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I am standing on top of Clifty Mountain in north Idaho on a lovely Labor Day.

I am standing on top of Clifty Mountain in north Idaho on a lovely Labor Day.

Despite their infrequency, the trips Tara and I always enjoy are the periodic visits to see my stepfather Jim at his remarkable mountaintop cabin.

Tara has known that mountain all their life, and confessed to spiritually “needing” to be there sometimes, to go for a walk alone, and to reconnect to childhood and peace and the memory of Gramy, my mother, who died in 2011. Tara and Jim have a special relationship, since he has known my kid since birth, sending love and birthday cards in just the right kind of Grandpa way. Tara has loved him back and counted on him in their life.

We traveled there over the long Labor Day weekend, and caught some perfect late season weather. He lives outside of Moyie Springs, Idaho, and closer to British Columbia than any town in the U.S. that you’ve heard of. Our first ritual is to walk around the property, and usually we end up at ‘the pit,’ which is the family name for Jim’s quarry on the side of his mountain. I am always surprized at how pretty it is at the rock pit, and how the big equipment seems to suit the landscape, even adding charm rather than detracting from it.

Autumn colours brighten the forest.

Autumn colours decorate the forest.

Tara leads the way to the pit.

Tara leads the way to the pit.

A view of the breathtaking Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, stretching down into Montana.

A view of the breathtaking Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, stretching down into Montana.

Beasts at rest in the evening. What a child's playground, eh? (Perhaps even children in their 40s and 60s)

Beasts at rest in the evening. What a child’s playground, eh? (Perhaps even children in their 40s and 60s) That is Clifty Mountain in the background.

This image really appeals to me. The three of us standing in the setting sun, gazing across the rock face of the quarry.

This image really appeals to me. The three of us standing in the setting sun, gazing across the rock face of the quarry.

We unpacked the Jeep and settled in for a couple of cozy nights in the most cabin-y cabin I have ever seen. Chalk it up to Mom’s design sense; this place is beautifully done. We stayed in the master bedroom, still filled with things that are unquestionably Mom: the tiny trading post, the pine cones, the canned goods that she cannned and no one had the heart to consume, lest they disappear. It’s not as heartbreaking anymore, and maybe after 5 years, I’m able to start thinking about her again without falling apart.

Many things are Mom's but the map on the wall is Jim's!

Many things are Mom’s but the map on the wall is Jim’s!

Isn't this room marvelous?

Isn’t this room marvelous?

Jim usually plans an outing for us when we come, and this time he suggested a hike to Clifty Mountain, the peak we could see directly across the valley from our perch above the pit.

The next morning we went to pick up Jim’s friend J, and the four of us headed up the hill in his pickup. The trailhead for Clifty is near a lookout, so we went there first. The lookout is not in use officially, and can apparently be rented by campers. Now wouldn’t that be a fun night? Tara and I eagerly climbed the stairs in the wind, only to be stopped halfway up by six missing steps that had been pulled out of their slots to keep prying eyes and fingers out of there.

The views are outstanding whether one climbs the stairs or not. And to Tara’s astonishment, the lookout is a PokeStop! (If you don’t know what I’m talking about….It’s a Pokemon Go thing. Pokemon Go is sort of a big deal these days. Maybe it would be best to look it up.) We stayed there for some time, lazily wandering from one side to the other, gazing at the 360-degree views. South to Lake Pend Orielle and Sandpoint, west to the Selkirk Mountains, north to the Canada border, east to Montana.

A view of the lookout from the road to reach it. The towers are communications relays.

A view of the lookout from the road to reach it. The towers are communications relays.

J at the base of the lookout. Tara and I climbed two flights and stopped when the steps did.

J at the base of the lookout. Tara and I climbed two flights and stopped when the steps did. If you look carefully, you can see where they are removed from the third flight.

View from the base of the lookout, looking north.

View from the base of the lookout, looking north.

Quaint little Bonners Ferry, Idaho. I lived there as a toddler, and one of my brothers was born there.

Quaint little Bonners Ferry, Idaho. I lived there as a toddler, and one of my brothers was born there.

We finally hit the trail and began the climb. The weather was perfect – a little cool at first, and then a smidge too warm as we heated from our climb. The peak is at 6,705 feet, so we were also getting a bit winded. I think of this part of Idaho as remote – and come on, it is – so I was not expecting the many hikers that joined us. Ok, “many” is relative, but there were plenty of people to chat with along the way. We were the only vehicle at the trailhead when we started, and when we left, there were 6 other vehicles parked.

At the top, we sat gratefully on rocks that Mother Earth had scattered liberally for us, all placed with the best views. We picked out landmarks, like the impressive Moyie River Canyon Bridge, 424 feet above the water. Jim helped us spot the pit! Then it was time to make our way back down the hill and visit Bonners Ferry’s Kootenai River Brewery for a burger and a pint of Huckleberry Wheat.

Almost to the top!

Almost to the top!

Jim and J coming up behind us.

Jim and J coming up behind us.

What do you do on top of a mountain? Take a selfie, of course!

What do you do on top of a mountain? Take a selfie, of course!

...and then sit down and soak it all up.

…and then sit down and soak it all up.

Tara is still sporting the Cruella de Vil hair, and a lovely smile.

Tara is still sporting the Cruella de Vil hair, and a lovely smile.

A rather battered geodetic survey marker. Now that would be a fun game to play on your phone: find geodetic survey markers!

A rather battered geodetic survey marker TO0917. Now that would be a fun game to play on your phone: find geodetic survey markers!

Tara took this shot. Wow! I love it.

Tara took this shot. Wow! I love it.

J got a good shot of me too. Maybe happy people just look good, in general. ;-)

J got a good shot of me too. Maybe happy people just look good, in general. 😉

Evening fishermen head home on the Snake River in front of the house that used to be my Pa's.

Evening fishermen head home on the Snake River in front of the house that used to be my Pa’s.

