We were thrilled to be included in this Our Americana podcast. We’ve conducted many interviews over the phone and in person before film and camera crews but this was our first via Skype phone. The interviewer, Josh Hallmark, skillfully organized my rambling dialogue into a story worth sharing. It was delightful to talk about the broader aspects of being a modern-day roadside attraction with connections to those of yesteryear. We also discuss why we think our giant dog in Idaho is appealing to visitors, and, as creators of Dog Bark Park, what Dennis & I find appealing about our visitors and guests. To access the podcast click here.
Last week Roamer didn’t have to travel to see a spectacular sight; pink cotton-candy clouds. June sunsets can be quite special and this one did not disappoint. From his parking pad at Dog Bark Park Roamer was treated to big fluffy white cumulus clouds to the east colored pink by the setting sun.
Did you know the name cumulus comes from Latin, meaning to pile up? This is exactly the action of cumulus clouds, which typically form at altitudes between 8000 and 20,000 feet depending on the moisture content in rising air. Their upper parts continually grow or mushroom with rounded parts piling one atop the other forming what some describe as looking like cauliflower heads.
Cumulus clouds are also noteworthy in that they typically have flat bottoms. When the head of the cloud becomes anvil shaped it is often an indicator of potential thunderstorms. When the anvil and cloud bottoms become dark grey instead of white it is even more likely a storm will happen.
Happy summer and good cloud-watching!
In this episode Roamer enjoys making stops near home to see the prairie in bloom up close. These huge fields carpeted in the most brilliant yellow imaginable are canola flowers (rape seed). That’s right, the plant that produces seeds from which canola oil is extracted. As canola is often a rotation crop for wheat these massive blankets of yellow rarely appear in the same location every year. On a warm sunny day the air for miles around the fields is scented with a heavy perfume from the flowers.
Often the plants reach close to 5-ft tall. After flowering they gradually dry up losing their height & fading to floppy weedy looking masses of amber. Harvest is typically in mid-August.
For a few miles along US Hwy 95 towards Grangeville, old wild apple trees erupt into bloom. The trees are along the old railroad bed just out of reach of the tractors and combines that ply the grain & canola fields lining the track bed. We think perhaps the trees sprouted from apple cores disposed of by passengers & train crew as they approached or left the train depot in Fenn. Most years in late summer people harvest the apples which typically are quite small but especially good for making sauce. One year we picked apples from one tree that had reddish flesh which cooked into surprisingly pretty pinkish purple applesauce! In winter the trees act like snow fences forming blowing snow into deep drifts on the leeward side providing plenty of spring moisture to nourish the untended trees.
While exploring along the railroad bed Sprocket found a pocket of wild Camas flowers. Later wild onion and lupine bloom in the grass at track’s edge as well. Whizzing by on the main highway one has little opportunity to realize this pretty oasis of nature exists but a few feet away.
Sometimes even a dog needs to head to town on a little business. Here’s a glimpse of places we frequent in the commercial hub of Grangeville, Idaho which is a quick 14-mile 15-minute drive from Cottonwood. Grangeville is the county seat of Idaho County meaning there’s a court house, jail, lawyer & licensing offices, title companies and more. Most of these places are situated on Main Street which is also the shopping & restaurant hub of town.
We visit the Health Food Store often for granola ingredients. Our Prairie’s Best Fruited Granola is a favorite main breakfast feature for our Dog Bark Park Inn guests. The original recipe came from Frances’ sister in North Carolina in the 1970’s & has been modified over time as new healthful ingredients such as flax meal & canola oil have become readily available. Dried fruits such as pineapple & papaya are added for extra deliciousness.
We’re happy to share our easy to make Prairie’s Best Fruited Granola recipe. Just send us a message & we’ll get it to you.
Next, Roamer delivered some outgoing parcels containing dog carvings to the UPS shipping center for sending completed carvings to eager customers awaiting their new pets.
And lastly, since it’s spring a stop at LeAnne’s Garden Center is a must for picking up more lovely flowering plants for Dog Bark Park.
This episode opens with Roamer continuing on the Old White Bird Hill Road not far from Cottonwood. Before breaking out of the forest he was amused by some bright red bluebird nesting boxes on trees alongside the road! They appear to have been freshly painted & each had a house number. If interested to learn more about bluebirds or to view plans for building boxes tap here for the link. At Dog Bark Park we usually see a few western bluebirds in June, presumably on migration to their nesting areas.
