Monday, June 27, 2011

The Silver Valley in Idaho

 I may never convince Mr. Keith not to take the unlikeliest looking roads, but this one came close to a cure! It wasn't the longest bad road we've been on but it was the worst. The gullies running down the road were deep, and the raised parts almost too far apart for our wheels to fit on. In between there were small "stumps" of trees sticking up about a foot, too difficult to pull out. Whew! We made it once again, though. Poor little Focus — how we abuse you! This "road" was just above Smelterville.

 I'd always wanted to stop at the Sunshine Disaster Monument, visible from I-90, and since we were having a day of avoiding the freeway, we were able to visit here. On May 2, 1972, there was a terrific fire in the Sunshine Mine. Of the 178 miners working at various levels, 87 survived and 91 perished. (Click to enlarge.)

 The Sunshine,  the largest silver mine in the nation, is a mile deep and has 100 miles of tunnels. Below this huge statue of a miner is a list of those lost in the disaster of 1972. We were surprised to find the surname of one of our fellow workampers! He thought it might be a relative, but wasn't sure.

 On to Wallace, one of our favorite old mining towns. The entire town of Wallace, population about 800, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The old Depot, converted into a museum, is probably the most recognizable landmark in the town. Across from the depot we found an old restored hotel - restaurant - saloon, where we had the most delicious hamburger and reuben sandwich!

 Wallace also holds the distinction of having had the last stoplight on I-90 all the way across the entire nation. And, since the whole town is an historical monument, and is in a narrow valley, the only way to complete the freeway was to build it over the top of the town! Most of the way the road runs above the south fork of the Coeur d'Alene River, which is beside the town, but in parts it is actually over the streets, as you can see here. Quite amazing!

 We both had dim memories of driving, many years ago, up a side road to Burke, a "ghost" mining town, so we set out to find it. On the narrow, winding road along a raging creek we passed miles of mining ruins. There were remains of log and rock foundations all along the way, hills of tailings, and even some metal equipment of some kind sticking out of the sidehills. We saw signs posted telling us what the towns or mines were called, names such as Gem, Frisco, Black Bear, Yellow Dog, Mace, and, finally, Burke. The entire remains of Burke are fenced in with 'no trespassing' signs all around, but it all is easy to see from the road.

 More of Burke. This would be a beautiful place, restored for tourists. It's pretty amazing as it is. Here and there along the way we saw a few old ruined houses, but also some that were kept up and lived in.

This is an example of the ruins left in the sidehills along the road. The logs were rotten and looked burned, and the rock walls had trees growing through them, telling us how old everything is. It was a great day for exploring! Who knows what we'll find next?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Higgins Point on Lake Coeur d'Alene

 We've always been intrigued by this statue along I-90 about 6 or 7 miles east of Coeur d'Alene. We go by it on our way to and fro and thought it might be a statue of some historical figure. The Idaho part of the Centennial Trail, where this statue is located, stretches from the Idaho-Washington border, along the Spokane River, through Coeur d'Alene, and ends at Higgins Point. When we began the walk along the trail we discovered this golden photographer is no one in particular — he represents the thousands of people who flock to this area in early winter to witness the visit of the bald eagles as they migrate south. Unfortunately we will not still be here when that happens.

 Which way to go? The main part of the trail is paved, but we decided to take the road less traveled, hoping we'd see more forest and get some good views of the lake.

 True to our expectations, we did see lots of wildflowers on our forest trail. I always love to see these delicate, beautiful wild roses.

 Beyond the crest of the trail, we looked east along Wolf Lodge Bay. Our campground is located just at the very end of the bay, which is, in fact, the very end of the northeastern part of the lake. That's I-90 to the left.

I liked this big pine tree with its roots stretching out towards the lake, which a short time ago was quite a bit higher, probably covering these roots. The lake has dropped about 5 feet in the last couple of weeks.

 True to our desire to take the less traveled trails, we found ourselves climbing this steep incline, which felt like it was almost straight up. It was not too easy on these arthritic legs, but I made it, with Mr. Keith's help. The view was wonderful, and the wildflowers abundant.

 It took me awhile, but I finally identified this beauty. It is the Sego Lily. We wouldn't have seen these if we'd stayed on the main trail!

Here's one last look at gorgeous Lake Coeur d'Alene, looking west. The sailboat completed the fabulous view, seen from near the golden gentleman photographer in the first photo. We'll return here another day! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Drive Around Hayden Lake

 Today we took the 40 mile drive all around Hayden Lake. The sun was shining, and spring is bursting out all over, albeit a little late this year. New colts are part of the spring awakening, always so cute and curious!

 Hayden Lake is just north of Coeur d'Alene, off highway 95. This whole region is heavily forested and incredibly beautiful. Wild flowers are blooming everywhere.