For awhile it seemed like paradise, this 5 acre plot of land on the banks of the Snake River, just southwest of Boise, Idaho. And when my Pa was younger, the upkeep was somewhat invigorating. But health problems mounted, and the work was never done. Morally defeating was the fact that tasks completed had to be re-completed every so often. Well pumps re-installed, soil Ph balance restored, railings repaired, deck boards replaced, dead trees and bushes re-planted with live ones. One huge blow was when an impressive three-tired retaining wall built of railroad ties (my father did everything himself), was partially destroyed when the above-ground pool (guaranteed not to fail) burst and flooded the hillside, washing out the retaining wall on its way to the river. Insurance refused to pay saying that this was flood damage and my father didn’t have flood insurance. Search as he might, Pa couldn’t find the original purchase receipt of the lifetime guaranteed pool, so that wasn’t replaced either.

I’ve blogged about this place before. Pa called it something like the “Trulove River Rat Rest & Relaxation Ranch,” or TRRR&RR for short. Right across the river is the Shoshone Indian Map Rock, and my post on that remarkable set of petroglyphs is one of my most popular.

Pa had already been wistfully talking about selling and moving someplace with trees, that was smaller and easier for him to take care of. Then, as I mentioned a few posts back, he married a Romanian woman and began trying to bring her to the US. After nearly a year it just wasn’t happening, so he gave up and decided to move to Romania. The beautiful house on the Snake River sold in a few months, and Pa began preparations to leave the country. The new owners graciously allowed him to stay on the property after it was sold, and he lived in a camp trailer while he continued to sort through what was left of years and years of possession-collecting.

A view off Interstate 84 in northeast Oregon

A view off Interstate 84 in northeast Oregon

Wildflowers in the heyday of Spring

Wildflowers (or onions?) in the heyday of Spring

I liked the variety of textures of the different plants here.

I liked the variety of textures of the different plants here.

Wild roses blooming

Wild roses blooming

In April I made the first trip over to help him pack. This second trip was in late May to continue helping him, by taking loads of donated items into the city’s equivalent of Goodwill, and packing the Jeep full of things he was donating to me. Also, importantly, to collect some cats. The Crazy Old Cat Man asked only that I take two. Still, it’s a traumatic thing for our dear Racecar kitty at home, who hates all other cats except herself. D and I brought home Thomas (14 years old) and Yeowler (4 years old), named for…yes, you guessed it. We will see how the summer goes, and then decide if new arrangements need to be made. So far, all three of them fight constantly, and it’s not peaceful when they are too close to each other.

Anyhow, I wanted to show some images from our trip over there, which was like a vacation and tons more fun than an 8-hour drive to Boise would imply. We stretched it to about 11 hours, with multiple stops along the way, and that’s what made it so fun.

First we took a side road that promised a viewpoint. I had been there years ago and vaguely remembered it as worth the look. This time we showed up in a profusion of desert wildflowers and we climbed around the mountain like a couple kids. D found something he thought might be wild onion, and we couldn’t decide. So I took a bite. It was pretty oniony. He thought I was crazy. 😉

Next we stopped for lunch in the little eastern Oregon town of Baker City. The day was an early season reprieve from the winter greys, and tourists were out in force, to the chagrin of unprepared staff in the few restaurants downtown. We stopped for only a pint at the Grand Geiser hotel, but the harried barmaid was pressed beyond her capacity. We left after 15 minutes with no hopes of getting a beer anytime soon, in hopes of easing her burden, and walked down the street to a little Mexican cafe and drank imported Mexican beer instead. Our waitress was the younger sister of another waitress, and had been called in to help.

We walked the streets and delighted in small town shop windows. I photographed the old painted advertising on the walls of several buildings.

Grand Geiser Hotel in Baker City, Oregon

Grand Geiser Hotel in Baker City, Oregon

I'm a sucker for wall art, especially when it has this much character.

I’m a sucker for wall art, especially when it has this much character.

Stay at The Antlers!

Stay at The Antlers! It’s absolutely modern.

The valleys around Boise, Idaho are filled with crops. It’s an agricultural area that doesn’t just produce potatoes, though our state is famous for its potatoes. I remember when there was a big debate over changing our state license plates to say something other than “famous potatoes,” because it wasn’t the snappy image some residents wanted to present. Tradition prevailed, and Idaho remains famous for the root crop instead of diamond mines, suggested instead. You can find onions, sugar beets, corn, wheat, and much more out there. There is lots of sun and water in southern Idaho, which is what a breadbasket valley needs.

Once we arrived at Pa’s place, I called a friend of mine in the area. We grew up together in a tiny town farther north in Idaho, so he knows my dad and our memories go back 30 years. He came out to visit, so we all sat in the shade and watched the river and caught up on each others’ lives.

There wasn’t much left to pack and sort this time, since my Pa had dealt with nearly everything. Of the things left to sort through, I found an English sword I purchased for him a few years ago after hiring a company that researched the Trulove family name. They came up with what my brother had already discovered: our name is English, spelled Trewlove and a variety of other versions before settling down to the one we’ve got. We took turns playing with the sword.

D and I set up our tent on the front lawn of the house that now belonged to someone else. Pa was pleased with the Montana rancher who had purchased his place. I am pleased that passing the baton to a decent new owner will give my Pa some peace. It must be a little like handing your child off to a new caretaker, when you personally build a dry piece of desert into a home oasis and then sell it.

Fields of hops in the valley. The source of so much brewed goodness.

Fields of hops in the valley. The source of so much brewed goodness.

My friend J hands the sword off to D

My friend J hands the sword off to D

Taz is the only kitty who made it to Romania. I wonder what she thinks of Europe?

Taz is the only kitty who made it to Romania. I wonder what she thinks of Europe?

This quail perches on this particular pile of rocks nearly every night.

This quail perches on this particular pile of rocks nearly every night.

Another quail. So photogenic I can't help myself.

Another quail. So photogenic I can’t help myself.

A bird flies off clutching a fish in its claws. You can't see the fish in this photo...trust me it's there. ;)

A bird flies off clutching a fish in its claws. You can’t see the fish in this photo…trust me it’s there. 😉

Tent in the grass

Tent in the grass

Finally we were all out of steam and went our separate ways. D and I walked through the fields looking for the coyotes we heard that sounded very close. All we found were cows grazing quietly, unconcerned about the coy dogs. Have you ever heard that term? Coy dogs? We used to say that when I was a kid. Then we walked down to the river and I took some parting sunset shots.

