Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall Camping At Challis - Part 4

Our camping neighbor-across-the-parking-lot turned out to be a very good cook.
He created some kind of potato / egg / bacon / cheese / salsa thing that was un-named but incredibly tasty, and he cooked it with great authority over the open fire pit.
Our contribution to the effort were buns and bagels, but while enjoying a wonderful breakfast I felt a little guilty about feeding this man a thrown together pot of hot dogs and beans a couple of days before.
Oh yes..........he needed to go stay warm and cook for a camp in Island Park over the winter!
Thanking him profusely for a great meal, the two men again seemed content to sit in the sunshine, drink more coffee and enjoy each others' company for a while longer.
I was content with the thought of walking some more and for the second time in one morning I ducked through the fence, greeted the horses and walked the shore line...............
As I walked I thought about George's experience being stranded in the snow for three weeks.  And then I thought about the Blackfoot woman's experience being stranded in the snow beyond Clive for too many hours with three small children.
Within a couple of weeks of living here in Atomic City a young man, young woman and small baby stopped outside our house one day.  They had gotten a flat tire on their truck the previous week out at Big Butte.
With no spare, they called a friend from Blackfoot who drove out to the butte to pick them up.
The day we saw them they were driving a car with low clearance.  They wanted advice as to whether or not we thought their car would make it safely out to the butte and back.
Their plan was to go out to Big Butte (36 miles round trip from our house), take the wheel to Arco to change out the tire (60 miles round trip from the house), go back out to Big Butte to re-install the wheel (18 miles out), and then the man would drive the truck out and back to Blackfoot while the woman drove the car out (46 miles for each vehicle).
No guys.  Not a good idea.
Not good at all.
LC ended up driving the young man out to the butte in his truck so that the guy could retrieve his wheel.  The guy drove alone to Arco.  LC drove him out to the butte again hours later so that the guy could put his wheel back on the truck.
The young woman with her small baby stayed with me at the house most of the day while all the traveling and repairing took place.....................

About a month ago LC and I were in the garage around 8pm when we heard a vehicle right in front of the house.
Hearing a loud thud, we both looked at each other in surprise.
"That didn't sound good" we both said almost in unison.
An Escalade was sitting in the middle of the road, and even in the rapidly fading light I could see the flat tire.
It wasn't just flat.  It was shredded.
Two young men, one young woman and a two week old baby.
They had entered BLM land in Arco, and had driven the desert trails from Arco to Atomic City hunting elk.
They had heard elk bugling apparently but no sightings, and as they hit the railroad tracks about 6 miles from town realized that their tire was quickly losing pressure.
Managing to limp into Atomic City, LC dug out some tools and helped the young men change the tire out while the young woman and tiny baby stayed warm inside the house...................

While cutting wood down towards Aberdeen in the spring the lady who owned the house there told us that her nephew had gotten stranded and then died out in the desert many summers ago..................

I had never really thought about it before.  
The flat tires, the getting stranded in the mountains and in the desert, the bottles of water we have given to wanderers through our town, even the random stories I had heard from the bar owner here in town of young people walking into the bar after having run out of gas and abandoning their vehicles miles away.
Even the PROMISE of a dangerous situation when LC, Kory and I drove into no-mans-land in the snow in the Little Lost River Valley last winter.
I had never put all of these stores together - never put the pieces of the puzzle together - until a quiet walk along the Salmon River just outside of Challis.................
Wandering away from the shore briefly, I looked at the leaf covered land around me.
I was 30 feet from shore and there were small, smooth, water-rubbed logs and piles of smooth, grey tree limbs everywhere I looked.
The ground that I was walking on had been underwater at some point.  Likely it was frequently under water.  Certainly it was underwater when we were here in June...................
By the time I returned to the camp ground LC and George were still sitting, still talking, still drinking coffee.
I smiled as I entered their domain.
It was time to close up shop.
We had traveled light on this trip - had brought only a few basic foods, very little in the way of changes of clothes, made sure that we had more sleeping bags and jackets - but it was time to pack up our few belongings and get going.
I wanted to take some quick pictures of downtown Challis before we headed south.
Once the camp was cleaned up and the camper was packed and ready to roll, LC and I walked over to say goodbye to George.
I had asked earlier (and he had told me) that he had good jackets, good boots, good socks, good hats and gloves.
Smiling, we gave him a pair of insulated military OD green pants, and the rest of our bottled water and fire wood.
He smiled and thanked us.  
LC and George shook hands.  I told him to go to Island Park for the winter.  We exchanged phone numbers.  
And then we all said goodbye...................
Although there are random small businesses spread out all over town, the actual "downtown" of Challis is one long main street.
It was Sunday so downtown was exceptionally quiet, although Challis is not a busy place any other day of the week either.
I knew that we had 120 miles to go and so I kissed LC at the bottom of the hill and told him that I would take a few quick pictures and be back as quickly as I could.................
Pink ribbons all over town in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month..............
This wonderful historic picture took up one entire wall of a small government office building.
Part way up the hill I was power snapping pictures as quickly as I could take them.............
There are no chain stores or big box stores in Challis.
All are small, independent businesses that are owned and operated by local residents.
Still walking up the hill on Main Street, and still power snapping pictures, I realized for the first time that many of the businesses were housed in old and historic log buildings.  Still others were cinder block buildings with log facades along the front.
I also realized for the first time that I really love this little town.
A lot.
The town grew up originally because of local mining, and that mining tradition has continued all of these years.
Over the past few years the local mines have closed down periodically for months at a time which has begun to eat into the local population.
It is slated to close again soon.
The mine, tourism and farming are primary sources of income, and while speaking to many people only the day before we left, local residents were wary of the financial impact that the mine closure would bring
Many people in this town are retired, but the brain drain and youth drain due to lack of job opportunities almost seems to be inevitable.
I could see living here..............
One more of the historic old buildings across the road, reflected in a window...............
I had no idea what was behind the decorative wrought iron window so quickly snapped this picture, and then was drawn closer by the sight of the colorful, bright yellow tree.
What WAS this place?..............
It was a court yard.  The outdoor area of a bar (one of four or five bars in a row in this section of Main Street).
Filled with picnic tables, a beautiful painted mountain and lake scene on the exterior wall of the adjoining building, and trees.
A nice place to spend an hour or two or more on a sunny day during the short summer...............
Half way up the hill I decided that it was time to begin heading back to meet up with LC and Kory.
I had kept them waiting long enough.
The plan was to turn down a side alley, pick up another road and work my way back down the hill until I reached the tiny park where man and dog were both waiting for me.
Just as I turned down the alley though I heard a horn beeping.
Turning to find the source of the unexpected noise I saw a white Ford f250 drive by.
Turning back onto the main street I watched as LC reached the top of the hill, did a quick U turn, and slowly headed back my way.
OK - I had one more quick stop to make before we finally headed out of town.
The small park, to take some pictures of the information boards and the signs and a............giant head.................

We cannot tell the exact moment a friendship is formed; as in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses, there is at last one that makes the heart run over.............Gloria Naylor

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