Where memories continue and we're all family
At dawn’s early light, the ATV.com F150 with a Wells Cargo “Fun Wagon” trailer in tow, which was stuffed with camping equipment, foodstuffs, and one rugged 2017 Polaris General Deluxe 1000, set out for Rally in the Pines 2017 in Mackay, Idaho. What is there not love about Rally in the Pines?
As the F150 and companion trailer passed through Arco, Idaho and made its way to Mackay, a mileage sign appeared, “Mackay, 7 miles.” The past few days’ stress washed away as we knew the trails and rails, and creeks and rivers would rejuvenate our souls. We understand “born again” when at Rally in the Pines.
The backcountry on all sides of this farm and cowboy village is filled with greenery, rivers and creeks; Aspen, Cedar and Juniper trees; range cattle; moose; coyotes; sagebrush and motorhead folk from all over this great land who have a passion for dirt-n-wheels. Mackay is more than a slow-down town, it is an old mining settlement where iron-ore, silver and gold were pulled from the rugged and rocky terrain by the hardiest of men, women and children who wore coveralls and swung a pick or manipulated steam-powered mining equipment.
Like Mackay’s rich cowboy and mining history, Rally in the Pines, embeds itself into this town as a new and modern history; a new legacy was born six years ago and his now part of Mackay’s storied history.
Rally in the Pines, LLC is owned and operated by BAM Film Productions. For Rally in the Pines, BAM has made permit-agreements with the US Forest Service, particularly the Salmon-Challis National Forest; Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Idaho Department of Transportation and the City Of Mackay.
BAM is also known nationally as the producers of the TV show, PowerSports Adventures.
Now you may ask, where in the heck is Mackay, Idaho? It is in South-central Idaho, east of Sun Valley and considerably west of Yellowstone National Park. Many roads lead there, one is Highway 20 from Idaho Falls, to Arco, then Highway 93 to Mackay. From Twin Falls, Idaho, also take Highway 93 north to Mackay.
This year, numerous Forest Service chiefs from several U.S. national forests were at Rally in the Pines to witness how well-run and conscientious the organizers and participants are; reports were to be given to the Interior Secretary’s staff. This event helps decision makers promote our off-road cause – to keep our rails and trails open to off-roading.
After we rolled into the Rally Campground, near the Mackay rodeo grounds, we strolled through vendor row, which fills the whole rodeo arena and the main road from Capital Avenue to the arena. We came across many old friends – favorite vendors – and shook hands with them as well as with some new vendors who believe life is meant to be enjoyed behind a UTV steering wheel or ATV handlebars. With our hands tired from gripping and shaking, we kicked out from our enclosed trailer the 2017 Polaris General Deluxe, a dirt buggy we’ve become fond of.
By early Friday afternoon, temperatures at Mackay rose to the upper 80s, complete with something unusual – humidity. In the valley floor that houses Mackay and the mountains that surround this at-its-own-pace town, the humidity cooked up some thunderous rain clouds.
As we headed off for a self-guided tour along the mining loop, a network of 50-inch wide trails, and many much wider trails for full-sized UTVs, the rains began to fall – gently for a minute or two, then for the next 20 minutes, Mother Nature reminded us, with her water, and light and sound show, that she was the queen maestro and lead engineer for all events water, lights and sound.
With the Polaris General linked to its four-wheel drive, we engaged in muddy tire and car antics as we lumbered along on the picturesque trails. From high above Mackay, thunder bounced and rolled off every mountain top to drop down onto the valley floor.
“Turn right, take that trail.”
“Got it. What did that sign say at the intersection?”
“Cool. Then we’re good.”
Sideways rain careened through the windowless cab; time to park under a large Juniper.
“You sure this is a good idea? I mean, the tree is as tall as a mountain; you know, like a lightning rod.”
“I think you’re right. Let’s go on and get wet.”
Polaris General humming, classic rock bumping and “Whoa, what’s this?”
“A trestle bridge across a canyon.”
“Did you notice the trail was suspiciously narrow? Like 50-inch narrow, like this bridge is built for 50-inch side-by-side cars and ATVs?”
“Well, we have a ways to backup.”
