Seeking Gold in Silver City

View Another Adventureexpand_moreexpand_less
menu
June 15, 2013

Little Brenna and I take the doors off the Jeep for a drive to Idaho’s historic Silver City and the surrounding alpine mountains. On the way we stop at the Owyhee Museum in Murphy then begins our search for the gold we finally discover in the setting sun with only a minor loss of skin.

Owyhee Museum
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Owyhee Museum
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206232534
infoinfo_outline

“Do you want to go to the park,” I asked, “or the mountains?” expecting swings and slides would hold sway.

“The mountains!” Brenna answered immediately.

Well hooray. I was bracing for a weekend afternoon on a bench a block away from home at Baggley (our local park).¹

“Grab a coat,” I reminded her as we prepared to leave.

“Why do I need a coat?” she asked for the second time. “It’s warm out.” It is as hard for a five-year-old to think beyond the present as it is for a forty-year-old to appreciate the moment.

  1. City of Boise, “Baggley Park”: parks.cityofboise.org/…/baggley-park
Sheep herder wagon
photo_camera

Camera Settings

Sheep herder wagon
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203450891
infoinfo_outline

Taking pleasure in the shape, size and color of natural forms would be our first order of business but underneath it I wanted Brenna, and all our kids, to understand local history. We pulled off the highway into Murphy’s Owyhee Museum¹ to see what we could learn.

Though too young for much abstraction, I hope the experience of other times and places will instill in Brenna enough sense of direction to avoid future ideological box canyons.

  1. Owyhee County Historical Society: owyheemuseum.org/owyheemuseum; also Facebook: facebook.com/…/174013812666117
Old cans and bottles
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Old cans and bottles
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203452965
infoinfo_outline
Spurs
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Spurs
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203454251
infoinfo_outline
Press desk
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Press desk
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203455935
infoinfo_outline

The first museum space consisted largely of outdoor artifacts such as an old sheepherder’s wagon and arrow heads. The second space was divided between historic home, bank and press furnishings. I did my best to explain their functions to Brenna but I would enjoy returning for a guided tour.

Play time
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Play time
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206241368
infoinfo_outline

“What was that?” I asked, spinning around. I’d heard something clatter to the floor.

“Just this,” Brenna answered meekly as she tried to re-attach a decorative pot topper. I wasn’t so concerned when I saw it had already been repaired once with tape.

“These things are just to look at,” I reminded her.

“I know,” she acknowledged even as she continued to fiddle with things.

Cash register
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Cash register
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203459645
infoinfo_outline
Sinker Creek Canyon
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Sinker Creek Canyon
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203461053
infoinfo_outline

I remembered Jessica and I were impressed by the Sinker Creek Canyon when we rode this way¹ so Brenna and I also turned off Silver City Road shortly after leaving Murphy to follow the bumpy dirt trail to the edge.

  1. Trail Image, “First Ride to Silver City”: trailimage.com/first-ride-to-silver-city
Claimed for America
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Claimed for America
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203463161
infoinfo_outline

“Please daddy, please,” Brenna had pled, flag in hand, as we looked around the Owyhee Museum souvenir shop on our way out.

“Why do you want a flag?” I’d asked before realizing it didn’t much matter. “Alright,” I said.

We went to the counter with the flag and three books: “The Magruder Murders” by Welch, “Massacre Rocks and City of Rocks” by Shannon and “Ferry Boats in Idaho” by Huntley. I still need to write about our family trip to City of Rocks,¹ have a plan to ride the Magruder Corridor Road² and have a few times been curious about old ferry landings. Those books should be helpful.

“You must read a lot,” the lady there had said. “Does she know the ‘Star Spangled Banner’?” she then asked, looking at Brenna. Her tone made me think my answer better be “yes.”

I thought a moment of platitudes, flags and books and decided just to say, “She’ll be in kindergarten this fall. She’ll probably learn it there.”

  1. National Park Service, “City of Rocks National Preserve”: nps.gov/…/index
  2. Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, “Magruder Corridor Road”: goo.gl/7axtB
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206249404
infoinfo_outline
Natural fence
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Natural fence
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203466705
infoinfo_outline

I wondered what forces had formed the almost perfectly straight rock conglomerate between the trail and canyon cliff. Maybe we can make a teleological argument¹ of it!

  1. Wikipedia, “Teleological argument”: en.wikipedia.org/…/Teleological_argument
Parking brake
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Parking brake
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206252848
infoinfo_outline
Sinker Creek
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Sinker Creek
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206255718
infoinfo_outline
Across the Jordan
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Across the Jordan
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206257892
infoinfo_outline

“Is this close to grandma’s house?” Brenna asked as we rose from the dry plain and canyon into the trees toward Silver City. I understood her thinking. My mom lives on a forest hill in north Idaho.

