Oct. 26, 2016

I told you there were a lot of things to do in Wallace….here is another one! This was pretty exciting. My great grandfather was a coal miner over in West Virginia many many eons ago. As hard as I tried I just couldn’t imagine what that would be like. However, when I saw this bucket list item pop up on my list, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

The area around Wallace is known as the Silver Capital of the World. Many mines dot the Silver Valley surrounding Wallace and through 2010 the district produced metals valued at over $6.6 billion. According to Wallace history, 1.2 billion ounces of silver have been produced in mines from this valley and people are still working the mines where another billion ounces of silver is thought to be waiting for extraction. The Sierra Silver Mine is a decommissioned silver mine outside of Wallace. When it was first decommissioned they used it to train high school kids about mining…a lot like shop class, but in a mine…with really cool tools…and a hat with a light. In 1982 they decided to put it on tour and let people get a feel for mining from the inside out.

To go on the tour you need to stop at the Sierra Silver Mine Tour Shop in downtown Wallace. From there you ride a trolley out to the site of the mine. The trolley ride is a great experience. Our trolley driver, Dennis, was brilliant. We were one packed trolley. I think everyone wanted to get the tour in before the summer ended so every seat (and a couple of laps) were taken. I got to sit up with Dennis. I was feeling pretty special until he told me he figured I could hold on better than the others so he put me in the smaller, bumpier seat. I’m actually glad he did. Dennis led us through town giving us tidbits all about Wallace’s colorful history on the way to the mine. He told us about all the buildings in town being on the historic registry and how the town mayor declared it the undisputed Center of the Universe. The trolley even had a name….Ollie. Ollie was a San Francisco trolley before relocating to Wallace many years ago.

About 15 minutes later, we pulled up to the Sierra Silver Mine and met Wally. We told Dennis we would see him when he picked us up and Ollie trolled on down the road. Hello Wally! Now Wally is a miner with a big personality. With over 50 years of experience and 34 years doing tours, he is salty, smiley and loves to take funny pictures with everyone in their hard hats. After fitting us all with hard hats, Wally introduced us to some tools, told us stories about mine collapses (completely freaking out a few), and then, after reminding the tall people to duck, took us down into the mine.

The mine has been around since about 1900. It was dark, wet and SO cool! Wally showed us all types of mining tools. He even ran a few of them. We heard stories about how mining works, when it doesn’t, miner safety, and why the mine has a bird. (You will have to go ask Wally.) We went pretty far down there, but the mine was wide so it wasn’t bad at all. I was glad for the lights though. Wally turned the lights off so we could see how dark it was…it was dark! Ever horror movie I have ever seen flashed through my mind in those few moments. Yeah…I don’t think I will be taking up mining anytime soon.

Location: Wallace, Idaho. Take I-84 out of Boise headed toward Oregon for 252 miles. Take Exit 179 for I-82 toward Umatilla for 30 miles. Take Exit 113 for US-395 for 7 miles. Then take the US-12/US-395 Exit toward Spokane, Washington. Keep left and merge onto I-183 E. Continue onto US-395 for 74 miles. Merge onto I-90 E (entering back into Idaho). After 139 miles take Exit 61 toward Wallace.
Address of the Mine Office: 420 5th St. / 208-752-5151
Website: Silverminetour.org

Cost: Adults $15.00 / Seniors (60+) $13.00 / Children (4-16) $8.50 / Children under 4 Free
Group rates available for 10 or more people with advance reservation.
School field trips and children’s activity groups receive a special rate with advance purchase.
AAA discount

Hours: Open 7 days a week from May 1st through October 12th every year.
June – August 10 am to 4 pm
May and September 10 am – 2 pm
New tours leave very ½ hour. First tour departs at 10 am and the last departs at 4 pm.
Tour length is 1 hour and 15 minutes

Lodging and Dining: As I have mentioned before there is so much to do in Wallace you might want to stay a couple of days. There are plenty of motels, B&Bs, campgrounds, restaurants, etc. around town.

Special Notes: Kids will love it. It’s an explorers dream. No Pets. If you have any difficulty walking, make sure someone helps you as some of the way is uneven and wet. There is disability access, just ask when you sign up.