Cows graze in the evening, as the hills turn purple.

Cows graze in the evening, as the hills turn purple.

Sun sets over the Snake

Sun sets over the Snake

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Cows graze in the weak afternoon sun of December in the Owyhee desert.

Cows graze in the weak afternoon sun of December in the Owyhee desert.

Is it beautiful, or is it ugly? I guess it depends on who is asked.

Is it beautiful, or is it ugly? I guess it depends on who is asked.

Tara and I managed to squish in a quick trip to Boise and still be home for Christmas. We had remarkably good December weather and driving through the passes between Pendleton and Baker City was safe and quick.

First stop was my brother and sister-in law’s house. My two nephews are at an age where a visitor enjoys a few minutes of available parent when they can get them. Last time I visited, A suggested, “Why don’t you two come stay the night sometime, and we will have a chance to talk after the boys go to bed?” It was a great idea, so when my brother E suggested we stay the night Sunday, I immediately accepted.

For those of you who have received my annual Christmas letter, you will have read that I also caught a show in Boise. I’ll post photos from the show later. My original intent was to bring A and E along and have hours of grown up time and show them my favourite musician. They couldn’t find a babysitter on that holiday weekend, so A sent E off with us because she is a selfless sweetheart.  I loved having all that time with my brother, and look forward to the day when I can spend the same quality time with my sister-in-law. Everyone had to get up early in the morning for work and daycare, so we had only a few minutes of evening and morning time. That will teach me to visit on Sunday night.

Anyway, for all my high hopes, I simply did not get enough time with them and the boys. I will have to go back! Tara and I soaked up their beautiful home and hospitality, and got the full story on Rocky, the shelf elf, who comes to live in the house every December so he can report to Santa on the boys’ activity. Each morning, Rocky shows up in a new place in the house, and my nephews run around and find what kind of mischief was wrought in the night. The morning we woke up there, Rocky had found a photo of my nephews and drew mustaches and glasses on them.

Warm rays of the sun strike the surface of the Snake River, creating a frosty winter mist.

Warm rays of the sun strike the surface of the Snake River, creating a frosty winter mist.

Morning light touches the river.

Morning light touches the river.

Mountains blush in the morning light.

Mountains blush at sunrise.

A duck lifts off from the Snake River.

An American Coot lifts off from the Snake River.

We crossed the Treasure Valley out to my Pa’s house on the Snake River. This is not my preferred country. My Pa just loves the Owyhee desert, but I find it barren and bereft. Out there for too long, I begin to take stock of assets for survival purposes…just in case. Still, as the photos show, I am an artist, and I cannot help but find extraordinary beauty around me no matter where I stand.

My Pa fed us some fabulous meals and we had the chance to tell stories and catch up. (Don’t you agree that it’s wonderful to visit a good cook?) It’s been a really hard year for my dad and it felt good for me to reconnect. I worry about him and it’s hard to be so far away sometimes. I hope he found the same comfort from our time there.

Dove waits for sunrise.

Dove waits for the warmth of the day.

We visited with all the kitties, one by one, as they gained the courage to get a little closer to us. I teased my dad, “I’ve heard of crazy old cat ladies, but you’re the first crazy old cat man I’ve known.” He does have a soft spot for cats, and a million acres for them to roam – albeit dangerous acres with raptors nearby. Tara and I watched a movie in the theatre downstairs. I believe it’s obligatory: if your host has a theatre, a movie must be watched.

Pa talked about the recent catastrophe of the outdoor pool bursting and exploding down the hillside, washing out retaining walls and the road down to the river. The timing is dreadful, because he was getting ready to sell the house. Now he has to sit and wait until insurance settlements are worked out. He reminded me of the bright side however, pointing out that the pool burst on the side away from the house, and went toward the river. Thus 15,000 gallons of water did not even approach the house, much less tear at the foundation the way it wrecked the retaining wall.

It’s our very last Christmas as Mom and high-schooler; who knows what the future will bring? It was important to us to be in our own home with our own beautiful tree and our own sweet Racecar kitty for Christmas. So we said goodbye to Grandpa/Pa and made the 8-hour drive home to Portland. On the way we passed this fabulously decrepit place beside I-84. I slowed down for Tara, who took all the following shots.

An abandoned factory of some kind, in an absolutely remote stretch of highway.

An abandoned factory of some kind, in an absolutely remote part of eastern Oregon.

How can something so wretched be so picturesque?

How can something so wretched be so picturesque?

A closer look shows what a cobbled-together quilt of structures it is.

A closer look shows what a cobbled-together quilt of structures it is.

Every level of scrutiny reveals more fascinating layers.

Every level of scrutiny reveals more fascinating layers.

Does the second floor of the hut truly jut away like that?

Does the second floor of the hut truly jut away like that?

Empty walls always cry out for graffiti.

Empty walls always cry out for graffiti.

Sentinels

Sentinels

I love that there are decorative touches to the smoke stacks.

I love that there are decorative touches to the smoke stacks.

The Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge west of Bonners Ferry, Idaho

The Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge west of Bonners Ferry, Idaho

My step-father is the one who lives there, but I think Jim would like us to think of it as home. The setting -mountains and valleys about 20 miles south of the Canada border- is hard to resist, and my memories peek out at me from all over this region, making me feel connected to the place.

North Idaho used to be my home. When I was itty bitty, I lived in Bonners Ferry, and when I was in Junior High (it wasn’t called “middle school” back then) I lived outside of Sandpoint. The important point is that once my mother saw this remarkable, remote, evergreen wilderness paradise, she wouldn’t be budged. Her choice meant it would remain in my life too, every time I visited her there.

Sunrise on an early season dusting of snow.

Sunrise on an early season dusting of snow. Fog blankets Moyie Springs, in the Kootenai River Valley, below the cabin.

The country here is so beautiful it’s park-like. The only reason the whole Panhandle of Idaho isn’t a national park is because it’s bound east and west by Mt. Rainier NP and Glacier NP/Waterton Lakes NP and to the south by Yellowstone NP. Someone in Washington, D.C. waved a hand and said, “Alright, already. We get your point. It’s gorgeous over there. No more parks, though.”

