Gracie and Nonie’s trip to Warren (2006)
Trip Two to Warren (2011) coming someday
See diary of our Frontsight Experience (2011) on Guns page.
Gracie is Gracie Chastian of Elmhurst, Illinois, Jan's mother. Nonie married Gracie's brother Virgil and in 2006 we traveled to Warren, Idaho, to personally explore some family history and meet Gracie's sister Lucile (Lucy) Pickle. (yes, it's her real married name). Also on the trip are Jan and I, Gail (Jan's sister) and Steve Baginski (Gail's husband). Come travel with us.
Gracie and Nonie’s trip to Warren
8:45 am, Friday, August 25, 2006. We are sitting in O’Hare Field terminal waiting. We arrived early to try and miss the rush hour traffic. Uncle Steve Tuttle arrived at Gramma Concklin’s house and it was immediately apparent that there was no way that seven people and luggage for six was going to fit in the car. Fortunately, the Tahoe came with a roof rack. After a flurry of activity we were on our way with rope and bungie cords doing emergency duty.
Warren is north of Boise (as is most of Idaho). The plan is to drive from Boise in two rented cars, both equipped with 4-wheel drive. First stop is McCall. Aunt Gail and her Steve insist on calling it McCaw and imply that the locals pronounce it that way. We’ll know in a few hours.
McCall is the overnight plan. This will give us one night in a ‘normal’ motel before we set out for Warren tomorrow morning. Rumor has it that McCall is two hour’s drive from Boise. Warren is another two hours north of that. Oops. Correction. Boise to McCall looks like about three hours drive with Warren another hour and one-half. The road to Warren is about one-third asphalt and the rest is graded stone. Aunt Lucy has already warned us that the grading is currently overdue and the road is less than optimum.
Another something to look forward to tomorrow.
Warren is very much like an old west town. Aunt Lucy’s house is the third house on the right, and that’s the actual address. The road from McCall has been blocked by snow as late as June and it can snow as early as September. Gracie says that they always packed in extra food if there were new folks in town. The newbies would always run out of flour or sugar or maybe even taco mix in March and the neighbors would chip in to carry them over.
Uncle Jack was from Warren and after he married Lucy they moved back. By the time I married into the family Uncle Jack was the postmaster, power company, air strip owner, and who knows what else. He ran the only generator in town. When Aunt Lucy wanted to do laundry, he would cut off the town and run all the juice to her washing machine. No one complained since he didn’t charge.
United Airlines just announced that there is no ‘food service’ on our direct flight to Boise and we ought to buy whatever food we might want on the flight. Presumably, they will serve liquids. Thanks to Al Quida, we can’t take any liquids on board. Ain’t life grand!
9:55 pm, Friday, August 25, 2006, The flight was the worst I have ever endured. The seat would not recline. Neither would Jan’s. That should have been a clue. It turns out that we were seated in front of the exit row and safety required no blocking. Note: don’t sit in front of the exit row on the way home.
We were scheduled for two huge SUVs. Gail and Steve for a Ford Explorer and Jan and I for a Dodge Durango. I pleaded for something smaller. After explaining that many of their four-wheelers were being rented by crews that flew in to fight the several forest fires raging in the state, the manager found us a Jeep Liberty and a Suburu Tribecka. The Tribecka seems to have more bells and whistles than the Jeep but they are both fine cars and more than adequate for what we need. Gracie rode with Jan and I. While Nonie road with Gail and Steve. I cornered Gracie alone and said she could ride with Nonie or vice-versa but she said she was happy with the arrangement and so it was.
Before leaving Boise, we hit the Jack-in-the-Box restaurant for two pm lunch. Then it was over to Walgreens for sunglasses (I forgot mine at home) and a better map.
Gracie knew the way, so we took the lead and headed out.
It turns out to be about 100 miles from Boise to McCall. The first sixty or so go through a series of rising foothills to a high valley. Fairly early after climbing for several miles we came across a five mile stretch of downhill that was listed as seven percent grade. It had many of those gravel run outs for run-away trucks. The last forty miles are much flatter with conventional two way road.
The Midland two-way radios came in handy as we traveled with two cars. By McCall Gail was getting to be a regular ‘good buddy’ complete with ten-fours and other lingo.
Over lunch we discovered that Uncle Jack Pickle was raised in Warren. His father was part of a mining operation that did open-pit mining for gold. School was in Weiser where they stayed with friends when school was in session since Warren was inaccessible to vehicles. Apparently he became an excellent skier while growing up. The mines played out but he came back to Warren with Lucy since his father still lived there. The first winter Lucy hardly ever got out of the house. The snow was deep and she did not share Jack’s ability with skis. You would think with being snowed in for eight months a year they would have had a whole quiver full of children but it was not to be and they had none.
During the summer months they had a whole series of house-guests as all the relatives came to visit. Gracie is the youngest of some eight children and her father had a liking for the Idaho life. Many vacations were spent traveling from home in Oklahoma where Gracie was born to Idaho. Gracie’s father worked for the railroad so his job was secure if not financially generous.
So far I have not been able to determine the preferred pronunciation of McCall.
Late lunch led to a late dinner about 8:30 Mountain Time. I did notice on the map that northern Idaho is in Pacific Time and southern Idaho is Mountain Time with the line crossing very close to Warren.
