BOISE Step out of your tent or camper in the morning and your eyes are immediately drawn to rock formations.
The silhouettes of pyramid, turret and needle-shaped cliffs leave you in a trance, especially before that first cup of coffee in the morning.
It's spring and it's the best time to visit the high desert of Oregon and Idaho. You'll be greeted by an array of colors from wildflowers to pastel-colored rocks highlighted with a brush stroke of morning or late-evening sunlight. Head out in the desert this weekend. And, if you want, take a hike or climb a cliff.
The birds are your alarm clock in the desert in the spring. In fact, they get you up before first light so you can get that first cup of coffee and sit out in the camp chair watching the colors of the rock formations change as the sun's intensity increases.
"It is absolutely gorgeous," said Karen Ray of Boise, who was camped at Leslie Gulch in southeastern Oregon last month.
It was a time to watch the magnificent views of rock formations, which are right out your tent flap.
"What a beautiful place," she said.
The high desert of southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon lures campers and trekkers this time of the year.
It's the time to explore the Owyhee uplands and canyonlands before it gets too hot.
From the Owyhee Uplands National Backcountry Byway near Grand View to Leslie Gulch near Marsing, the high desert beckons desert rats.
"It's very different. I love the open space," said Lance Coleman of Boise, as he pitched his tent in the shadow of an orange-brown rock spire in Leslie Gulch.
"The color of the rocks is fantastic," he said.
For Robert Adducci, who is from Phoenix, camping at Leslie Gulch was the spring tonic he needed.
"It's awesome," said "The desert camping here is amazing."
The desert areas in this region are some of the most remote in the Llower 48 Sstates.
Back roads lead to isolated canyons and vistas where you can see for more than 100 miles on a clear day. You may not pass another motorist on the backroads back roads.
Here are a few places to experience camping in the high desert, from primitive campgrounds to a state park with lots of services:
LESLIE GULCH (Primitive camping): Leslie Gulch is a canyonlands adventure in southeast Oregon that's fairly easy to get to for a weekend campout or even a day trip. It has lots of hiking up side canyons with amazing scenery and geology.
Camping: There's only one place you can camp in Leslie Gulch and that's the U.S Bureau of Land Management campground near Owyhee Reservoir. It has sunshades, picnic tables, fire rings and gravel pads. No water is available but the campground has a rest room.
Note: This is a fragile area, so read the pamphlet that is available at the entrance.
Getting there: You can get to Leslie Gulch by heading out of Nampa on Idaho 55 west and south to Marsing. Continue out of Marsing to the junction of U.S. 95. Take U.S. 95 and drive about 20 miles south to McBride Creek Road (marked by a Leslie Gulch sign). Turn right on the dirt road and follow the Leslie Gulch signs for about 25 miles.
SUCCOR CREEK (Primitive camping): This is an excellent spring hiking area in a deep canyon. You'll find lots of interesting rock formations. There's a lot of cross-country hiking and scrambling for those looking for a strenuous hike.
For families, wandering along the dirt road through the canyon's creek gorge is enough to keep everyone happy.
It is a good place for a weekend camp or a day trip.
Camping: The campground is bare bones with a rest room. No water is available. Pedestrians are allowed to cross the creek into the east side of the park and may walk in to camp at 12 campsites. Six campsites east of the creek are available to park and set up camp. Succor Creek is an unstaffed, no-fee primitive camping area.
Notes: You'll need to bring your own water. Watch the roads in wet weather.
Getting there: Head out of Nampa on Idaho 55 toward Marsing. At Marsing, head north on U.S 95 toward Homedale. At Homedale turn west on Idaho 19 toward Adrian, Ore. Once across the border, the highway turns to Oregon 201. It's 6 miles from Homedale to the turnoff to Succor Creek State Park. The 15-mile ride on the dirt road to the park is suitable for some passenger cars during dry weather.
BRUNEAU DUNES PARK (Full-service camping): Bruneau Dunes State Park near Mountain Home is an easy way to get a glimpse of Idaho's high-desert terrain and also a couple of really wild sand dunes. It's one of the most fun places for kids.
Camping: This is plush. You can plug in and hook up to water. The rest rooms and showers make camping pretty slick.
Cost: Full hooks, $21.20 a night; tent camping, $12.72. Motor vehicle entrance fee, $4.
Getting there: I-84 east to the first Mountain Home exit; go south on Idaho 51 to the Snake River; east on Idaho 78 for 2 miles.
OWYHEE BYWAY (Primitive camping): Spring is the time to take the drive along the 100-mile, dirt road that crosses the heart of Southwest Idaho's remote Owyhee high desert. It's the Owyhee Uplands National Backcountry Byway. There are a lot of exploring, camping opportunities and off-trail hiking. Some people have done it in one day but an overnight or two-day camp will give you a better appreciation for this area's remoteness.
Camping: The best bet for camping is the developed campground along the way at the North Fork of the Owyhee River. It has camping spaces and a restroom. Otherwise, you can camp anywhere along the road as long as it's not private property. There are no services along this road.
Getting there: The entire loop going from Boise to Grand View and then the Owyhee Byway to Jordan Valley, Ore., and back to Nampa and Boise is about 270 miles. First, drive an hour and 15 minutes to Grand View by taking I-84 east from Boise to Mountain Home. Head south from Mountain Home on the road to Grand View. Once at Grand View, keep going east on Idaho 78. Just on the outskirts of town is the Mud Flat Road on the right. Take it and follow the road to Jordan Valley.