Monday, August 31, 2020

Volunteering with the US Army Corps of Engineers at Dworshak Dam, Ahsahka, Idaho

We read an article in the Sep 2019 edition of Workamper News featuring volunteer opportunities with the US Army Corps of Engineers.  Shortly thereafter, we were among the 4 families recruited by the Corps to volunteer at Dworshak Dam in Ahsahka, Idaho this Spring.  However, we were the ONLY ones to keep our Spring commitment.  Some may attribute this to the uncertainties/health concerns/travel restrictions of COVID-19.  However, those of us who have work-camped/volunteered for many years know that failure to keep commitments is nothing new for 2020.  It has been a consistent, systemic problem and cause of frustration for employers who routinely hire work-campers/recruit volunteers.


The volunteer commitment executed last fall included a $500 travel stipend.  However, because of COVID-19, The Army Corps said it could not authorize volunteers to travel this Spring.  Therefore, they asked if we would come “unofficially” to help them prepare for opening day.  My parents have and always will be community-service oriented, so they agreed to forfeit the $500 travel stipend and fulfill their commitment.  Perhaps the other volunteers recruited were not so inclined.


As we learned from our wonderful behind-the-scenes tour offered to us as volunteers, The Army Corps’ Dworshak Dam is quite a phenomenal engineering feat.  At 717 feet, it the third tallest dam in the US (Oroville and Hoover take top 2 honors), and it is the largest straight axis dam in the Western Hemisphere.  Furthermore, the area it encompasses provides an absolutely spectacular setting!  Surrounded by mighty pines and conifers, it reminds me of a Bob Ross painting.  I could just imagine the trees with a little hint of white snow glistening on their branches.   The area is teeming with wildlife, from turkeys to whitetail deer, from quail to hummingbirds, from mule deer to elk!


While lovely, the project is quite spread out.  It consists of several areas:  Big Eddy, a day use area for boating, swimming, and picnicking; Bruce Eddy, a day use area for boating and access to the Ahsahka Hiking Trail System; Viewpoint, which was designed for guests to view the Dam being built; Dam View, a small dry-camping area; the Visitor Center which also houses the administrative offices; and a fishing wall located by the Dam’s Powerhouse station.  There are more primitive as well, like Merry’s Bay for day-use and Canyon Creek for dry-camping, which are located several miles away from the main complex.  The Reservoir also has several other remote locations (Dent Acres, Grandad, etc.), but due to their distance from the main complex (1+ and 2+ hours, respectively) they are serviced by Staff and/or a different set of volunteers.


View from Canyon Creek

View of Marina (run by the State of Idaho) from Big Eddy

Another view from Big Eddy

The Army Corps prefers recruiting volunteer couples, but because of COVID-19 and limited Visitor Center (VC) operating hours, they recruited a solo to work the VC at 7.5 hours/day, 3 days week.  My parents were contracted to each volunteer 5.5 hours/day for 4 days, or a combined total of 44 hours, with the next 4 consecutive days off.  However, due to site logistics (as described above) and the sheer number of tasks assigned to them (cleaning restrooms; litter patrol of roads/parking areas; trash removal at several camping, fishing and boating areas; riding and hand mowing/weedwhacking multiple large areas; grass/pine needle blowing; cleaning fire pits; removing small pieces of driftwood from dock areas), it was nearly impossible to complete all tasks properly within the 5.5 hour daily work commitment.  Now, my parents are no slouches.   They are accustomed to physical labor, having worked 10-11 hour days/4-5 days/week as Amazon elves in the Camperforce program for the 2015 and 2016 holiday seasons.    They have exemplary work ethics, willing to do any volunteer task, even clean toilets.  They are reliable, willing to succumb to all kinds of weather to meet their work/volunteer obligations, from snow (After a blizzard in May 2015, they snow-shoed to work because Crazy Horse Memorial is open 365 days/year) to hazy, hot, humid days of 103F degrees here at the Dam.  They follow the Army credo, “be all you can be”, even if performing a menial task as a volunteer.  Hence, it took them an average of 6.5 hours/day/person (or a combined 52 hours/4-day period) to fulfill their job responsibilities (and it would have taken them longer if they weren’t so organized, efficient, and willing to split up to maximize time/efforts).  Even if they subscribed to mediocrity like many folks today (it’s good enough; it doesn’t look bad, let it go), the time commitment would exceed the contracted 5.5 hours/day/person.  I should note that Dworshak Dam has a full-time, year-round paid Maintenance Staff who supposedly handle several of the above tasks off-season.   However, they were not involved with the tasks at all once we arrived.  Instead, my parents were responsible for mowing/weedwhacking the Maintenance staff complex as well!