Jim took us to Myrtle Creek Falls, out past the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. There could not have been a better day for a hike. The falls contained two dramatic cascades, wedged between high cliff walls at just such angles that I was unable to capture both in one photo. Resting invitingly between the two falls was a lovely pool that seemed completely unreachable without a helicopter and a rope ladder.

The upper falls, above the pool

The upper falls, above the pool

Myrtle Creek Falls. This is the lower cascade dropping from the pool.

Myrtle Creek Falls. This is the lower cascade dropping from the pool.

Don't adjust your set. Tara's hair was teal that day.

Don’t adjust your set. Tara’s hair was actually that colour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love this portrait. Trust me, that is a face built of decades of squinting into the sun, and has not a trace of grumpiness in it.

I love this portrait. Trust me, that is a face built of decades of squinting into the sun, and has not a trace of grumpiness in it.

It was warm enough to take off my jacket. Don't you love a day that starts off crisp and turns warm?

It was warm enough to take off my jacket. Don’t you love a day that starts off crisp and turns warm?

Aside from some Whitetail deer bounding into the forest before I could get the shot, this is the only other non-winged creature we saw.

Aside from some Whitetail deer bounding into the forest before I could get the shot, this is the only other non-winged creature we saw.

We passed the wildlife refuge again on our way back home.

We passed the wildlife refuge again on our way back home.

If I was a bird, I could see myself living in the marshes in this valley.

If I was a bird, I could see myself living in the marshes in this valley. Just not during hunting season.

Then Tara got to see her grandfather’s Model A pickup that he’s been so excited about lately. Jim collects and repairs old cars. He took us for a ride in it, crossing Highway 2 and staying on the back roads till we could cruise downtown Moyie Springs (population around 700). I loved the front panel, or “dashboard” of the Ford. More like: the lack thereof. It is refreshing to see how few knobs and dials are really necessary to operate a vehicle. It’s light years different than the touchscreen in my Jeep. There had been a rain earlier in the day. Along the dirt road from the garage, the skinny Ford tracks really stood out in contrast to the standard tire tracks.

Tara and her grandpa in the Ford

Tara and her grandpa in the Ford

Here you see what is needed in a truck, and nothing else.

Here you see what is needed in a truck, and nothing else.

See the skinny Model A tracks over the fat F150 tracks? Generations of Fords.

See the skinny Model A tracks over the fat F150 tracks? Generations of Fords.

Tara and I shared the spare room of the spacious yet still cozy cabin. It has my mother’s fingerprints everywhere: the light fixtures, the collection of antique toys, the paintings on the walls, the kitchen spice cabinet, and even the witch hazel in the bathroom. We both had a difficult time sleeping the first night, since being in the cabin makes it impossible not to remember she’s gone. Nearly three years later, and I am still struggling to rebuild the cabin in my mind as Jim’s place, rather than Mom’s place. Before bed Tara and I each felt the need at different times to take a walk on the mountain. We wandered out into the dark, amid trees and deer and elk and bear, squirrels and mice and woodpeckers. As always, breathing deeply from the air of paradise is quite restorative.

Sunset from the front of the cabin. You can see the lights of Moyie Springs.

Sunset from the front of the cabin. You can see the valley without fog in this shot!

Tara took this one, and I love it! This is what we call "the pit." It's a rock quarry down the mountain from the cabin.

Tara took this one, and I love it! This is what we call “the pit.” It’s a rock quarry down the mountain from the cabin.

You do this too, I’m sure: plan what you’ll do with your lottery winnings. My fantasy includes the traditional dream of taking care of my family, paying off everybody’s debts, setting aside college money for the kids, getting a new car, etc. And then we get to the good stuff, the plans that say a little more about who I am. Anyone who has played the game of Lottery Fantasy with me has heard me describe the old train depot in New Meadows, Idaho.

I moved to New Meadows in 1980, when I was 10 years old. The little town in a high mountain valley was the biggest population center I had ever lived in. My parents preferred to live away from people, so the sign reading “Population: 576” was thrilling to me.

Most of you won’t remember what it felt like to see the lights of a city at night for the first time. For most of you, that memory is too far back to recall it, but I was a 5th-grader that first time. I do recall. I stood in the center of the highway (because there was no traffic) and felt my heart stop at the magic of lights at night.

Our only lit street was where Highway 95 passed through the business center. At the time it hosted Shaver’s Grocery Store, the Post Office, two gas stations plus Freeman’s which was more bait&tackle shop than gas station, three bars, a drugstore/doctor’s office, LeFay’s barbershop and ice cream, Myrt’s Cafe, a second hand store, and a bank. It seemed humongous.

Beyond the “city center” was a park. And beyond the park was the depot.

It’s the grandest building in the entire valley, and when I lived there, it was mostly abandoned. For a time there was a library on one side of the main floor, and I had the opportunity to walk through the front door and beneath the high ceilings. My best friend and I were such frequent visitors that once the librarian held a brand new children’s book for us, so that we could be the first to write our names on the check out list inside the cover.

One of the boys I met that first year wanted to show off and told me he could get inside. Soon enough, yep, we had squished through a broken window and got inside the dusty and dark space filled with forgotten rubbish and spiders. I was scared of getting in trouble and climbed right back out. Now though, looking back, I wish I had explored the whole building, so that I could compare the before and after.

Over the years the building fell into greater disrepair and the library was closed and the front door barred for good. The broken window was sealed so that children couldn’t climb inside.

The grand and beautiful brick train depot is the main character in the story of when the city of Meadows was too far away from the train tracks, so the city of New Meadows then sprung up beside the depot. When I moved there the trains were no longer running, but the tracks were still there. I’d pack a lunch and grab a couple of friends and walk the tracks for hours in the baking sun. We’d fish off the trestle bridges, swim in muddy cow creeks, and gather mussels and eat them, after they had been cooked in an old Folgers can filled with river water over a fire.

Eventually the tracks were pulled up. Somehow it wasn’t as romantic to walk along the cleared lines. And I was getting older and less romantic anyway.

