The Sawtooth

From Salmon we drove about 150 miles south to the center of Idaho and the Sawtooth National Recreation and Wilderness Area.  Most famously known for nearby Sun Valley Ski Resort, the draw for us is the natural beauty. We’ve said lots of “Wows” on this leg of the journey.

First we headed into Ketchum, the closest town with a Verizon store. Replacing the broken iPhone is a priority but in these parts, your priorities are not their problem. After a number of calls and an uncomfortable store visit we left without a viable solution. The last photo my phone took was a call to 911, which I didn’t make.

So, we are working on one phone for the time being. The scenery, however, makes up for it.

Our first destination here was the small town of Stanley and the nearby ghost towns of Bonanza and Custer. This is gold rush country from the mid 1800s through 1960. In Custer we toured the ghost town that once held a large population, all there to work the nearby mill, built to process ore from the mines. Relics from the early miners litter the ground of this historic site.

Along the way to Custer we passed the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge, which is a 988 ton relic of gold mining from the 1940s and 50s. There are 71 one-ton buckets on one continuous chain and each bucket could hold eight cubic feet of dirt.

The dredge dug into the valley over a six mile swath to recover gold by washing and separating the rock, gravel, and dirt from the gold.  Having cut a large swath of land through a beautiful valley, the old dredge still stands as a testament to man’s search for wealth. We toured the four story dredge which over a 12 year period turned out gold valued at  $1.2 million in 1958 dollars.

The next day we hopped on the bikes and rode from our campsite to the nearby Pole Creek Ranger Station. Pole Creek is the oldest Forest Service construction in the Sawtooth National Forest and was home to Ranger Bill Horton for 22 years.

The station is on the National Register of Historic Places and shows how tough and hard working rangers like Horton were. 

The remainder of the day was spent at the popular Redfish Lake. With a lodge, visitor center, and white beaches, Redfish is popular with hikers, paddle-boarders, kayakers, and boaters.

We walked the Fishhook Trail from the visitor center and came across the Kokanee Salmon, a relative of the Sockeye in the nearby creek. It was spawning season, so the red fish were thick, having come up stream from Redfish Lake. Once they hatch and grow they will go downstream tail-first to live and enjoy the beautiful Redfish Lake. 

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is filled with campsites, streams, and trails. We spent some time on the Harriman Trail, an 18 mile mountain bike trail that runs along the Big Wood River. We rode just a section of the trail, which was a good workout with incredible views. 

From there we headed to nearby Pettit Lake where Steve did a seven mile trail run while I rode the bike a little more. Steve’s run took him from Pettit Lake to Alice Lake. Along the way he had incredible views and scenery. 

The campgrounds were beginning to fill up in anticipation of the upcoming long weekend, which is our cue to move along. We really loved our time in the Sawtooth area and hope to return to explore more trails by foot and by bike. 

We are heading south towards Twin Falls for our next set of adventures. 

On the Path of Lewis and Clark

We’ve spent the last few days immersed in Lewis and Clark, Steve’s favorite explorers. He studied them extensively as a kid and has always been fascinated by their journey. Our time in and around Salmon, Idaho allowed us to dive deeper into the explorer’s story and legacy while soaking in some of the most incredible scenery we’ve ever experienced.

Our base for this part of our trek was the Wagonhammer RV Park in North Fork. Situated just 20 miles north of Salmon, the park gave us easy access to a number of cool excursions. The best part was that our campsite backed right up to the Salmon River and Bob loved the view! (photo)

Our first excursion was Shoup Road, or Forest Road 30 which took us back the second deepest canyon in the US. Following the Salmon River we watched as whitewater rafters were challenged by the rapids and fishermen were searching for the big catch.

One of the highlights of the 40 mile drive was reaching the confluence of the Salmon and the Middle Salmon, an incredible sight. 

Along the way we saw deer and herds of big horn sheep. It was an all-day journey, and we loved every minute…especially the milkshakes at the Ram’s Head Cafe at mile 31!

Our second day was spent following the path of Lewis and Clark to Lemhi Pass. Here’s Steve’s account of the day:

“Our first stop was the Sacajewea Memorial in Salmon. We learned about her invaluable contribution to the Lewis and Clark Expedition as well as the culture and habits of her youth before joining the expedition.

We learned a lot and were excited to see the actual terrain that Lewis and Clark, led by Sacajewea, had to get through in order to complete their adventure and mission. Bob even met Seaman, Lewis and Clark’s dog.

“We roughly followed their path, driving up more than 4,000 vertical feet in the 20 or so miles to the highest point and the Continental Divide.

There at Lemhi Pass, having only seen two cars and some cattle on the road, we were surprised to see a group of Native Americans. It turns out that they were descendants of Sacajewea’s tribe, and each year, they hike from the valley to the top of the pass to memorialize the 1905 forced march of their ancestors up the steep hill and over the other side into Montana before boarding a train for their new home on a reservation in Oklahoma.  Their entire community of men, women and children had to hike the same trails as Lewis and Clark’s expedition. This bit of perspective changed our experience from the history book’s version and personalized the impact of America’s expansion west years after the remarkable journey of Lewis and Clark.

“After speaking with the walkers, we descended a short distance down the eastern side of the pass, into Montana and the eastern side of the Continental Divide. We stopped at a pull-out for lunch and a short walk to a spring that is the ultimate headwaters of the Missouri River. I straddled the headwaters just like Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery over 200 years ago. 