We were impressed with the layout at Volunteer Village.  It is tucked under a wooded knoll inside the main gate.  All 4 sites are flat, level, spacious and come with 50 amp electric/water/sewer.  Propane tank refills are complimentary, too.  Our site came with the bonus of a decorative corner fence where a nest of recently hatched robins lived with their Mama.  What a wonderful greeting and experience to watch them progress from ugly close-eyed hatchlings to full grown fledglings who flew the coop!  Inside the Village is a hut that holds a refrigerator and huge chest freezer for shared use, which is handy for those without a residential fridge/freezer in their rigs.  We expected the laundry unit to be inside the on-site hut, too (like it was at our Fish and Wildlife volunteer gig last year).  Instead, the one complimentary stackable washer/dryer for shared use is located outside the security gate at the Viewpoint restroom building, 3/16 mile from Volunteer Village.  Mom’s routine of doing laundry at 10 p.m. came to a crashing halt.


We got zippo television via our over-the-air antenna.  Even if we had satellite, there was no clear view of the southern sky from our site.  Having no TV was not an issue for us, though, and we even viewed it as a blessing in disguise.  No stressful news of COVID-19, protests, lootings, and shootings.


During the interview, we were informed there was Wi-Fi available at the Visitor Center.  But once we arrived and asked the Corps for the password, receiving access from the Corps suddenly became problematic.  We suspect the powers-that-be just didn’t want any “outsiders” in the office for fear of COVID-19, even though the State of Idaho was in Stage 2 COVID reopening by the time we arrived in mid-May.  Whatever their reasoning, our request for access was never fulfilled. During the interviewing process, we were told Volunteer Village had an outside booster to catch the signal from the Verizon and AT&T cell towers 2 miles down the hill.  However, after attempting to get a signal by standing right under it, we learned from the Corps that it is a 3G booster, which proved useless now that 3G is no longer supported by Verizon, our service provider.  Since we were the only volunteers at that time, the Corps graciously provided us with an RV web booster.  But again, the best we got at our site was 4G at 2 bars standing right next to the booster within our rig.  You can’t boost a signal that’s not there.  So, bottom line, connectivity to the outside world was a MAJOR issue for us and quite worrisome from a safety and medical emergency perspective.  Not to mention it put me way behind in my blog postings! 


It rained 27 out of our first 40 days at the Dam.  I don’t know which was worse, trying to perform volunteer groundskeeping tasks in the rain on workdays or trying to enjoy outdoor activities in the rain on days off!  All I know is that this Rambling RV Rat was beginning to suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)!  The precipitation vanished by July 4 and the hot, humid dog days of summer arrived.


We envisioned the Reservoir to be like many we have visited in several states:  a place to rent jet skis and pontoon boats, to have a drink at a waterfront bar, or to book a fishing charter.  But because the Corps and other government entities own all the shoreline lands and control access to the Reservoir, there are no commercial ventures nearby.  We did have an opportunity to paddle a few times in our inflatable canoe. 


View from our canoe--sharing the "roadway"

View from our canoe

Orofino, the seat of Clearwater County, is 7 miles from the campground.  It offers 3 food marts, restaurants, banks/credit unions, and a wonderful park where we went regularly to get an internet/cell signal. Orofino also has a small movie house, which provided us a weekly dose of 1980s movies for $3/ticket!  We were happy to support local, small businesses that suffered lost revenues due to COVID-19, and we admired the sense of community demonstrated in this and other less populated Idaho towns we visited.


