Sunday, August 29, 2010

Scenic Idaho

True to our word we did kick back in Coeur d’Alene and relax for a few days. Coeur d’Alene was really a big surprise as it is a beautiful little town at the top of Lake Coeur d’Alene which is the headwaters of the Spokane River. Our campground was right at the junction of the Lake and the River. There was a nice beach and Jake got to do a little swimming, yea! The town is really nice, now a resort community, but in its day the silver capital of the west. There are a lot of beautiful old home and buildings that are fully restored. We had two wonderful dinners on a floating restaurant next to our campground. Compared to the prices in Alaska and Canada, this place was a bargain and the food was great.

We made an appointment with the mobile wash man to wash the coach and he did a fantastic job. It looks as good as new. We took the Jeep through a touchless drive through car wash with the bikes still on the back and paid for the super deluxe wash. The bikes do not look too bad, but the Jeep really needs a good hand wash. Oh well we have a lot more towing to do, so it is going to get dirty again. We also had a chance to do many of the little things on the coach that we have put off while traveling. On the fourth day we were full of fuel and water, empty of waste and very refreshed. We decided to head out and do the scenic loops of Idaho’s highways.

Jake and Linda at the edge of the
largest wilderness areas in the lower 48. 
Our journey took us down US 95 to Lewiston and then across US 12, the Lewis and Clarke trail. The drive across US 12 is perhaps one of the prettiest drives that we have done. It follows the Clearwater River and then in Lowell turns up the Lochsa River through the Bitterroot Mountains. We stopped and camped in the national forest campground in Powell, ID. It is one of the nicest campgrounds that we have been in with huge sites that backed onto the Lochsa River and they even had electric, a rarity in the national forest.

Four wheeling in the Clearwater NF
There are a number of forest service road in the area, one being the Lolo Motorway built in the 30’s by the CCC. It was designed as a fire service road, but is open to the public. It runs along the spine of the mountain, is 100 miles long and follows the original Lolo trail used by Lewis and Clarke. Before tackling that in the Jeep, we decided to take a few easier trails. One leads up to a remote lake, eight miles back. All started well until we reached the portion that went up the mountain. The sign said one lane road with occasional turnouts. It was one lane all right but the turnouts were minimal. Linda was terrified that we would meet another vehicle and would have to back down. The road was also cut into a bench on the side of the mountain and the views down were spectacular or terrifying, depending on your perspective. After only two miles at a rather large turnout on a hairpin, the order was given to turn around and go very slowly back down. Linda checked at the ranger station about the Lolo Motorway and the lady said it was a lot like the road we did, except the drop off was on both sides. Any one want to buy a little used Jeep and a library of off roading books?

Linda at the Lochsa Lodge
A special treat for us was that the Lochsa Lodge was located at the entrance to the campgrounds. It is one of those do everything places that we encountered in the Yukon and Alaska; gas, store, lodging and a restaurant. The difference here was the place was beautiful, the food fantastic, the people ultra friendly and the prices very reasonable. If you are ever in the area, you have to stop here.

Linda and her pony, Sherman
OMG does that hurt!
Besides everything else, the Lochsa Lodge also offers horseback riding. Linda inquired and told them that her husband weighs 300 pounds, of which they said, no problem. They have one horse that is part Clydesdale and she would handle him. So the next thing you know we are signed up for a one-hour trail ride. When asked about our experience we said that we had ridden before in California, Australia and Tasmania, which is all-true. What we did not tell them was that it was all over 15 years ago and Mike was 70 pounds lighter. Our moment of truth was when we arrived at the corral. Mike’s horse, Bear, was huge and the first thing he thought was how am I going to get on this thing. Don, our guide, was very understanding and lowered the stirrup down as low as it would go. Mike put his foot in and lifted up. The problem now was that he could not get his other leg over the horse’s rump. The ever-helpful Don lifted Mike’s leg over the saddle. Now, not only was this horse tall it was big and round and it pulled Mike’s legs into a split position that they may have never been before. The pain was immediate. He equates it to straddling a wine barrel that is bouncing up and down. He should have quit right then, but no, Mr. Macho told Don that everything was fine. Linda of course, just bounced up on her steed, Sherman, a miniature pony, and was doing quit well. We are not sure what Mike was thinking, but off they went into the bush. Linda says the ride was wonderful. It was through the forest and along a path that Lewis and Clarke took when they first traversed this area. Mike’s only thought was when will this end. Don, our extra friendly guide turned our hour ride into an hour and a half at no extra charge. By the time we finished Mike’s legs were numb and his back was spasming. Don told Mike his legs might be a bit weak when he tried to get off. Mike told him that his legs we numb and he was going to need a lot of help. They did not have a crane available, so Don put down a few bales of hay and walked Mike to them. Again Don had to help get Mike’s leg over the horse’s rump and Mike slid down onto the bales of hay. After a short rest, he was able to crawl back to the Jeep on his own. We are happy to report that after only two days he is able to walk again. What were you thinking!!!

From Powell we crossed the Lolo pass over to Lolo and route US 93 which we took south to Challis, there turning onto Idaho route 75 which we took to Sun Valley, ID. That route follows the Salmon River most of the way and is for the most part was a very scenic drive.

Smoke from the fires in the Sawtooths
It is fire season here and we have seen a number of fires along the way. In Powell there was a lighting strike near the lake where we were Jeeping to and it started a small fire. The smoke turned the sun a dull red. Along 93, there were a number of fires and the smoke was pretty thick. Near Stanley, where we camped one night, the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway was closed for three days because of a fire. We passed by one tent camp set up to house firefighters. Our hats are off to these courageous men and women who spend weeks at a time out working in the bush to protect life and property from these devastating forest fires.

We are now just south of Sun Valley in a small very tight RV Park. But it does have cable TV and it is allowing us to watch the Steelers/Bronco game tonight. We have found that we are in Bronco Country and it is best for us to watch the game in our coach instead of a local bar. Go Steelers!

We hope that you all have had a wonderful, fire free week.

Take care, Love,
Linda, Jake and the Fat Man