Zipping up the modern White Bird Grade Road (Hwy 95), Roamer stopped to look across the wide expanse where the old spiral road traverses the hill. The old grade is an enjoyable drive requiring slower speeds with numerous turnouts to take in the vistas. This is Nez Perce National Historical Park Service land which is open for hiking & contemplation of the peoples and events that happened here. White Bird Hill is the site of the first battle of the Flight of Nez Perce 1877 conflicts.
Closer to the top of the grade, Roamer pulled over at this warning sign for motorists travelling down the steep curving grade. The road is 7 miles longs with a 7% grade and many curves to navigate. There are three runaway truck safety ramps along the way. Such thickly graveled up-slope ramps are commonly seen, and hopefully seldom used, on steep down grades in mountain country in the event trucks or other vehicles lose their breaks.
Back over the top of White Bird Hill Roamer left Hwy 95 to visit Tolo Lake Recreation Area.
This small lake is in the middle of agricultural land with cattle often grazing on the other side of the fencing. This is a popular area for bird watching, fishing and enjoying the solitude of being on the water on a quiet late afternoon. This is also a great place for stargazing with no nearby light. Amenities include a picnic shelter, accessible ramps to the water, interpretive signs about the history of Tolo Lake.
In ancient times Tolo Lake was a watering hole for Columbian mammoths where some of the giant mammals died. Their bones were not discovered until 1994 as sediment was removed from the lake to improve fish habitat. There is a full-size replica of a mammoth for visitors to see just a few miles from Tolo Lake at Eimier’s Park next to the Chamber of Commerce building on Hwy 95 at Grangeville.
In the segment, Roamer visits places around Grangeville, Idaho.
Grangeville, 15 miles and 15 minutes from Dog Bark Park, is the largest town in our county, Idaho County. The county, about the size of the State of Massachusetts, has a population of 16,500 people. What we do possess lots of in the county is mountains, trees, prairie lands, rivers and streams. This means plenty of places to explore without the hustle and bustle of people always about.
In advance of heading to the mountains of the Nez Perce National Forest, Roamer stops at the visitor center in the US Forest Service Nez Perce Nat’l Forest Office on 104 Airport Road, Grangeville, Idaho. There he was able to get information about hiking trails in the forest above Grangeville as well as info about historic sites on the forest he might want to visit later this summer.
Roamer spotted an Idaho Dept. of Lands Fire Management Division car in the lot reminding him the offices here also house the Interagency Fire Dispatch Center that coordinates fire fighting details on the area’s federal, state and county lands. There’s a Smoke Jumper Base located adjacent to the airport where visitors can watch all the comings and goings of fire fighting helicopters, smoke jumper planes and aerial bomber planes when fires are in the area.
Roaming south from Grangeville on the old White Bird Hill Road Roamer stopped at this vista to enjoy the view across the prairie below. The Mountain in the center of the photo is Cottonwood Butte mountain that overlooks Roamer’s home place at Dog Bark Park. The prairie, called the Camas Prairie, is named after the blue camas wildflower that blooms on open meadows and undisturbed fields. We have a few plants at Dog Bark Park that bloom in May. Native Americans, including the Nez Perce people whose country we are in, harvest the bulbs for edible and ceremonial uses.
A short while later, Roamer stops again to sniff in the clean fragrance of the mountains and to get a close-up view of dogtooth violets on the bank above the road. This plant is also sometimes called adder’s tongue or trout lily. Interesting that it is not a violet but rather in the lily family. They typically grow in woodlands and mountain meadows. We’re always happy to see their yellow dipped flower heads some springs at Dog Bark Park.Cresting the top of the hill, Roamer suddenly is treated to a much different view. Now he gazes into White Bird Creek country and the Salmon River drainage beyond. Even further out are the snowy mountains above McCall, Idaho. This is sure big country with rivers galore and spectacular lakes, like Payette Lake at McCall. Not many people are on the roads or in our small towns. It’s country big enough for those who take the time to ponder while they wander to let the mind roam free. But be sure to have plenty of gas, water, and kibble in your vehicle in case time gets away from you!
Let the mind wander
as far as
the eye can see!