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.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Huckleberry Ice Cream Along the Elk River Scenic Byway

Our beautiful campground sits midway along the Elk River Scenic Byway so we are lucky enough to traverse a portion of this 57-mile route every time we go to “town” (Orofino, Idaho). The twisty, turny, windy road gave us a jolt of scariness when we came up it for the first time in the motorhome nearly two months ago.  I am a big fan of shoulders and guard rails when there is a 100-foot drop off next to the road but obviously not all road engineers find that necessary.

As you leave Orofino and set out on the byway you make a quick ascent which provides an outstanding view of the Clearwater River snaking its way through the valley.  A short distance out of town and you are bewildered by expansive views of crests and canyons that remind you that the western sky is big.

Keep driving and you leave the rural areas in your rear view mirror and transition into the small farms and ranchettes surrounded by dense forest.  The narrow road forces drivers to keep their eyes focused on the road and a passing logging truck reemphasized the need for guard rails.

Pretty soon you realize you are descending the mountain and feel as though you are going to plunge into the Dworshak Reservoir when luckily the Dent Bridge comes into view.  Many times we have made this drive and have always been treated to interesting wildlife viewing whether it is elk grazing in the fields in the evening, wild turkeys strutting in the afternoon, or ospreys tending to their nests atop the Dent Bridge.

Since we are never in a hurry and elk are BIG animals, they always have the right-of-way. 
Besides we love watching them.
Midway along the route is our campground, Dent Acres.  The campground used to be an old homestead and orchard so there is plenty of history but all that remains are a few old posts and apple trees not yet ripe for picking.

The road from our campground to Elk River is a short 13 miles but beware the drive takes nearly 45 minutes.  This gravel road meanders through logging country and 25 mph is about as fast as you will go.  This portion of the drive reminds you that logging was, and still is, big business around here.

Pine trees are known as "green gold" around here and logging operations are extensive.
The quaint little town of Elk River is a cross-roads that attracts recreationists looking to camp, hunt, fish, snowmobile, or ride ATV’s. In fact, this town probably has more ATV’s than vehicles.  When we arrived at Dent Acres people told us to go to Elk River because of the ever-popular huckleberry ice cream.  Exploring small towns is definitely our thing, but even more so when there is food involved. 

Even the dog gets a ride on the 4-wheeler.
The derelict Elk River public school reflects a more prosperous and booming time.
Once again we were treated to the beauty of a field of camus lillys.
We did some research and found out there is more to Elk River than just ice cream and the drive through town was worth it. Just north of town is the Elk Creek falls which is a beautiful system of cascading water that plummets down through ancient lava flows.  A series of wide trails link the upper, middle, and lower falls and makes for a great hike in the cool woods and a perfect place for a lab to wet her paws.

About this time we were starting to get hungry and the craving for soft creamy huckleberry ice cream and a calorie-hypted lunch was beginning to dominate our thoughts.  Enough falls, let’s go eat!  In town we found the Log Inn which served up a great hamburger (yes, we are still on a hamburger kick) in a place decorated with historic photographs from the days gone by when Elk River was a thriving mill town thanks to the Potlach Company opening the largest electric-powered sawmill in the country.

The mill is no longer in operation but the old Clearwater - Potlach fire camp from the early 1900's still exists and houses firefighters. 

A dam across the Elk Creek was constructed in 1909 to form a "millpond" which was used to store logs for the sawmill.  Storing the logs in water was an efficient way to move the logs as well as keep them from drying out or becoming laden with insects. 
Sorry, I just had to do that to you - at least you won't exceed your daily caloric intake by just looking.
Next on our list of Elk River tourist attractions was the cedar grove that is home to one of a few old-growth cedar groves in Idaho and birthplace of the state’s champion western red cedar (estimated at over 3,000 years old).  The dense grove provided some well needed shade from the warm afternoon and we were a gasp at being amidst so many towering old trees.

Don't think I forgot to mention the ice cream - I was just saving the best for last. The General Store that sold the frozen goodness was a "we-have-everything" store.  Most people come for the huckleberry ice cream or a milkshake but you can also pick up your mail, purchase fishing lures, buy booze, get a leg hold trap for a nuisance animal living under your house, find out who is leaving prank calls about your wife, and get a hot lunch.  We did not just settle on two ice cream cones; instead, our lust for sweets overtook our better judgement and prompted us to pick up a slice of huckleberry pie and huckleberry taffy. 

This was on the bullentin board sandwiched between the
apartment for rent and the offer to take you elk hunting.
Elk River was a fun day trip and I have a feeling when the urge for ice cream comes calling, we will be back. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to you I did exceed my daily caloric intake. One look at that picture and I had to go out and get a burger... ;c)

    Cool that the ospreys nest on top of that bridge. Imagine the view they have to catch their fish!


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