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?

1 comment:

Char said...

What a neat backroads drive! You are seeing some neat places.