First, forgot to show you guys a couple of pics from Orofino, Idaho. This was a statue dedicated to the lumberjacks from the area. Just LOOK at the detail! There was even mud on his boots and a muddy footprint on the base behind the stump.
Monday, June 27, we headed out around 7:30 AM. After we got up the mountain, we stopped in the same turnout we had on the way in, and there were three deer standing there watching us…again. Someone must be feeding them at that house. We headed back through Orofino to US-12 south, which follows the South Fork of the Clearwater River through a beautiful canyon along the edge of the Nez-Perce Reservation.
At Kamiah, Idaho, we stopped at the Nez Perce National Historical Park (East Kamiah Site), to take a look at tim ‘né·pe, or Heart of the Monster. Legend says that a great battle between Iceye’ye (coyote) and a great monster was the beginning of the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce), as well as the Coeur d’Alene Pend, Flathead, Orville’s, Crow, Sioux, and many other tribes. They had a recording of the legend in the native language with subtitles that sounded just beautiful. It was an interesting stop with a couple of short walking trails. This site is only one of 38 that make up this National Historical Park, which tells the story of the history and culture of the Nimiipuu. The first United States contact with the Nez Perce occurred in 1805 when William Clark traversed this valley. By 1877, the members of the tribe that refused the treaty forcing them from their homes in both Oregon and Idaho began the war and flight that ended with Chief Joseph’s surrender at the Bear Paw Battlefield (our visit) in Montana. Nez Perce means “pierced nose” and was used by French trappers when referring to the Nimiipuu and the Chinook. Oddly, the former never pierced their noses.
We continued south to Grangeville, where we stopped for lunch at Seasons Restaurant downtown, which was basic diner fare. I had the best fruit bowl side I’ve ever seen, though…a large serving of grapes, kiwi, honeydew, strawberries, and cantelope…all perfectly ripe. Yum! Afterwards, we picked up some groceries, then continued south on US-95 through flat farmland and into the Salmon River Canyon. At New Meadows, we turned on ID-55 and arrived at our home for the next couple of nights, Black Bear RV Park in McCall. I don’t really know what the qualifiers are for marking a route as scenic in the atlas, but this entire drive should be noted as such. Oh, and I forgot to say that it was 97 degrees at one point…pooh!
Tuesday we changed up the schedule a bit, and I did laundry. The park had a nice laundry room with 5 washers and dryers and a table to work at, so I made it in early and was done by 10 AM. While there I met a nice lady from Kentucky whose husband is the GC on the hospital project in town. She’s been living in a rented RV here for a year and really likes it. She didn’t even pooh pooh the winter weather! On the way back to Petunia, I also talked to a nice couple who had Lectric bikes. I would really like to have a bike on the road. There are many times when we could ride a trail or around town, and it would give me an exercise option that wasn’t walking. Don’t think my titanium knees, or more appropriately the muscles that run them, would enjoy unassisted pedaling uphill, so an e-bike seems like a good option. Lectric has a version that is foldable, which would be great. After getting everything put away, Mr. Wonderful (MW) and I headed into town to walk around a bit. We stopped in at Growler’s Pizza Grill for lunch, where everything was delicious. (They even got spinach off of the salad bar to add to my calzone! The waitress said the chef was in a good mood.) After lunch we walked around town some more, then went to Ice Cream Alley where they advertise “mountain-sized scoops”. They weren’t wrong, and the pistachio was REALLY good! MW said the chocolate malt was pretty delicious, too. Before heading back to Petunia, we stopped in for a few things at Rite Aid and fueled up Brutus. In the evening, MW worked on making reservations for our September trip to the Navy vs Air Force game. Go Navy! Beat Air Force!! Later we headed to bed only to be awakened AGAIN by our neighbors. The first night they came home a little after 10 PM, slamming car doors, punching the lock button for the truck repeatedly so the horn kept beeping, and then slamming the RV door. Thankfully, that was it, and we were able to go back to sleep fairly quickly. On this night, however, we weren’t that lucky. They came home about 11:30 PM, again slamming the truck doors and beeping the alarm. Apparently, they weren’t ready for bed, though. For the next 25 minutes or so, we listened to them going in and out of the RV, slamming the screen door EVERY time. They were also in and out of the truck, beeping the danged alarm EVERY time. When they were in the RV, they were hollering back and forth from one end to the other with the windows and door open. Holy smokes!! It was almost midnight before they settled down enough for us to sleep.