So my dream all this time has been to restore that place. One of my high school teachers forwarded this video to me. He and his wife have remained in touch after I graduated and left town. I am truly delighted to see what’s been done with the old beauty of a train depot, and I have fingers crossed that the Idaho Heritage Trust can gain enough financial support to address all their needs. I am delighted to see other familiar faces in the video, and shots of that little town of New Meadows in the Heartland of Idaho, that I remember so fondly.

Though I can help now with a smaller donation, the fantasy of what I’ll do with my lottery winnings remains. I’ll pitch in to help polish that tiny town when I’m disgustingly rich. In the video, a couple other historic buildings are mentioned. I remember them, and they need care too. It will be magnificent one day.

Oh! I almost forgot. This is from my teacher:

IF YOU FEEL YOU COULD HELP US IN ANY WAY GET ON BOARD. Our address is P.O. Box 352, New Meadows, ID 83654  Our web site is  www.historicpindepot.com    Thanks, Morris

It's so stark I could be tricked into thinking this is an artist's rendering of a farm. But no, this is simply Eastern Oregon.

It’s so stark I could be tricked into thinking this is an artist’s rendering of a farm. But no, this is simply Eastern Oregon.

Click here for Part I of the road trip.

Due to our visit the day before, we knew that Pa & Michelle would be at a doctor’s appointment, so when we came down out of the mountains we headed directly for Nampa. I had to stop by Rex’s house because he had some things that Gramilda had left for me. Gramilda went about the business aspects of her death calmly without any emotion apparent. She contacted everyone she could think of, and asked them what she could put a tag on. It appeared thoughtful and practical, and will be exactly how I do it, if I get that chance – a defense mechanism to ward off the pain and fear. She and her daughter (my mother) had obvious intent to their actions while they died, and sometimes I find myself disconnectedly thinking with fascination about how each of them left us. It’ll have to be a future blog post.

The Korean box of drawers. You would have picked this too, huh?

The Korean box of drawers. You would have picked this too, huh?

In any case, Rex handed over a collection of letters (between who and whom I have not yet the constitution to investigate), and the thing I had asked for: a wooden box of small drawers she had brought home from Korea, and used as a jewelry box.

Rex was delighted to hear that we were heading next to the Warhawk Air Museum, of which he apparently is an active member, contributor, and participant, having been a pilot in World War II. He and Miguel realized they share an interest, and so Miguel heard about the P-47 that had just shown up for the 4th of July airshow but hadn’t left yet, and the F-104 parked out back that had to be seen.

P-47 Thunderbolt at the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, Idaho

P-47 Thunderbolt at the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, Idaho

F-104 Starfighter

F-104 Starfighter

Though I had suggested the museum stop as a way to placate the boys, I ended up really enjoying it, and wished there was more time to spend exploring. Tara was drawn to the women of WWII section and said she wanted to have one of the uniform jackets hanging in display. I liked the old posters. Tara bought a Rosie the Riveter T-shirt.

There were many cabinets such as this one that tracks, through the placement of mementos, the history of an Air Force pilot and his wife, and their impressive careers.

There were many displays like this one that tracks, through the placement of mementos, the impressive careers of an Air Force pilot and his wife.

Join the WAVES!

Join the WAVES!

The kids had been begging us to return home, almost from the moment we began, so parents compromised with kids by agreeing to head back earlier than necessary if they agreed to comply with our stops along the way. We left Nampa all rather eager to get into higher elevation and out of the heat of the Treasure Valley.

Serendipitously, we parents decided that since we were heading back a full day prior to plan, then we didn’t have any reason to fly back along the Interstate. Instead, we struck out on Highway 26 through central Oregon, places that Arno and I had not been before, though his boys had been out there during previous summer camps with OMSI.

Graffiti in Oregon: we don't do anything around here without activism of some sort.

Graffiti at a rest stop in Oregon. Listen, we don’t do anything around here without activism of some sort.

On the map we spotted Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, and what looked like several campgrounds right inside the boundaries. Sure enough, there were three awesome campgrounds close the the highway. You can’t beat $5 a night. We chose the one we liked best. After 7 pm, all traffic stopped out there in the wilds, so it was a peaceful, cool, and mostly bug-less night.

Sunset in the Owyhee desert

Sunset in the Owyhee desert

Pa and Michelle's house on the Snake River

Pa and Michelle’s house on the Snake River

Arno, me, and the kids left Wednesday for southern Idaho to visit my Pa. Originally we had planned to camp in their lawn on the Snake River, to hang out and chew the fat like we traditionally do at Pa and Michelle’s house. I like to sit on the deck and watch the river go by, commenting on the bird calls and how hot it is. However, my Pa Bear was not feeling well, so we changed our plans. He and Michelle are wonderful hosts and we did not want to tempt them to take care of us, when Pa Bear needed the care.

We packed our three teens into the back seat of the truck, left the Columbia River Gorge, and took off through the wilting heat for southern Idaho. We decided to camp nearby so that we could visit, but not so close that we added to their stress.

Agriculture along the Snake River south of Boise, Idaho. This is typical of what the countryside looks like out here. I call it desolate. My Pa calls it beautiful.

Agriculture along the Snake River south of Boise, Idaho. This is typical of what the countryside looks like out here. I call it desolate. My Pa calls it beautiful.

Our first night at Givens Hot Springs was great because it’s about two miles from the Trulove River Rat Rest & Relaxation Ranch. The facilities at Givens Hot Springs are right out of the 1970s,  with the family-friendly camping, a mock covered wagon to take photos beside, and the centerpiece: a naturally heated swimming pool. The entire inside of the pool building – including the pool – was painted pistachio green over cinder blocks, with showers by the pool but bathrooms outside around back (um…not good planning when kids are the main customers). There was a bulletin board with a map of the U.S. and a world map, where people had pressed in pins over the city they came from, and the pins – covered in dust of decades – nearly obscured the maps. Brochures for local points of interest were warped from the moist air and faded from sitting in the display rack for 15 years or so. I expected to see a teenage Kristy McNichol or Bill Murray step out of the pool at any moment.

remote intersection

remote intersection

After choosing our camp spot, we visited my dad. It was Arno’s first time meeting him. There may have been some anxiety on Arno’s part, and my dad’s part, about that. But I was full of anxiety about the state of my dad’s health. He was weak, tired, and in pain. It made me sad. But actually, I was mostly relieved to see him, hug him, talk to him. I had built up some fear, probably because I recently lost my mom and my grandmother, that he would be a different person, like Mom became when she got so sick. But he was still 100% Pa, with the same sense of humor, the same inclination to tell stories and get excited about cool stuff. My Pa and I both felt better after the visit.

