Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Our new Garmin RV GPS surprised me when it picked the route from Caldwell to McCall as the route was almost 20 mile longer going up US 95 than US 55. We did as directed and headed northwest on I-84 towards Ontario, OR. We exit the interstate and head towards Weiser, ID on US 95 stopping in Payette OR for fuel. Diesel at $2.19 a gallon at the Maverick fuel stop is as cheap as I’ve seen it for a long time.
We continue on through farmland and cross the Payette River into Weiser (pronounced Weezer) Idaho (5560 souls). The town was named after Peter Weiser, an American soldier and member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition known as the Corps of Discovery. Weiser is the seat of Washington County. This is a proud rural community that hosts the National Oldtime Fiddle Contest and Festival.
Weiser River Valley near Midvale, ID
We no sooner leave Weiser and we are deep in farm and ranch land sometimes traveling in valleys and at other times in rolling hill country. There’s a wildland fire north west of here so the air is not as clear as usual.
Overlook of Midvale farm and ranch land
We stop at the Midvale Hill rest area to enjoy the view down towards the farming/ranching community of Midvale (173 souls).
Cambridge (321 souls comes next. It has by far the largest downtown district between Weiser and New Meadows. The town is huge at three blocks long! It’s actually a very neat and clean place that is a jumping off point to Hell’s Canyon Recreation Area.
We stop in Council (839 souls), the seat of Adams County. The community hosts the Council Mountain Music Festival the third weekend of August. Also of note is the July 4th “World Champion Porcupine Race”. Wild porcupines are captured then “raced”. After the race they are returned to the place where they were captured.
US 95 was realigned not too long ago and bypassing downtown. That may have been good for the locals as there aren’t any more semi’s rolling through town. It may also had a negative effect in that most vehicular traffic now bypasses the town. That can’t be good if you are a local merchant. The Forestry Service headquarters is a good place to meander for a while and the small parking lot is always empty. We take advantage of the nice grounds and walk the mutzos.
Climbing up into the pines after leaving Council, ID
Shortly after leaving Council the road heads uphill. Soon we are in pine country. US 95 winds through the Weiser River Canyon for miles. It’s a very pretty part of the drive, slow and windy but pretty nontheless. Twenty 21 miles later the canyon opens up into a huge meadow.
New Meadows (496 souls) is located just south of the 45th parallel and on the Little Salmon River. The junction of US 55 and US 95 lie on the east end of downtown. The town hosts the last surviving Pacific and Idaho Northern Railroad Depot (circa 1910). The railroad served as an important “farm to market” function until 1940 and then as a timber railroad. The railroad was abandoned in the 1970’s. Without the depot the town would probably not existed. It serves today as the community center. The beauty of the New Meadows area is a real plus on this leg of the trip.
After leaving the meadows and now joining US 55 we start a climb up a very narrow, very windy canyon that’s just not big rig friendly. I don’t like this portion of the drive- not one bit- of the five miles of steep uphill, shoulder-less, straight down dropoff, rocky mother of a roadway. With what seems a half a lifetime we work our way out of the canyon but still are in the climbing mode.
The road passes the Brundage ski area turnoff before cresting. It’s a long, gentle downslope into downtown McCall. We turn at Mission Street, head up the hill in a residential area. Within minutes we reach our turn and head into the McCall RV Resort.
More next time.