Jan and I retrieved the food and while we were waiting for it to be done, we did a quick walk around McCall. The main road dead ends into a lake with highway number 55 turning to parallel the shoreline. It was noticeably cooler than in Boise but we did a short walk around the shop area. It is reminiscent of a “Murder She Wrote” TV setting.
We ate in Gracie and Nonie’s room since it was late, no one wanted to go out, and Gail was already in her pajamas. She was a leg up on the rest of us since we finished eating and all went to our respective rooms to crash. Tomorrow is another day and we are meeting at 9 am for breakfast downstairs.
We need to load up, go shopping for food to take to Warren, and call Aunt Lucy to warn her we are actually going to arrive as planned.
10:18 pm, Saturday, August 26, 2006. Seems like forever since we got up this morning in McCall. I have noticed a tendency for the locals to clip the ‘l’ sound at the end which makes it sound like McCaw, so Gail is right in picking up on the pronunciation but overdoes it.
I forced myself to run this morning. Did a jog down to the lake and around the beach past the “Mile High Marina.” It was when I saw the marina sign that I realized that the altitude might be a problem for exercise. As it turned out I was feeling better as the run concluded, so had I not seen the sign I would never have noticed anything unusual. I was about ten minutes late for breakfast and everyone else was done. No matter, I was still feeling smug about actually exercising so I went ahead and did breakfast.
The motel had a breakfast bar set up that included one of those “make your own waffle” set-ups. I never had a chance to try one of those, so I went for it. Conclusion? Not bad but it would take more than one to really fill me up.
Gail called Aunt Lucy and asked what she’d like us to pick up for food. She responded with, “Whatever you want to eat.” We loaded up the cars and headed out. We stopped at Paul’s Market and several went with their own cart and specific assignments, one to provide breakfast, another lunch, another paper products, etc. Since each felt a need to provide dessert and snacks, we may have overloaded on some of the less nourishing items. There was some talk about doing it differently next time.
Steve went with Gail on her assignment. I headed over to the clothing department. (Yes, Paul’s Market has a clothing department.) My freezing walk the night before in McCall had convinced me to pick up a sweatshirt for cooler evenings ahead. My ideal would be hooded sweatshirt with a full zipper in front.
I wandered over to the clothing and realized that most of it was for women. That did not surprise me since I figured that the predominate grocery shopper was probably a woman. I wandered around and finally found a sweatshirt. Full front zipper but no hood and a very feminine salmon color. The price was about fifteen dollars. After trying to decide between several unsatisfactory choices, I looked around the department again in hopes of finding another rack with sweatshirts.
It was then that the helper lady asked if she could be of assistance. My first reaction was, “No, I’m just looking.” But then I decided to swallow my pride and tell her what I was looking for. That was just as well, as she led me to the men’s section just through dividing door. The rack there had just what I was looking for in grey for eleven dollars. Naturally, the color choice took much longer to make than to tell. I almost broke down and went ask Jan which color was best. But then I realized that this is something I can do, bit the bullet and picked a color.
Gradually we all gathered back at the check out. The groceries were packed into Steve and Gail’s car and Nonie joined Gracie in with Jan and me. The last leg of our journey was before us.
It turns out that Warren is in a different county than McCall. The road out of McCall is paved up to the county line. The county that Warren is in only grades a gravel road. Fortunately, of the forty-five total miles to Warren from McCall all but sixteen are in the paved county.
We went from fifty miles-per-hour down to about twenty or so for the last sixteen miles. Graded roads develop wash-board bumps that jar you to your teeth if you try to go much faster and this road is over-due for grading. There were several areas of smooth gravel which we were enjoying only to have the bumps return. We were told in Warren that the smooth areas are near a river. To prevent gravel from running down and “polluting” the river they have some special oil treatment that prevents that. A side benefit is that the road holds up much better. Why don’t they do that on the whole road? Why indeed?
Lucy is a character. She is in her late eighties and is sharp as a tack. She is up on current events and responds to humor and banter with all the alacrity of a woman half her age. She has difficulty hearing at times but if you speak up, she does just fine. She talked about hearing aids, but has avoided them because they make everything so loud you can’t distinguish the sounds you want to hear from the noise you don’t. This is true especially in a crowd. Gracie mentioned that hearing aids have come a long way and they have fixed some of the problems with the older units. She still did not seem particularly eager to run out and get some.
She is very outgoing and seems to have knowledge and opinions on just about any topic. She is particularly knowledgeable about Warren and the folks who have lived here with her over the past fifty-eight years. Warren is 5800 feet above sea-level and grew because of gold and logging. In the early years of the 20th century gold was the big draw. Mining started with the discovery of gold and a single shaft mine. That eventually led to essentially strip mining the whole valley with large dredgers. An abandoned dredger can still be seen not far from here. We drove by it on the way to the dinner picnic and hope to take a closer look at it some time this week.
The dredger would dig layers of soil and underlying rock, crush it, and use water to sort out the heavier gold particles. Then it would spit basketball size and smaller rocks out the back. The dredger could go down as deep as sixty feet and take a level stretch of ground and bury the top soil under a berm of stone and gravel about twenty feel wide. It would leave the ground cris-crossed with these berms and occasional pockets of water. The top soil is completely gone and the land-scape looks like a thriving city of huge moles live there.