My parents felt a bit like orphans, having little interaction with/communication from Corps regarding key happenings that affected them/their job responsibilities.  Even when we sent emails/texts to all 4 Rangers to inquire about/report on various matters, we sometimes received no response.  We thought perhaps recipients did not receive our messages due to sporadic/spotty internet/cell service.   But we learned through Mom’s persistent follow-up that messages were, in fact, received, yet no one thought to reply.  Mom expressed to the Corps that she and Dad did not feel like volunteers were appreciated or made part of a team. The Corps attributed the situation to COVID-19.  Apparently, in years past, the Corps had an orientation session, weekly meetings, and even fun events that Staff and volunteers attended.  But now due to the virus, the Army nixed in-person meetings and group gatherings, including those for our location’s 5-member volunteer team.  (This explanation made little sense to me since the Corps allowed guests, including those from out-of-state, into the Visitor Center with no mask mandate for a 6-week period from mid-June to the end of July.  Does the risk of COVID-19 only exist among volunteers?)  Well, how about an occasional email then?  My folks received a rare informational email during the last week of their volunteer commitment, most definitely a direct result of Mom’s comments days earlier.


Having 4 consecutive days off was terrific!  My parents, though younger than the average workcamper/volunteer, needed time to rejuvenate their weary bodies, especially since the way the schedule fell, they landed the most physical landscaping tasks 9 out of 13 weeks (all during peak grass growing season).   But more importantly, we needed 4 days off to facilitate touring the state.  You see, North Central Idaho is very much like Alaska.  It can best be described by the 3 R’s: resplendent, rugged, and REMOTE!   Some folks may be content to just relax at their campsite, but we like to explore and tour as much as possible.   We hiked the trails within the nearby Ahsahka System and enjoyed picking (and eating) tasty wild berries, cherries, and plums.   We visited Dworshak Reservoir at Dent Acres and Grandad (1 hour and 2+ hours away respectively from Volunteer Village), getting terrific use of Rat Patrol II, our Polaris Rzr.  Unfortunately, The National Fish Hatchery down the hill from Volunteer Village, the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center in Lewiston, and several other government operated attractions in the area were all closed for the majority of the summer due to “an abundance of caution” with COVID-19, even though the State of Idaho was at Stage 4 reopening from June 13 onwards.  Other places of interest to visit like Moscow, Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint, and Hell’s Canyon for Snake River rafting are 1.5, 3.5, 4.5, and 7.5 hours away from the Dam, respectively, when accounting for the winding, hilly roads you must traverse to get there.  We devoted many hours to driving and spent more nights in hotel rooms in the last 3 months than we did in the last 3 years.  But it was worth it--we visited so many wonderful places and caught up with several RVing friends which I’ll tell ya all about in my next post.


Considering all the above, this volunteer experience garners a 3 out of 5 cheese rating from Rambling RV Rat.  Mom suggested that the Corps at Dworshak Dam establish better lines of communication during a pandemic (COVID has been around for 6 months and doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.    Small businesses had to think outside the box to facilitate operations/communications, so the Army Corps should be able to do so as well).  The Corps should re-evaluate work commitments/expectations for retirement-aged VOLUNTEERS to align with competitive volunteer opportunities.   (For example, last year my parents’ volunteer commitment for very physical work at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in NJ was only 32 hours COMBINED for them over 4 days, with a location 1.5 hours outside NYC;  Vermont State Parks required 30 hours COMBINED over 5 days, within 30 minutes of Burlington.)   Furthermore, considering that a stay at a local full-service RV Park, with free Wi-Fi and including electric charges would cost less than $600/month, the Corps’ $1,276/month “value” of their campsite in exchange for volunteers’ work efforts is extraordinarily high (calculated at the contracted 5.5 hours/day/person at Idaho’s $7.25 minimum wage if volunteers were paid like staff for all hours worked, although the Corps was agreeable to paying a high school student $15/hour at another location to perform similar tasks completed by my parents).


