08-08-2014 A Day to Celebrate Old Homes and Old Friends

Current Location: home in Rocky Point Oregon

Things get a bit strange for me when I am back home in the Inland Northwest.  I lived there for more than 30 years.  When I moved to Northern Idaho in 1972 the first time I believed it was my spirit soul home and that I would never leave.  I was so incredibly happy to have found the place where I belonged.  It came as a surprise to me that when the time came to leave, in 2002, I was ready to go.  flowers 04

My Hauser Cottage in 2002 I hauled everyone of those rocks from the mountains

It is no longer “home”.  Klamath Falls is now home and I knew it was the moment I arrived 12 years ago.  No clue how that happens, but it does.  Funny though, I grew up in Southern California and it never felt like home, even when I lived there.  As a child I was always dreaming of moving north.  As an adult I started the journey of years, ended it as far north as Prince George BC before finally coming to rest here in Oregon.  North enough.

Homes revisited (8 of 21)The Hauser cottage in 2014 the gardens are gone and so are the rocks

But unlike returning to the San Gabriel Valley in SoCal, when I go back north to the Spokane/Coeur d Alene area I feel the old pull.  I am brought up short over and over with memories of who I was then and who I am now.  I barely recognize myself any more.  There have been too many twists and turns in my life and as I said once before, the sections don’t seem to be all that connected.

08-07-2014 revisiting my old homes

The Hauser cottage in 2014 a lock box on the door but no for sale sign

Collages2My Hauser cottage gardens in 2002

Two of my four children are in Oregon and none are back in Washington or Idaho.  My lifetime soul friend, Maryruth, is in California, and I have other close and wonderful friends all over the US.  Yet there is one friend who shared that life with me who still lives the life we lived back then, right there north of Coeur D Alene in Dalton Gardens.

Friends revisited (3 of 95)My friend Laura in her backyard in Dalton Gardens

She even has the same donkey she had then, who is now 32 years old.  Laura also has chickens, which makes me miss mine, and she has gardens that flourish the way mine used to when I had that great soil and those long days to make things grow.

Friends revisited (22 of 95) I was so happy for a day to spend with Laura on her lush and luscious acre of perfect soil, water, and sunshine and a gardener’s love.  Driving east from Spokane early in the morning, I took a side route through Newman Lake and Hauser Lake, just to see how things had changed, and to see my old homes.

the HauserMy Hauser Farmhouse in 1984 in the first year of gardening there

Especially endearing to see was the old farmhouse where I lived with Lance and my kids for many years.  Melody spent her teenage years here, on her horse most of the time.  My gardens were so magnificent that people would drive by every Sunday to see what was blooming.  It was a lovely life at that time.  The old weeping willow is now so big that I can no longer see the house from the road.  The house itself was the second one built on Hauser Lake, in 1886.  It was tiny, and had only wood heat.  Lots of memories in that place. 

Homes revisited (20 of 21)The old Hauser Farmhouse in 2014 Grandsons birth trees on the right and to the right of the willow

I took photos of my two grandsons’ birth trees which are planted at this old homestead, and they are both thriving.

I then drove by the tiny cottage that belonged to my grandmother, where she died, and where I ended up after becoming almost homeless after my divorce.  For nearly 7 years I worked hard to make this tiny place a home, and the gardens again flourished, although in a much smaller space.  The ceilings were only 6 feet 4 inches high.  Easy to paint, but my son in law used to have trouble walking around inside!

Scan004, October 20, 2001Hauser Cottage in 2002Homes revisited (5 of 21) Hauser Cottage in 2014

The last time I drove by this house I was devastated.  The gardens were gone, most of the huge firs were gone.  The house was abandoned and in shambles.  This time it was a bit different.  Still no gardens, but the house was being loved and repaired.  It was empty, so I walked around and looked inside the windows.  There were new cupboards, new floors, everything remodeled  nicely.  