The gold essentially became unprofitable in the 1930’s when gold prices were fixed as part of the attempt to stabilized the monetary markets and get us out of the Great Depression. So the mining operations shut down. A local tomb-stone reads, “Once a miner, always a miner.” And it reflects the continuing influence of the mining operations. Now they require the mine operators to remove the top soil before mining and restore the land-scape when they are through.
Logging has been curtailed largely due to the influence of the environmental movement. The epithet, “Environmentalist,” is a dirty word in Warren and you could accused of nothing worse. Although much good may have been done, particularly in mining, Lucy was quite vocal about the less than stellar results of the logging bans. They have seen the fires caused by trees that were not harvested. They were left to disease and rot and no loggers were around to clear out the underbrush. The potential for unstoppable fires has increased exponentially.
At the same time the trees are gradually getting a foothold among the rocky berms of the strip mining. The valley is inexorably turning from grey, bleak rock to evergreen. Lucy did say that any fires in the area are greeted with exceptional response and fire fighting protection for the town of Warren. It is listed in the historic register of places because of the mining and logging and there is a commitment to preserve it and its link with the past.
The people of the town are an eclectic group who are mainly here because of historic and family ties. Uncle Jack was raised in Warren. Aunt Lucy moved to Weiser about seventy-five miles to the southwest with her family. Her father retired from the railroad business in Oklahoma and wanted to return to Idaho to be closer to his two brothers and their families. In fact, they vacationed almost every year back in Idaho up until then.
As it turned out Uncle Jack’s mother and Aunt Lucy’s mom were good friends and not infrequently they would meet in Weiser to spend some time together. Jack would accompany her on some of these trips and the rest is history.
Nonie met Virgil in church. She sat in the back row so she could get through the line at the pot luck supper and get one of the few soft chairs available in the fellowship hall. Virg was a new comer to the community as he had just graduated from college and came there for his first job. He came and sat in the back row and she claimed him in her heart right on the spot!
Lucy, Virgil, and Gracie were the last three of eight children. Since they were close, their families were drawn in and Nonie is considered as one of the family. Virg passed away with cancer years ago but the three have kept in touch.
There is a cemetery on a hill across from Uncle Jack’s place. No one knows how many are buried there since it is not official. Someone asked Uncle Jack how a person would be buried there. He said, “Go up and find a spot that doesn’t look like a grave and dig a hole!” The area is essentially in disrepair. There was a person who spent most of the summer upgrading and tending the plots and markers, but she split with her husband (or was it just boyfriend?) and never came back. Some tend portions of it. The last person to be actually buried there was 15 or more years ago. The hill is just too steep and the ground too hard. It took them a week to dig the grave and they had to beg for help from some young forest rangers to help get the casket to the spot. Since then the people buried there have been cremated and their cremains interred on the hill.
Uncle Jack’s ashes are in a pipe shaped memorial that includes a marker for him and space for a marker for Lucy. The top of the marker is removable so her ashes can be added to the pipe base when the time comes.
There is a lovely bench put there in memory of Shirley who was the owner of the local bar/restaurant for many years. She used to go up to the cemetery site and sit and enjoy the quiet. She remarked on several occasions that what they needed there was a decent place for a person to sit. So her children felt that would be an appropriate memorial for their mother, but how to get the marble bench up to the spot without breaking it.
Being enterprising folks they found a way via four-wheeler to cut a path up from the other side of the mountain. They brought in the bench, set it up and have covered the path as much as possible. It would be likely frowned upon by the Forest Rangers and they do not want recreational vehicles running around up there. So far, no one has discovered it but . . .
9:42 pm, Sundy, August 27, 2006. Today is Sunday. And it was one of only a few in the past forty-five years that has not included a church service somewhere for Jan and I. There has been no preacher in Warren in anyone’s memory. Some remarks were made at the picnic about what sign someone was born under and it appeared that a couple of people present gave some credence to astrology. That was as spiritual as the conversation got.
Some additional discussion with Aunt Lucy later indicated that the prevailing opinion around Warren seems to be, “If you live a good life and be nice to others, you should be all right at the judgement.”
The day’s events centered around a drive up to a near-by overlook and a walk up to Theodore’s tree. Gail and Steve were up and gone first; off to get some early morning pictures of the area. Jan was up next and headed for Lucy’s. Before leaving she indicated that since I was on vacation, I should go back to sleep. So I did. When I woke up at 9:30 am, I made the bed and went for a jog. About two-thirds of the way through the jog, I met Jan returning from Lucy’s and wondering where I was.
Over lunch Gail and Steve highly recommended a nice drive up a near-by road, past a couple of mines and offering several nice views. That sounded reasonable to us, so off we went in the trail-rated Jeep Liberty.
So far I had not engaged the four wheel capability and fully intended not to bother. Although some of the roads were a bit rough and bumpy, we had encountered nothing worthy of four wheel drive. We were about to find out that we were flat-landers at the core, four wheel drive or not. Even as we turned off the main, but still marginal, road onto our path up the mountain things seemed in control. As the road narrowed and became steep my resolve to use only two wheels the entire trip crumbled. Probably the precipitating factor was the ability to see a good half-mile out the window. And I was looking down at the road!
Jan’s view was less scenic but more comforting as the ground rose on that side of the car. That gave her some piece of mind but it was significantly undermined by the realization that we had to return and she would be on the down side then. Further confidence was eroded by the fact that the road was not improving as we went higher. We would surely have turned around and headed home, but there was no room to turn around and the prospect of backing multiple miles down the road was too horrific to consider.