Black Bear RV Park is privately owned and sits just outside of McCall, Idaho, a hot tourist area in the summer. The Sands bought the place a few years ago, and live onsite, which is nice when things don’t go as planned. When we arrived, Stacy suggested that we might prefer a different site due to the layout as we checked in. That level of proactivity is unusual. Amenities include a playground, dog run, laundry with 5 sets of machines, store, propane, and wifi. (We were at the back of the park, and the wifi didn’t work there, but it was strong up at the office building.) The owners have several RVs onsite that they rent out, and the campground includes 72 RV sites with power and water and 4 tent sites. Whoever designed the sites put six sets with patios facing each other. That is okay on the pull-through sites, but is a little perplexing on the back-ins. They apparently planned for motor homes to drive straight in. Ours was like that, so we put the driver’s side tires on the patio pad, and it worked out fine. They have quite a few people living there full-time, but are very strict about outside appearance and clutter. They are also very strict about barking dogs. Cell signals for both Verizon & AT&T are strong, but over-the-air TV is limited. It is a nice park that seems to be very customer focused. For this stay in June 2022, we paid $143.64. Sorry for the lack of pics, but they have a ton of great ones on their website.)
Wednesday we headed out about 8 AM, turning south on ID-55. We hadn’t been on the road more than a few minutes when MW became a little concerned about our fuel situation. Despite having topped off the tank in town the previous night, it already appeared to be several gallons down. Neither of us had smelled fuel when loading up, so a leak of that much was unlikely. He watched the gauge for a few miles, then pulled over at a gas station to check it out. There was nothing obvious, so he topped off the tank, and we continued south. The gauge appeared to be working fine, and we knew we weren’t leaking anything. As we talked it through, he realized that the tank took about 6 gallons to fill up. We had driven far enough to use a gallon (it is a fuel-sucking beast), and the simple math left us with the exact amount that would fit into a gas can. Hmmmm. Did someone siphon our gas? Can you come up with another solution? If it’s true, that was a gutsy, and quiet, thief. Brutus was parked right beside our window. Wait…the neighbor was making all that noise, so he/she didn’t really have to be too quiet!! Still gutsy, though.
We continued south on ID-55 to Boise, then zig-zagged through town to **gasp** I-84. Yes, we got on an INTERSTATE! At the first rest area we stopped for a picnic lunch. It reminded us a little bit of a long-ago road trip. In Wyoming, we stopped at a rest area for a picnic. The wind was blowing so hard and the air so dry that our sandwich bread was drying out almost instantly. It felt like eating toast. This time, the picnic tables had nice wind walls, but when we were walking around after lunch, that dry wind just seemed to suck the moisture right out of us. Back on the road we continued east, exiting at US-93. Then it was straight through Twin Falls and a few miles south to the 93 RV Park. The whole day was beautiful, but pretty windy.
The ladies in the front office recommended Idaho’s Pebble Ponds golf club for dinner, so we headed over there later. On the way, we saw a massive area of smoke to the east near US-30 that had not been there just a couple of hours before. Dinner was excellent, though not healthy in any way. Pebble Ponds is a small golf club, and the restaurant in their clubhouse has a small bar. They smoke all of their own meats and make most things in house. A new POS (point of sale) system slowed things down a little and caused the food to come out bunched together…appetizer, salad, entree. It was the first day for that, though, so we cut them some slack and gave feedback. We shared the pretzel appetizer, taking most of it home, then MW had Smoked Tri Tip while I went for the Smoked Wings (6) and a side salad. Everything was AMAZING. For dessert they had a Banana Chocolate Cake made locally. Neither of us could eat it, but we did take a slice home for later. (That was interesting, because you didn’t distinctly taste banana or chocolate, but the combination was very good.)
