Take the High Ground
Two Strategic Lessons
By Max Jenkins
When our family moved to Grangeville in December 1946, we became part of the Idaho’s largest county by area. Idaho County is bigger than New Jersey and only slightly smaller than Massachusetts. It extends across north-central Idaho from the Montana border to the Washington and Oregon borders and contains the bulk of the largest wilderness area in the contiguous U.S. In far-off second place is the Florida Everglades. Three major rivers flow through Idaho County: the Snake, the Clearwater, and the Salmon, the latter two of which have many forks. These rivers surge through deep gorges and picturesque valleys as they convey drainage from snow-packed mountains. It’s no wonder that our family made many memorial trips to the backcountry over the years. Two of them are connected by lessons I learned concerning the importance of the high ground.
The first such trip was on the Fourth of July when I was nine or ten. That year, our church in Grangeville had planned a family outing to the Seven Devils Area. Fifteen or so 4WD pickups lined up in the church parking lot, each stuffed with kids, parents, and picnic food. The lead pickup headed for White Bird Hill and the rest followed. The pickups negotiated the switchbacks on the south side of White Bird Hill and then we crossed the Salmon River on a one-lane bridge near Riggins and turned onto a steep, mountainous road. There wasn’t a cloud in sight.