We finally past the mines and arrived at a place of modest overlook. At least Jan said we passed them I was too busy watching the road to remember much else. The overlook was delightful. The dramatic, pine covered countryside and the quiet. When the car was turned off and your shoes stopped rustling the grasses there was an almost total silence disturbed only by the easy sweep of the wind.
The location also offered an easy place to turn around. We took advantage of the opportunity and started back down. The downward trip was less traumatic. We were getting used to the roadway. I still did not take my eyes off the road much; Jan wouldn’t let me. And I had this terrible anxiety attack whenever I rounded a corned for fear some car might be coming up the hill. There were no cars and we arrived back at the main road.
We turned to check out more of the main drag when we saw the sign that it was now becoming a single lane and we should pass oncoming traffic at the turnouts provided. With one accord we decided to return and see how the conversation was going in Lucy’s living room. Having crossed off, “exploring the mountains,” from our to-do list, we speculated on how we might spend the remaining five days of our vacation. Unspoken was the question of how to hide this determination from the rest of the group.
We discovered Gail and Steve back at Lucy’s and we asked instructions to Theodore’s tree. We had been told about a huge yellow pine tree that towered above all the regular lodgepole pines in the area. When Lucy first came to Warren it was still green and alive. Although some event had broken off the topmost part of the tree, it was still twice the height of the surrounding trees. Its place near the crest of a ridge gave it a dramatic silhouette against the sky.
In the intervening years the tree had gradually died and it saddened Lucy to think of the day when the tree will finally give way to wind and rot and be no more. It was called Theodore’s tree after a German immigrant who came to Warren and was disturbed to discover that there was no church. He filled the gap for himself by going up to that huge tree regularly for reflection and meditation. Eventually he built a bench around the tree for his own use and the use of anyone else who might be inclined to visit.
Marlene stopped by as we were leaving. Marlene had been at the picnic and proved to be a joyful addition to the group of about a dozen who shared that evening meal last night. With much energy she shared the last time she had ridden up to Theodore’s tree. She enjoyed it even less that Jan and I enjoyed our own trip up the mountain and she strongly urged us to park at the bottom and walk up the road. It was only about a thirty minute walk and we would be a lot happier. We thanked her for her suggestion and headed out.
With Gail and Steve in tow we headed over to find the road to the huge tree. The road was marked with a sign pointing to “Theodore’s Tree.” That was the first indication that the huge tree, as we called it, actually had a name. Not having learned my lesson earlier I elected to try the drive. The first 100 feet went pretty well. Then we came to a fork in the road. To the left was the road to Theodore’s Tree and to the right the way to the Chinese cemetery. Neither road was near a cliff but we immediately elected to walk the rest of the way to the tree. The right wheel track in the tree road was washed out. The gully formed was about twelve to eighteen inches deep. Multiple wheel drive is no good if the bottom of the car is hung up and the wheels are not touching the road on one side. So began our trek to Theodore’s Tree.
The walk up the hill was without note if you discount the fact that the road in the first quarter-mile proceeded at about 100 percent grade. It was nearly forty-five degrees up from horizontal and was the steepest road I had ever seen. Each couple coped as best they could. Gail and Steve found it was helpful to stick together and pull each other up. Jan and I avoided each other. She preferred to walk and rest, while I preferred a steady pace with very small steps.
After about fifteen minutes the road crested and continued gradually upward. Just about the time we were wondering where the tree might we, Jan saw it. It was just down from the ridge crest. The road continued past the tree location and, as unexplored paths usually do, raised the question of what we might see if we continued to follow it. The answer was more that we expected.
Steve headed right down to the tree and, leaning against it, stretched out his arms to either side. The tree trunk stuck out nearly a foot beyond his fingertips. It was a yellow pine and in a woods of lodgepole it was huge. The surrounding trees were twelve to twenty-four inches in diameter. Theodore’s Tree was about eight feet in diameter.
Steve and Gail had not brought their cameras, so I took several shots with mine. Being serious photographers and seeing a unique subject for picture potential, they almost immediately determined to return at early light, in spite of the steep road, and get some shots of their own.
As we were leaving the tree, we speculated about where the rest of the road might lead. On the way back to Lucy’s we located a good viewing spot to see the tree from road level and took a few more pictures. Later we returned to that spot with Gracie and Nonie so they could see what we were talking about.
Just before dinner we were talking with Mike, a young man who was very helpful for Lucy. We asked him where that road went. He said that it continued a ways beyond the tree and then was a dead end.
We all went down to the Winter Inn, a local watering hole and restaurant for dinner and Lucy managed to offend all of us by picking up the tab for our meals. We’re working on ways to get even since we were going to buy her dinner and she beat us to it!
As a final conclusion to the evening, Nonie and Gracie wanted to see the B&B where we were staying. It was about a half-mile beyond Aunt Lucy’s and was a lovely, modern spot. Betty, our hostess walks often with another woman for exercise and knew more details about our dead end tree road.
It seems that a clergyman (Rev. Applegate) did come to town. But in the first year his daughter died and they buried her in a special plot with its own little picket fence. That plot is at the end of that road. Shortly after her death, the family left never to return.
Over dinner it was decided that tomorrow all of us including Aunt Lucy would picnic over at South Fork. Sounds like the road to South Fork (of the Salmon River) is just a little bit worse that the road of our morning adventure. I caught Jan’s eye and she caught mine. “Are we really agreeing to this?” our eyes screamed. We said nothing.