We topped-off fuel on the way home, and noticed that there was even more smoke. It turned out to be the Sugar Loaf Fire, an out-of-control grass fire that was already burning about 3,000 acres in just a matter of hours. If you’ve never been to the areas where wildfires are common, it is a learning experience. The constant, dry wind and readily available fuel can take a spark and turn it into a threat in seconds. We were in the Medicine Bow National Forest near Laramie, Wyoming, when the Mullen Fire started in mid-September 2020. In no time at all, it was burning the entire side of a mountain and advancing on a community. That fire ended up burning for weeks and tore through 176,878 acres. In this case, the firefighters were able to contain it in one day and quash it in two. That’s pretty amazing considering the dry weather and wind.
Twin Falls 93 RV Park is a large gravel parking lot with grass islands between sites. It is laid out well, easy to get around in, and very clean. There are trees around the periphery, but none in the sites. Just 5 miles south of Twin Falls, it is convenient to shopping and restaurants. A short drive will get you to Shoshone Falls, which is well worth seeing. Amenities include a BBQ picnic area, camp store, propane sales, dog park, and laundromat. They have high-speed wifi, but charge a daily rate for it. The bathhouse is in the main building and is very clean but a bit small. Campsites include 47 full hook-up and 26 water and electric, each with a picnic table. They can accommodate big rigs in the larger 80′ double sites, too. It was ideal for a quick stopover. Cell signals for both Verizon and AT&T were strong and there was plenty of digital over-the-air tv. For this visit in June 2022, we paid $66.04 for 1 night. Once again, I did not take any pics. So sorry.
Thursday we continued south into Nevada and back to the Pacific time zone. The route was easy…US-93 all the way to our destination. It is well-traveled, but you go for MILES at a time without seeing any houses. There is lots of beautiful scenery, though.
At Wells, Nevada, we crossed over a railroad bridge where the maintenance folks were taking up old track and laying new below. Just past that, we stopped at Bella’s Restaurant & Espresso for lunch. (Diner fare that was okay. MW took a caramel toffee square home that he said was pretty darned good.)
After lunch, I suggested walking up to the bridge to watch the action, but my train-loving husband didn’t want to. He must have had a fever! Further down the road, we stopped at a rest area and found exhibits for part of the Pony Express National Historic Trail. The Pony Express only operated for 18 months beginning April 3, 1860, but during that time, there were about 80 riders in the saddle around the clock. They were stretched from Missouri to California, half headed west and half headed east. The riders changed horses every 12-15 miles at “relay stations” along the route. When they got to a “home station”, a fresh rider and mount would continue the run, allowing the exhausted one to rest. The service cut the time to get messages to the west from 6 months to 10 days, which was a God send to the people along the route to California. However, the completion of the Transcontinental Telegraph in October of 1861 made the expensive runs obsolete. The Pony Express route from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Carson City, Nevada, ran right through the valley at Schellbourne, where the rest area is located.
We continued south through Ely to Ely KOA, our spot for the long holiday weekend. It is a nice, private park, with the typical stacked in sites about 12′ apart. We were delighted to find that our neighbors had a crowd who all gathered right outside of our bedroom window. They were so loud that it felt like the whole family was in our living room with us. I know I’ve said it before, but I just don’t understand not giving any thought to your neighbors in these tight situations. Thankfully, they did pay attention to quiet hours and dispersed by 10 PM.
Friday we left early, heading south on US-50 (which is also US-93 for a little while) over to grab another flag for our map and do a little hiking at Great Basin National Park. It was a long drive, but the views were amazing. Since arriving in Nevada, we’ve seen tons of animal crossing and caution signs for elk, deer, and pronghorn, yet we haven’t seen ANY. I’m beginning to think that the signs are just a ploy to pull the wool over tourists’ eyes. No animals, but we can make them THINK we have some! You know, give them hope. LOL. The drive over was beautiful, though. We were on part of the section of US-50 that is called “The Loneliest Road” (Baker to Carson City in Nevada). This is definitely an area of the country where keeping your tank topped off is pretty important.
