Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

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Close-up of a small sand dune in Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park Sunrise at Bruneau Sand Dunes

After a refreshing shower, I was at the dunes in time for sunrise. Unfortunately, I didn't have the faintest idea on where the best spot was for sunrise - this was my first visit and I hadn't seen anything in the dark the night before. In the end, I decided to just walk around and get some "macro" shots of the dunes - small details, ripples in the sand, long shadows - rather than any big sceneries. The sky was a perfect shade of blue, which proved to be too perfect - it bordered on "boring". After the sun had risen a little, I headed on to the lake at the base of the dunes, and then back to the small sand hills; but after a while the sun had risen some more and the stark morning colours started to fade.

My next planned visit was Silver City ghost town. So I hit the roads, and after a short while fell victim to a software configuration issue - out of the box, my DeLorme Street Atlas software was set to calculate the shortest route, not the quickest. I only realized this after I arrived at a small dirt road that had probably seen more water on it than wheels - after a while there were deep ruts following the downhill course of the road, and I opted to back out after a hundred feet of it lest I encounter a big wash-out further down and be forced to reverse far longer.

Silver City - a ghost town, but not really

The Daly Barn in Silver City, Idaho I returned to the paved road, and soon after found the correct road going to Silver City - while it was still a dirt road, this time around it was a well-graded one - which was good, since there were going to be twenty miles of it, and it's immensely faster to drive on a graded road than to look out for potential gullies and pot-holes and going 5mph. The landscapes that were visible from Silver City Rd were pretty barren - scorched grass, a few desert shrubs and more than one of the sparse trees I saw during the first few miles was charred. Gradually though, the scenery got greener; and I was surprised to find many green trees and shrubs in Silver City.

The other strange thing about Silver City was that it wasn't a genuine ghost town - many of the houses were still inhabited, and there's a sign at the entrance that says "all property is privately owned". By the looks of it, most buildings belong to people who have a primary home elsewhere. The good thing about this is that it means that a sizeable amount of buildings were well-maintained (in a genuine Western fashion), without the commercial interests that have transformed other ghost towns into little more than gift shops of the worst kind.

As I strolled through the streets with my two cameras and snapped shots left and right, I appreciated the feeling of the place - the buildings were kept in a state so people could live in them, which is the same primary task that they had when they were built in the frontier days. But yet, this wasn't done to attract tourists, or make money. Which is a rare balance, I think.

Dewey and De Lamar ghost "towns"

Next up, I wanted to drive to Dewey, another ghost town. The road followed Jordan Creek, which I had to cross on foot to get to the two buildings that seemed to compromise Dewey - the side walls of what is best described as a small one-story ware-house, and a mill up the hill. Further east, I got to De Lamar, a slightly larger collection of deserted buildings than Dewey - and unlike Silver City these were truly deserted and one big structure across Jordan Creek (which had become to large to jump over) was in such an unstable state that it looked like one sneeze could have sent it all into the river - not to mention that it was hard to even discern what the large wooden structure had once been.

I thought it would be more prudent to wade through the water to see how deep it was before taking the car through this (minor) obstacle Beyond De Lamar, I left the valley of Jordan Creek, and the surrounding area got more desert-like again - with one exception: at one point there was a large puddle of water in the road... and by large I mean several car-lengths, spanning the entire width of the roadway. Not knowing the road, and not trusting the water depth enough to just drive through, I stopped the car and opted to check out the route on foot first. As it turns out, I wouldn't have needed to worry - the water depth didn't exceed a foot.

I regained paved roads a short time later, and found myself in Oregon for a few brief miles before returning to Idaho.

The remainder of the day wasn't very spectacular - I headed mostly Northeast on dirt roads or smaller paved roads, and then stopped for the night somewhere in Sawtooth National Forest. I still had some sunlight left, and spent it leisurely winding down in the wooden surroundings of my primitive camp site with a bag of Doritos chips and a book.

Miles driven: 256mi (412km)

Campground Accommodation: Primitive camping along the Salmon River (Sawtooth National Forest): $0

Written sometime in March 2007 in my apartment.