of light and sometimes, misinformation.

By this time, traffic was non-existent. In fact, we could count cars we passed on one hand. As we climbed over 2,500′ to the James Creek Summit (el. 7,802′) we saw a mountain biking tour company dropping off a handful of ripped bikers bound for the summit and then Atlanta, several ATV explorers stopped by a roadside waterfall, and two dicey-looking men kneeling down, cleaning a gun by the side of the road.

“Drive on, Professor,” I said urgently, remembering the movie Deliverance and imagining I heard duelling banjos.

We later learned that the road had only opened three days before. Much of the forest for miles has been burned. Rocks are still falling.

We arrived at James Creek Summit and stopped to read two monuments: one to the freighters and muleskinners that transported goods over Bald Mountain, and the other to two Atlanta women, Annie “Peg Leg” McIntyre Morrow and her friend, Dutch Em. The women were surprised by a late May snowstorm on Bald Mountain as they walked from Atlanta to Rocky Bar. Dutch ‘Em died on the mountain wrapped in Annie’s undergarments, and Annie was found incoherent in the snow. She later lost both feet to frostbite (thus the moniker).

Annie “Peg Leg” McIntyre Morrow, photo courtesy Idaho State Historical Society

I had so many questions. First, why were they walking to Rocky Bar? Why were they two women alone? There’s a lot of conjecture and very little factual information.

Apparently Annie had been married to a cruel man, reportedly a sheriff, had five children, and after she left them became an entrepreneurial madam. She and Dutch Em lived together, platonically or otherwise, I don’t know. Annie had houses of ill repute in Atlanta and Rocky Bar. Here are some of the variations on their history. Page 1, Annie “Peg Leg” McIntyre Morrow, Page 2.

I had to know more. Answers, I hoped, awaited us more than 2,400′ below in Atlanta. I was hooked. I could hardly wait to get there and ask anyone who might know all the things my inquiring mind had to know.

But I’ve run out of telling-time today. More on Monday. Come on back, ok?

#TeriFromOutWest

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