I am confident that if these suggestions are implemented and connectivity/communications improved, this volunteer gig could garner a coveted 5-cheese rating from Rambling RV Rat in the future.


PS:  Just 5 days after our volunteer commitment expired and we left to explore other areas of Idaho, the Whitetail Loop Wildfire broke out in nearby Cavendish, spreading to over 400 acres, and requiring our fellow volunteers to evacuate.  Our prayers for safety go out to them, Staff, and all the neighboring areas affected as firefighters continue their efforts to contain the fire.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Hi Ho, Hi Ho-To Idaho We Go! Travel/Boondocking Stops Along our Route to Dworshak Dam

I am excited to tell you that shortly after my last post, we received a call from our volunteer gig with the US Army Corps of Engineers in Idaho.  They asked if we would travel there “unofficially” to await their season opening, thought to be somewhere between May 20 for day use and June 1 for camping.  I don’t have to tell you after you read my last post ( ), that we jumped at the opportunity to get out of sweltering Southeast Texas!

My parents are prepared for the Corona shaming—they already got a dose from Aunt Laurie in New York, who call us “uneducated”, “part of the problem”, and “selfish”.  Aunt Laurie didn’t seem to care that we played by the rules.  Long before we started our journey, Polk County, the State of Texas, and the State of Idaho had lifted their stay-at-home orders, and both states were already in phased approaches to reopening of businesses.  We took a longer route than necessary to avoid Corona hot spots within New Mexico and Colorado.  And by boondocking for more than half of the trip (and not in Walmarts), we minimized our contact with others.  

Aunt Laurie also gave no credence to my parents’ analysis of potentially fatal behaviors.  People smoke/chew nicotine, vape, smoke weed, overeat, overindulge in alcohol, use (and sometimes mis-use) prescription drugs, and use illegal drugs.  Each of these actions come with known health risks and consequences.  Yet, people still participate in these activities.  Driving comes with high risk of casualty.  Yet, few, if any, are so concerned about the possibility of death that they forego driving or forfeit their licenses.   While we agree wholeheartedly that coronavirus is deadly, it is a risk factor we must each evaluate and act upon individually, like all of the behaviors listed above.  It is about personal responsibility.  For those with compromised immune systems or medical conditions that make you at greater risk for coronavirus or any future epidemics/pandemics  (that is YOU, Aunt Laurie), we believe you should take the necessary precautions to protect your own health. You do what is best for you to be safe.  We will do our part to protect you by wearing masks in crowded areas and keeping our 6-foot distance.  But we must also consider the small businesses that are suffering, people who are out of work, and families that have lost the ability to put food on their tables and roofs over their heads all because of coronavirus.

We offer sympathy to those who lost loved ones to COVID-19.  Every person’s life is precious.  But like Aunt Laurie, people seem to forget that death is a part of the circle of life.  It comes to each and every person, sometimes quite suddenly and unexpectedly, like what happened to both of my human Grandfathers, who died at ages 49 and 61.  Sometimes death is imminent and expected but then a miracle happens, like my human Great-Grandmother.  She had a malignant brain tumor.   The surgeon said she would live 6 months to one year maximum, and most likely in a degenerative state.  My loving Grandparents took her into their home, hoping to make her as comfortable as possible in her final days.  Well guess what:  the rotund Italian lady who was to reside temporarily in the bedroom of Mom and Aunt Laurie lived in it for 11 ½ years!  She suffered occasional seizures and found it difficult at times to articulate her thoughts, but generally she led a long, happy life.  Sometimes folks are given second chances in life like my Dad.  A few years ago, he suffered a major heart attack from a 100% blockage in his right coronary artery.  Had it been the 90% blockage in his “widow maker” artery that caused the heart attack, I’d be fatherless right now.  But it wasn’t his time to die.  My point to all this?  My parents choose to live each day to its fullest and treat it as if it will be their last because they never know when death will come knocking at their door.  They are not letting coronavirus stop them from living because of a fear of dying.  They will do all they can to minimize spreading germs and to protect others.  (Heck, Mom always has practiced social distancing with her loner attitude.) They love our Country, but they put their faith in The Man Upstairs to protect us, not any government.  These are their choices, but they do not mandate others take this approach.  God provided people with decision-making abilities.  My parents respect your personal opinions--you do whatever you feel is best for YOU.  As for me, I’m sure glad I am a stuffed rat whose biggest worry is what variety of cheese to eat today!