Homes revisited (15 of 21) The old brick patio I laid was still there, and the wooden bench that Bel made, where I sat for many hours with my cat Caesar, who lived to be 16 years old, was still there.  Someday someone may garden there again, and the huge 100 year old maple and horse chestnut tree still thrive.

Friends revisited (10 of 95)Laura’s gardens

It was a nostalgic drive, and I was very happy to continue east to Laura’s to get some big loving hugs and be treated to my friend’s amazing space. Laura lived that old life with me.  We canned and cooked together, trained our horses together, talked about chickens and eggs and men together.  Raved about “stuff” together, even shared our journals with each other. We understood each other and still do. I am so glad that Laura finally retired from her life of nursing to be home with her gardens and her granddaughters and daughters, and that she had a whole day free to spend with me.

Friends revisited (56 of 95) Laura laughs and calls herself a hoarder, and says her contractor husband is a hoarder as well. 

Friends revisited (81 of 95) Well, she may be right, but Laura is the best kind of hoarder you can imagine.  She hoards “stuff” to make crazy art and it emerges from every nook and cranny in her gardens and her home. 

Friends revisited (74 of 95) Even in early August, her tomatoes were huge, her squashes ripe, beans, fruit, cucumbers, everything you could possibly imagine was huge and lush.  It sure made me miss my old gardens. 

Friends revisited (41 of 95) As hard as I try I can’t make things grow like this in my forest home in the mountains of Oregon.  Laura has flowers everywhere.  She also has a ton of ribbons from the county fair for her flowers from the last few years.  I think I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.

Friends revisited (15 of 95)Friends revisited (18 of 95)Friends revisited (11 of 95)Friends revisited (20 of 95) I wanted to see another old friend as well, Sandy, but her work schedule made it harder to fit an entire day in. 

Friends revisited (86 of 95)Instead, with Sandy also being a friend of Laura’s, we had a beautiful lunch of fresh picked veggies in Laura’s dining room while we reminisced about old times. 

Friends revisited (88 of 95)Friends revisited (89 of 95) The best kind of day with people I have loved for years from my old life.

Next post: Back to the reunion for fabulous family dinners and floating the Little Spokane River


08-07-2014 Silverwood with Thirty People

Current Location: we are home in Rocky Point Oregon

silverwood I have a huge soft spot for Silverwood Theme Park in Northern Idaho.  It didn’t exist when I first moved to the nearby village of Rathdrum in 1972, population 751.  My kids went to grade school, junior high and high school in Rathdrum.  Rathdrum is about half way between Spokane and Athol, where the Silverwood roller coasters now dominate the landscape.  Hate to say it, but say “Athol” out loud and laugh with all the old locals about their town.  I think I read long ago that both names came from somewhere in Ireland.

Henley_ID_87Aug11article When I lived in that area, Silverwood was just a dream, and at the time was simply a funky old train running around the property and a restaurant called the Henley Aerodrome.  I drove by it every day on my way to Bonner County to map soils as a brand new soil scientist.  The theme park didn’t actually open until 1988, and just about everyone from Spokane to Coeur d Alene thought the owner was making a very huge, very expensive mistake.  After all, there wasn’t the population base and it was out in the middle of nowhere!1976 Rathdrum life-007

My house in Rathdrum in the mid 70’s

Well, let me tell you, he was right and we were all wrong.  When I moved to CDA, the population was 14,000.  It now is close to 100K in the surrounding communities and the houses stretch across the Rathdrum Prairie for the entire 35 miles between CDA and Spokane.  Plenty of people to fill the huge parking lot daily and make that man a zillionaire! Our sweet little Rathdrum now boasts more than 6,000 inhabitants! rathdrum 2010

Rathdrum in 2010 with the huge Burlington Northern terminal sitting on top of the Spokane Aquifer

When Don was working on the schedule for the reunion, he had to choose which activity would be most likely to be affected by weekend crowds, and Silverwood won.  As a result, he chose Thursday for the big family day at the park.  We got group rates in addition to senior rates for a few of us, meaning Mo and I only paid $18.09 each for the full day.  Good deal!

