Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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Scenic Route to Lewiston

We got away from Nampa two hours earlier than planned this morning, so Lisa suggested we take the scenic byway up ID-55. This ended up taking a long time, but it was well worth it. We got lovely scenery and some bonus trains, although unfortunately we weren't able to ride any of them, just take pictures.

Idaho Northern
As we drove through the town of Horseshoe Bend, Lisa spotted a sign for the "Thunder Mountain Line" as the highway crossed a railroad. We turned in and found ourselves at the Idaho Northern Railroad's Thunder Mountain Line excursion railroad.

Thunder Mountain Line
This is what Lisa spotted while I was looking the other way.

We checked it out, and found that they had a three hour round-trip excursion train, and it left 90 minutes from when we arrived. That was too much for us to wait, unfortunately. We later saw that there was a Holiday Inn Express in McCall, Idaho. Had we known that and known of this railroad when we were redrawing our travel plans, we could have rebooked to McCall instead of Lewiston, giving us enough time to make this trip. Instead, we took pictures (click through these to see them) and pressed on.

OSL Locomotive on Display in Nampa
Earlier in the day, as we were leaving Nampa, we stopped at a park to have a look at this "park model" steam locomotive on display there.

PayetteRiver (20)
Lisa drove up ID-55 from Horseshoe Bend, allowing me to take photos. We found ourselves closely following the Payette River and playing tag with the railroad that ran generally on the opposite side of the river from us. I also took a couple of minutes of video from the van as we drove along the river, although the trees block the view of the river much of the way.

Along the way we saw many people rafting down the river. There appear to be both some placid stretches mixed with very challenging "Class V" sections. The Idaho Northern/Thunder River has a package where they will haul rafters and their rafts upriver and unload them so they can raft back down to Horseshoe Bend.

PayetteRiver (29)
Fire was still in the air, or rather lots of smoke. This is one of the fire camps along the highway. A spell of cooler weather this weekend has allowed firefighters to make some progress on knocking back the fires. Sections of road that had smoke warnings this morning were relatively clear when we went though.

PayetteRiver (34)
Leaving the Payette basin, we entered this mountain plateau, continuing on to McCall, where we stopped for a break.

McCall ID.
A bar/grill near the airport in McCall had this eye-catching architecture, which was actually a lot more noticeable from the highway than when we got up close.

SalmonRiver (17)
We made the transition to the Salmon River Canyon and eventually got onto US-95, our originally-planned route north.

SalmonRiver (19)
The river steadily grew and became quite spectacular in places.

SalmonRiver (14)
The hills on the far bank of the river show the scars of hydraulic mining.

Camas Prairie
Surmounting the last of the large grades, we rolled into the Camas Prairie. I'd heard of this area, because of its railroad, about which more presently.

Grangeville ID. Steam traction engine.
In Grangeville, they have a different kind of steam engine on display. We wanted to stop to eat, but on a Sunday afternoon in this part of the country, the choices were weak, and even the grocery store's offerings didn't inspire us, so we pressed on.

Camas Prairie Trestle Sign
The Camas Prairie Railroad (a joint venture of the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific, who cooperatively built it because competition for the traffic in this area would have been ruinous to both of them) built some spectacular railroad trestles to bridge the gaps into the region.

SalmonRiver (20)
Here's one of them, now abandoned. Much of the line is now lifted. Shortly after I took these photos, we changed drivers for me to take us the rest of the way to Lewiston.

Near the town of Culdesac (yes, really), the tracks reappeared, filled with stored center-barrier lumber cars. As we passed the visitors center for the Nez Perce National Historical Park, we spotted some locomotives to the north of the railroad. Lisa directed me to a side road, but the access to the railroad yard was behind Keep Out / No Trespassing signs. Lisa had a brainstorm and dug out her camera and attached the telephoto lens. We went back up to US-95, but trees blocked the way. Fortunately, there was no traffic behind me when the break in the trees opened up and I briefly stopped.

BGCM 1639
Lisa got the shot of Bountiful Grain and Craig Mountain Railroad locomotive 1639 squirreled away in their small yard.

Lewiston ID
After a long but entertaining day of driving through the Idaho mountains, we found our way to the Holiday Inn Express Lewiston, where a mini-suite upgrade and this view from the balcony awaited. Lisa and I each took a turn in the spa tub to try and relax from sitting most of the day. I also had to deal with some last-minute business with a WSFS committee and the Business Meeting, about which more tomorrow.

Despite the scenic detours and multiple photo stops, we got to the hotel only about 45 minutes later than we originally projected. We certainly didn't want to go anywhere else, though. We ordered pizza and relaxed. Although we originally planned on heading west on US-12 to US-195, Lisa would rather we head up US-95 to Moscow and Coeur D'Alene, then west to Spokane. We should be there sometime tomorrow afternoon.

It was a really nice day of sightseeing, marred only by the smoke of the many fires in the area. As the child of a US Forest Service officer, my heart goes out to the many hardworking people toiling to put out these fires, and I wish them the best of fortune in their fight.

On to Worldcon!
Tags: idaho, lisa, moutntains, rivers, trains, travel

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