So with that said, we began our migration to Idaho within 2 days of receiving the call.  Dad mapped out a terrific route that brought us a bit out of the way but provided wonderful opportunities for learning, exploring nature, and viewing wildlife.

Since the Lone Star Coral SKP Co-op still prohibited anyone but lot owners into their Park, we spent our first evening boondocking at a rest area about 10 miles west of Hondo, Texas.  It was very hot, but SO much drier than Livingston!  The air conditioner cooled things off quickly, so Mom was a happy camper.  

The next evening we boondocked 5 miles west of Alpine, Texas.  It was a small, easy-to-access rest area right off US-90, situated within the caldera of Paisano Volcano.  We had the place completely to ourselves and traffic on US-90 was light, so it was a quiet evening.   And with overnight temperatures in the 50s, we all slept fitfully.  But had I known the Marfa Lights viewing area was just a few miles away, I would have insisted we stay there since Dad vetoed my motion to look for the lights on our trip to Big Bend Ranch State Park in March.

We traveled along I-10 West, heading for an overnight stay at Dreamcatcher RV Park in Deming, New Mexico.  It is a small, well-maintained Escapees corporate park located just a mile off of I-10, with full hook-ups (30/50 amp electric), large pull-thru sites and a clean, inexpensive laundry facility.

Starting back on I-10, we made our way to Escapees North Ranch RV Park in Congress, Arizona.  Traffic was light, and with Mom and Dad switching off on driving duty every 2 hours, things were going smoothly.  That is until we experienced a tire blowout on our Swivel Wheel near Wilcox, Arizona during Dad’s driving detail.  Upon inspection, we found the hub was damaged as well, all because of a faulty valve stem on the tire.

The tire pressure monitor system never went off.   Ironically, we had done a visual inspection of the rig at a rest area just ½ hour earlier—everything looked good.  Fortunately, Dad is handy.  He did a “Rube Goldberg” job of getting the spare onto the damaged hub.  We made it safely to North Ranch!  I won’t bore you with the details of the many gyrations required to get a new hub and new tires over a two-day period.  But kudos and a coveted Rambling RV Rat 5-Cheese Award to Tractor Supply in Benson, Del’s Tires in Benson, Dexter On-line, and Swivel Wheel for exceptional customer service.  And I would be remiss without sending special thanks to the staff at North Ranch RV Park.  True to the caring nature of the Escapees organization and their full understanding of the trials and tribulations that accompany our nomadic lifestyle, they allowed us to stay an extra night to ensure we had all the parts required to safely complete our last 1,000+ miles to Idaho.

We had stayed only once previously at North Ranch RV Park, and it was just an overnight stopover.  So, while Mom and Dad were immersed in the Swivel Wheel project, I went out to explore. This Park is a true gem!  The sites for transients are all spacious and easy to access, although they offer only 30 amp electric.  The roads within the non-transient part of the Park are paved and are wide enough for two-way traffic with plenty of room to spare.  The home/lot owners Beautification Committee works diligently to make the park a welcoming desert oasis with gardens, benches, and art/lawn ornaments.  As I’ve mentioned in many posts, we spend time boondocking in Quartzsite, Arizona each winter.  And I love watching the desert come alive.  But we leave in early March, so I miss out on some of the flora.  But coming here to North Ranch RV Park provided me an opportunity to see the flowering mimosas, the blooming palo verde trees, and even the flora of the saguaro! And there are lots of critters--baby bunnies with big ears, lizard-like reptiles (though much larger than the babies I see in Quartzsite), and a Mama quail crossing a wash with her brood following behind (reminded me of the opening credits for The Partridge Family).