What I didn’t realize when Don was talking about swimsuits and lockers was that there was an addition to Silverwood called Boulder Beach, a water park.  Now I used to take my kids to water parks in Spokane…you know…a water slide and a pool, so I wasn’t that excited about that part. 

family to Silverwood I was more excited about having the chance to enter the gate at first opening and then RUN all the way to the line for TREMORS, one of my favorite roller coasters.  You see, I am a roller coaster addict.  I can’t explain why I get seasick on a ship or in a car, but a roller coaster just makes me feel all alive and buzzy.  Like the best hit of whatever that you could imagine.  Go figure.

waiting in line for TremorsI have a dream to do a roller coaster trip and catch all the big ones on the east side of the country, but that entails traveling in the summer since all the big parks close on Labor Day.  Sigh.  Who knows if it will ever happen.

100 foot drop at 60 mph  rated 9 in the country and 17 in the world for wooden coastersIn the mean time, however, unlimited rides on Tremors and my possible alternative favorite, Timber Terror, famous for its “air time” was enough to keep me excited about this particular family activity.

Many folks in the group had other ideas, and the water park was highest on their agenda.  While everyone hurried to the park to snag the best waterside seats, Mo and I and “the kids”, Callie and Josh, ran with us to the roller coasters.  And oh my gosh…it was as good as I remember, although on this supposedly unbusy Thursday morning I only managed about 3 rides before the lines got too long to deal with.

photo of the photo.  I knew where the camera was from past years on this coasterBack in 2001, when I took my then 14 year old grandson to the park, we managed 18 consecutive rides between the two roller coasters.  Mo only opted for one ride on each coaster, but at least we got the photo.  You can tell I know where the camera is on this one!

Mo and I waited almost 45 minutes to take another ride with some cool water splashes, but when the line stopped moving and no one said why, we gave up and headed for the water park.

waiting for the waves at Boulder Beach Water Park at Silverwood I had the surprise of my life.  Probably anyone with young kids in their lives know that water parks aren’t what they used to be, but I had no clue.  We walked in the gates (all included with our Silverwood ticket), and a Disneyland of water opened up before us.  There were several combinations of water slides, a “lazy river” with inner tubes that looked fabulously inviting, and two giant wave pools.  Can you believe I have never actually been in a wave pool?

Boulder Beach Water Park is huge I would have loved to float the river, but we needed to find the family.  No problem…there were at least 20 of them somewhere, right?  For a slow day, I have never seen so many people.  After a bit of wandering and searching, we finally found them all lined up by the first big wave pool.  That water felt fabulous.  Kinda like being in the Caribbean without the sand or the salt.  On a busy day.

Boulder Beach Water Park at Silverwood It was great fun with the family and all the little kids that are now becoming a bigger part of the Oukrop clan.  Neither Mo nor I had brought swim suits but we jumped in anyway.  I have an entirely new concept now of what a water park can be, and if I am in the mood to deal with crowds to get cool I won’t turn my nose up at one again.  Probably wouldn’t go there on our own, but with family or kids it is great.

playing at Boulder Beach Water Park at SilverwoodSilverwood and Boulder Beach (36 of 38) By evening, we all migrated back the two hours to Spokane, with just enough time to dry out and change clothes for the big family dinner at Casa De Oro.  This restaurant on Division has great Mexican food, and a room big enough for all of us. 

I can’t believe that I not only didn’t take my camera, but I didn’t even try to take photos with my phone!  Guess I was just too worn out from all that fun during the day.

dinner photos Thanks to Randi, I got some phone photos to collage to give an idea of what it was like in a restaurant with a big family.  For once, I wasn’t checking my phone, but that wasn’t true of everyone, thank goodness!  At least we got some photos!

What a fabulous day and it was just the beginning.