It’s cold in the mine so wear a light jacket and comfortable shoes. Bring the camera! There are lots of things to take pictures of and Wally is a photo hog! Be sure to pick up a souvenir at the shop when Ollie drops you off and thank Dennis for the great stories.

I’ll leave you with a funny Wally shared. He said he would like to join us for a drink…but he was a miner. Let that sink in. 

Oct. 26, 2016

I just love Wallace, Idaho! After two days there I thought I had done everything, but my third day brought more adventures onto the horizon. I would like to suggest here that everyone, no matter what time of year or whether you have a week or just a weekend, go spend some of that time in Wallace. There is so much to do….you can’t possibly get bored. The scenery is beautiful, the people delightful and they have a spaceship! Yep! A SPACESHIP!! Nerdy kid dream accomplished.

If you ask anyone in Wallace where is the best place to grab a burger, they all say the Red Light Garage. Since they added that the Garage had a huckleberry milkshake to die for, I was headed there with no hesitation. This place did not disappoint.

The building is an actual garage. I got the chance to speak to Jamie and Barbara, the owners of this super cute establishment, and was told about how it actually was a garage when they bought it. They started out with coffee and shakes and as they expanded the garage became a full restaurant. The garage door still works! The whole place is decorated in a mix of 50’s and 60’s style memorabilia. There are license plates from all over the world adorning the ceiling. Even one from Australia. After a fantastic meal and, of course, that huckleberry milkshake, I asked Jamie about the spaceship sitting outside in the parking lot. Nerdy me just took over.

The SpaceShip was left over from a hotel a great many years ago. They just left it where it is. It has become a novelty in the town (The town boasts that it is the Center of the Universe. They are allowed to keep that title because according to law, if you can’t disprove something then it must be true.) Jamie and Barbara even have a Rocket Car they drive in parades. How cool is that?!

Location: Wallace, Idaho. Take I-84 out of Boise headed toward Oregon for 252 miles. Take Exit 179 for I-82 toward Umatilla for 30 miles. Take Exit 113 for US-395 for 7 miles. Then take the US-12/US-395 Exit toward Spokane, Washington. Keep left and merge onto I-183 E. Continue onto US-395 for 74 miles. Merge onto I-90 E (entering back into Idaho). After 139 miles take Exit 61 toward Wallace.
Address - 302 5th Street / 208-556-0575

Hours: Open 7 days a week serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
7 am to 8 pm Sunday thru Thursday / 7 am to 9 pm Friday and Saturday with live music
Beer on tap!

Cost: The menu has a pretty varied selection. Prices range up to about $15. Very reasonable and extremely good!
Sitting in the SpaceShip is FREE!

Lodging: There is plenty of local hotels, bed and breakfasts and camping available around Wallace. Check out the city website Wallace-id.com.

Special Notes: Take the kids…they will love it! Take lots of pictures. This is a place for all ages. If you grew up dreaming about riding in the Millennium Falcon with Hans Solo…this is almost that cool. (Okay, maybe not, but…I SAT IN A SPACESHIP!!)

Oct. 14, 2016

Wallace, Idaho has a very unique attraction. Are you ready for this ladies and gents? It has a brothel museum. No kidding! Back in the day Wallace was home to many brothels. According to the history of the brothel museum, the sheriff was fine with looking the other way and most of the residents didn’t even realize it was illegal after 1973. It has an amazing history.

During the better part of the early and mid 20th century, mining was very successful in the area. It brought in a lot of men looking for work. Men began to outnumber the women up to 200 to 1. That’s a huge difference! So…brothels were a thriving business! This museum is the only one in the country that commemorates the oldest of professions.

Back in the day, the brothels in Wallace weren’t just places of “business”. They were known to contribute to local police funds and youth functions around town. The other businesses loved them because they bought the finest things and always paid cash. The Oasis even sponsored the Wallace High School’s band uniforms. It was the longest running brothel in Wallace and was run by Madame Ginger. She bought the existing brothel and ran it for over 30 years. The girls were on a rotating brothel “circuit”. They lived…and worked…in the rooms contained in the brothel. The room times were kept with kitchen timers. When you heard your timer go off, you were done and had 90 seconds to clear out.