He's a big fella, not like the small lizard-like creatures I see in Quartzsite!

The Park has access to BLM hiking and ATV trails.  North Ranch folks even set up a desert golf course back there!  Unlike Livingston, it would be a piece of cake for Mom to do her daily 5-mile walks here!  And I see there are quite a few empty lots for sale!  I would love to have a lot in arid Arizona than in humid Livingston!  I’ll have to sell the idea to my parents.

Hiking and ATVing on BLM Lands right in the backyard of North Ranch RV Park!

We left Congress and hooked up with US-93, also known as the Joshua Forest Parkway.  You don’t have to travel to California’s Joshua Tree National Park to see an abundance of these trees!

We continued into Nevada, staying at what I consider one of my top 3 boondocking areas thus far, Cold Creek Ranch Historic Site.  Operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), it is located in the Spring Mountains and Toiyabe National Forest in Cold Creek, about 45 miles west of downtown Las Vegas, Nevada.  This place had it all—I think I died and went to heaven!  Spectacular views that looked almost like a painting.  Easy access and virtually no one around.  Amazingly, we had excellent cell/internet service.  Snow on the mountaintops provided cool temperatures.  There are several hiking trails here, which provided us a means to get in some mileage for the day.  But best of all was the abundance of wildlife!  We saw wild horses, burros, elk, and mule deer!  And it is paradise for those of us who enjoy ATVing.  We absolutely must return here and stay a week or two!  Dad scored big time in picking this site, all on a tip from a fellow DRV Mobile Suites owner!

This foal was feeling brave--though its Mom was eating a short distance away and watching our every move.    View the video below to watch the foal's antics.

After we ate breakfast and did a quick hike, we learned that a 6.5 earthquake hit Tonopah, Nevada that very morning at 4:00.  Reportedly, it was felt as far away as Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, but it certainly didn’t disturb my family’s beauty rest—we heard and felt nada.   We loaded into Big Boomer, our medium duty truck, for another day of travel, mostly along I-15, which had lots of road construction, but offered some nice scenery.

We reached our destination of Parowan Gap, BLM lands outside of Cedar City, Utah.  Another fantastic boondocking spot, rich in culture, geology, and paleontology!  It had lots of flat areas to accommodate big rigs, or you could venture on some overland roads to get a bird’s eye view of the area.  Parowan Gap was formed by an ancient river that once flowed through this area.  Ancestors of the Paiutes and Hopi roamed these lands, and they documented many things that occurred in their lives through rock wall art, A.K.A. petroglyphs.  Our boondocking spot was a short 2-mile walk away from Dinosaur Track Recreation Site, home to the raised tracks of bird-like dinosaurs and some interesting rock formations to boot.  Very cool stuff here at Parowan Gap!  We watched a nice sunset, and as we returned to our set-up, my nose detected a pleasant scent.  What was that smell?  It was wild spearmint!  I think I’ll make some mint juleps!   The area has lots of ATV trails, too, making Parowan Gap a top contender for my boondocking “Must Return” list. 

Lots of petroglyphs on these rocks.

I often wonder the messages being conveyed.  Do you see a man in a canoe on this rock?

Can you see the raised print of a bird-like dinosaur?

Cool looking rock!

Sunset through the "gap".

I-15 the next day provided a wonderfully scenic drive, with snow-capped mountains, Utah Lake, and miles of farmland. Legal speed limits here are 80 miles per hour!  No thank you—we like to keep things under 65.        

