Sidebar – more about Lewis and Clark

I continue to read about the journey of Lewis and Clark as it is a great way to find out about the area where we are working and since we are actually on their trail we get to visit many of the areas mentioned in their journals.

After crossing over the high passes in the Bitterroot Mountains, located on the border of Idaho and Montana, L&C descended the North Fork of the Clearwater River (this is a correction of an earlier blog). This is the river that is backed up by the Dworshak Dam.  Because they got to this area in late fall, the water in the river was very low and could not be navigated by canoe. Once they got to the confluence of the rivers, near our town of Orofino, they stopped and built 5 dugout canoes. Still, they ended up having to drag the canoes over several low area in the river. Once they reached the Snake River, near present day Lewiston, the river was deep enough that they were able to canoe almost 30 miles a day.

Looking west over the town of Orofino, ID at the Clearwater River.  This is where Lewis and Clark built their 5 dugout canoes.

Looking west over the town of Orofino, ID at the Clearwater River. This is where Lewis and Clark built their 5 dugout canoes.

This is also the lands of the Nez Perce Indians, whom they met as they were coming down the west side of the Bitterroots. Last Friday, I drove through two of their villages (Perce and Weippie) to get to one of our campgrounds. The Nez Perce fed them and taught them how to build dugout canoes, plus escorted them down river to the great falls of the Columbia. The Nez Perce tribes raised horses and used them to cross over the Bitterroots to go hunting for buffalo in the spring of each year. On L&C’s return trip they were able to buy enough horses from them to get back over the Bitterroot Mountains and they were able to follow them as they rode to hunt buffalo in Montana.


Sidebar – Orofino and Clearwater County

September 20, 2014

The closest town to the Dworshak Dam is about a mile away called Ahsahka with maybe 50 people (on a good day if you count pets) but 5 miles from the dam is a town called Orofino (or ō fē no) with a population of 3,000. If you want to go to a real city, you then need to travel about 45-60 minutes to the towns of Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA separated by the Snake River.

Those two towns are at the confluence of the Clearwater River which runs west from the Bitterroot Mountains and through a canyon and passes by Orofino. The Clearwater River was the route of Lewis and Clark. They traveled down the Clearwater to the Snake River and then took the Snake to the Columbia. Although I was a history major in college, I never really studied Lewis and Clark’s trip and only knew what I learned by watching TV. Today I picked up the bible of their trip called “Undaunted Courage” by Stephen Ambrose, which I’m really enjoying. The title came from a letter that President Jefferson wrote saying that Lewis was a man of “undaunted courage.”

Orofino is Spanish, “Oro” means gold and “fino” for fine, so this is the town of fine gold. It is the county seat for Clearwater County and was a “Canoe Camp” where Lewis and Clark built 5 dugout canoes in 1805. I understand that today they like their small community and have managed to keep out all of the fast food restaurants with the exception of Subway. They have one gas station, a post office and even a library which has free WiFi. As mentioned in an earlier blog, their biggest event is the county fair which we attended and watched the horse pull.

One thing that Clearwater County does have is lots of wildlife. Two nights ago we were driving home from dinner with the other volunteers and saw 11 deer along the side of the road. I almost hit two and every day we get a visit from the 14 wild turkeys and a small flock of quail. In fact as I write this, those turkeys are just a few feet from the window eating the bird seed I threw out. They don’t even run off when I go out to throw out more seed. Oh this is a sight not seen before, both the turkeys and the quail are out.  Normally the turkeys chase the quail off.

We regularly sit around with the two other host couples and talk about all of the places we have been and the experiences that we have had. I think that those stories may grow a little each time we tell them. What can I say?  After so much pain and sorrow in my life the Lord has blessed me more than I ever dreamed possible.


Adventures in Orofino

September 16, 2014

We are settled into our new community – we found the local grocery store, had dinner at a local restaurant and attended the county fair. Orofino has about 3000 people that call it home, many are ranchers and live out of town.

Everyone comes together once a year for the county fair and it is a BIG party with food, games, exhibits, rides, competitions and generally just a good time. We wandered into town Friday evening, found some dinner and headed to the grandstand with everyone else to watch the horse pulls. These horses are big, beautiful and incredibly strong. In the lightweight competition the team of two horses would pull 5000 pounds, which is more than double the weight of the two horses together. We could not stay for the heavyweight pull but I assume they pulled more than 5000 pounds. We had a great time watching these horses and also some of the local characters just sitting in the stands!

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The local grocery store was a bit disappointing though. Pretty sad veggies and fruits and nothing too interesting in the meat department. Ah well, we will shop in Lewiston and Clarkson when we get the repairs done on the trailer.

The local Mexican restaurant was excellent and we plan to go back and work our way through the menu!

We are finished with our training and both working at the dam. It feels good to be doing something productive! The people we work with are terrific and it is fun getting to know them. We are enjoying our life here. The wild turkeys and little quail visit every morning and every evening. We had a few deer visit last night, cleaning up the seed and corn that the turkeys and quail left. It would be sad if they did not stop by.


