A Day in the Life
Of an Idaho Backroads Wanderer
Story and Photos by Linda Lantzy
As I descend the steep, winding road into the Pittsburgh Landing area of Hells Canyon, the temperature starts to climb. Even on this gray, drizzly spring day in late April, it is warming into the 70s at only 9 a.m. Coming around a corner, the vehicle passes over a dead rattlesnake in the road, and my knee instinctively shoots up to hit the steering column. Now fully alert, I make a mental note to be very careful when walking. The road continues to drop into the canyon, and I see another snake but this time don’t flinch. Surrounded by rugged peaks with a few patches of snow remaining, I’m in awe. The golden petals of arrowleaf balsamroot in bloom catch my eye and I am hopeful for a break in the rain and a chance for photographs. Reaching a “Y” in the road, I clock my mileage, scribble it into my notes, and instinctively go left. The road ahead traverses a bluff above the mighty Snake River and my inclination is to continue rather than drop down to the water right away.
Excitement builds as this two-track stretches before me through a field of green grasslands. It is so beautiful, even on this stormy day. Completely forgetting the snakes, I pick a spot that affords a view upstream of the river. I park and walk about a hundred feet through waist-high grass to the edge of the bluff for a quick look. This is a great spot, and I retreat to my car to grab my gear. Heading back to the river vantage point with tripod and camera in hand, there in the path I just made through the grass is a four-to-five-foot rattler, coiled and ready to strike. I freeze in my tracks. There’s nobody here but me. No cell phone service. The nearest hospital would be Grangeville, approximately forty slow miles away. Ever so slowly, I back away, remembering my caution to myself, and thinking how lucky I am. But there will be no river photograph from this spot.
From the safety of the trailhead parking area at the end of the road, I make my photographs of the river and canyon. It is bittersweet, but will suffice. A lone tree in the field also catches my eye. Still a little shaken from my previous stop, I don’t venture any closer to it. Back in the safety of the vehicle, I sit for a few minutes and listen to the soft pitter-patter of rainfall against the windshield. I love my life.