Friday, June 7, 2013

Heart of an Awl

After leaving Portland, we spent two days in a lovely Army Corps of Engineers project called Hood Park, near Pascoe, WA. The only RV connection there was electricity, but for just two days that's okay. We just filled our freshwater tank on the way in and we were fine. We arrived on a Saturday and the campground was nearly full, but the Army Corps of engineers was not aiming for maximum profits when they designed the place so there was plenty of room between campsites. On Sunday, about two thirds of the occupants vacated, leaving behind the unemployed vagrants like ourselves. It is a really nice place for a two or three day stop over on the (relative) cheap.

Coeur d'Alene from across the lake
Monday we packed up and headed to Coeur d'Alene where we had a reservation at a nice, if somewhat overpriced commercial campground. Here we have full hookups which allows us to do laundry in our tiny onboard washing machine. The amount of money we save not spending $3.50 - $4.00 a load at a campground laundromat almost makes up for the extra 10 dollars a night. Sort of. Anyway, it's a nice place right along the banks of the Spokane River.

I had always thought the name "Coeur d'Alene" derived from some kind of Catholic "Sacred Heart" something or other, having no idea what d'Alene meant. It turns out that the translation from the French actually is "Heart of an Awl", which is what the early French fur traders called the local Indians. It apparently has something to do with the tough trade negotiations the natives practiced. I guess it makes sense somehow if you are French. Then again, eating snails makes sense if you are French. So much for our etymology lesson of the day.

  The day after we arrived, we started out with breakfast at Jimmy's Down the Street, a breakfast and lunch cafĂ© we had seen on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. One of the featured items on the television show was their pecan roll, so we ordered one to split between us along with our regular breakfasts. The roll was the size of my head. Really good though. We each ate about a quarter of it and then boxed up the other half for later consumption. It made a good bedtime snack. Going to bed with a mouthful of sugar is always a really good idea. One of our unofficial goals in our travels is to eat at whatever Triple-D joints we run across.

Beautiful farmland
After breakfast, we headed down the east side of Lake Coeur d'Alene on Highway 97. It is a huge natural lake which extends for nearly 30 miles. The road does not really follow the contours of the lake very well, hence we ended up driving through a lot of open farmland interspersed with forest areas. It was all green and gorgeous, particularly to people who have lived in Redlands for the last 20 years and are easily impressed. I'm always on the lookout for decrepit barns and buildings, which Vicki doesn't really understand. But these are structures that someone put a fair amount of time and effort into, structures that had a purpose. Then, for whatever reason, the purpose went away and the buildings were left to the vagaries of entropy. I think the decay process makes for interesting photographs. I'm a dweeb.


We went south as far as the town of Harrison, which was named after Pres. William Henry Harrison in exchange for his allowing the town to steal a large chunk of Indian land. Land in those days was pretty cheap. Particularly if it belonged to Indians. We then got on state Highway 3 and headed back north again through more horse and cattle ranches, farms and forests. We got back to Interstate 90 near Old Mission State Park.

Cataldo Mission
The old mission is the Cataldo Mission, the oldest extant building in the state of Idaho. Back in the 1840s, the natives noticed that about half of their population was dying from measles and smallpox and their land was being invaded by white trappers with rifles that beat the heck out of spears and arrows. Obviously their tribal medicine men were not up to the task. They needed new medicine men. Preferably white medicine men. So they sent a delegation east to St. Louis where they had heard the white medicine men hung out. It turned out the Catholic Church was happy to oblige. A group of priests came back under the leadership of Father Pierre-Jean De Smet to save the natives. The Indians were happy although they kept dying of measles and smallpox and white encroachment didn't let up. They initially built a church in 1842 set in a lovely valley with lovely annual floods. After a few years of this, they wisely moved their house of worship to its present site on the top of a hill in 1846.
Interior with huckleberry ceilings
Father De Smet insisted that the church be built by the tribal people so that they would be more emotionally invested in it. It is of old-style wattle and daub construction with slats placed over 10 inch thick wooden beams. The interior decorations were all produced locally.  Father De Smet turned out to be something of a painter and produced a number of devotional pieces of art. They made chandeliers out of used tin cans. Two wooden statues were essentially whittled since knives were the only tools they had for the work. The ceilings were turned blue by mushing huckleberries into the wood. All things considered, it turned out to be a quite traditional appearing Catholic sanctuary. Next to it is a chapter house for the priests which was built about 30 years later. That is, after the first two chapter houses burned down. In those days, any building you cooked in apparently had a fairly limited life expectancy.

Mission and chapter house

The next day we decided to drive north toward Sandpoint up on Lake Pend Oreille, which is even larger than Lake Coeur d'Alene. There was a farmers market scheduled between 3:30 and 5:30 in the afternoon that Vicki want to go to, having read all about the wonders of fresh produce on the road.  We took US-95 up but about halfway we got bored and took off on a side road that ran to the Pend  
Entropy, part deux
Oreille River at Priest Creek. We then crossed the river and took US-2 along the opposite bank to Sandpoint. When we got to the farmers market we discovered that all of the farmers were selling shrubs and garden flowers. There was no edible greenery to be seen. So much for the wonders of fresh produce. We got back on the road and drove up to Bonners Ferry where we discovered, not entirely by accident, the Kootenai River Brewing Company. We went ahead and had a seven glass taster tray to figure out what seemed good. The answer, unfortunately was "not much". Almost all of the beers on their list were significantly more bitter than what I would have preferred. They even had an "award-winning" rye beer which had taken the bronze medal in some international competition.  Meh.  The best of the lot was the porter, but even it was not good enough to make us belly up for a full pint. We turned around and went back to Coeur d'Alene taking a short section of the old Highway 95 along Deer Creek, another beautiful drive but only about 10 miles worth. Next stop is Missoula and we will lose an hour to Mountain Time on the way.

End of the line

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