Cliff and Cyndy







Sidebar – Dworshak Dam and Reservoir

It took us about an hour to drive east from Lewiston, ID to the Dworshak Dam.  Of course you can find out all about the dam by simply googling it, but it’s been great fun seeing it in person. It is a reservoir that backs up the North Fork of the Clearwater River for about 54 miles. On Sunday our volunteer coordinator took several of us by boat to get a firsthand view of the whole thing. That’s six and a half hours looking at a lot of water.

Brittney our Volunteer Coordinator showing us  the lake.

Brittney, a Park Ranger and our Volunteer Coordinator, showing us the lake.

The dam was built by and is run by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and almost all of the employees are civilians contracted by the Army. None of the employees at the dam or the power plant are military. Of the 50 employees about half work at the power plant, others do maintenance on the dam or the reservoir and a few work at the visitor’s center or manage the recreation areas like campgrounds, day use areas, boat ramps and patrolling of the reservoir.


The dam empties into the confluence of the larger Clearwater River which is the river that Lewis and Clark floated down on their way to the Pacific.  Many of the cities, streets and businesses around here are named after Lewis and Clark.

This is the North Fork of the Clearwater River.  It actually joins the Clearwater River near the top of this picture.

This is the North Fork of the Clearwater River. It actually joins the Clearwater River near the top of this picture.

During the summer season they hire about 10 couples who volunteer in exchange for full hookups.  Now that Labor Day is over there are only three couples and we are all parked in a volunteer RV area. We work for about 20 hours a week (3 days a week). I will be doing maintenance jobs and clean campsites while Cyndy will be working at the visitor’s center. This is a great way to really get to learn about some of our country’s most beautiful areas and make friends at the same time.

We love having only 3 RVs parked in the Volunteer RV park.  It's so quite at night.


Out and About at the Dam

September 13, 2014

It has been a day for meeting other new volunteers, some work and some exploring. We plan to go to the County Fair later this evening to watch the logging competitions.

Here is what our campsite looks like. We have full hookups and there is room for 4 RV’s in this area reserved for volunteers. Did I mention that it is very nice and we are appreciative of full hookups. Cliff more so than me as he no longer has to haul the honey bucket to dump a few times a week!


Cliff and Virgil are hauling away some of the pine needle debris from our camp area. I think they just like to drive the Gator.


Today’s wildlife photos are of quail! Lots and lots of them wandered by this morning looking for bird seed. The males are colorful and proud strutting around while the hens are more social and having lunch together (Thanks Cliff!).

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Here is a picture from on top of the dam and another of the Visitor Center. Yes, Cliff was on top of the dam in the gator….

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Cliff and Cyndy

Dworshak Dam Idaho

September 12, 2014

We stayed in Coeur D’Alene for 3 days and then drove a bit south and east to Orofino Idaho. We will be volunteering at the Dworshak Dam and Reservoir until the middle of November. I will help in the Visitor’s Center and Cliff will assist with maintenance and checking on the remote camping areas. It is gorgeous here, a high mountain desert with 54 miles of lake backed up behind the dam, providing lots of recreation for the area.

We are enjoying wildlife! There are quail, grouse, wild turkeys, bunnies and deer that have stopped by, sometimes within minutes of each other! There are 3 other couples here, also volunteers and one couple has been putting out corn and bird seed for the wildlife.  We are on the feeding path so we get to see them come down the hill to eat about 2 feet from our back window. We will try to get pictures of the quail but they run pretty fast. This group of 17 wild turkeys were more interested in the corn than running away.



We spent our day yesterday meeting the Park Rangers and Army Corps of Engineers staff and then taking a tour of the area in the afternoon. We will go out on one of the boats on Sunday to take a look at the area and the dam from the water. We are looking forward to exploring the area and learning more about Dworshak Dam.

Today we had to deal with those “life issues” again as we had some damage to the trailer and no cell phone coverage with our phones.

Somewhere along the line on our drive here, we must have kicked up a rock as one of our windows was broken. We found an RV dealer in Clarkson that will be able to fix the window and a couple of other things on the trailer. We talked to “the competition” about a data/phone plan and they came up with something that will work for us. Don’t call or text us on our cell phones for the next 2 months, use our new “home phone” at 720-884-7039 and you can leave a msg. but it won’t know what to do with a text!


Cliff and Cyndy

Coeur D’Alene

September 6, 2014

We made it back to the lower 48! We spent the last 2 weeks driving from Fairbanks AK to Coeur D’Alene ID (about 3300 miles) through some of the most beautiful mountain country we have ever seen, western Canada is like Colorado on steroids! But now we are tired and will hang out here for a few days.

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We visited Banff and Lake Louise!

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We saw wildlife!

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We have made several border crossings and no one has been very interested in looking in our trailer but not so this time! We had the agriculture specialist today and she talked to us for quite awhile about the “rules” and then she took a look at what we had in our frig. And we did not pass as we had 3 grapefruits and now we have no grapefruit!

Cliff and Cyndy