The hills on our way to Silver City.

The hills on our way to Silver City.

While we were visiting, Michelle told us about the old mining town of Silver City. None of us had heard of it, so we decided to go. After breakfast in camp, we headed up into the mountains to Silver City, Idaho.

The scenery got prettier as we rose into the mountains on the one-lane gravel road.

The scenery got prettier as we rose into the mountains on the one-lane gravel road.

Now what else would you expect to see in the trails around a Wild West Ghost Town?

Now what else would you expect to see in the trails around a Wild West Ghost Town?

View from the back of the center of Silver City. I love the large, patched-together building in the center, the Idaho Hotel.

View of the Idaho Hotel, the large, patched-together building in the center.

click to read

click to read

It’s like a ghost town; only a few people still live there. Established in 1864, Silver City truly was a boomtown for decades, as the War Eagle gold and silver mines continued to give up natural riches. At its peak, Silver City had a population of 2500 people and was the Owyhee County seat. They even had an opera house! Today, there are about 75 buildings that date from 1860-1900.

The two main shops in town: Pat's What Not Shop and the Silver City Fire & Rescue Store

The two main shops in town: Pat’s What Not Shop and the Silver City Fire & Rescue Store

We found it interesting that the only stone building was the one in the worst shape.

We found it interesting that the only stone building was the one in the worst shape.

Silver City School

Silver City School

My dad told me there is one resident who winters over, but the other residents snowmobile in and out during the winter. All of the land and property is privately owned, and the locals were out getting ready for 4th of July festivities. It looked liked festivities would consist of games of horseshoes at the tiny Memorial Park.

We made a picnic lunch in the shade beside one of the two creeks in town, then wandered around and explored the wonderful buildings and character of the place. This was the largest almost-ghost town I’ve seen, with three parallel streets instead of only one. The church is still used. The school is empty. There is a restaurant in the Idaho Hotel and apparently visitors can rent a room there.

The kids found a treehouse after lunch.

The kids found a treehouse after lunch.

Memorial Park in front of the drugstore.

Memorial Park in front of the drugstore.

A side street makes the town look more alive, as it  actually is, since people own and live in these homes.

A side street makes the town look more alive, as it actually is, since people own and live in these homes.

Catholic church on a hill

Catholic church on a hill

Front of Idaho Hotel, and the true "downtown" of this darling little settlement.

Front of Idaho Hotel, and the true “downtown” of this darling little settlement.

Inside the Idaho Hotel

Inside the Idaho Hotel

Antiques for sale at the Fire & Rescue Store

Antiques for sale at the Fire & Rescue Store

Finally we left town. We stopped at the Masons/IOOF Cemetery on the way out. It was a wonderful stop that even the teenagers enjoyed. Tara found a gravestone for Thomas Jefferson, 13 headstones marked “Unknown,” and Diego and she tracked down many, many gravestones for babies.

Diego and Tara finding interesting headstones.

Diego and Tara finding interesting headstones.

Learning about someone's past

Learning about someone’s past

I found this terribly sad story.

I found this terribly sad story.

We were so impressed with the shady, cool, green campsites near streams along the road on the way, that we moved camp from Givens Hot Springs to these mountains for the night. The cooler temperatures and lack of bugs resulted in a better night’s sleep for us.

I’ll finish our road trip in another post. For now, I hope you enjoyed the photos of a darling little place we found purely as an afterthought. Just goes to show that radically changed vacation plans can be an opportunity for additional torture of teenagers I mean, additional good times!

Our camp on night #2

Our camp on night #2

It's even better than this. This stuff is amazing.

Monday morning we managed to leave the TRRR&RR early. Pa and Chelle got up to see us off. We were sad to separate so soon. In the black morning, the rain was delicately pattering a pattern onto the dust on the hood of my Dragon Wagon (the Saturn we have loved since buying it new in 1998). As we pulled away, the raindrops grew in size and frequency.

I took highway 78 from my Pa’s house because the road is in good shape, speed limit is 65, there is very little traffic and the view is lovely. My gas gauge was at about 1/8 of a tank (why hadn’t I filled it when driving all over the Treasure Valley yesterday?), but I knew I’d be on I-84 soon. Unfortunately, the needle drops more quickly at the empty side than the full side, and in half an hour, we were pegged on the red line for empty.

We continued on the Owyhee Highway till we reached Grand View, Idaho. Yes, there was a gas station, but no, at 7:05 am, it was not open for business. Instead of continuing toward Glens Ferry, I took the more direct route to I-84 at Mountain Home. I saw the Air Force Base for the first time (its dozens of bright white lights out there in the desert) and was glad I was never stationed there.

Along that highway, my windshield wipers stopped working. It’s a problem we’ve had with the Dragon Wagon for a couple of years. I had the wiper motor replaced once. It worked for six more months. Now, sometimes when the car heats up, the wipers just quit. The rain was coming down pretty good at this point. No wipers and no gas. I got worried.

We reached the interstate and a gas station with my anxiety at a steady interruption level. In hopes that a cool off would kick the wipers on again, we ate breakfast in Mountain Home at a fairly lame place. But our waiter was “fabulous” –bless him for surviving in Mountain Home- and in no time he had turned our morning into smiles. As we left, Miss T said, “He just made this whole day worth it.” Yes, we both adore gay boys.

Windshield remained determinedly impenetrable, and T recommended Rain-X. I agreed. It could be our only safe option. We returned to the gas station convenience store and got what we needed. I rubbed the Rain-X into the windshield in the nonstop rain, hoping some would stick to the glass. And it did! I could sort of see through the glass, and off we went. Gosh, humans create the darnedest stuff.

