Saturday, July 7, 2012

Wallace, Idaho (June 29-July 8, 2012)

 Wallace is a sleepy little town in the northern panhandle of Idaho. We picked this destination for several reasons.  First of all we did not want to be on the road traveling during the Fourth of July holiday week. Secondly, we hoped it was going to be quiet and away from the hubbub of vacationers and tourists. Thirdly, there seemed to be a lot of things to do in the area.  And finally, the small RV park we chose, and the only one in the area, had a restaurant/saloon/micro-brewery on the premises and it was a two minute walk into town. A perfect place to relax for a week.

(Photo courtesy of Wallace RV Park)
 The Wallace RV park is small and is located in a narrow canyon on the banks of a swift mountain stream and upon our arrival we quickly set up and began to watch the influx of vacationers.  We did not know, at the time, this area was a mecca for ATV's.  Seemed most of the RVers coming in, also, had two to three of these vehicles in tow. What surprised us even more was they were allowed on the streets, as long as they were registered (Idaho ATV license plates).  The town is at the edge of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest and host hundreds of miles of forest roads open to ATVs so each morning dozens of these vehicles formed convoys and headed to the mountain trails in a slow, leisurely precession. We were impressed by their organization and lack of recklessness one sees with many owners of these ATVs.

As mentioned earlier, The RV park had a restaurant/micro-brewery on site.  The restaurant, the City Limits Pub and Grill, had a great, reasonably priced menu and terrific local beers. The servers and everyone were so very nice and sociable. We made sure we visited, at least, once a day.

(Photo courtesy of City Limits Pub and Grill)

 Our first exploration of the town was a walking tour after dinner. The fast flowing South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River runs along side of the town and beneath the I-90 viaduct.  A very nice trail follows the river and provides a serene setting offsetting the rumbling of the Interstate above. Crossing a footbridge into the town proper steps one back in time to the late 1890s and early 1900s.  The town is very clean and, save a few eating and drinking establishments, it seems they roll up their sidewalks at 5 PM. Regardless of the lack of activity we enjoyed our stroll and decided to come back in the morning when the stores would be open. This strategy worked and we enjoyed that visit more.

 Our tour that day revealed several interesting activities we thought of trying. The first was a silver mine tour. The Coeur d’Alene (Silver Valley) district of Shoshone County in northern Idaho has produced more silver than any other mining district in the United States, and is historically one of the top three silver districts in the world in total silver produced. (It competes with Potosi in Bolivia and Pachuca-Real del Monte in Mexico for the title of greatest silver district, each having produced more than a billion troy ounces of silver.) Through 2006, the Coeur d’Alene district has produced a total of more than 37,000 metric tons (1.2 billion ounces) of silver.

Our tour took us through the Sierra Silver Mine, a deactivated silver mine now used as an exhibit for educational purposes. If you click on the Sierra Silver Mine link you can read about the mine and enjoy a short video about the tour. The entire tour took about 3 1/2 hours and, besides being very educational and interesting, it was a ton of fun.  Worth every bit of the admission.

Wannabe miners? Not!

Into the abyss

This is how they drill blasting holes

Adding the dynamite and setting up the charges.

A streak of silver ore along with pockets of ore here and there.

Silver ore from the mine ready for crushing and grinding mill.

 On the next day we took a chance and a leap of faith and signed up for another high adventure, and when I say high I mean HIGH! The Silver Streak Zipline Tour was not one of those things on my bucket list, but Joyce, YES Joyce, wanted to try it. The "tour's" claim is its 3600 feet of zipline in 6 separate runs with heights over 300 feet above canyons and elevations up to 3,773 feet. Oh well, I sucked it up and said OK.  Gessh, what am I getting myself into.

On that day we arrived at their office and went through about 30 minutes of safety classes and rigging fitting. Once fitted up we boarded a small ex-school bus and headed for the mountain top. Dang, the trip up the mountain on a very narrow and very steep dirt road was a thrill in itself.  Of course I was sitting on the side that looked directly down the hundreds of feet drop offs.  Did I mention no guard rails?

Once on top we went through another brief safety briefing and a rigging check. We were in a group of 8 (a family of six and us) so I made sure we were last with me being the very last. Needed the time to gather my courage. all began.  I had a small video camera strapped to my chest to document this and the following are the results.

And then it was over. It took all I had to step off the platform the first time, but 2 seconds into it I knew I liked this. The other five lines were a piece of cake.  I would do this again.

On the ride down the mountain I sat on the opposite side of the drop offs, but it was still nerve wracking, at least to me. The whole tour took about 4 1/2 hours with 3 1/2 hours on the course. I will recommend this tour to everyone who wants a thrill and is in the area of Wallace, Idaho. We got back to the RV park just after noon and the rest of the day was devoted to playing and loving up on Guinness and Rosco. Hot air balloon ride. Check.  Zipline through the Idaho mountains. Check.  Hmmm.  What's next?

The next few days we toured the National Forest area and some very remote villages of northern Idaho. We were looking for wildlife on the order of moose, bear or anything indigent to this part of the country, but alas, nothing. On another jaunt we visited some of the neighboring towns and found they were very interesting, too. What struck us most was the cordiality of the local folk.  We had not seen too much of that on our journeys and it was very refreshing. We both agreed that, but for the extreme cold winters with tons of snow, we would enjoy living in this area. But, in the end we are heat lovers and our mild winters in the Savannah area has not been trumped by anywhere we have been as of yet.

Closing in on the end of our stay here in Wallace, we relaxed and enjoyed the area, meaning we frequented the brewery/restaurant and the four of us walked a lot around the town and the canyon where we were staying.  This stop will remain one of our most memorable.  Now onto to more adventures. Next, Yellowstone National Park.

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