Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Exploring our "Home Town" of Orofino, Idaho

The town of Orofino, Idaho has been our “home town” for the last two months and wow does time fly! It seems like we just arrived here in the lush hills of north-central Idaho eagerly readying ourselves for our three-month work camping gig. And now we are trying to squeeze in everything we can with only a month left.

We had never heard of Orofino before we signed on to this job, in fact, I think the only Idaho city that my geographically challenged mind could name was Boise. Orofino (population 3,073) sits along the picturesque Clearwater River framed by green hills and emits the aura of an outdoor-loving community where the community warmth is reflected in the “Welcome Fishermen” signs.  The town has a rich history that includes the presence of Lewis and Clark on their famed Corps of Discovery expedition, an early mining rush (Oro Fino means Fine Gold), and the still thriving lumber industry.  Hunting, fishing for steelhead trout and salmon, skiing, and snowmobiling draw visitors and locals outdoors in the winter, but it is the summer time that transforms this town into an outdoor mecca a buzz with people.  The 54-miles Dworshak Reservoir is the hub of activity. (Hence one of the reasons we are leaving in late June).

What other town do you know has a
"Proud Heritage Plaza?"
The town’s Chamber of Commerce brochure boasts that there is plenty to do if you are not an outdoors person like (and I quote) “plenty of unique shopping, dining, and indoor relaxation opportunities.” But beware this claim is a stretch unless of course you consider unique shopping the consignment or Hallmark stores.  And I don’t dare venture to guess what they mean by “indoor relaxation opportunities.”

Nevertheless, we love our adopted little town and it has everything we need (like the grocery, hardware, bait and tackle, and liquor stores and a handful of restaurants).  Our trips to “town” are usually just once a week (since the 45-minute drive takes us away from fishing catching too long) and the highlight is lunch at a local establishment. There are only about a half dozen restaurants in town so it has not taken us long to blow through our list of eateries and Urban Spoon doesn't seem to know Orofino exists.  You know we are not ones to rest on our laurels (or hungry stomachs) so we have managed to find a greasy burger joint, authentic Mexican food, a delicious calorie-laden hot dog truck, and a rather scary plate of Chinese food – all of which adds excitement to our trip to town.

There is nothing like a hamburger, fries, and a cold beer at 11 am.

The "Doghouse" rocked our palates with their
 simple but yummy menu.  The Polish dog with saurkraut, onions and mustard was my choice while Betsy opted for the all beef dog topped with chili and cheese.  Neeless to say, neither of us cleaned our plates, much to Spirit's delight.
The little quaint town seems to have everything we need and while we love exploring there is one place we are not tempted by and hope we never see - the Idaho Correctional Facitilty.  The 500+ person facility is not on our list to visit but sure adds to the mystique of this town.  Now back to the fishing!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Big A** Bass

You may be thinking that our lives are pretty boring here in north-central Idaho and the lack of blog postings is due to a gaping void of excitement that leaves nothing to write about.

Not so fast…

In between working our four-day shifts we have been exploring the reservoir from the water side of things.  Our terrific ranger friends, Andrew and Brittney, took us on a boat ride to see the northern-most portion of the reservoir and we are certainly glad to hitch a ride since paddling 40 plus miles was not in our plans.  We can't begin to tell you how much fun we are having and loving this special place!

Andrew and Brittney - our tour guides.

Work camping is hard work!
And our favorite activity is to leisurely float along in our kayaks and cast a line, twitch a jig, and wait for a bite while marveling at the spectacular scenery.  Since the results of our expeditions are usually not news worthy and you should be thankful that I do not subject you to a play-by-play of how the “big one” got away.  We catch an occasional stick, a submerged beer can, and a minnow or two but none of which require me to scamper and grab the fishing net. 

Recently, our luck has turned around and the net now smells like fish.  There are two different reasons why our poles are now bent and we felt compelled to buy a stringer at the grocery store.  Betsy and I respectfully differ on the reasons so I will present both of them. 

My explanation is the rock I found on a recent boat trip with the park rangers.  While exploring one of the 80 primitive camps scattered along the shoreline I was doing some treasure hunting and my eyes fixed on a smooth, water-worn rock that appeared to have a fish inscribed on it.  (And, no I did not then see Jesus in the clouds.)  I just knew the rock was a sign and it must have meaning.  Could it be a carving by a native Nez Perce Indian from years past or just a random figure that I desperately wanted to believe was destined to be my good luck fishing rock? 

Of course Dr. Dresser has a totally different and more analytical explanation.  She is convinced the tips (and lures) we received from a retired Corps forester who has fished this lake for 30 years is the reason we are being entertained by these feisty fish.  The forester gave us a 20 minute lesson on how to cast, twitch, and set the hook just right to land bass big enough for dinner.  He even felt sorry enough for us when we verbalized our fishy woes that he gave us a dozen lures and hooks. 

Please don’t think we are hung up on the reasons why we are now venturing to the water every day to snag bass Roland Martin style, we are too busy catching to discuss this moot point.  But, we are certainly not getting rid of the rock nor changing lures.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The "Spirit" of Dworshak

You don’t have to be a dog whisperer to know when your pooch is truly happy.  And for a Labrador retriever like Spirit the signs are pretty obvious.  She has a definite spring in her step that is more like the prance of a regal poodle.  Her nose faces into the wind and glides back and forth until pinpointing the animal scent that propels her to go darting off deep into the woods driven to discover the aromatic quandary.  And she is most happy when gently floating through the cold water as her big paws effortlessly scoop through the water.  

Ever since we arrived here on April 1, she has been in doggy paradise.  But to say that Spirit is happy at this campground would be a gross understatement.

Maybe this story about Spirit's joyous Idaho camping experience is better told in pictures.

I think you can tell a dogs happiness by the flapping of their ears.

If you want to make a lab happy just give them beautiful cold water for an afternoon swim.  (Although she seems to enjoy a dirty mud puddle just as well.)

Every walk involves a stick coming along.  This particular stick was as wide as the bridge and became a challenge of which Spirit was determined to overcome.
There are miles and miles of hiking trails and old logging roads that make for a wonderful doggy playground - a place where there is no leash and plenty of smells.  
Spirit's only complaints are that we do not hike long enough or fast enough for her taste.  Too bad, dog!
Oh, the other complaint is that we have to work four days a week and sometimes we drag her along.
But on our days off we enjoy all this campground has to offer including a 19,000-acre reservoir.  This was Spirits first ride in the kayak and she did great!   

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Look at one of the “18 Most Beautiful Structures in America”

Here is one of the gorgeous views we are privy to everyday living at the Dent Acres Campground in north-central Idaho.  Betsy took this picture of the Dent Bridge and we decided it was “post card worthy.”  And since we are not in the post card business, it became “blog worthy.”

When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the Dworshak Dam they accomplished the feat of building the highest strait-axis concrete gravity dam in the North America and changed the landscape dramatically.  The North Fork of the Clearwater River was changed forever as it swelled into the Dworshak Reservoir covering over 19,000 acres of land. 

But the Corps had another challenge – building a bridge over the reservoir that would connect the people of the remote town of Elk River to Orofino.   And they did this by building the Dent Bridge – the largest suspension bridge in Idaho.  The 1550-foot long bridge was completed for a price tag of 8 million dollars.  And this hunk of steel did not go unnoticed.  It joins the ranks of one of the “18 Most Beautiful Structures in America” so says the American Institute of Steel and won the “Long Span Construction” award in 1972.  But we don’t care about those accolades we just like looking at it.

So there, now you can say you have seen one of the "18 Most Beautiful Structures in America" (at least according to the American Institute of Steel).