“We returned to the road and descended back to the Salmon River Valley, picking up one of the walkers as she hitchhiked back down after her hike up.  The three of us marveled at and discussed the incredible adventure of Lewis and Clark, but she also shared the hardships of her people at the hands of westward expansion. She shared the tears shed and emotions expressed that morning by the walkers, one of whom was 80 and whose parents had been part of the march.

After dropping her at her campsite, Marnie and I marveled at some of the ranches and concluded that those walkers would have been the owners of that beautiful, rich land had they not been displaced by America’s movement west. Instead, since their forced march, they lived in Oklahoma before being relocated once again to a reservation in Southern Idaho.”

On our final day at Wagonhammer we headed north into Montana to the Big Hole National Battlefield.

The site is a memorial to the people who fought and died there on August 9 and 10, 1877. The Nez Perce Indians were fleeing from US Army troops charged with enforcing the US government’s demands that the natives move to a reservation a fraction of the size of their traditional homeland. At the end of the conflict, 29 US troops were dead and 40 more wounded. Over 90 of the Nez Perce mostly women and children were massacred in the ugly attack.

Steve saw it this way: “This again personalized the impact of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. America’s expansion west is littered with cases where the US Government went back on treaties and forced Native Americans to reservations far from their homelands.

Though the Nez Perce in this battle were not ancestors of those we had met the day before, we better appreciated the emotions this battle site brings out. Natives say you can hear wails of tears of those who  perished in the battle, and, as I walked through the area, the wind through the pine trees certainly made a melancholy sound.”

Visiting sites like this makes us realize just how little we know about our nation’s history and how much we can learn from that story. There is so much these conflicts teach us about the plight of those who lived here before us. Unfortunately history seems to repeat itself, even today.

We are down to one phone as Marnie’s died on the battlefield, literally. All photos now are from Steve’s phone until we can get to an area large enough to carry a replacement iPhone. Might be awhile…

Northern Idaho is the Bomb!

Our summer RV adventures continued this week in northern Idaho and boy were we impressed! This place ticked off a lot of our “must haves” in a destination, and we are excited to share the highlights with you.

First we spent the night in a little town called Laclede which is the home to the Riley Creek Blueberry Farm.

Another Harvest Host property, we were able to stay on their grounds with our membership. Stan and Anita, the farmers and owners of Riley Creek, met us with a big smile and encouraged us to roam the farm. We picked blueberries and bought a blueberry pie and jam.

The best part, however, was the beautiful setting. We parked right in the middle of the blueberry bushes, surrounded by wild blackberries, farm animals, and a beautiful garden. With great weather and a few other very nice Harvest Host members, we enjoyed our overnight on the farm. It was hard to leave.

Oh, and there was a tractor!

Our next stop was Coeur d’Alene, and we were lucky to snag a spot at the Blackwell Island RV Park, right on the shores of the Spokane River and Lake Coeur d’Alene. This was one of the nicer parks we’ve stayed in with sparkling clean laundry facility and a large beach from which to launch a kayak. We kept busy just at the RV park.

Of course, we did venture into the city several times and checked out the town. One morning we biked into town, watched runners of the Coeur d’Alene marathon, and had a cup of coffee.

Steve would have loved to run but we didn’t realize the race, modified for COVID-19, was being held over a three day period while we were there. 

From Coeur d’Alene we headed east along I-90 until we found the cute little historic town of Wallace, Idaho. We hadn’t planned on stopping here but when we learned about the Route of the Hiawatha, we found this town to be a convenient base.  We had no idea what we were in for! Wallace is an old silver mining town where every building in town is in the Registry of Historic Places. In town there is a mining museum, a railroad museum, and a bordello museum—all commemorating the area’s historic past. I did the Sierra Silver Mine tour and learned about the process and history of silver mining in northern Idaho’s Silver Valley.

Meanwhile Steve ran the Pulaski Trail, a two mile hike that commemorates the 1910 fire that ravaged the town and region. 

The real draw to Wallace these days is biking. Almost everyone at the Wallace RV Park where we stayed was doing the Route of the Hiawatha. Considered the “crown jewel” of America’s rails-to-trails routes, the Route of the Hiawatha follows the abandoned Milwaukee railroad grade.

Over the 15-mile downhill route we passed through ten tunnels and seven sky high steel trestles with sweeping views of the Bitterroot Mountain range. The adventure begins with the 1.7 mile long Taft tunnel which required us to use our lights and traverse through darkness. A little scary, but super fun!

Most do the Hiawatha in one direction and take a shuttle back to the beginning. It’s an easy, leisurely ride with interpretive signs along the way that inform about the development of the railroad and the area. Steve had planned to ride back up, get the car, and then come get me. Once we learned the drive to the finish took almost as long as the bike ride due to the terrain, and after seeing the crowds waiting for the shuttle, I decided to give the uphill return trip a try.

It was a long 15 miles uphill but rewarding to finish. Plus, we got to see the route from the other direction and really savor the experience. We even met a nice deer along the trail–probably because by that time there were few bikers on the trail.

Four hours on the bike over 30 miles was the most I’d done in a while!

Running right through Wallace and adjacent to our campground was the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Another rail-to-trail, this one runs through the Silver Valley from the Montana border to Coeur d’Alene.

Each day we enjoyed this relatively flat paved trail for a few miles in each direction. We keep saying, “Why doesn’t Arizona have trails like this?” 

One other interesting fact about Wallace: it’s the Center of the Universe. Supposedly a few of the locals decided it was so and they say that it is that way until proven otherwise. They even have a manhole cover in the main intersection to declare it. It must be so!

We’re now heading into Montana and then south to central Idaho for more fun.