 We caught many glimpses of the water, but like several of the lakes in this region, houses are built on the shores and signs are posted "No Trespassing" and, "Private Property". We encountered only one public access point along the 40 mile route, but hopefully there are others somewhere along the way that we didn't see. Whenever we ventured onto a side road we would find more of these signs and would have to turn back. It's kind of sad that such beauty should be enjoyed only by those fortunate enough to be able to acquire land on these lovely shores.

 Always a beauty, and a favorite of mine, the arrow leaf balsam root is abundant here.

 This lady didn't seem to have a care in the world! She posed for several photos, then sauntered across the road behind us. In spite of the heavy forest lining the highway, there are neighborhoods all around, so she is probably used to looky-loos.

The last leg of our trip took us back to downtown Coeur d'Alene. This is a part of the public beach with marinas and docks. In warmer weather I'm sure the water here will be filled with swimmers. Whenever I look across the water at this spot I think about a summer camp I attended when I was 9 or 10. We kids rode a bus from western Washington to Coeur d'Alene. I remember getting off the bus here, walking out on a dock and getting into a power boat when it was my turn, and being wisked across the lake to a rustic camp right on the shore. I wonder if it's still there, 50 plus years later? Ah...childhood memories!

Friday, June 10, 2011

More Exploring, then a Surprise!

 We had doctor appointments in Kellogg, so we decided to combine it with a trip up into the hills. There was an intriguing looking road north of Wallace that went through an old mining town and then along the Coeur d'Alene River, exiting back onto I-90 at Kingston. So, after our appointments we grabbed a quick lunch at McD's, then headed to Wallace to find the road. We climbed for awhile and were treated to this view of the valleys below.

 The old mining town of Murray, partly a ghost town, boasts the Spragpole Restaurant and Mining Museum. The museum was indeed chock full of all kinds of mining memorabilia. We enjoyed very good milkshakes while in the Spragpole, too! If you click to enlarge, you will see a lady of the evening peering out the upstairs window!

 Gold was first discovered near the town of Murray in 1882. A.J. Prichard and his partners came to the Coeur d'Alene from Walla Walla WA, following Mullan's Military Road. The area swelled to 5000 miners, mostly centered in and around Murray. By 1886 the mining activity had shifted elsewhere. Today the mines near the towns of Kellogg and Wallace and others along the I-90 corridor are still producing ore.
Here we photographed one house that has been abandoned for a long time. The rest of Murray was about half a block long with not much evidence of the thriving town it once was.

 And here is our surprise! We were traveling along the Coeur d'Alene River Road, looking at the lush greenery and the swollen river, when suddenly this moose appeared, very close to the road. He, or she, was eating leaves, nonchalantly ignoring passing cars. We stopped and had to honk our horn to get her to look our way. Then she went back to chomping the vegetation. It was my very first moose-sighting, apart from one at Northwest Trek and one in Yellowstone. I expected to see moose in those places, but not along the road here when I only thought I might see a deer.

 We looked for awhile, then turned around and drove back to look again. This moose went about her business, entertaining us even more on a day already filled with the beauty of north Idaho.

Last, the Coeur d'Alene River is gorgeous, even in flood stage as it is here. Very little of it is visible from the freeway, so we were happy to find and explore this area. I never knew this part of Idaho had so many rivers, creeks and lakes, truly a watery paradise! We look forward to many more scenic drives throughout our summer here!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Mullan Tree

As we've worked and lived in Montana, and now Idaho, we've noticed how many places, roads, and at least one town, are named after John Mullan. Mullan is responsible for building the 6oo plus mile road back in the 1850s and 1860s, from Fort Benton in Montana to Walla Walla in Washington. The road was used for all kinds of travelers, and parts of it still exist today. Taking a drive on a mountain road which came out on the freeway, we discovered a sign pointing to the Mullan Tree. We just had to see what it was!

At the parking lot we found a trail leading to parts of what was once the original Mullan Road. Here is Mr. Keith finishing his soda as he looks down the road. John Mullan, an army engineer, led the construction party of soldiers and civilians who built this road. Parts of I-90 still follow Mullan's road. The original route was marked with the letters "M. R." on posts, trees and rocks. The "M.R." stood for "military road", but it has always been referred to as "the Mullan Road."

The Mullan Tree was inscribed with "M. R. July 4 1861" by Lt. John Mullan's road crew during the construction of the military road.  His crew celebrated July 4th at the summit, chopping the date into a great white pine which probably looked like this ancient tree beside the monument. The tree was the last surviving mile marker on the Military Road. Fourth of July Pass, Fourth of July Canyon, and Fourth of July Creek were named for the inscription on this tree.

 The Mullan Tree was about 250 years old when it was blazed in 1861. In 1962 the top of the tree broke off in a windstorm. In 1988 the remains of the blaze were removed for preservation. (Quoted from a sign on the site of the tree.) The tree stump is now housed in a museum in Coeur d'Alene. We loved being in this deep, old growth forest with remnants of deserted roads and the history that took place here.