“It kind of looks like grandma’s, doesn’t it?” I acknowledged. “But no, grandma’s is a long ways from here.”

We followed the winding dirt road through the mountains and trees to Silver City. Before parking in town we drove through to the campground and picnic area along Jordan Creek at the end of Main Street.¹

  1. Bureau of Land Management, “Silver City Campground”: blm.gov/…/Silver_City
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206259260
infoinfo_outline
Beaver stick
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Beaver stick
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206261116
infoinfo_outline

We stopped a minute there at the town campground to cool off in the creek. Brenna emerged triumphantly from the thicket along the water exclaiming, “Look dad, a beaver skinned this stick!” We still have the stick.

photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203478943
infoinfo_outline
Campground Beetle
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Campground Beetle
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206265138
infoinfo_outline
Downtown
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Downtown
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203482455
infoinfo_outline

After a refreshing walk in the clear waters of Jordan Creek we returned up the short hill and parked by the 1863 Idaho Hotel¹ for some exploration on foot.

  1. Historic Silver City, “Idaho Hotel”: historicsilvercityidaho.com/idahohotel
Pat’s What-Not Shop
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Pat’s What-Not Shop
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206268208
infoinfo_outline

We first visited the souvenir shop¹ where Brenna found few things undesirable.

  1. Online: historicsilvercityidaho.com/patswhatnotshop
Lilliputian pewter miners
photo_camera

Camera Settings

Lilliputian pewter miners
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206270024
infoinfo_outline

“Are these made locally or do you have them brought in?” I asked Pat’s proprietor (maybe Pat). I was enchanted by tiny pewter miners busily extracting pyrite from variously sized amethyst geodes displayed around the store.

“We get them from a guy in New Mexico,” she answered. “Aren’t they wonderful?”

“Yeah. Do you have his card?” I asked.

“No. I think his name is Howard,” she said. I wondered if she realized how badly that Internet search would go.

Idaho Hotel bar
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Idaho Hotel bar
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206271866
infoinfo_outline

“I want to look in more houses,” Brenna insisted. She had the impression the whole town was open to our perusal — we could walk through any door we wanted.

“Let’s eat first,” I proposed in lieu of explanation as we left Pat’s shop.

Belly up
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Belly up
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203489681
infoinfo_outline

“Our grill is off,” the girl behind the bar cautioned as we entered the Idaho Hotel restaurant.¹ “I have pies or the things over there,” she explained with a gesture toward some candy bars and bananas.

Apple pie wasn’t a bad meal.

  1. I think this happened last time I visited. Their hours aren’t exactly regular. Best to check before you go: historicsilvercityidaho.com/…/Hours_H
Duct taped errata
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Duct taped errata
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206276120
infoinfo_outline
Superior Oak 161
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Superior Oak 161
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206278558
infoinfo_outline
Shafted no more
photo_camera

Camera Settings

Shafted no more
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206280740
infoinfo_outline

“Are we going to look for gold now?” Brenna asked. Her mom had apparently asked her to bring some back, a request Brenna took seriously. I kept hearing about the gold.

After finishing our pie we headed up War Eagle Mountain above town to seek those riches. Jessica and I had stopped at a mine shaft there¹ that I thought might satisfy our quest. Unfortunately, it had been blasted shut.

  1. Picture when it was open: trailimage.com/first-ride-to-silver-city
Fairview Cemetery
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Fairview Cemetery
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206282696
infoinfo_outline

Brenna has been curious about death lately so, continuing up the mountain, we stopped next to look at the cemetery of an old War Eagle mining town, Fairview, whose hundred-some buildings were destroyed by fire in October 1875.¹

  1. Murray, Sharron A., Ghost Towns, “Fairview”: ghosttowns.com/…/fairview
Too many unkowns
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Too many unkowns
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203501785
infoinfo_outline

“For a decade after 1864, most of Silver City’s fabulous mineral wealth came from upper War Eagle Mountain, which rises a vertical mile above [the plain]. With lodes far richer than those found elsewhere, War Eagle miners fought a series of violent wars for control of valuable claims. Troops from Fort Boise finally had to intervene in a one-armed clash in 1868. San Francisco bank failures ended production there in 1875 and thriving camps became ghost towns.”¹

  1. On site signage: flickr.com/…/3301816395
photo_camera

Camera Settings

http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206287036
infoinfo_outline

Brenna was dissatisfied with the anonymous markers — “why?”, “how come?” I don’t know.

View of Hayden Peak
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
View of Hayden Peak
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206288752
infoinfo_outline

“Why did the chicken cross the road?” Brenna asked as we continued up the mountain.

“Why?” I answered.

“No,” she insisted, “you’re supposed to guess.”

“To get to the other side?”

“You heard that one before!” she responded, exasperated.