The rain poured harder and harder, and I found less and less of the windshield I could see through, as the miles clicked by. I found that, by keeping right foot on the gas, but pressing against the floorboards with my left foot, I could lift myself off the seat and peek through a little 1½ inch gap at the top of the windshield and still see the road. The Rain-X was great; it’s just that it was POURING rain and sleet and the other cars were kicking up muddy water overwhelming the miracle goo’s capacity. My leg got exhausted, I was scared. At one point we were forced to pass a triple trailer, and it was terrifying. I saw nothing. Nothing, for a few heart-pounding seconds until we passed the truck. Yikes. I was pretty sure I couldn’t keep it up till nightfall, and our hope had been to reach Moab that very night.

But, the Universe acquiesced. After we turned south from Burley, we got into some mountains and the rain turned to snow, which stuck to the windshield worse than rain, but didn’t come down as dense. I was able to sit in my seat and rest my leg. Then, the rainshowers changed intensity several times, so in the lighter precipitation, I could relax. Finally, after three hours of anxious driving, it was down to strictly light rain showers. The terrain along the Idaho/Utah border is very beautiful. My sketchy windshield prevented me from taking photos while driving, as I did last Spring Break, coming through here.

By 1pm, we were in the Salt Lake City heinous driving zone, and the light rain was interspersed with sunbeams. I let out a long, shuddering breath, and suggested a lunch stop. We splurged on a delicious Marie Calendar’s lunch and even bought a whole pecan pie to take the to boys!

The rest of the trip was mostly dry. After another 30 minute Japanese lesson, Tara and I were again listening intently as we waited to hear the continuing saga of Jason, Piper, and Leo – demigods extraordinaire – as they battled the children of the Titans while the gods of Olympus tried to resist getting involved.

View from rocks above camp

Arno texted that he would meet us at the Information Center in Moab, and we found them without any effort. The sun had gone down, but it was still light when we found them. They led us directly to camp, and we were able to set up the tent with light in the sky. Then Arno “shooed” me up the rocks to take a look at the sunset. I carried my camera with me, of course. He was already in camp mode and I was truly spent, so I let him manage supper operations, and then pitched in fully when it came time to eat!

Arno prepares a meal while I do not help.

Melt-in-your-mouth

Tara’s Spring Break was last week, so I took the week off work, and we made plans for a road trip.

Arno suggested going to Moab, Utah, since that is what he and the boys have done multiple times in the past. T and I were game. We went in separate vehicles, since I could do some family visiting along the way. Saturday, March 24, we made it as far as the Trulove River Rat Rest & Relaxation Ranch (TRRR&RR), near Givens Hot Springs, Idaho.

On the way we truly enjoyed ourselves. Tara and I adore road trips. Although she is a teenager, we love each others’ company on a highway. In our effort to avoid a chain restaurant for breakfast, we discovered a fabulous restaurant in The Dalles, called La Petite Provence. After fresh croissants that melted in our mouths, Tara loved her salmon hash and I inhaled the breakfast special du jour. For the remaining 350 miles we listened to the audiobook of Heroes of Olympus, the second series by Rick Riordan after Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It is a fun way for me to brush up on my Greek Gods. This book in particular was also a lesson in comparison of their Roman counterparts.

We popped in CD #1 and began learning Japanese by Pimsleur’sfabulous tools. This is the same company that had me impressing Egyptians after only a half-hearted attempt and probably 10 hours of listening (far less than the whole tutorial I bought). I again bought the inexpensive ($35) “conversational” version. Tara enthusiastically practiced right along with me, and we got through Lesson #1. It was fun to have her correct my pronunciation, based on her gazillion hours of watching English-subtitled Japanese anime.

Tara, Pa & Chelle on the porch at their house

I’ve blogged my Pa’s gorgeous place in the past, so I won’t belabor it. Always a place of peace with two excellent hosts. It was a long overdue visit. I haven’t been to their place on the Snake River in about two years, and Tara hadn’t been there for three. Pa and I have had a couple of explosive fights in the meantime, making our relations even more uncomfortable than they were already growing. Mom’s death made it so we could talk again. Out of character, my Pa finally felt empathy for me and reached out to give some long-hungered-for love and affection. Breaking that ice in December made this visit easy.

Tara and I left Sunday morning to do some visiting around the Treasure Valley. First Gramilda (Gramma + Armilda) and Rex across the river in Nampa, whom I simply could not drive past in good conscience. Gramilda is rightfully grieving the loss of her daughter, and somewhere in there got the idea that I don’t like her anymore. I had to go visit to assure her of my love and devotion, as well as give her some needed love and support too. She’s 85 and looking surprisingly well, since she has struggled with serious health issues the last few years.

Parker was a big fan of Tara right away. Here he has asked her to read him a story. {I had to take the photo with my phone. Sorry about the poor quality!}

It was high time I visit my brother Eli and Addie at their house. I think… is it possible… I haven’t seen Addie since the wedding in 2004. That makes me a dreadful sister in law. {sorry!} Got to see little Parker, who is growing stronger and smarter. What a great nephew I have. My brother built a picture frame to hold historic U.S. Forest Service posters, and made Parker a little book that holds miniaturized versions of all the posters. He flips through the little book and tells us which poster he wants (this time: “Snakes!”), and Dad puts the proper poster at the front. Very clever. Eli had also built a bathroom stool for Parker with a fold-down step that I was very impressed with. Since it was my first time at the house, they gave us a tour, and I got to see all the hard work they put into making their place beautiful. All new floors, paint, fixtures, features… Eli even cut his ownslices of rock for the fireplace hearth. The guy is amazing. Addie is carrying Parker’s future younger brother, and -tired and sick- apologized for not being the ultimate hostess, but I thought she was as wonderful as always. What a dear, dear woman I have for a sister-in-law. She never missed an opportunity to ask about my life, my work, my well-being, and asked Tara all about her life. Addie raved about her son and her husband, and I just couldn’t imagine a sweeter family. I love them so.

Adorableness.