In 1988, the sheriff tipped off Madame Ginger that the feds were headed to town. Seven girls and Ginger left so quickly they abandoned everything including a sack of groceries left on the kitchen counter. (A little side note I learned from the tour…the feds weren’t even there investigating prostitution. They were there to investigate the crooked sheriff.) Needless to say the world’s oldest profession ended its run in Wallace on that day in January 1988.

The building was purchased by Michelle and Jack Mayfield, who realized they had a unique opportunity. All they had to do was open the door and start charging admission. The Mayfields left the place EXACTLY as they had found it. There are magazines scattered around, lace panties on the dressing tables, makeup and even cigarettes preserved on the bedstands. Each of the ten rooms had a theme and every girl’s things have never been touched. It is all like walking back thru time. The Mayfields got most of their background on the place from the former working girls themselves (including Ginger when she was in her 70s). Shortly after they opened the museum, one of the people taking the tour surprised Michelle by introducing herself as one of them. Many men taking the tour have even acknowledged familiarity with the place. The Mayfields have perfected the art of keeping a poker face at these revelations.

On the bottom floor is a gift shop where you sign up to take the tour. Every hour they take people up the stairs to view the cheap paneling, tiny beds, jukebox and the department store mannequins now wearing the negligees left behind. A listing of items offered (like $15 for 8 minutes of straight, no frills or $25 for 15 minutes of half and half, deluxe), doctor’s names, airline schedules and the phone numbers of local officials adorn the walls of Madame Ginger’s dressing room. To quote Mayfield “This was grocery-store sex”. The women worked 12-hour shifts for two weeks straight, 35 to 40 customers a night. I’ll stop right there and let that sink in……

Location: Wallace, Idaho. Take I-84 out of Boise headed toward Oregon for 252 miles. Take Exit 179 for I-82 toward Umatilla for 30 miles. Take Exit 113 for US-395 for 7 miles. Then take the US-12/US-395 Exit toward Spokane, Washington. Keep left and merge onto I-183 E. Continue onto US-395 for 74 miles. Merge onto I-90 E (entering back into Idaho). After 139 miles take Exit 61 toward Wallace. The Oasis Bordello Museum is located at 605 Cedar St. Phone number (208) 753-0801.

Cost: It is $5 to take the tour. **You have to walk up a steep flight of stairs. There is no handicapped access.**

Lodging and Dining: There are various locations available in Wallace as it is a thriving community.

Special Notes: I wouldn’t take the kids there. They wouldn’t understand and might hear some things you don’t want them to. I would have more pictures, but they don’t allow photography in the actual museum.

There is a lot to do in Wallace. You can look through my other postings to see all the Bucket List opportunities. It is incredible the history of this one town. It is a good idea to just stay an entire weekend and do everything! In two days I checked off a great many things on the list and had a blast doing it. The town is beautiful, the people welcoming and the scenery unbelievable.

I loved this little museum. I was shocked with some stories, mystified by others and took a minute to believe a few. While you are in the gift shop try on a boa, wear a hat, and play the old piano. Get a little crazy…they expect it here!

Oct. 14, 2016

Taft Tunnel is located on the Hiawatha Trail. The tunnel, nearly a mile high in elevation and over a mile in length, became unique because part of it lay in the state of Montana while the other part lay in the state of Idaho. Today, the tunnel has not seen a train in more than 30 years, but it sees hundreds of people on a daily basis. It is popular with hikers and mountain bike enthusiasts…which is how I came to explore it.

When I made my trek down the Hiawatha Trail, my first adventure was to bike through Taft Tunnel. It is located at the Roland Trailhead and it is a mile long tunnel of complete darkness. COMPLETE DARKNESS. Hence why the trail rangers insist you have a light on your bike helmet or handlebars. It is very important that you have the right kind of light. Just a flashlight or a cheap bike light won’t work. You need to speak to someone who knows what they are talking about and get the right one. Seriously! Otherwise, you will be lost in the dark and who knows what you could run into. Yikes!