10:08 pm, Monday, August 28, 2006. This was the day of the terrible picnic. Actually the picnic was very nice and I had a nice talk with a camper in the adjacent camp site. He was from Utah but had grown up in the area and came back for vacations just for the love of the place. He was there with a small truck and a five by nine foot shallow trailer. I asked which road he came in on, thinking maybe he came in from the south. No he came over the same road as we, trailer and all.
Jan and Nonie were in the back-seat of our car. Gracie and I rode in the front. Aunt Lucy rode in the back seat of Gail and Steve’s car. Jan and Nonie elected the back seat because they were both nervous about the narrow road and the steep cliffs. Gracie was happy to get out of the back seat because she was unable to see past the front seat headrests.
The trip down, South Fork is 1500 or so feet lower than Warren, was a disaster for Jan because she opened her eyes. On the way down she was convinced that I was skirting the cliff edge and the whole situation terrified her. It was one of those phobia things that has no rational basis it is just there. I have acrophobia. If you get me over three feet in the air I get really nervous. Now I have some control over it, but the feelings are there all the same. She spent half the trip in tears in the back-seat.
On the trip back she just started with her eyes closed and pretended that she was driving through a forest. She did that the whole hour and a half trip.
Nonie was nervous but still managed to look around a bit and seem to deal with the trip fine. Lucy was quite happy to be out for the ride. When we finished lunch, Gail and Steve thought they would like to go down the road a bit further before heading back. We asked who wanted to continue and who wanted to return. Our whole car was for returning directly. We offered to take Lucy. Nah! She wanted to see more!
So we headed back. Gracie and I talked a steady streak, as we had on the way down, in hopes of providing some distraction for the nervous Nellies in the back seat. Jan even participated some in the discussion. The other car was back only a half-hour after we arrived home. It turned out that the road deteriorated to the point that even Gail, who is an excellent mountain driver, was no longer comfortable. So she did a 42 point turn with direction from Steve and headed back themselves.
So we survived the South Fork picnic and the likelihood of future mountain vacations is remote.
About three forty-five in the afternoon, I spotted the wind up wall clock. I had asked about it the first day of our arrival and was told that it kept good time but the chime was broken. When I tried to wind it, it was obvious that the problem was in the spring drive for the chime. My success with springs has been limited but I was anxious to try. Lucy said, try ahead.
Without going into detail I worked for two and one-half hours on the clock and had it completely dismantled by dinner time. After dinner we went out to look at the Chinese Cemetery which was less than a mile down the road. We then returned and it was another two hours on the clock. It wasn’t finished until 9:30. Much to my own surprise I was able to fix it and it will be interesting to see if it works until we leave on Friday. My reputation as a fix-it person seems secure, at least with this group.
Aunt Lucy is super easy-going. She seems to have no demands. When asked about her preference for what to drink with lunch she responded, “Milk, if there is any left.” There was milk but it was clear if the milk was all spoken for, she would be just as happy to let others have the mike and she would be fine with something else.
As I worked on the clock, she mentioned several times that if I could not get it working nothing was lost in the trying. “Give it a shot, right now it is broken, so what have we got to lose?” I was concerned that I might damage the time-keeping while trying to repair the chimes, but Lucy was not bothered by the prospect.
Tomorrow we have scheduled some local natural hot springs. Why not?
10:37 pm, Tuesday, August 29, 2006. Today is Burgdorf day. Billed as a ‘resort’ back in the late 1800’s its only real call to fame was a natural hot spring. Coming out of the ground at a rate of 150 gallons per hour and a temperature of 113 degrees it is a unique natural spring. They have a small eight by ten foot spa area where the spring actually comes out of the ground. This overflows into a larger rectangular pool about sixty feet by fifty feet. That in turn overflows into a creek that flows through a plant hot-house before beginning its journey down to the local stream and out of the countryside.
Where it flows out of the big pool it is about 101 degrees. Walk the neck-deep pool to the spring end and the temperature goes up to about 104 degrees. If you move into the two currents flowing in from the actual spring area, it gets hot enough to be to uncomfortable to stay there for very long.
Jan tried to get Gracie to come but although interested (She has arthritis it may soothe) she elected to allow us to check it out while she remained behind with Nonie and Aunt Lucy. Jan was enthusiastic to check it out. I had my doubts. Hot water seems a good place to grow all sorts of evil germs and I don’t much like to change once I’m dressed, but being a team player on Jan’s team, off we went. Some seventeen miles down the gravel road toward McCall, we pulled into the Burgdorf parking lot.
Gail and Steve drove their car down ahead of us and we thought we might see them at Burgdorf’s. The spa is just off the main road and there is no sign for the turn-off if you are going south. They must figure that if you are coming from that direction you must already know where you’re going. Naturally, we missed the turn.
As we were looking for a place to turn around and check that last turn-off, Jan said, “There’s Steve and Gail’s car!” Sure enough. They had missed the turn as well and as they were returning Gail spotted a bridge—always good for a few pictures. As they were adjusting the tripods, along came a talkative Forest Service volunteer on a four-wheeler. He was an interesting fellow who had retired from being a prison guard and wanted something to do. So he volunteers for the U.S Forest Service and lives in a thirty-two foot trailer with his wife, traveling to where-ever interests them. He thinks they might winter in Arizona this year.