Next Post: I take some time for myself to revisit old homes and friends in Northern Idaho

September 13 Hells Canyon

Currently in Rocky Point, Oregon Partly Cloudy and 45 degrees F

Hells Canyon Overlook Funny, as crowded as the state park campground was, at night it was quiet and dark and I slept great.  We decided that there was no need to go to Imnaha on this trip.  Mo had been there before, and after reading Laurie and Odel’s very funny account about their trip there, we figured fried gizzards weren’t a big enough draw to get us to take the back way north to Imnaha.  Another time.

Instead, we followed the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway on the northern loop from Joseph, east and then south to Hells Canyon Overlook.  The scenic byway is worth the drive if only to stand high above the layers and layers of ridges and imagine the Snake River far below.  Of course, you can’t see the river from the Overlook, you have to go to Inmaha to actually see the river from above.  You could do as the women we found out there who had traveled from Portland to camp on the Imnaha River and then bike to the overlook.  Not me!  It was a lot of very steep uphill, and we saw one of the women walking her bike about 3 miles short of the top.

You could decide as we did to take the byway all the way to the mighty and magical Snake River and then turn north and drive the 20 plus winding miles to Hells Canyon Dam. In addition to the magnificent drive and the river that flows north through the deepest canyon in North America, we had a destination, a river trip.Seven Devils

We had a great time at the overlook, me trying to discern which ridge I camped on back in the 80’s when we were mapping the canyons.  Then of course we had to try out the delay shutter feature on my camera, but it was too far down for me to get in the picture quickly enough.  Made for some good laughs until the women on their bikes offered to take a photo of us together.

Hells Canyon Overlook

Northeastern Ore_092 Hells Canyon Adventures does several different versions of a jet boat ride on the river, and we chose to just get a little taste with the 2 hour tour. We had called a few days in advance to be sure they were still running, and as luck would have it, we got a reservation for the 2PM run.  River trip06

I have rafted a few rivers, and even did the Colorado River in a paddle boat a few years back.  Six days from Moab to Hite Crossing, and a lifetime of memories.  That is me in the purple hat, back in 1993, getting ready to paddle through “Five”, the one that dumped us.  But that is another story. Being on the river in a jet boat isn’t quite the same, of course, but it was still a river, and still an amazing canyon.  

Approaching the dam from the south, the road follows the eastern shoreline of Oxbow Reservoir, with several launch sites and a couple of small campgrounds.  The campground at Oxbow was full, but farther up the lake there was plenty of space at another camp about midway to the dam, again with hookups and nice access to the water.   The Original Hells Canyon Adventure Tour, South Entrance, leaves from the river just below the dam and downhill from the Hells Canyon Dam visitor center at the end of the road.Driving to Hells Canyon Dam

It was pretty hot, and shorts were the perfect choice for the day.  I also brought along the Pelican Case to carry the camera, just in case something happened and we went down.  Jet boat accidents are extremely rare, but I still didn’t want to lose my camera to that river.  I needn’t have worried.  There was only one Class 4 rapid to get through and our captain was an expert at negotiating the big rocks and holes trying to suck us up.

Driving to Hells Canyon Dam Hells Canyon is almost a mile and a half deep from highest wall to the river, deeper than the Grand Canyon, although the canyon walls are actually stepped and farther apart, so it doesn’t seem as deep when you are down in it.  Still, no matter how I tried, it was impossible to get photos that depicted the immensity of the towering walls above us. Hells Canyon Dam

Our guide explained the rapid level rating system, talked about the building of the dam, and the fact that salmon don’t get past this dam.  Built in the mid sixties, the dam has no fish ladders, and the salmon are stopped here.  This entire issue of salmon and steelhead on the Snake River is controversial and if you are interested in reading about the complexities of the 3 Hells Canyon dams on the Snake River, this link is fascinating. The permits for these dams will expire shortly, and Oregon is still not on board for re-licensing because of the lack of fish passage. 9-12-2013 Hells Canyon Scenic Adventure

