A Travellerspoint blog

Sep 5 to 10 - Back in the USA

Midway Border Crossing, Colville Walmart, Log sorting, all night long, Riley Creek Campground, Coeur d'Alene, Wildfire smoke,

sunny 25 °C

Our trip south from Mabel Lake began in a bit of wild fire smoke. We decided to head into the middle of Washington state, aiming for the small town of Colville for a one night Walmart stay. We headed down Highway 97 towards Kelowna and then switched to the smaller, less travelled highway 33, which would lead us right through the Joe Rich fire, which had forced some 600 people to evacuate their homes just a week ago. Lots of smoke as well


The fire area was right on the highway, and although mostly extinguished now, we could see how close this fire got to devastating this small community. We've heard that the fires in the Western US are just as severe as BC's, and the smokiness continues as we head south. We cross in the US at 1:00pm at Midway, a sleepy little 9am to 5pm crossing. Jenny has thoughtfully put all our produce into a single bag and we let the border guard examine the contents. Unfortunately, we lost our three potatoes to obscure rules about what can and can't cross between countries. :)

We arrived at Colville around 3pm, after a back road drive that wound up and down over hill and dale. We really do love the backroads on our travels. So much nicer than pounding along an expressway at 70 mph. Yes, we are in the states and will use miles per hour, fahrenheit temperatures, and so on. We'll still quote distances in kilometers as that is how our odometer is set up.

Colville has one great big thing, and it is a log sorting yard. That log sorting yard is right across the road from the Walmart store. Massive machines moving logs here and there to and fro on at least a 100 acre site. Logging trucks come in, a giant moving crane lifts off the full load of logs and puts in on the pile. The logs are fed down a conveyor and sorted by size into new piles, which are then loaded onto other trucks and sent off to mills. Mind boggling! Did I mention noisy, oh yeah, a constant level of sound, 24 hours a day.


We bought a new Trac Phone for our time in the states. Our Eastlink phone would cost us $5 a day if we wanted to use it here...we plan on 84 days so that would be $420. We bought a phone, plus a card for air time, as well as some data, for $60.

Our night was not too bad. The log sort went on most of the night, but we got used to it. Then suddenly, at 4am, it stopped and there was quiet for 3 hours. We did a bit of shopping and headed off towards a three night stay at Riley Creek US Army Corp of Engineers campground just over the border into Idaho. Another lovely drive, up and down once again on an almost empty road.

Riley Creek is a beautiful place, right on the Pend Oreille River. The smoke was so thick on our way in that the other shore of the river was shrouded in haze. Our campsite is treed, and has both electric and water, for just $27 a night.


Our friends George and Karmen Reid arrived late, after a long drive from Jasper, Alberta. We had pre arranged to make supper for them and we ate just as dusk descended. By the time we were finished it was pitch black and we turned in. Of course, campfires are not allowed.

We are in need of some car servicing, so part of our next day's tour of the area was to find a car repair service where we could make an appointment for some needed work on the Honda Pilot. We have discovered on our travels that appointments are needed for just about any service. The four of us headed off on a day long local tour. We stopped in Coeur d'Alene, a lovely city of 50,000 on the shores of the lake with the same name. The name is based on a local native tribe, and loosely translated means "Heart of an Awl" on the basis that the natives were very shrewd and tough to negotiate with.

We found an auto repair shop for a Monday morning appointment and stopped for lunch at a local brewery, of course. George can smell them out at this point in his travels. The day continued very smoky and the scenery blanketed in haze. The smoke is definitely having an effect on people. We saw very few runners and many people were wearing face masks. There are health warnings to take it easy, and that is what we are going to have to do. A short walk at the campground left us feeling less than perfect.

The next day the four of us headed on a scenic drive that had been pointed out to us at a visitor centre. Again, a smoky day. We are beginning to think we might need to change our route south as we move forward. The fires are thick in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, as well as BC and Northern California, and the smoke swirling all through the area. There is no rain in the immediate forecast and the fires are expected to continue. Jenny and I will look at our route plan once we get into Coeur d'Alene for a planned weekend stay.

Our scenic drive was semi-scenic. Deep smoke blocked out the views:


We came upon flock after flock of wild turkeys:


The highlight of our drive was the stop at the Ross Creek Cedars, a grove of ancient trees. It was an amazing walk through massive trees. We will let the pictures tell the stories. This was the first time in days that we were not surrounded by fire smoke.


We stopped for lunch at a floating restaurant in Hope Idaho.


We had a great last evening with our buddies. They have a George Foreman Grill and we used it to make Rueben sandwiches which turned out great. We parted the next day, George and Karmen headed for Missoula, and us to Coeur d'Alene. We stopped for coffee and internet time at a Safeway in Sandpoint, and as we came out to depart, there was the Reid's and their Airstream.


Now, after a night in Coeur d'Alene, with some decent internet we have decided to alter our route south in the hopes of avoiding the smoke. Our goal is to get to Yosemite National Park, in California. We had planned on going south through Oregon but the forecast is for a return to severe smoke in the next few days. We will now head south through Idaho, and then cross Nevada in the general direction of Reno. We are not planning of making any reservations on this leg, rather we will make decisions as we go based on how the smoke forecast is. We expect to arrive at Yosemite on September 18.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 06:28 Archived in USA Tagged colville riley_creek corp_of_engineers_camping ross_creek_cedars wildfire_smoke

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So good seeing you guys again! So much smoke! We encountered even more fires east of Sandpoint on our way to Missoula. Great photos on you blog. I love the one of Jenny taking a picture of the ancient, tall cedar from the ground!

by Karmen Reid

Too bad re the Smoke but You will LOVE Yosemite , been there .
Be safe :-) :-)

by Steve Banks

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