Gail and Steve joined us at Burgdorf’s and took some pictures of Jan and I in the pool. They declined to join us there. They do not have bathing suits with them and did not realize that they can wear shorts if they want. They planned to go on from the hot springs, go take some pictures down the road and then go down to McCall to fill up with gasoline. As it turned out, they decided to head for McCall first to get there around lunch time. Their later wanderings took them to where they could see the smoke plume of one of the forest fires currently burning in the area. We did not see them again until they rolled into Aunt Lucy’s at about 5:45 pm.
Jan and I thoroughly enjoyed the hot springs. Since the pool is being constantly renewed sanitation is not a problem and the folks who live there (and own it) are quite nice. They do have a calico cat who insists on sitting on the sign in register and is clearly unhappy to have to move. It made signing in an adventure in itself.
We returned to our street clothes and headed off to our next stop, crystal summit. Quartsite is quite common where gold is to be found and the white crystalline form is not uncommon around the Warren area. But we were told that very near Burgdorf’s is a mountain peak that is almost all this form of rock. The information we had was mixed. One person had told us to go through the campground to a turn around loop. There was a trail there that led to the summit after about a 40 minute walk. Another told us you could drive up to the summit. The most detailed explanation included the walking trail so we headed off for that.
Everything was as described but the trail was labeled, “Trail” and Jan had some serious reservations that this was the trail that led to this peak. We parked the car, left a note with our departure time and destination, and headed down the trail. Several things were apparent almost immediately. We had no water with us. It was one o’clock and we had no food with us. And Jan was really not convinced that this trail was even the trail we wanted! My thought was to give it fifteen minutes and see how it looked. That would have worked but the nice bubbling brook we could hear off to the right suddenly veered into the path of our path. Our sandy trail rapidly turned to muck and when the foot prints ahead were sunk three inches into the mud, Jan balked. The mud was as deep as her sneakers were high. We turned back.
There was a gravel road going off to the side just at the entrance to the campground. We decided to try that. It led us uphill in a promising fashion only to crest and start down into some lower ground. By now another half-hour had passed and we were hungry and thirsty and no closer to this fabled white peak. We turned back again.
On the way down we met another vehicle coming up. We pulled over to let them pass and as they went buy I wondered if they knew where they were! So I asked. As it turned out we were on the right road but just quit too soon! The trail would have gotten us there as well but it would have been a goodly hike. So we determined to get some water back at Burgdorf’s and ask where the nearest McDonald’s was located.
Burgdorf had cold bottled water but little else. A nice young lady had compassion on us and gave us a couple of snack bars. While we were eating the bars we realized that they could use some help putting a tarp over their luggage rack. We helped them and discovered that they were raised in Idaho but decided after college that a nine-to-five job was not them. They went off to Baja California, Mexico and are in the real estate business down there and are doing well. I gave them my business card and invited them to send me an email. It will be interesting to see if anything comes of that.
Refreshed we again drove out to find the elusive Crystal summit. The road was not great but was better than the day before. Jan at least had her eyes open, even if she was holding the door and leaning toward the center of the car. We wondered if the road would ever end when we looked off to the left and saw the top of the mountain framed between two deep green lodge-pole pines. The effect was startling and impressive. In a few minutes we were at the summit and doing a good Steve and Gail imitation with the camera.
As we returned to civilization and passed Burgdorf’s we picked up very attractive stream that ran beside the road. We spent another half-hour chasing that stream and another that flowed into it before finally heading back to Warren and Aunt Lucy’s. While we were sitting outside at Aunt Lucy’s, the couple from Burgdorf came by and paused for a few moments of conversation. Also, while we were sitting there the information lady from the Forest Service came by to give us an update on the fires that are burning in the area. She is actually from New Mexico and was sent up to help with the current situation here in Idaho. Apparently they move personnel around the country as needed. She was in Montana as well as her home state earlier this summer for Forest Service area fires at those locations.
Then it was dinner at Winter Inn (so named after the owner of many years, Shirley Winter—the one whose bench is at the cemetery) followed by a game night. The game was provided by Gail and was a nice diversion. The clock is still chiming. Tomorrow we leave at 10:30 in the morning to go down to McCall for lunch, pick up some groceries and to take Aunt Lucy shopping. At least that is what Steve and I have been told.
10:30 pm, Wednesday, August 30, 2006. Today pretty well went as anticipated. We went down to McCall for a few errands. Our biggest decision was “One car or two?” The Suburu has seating for seven, sort of. Steve put up the back seat and we determined that it offered comfortable seating for paraplegics or others with eight inch shin bones. The space for legs could be increased by pulling the middle seat forward, which then required the front seats to be moved forward. Even by sharing the pain that way, the resulting leg room would only be adequate for small children. Two cars it was.
Aunt Lucy rode with Jan and I. Nonie would also ride with us and then swap with Gracie from Steve and Gail’s car for the ride back. That was fine.
Aunt Lucy really did not need much but came along for the ride. Conversation with her is fine but you have to speak up and sometimes get her attention by calling her name. It turns out that she got married to Jack in 1948 and he was working for the railroad along with his dad. They both quit to run a family mining operation that went on hard times. The father and another relative (brother?) moved away from the mine to get other jobs and allow the mine to continue. This left Jack and Lucile to winter alone at the mine site.
