Category Archives: camping

Death of the Forest Cabin

I’ve lived my whole life in Camas County, which is almost exactly the size of Rhode Island but has long had a population of around one thousand. The county’s single east-west valley has an elevation of about five thousand feet above sea level, while to the south are low mountains, and to the north are peaks that reach higher than ten thousand feet. Extremely cold winter temperatures (1990 saw an official low of fifty-two degrees below zero) and deep snow discourage everyone except the hardiest individuals from living here.

The farmers and ranchers who settled this area in the 1880s scratched out a living. Mining was a major effort and the remains of dozens of small operations—gold and silver mines, although lead and other trace minerals were present—can be found in all parts of the county. No major strikes were made, but some wealth was taken out of the earth. Many “prove-up” shacks were built as farming homesteads, and even in the highest mountains, every mine had some kind of shelter. A hard rock mining claim I own at 9,400 feet has a typical shack that housed miners early last century. Decades ago, the weight of ten or more feet of snow caused its collapse. Continue reading

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Posted on by Clell G. Ballard / Leave a comment

In Praise of a Place

One of the biggest mistakes my husband Rocky and I ever made was the year we allowed our grown-up children and their friends to talk us into letting them put in their inner tubes beside the bridge near Featherville and float a section of the Boise River down to Johnson Bridge.

The problem was we could not drive alongside the river to check for “strainers,” the fallen trees or branches in the water, or for any other safety issues. Even so, we blithely waved them on their way, telling them we would meet them in two or three hours at the bridge.

After three hours had come and gone, I began worrying that something had happened. We drove every road we could find that went to the river, with no sign of any of them. My husband, granddaughter, and I drove up and down the road between the two bridges, over and over again. About five hours later, we finally found two of the boys trying to hike out to the road. They had run into several strainers and had almost drowned. Having decided enough was enough, they had begun walking. But that still left six people in the water—and we could not find them.

The problem was we could not drive alongside the river to check for “strainers,” the fallen trees or branches in the water, or for any other safety issues. Even so, we blithely waved them on their way, telling them we would meet them in two or three hours at the bridge.

After three hours had come and gone, I began worrying that something had happened. We drove every road we could find that went to the river, with no sign of any of them. My husband, granddaughter, and I drove up and down the road between the two bridges, over and over again. About five hours later, we finally found two of the boys trying to hike out to the road. They had run into several strainers and had almost drowned. Having decided enough was enough, they had begun walking. But that still left six people in the water—and we could not find them. Continue reading

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Posted on by Shirley Metts / Leave a comment