On top of War Eagle
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
On top of War Eagle
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203507319
infoinfo_outline
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203509203
infoinfo_outline

“Is there gold here?” Brenna asked when we stopped at the summit of War Eagle Mountain.

“Mmm, I don’t think this is a good place to look for gold,” I suggested.

“Dad,” she complained, “you said we could look for gold!” I pointed out some pretty lichen but she didn’t find that very satisfying. We didn’t stay there long.

North across the Snake River Plain
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
North across the Snake River Plain
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206295208
infoinfo_outline
Below War Eagle
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Below War Eagle
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206297752
infoinfo_outline
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203516287
infoinfo_outline

We thought playing on the snow would be kind of cool. It was kind of cool.

Near the snow
photo_camera

Camera Settings

Near the snow
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206301696
infoinfo_outline
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206303716
infoinfo_outline

“I wish we could live in the mountains,” Brenna remarked thoughtfully as we followed the dirt track from War Eagle, past the snow to wherever it would lead (hopefully to gold). I enjoyed hearing that.

photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203522573
infoinfo_outline
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206308562
infoinfo_outline
Hayden Peak
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Hayden Peak
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203527419
infoinfo_outline

The road brought us to Hayden Peak, the last stop we would have time for, where Brenna declared various rock piles her “castle,” marked with her new flag, while collecting small daisy-like flowers in the bucket she brought to carry gold. My job was to find that gold. Or at least to say that’s what I was doing.

No gold here
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
No gold here
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206313384
infoinfo_outline
Kind of gold
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Kind of gold
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206316200
infoinfo_outline
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203534939
infoinfo_outline
From 8,400 feet
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
From 8,400 feet
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206320824
infoinfo_outline

The view from there, the highest point in the Owyhees,¹ of things big and small, was impressive. It was a pleasure just to walk slowly around and take in the sights.

  1. Summit Post, “Hayden Peak”: summitpost.org/…/196061
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206323468
infoinfo_outline
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206326274
infoinfo_outline
One of her castles
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
One of her castles
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206329300
infoinfo_outline
Petite plants
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Petite plants
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203548807
infoinfo_outline

I heard Brenna cry out as I knelt looking at curious plants and rocks. I looked up, ready to bolt to her aid, and saw her standing not far off, holding her hand. She’d fallen and scraped her palm. It didn’t bleed but she could see red under a small flap of skin.

“That will be your new skin,” I reassured her.

She looked distressed. “I don’t want red skin!”

“Don’t worry,” I laughed. “It will turn pink.”

“Peach,” she corrected me. After another moment of thinking she seemed distressed again and asked, “when will I lose all my skin?”

It was just luck, I think, that my brain caught her meaning. “Oh sweetie,” I consoled. “You lose your teeth but not your skin.” I went on to explain skin cells but I’m pretty sure she stopped listening.

My feet (photo by Brenna)
photo_camera

Camera Settings

My feet (photo by Brenna)
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203551011
infoinfo_outline
More castles
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
More castles
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206337150
infoinfo_outline
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203556279
infoinfo_outline
Buckle up*
photo_camera

Camera Settings

Buckle up*
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203559087
infoinfo_outline
  1. starPhoto by Brenna
Dad*
photo_camera

Camera Settings

Dad*
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206345168
infoinfo_outline

I told her I would stop when she wanted to take pictures of things from the Jeep. That was a mistake. We stopped a lot.

  1. starPhoto by Brenna
Pushing up daisies
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Pushing up daisies
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203563997
infoinfo_outline

“Are you going to die, dad?” Brenna asked nonchalantly as we descended from Hayden Peak.

“Yes,” I answered matter-of-fact. She’d asked several times before about me, my dad, my grandparents. She knew the answer.

“Is mom going to die?”

“Yes.”

“Is everyone going to die?”

“Yes.”

“Are you going to die before mom?”

“I don’t know,” I answered, “but you know you’ll be grown up — probably a mom yourself, if you want — before that happens.” She seemed satisfied with that. When she’s older I might also suggest this journal, what I’m writing now, is a part of me that can survive as long as she wishes.

Long mountain shadows
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Long mountain shadows
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203566935
infoinfo_outline
Yellow flowers (photo by Brenna)
photo_camera

Camera Settings

Yellow flowers (photo by Brenna)
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9206353568
infoinfo_outline
Free spirit
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Free spirit
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203571709
infoinfo_outline

I had in mind the jacket I was going to bring but in the (artistically licensed) commotion of reminding Brenna to bring hers, mine was left home. Brenna appeared to enjoy the dark and windy drive home but for me it was darn cold.

Our gold was in the sky
photo_camera

Camera Settings

mapmap
Our gold was in the sky
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/9203573427
infoinfo_outline

I hope we have a thousand more trips like that.