With newly installed rearview side mirrors, we set the General into “R” and backed down the trail about 100 yards, to a point where we swung the nose around and headed down to the main trail intersection.
“What does that sign say, besides ‘one way?’”
“Fifty-inch wide trail only.”
As we wound our way down the mountain to Mackay, the dark rain clouds turned a brilliant white, the sun ran out to join us, and Mackay took on a brilliant gold luster.
For those who ventured to Friday’s Rally Lunch Ride, live entertainment was given to all hungry souls by Scott Balsai. Last year we joined in on this, and if it was like last year, then yes, you were well-fed and entertained. As for us, we were in the rain, rolling in and out of the many mining camps.
On this Friday night, Rally in the Pines has its annual parade, with awards given to the best dressed side-by-side, ATV and accompanying crew. The parade loops around Mackay’s side streets and down the through-street Highway 93. Rally participants, the supporting local folk, the town’s Sherriff and deputies and football team join in on the fun. T-Rex, Tow Mater, pioneers, resurrected miners, President Trump and many other fun characters and decorated UTVs and ATVs wheeled around town with drivers and passengers tossing out candy.
After this, parade participants parked their decorated units inside vendor row while an ice-cream social cooled down the night. Awards were then given.
Before we close down our Friday testament, on late Thursday afternoon, though we were not there at the time, Rugged Radios demonstrated its equipment and TKO discussed its clamping systems. A night ride and dinner ensued with live entertainment, all as the sun began to set. That Thursday night too, an ATV and UTV night-light parade occurred where vehicles with more off road and LED lights than a UFO circled Mackay’s main drag and side streets. We’re sad we missed this.
Day two, ATV.com guest-test rider Roger Raymond and I dressed in our Klim dust suit and R1 helmets, hooked ourselves to a fresh-air intake pump and set out to tour Copper Basin and the Muldoon Canyon area; John and Sylvia Nixon were our guides. No ATVs joined in as all wheels were of the UTV and SxS type.
With our guide leading the way, the ATV.com wrecking crew brought up the rear, running sweep. We and 12 other SxS vehicles zipped along Highway 93 toward Challis to pull off the highway after seven miles of pavement burning. As we kicked up dust we entered an ecosystem that was wet, green and luscious to the eyes; stubborn snow still hung on the mountain tops, refusing to give into the Sun and its warm rays. But, the snow was obediently relinquishing its hold onto the mountain tops, as creeks, brooks, rivers and trails were awash with Rocky Mountain spring water.
Rally in the Pines makes it very difficult to return to an electronic world made up of cell phones, the internet and all things rushed and stressed. Yet, Rally in the Pines refreshes the soul.
Saturday night was the big night for the Rally barbecue and live band show – Scott Balsai and Acoustic Reflections. Rally participants, as they waited for dinner to begin, roamed vendor row picking up last-minute bargains on lights, winches, clothing, tires, wheels and communication devices to name a few.
Performance shops like Z-Broz Racing, Kurt’s Off-Road and Starting Line Products, to name a few, were busy installing shocks, axles, elevation-specific performance clutch kits and fresh air intake systems.
One vendor new to the Rally demonstrated its off-road trailers, built for towing behind ATVs and UTVs. The Sandpoint, Idaho company, Advanced Offroad Trailer (AOT) understands the needs serious ATV and SxS off-roaders have for camping, hauling wood and dressing out and carrying out their elk or deer. Check out AOT at www.advancedoffroadtrailer.com.
As the sun gave way to the moon, Rally in the Pines’ Haunted Ghost Town Night Ride commenced. This is one the highlights of Rally in the Pines, and from our experience, one of the finest experiences any ATV or UTV rider and family can have. Vendors dress as living-dead miners, occupying several mining camps and abandoned mining towns to scare all, and deliver Halloween-like fun and treats. Side-by-Side vehicles with a gazillion multi-colored lights wind the many mining trails like a 10-mile long ghoulish centipede with lights. Steven Spielberg would be envious; no computer-generated special effects could match this ride’s light show.
Rally in the Pines 2018
Make plans to be at next year’s Rally in the Pines. We’ll be there to rid ourselves of work-week stress and to make friends. As organizer Meg Allen told us, “At Rally, we are all family.” With all the head dipping and hand waving along the trails, she is more than right.