The run through the rapid was fun, but not at all scary in the high powered jet boat.  Three big Cummins diesel  engines are underneath the deck, and when one of the engines had an electrical problem, we still had two working well enough to get us back home.

hiking to the pictographs in Hells CanyonWe heard stories about settlers trying to make a life on the high benches along the canyon and above the river, and saw evidence of some abandoned homesteads.  At the farthest point on the tour, we disembarked and hiked along the river to some pictographs that were supposedly created by the Nez Perce.  Again, the pre-history of these images is a bit controversial, and there are several different stories about the people who made them and the time frame when they were done.  I only heard what the guide said, “The Nez Perce did them more than 1,000 years ago”.  Were the Nez Perce even a tribe 1,000 years ago?  hiking to the pictographs in Hells Canyon

The Nez Perce say their ancestors have been here for 15,000 years.  Unlike some of the larger pictographs on the Columbia River near The Dalles, I couldn’t find much information on these images.  Still, it was delightful to walk along the river and find them.  Of course, once again I had on the Oofos instead of decent hiking sandals.  Sheesh!  I was planning a river trip and didn’t know it included a hike!

We didn’t see any bighorn sheep or mountain goats on this shorter tour, but we did see two different bear sows, one with a single cub and one with twins.  Watching the young cubs frolic and jump around on the rocks was fascinating.  As usual, there was one bigger cub who was more adventurous, and a smaller one who lagged behind.

Because of the time we spent watching the bears, and the bit of engine trouble, our trip lasted half an hour longer than the two hours allotted.  That was fine by me, except we knew that we had that long climb back up the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway to our waiting motorhome.   9-12-2013 Hells Canyon Scenic Adventure1

Forgot to mention what we did with Abby on this tour day!  Another reason for giving ourselves an extra day in Joseph before we went on the boat trip was that we needed to find a dog sitter.  A bit of searching and a call to the vet in Enterprise yielded good recommendations for the Lin Lee Kennels in Joseph.  They are only open in the morning and evening, but when we picked Abby up the next day she seemed completely happy.  The owner said Abby just followed her around the entire time she was there.  IF you are in the area and want to do something that isn’t dog friendly, this is the perfect solution.On the Wild and Scenic Snake River in Hells Canyon    

Since it was getting late, we decided to stop at the one open establishment that was between the canyon and Joseph on our route.  Hells Canyon Inn is anything but fancy, but we landed on the Thursday taco night so dinner was OK and the price was bearable.  When we pulled into Joseph in the dark at nearly 9PM we were glad we didn’t have to try to find dinner in Joseph or cook something up at home.

More photos of our Hells Canyon Adventure are on google linked here

Tomorrow: the Wallowa Lake Tram



Day 40 August 14 Visiting old friends Bonners Ferry Idaho to LePage Oregon

Day 40_5381Waking up to gorgeous sunny skies and toasty temperatures, the four of us decided that Sunday brunch beside the Kootenay River would be a great way to share some good times before we continued on our way home. The casino in Bonners Ferry is beautifully situated along the river and the “everything” veggie omelette was wonderful.  We finally left our good company at ten, and pointed the MoHo south on 95, through Sandpoint, toward Coeur d’Alene. 

some haze from fires along the Kootenay River in Bonners FerryI lived in the Coeur d’ Alene area for more than 30 years and coming back always feels like coming home. I have so many memories of those landscapes. Some of those memories are of my children growing up, some are of happy times at the lakes and rollercoasters with my grandsons, others are of the years I spent driving all the back roads and working the mountains. I never fail to feel a bit nostalgic when I am in Northern Idaho, yet as much as I love it, I know I was a different “me” back then.  I don’t think I could go back.

Of course I have old friends there, but none quite so dear as my friend Laura.  Although her kids were the same age as my grandkids, we have great memories of them sharing egg gathering, garden dirt, and summer lakeside playtimes when Coeur D’Alene was one of the loveliest places in the world.  I looked forward to seeing Laura on this sunny summer Sunday.

