After we left Craters of the Moon we drove to Mackay. Our initial plan was to camp outside of Mackay (pronounced Mackie) and get up at dawn to hike Mount Borah. We set up camp at the Mackay Reservoir and went into town to look around and eat some dinner, maybe find a beer.
Mackay is a town of roughly 500 people. It’s a rarity. It is still largely untouched by modern forces even though newcomers have been creeping in, and it’s a destination (of sorts) for hunters, fishermen, the ATV crowd, and hikers. Mackay is “the top of Idaho” as it’s situated between the Lost River Mountain Range and the White Knob Mountain Range which contain the highest mountains in the state. Mount McCaleb, which is visible from Main St. sits at 11,427 ft., while nearby Mount Borah sits at 12,668 ft.
Living in Marfa last year fully prepared me for Mackay’s small town vibe – things don’t happen quickly because there’s no where to hurry off to anyway. We popped into an antiques store, the only store on the block open, and browsed the eclectic offerings, including a massive grizzly bear rug which – thankfully – was well out of our price range ($15,000). We walked across the street to Ken’s Club for dinner where they serve gigantic slabs of prime rib. We opted for burgers but the prime rib did look amazing. We may have make a mistake… After dinner, which was quite leisurely, we stowed a to-go box full of tater tots in the car and strolled over to Perk’s Bar. Perk’s is over 100 years old with a beautiful Brunswick back bar and tons of dancing space, pool tables, some booths, and of course, seats at the bar. There were old photos of the bar on the wall, chronicling its changes over the years. In its past life, the walls were adorned with taxidermied animals of all sorts, and I kind of wished they still were.
By the time we had dinner, we’d mostly decided to call off the hike. Before we left Salt Lake, the chance of rain for Sunday was 80%, and it hadn’t changed. Since we needed an early start to ensure a safe climb above the treeline – and I’d rather hike to a summit if I’m assured a clear view – we decided to scrap our plans to hike Mt. Borah. We left Perk’s to retire to our tent for the remainder of the evening when we got a call from Truman’s dogsitter – she’d locked herself and Truman out of the house. After our initial panic, we were able to get in touch with our landlord, who was able to let her back in with his set of keys. Phew.
The next morning we packed up our campsite and went back into town for breakfast at Amy Lou’s. What began as a somewhat strange experience soon turned into an enchanting encounter. When we first entered, we sat ourselves at a booth near the front and Zach decided to grab menus. Then we waited. We saw Amy Lou come out once and take a couple orders, then return to the kitchen. We thought she’d ignored us because we were tourists, not locals. After we’d wait at least 15 minutes, Zach was ready to leave. Just as we were about to get up, one of the men from the booth behind us got up for a coffee refill and offered us some. Upon seeing that we didn’t have cups, he brought over some mugs and filled ’em to the brim. Well, we were committed. We had to at least finish the coffee! It was fortunate timing; we soon realized that Amy Lou truly was the only person cooking, taking orders, and refilling mugs. She came over a short while later, took our orders, and thanked us for our patience. The food arrived not long after and was simple, but stellar. There’s just something about having a couple of fried eggs, with hash browns fresh from the griddle, and toasted white bread that really hits the spot. Even the coffee was decent – and I’m typically one of those fancy latte drinkers.
We rolled out of Mackay after breakfast and headed north toward Salmon, our new destination. Just slightly after the turn for the Mt. Borah campground and trail head was a sign about the 1983 earthquake. In October 1983, the largest recorded earthquake (7.3) hit the Lost River Valley. The Lost River Range rose about a foot and the valley dropped 7.5 ft. The shock spread 500 miles from the epicenter and created a scarp which follows the front of the range for 21 miles. We decided to follow a dirt road for two miles so we could check out the scarp formed by the quake. It was pretty magnificent, even though the sagebrush made it a little less dramatic. And it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.