Once in the park, we took the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive up, stopping at the Mather Overlook to get a glimpse of the glaciers. The drive up was filled with amazing views of the beautiful basin. While the park is named for the Great Basin, it only occupies a very tiny area of the actual basin, which covers a chunk of southeast Oregon, a little bit of southern Idaho, the western half of Utah, a tiny bit of eastern California, and most of Nevada. It is a huge geographic area of contiguous endorheic watersheds…places where water has no outlet to the sea. All of the streams and rivers drain into lakes, marshes, and mud flats, where the water eventually soaks in or evaporates. So there is a continental divide line that outlines the entire area on the map. Water inside the line stays in the basin. Water outside the line heads to the Pacific. I did not know, until looking this up, that there are FOUR other continental divides in the United States. I knew about the Great in the Rockies, which splits the Pacific with the Gulf of Mexico, and the Eastern in the Appalachian Mountains, which splits the Atlantic with the Gulf. The other two are the Laurentian in Canada and parts of North Dakota and Minnesota that splits the Gulf with Hudson Bay in Canada, and the St. Lawrence through Canada and parts of the northeastern states that splits Hudson Bay with the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada.
Next it was up to the parking area for our hike on the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail. The hike wasn’t a huge change in elevation…about 450′. At between 9,500′ and 10,000′, though, it was work climbing and picking our way through the rocks. I was panting pretty good right out of the gate, and we decided that MW, who was hiking up front, was actually taking more than his fair share of the sparsely available oxygen. I don’t think he backed off on that, because I panted for most of the 3 miles. It was a BEAUTIFUL walk in the woods, though. It would be even more so in the fall with all of the quaking aspen around. It took us in a large loop past the Stella and Teresa Lakes. Both are shallow bodies created by the glaciers. Now they are kept full with rainwater and runoff, and are incredibly clear and cold. In the winter, they freeze all the way to the bottom. We didn’t see any large animals (again, Nevada may be lying to us tourists), but we saw lots of lizards, ground squirrels, and birds. There was one that was constantly squawking up in the trees. It was really pretty, but too elusive for a pic, and turned out to be a black-billed magpie.
When we finished the hike, we drove a few more miles to the end of the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, then headed back down. In Baker, we stopped for lunch at Sugar, Salt, and Malt Restaurant. Our Pastrami Panini special and Capresse Cheese Panini were both excellent. We also took a couple of baked things (blueberry scone, coffee cake) with us for later. Back at Petunia we had a nice, quiet afternoon and evening…the neighbors were off somewhere. That all changed at about 9:40 PM, though. We were already in bed with the windows open enjoying the cool breeze. They returned, slamming car doors, hollering back and forth at each other, pushing the door lock button on their key fob repeatedly, and then proceeded to build a fire right below our bedroom window. What are you doing with a fire for 20 minutes? It doesn’t even settle in for at least that long. We closed the windows, turned on the a/c blower, and did our best to ignore them. In all fairness, they did shut it all down at 10 PM when quiet hours began, though.
Saturday I spent quite a bit of time writing and catching up on bookkeeping work. Near lunchtime, we headed into Ely, which has an abundance of murals representing the history of White Pine County. We checked out several of them and the courthouse, then stopped in at Racks Bar and Grill for sandwiches. (It was really good.) After lunch we did a little grocery shopping, then headed back to Petunia to relax. The park was much more crowded in the afternoon, including a group of 4 RVs that were together, but not parked together. One was beside us (opposite the noisy family), one diagonal across the road, and two diagonal the other direction across the road. I did a little more writing, and we watched some tv before turning in. There was still a pretty good din outside, so we turned on the a/c fan, but it didn’t help much. Despite quiet hours starting at 10 PM, the new kids on the block (and not the cool ones) were still outside with babies crying, kids hollering and running around, and one of the guys yelling at his wife to bring him stuff from inside the RV at 10:30 PM. I put on my clothes to go say something, but just as I reached for the doorknob, it suddenly stopped, and everyone retired really quickly. The fire was even steaming where they poured water on it. The next day Erika in the front office said that the manager takes a ride around the park about that time. Go him! Whatever the reason, I was grateful that I could finally get to sleep!