Laura and I have been friends since the early 80'sAmong many other things, we especially enjoyed shared gardening, our horses, camping trips with our women’s group, and cooking together. With so many miles between us, we don’t get together often, but when we do it is just so wonderful.  Heart friends, that’s what we are.   Laura is married to Alvin, a homebuilder in Coeur d’Alene, and he had some sad stories about the homebuilding industry in the last four years, but good news is that he just finished a beautiful home for some doctor. According to Alvin, the doctor even had trouble getting financing, and the rules and regs associated with building the house were far more daunting than they had been in the past when dealing with the financing companies.  Interesting stuff.

Day 40_5392The best part of the mid-day visit however, was the fun getting lost in Laura’s crazy gardens.  Laura laughingly called herself a “garden hoarder”, and I think she is right.  Lush, crazy, out of control gardening at its finest.  Laura is a respiratory RN at Deaconess in Spokane, and I’m not quite sure how she manages her acre of garden insanity while working full time and taking care of her little granddaughter.  We had a lovely lunch of garden goodies, topped of with some iced herbal tea while catching up on stories about old friends, family, kids, and grandkids.  It was a great way to make a long drive a bit more fun.

Laura and hubby Alvin in the kitchen he builtBy the time we left Laura’s it was close to 2 in the afternoon, and we decided that we were going to just drive until we reached the Columbia River.  It put us ahead of time an extra day, without the night in Spokane that we originally planned, and that sounded great to both of us.

We drove through the dry, open, dusty farmlands of eastern Washington, negotiated the winding ramps and exits of the Tri-Cities on 395 and fought the winds on I-84 along the Columbia River.  Our favorite little overnight spot at the LePage COE campground had number 11 open and waiting, even without a reservation.  Half price at ten bucks for electric and water is a deal for sure.  Again, it was hot and we really wanted power, but once we settled in the breezes started up in full force and we cooled down for a good night’s sleep before starting the last leg home. We started the trip with the first night out in LePage and spent out last night on the road here as well.

Capture 359 milesMiles driven today:  359

The rest of the photos from this day are linked here

Helicopter mapping in Hells Canyon

so wildRecently Laurie and Odel, of Semi-True Tales of our Life on the Road, have been staying in Joseph, Oregon. Like so many others, I love Laurie’s blog; wonderful writing, beautiful photos, great humor and always interesting. Laurie’s blog was the only one I followed for several years before I had any clue there was such a thing as an RV blogging community.  Last August, when we met in Minot, Laurie brought me up to speed on RV blogging in general, introducing me virtually to Rick and Al and many others. But I digress.

Laurie posted a photo of the Hells Canyon overlook that instantly brought back some amazing memories.  Last October I wrote about what it meant to be a soil scientist, mapping soils in the field.  If you weren’t around for that post, and are interested, you can read it here. Another little side note here, all these photos are scanned from my old scratchy original prints and I haven’t really had time to get them all clean and shiny. ( As usual, you can still click over the photo to enlarge it if you choose.)

so wild, but still a road along the Snake River in this part of the canyonMapping soils in the wilderness of Hells Canyon was one of the highlights of my career. At that time, GIS (Geographic Information Systems, a fancy name for maps on a computer) was just a budding science, and our crew was part of a pilot project using digital imagery and digital elevation data to evaluate landscapes.  It was called the Soil Landscape Evaluation Project, SLAP.  To the current generation of mapping soil scientists, this stuff is old hat, and Digital Soil Mapping is the way of the future.  In the mid 80’s however, we still used aerial photographs and a stereoscope to make soil maps. 

For the Hells Canyon project, however, we had several hundred thousand inaccessible acres to cover in the most efficient manner possible.  With the cost of the helicopter and the pilot, we had to make our choices count.  We used the SLAP project methodology to determine the sample pit locations by evaluating the slope, the aspect, the vegetation patterns, and with the geology and climate maps we determined positions that would best represent what was most typical for that particular set of parameters, since how soils form is directly related to those variations in climate, vegetation, geology, and landform.

