Tuesday, August 28, 2007

(19) Idaho, Downey, Lava Hot Springs, Soda Springs


Downey (City park, $10.00 per night)
Downata Hot Springs (Passport America, $11.00 per night)
Lava Hot Springs
Chesterfield (Mormon Ghost Town)
Soda Springs
Pocatello Idaho

Well I crossed over…. Another border that is. I’m in the south east corner of Idaho. Lots of Mormon influence here as well as in Utah. Interesting, I heard the other day that the Mormon faith is now the 4th or 5th largest religion in the U.S. I can see why as well, as their members do missionary work both in this country and all over the world before starting a career or starting a family. I’ve seen many of the men, always in pairs, dressed in their dark pants, white crisp shirt and tie, walking the streets, talking to anyone who will listen. The women do missionary work as well, but if just every male member does missionary work for a year or two before going to work and having a family, that’s a lot of missionaries traveling around spreading the word. Oh, did you know that the reason they do genealogy is so they can baptize the deceased members of each family back in history. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

The town of Downey (pop. 613) has a grocery store, lumber yard, post office and a city campground, which I’ll stay at for a couple days, waiting for my mail to be delivered. How do these people make a living? I guess it’s the farms in the area. The campground is part of their city park and county fair grounds.

Well onto other subjects of potato’s and hot springs. The campsite I’m staying at is Downata Hot Springs. It’s a capped hot springs that is then fed into a large recreational swimming pool, hot tub and they have lots of tube slides to go down. Pretty cool especially for the younger kids. And yes, I went down the biggest of the water slides, the Dragon Slide. Wheeee, what fun!
I drove over to Lava Hot springs the other day. The town is quaint with both an old fashioned hot springs and a newer jazzier hot springs with the big swimming pools and rides for kids. The water was pretty hot and I only stayed in it for about 15 minutes at a time. Neat to see the bubbles coming up through a well manicured pebble bottom. Lots of benches to sit or lay back on. Oh, you can also rent inner tubes and ride down the rushing river between the hot springs. A fast and swirling ride for sure.

While I was in Lava Hot Springs, I saw a huge Weeping Willow tree. It reminded me of a vacation my family took when I was about 7 or 8. We always stayed at these small wood cabins usually on a lake in Northern Michigan far away from any towns or cities. I remember seeing a weeping willow for the first time at this small mom and pop camp ground. I’ve always loved the look of a weeping willow tree. I remember the cabin with it’s really old fashioned fridge with the round cooling element on top, a real water pump in the kitchen and the charm of the cabin. And I remember our Mom taking us three kids out for a paddle in a row boat. Mom did all the paddling and was having a hard time. It wasn’t until we got out into the middle of the lake that we realized not only was she paddling against the flat back end of the boat, but that the anchor was still down! Needless to say, it was hard not to laugh, but with our Mom really pissed, we tried our best not too. Memories. Crisp fresh air at night, Mom and Dad going out for a while and we kids staring out into the dark and seeing a skunk! Ekk! Wonder if my sisters remember those trips?

Just about a mile south of the campground I’m staying at is the Red Rock pass. About 15,000 years ago this natural dam broke loose and released a 300 foot wave of water out of Lake Bonneville which originally covered most of Utah and Nevada. All that’s left of it is The Great Salt Lake in Utah. So basically I’m at the bottom of an ancient sea bed, pretty cool when you think about it.
The next day, I drove back towards Lava Springs and continued over a mountain pass into a lush valley. At the bottom of the valley, I turned left onto a small county road. Traveling past acres of ranches and farm land. A couple of tractors off in the distance were tilling the dry fields not yet planted or having just been harvested recently. Clouds of ocher dust hung in the air above each tractor, suspended on the hot heavy air. Occasionally swirling as a light breeze blew by. I continued for miles down this undulating road as it followed the natural contours of the land. At the end of the valley, with my tummy feeling light each time I went over the next rise, with no where else to go, the ghost town of Chester appeared. First an old abandoned wood framed house, then the scattered homes and a couple of stores appeared on the rise overlooking the entire valley. Many of the homes were built of locally made bricks, others in the traditional log cabin style. The original Oregon Trail passing nearby.

I had a private tour by Anne, who’s family had owned one of the houses going back to it’s beginnings in 1881. The association that now runs the town is being aided by many of the descendants, who come back each year and provide funds and labor to restore their family’s ancestral homes. Most of the families were large, with 8-12 children each, living in relatively small homes with usually only two bedrooms and maybe an attic/loft for all the kids to sleep in. They still have a number of outdoor privy’s and yes, I used one of them. How rustic.

Anne telling stories about the young 2 yr old Indian girl and her 5 yr old brother, who were offered to one of the white settlers for a sack of grain. The white family had many mouths to feed so did not give the sack of grain, but did end up adopting the to children, rather than have the Indians kill the children. The young girl grew up to become a well respected mid-wife in the community, helping birth over 1,000 babies. Or the story about Dr Kacley who was abducted in the middle of the night by a gang. When he arrived at Butch Cassidy’s hideout, Butch said he was sorry to have had to hijack the Doctor, but one of his men needed patching up real bad. The doc told Butch Cassidy, he’d better decide whether he had been kidnapped or brought there of his own free will, because the Doc wouldn’t work on anyone while he was abducted. Butch took a while to think it over and decided the Doc had come of his own free will. Later, Butch had him escorted back to his hide out a couple more times in the dead of night to help his wounded men.
The tour began at the Nathan Barlow log store. Everything currently sold in the store today, could have been purchased back in 1989-1903 when it was in operation. Lots of good home preserves, Hershey’s chocolate bars, candy and toys. Even having tags indicating the date the item came out on the market.

The one house that I was completely taken by, was the Denmark Jensen Log home. It’s a classic salt-box style and the interior is whitewashed with wonderful Scandinavian accent colors of rich blue and even pink trim in the bedroom. Being of Finish/Swedish decent, I completely fell in love with the house. I learned about the Mormon Tithing Office and how each member gave as they could each year. The food and such would then be distributed to those in need. And still is to this day.

Of course the other more prestigious homes made of brick (3-5 bricks thick), the Tithing Office, the first Church and Amusement Hall all added to my learning experience about our pioneers who settled the west.

Well after such a fun tour, I drove a bit further into Soda Springs and had a good lunch in an historic hotel and witnessed the hourly geyser. It’s the only captive geyser. It was found by drilling about 350 feet down. When it broke loose and became a geyser. The Gov requested that it be capped after a short while, since it was disrupting the flow of Old Faithful. So it was capped and put on a timer and now goes off via timer every hour…. How disneyesk.
Near the end of this tour, I went into Pocatello Idaho. A small town in the heart of Idaho surrounded by huge mountain ranges, going off in every direction. I stopped into their historic museum (which wasn’t all that much to look at), but the gal behind the desk told me about some of the history of the area. About interviewing an older lady of 90, who remembered the Shawnee Indians who camped out near the river, where the current high school now sits. The woman recalled how the Indians were intrigued by the smell of her mother baking home made bread. And how the first couple of times, they just walked into her home, unannounced. Her Mom was frightened at first, but realized that it was the bread baking that had gotten their interest. The Indians were not beggars and after looking at the white woman’s children with their battered or bare feet, quickly began to barter moccasins and other Indian crafts in exchange for some of the bread. To think that the museum attendant (formerly a school teacher) had interviewed this elderly woman about 15 years ago and these stories were about life in Pocatello, not that far in the past really brings history to life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just heard about the Chesterfield restoration from a descendant of Demark Jensen. How nice to be able to read your comments about where they came from. South Dakota gal.