Location: Take ID-55 into New Meadows (approximately 121 miles). Turn left onto US-95 N and continue into Spalding. Then merge onto US-12 (right) which will become ID-3 N (approximately 262 miles). Follow until you reach Deary then merge to the left onto ID-9 and follow until that merges with ID-6 (to the right). Follow until ID-6 merges back with ID-3. Then continue on ID-3 until you reach St. Maries (approximately 85 miles). Go through St. Maries and take FS 50 east to Avery (about 45 miles) then proceed north on FS Road 456, also known as Moon pass for 9 miles where you can park at the Pearson Trailhead. The shuttle will take you up to Roland, which is the beginning of Taft Tunnel.

Schedule: The trail is open from May 28th to September 25th depending upon the weather. The trail, trailheads and facilities are open 8:30 am to 5 pm daily.
The shuttle buses operate between the Pearson and Roland trailheads. Seating is on a first come, first serve basis. For departure times (and lots of great information) you can go to the website.
http://www.ridethehiawatha.com.

Cost: There are costs associated with exploring the trail. However, if you are just going through the tunnel I don’t believe those costs apply. Refer to the website listed above for more information.

Lodging and Dining: Since this is part of the Hiawatha Trail, refer to my posting about the trail for more information. 

Special Notes: I hate to repeat myself, but bring a good light! Super important! It is scary dark in there. The kids will love it, but there are no pets allowed on the trail. Also, the shuttle bus goes through the tunnel. They always honk before entering so you can get out of the way. It’s a little chilly in the dark so unless it’s a hot summer day, you might want to wear a thin jacket.

Don’t just do the tunnel. If you make it up there, continue for the whole trail. It’s worth it!

Oct. 12, 2016

As I pulled up to this latest adventure, I had to take a deep breath. I have been at this bucket list thing for awhile now and I have been on some amazing adventures. However, I didn’t know if I was prepared for this one. I was about to ride a bike for 15 miles, down a mountain, by myself. Now, some of you outdoor enthusiasts may not think this is a big deal, but to someone who has never, ever in their life attempted such an undertaking, this was a challenge.

The Hiawatha Trail was originally one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the country. When the Milwaukee Railroad was in operation they used the trail to cross the Bitterroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana. In 1998 they opened the Idaho section to hikers and biking. There are 8 open tunnels and 7 high trestles.

The scenery was beautiful, the weather couldn’t have been nicer and I had never dreamed I could do something like this. When all was said and done this was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

I pulled into the parking lot at the bottom of the trail. When I first got there, no one was around. There were restrooms and picnic tables situated around the parking lot. The trail posting said the shuttle to take you to the top came in about an hour so I settled in to wait. I had my bike and my backpack and figured I was ready to go. What an amateur! (Smiles)

Pretty soon some of the trail rangers showed up. One of the rangers was quick to ask if I needed help or had any questions. Greg was a truly nice man. I had a lot of questions and I wasn’t exactly sure I knew what I was doing, but he patiently helped me get everything together. He’s been traveling the trail for four years now. He reassured me that four years ago was the first time he had gotten on a bike in 20 years….and look at him now. He rides everyday! I felt a little better.

I definitely wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. Greg gave me some pointers, located me a helmet and bike light. He even helped me readjust my seat. (Make sure your seat is right. One thing that someone who doesn’t ride all the time is going to walk away from this with is sore buttocks. Ouch!!) By the time the shuttle showed up there were quite a few people ready to jump onboard. The shuttle driver was a hoot! He told all kinds of stories about the history of the trail and made the very bumpy ride really enjoyable.

The shuttle ride takes you up to the trail just before Taft Tunnel. From there you are on your own. There were a lot of people up there. I met families with attachments on their bikes so they could take their youngsters, young kids who passed me rather easily (I’m still embarrassed over that), many first timers like me, and one man who was 92 years old! (And yes….he passed me too!)