Sunday morning we were up early to go check out the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park just a few miles south of the campground. In 1872, silver was discovered in the Egan Mountain Range and lots of miners came to the area to file small claims and try their luck. Unfortunately, the ore was not very rich, and small operations could not make a living. The Martin & White Company out of San Francisco bought up many of the small claims and set about building a larger operation. That included a smelter to separate the silver from the other stuff, which requires charcoal. In 1876, they began using these beehive-shaped ovens, which were much more efficient at making charcoal. The walls are 20 inches thick with rows of vent at the bottom and a hole in the top of the cone. At 30′ tall and 27′ across at the base, the ovens could hold 35 cords of pinyon pine and juniper, and after igniting and carefully controlling the air allowed in, they would produce about 1,750 bushels of charcoal in about 10 days. By rotating through the six ovens, a continuous supply of charcoal was sent to the smelter through 1879. That’s when the ore in the mine ran out. The available timber in the area was also growing short, so the ovens shut down for good. In later times, the structures were used to shelter stockmen and prospectors and rumored to be a hideout for stagecoach bandits. (I wonder if Jim Hardy knew about them?) We hiked the Riparian Loop, which gave us a good look at the ovens and creek. Despite being there pretty early, we still didn’t see any large animals. We did see an elk hoof print, though. MW said it was probably a park ranger with a fake print stick. LOL
After our hike, we headed over to take a look at where the town of Ward once was. I’d call it a ghost town, but there aren’t even skeletons of buildings. However, in 1877, this little hamlet was the largest town in White Pine county with a population of over 1,500. A year later, the ore quality began to decline and miners headed across the Steptoe Valley to Taylor, the new boom town. Some of the buildings in Ward were actually moved to Taylor, and a fire in 1883 burned about a third of what was left. By the time the post office closed its doors in 1888, the little bit that was left began to disappear. Today the only visible evidence is the Ward Cemetery.
After getting cleaned up, we headed out for another cool little adventure…a ride on The Nevada Northern Railway in Ely. When this railroad was built in 1906, the nation was begging for copper. Why? Because both electric and telephone wiring used it, and the process of putting both in every home in the country had begun. The main purpose of the line was to move copper from the Kennecott mine at Ruth first to the smelter and then up to the transcontinental railroad lines. It also moved freight into and out of town and had several passenger trains as well. It even functioned as school transportation at one point, taking the children of Ely to the school in McGill. Wouldn’t that be cool?! Although they stopped passenger trains in 1941 in favor of buses, the railroad operated until 1983. Over the next few years, it was donated to the community and began operation as a living museum. A National Historic Landmark, the 56-acre museum not only has railcars and engines, but is a fully operating rail yard. Unlike many similar facilities we’ve seen, visitors are encouraged to check out the entire complex. That includes the machine shop and engine house building, where you are walking in an active maintenance area and getting up close and personal with the mechanics. We took the 1-1/2 hour excursion train ride pulled by a giant, coal-fired, steam engine, which was pretty awesome. People along the route stopped to watch the train pass and wave. It was like stepping back in time. We met a nice couple from New Zealand on board and really enjoyed learning about their trip. Back at the station, I handed off the camera to MW, who headed over to take a look at the maintenance areas. (I wasn’t in the mood to sniff oil and grease, so I sat outside the depot in the shade and enjoyed the weather.) He said it was really cool to walk right through the area where the mechanics are working. Each engine has to be totally broken down every 10 years, and they have a dozen or so. It is a very busy shop. This was an awesome stop, and any time you get to ride a train, it’s a good day!
Another cool thing that happened on the train…we met Con. (He said, “…as in convict, con man, conjure. MW’s immediate response, “Wrath of.” LOL) I first noticed the young man as he was walking out to get on the train. He works for the railroad, but is so obviously a cowboy. He was wearing a HUGE buckle, so when we ended up sitting right in front of him, I asked about it. Who wouldn’t?! Turns out that his great-great-grandfather Bryant Butler (B. B.) Brooks, was the Governor of Wyoming from 1905 to 1911. Even more interesting…he is in the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame. (He also rode in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Parade in August 1910 alongside President Teddy Roosevelt!) Adding to this story, Con’s great-grandfather, Marion (Mike) Wilson McCleary, and grandfather, Bryant (Cactus) McCleary, were also inducted. In fact, the entire Brooks-McCleary ranching history is outlined on the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame website. Today young Con, who is very proud of his family heritage, works for the railroad part of the year, then returns to central Wyoming to work the ranch that has been in his family since 1905. It was a great story, and this kid has a great attitude about life. He said, “I have two of the best jobs on the planet, and love them both.” I was so happy to have met him.
