A Hop, Skip and a Jump to Idaho

Wednesday, September 22 through Sunday, September 26, 2021

When we left Butte we headed west of I-90 stopping in Deer Lodge Montana. Why Deer Lodge? To visit the old Montana State Prison, of course! The folks in the gift shop/admissions booth even invited Ollie to take a tour of the the old prison with us.

The “Old Prison” was established 1871 as the Montana Territorial prison until statehood in 1889, then closed its doors in 1979 as the state prison. We found the old prison unlike that of the old Wyoming Prison in that the prisoners had more creature comforts.

Old Montana Prison Grounds

They had access to a movie theater, a cantina out on the exercise yard and a fine arts theater built for them by Willam A. Clark, one of the Copper Kings of Butte fame. The prison was quite crowded which lead to a prison riot in 1959. The riot was quelched by the National Guard which used WWII bazookas to get the job done.

Interesting what one finds inside an old prison

Just a sample of the hundreds of vehicles in Auto Museum

The Deer Lodge Pizza joint and a 1909 mail order Sears and Roebuck carriage house

We are quite surprised that the price of admission includes an auto museum. Who would have thunk a prison would have a quite extensive museum featuring almost every model year of the Ford Model A all the way up to the muscle cars of the 1960’s. Hundreds of beautifully restored and unrestored cars! Mike was in heaven browsing all that hardware.

We overnight in tiny St. Regis MT (319 souls) at The Nugget RV Park. The park is just beautiful as the owners have preserved a natural forested setting yet offer full amenities. The place is run by locals who have a lot of pride in this park. There are forest walking trails for those who would brave the gremlins (and possibly bear and elk) and a several acre grass field whose perimeter serves as a frisbee golf course.

The next morning we stop in the old mining town of Wallace Idaho. Wallace has stuffed itself in a narrow canyon in the Bitterroot Mountains where four streams and five canyons converge onto the course of the South Fork River. It’s the seat of Shoshone County with a population of 784 souls. In its heyday the area produced more silver than any other mining district in the United States. The town is quiet, another traveler asked where they might find a place to eat? I reply, “we are also visiting so I have no idea, sorry”. Another fella passing by in a van asked “Where’s the grocery store?” So it goes in small towns. We walk the entire downtown of Wallace appreciating every bit of this great old town. Jil heads to the grocery store which- I hadn’t noticed- is right across the street from where we parked. The fella that was asking for the grocery store is parked in its parking lot. Wallace has a nice family market by golly!

We continue to Cataldo Mission. The mission is the oldest building in Idaho constructed between 1850 and 1853. It’s now part of Idaho’s State Park system. The exhibit at the visitors center tells the story of how the Jesuit missionaries came to the interior Northwest at the invitation of the Coeur D’Alene and Salish tribes and the profound effects this sacred encounter had on both cultures.

Photos taken from our “front yard” at Blackwell Island RV Park

We are holing up at the Coeur D’Alene Blackwell Island RV Park for a few days. This park is drop dead gorgeous! Located across the Spokane River from the city of Coeur D’Alene. It’s quiet yet is close to downtown for those who want to visit. It has a boat dock and swimming beach, and large grassy areas on which to stroll. Our site is on the end of a loop so we have and unfettered view of the Spokane River, the beach and the large lawn. Life can’t get any better than this!

When the French fur traders arrived in this territory, they began interacting with the local native Americans. They called them the “Coeur d’Alene” tribe, translating literally to “Heart of the Awl”, because the French saw them as being sharp-hearted or shrewd traders.

Downtown Coeur D’alene and homes in the nearby Fort Ground HOA

Coeur d’Alene (53,354 souls) is the seat of Kootenai County, Idaho. The city is located 30 miles east of Spokane, Washington. The locals call the city CDA, I guess because Coeur d’Alene is too complicated to pronounce for them? Fort Sherman, established in 1878, named and sited for General William Tecumseh Sherman, lies on the north shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene, or Lake CDA. Gold and silver deposits were discovered in 1878. A timber boom featuring the highly prized white pine peaked in the 1920’s. Tourism is the major driver of the city’s economy today.

We drove into town and walked the very pretty business district as well as the park that was created between the lake and downtown. The townsfolk have done a great job of keeping the feeling of downtown as if it were 100 years ago. The place is really nice, clean and upscale for sure. The residential areas were neat and tidy as one would expect in this town. Our passage to and our stay in Coeur D’Alene was thoroughly enjoyable.

The ever vigilant Mr. Oliver

Tomorrow we’ll head over new territory for us to Walla Walla for a couple of days. We’ve been to Walla Walla once before but it’s been a while. We are anxious to see what has changed since our last visit.

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