I rode along without a care in the world. Through tunnels, across train trestles and through trees. Everyone was so nice! It was breathtaking. Looking out across the Panhandle is so amazing tears will spontaneously erupt on your face. By the time I had gone 7 miles my back end was killing me, my legs almost quit working and I found myself stopping way more often than I should have…..and I would do it all again! It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. They say go to the mountains and find your peace…I definitely found mine!

Location: Take ID-55 into New Meadows (approximately 121 miles). Turn left onto US-95 N and continue into Spalding. Then merge onto US-12 (right) which will become ID-3 N (approximately 262 miles). Follow until you reach Deary then merge to the left onto ID-9 and follow until that merges with ID-6 (to the right). Follow until ID-6 merges back with ID-3. Then continue on ID-3 until you reach St. Maries (approximately 85 miles). Go through St. Maries and take FS 50 east to Avery (about 45 miles) then proceed north on FS Road 456, also known as Moon pass for 9 miles where you can park at the Pearson Trailhead.

Schedule: The trail is open from May 28th to September 25th depending upon the weather. The trail, trailheads and facilities are open 8:30 am to 5 pm daily.
The shuttle buses operate between the Pearson and Roland trailheads. Seating is on a first come, first serve basis. For departure times (and lots of great information) you can go to the website.
http://www.ridethehiawatha.com

Important to know: (I got these tips from Greg – the trail ranger). Bring water but not too much. You don’t need a lot and you will have to carry it. Bring a few snacks to keep up your energy. It is also a good idea to bring an extra pair of socks and Bandaids.

The trail rangers are navigating the trail constantly so if you need help, they will be along. The trail is mostly downhill so unless you are crazy and want to start at the bottom and go up (and I actually saw people doing just that), then it’s a downhill ride.

There are restrooms at the trailheads along with picnic areas. All along the trail are historical markers to tell you about the history of the trail. These are great places to pull off and eat your snacks.

Costs:
For the Trail – Adult $10 / Child 6-13 $6
Shuttle Tickets – Adult $9 / Child 6-13 $6
Picnic Lunches – Turkey/Ham Sandwiches $9.99
Rentals:
Adult Bike – Comfort Ride (Includes light and helmet) $38
Adult Bike – Mountain Bike (Includes light and helmet) $32
Child Bike – Mountain Bike (Includes light and helmet) $22
Tag a longs (Includes helmet) $20
Burley Trailer (Includes helmet) $24
Helmets $6
Lights $5
You can contact them at 208-744-1301 to reserve equipment or for any questions you might have.

Camping:
The Trail is on the St. Joe Scenic River Byway so there are many camping spots around the area. For a map of campgrounds in the area go to http://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/ipnf/recreation/camping-cabins/?recid=6762&actid=29

Lodging:
Hotels/Motels:
Wallace, Idaho:
The Wallace Inn / 800-643-2386 or email rshaffer@cebridge.net
The Bungalow at 214 Cedar / Vacation Rental / 208-512-7686
The Stardust Motel / 800-643-2386
The Brooks Hotel / 800-752-0469 or www.thebrookshotel.com
The Idaho Building / www.idahobuildingwallace.com

Mullan, Idaho:
The Lookout Motel / 800-685-7240 PIN 1670 / danielw@imbris.com
Mulan Recreational Rental / 509-499-2980 / jameswalde@yahoo.com
The Mullan House / 208-755-6481 / www.mullanhouse.com

Kellogg, Idaho:
Baymont Inn and Suites / 866-999-1111
Silverhorn Motor Inn and Restaurant / 800-437-6437

Avery, Idaho:
Scheffy’s Motel & General Store / 208-245-4410 / reservations@scheffys.com
Cabins by the Joe / 425-773-3724 / www.cabinsbythejoe.com

Dining: There are many restaurants in the above listed towns. If you are camping it would be a good idea to stop in Wallace or St. Maries to stock up before you embark.

Special Notes: Bring the kids! I saw all ages on the trail and the kids were enjoying it as much as the adults. I know I plan on bringing mine next time. Leave the pets at home or at camp. There are no pets allowed on the trail.

This was one of the most amazing things I have ever done and I can’t wait to do it again. Be sure to check it out and let me know how your adventure goes. Oh, and tell Greg I said hello!