My tent is a bit aflying into the base camp on Wapshilla Ridge my tent is over by the tree on the leftpart from the guys on the left side of the photo by the tree.

Then the real work began.  I worked at that time with a crew of six, of course I was the only woman on the crew, since soil mapping in those days was usually done by men. Some of the men I worked on this project with are still pretty important in the world of soil survey.  Pete Biggam is now the lead soil scientist for the National Park Service, Tom Hahn is the MLRA Leader in Colorado, and Mark Keller has retired after a wonderful career mapping soils in the west.

If you look very closely, you can see our camp on the upper right Base camp on Wapshilla Ridge Hells Canyonside of the ridge next to the trees.

At that time, the soil survey office for Lewis-Nez Perce soil survey was in Lewiston, Idaho, and I still remember the excitement of loading up the trucks with all our camping gear and food for the duration and heading south into the wilderness as far we we could go on a rough dirt road.  Our campsite was on a high, flat ridge overlooking the wild canyon, broad enough for the helicopter to land and for us to set up a base camp.

With a huge campfire and a great supper we settled in to the dark night anticipating the days ahead with excitement.  During that time period, soil survey in the west was well funded, and several crews were using helicopters for access, but it still wasn’t something that was very common.

Sunrise from our ridgetop camp was always gorgeous.sunrise from camp

Our days were long, up at sunrise with a good breakfast over the fire, we would then suit up in our flight suits, load up our maps, aerial photos, shovels and description kits, and pile into the helicopter. Even though I tend to get seasick, I was never bothered in the helicopter.  The pilot was an old Viet Nam vet who owned the copter company in Lewiston and was a great guy.  I rode in the navigation seat, locating our predetermined sites, with my mapping partner in the back seat.  The pilot would land that copter on one runner on a rocky ridge, hovering as we bailed out with all our gear.  There were three crews of two people each, and he would drop each pair to a site and then spent the day leap frogging from site to site. 

the copter2Our job was to get full soil descriptions in the hour that we had before the copter returned.  The two of us hiked down opposite sides of the mountain, dug a pit as deep as the soil required, and described our soil.  Lucky for us, the soils in the canyons were usually less than the five feet deep required for a full description and we would get stopped by hard bedrock ranging from a foot to 3 feet deep.  We would then climb back up with our tools and soil sample boxes, packs and shovels and be ready as the helicopter approached  and hovered and we climbed back inside.

steep canyonI’ll never forget the engulfing silence of the canyon as the copter left and I hiked down to my pit location.  I remember sitting silent and still as an unwary coyote trotted past me sitting by my pit, oblivious to the idea that there could be a human in this wild place.  We did ten to twelve sites a day, and by the time evening rolled around we were all pretty much exhausted.

Of course, we had only limited water on our high ridge, but the pilot took great care of us.  In the late afternoon light, he would drop us into a sandy beach on the Snake River and we would all swim and laugh and cool off before he took us back to our high ridge for another night of canned beans and a big campfire.

This is one of my favorite favorite photo of Petephotos of Pete. Great Legs!

down to the riverThroughout my career, I had the opportunity to map in many wild places, but Hells Canyon was the wildest, the most magical and remote and something I will never forget.

At the time, I was also a wife and mother, in my 40’s, and my husband was the long-suffering spouse who managed the farm and teenagers until I would come home on the weekends. 

It was always fun when he picked me up on Friday nights after my week in the wilderness.  He would meet me with a bouquet of flowers when things were especially bad.  The time my daughter broke her leg getting thrown off her horse was the Friday night that I got the biggest bouquet.  There weren’t cell phones or internet at the time, so I was inaccessible for a week at a time.  I still remember him saying, “OK, what do you want first, the good or the bad?”  The good was often an especially big load of peas on the vines, and the bad was often related to whatever craziness the teenager would get into.  Good days, all of them.  cool water

Just thought it might be fun to share.  Thanks for reminding me, Laurie.