Saturday, September 14, 2013

Week 2, Part 3: Coeur d'Alene and Smelterville, Idaho

Coeur d'Alene Lake

Our next planned stop after Washington was Montana, but we knew we couldn't drive that far in a day, so we started looking at where we might stop between Seattle and Montana. I found out, through the magic of Facebook, another schoolmate from my high school theater days lives in Northern Idaho. Dolores and I were in "Midsummer Night's Dream" together our senior year--she was an awesome, funny, and beautiful Helena. Besides having great acting chops, Dolores danced and sang the lead in the musical, which I was too scared to audition for. I also remembered she'd called down some guys who were teasing me to cool it, standing up for me right before I might've fallen to tears, I as I did pretty easily in those days. We'd never been close friends in high school, but had been friendly enough on Facebook of late for me to book a room in Coeur d'Alene, which I thought was near her, and to nervously ask if she'd have time to meet. She surprised me by inviting us to stay in her and her husband's John's travel trailer. We gratefully accepted what turned out to be wonderfully sweet accommodations, the best BBQ'd steak dinner we'd had in ages, a lovely time catching up and remembering, and, because our time was limited, a too-short tour of Silver Valley sights.

Sunshine Mine Disaster Memorial

A mining community, the Silver Valley of Idaho is a mixed bag--there are depressed areas and signs of wear in the buildings and on the land, but the landscape is also gorgeous, studded with new-growth pine trees.  After a stop at Coeur d'Alene Lake on the way, we drove through Smelterville and up the hill to Dolores and John's cute blue house that opens to a green backyard and a sloping hill of trees. They'd just built a new deck off their blue metal shop, where we ate dinner, talked, and let night fall upon us. Larry was happy to be reminded, by the hunting and fishing culture, of his high school years in Yale, Michigan. And when we got a tour of the shop, which boasted a trophy wall from John and Dolores' game hunting, Larry shared that his high school history teacher was the Yale taxidermist. Dolores had joked on Facebook that she wondered what I'd think of the hillbilly she'd become, but I looked at the peacefulness of the landscape, the close connection she had developed to the land, the love she and John obviously shared, and the generosity with which they hosted us, and felt nothing but admiration for the person she has grown into. We'd both admitted we were nervous about seeing each other after all this time, but I was quickly comforted by her warm hospitality as well as by the history we shared. She reminded me of a scene I'd performed in drama class that had slipped my mind over the years, and I was grateful for the memory. Though I was an emotional disaster in high school, being able to connect with Dolores, as well as others from high school, has helped heal my past. 

Sunshine Mine Disaster Memorial

After a delicious dessert of homemade (and hard-won, as the berries were hand picked in the mountains above their house) huckleberry bars, Larry and I went to bed early again, and exhausted from travel, slept for what seemed like forever on a heavenly mattress before getting up for a short tour of some Silver Valley history. We decided we wanted to see the Sunshine Mine Disaster Memorial. The disaster happened in 1972, when 93 miners lost their lives to fire in the mine. It was a moving testament to the labor and loss of the mining community. 

Mission, Interior
Then we visited the oldest standing building in Idaho, the Cataldo Mission, which surprised me by being so different from the West Coast Missions I visited in my youth. It was grand and beautiful. We walked the grounds a bit. Then Dolores took us to the local Rails to Trails path, where you can ride, by bicycle, the whole 88 mile width of Northern Idaho on a former railroad path. Due to time constraints, we passed on the Old Bordello Museum as well as several other historic sights. We also missed, due to it being the off season, a chance to ride on the longest single suspension gondola at Silver Mountain Resort. The Silver Valley has such a rich history and is such an interesting combination of resorts with golf courses and down to earth people, that we know we have to spend some more time there, in a part of the country we hadn't really known about before this trip. I'm feeling grateful that the chance to visit with my high school acquaintance ended up teaching me so much about this country. 

Dawn and Dolores on her deck
Larry has also been excited about all the dogs we've met on this trip--and here he is with Dolores and John's Chocolate Lab Kody, who he had to have a photo with before we said our goodbyes and spent the day driving to Bozeman, Montana, which boasts to be one of the most dog-friendly cities in the country.

Larry and Kody

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