Hitch Lead: Aaron
The tiny town of Leadore, ID, was the home base for the hitch 5 U-Routes team of Nick Larson and me, Aaron Osowski. Over the span of an 8-day straight hitch without a break, the two of us walked 119 U-Routes looking for erosion issues in a variety of environments and terrains, from open sagebrush flats in the blazing sun to coniferous forests and old, abandoned mining pits.
As Leadore has been historically known as a mining town, we found that many of the routes we walked lead to mining areas or pits. In fact, a great amount of the routes early on were located in the old Leadville mine just to the north of Leadore. Some notable features of these routes were switchbacks and pits dug in the backslope. As usual, many if not most of the routes were highly re-vegetated and had not seen use in at least 10-15 years.
A rather unfortunate part of this hitch was the occasional drifting of smoke in the area from the (now more than 80,000 acre) wildfires to the west. The smoke made the hiking of U-Routes a bit more cumbersome, but there was a certain beauty in the ominous haze the smoke created on the top of Bannock Pass as the smoke passed on into Montana. Fellow campers at the Smokey Cubs campground in Leadore expressed curiosity about the wildfires after they heard we were working with the Forest Service, but we were disappointed that we couldn’t tell them much more than the general location of the fires.
Though there remain many U-Routes still to walk in the Leadore area, it’s fascinating to think of how each route was created and what purpose it served. Though many aren’t even recognizable, they are all a blast from the past that could each have a story to tell.
U-Routes walked: 120
Total mileage: 59.4 mi.