Next we headed back into town and back to Racks Bar and Grill for a late lunch. (Nothing else was open that appealed.) We both had wings, and I had a side salad, but this time, the service was TERRIBLE! The waitress didn’t listen when we ordered, so had to come back and confirm, didn’t bring my salad, brought out the wrong food, never checked drinks…the list goes on. The food was good, so it’s a shame that a really bad waitress could turn people away. On the way home, we popped into the local sporting good store to check out bikes, but they didn’t have much. Then it was back to Petunia where I parked myself outside in the shade to do a little writing. The neighbors…same noisy group from the night before…were all gone, but were nice enough to leave at least 3 dogs locked up in their RVs that barked, howled, and whined for most of the time they were away. When the lady next door returned, I said “You might want to check on your dog. He was barking the entire time you were gone.” Her response…”He does that whenever I leave him.” If you know that, WHY would you bring him to an RV park where your neighbors are 12′ away AND LEAVE HIM????!!!
Monday started with me taking a nice, hour-long walk around the park and out onto the ATV trails. It was early, so there was no one else out there. I also remembered to take park pics! Later I caught up on some bookkeeping, then we headed into Ely to Mr. Gino’s Italian Restaurant, which was pretty darned good. The service was slow, but we cut them some slack as there were only two people working. The waiter said they were short-staffed AND people didn’t show up for work. Poor guy was handling ALL of the tables in both the restaurant and the bar. Considering that, he didn’t do a bad job.
Back at Petunia, we caught up on our church services and were saddened to find out our Pastor, Dustin Jessee, has been called to fill a pulpit in another town. He is such an awesome shepherd with an amazing, supportive family, and we will miss them terribly. While praying that it is a wonderful move for him, we are also asking God to lead the right person to our search team…soon! If you pray, please send up one for Sneedville First Baptist Church.
That night, I was also asking for strength in resisting the urge to smack the neighbors (with the barking dog). They showed up back at the peaceful campground just after quiet hours began, hollering back and forth between campsites. Then they lugged all of their chairs over to the trailer next to us, built a fire and turned on the music. You know, it would still be rude, but a little more understandable if lots of other people in the campground were partying. However, as with the neighbors on the opposite side the night before, it was almost completely quiet before they returned. I went out at about 10:40 PM, told them quiet hours had long since begun, and asked them to quiet down. They apologized, then went right back to what they were doing for another hour or so. Ugh! Even with the a/c fan on, the noise was in the bedroom with us.
KOA Ely is pretty good for a private, close RV park. (We certainly can’t fault them because we had rude neighbors on BOTH sides.) Located just south of Ely, Nevada, there are quite a few things to do in the area. If you are into 4-wheeling, there are miles of trails in the area to choose from, some you can reach from the park without towing your OHV. There are plenty of trees interspersed in the sites, and everything is graveled and fairly level. Amenities include dry RV storage, two pet walking areas, basketball and volleyball courts, playground, horseshoe pit, laundry, and horse corral. They also have a camp store for supplies, and firewood and propane available. In addition to camping, lodging options include several rental cabins of various sizes, two teepees, two Conestoga wagons, and one smaller wagon. Camp sites include 128 RV sites in both pull-through and back-in, some larger than others. All are 50-amp electric with water, fire rings, and picnic tables, and most have septic. There are also 13 primitive tent sites and 6 deluxe tent sites with 30-amp electric. All facilities were kept very clean and maintained well. Both Verizon and AT&T had good signal, and we had plenty of over-the-air tv from both Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. For this stay in July 2022, we paid $258.72 for 5 nights.
Time to stop and put this baby to bed. Next up…Utah, Old Friends, and National Parks. See you on the path!
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