Then I called up my old high-school sweetheart, Jess, who had moved to Boise only days before. We’ve stayed in touch all these years. He was at his mom’s house (who I remember from 25 years ago when we dated – funny, huh?). Stopped at Fred Meyer on the way to buy T some shorts in anticipation of sunny weather. We had a short visit with Jess and I finally got to meet his beautiful boy, Everett, who is not at all like Parker and just as delightful. Our visit was short and Tara and I made our way back into the streets (at this point VERY impressed with myself for having navigated all over the Boise area communities without getting lost).

The peak event of the day was, of course, alligator for dinner. Chelle recently traveled to Georgia to visit family, and arranged for some alligator and turtle to be sent back home to my Pa, who is always ready for a culinary adventure. He thawed it out in honor of our visit. He made a light and savory sauce that complimented the mild white meat perfectly. We also had fried cod and sauteed mushrooms and salad. Absolutely delicious. One never goes hungry at the TRRR&RR.

We crawled gratefully into bed to get some good sleep for our early departure for Moab, Utah on Monday morning.

Snake River from Pa’s house, looking southeast toward Map Rock

I spent the 4th of July weekend with my Pa (yes, I call him Pa) Trulove on the banks of the Snake River, south of Boise.

The last time I visited, I drove Map Rock Road on the far side of the river, so that I could take some photos of the homestead from the river perspective. When I came back he asked me, “Did you stop and take a look at the petroglyphs?” “Petroglyphs?!” was my awed and disappointed answer. I had no idea there were petroglyphs, and certainly had missed the Information Center, or the Parking Lot, or the Protected Heritage Area that should have brought it to my attention. Out of time on that trip, I resolved to go back and look for petroglyphs the next time, or I wasn’t doing justice to my Anthropology degree.

Fulfilling my pact with myself, I announced Monday afternoon that I was going in search of Map Rock. My Bonus-Mom, Michelle, (that’s – in addition to my natural mother) said she would go with me and help me find it. That was my first indication that the expected Information Center might not be available.

It took us nearly half an hour to get just across the river. Funny huh? But it makes sense when you realize that first we had to find a bridge to ford the Snake. We drove along Map Rock Road, looking to the right for boulders with art, and then to the left for Givens Hot Springs and the landing strip on the other side of the river. Our petroglyphs were directly across from the Hot Springs, but easier to spot was the bright orange airport wind sock.

Petroglyphs along Map Rock Road

“They’re scattered along here,” said Michelle. “Just keep looking and you’ll see them. You should slow down.”

And then. I saw one!

Etched into one of the countless basalt boulders spilling from a cliff ledge, I saw chevrons, a series of dots, concentric circles, a stylized hand? Upon closer inspection, it was no more clear, but exciting and fascinating! What do the carved circles mean? What are the rows of dots? Are they counting something?

Map Rock was further along, and easy to spot once I knew what I was looking for. It’s a huge (2.2 X 1.8 X 1.5 meters) boulder with a very compelling design.

“The principal motif seems to be a mapping of the Snake River Valley. The most conspicuous line being the course of the Snake River, and is readily recognizable and quite accurate, compared to the Land Office and other maps…One branch rises from a spring, and the other flow from a large lake, the Henry Lake of our maps… At the third turn of the stream [Snake River] is a branch from the east…which is probably intended for the Black Foot River… The locations of the various groups of circles to the south of the river correspond quite closely to the locations of the ranges of hills which do lie to the south of Snake River.” ~ E.T. Perkins Jr. to J.W. Powell, 14 January 1897

petroglyphs41

Map Rock, Idaho

“It is in all probability a map of an entire river basin covering almost 32,000 square miles.” ~  Woodward and Lewis

On a piece angled away from the map, off to the left, look like deer with impressive antlers. They are prancing through waves. Is it meant to be water? Flowing prairie grassland of the Owyhees? On top, in front of an eye-catching hump of stone like a mini-Half Dome, or the bill of a baseball cap, are dozens of parallel contour lines. It’s beautiful, and I stood before it dumbstruck and ignorant (ahem, as is my state most often in front of great art…).

map-rock-and-bike

Courtesy Bureau of Land Management

petroglyphs11

Unexpected canvas. We wandered through the basalt, potential art in all directions.

petroglyphs2

Prehistoric art. No, wait, they were cataloging their own history, so I guess it’s historic art.

petroglyphs7

Not a very helpful information sign, but the only evidence, aside from the wide spot in the road, that modern humans knew something special was here.

And then, less noticeable than the basalt boulders themselves, Michelle pointed out a carved wooden sign. Weather-beaten to almost perfect uselessness, there was an information sign. Though I couldn’t read more than half of it, the sign said this rock was discovered in 1872 and considered a landmark ever since.

Two things. 1) Obviously it was a major communication crossroads, most likely due to a nearby Snake River crossing, and therefore, couldn’t possibly have been “discovered” as late as 1872, unless our only point of reference is white folk (…she says, tongue-in-cheek).

2) Landmark?! I wish! There is no highway sign, no facilities, barely a place to pull off the narrow two-lane road. The only information sign was apparently installed by a community local-interest group, and has not been maintained. There is no protection for this valuable and fascinating historical artifact of human technology. It PAINED me to see it out there, six feet or so from the road. It’s damaged from dust and erosion, not to mention vandals, and so drastically faded from time, as historical photos attest. Michelle said that the last time she was here, someone had taken colored chalk and filled in all the markings. Thank GOD they didn’t use paint, but what’s to stop the next idiot?

petroglyphs6

Very hard to see, but the shaded section is also etched.

petroglyphs52

Deer. I think.

click this!

After a little research, I found that it’s identified on the National Register of Historic Places, since 1982. Listed as prehistoric art, there seems to be no solid sense of the age of this artifact. Now there’s a little bug in my bonnet, and I will keep my eyes open for a chance to contribute to the preservation of this fascinating little stretch of Indian artwork in Idaho’s Owyhee desert.

Please see C. Jeanne Heida’s articles on this point of interest. The first is specifically of Map Rock, and the second is of Indian Rock Art.

(Credit to Cartography in the traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian, and Pacific societies, Volume 2, Book 3 by David Woodward and G. Malcolm Lewis for the quotes and diagrams.)

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