Sunset in the Owyhee desert

Sunset in the Owyhee desert

Pa and Michelle's house on the Snake River

Pa and Michelle’s house on the Snake River

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.

Agriculture along the Snake River south of Boise, Idaho. This is typical of what the countryside looks like out here. I call it desolate. My Pa calls it beautiful.

Agriculture along the Snake River south of Boise, Idaho. This is typical of what the countryside looks like out here. I call it desolate. My Pa calls it beautiful.

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.

remote intersection

remote intersection

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.

The hills on our way to Silver City.

The hills on our way to Silver City.

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.

The scenery got prettier as we rose into the mountains on the one-lane gravel road.

The scenery got prettier as we rose into the mountains on the one-lane gravel road.

Now what else would you expect to see in the trails around a Wild West Ghost Town?

Now what else would you expect to see in the trails around a Wild West Ghost Town?

View from the back of the center of Silver City. I love the large, patched-together building in the center, the Idaho Hotel.

View of the Idaho Hotel, the large, patched-together building in the center.

click to read

click to read

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.

The two main shops in town: Pat's What Not Shop and the Silver City Fire & Rescue Store

The two main shops in town: Pat’s What Not Shop and the Silver City Fire & Rescue Store

We found it interesting that the only stone building was the one in the worst shape.

We found it interesting that the only stone building was the one in the worst shape.

Silver City School

Silver City School

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.

The kids found a treehouse after lunch.

The kids found a treehouse after lunch.

Memorial Park in front of the drugstore.

Memorial Park in front of the drugstore.

A side street makes the town look more alive, as it  actually is, since people own and live in these homes.

A side street makes the town look more alive, as it actually is, since people own and live in these homes.

Catholic church on a hill

Catholic church on a hill

Front of Idaho Hotel, and the true "downtown" of this darling little settlement.

Front of Idaho Hotel, and the true “downtown” of this darling little settlement.

Inside the Idaho Hotel

Inside the Idaho Hotel

Antiques for sale at the Fire & Rescue Store

Antiques for sale at the Fire & Rescue Store

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.

Diego and Tara finding interesting headstones.

Diego and Tara finding interesting headstones.

Learning about someone's past

Learning about someone’s past

I found this terribly sad story.

I found this terribly sad story.

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!

Our camp on night #2

Our camp on night #2