Welcome to the Valley

As I wrapped up graduate school in the spring of 2010, Forrest and I started brainstorming for real where we were going to live. We knew we wanted a small town but weren’t quite sure yet how we were going to make that happen. About that time, I read The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan. While I doubt that the fires of 1910 saved America although they certainly influenced the growth of the newly formed US Forest Service), it did introduce me to the existence of Wallace, Idaho. I put out some cover letters and resumes to EPA contacts working in the area but nothing much came of it and in July, after our adventures around the country, we found ourselves in Missoula, Montana. Fortunately, we didn’t stay in Missoula very long because I found a job in Wallace. We bought a house in Mullan (about ten miles from my work), population 692. (Census, 2010)

Mullan, April 2011

Mullan is located at the far eastern end of the “Silver Valley.” Headed west along I-90 from Mullan, one passes through the valley’s other towns: Wallace (pop. 784), Osburn (1,555), Kellogg (2,120), Smelterville (627), and Pinehurst (1,619). Along with the communities on the North Fork of the Coeur D’Alene River (Prichard, Murray) and on the St. Joe (Avery) Shoshone County is home to just 12,765 people, or 4.8 people per square mile. However, almost all of these people live within a mile of I-90, with 87% of the land area being classifed as “forest uplands” compared to less than 1% classified as “urban or developed.” (Shoshone County Forest Health Collaborative)

Shoshone County incorporated areas, Mullan is circled in red.

Periodically, I plan on blogging about various facets of Silver Valley life and history. I live in a unique little corner of the world and love to share it!

1910 Fire Commemoration and Huckleberry Festival

Wallace, Idaho

Sprocket and I spent last weekend in Wallace, Idaho for a weekend of fun. After getting off of work on Friday I rushed home to pick up Sprocket. We headed west and arrived in Wallace at 6PM (Pacific Time). After talking Sprocket for a little walk, I went to the Smokehouse (6th and Bank Street) for a beer. I tried Wallace Brewing‘s IPA again. After having not been impressed last time, it was much better this go around!

I headed over to the Elks to listen to Rocky Barker (author of Scorched Earth) talk about the date of August 20th in fire history. The talk wasn’t that great and could have used some more organization. The talk was followed by George Sibley’s documentary “Ordeal By Fire.” It was decidedly low budget but really recapped the story of the fire well. It used lots of great historic photographs. 

Really tired after the lectures, I headed over to the Brooks Hotel and was delighted to find that their restaurant was open until 10 (we’re talking about Wallace here). It was such a classic cafe–only had one calendar but I think William Least Heat Moon would have been proud. After my chicken and huckleberry crisp, Sprocket and I headed up Placer Creek and went to bed. 

I woke up bright and early to a licking dog, brushed my teeth and dressed for the Huckleberry 5K. I drove back down into town and registered for the run. Sprocket and I walked all over town to warm up. I decided not to run with him because he starts to slow down around the mile and a quarter mark and I didn’t really want to drag him along. He went into the Jeep and pouted. I didn’t exactly burn up the course but I did run the 3.2 miles in something like 28:15. I took 3rd in my age group (although there probably weren’t that many people in the group) and got a medal.

I was STARVING after the run and was so so happy to cash in my ticket for huckleberry pancakes. They were so yummy. It was a great way to finish off my run. I headed to the car and gave myself a baby wipe bath and changed. Sprocket and I walked around some more before returning to the car to get my chair. I was super impressed with how well behaved Mr. Sprocket was during the parade. It wasn’t quite the 100 pieces of apparatus they were hoping for but the wild land firefighters, Coeur D’Alene Fire Department Pipe & Drum corps, and the USFS Northern Region pack train were great additions. 

Sprocket and I followed the parade over to the visitors center for the dedication. There was a little beagle who really wanted to play with Sprocket (his owner kept forgetting her dog as she was talking to people) which kind of made things difficult, but he put up with the heat and the wait pretty well. The dedication hit all the right notes. Everyone kept their remarks pretty short. The governor’s speech was so politician but I found it pretty inspiring–let’s get to work on biomass in Shoshone County!!! My particularly favorite moment was when Tim Egan told the governor that he needed to stay for his talk. The water drop demonstration was pretty sweet too.

I felt really bad for Sprocket and ran him up 9 Mile Creek Road and let him play in the creek. He was a very happy boy. We explored the area a bit but decided to wait for Forrest–there’s lot to see. We went back to town where Sprocket was kind enough to hang out in the car while I checked out the shops in town (it’s not very often they’re all open at the same time). I was delighted to find that there’s a store that sells wine (with free tastings!), enjoyed poking around the antique stores, looked into the mining museum, and walked all over town. 

Starving, I treated myself to a steak at the Jameson Saloon. They have immaculately restored the building to 1890s status, it’s beautiful! My steak was pretty good too. Over at the Elks I was so excited for Tim Egan’s talk. He was such a good speaker. He references all sorts of books and events that have captured his imagination (I have a whole list of things to read more about now) and he’s funny! I had brought my copy of The Big Burn but I left it in the car…and decided to go get it. I waited did wait in line to have him sign it before heading up 9 Mile Creek Road to camp for the night. 

Sunday morning, Sprocket and I played our way home over Mullan Pass and checking out Taft Summit. It was a busy, busy weekend in Wallace!

Originally posted on the blog: Evergreen Rambles.