Arno, me, and the kids left Wednesday for southern Idaho to visit my Pa. Originally we had planned to camp in their lawn on the Snake River, to hang out and chew the fat like we traditionally do at Pa and Michelle’s house. I like to sit on the deck and watch the river go by, commenting on the bird calls and how hot it is. However, my Pa Bear was not feeling well, so we changed our plans. He and Michelle are wonderful hosts and we did not want to tempt them to take care of us, when Pa Bear needed the care.
We packed our three teens into the back seat of the truck, left the Columbia River Gorge, and took off through the wilting heat for southern Idaho. We decided to camp nearby so that we could visit, but not so close that we added to their stress.
Our first night at Givens Hot Springs was great because it’s about two miles from the Trulove River Rat Rest & Relaxation Ranch. The facilities at Givens Hot Springs are right out of the 1970s, with the family-friendly camping, a mock covered wagon to take photos beside, and the centerpiece: a naturally heated swimming pool. The entire inside of the pool building – including the pool – was painted pistachio green over cinder blocks, with showers by the pool but bathrooms outside around back (um…not good planning when kids are the main customers). There was a bulletin board with a map of the U.S. and a world map, where people had pressed in pins over the city they came from, and the pins – covered in dust of decades – nearly obscured the maps. Brochures for local points of interest were warped from the moist air and faded from sitting in the display rack for 15 years or so. I expected to see a teenage Kristy McNichol or Bill Murray step out of the pool at any moment.
After choosing our camp spot, we visited my dad. It was Arno’s first time meeting him. There may have been some anxiety on Arno’s part, and my dad’s part, about that. But I was full of anxiety about the state of my dad’s health. He was weak, tired, and in pain. It made me sad. But actually, I was mostly relieved to see him, hug him, talk to him. I had built up some fear, probably because I recently lost my mom and my grandmother, that he would be a different person, like Mom became when she got so sick. But he was still 100% Pa, with the same sense of humor, the same inclination to tell stories and get excited about cool stuff. My Pa and I both felt better after the visit.
While we were visiting, Michelle told us about the old mining town of Silver City. None of us had heard of it, so we decided to go. After breakfast in camp, we headed up into the mountains to Silver City, Idaho.
It’s like a ghost town; only a few people still live there. Established in 1864, Silver City truly was a boomtown for decades, as the War Eagle gold and silver mines continued to give up natural riches. At its peak, Silver City had a population of 2500 people and was the Owyhee County seat. They even had an opera house! Today, there are about 75 buildings that date from 1860-1900.
My dad told me there is one resident who winters over, but the other residents snowmobile in and out during the winter. All of the land and property is privately owned, and the locals were out getting ready for 4th of July festivities. It looked liked festivities would consist of games of horseshoes at the tiny Memorial Park.
We made a picnic lunch in the shade beside one of the two creeks in town, then wandered around and explored the wonderful buildings and character of the place. This was the largest almost-ghost town I’ve seen, with three parallel streets instead of only one. The church is still used. The school is empty. There is a restaurant in the Idaho Hotel and apparently visitors can rent a room there.
Finally we left town. We stopped at the Masons/IOOF Cemetery on the way out. It was a wonderful stop that even the teenagers enjoyed. Tara found a gravestone for Thomas Jefferson, 13 headstones marked “Unknown,” and Diego and she tracked down many, many gravestones for babies.
We were so impressed with the shady, cool, green campsites near streams along the road on the way, that we moved camp from Givens Hot Springs to these mountains for the night. The cooler temperatures and lack of bugs resulted in a better night’s sleep for us.
I’ll finish our road trip in another post. For now, I hope you enjoyed the photos of a darling little place we found purely as an afterthought. Just goes to show that radically changed vacation plans can be an opportunity for additional
torture of teenagers I mean, additional good times!