Jack determined that mining, at least alone, was not for him and they move on to a forest ranger type of job, then back to mining with the family at another location. Finally, in 1955, he was offered the post-master job in Warren. He wanted that job, so he and Lucy moved to Warren and never looked back.
Aunt Lucy doesn’t drive anymore. She had a license when they first moved to Warren but the roads were significantly worse than they are now. Less than half of the current 30 miles of pavement were complete and the road followed the low-lands and was windy and narrow. She was happy to defer to Jack and let him do the driving. When her license came up for renewal she never bothered and never looked back.
She remarked that early spring and late fall were prime times for getting stuck on the road. Before they went with four-wheel drive pick-ups they would have to take so much equipment for self-rescue that they had little room left for supplies. The four-wheel drive trucks didn’t get stuck but sometimes they got hung up on the center hump in the gravel road.
The conversation turned to two-wheel drive cars and automatic transmissions. She told the story of a lady who was injured pretty badly and her daughter was down in South Fork where we went the other day. Jack got a call and agreed to go down in the dark of night to pick up this lady and bring her out to be with her injured mother. He took the car. Lucy said he swore he would never do that again. It was trucks and four-wheel drive only.
Jack was obviously the go-to guy on just about any issue that might face the town. Many debates were settled because Jack said, yes or no, and that was it. I asked Lucy who the go-to guy was now that Jack is gone. She said that there really is none and that can be a problem on occasion.
Lucy has several folks, it seems almost the whole town, who watch out for her and see that she has what she needs and things are in repair.
She remarked that there were a few times when it seemed that Jack hankered for more of civilization but she never did. They made do with most things but agreed that if he needed any tools or she needed anything for the house and they had the money, they would buy it. They bought practical presents for each other for birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas. She said that all of her jewelry was Avon stuff and not too valuable. She even quoted a piece from 1 Peter 3:3 to show that that was not important. And she added some remarks about the foolishness of chasing after money.
As part of her conversation she remarked that Jack was a dead shot with a rifle, but didn’t hunt himself. Although he often helped others bring in game they had shot. He was also a dead shot with poppers. Upon inquiry, we learned that she was referring to sling shots which he made himself and often carried with him for casual plinking in the woods.
What made this especially interesting was that I had come across a sling shot just yesterday in the shop as I was looking for some glue. It was a simple ‘Y’ shaped stick with surgical tubing for power and a leather pouch to hold the stone. Lucy said that before he could get the surgical tubing, he would use inner tube rubber cut from old tubes. I thought it was an interesting find in an otherwise very sophisticated work-shop.
The question came up with Gracie and Nonie on the way back from South Fork yesterday as to why Jack and Lucile never had children. It turns out that Jack was very sick with Malaria while in the South Pacific in WW II. The medicine they had to give him to knock it down was very powerful and they warned him that he might never be able to become a father. He was not willing to adopt, even though he was great with kids. It was not something that was done a lot in those days and that’s the way it was.
Lucy was only interested in one errand in McCall. With all the fires burning throughout the area around Warren the places for cooking and camp fires are drastically limited. Some folks are coming in this weekend and she wants to take them out to a picnic area and do hot dogs and marshmallows over an open fire.
She doesn’t want some fire marshal coming over and spoiling the picnic so she went to the main Forest Service office in McCall to clarify the rules. They agreed that she would have no problem with her plans and she came away satisfied.
When we returned from McCall we ate left-overs and spent the evening playing another round of Gail’s game. A good time was had by all.
10:12 pm, Thursday, August 31, 2006. I am exhausted. I was up at eight this morning to go with Gail and Steve back to Theodore’s Tree. Betty, our hostess here at Backcountry B&B in Warren, ID, remarked that along the trail beyond the Tree was a grave. It was the young daughter of a clergyman who came here in about 1863, right at the beginning of the gold rush here. He was originally from Tennessee and was a Baptist minister. His main claim to fame was that he organized and spoke at the first Fourth of July celebration ever held in Warren. What was interesting was that the Civil War was raging back east and the Warren mining camp’s population was 5-1 in favor of the secessionists. In spite of that, Applegate proclaimed himself both a Southerner and a loyalist and gave a resounding speech in favor of the union. He concluded with a fervent prayer for unity and a speedy end to the war, which left hardly a dry eye in the place.
Further research, mainly by Betty, has uncovered the information that it was Rev. Samuel Applegate’s daughter Rachel who passed away and is buried in the hillside overlooking the Meadows. After Rachel’s death Rev. and Mrs. Applegate moved to Oregon. The grave was located in 1920 by some of Applegate’s descendants and refurbished.
Jan was up and wanted to join me, so off we went with Steve and Gail. We walked to the end of the trail and searched thoroughly along the sides. After two hours of walking we returned to the trailhead with no success.
While we were sitting later at Aunt Lucy’s, Betty stopped by and we told her our tail of woe and asked for more details. She was the only one we know of who has seen the grave in recent memory. She said that you could see it from the Meadows. She offered to go with us over there to try and find it again. Well, we did go back later with Betty and parked the car at her direction and started walking. After just a few hundred feet, Jan said, “There it is!” And sure enough there up the hillside, almost hidden in the trees, was the picket fence that surrounds the grave. Neither Betty nor I were likely to have seen it, but Jan with her sharp vision found it for us. Then the question was, “How do we get to it,” since it is the other side of the creek.