We boondocked in Draber, Utah at Flight Path Recreation Park, a point where paragliders take flight and disembark.The sign said, “Park at your own risk.”  I sure hoped no “flighters” would crash into our RV!   It was ultra-windy in the Park, making it feel quite chilly.  On the way there, Gretchen, our GPS, was trying hard to get us into a real pickle, taking us through a residential area that overlooked the Park but we learned had no vehicular access to it (let alone for something our size.)  Thankfully, Mom disconnected Gretchen, stopped a local resident to get directions, and we arrived without incident.  

View from our dinette window.

Residential complex Gretchen our GPS was taking us through. What is scary is that our GPS is programmed for truck and fifth wheel at all times!  Even our truck would have a hard time on these narrow roads.  

Hello, Idaho!  We crossed the Snake River and with much more success than Evil Knievel!  I saw an old missile silo sitting in a field.  Along I-84, a Micro Minnie Winnebago went whizzing by.  Hey, what’s that clanking along on the side of his rig?  Oh, boy, it is his sewer hose!  It was a scene right out of the movie RV!  We would have warned the driver had we been able to catch up.  The good news is that we didn’t spot remnants of a stray sewer hose along the roadway!  A teachable moment for him (one many of us have had), a chuckle for us!

We made it to Boise, staying overnight at Hi Valley RV Resort.  This park had lots of features:  Easy access off of US-55; Long, level sites and wide, paved roads, giving us the ability to stay hooked up; Clean, reasonably priced laundry room ($2.50/load); Free cable and Wi-Fi; A rec center and even a swimming pool that was open for business (seems like nobody cares about coronavirus here!).  We were highly satisfied with our overnight accommodations at $45/night (plus tax) without any applicable discount for us (they only offer Good Sam, AAA, Military).

We were back on the road by 7 the next morning for our final leg of our journey.  We encountered overcast skies and periods of rain.  As we traversed US-55, also known as the Payette Scenic Byway, we noticed a ton of large boondocking pullouts right along the Payette River in Boise National Forest.  We will file that info for the next time we are traveling in these parts of Idaho.   I spotted a fox in the brush just returning home from a wild Saturday night (I hope he social-distanced!).  I also saw a few deer drinking along the River very close to a road sign that said, “Game Crossing”.  Gotta love when wildlife follows the rules of the road!  As we traveled along US-95, we were informed by a sign that we were halfway between the North Pole and the Equator at the 45th parallel.  The Little Salmon River was running fast (maybe he was trying to catch up with his big brother The Salmon River).

We stopped at the Nez Perce Historic Site, where the first battle between this American Indian group and the US Army occurred in 1877.  Prior to this, the Nez Perce Indians migrated peacefully and unencumbered for centuries among the lands of today’s states of Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Idaho.  Like most American Indians, they got screwed by the US government—nearly 90% of the reservation lands granted to them originally were revoked for use by prospectors when gold was discovered in the area.

Nearby is White Bird Grade.   Built in 1915, it served for 60 years as the main access up this mountain for Highway 95, Idaho’s only North-South roadway.  It sounds like a motorcyclist’s dream:  lots of curves, switchbacks, and a 2,900-foot elevation change within 14 miles!  We may have to come back here to ride!

We picked up ID-13 near Grangeville, entering the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway that follows the routes of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and migratory paths of the Nez Perce. I saw moo cows dotting the hills and spectacular seas of sunshine yellow blooms in the fields, which I learned were canola!

Can't believe I got such a cool photo while we were in motion!  Not only did I capture the canola blooms, but a crop duster plane that I hadn't even seen until I looked at the picture!

We traveled ID-12, running alongside the South Fork of the Clearwater River.  

We entered Orafino, and in a jiffy we reached our destination of Dworshak Dam in Ahsahka, Idaho. It is a gorgeous area, and I am excited to explore!  But right now I need to help my parents set up “home” for the next 3 months.   We are the only ones here in "Volunteer Village"--just the way I like it!

I’ll talk to you again real soon!  

We would like to thank the following organizations for all the great service and support they offer to the RVing community:

Escapees RV Club


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