Saturday, October 18, 2008

R.I.P., Slurp-n-Burp

One of the great (and actually one of the only) disappointments of the trip, even with all the re-routing due to weather, was finding that the Slurp-n-Burp, a semi-legendary little bar just outside of Moscow, has closed its doors. Oh well, it happens.

The Farm Yard Connection

One of the really cool things we get to do when we visit Emily's parents is go out to their farm in Deary, Idaho, where Emily spent her first several years.

Art and Toni grew up and met in Utah, and Art went to law school in Washington DC. He was working for the Department of Justice in the early '70s, before accepting a professorship at the University of Idaho law school. They bought this farm when they moved, and over the years they've bought surrounding properties when they had the chance. It's a pretty huge place, and really beautiful.

There's a big view down the valley to Potato Hill.

The house is a very modest, typical early 20th-century farmhouse. For a long time Art and Toni have thought about moving it back toward the forest, and now that they are both retired, they're doing it. These dudes jacked the house up on supports, moved it back, dug and poured a basement, and lowered the house onto it. It's cool because now it's nearer to the forest.

Across the road from the farmhouse, Art and Toni have this little cabin. It used to be a pig barn and then some smelly hippies made it into a house in the early '70s.

It was sort of falling into the woods but along with the house-moving project, they're also propping the cabin up. It's really fun to stay there, I'm glad they're fixing it.

There are two ponds, and they each have their own little eco-system.

There are frogs all over the place.

Art found a praying mantis in the grass.

This gigantic ladybug landed on me.

We found these jawbones from a deer. There was a moose in the area recently and there are skunks and the occasional bear in the orchard.

I spotted this underground yellow jacket nest.

These dragonflies were doing it. Emily says they do it all the time.

It's sort of hard to see from the photo, but an old tree fell down, and coyotes have dragged a bunch of stuff up next to it and made a big den here in the forest. There's a big pile of pinecones they've brought over for reserves, to eat the pine nuts once they're ready. The top of the log is super smooth from where the coyotes have lied down over and over and smoothed it out.

I like going out to the farm and seeing where Emily is from. (Here she is with her dad, who as far as I can tell knows just about everything you'd ever need to know about the woods or the land or surviving out there on your own.) Emily and I are both kind of half-city, half-country people, and I like having that balance. (Well, maybe it's more like 3/4 city.)

We stayed out at the farm until the full moon came up. And it was good.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Faded from the Winter

I forgot to mention that we sprung for this $7 bottle of grog in International Falls, Minnesota ("The Icebox of the North"). We liked the label, and next time we go ice fishing, well, now we'll be ready.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Down the Highway

The drive between our campground and Moscow was just as amazing as the first part of Highway 12.

There are some cool small towns.

You go through part of the Nez Perce reservation. I'm looking forward to going back and exploring around there more. Emily's aunt and cousins are Nez Perce and live near Lewiston.

One of the major towns is Kooskia. In Idaho they don't pronounce the "A" at the end of the word – so Kooskia is pronounced "Koosky." They have other weird pronunciations too – like Kamiah is pronounced "Cami-eye."

Highway 12 is the way Lewis and Clark went, and there's tons of stuff named after them (such as Lewiston, Clarkston, and Clarkia – which is pronounced "Clarky.")

We stopped in at JB's Horseshoe Bar & Grill in Troy, Idaho, before going on to Emily's parents' house in Moscow. JB's is for sale – if you have an extra $150,000 and want to run a bar in Idaho, your dream awaits.

Many Rivers to Cross

There are several ways people ford the Lochsa River.

The Forest Service maintains four or five foot bridges along Highway 12, each of which goes across to a system of trails.

There are also private crossings, like this, with a little cart on a wire, powered by gravity and controlled by a handbrake. I bet that's a little crazy in the winter when there are icicles present. Maybe they just walk across the ice in that case, I don't know.

And then there's this luxury model – a whole cabin with curtains and all.

If you lived by the river, knowing how to cross it would be a major part of your life.

Pacific Standard Time

After (yet again) a snowy morning of record and thrift stores in Missoula, we took off down Highway 12 toward Idaho – one of my favorite drives in the whole country.

This was the fourth time I've done it: Emily and I took Highway 12 on our honeymoon up to Lake Louise, we drove it again when we moved to New York in 1999, and last year my mom and I went that way on May 28th, her 60th birthday. This was the first time I followed Highway 12 from East to West. The weather had cleared up and the road was as amazing as ever.

Highway 12 is the only way through the largest forest in the Lower 48, following the contours of the Lochsa River and winding its way between some fairly large peaks in the Idaho Panhandle. You don't see many other cars.

There are a few little towns along the way, which usually consist of a mercantile with a gas pump, a small hotel, and maybe a diner or bar. Sometimes there's a taxidermist.

It was cold outside but mostly clear, so we decided that we'd camp out on the last night of our trip, before going to Emily's parents' house in Moscow, Idaho and then on to Seattle. We found the perfect campsite right by the river in a Clearwater National Forest campground off the highway. After we set up camp, we explored the river.

The next morning, we took a hike (the only real hike of the trip) up a horse trail toward the Sawtooth Bitterroot Wilderness.

After about four or five miles straight up, we realized we had misunderstood the map, and that the first lake was sixteen miles into the trail – so we turned around.

The forest is so gigantic, it felt a little like it was just toying with us. We didn't get to any spectacular vistas or see any wildlife (except this weird squirrel/chipmunk hybrid) but there was subtle beauty at every turn.

We doted on this furry little caterpillar for a ludicrous amount of time, realizing we had been on the road for over three weeks and were really missing our cats.

Camping along Highway 12 was a great way to end the trip – it has come to be a very significant road to me. When we got back from the hike we had some sandwiches, and then packed up and headed out for the two-hour drive to Moscow. It struck me for the first time that this in-between time on the road was coming to an end.