Not sure where September went but it sure went fast. The whole month was spent working in Idaho. We surveyed five National Forests: Clearwater, Nez Perce, St. Joe, Couer d'Alene and Kaniksu. Let me tell you we worked our hind-ends off!
We entered the Clearwater National Forest, from Montana via the Lolo Pass, following a route taken by Lewis and Clark. The transition from the openness of the Bitterroot Valley with its slow meandering river, many pastures, and small businesses to the lush but narrow Lochsa Valley took awhile. We always try to telephone the District's Ranger Office for an appointment with their recreation person to start our research. But in the Lochsa Valley we couldn't - no telephones nor electric power! It felt like we had traveled to a much earlier time. (Seeing an occasional moose or elk, only added to the sense of displacement.) Disregarding the "inconveniences,"the Lochsa River "drainage" (the whole area that feeds the Lochsa River) is beautiful, primitive, and delightful. We saw several moose, such big, awkward, funny looking animals, and a magnificently beautiful bull elk around the campgrounds. Although the Bitterroot had some of the largest pine trees we had seen in a long time, none compared to the majestic white pines and fabulous ancient cedars of the Lochsa Valley. What a treat!
It was another shock to find the rest of Idaho isn't as heavily treed. In fact, most of landscape we saw outside the National Forest was rolling hills of golden wheat or huge crystal blue lakes. And there appears to be more colleges and universities even though fewer cities and smaller towns. Oh, the Idahoans refer to their means of transportation is "rigs." No one has a car or truck or whatever, those are at home or being used by their spouse. It is strange listening to the proud declaration - "That's my rig" - only to see a beat-up, its year of production and color unidentifiable, pick-up standing nearby.
After surveying the campgrounds along the Salmon River in southern Nez Perce National Forest, we returned to our campsite in Grangeville via White Bird Pass. White Bird Pass is not only the site of yet another battle between the Nez Perce and white man but a very long grade (or as we call it "pull"). The grade climbs some 1300-plus feet in about seven miles. Although it is not spectacular, it did have nice vista into the valley for Fred and interesting road-cuts for Suzi. As we topped the Pass and started down across the Camas Prairie we saw a huge fog bank. The odd thing was this fog bank had a pale beige tint to it and this is an arid area. The reason for the fog bank was the Prairie's wheat and bluegrass growers were "burning off the stubble." We were lucky the wind kept the smoke away but, with most of the valley's beauty obscured, Fred lost out on some panoramic pictures.
After the Nez Perce National Forest, we headed for the National Forests in Idaho's panhandle. We went north through a major metropolitan town, Lewiston, and turned northeast onto another long grade. This one was some 20 miles of twists and turns and required us to stop at least once to give Kermit (our pick-up) a break. When we finally reached the grade's top the view was spectacular! There was Lewiston directly below, the Potlatch paper mill to the south and homes as far as the eye could see to
the north. Most of the view to the west was blanketed with a "burn-off" fog bank but we could almost see civilization stretching as far as the horizon. We were so high, you might, on a clear day, be to see the Pacific ocean, or, at the very least, Spokane, Washington.
Idaho's panhandle is an interesting cross of New England's independence, Michigan's pine woods and Western pride. As you know, we get to met interesting people like Kurtis, the Marble Creek lumberjack, and his friend in the green sweater (never caught his name). We often hear about forest management techniques from civilians, such as campground owners, restaurant workers, your basic "tree-huggers," and of course, Forest Service folks. Kurtis gave us our first opportunity to hear from someone
who's livelihood, culture, and identity is dependent on the health of the forest. And he sounded very much like one of those "damn, long-hair, radical hippy environmentalist" (his description, not ours). We spent about three hours listening to these two guys discuss the forest's recovery since this ice storm, that flood, and fires dating back to 1920's. They explained why this slope isn't doing as well as that one, and the
impact of the hundreds of miles of roadways built on the watershed, trees, and wildlife. It was so interesting, so enlightening, and so informative. Makes you wonder if all disagreements, no matter how large or small, don't meet somewhere on the back side.
Well, we have achieved all our Summer of '97 objectives (except for finding a publisher) and are heading toward a quieter, more restful autumn. We plan to spend a week in Seattle, Washington visiting friends and doing some necessary chores. Like? Visiting the dentist and Dodge dealer for maintenance, restock our larder, and catch-up with web work. Then, we'll head west and south along the Pacific coast, doing what campgrounds we can reach. Toward Thanksgiving we'll be with Suzi's mother in
Oxnard, California and Christmas with Fred's mother and cousins in San Diego, California. We'll keep you posted. For now, enjoy the Fall colors (there aren't many in Idaho and Washington) and if you must think snow -- think it high up on the mountain tops but none below, please.
Suzi and Fred