That question remained unanswered as we went further into the Meadows to find the remains of the dredge. In the 1930’s new mining technology was developed to remove precious metal from the earth in massive quantities. One of these was hydraulic mining. In this system entire hillsides were blasted by high pressure water streams. The hillside would break down and flow with the water to a sorting sluice which would separate out the gold or silver. Another was the dredge. The dredge would be placed in a stream and begin to dig out the stream bed. They could go down into the ground up to sixty feet, pull up everything, extract the precious metals and spit the tailings out the back of the dredge. Both of these methods were used in the Meadows.
By the time these mining methods had ceased (just before WW II) the beautiful meadows and most of the Warren area had been turned into a wasteland. Huge ten foot high mole trails of cobble stone rocks replaced the landscape that had been green grass and pine trees. There were no requirements at that time for any last restoration and so when they were finished taking what they wanted, the mining companies just walked away. And when they walked away they dismantled on of the dredges and hauled it away—probably to destroy another meadow someplace. But the other of the two in use was abandoned where it stood.
When Jan first saw it as a child some forty years ago, it was still pretty much intact and safe to climb up on. Now the wooden parts are pretty much destroyed. The remnants of the wood and the core of riveted steel are still to be seen. We went, took a few pictures and headed back to Lucy’s. While climbing the tailings to get to the dredge, Jan slipped on the rocks and fell flat on the stone trail. At first we thought there might be something broken but not so. She banged up her arms, but otherwise appears unhurt. She even protected the camera. She’ll probably be a bit sore for a few days but hopefully that is all.
Dinner was steaks at the Winter Inn in celebration of our last evening together. Steve and Gail had spent a lot of time organizing their photographs and presented them to us on their computer back at Lucy’s after dinner.
I’d still like to locate the grave but we will be heading out late tomorrow morning and it is unlikely that there will be time to pack, load the car and get up the path again. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.
Warren is an interesting place. I rue the fact that Uncle Jack is not here and that it never worked out for me to come out here sooner. Lucy is in her 80’s and when she is unable to return to Warren in the summers that will be the end of our connection here. Will we have another trip before then? It is possible but . . .
10:15 pm, Friday, September 01, 2006. We have bid our farewells to Warren, ID. We left at about 10:15 this morning and headed down the road. We got to McCall about 11:15 and voted to go to a pancake place for lunch rather than a burger place. We ended up at the Pancake house we went to for lunch on Wednesday. It was excellent for food but rather slow for service. But hey, we’re on vacation.
Nonie and Gracie were riding with us, although for space reasons we sent several of our luggage pieces down with Steve and Gail. They headed out earlier and were about a half-hour ahead of us to get some pictures. I’m not sure why since at last count they already had taken over 1100 photos already on this trip. They have loads of equipment, with tripods, many lenses, and several Nikon bodies with a zillion pixels for sharp pictures. They do get some good shots.
Before they left I took them over to the spot where you can see Rachel Applegate’s grave. They took a couple of shots from the road side of the creek. It was as close as we got. As I went to bed yesterday, I was casting about in my mind for a way to get up to the grave from the tree path and clean it up a bit. I finally gave up on the idea as too impractical. Even had I been able to go right to the spot, I would still need some time and probably a saw or other tools. Jan had already expressed concern about my attempting to get to it alone. Searching off the path can be hazardous and really should be done with a companion who can at least point out where you went over the sudden drop!
I am left with the sense of unfinished work in that regard and if we ever get back to Warren I will set aside some time to attend to that.
Last night after coming through the ford of the creek, the Jeep Liberty started to make horrible loud noises from the passenger side rear. I stopped and checked to be sure that nothing obvious was wrong, but everything seemed to be in place. The noise diminished as we picked up speed and seemed related to the brakes. The Jeep as disk brakes in the back but the noise sounded a lot like the squeaking noise we used to have to fix in VW’s when the brake dust gathered in the drums and got between the brake shoes and the surface of the drums.
When I looked at the brakes, it appeared that the driver’s side tire was low on air.
So we started the morning with a certain amount of uncertainty. As it turned out the low tire was just a function of how the car was sitting on the rocky road, so that was a non-issue. I drove a short distance to be sure the brakes were not binding or over heating. They were not, so we headed out. By then the noise had diminished to the point where Nonie and Gracie didn’t even notice it and after a few miles it was gone altogether.
I’m guessing that water from the creek crossing attracted some road dust and caused the noise. After drying the dust cleared off the pads and the noise cleared as well.
There was a fire-smoke haze that hovered over us all the way down to Boise. At times it even obscured the surrounding hills. We spotted Steve and Gail’s car at a scenic turn-off and joined them for a brief rest stop just before Boise. We rendezvoused with them at the motel, returned the rental cars, and we are now booked on the 5:42 shuttle to the airport for our 7:42 flight out.
Before leaving Warren Jan, Gracie, Nonie, Lucy and I took a moment and I shared a blessing from Psalm 20 and a prayer of thanks and blessing. It was a nice ending to our time together. I also went back to Jack’s shop and retrieved an old steel tape measure. I noticed it when looking for other tools and it attracted my attention due to the fact that Jack had engraved his initials stylistically in the hub. I asked Lucy if I might have it as a memento and she was happy to give it to me. She said that the blended JP was the way that Jack marked all his tools. It is a fine remembrance and I am please to have it.
Home at last, we spent the evening catching up on email and watching the top two Stargate SG1 episodes. The real world is already starting to take over our existence once more.