Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Escaping the Heat

Crisp Clover
Fading Daisies & Tall Dry Grass
Hot Hazy Mountains
Seeking Relief
Meadow Creek
Ghost Town
Casting the Moyie River
Fish Traps?
Or Personal Cooling Pools?
Moyie River Frog
Fish Out of Water
Stump Ranch
Sweet clover browns to a crisp among dry stalks of grass and fading white daisies. If this were later in the summer, I'd be hopeful of fall rains. Yet the parched landscape is the result of a dry spring colliding with a record-breaking heat wave.

My old apple tree dropped half its fruit, this after my cherry tree dropped its blossoms and leaves. Elmira Pond recedes and I notice more shorebirds this year. Typically, the bog pond has no definitive shoreline with boggy reeds and grass dropping off into deep pools. Now I can see that dry edges are sandy.

Trees stand tall on the mountain slopes and peaks are hazy in the distance. Is it the heat or a hint of smoke? I pray that if we have no rain clouds, we have no lightning. Panhandle Idaho counties issue fire restrictions, yet trains and trucks can spark a grass fire. Just last summer an RV smoldered our roadway after it threw a hot bearing.

I said then, and I'll probably say it every year, the west is a tinderbox in summer and fire a constant danger.

It's so hot that even the mountain canyons with gurgling creeks and rivers fail to cool as usual. Still, we escape the 100+ F heat pounding us like a physical weight and drive around in hopes of relief. The first day, the only relief we find is in the air conditioning of our car. Our house has none.

The second day we attempt escape, we drive our car further up the Moyie River just south of Canada. Slender meadows snake along overgrown creeks like grassy pockets between thick conifer forests. Tall burned stumps from the 1910 fires still stand as silent warnings. Ranchers still graze cattle among these stump ranches, a British Columbia phrase for undeveloped ranch lands in this region.

Though we follow a graveled road in remote wilderness, train tracks remind us of the industry that settled this area. At one crossing we find a ghost town: Meadow Creek. It's the same era and industries that formed Elmira out of a population of railroad workers, loggers and stump ranchers. Just as Elmira had a dance hall, so did Meadow Creek.

Though these Panhandle towns feel like sisters, Elmira continues with a sparse population and this place hosts a campground among remnants of foundations and memories. There is no Meadow Creek Schoolhouse, no whisper of children chasing marbles on the wind. Long ago I learned from range riders how to spot ghost towns, abandoned ranches or miners cabins -- look for rhubarb and lavender lilacs. Often they are what outlasts people.

It's too hot and dusty to poke around the town-site so we find where the creek trickles into the Moyie River and wade into its cool flow. This is the relief we've sought and I nearly weep for joy. Todd casts flies mid-river, slipping on slick rocks and I perch on a small boulder near stoneflies with my feet in the water.

What I used to think of as "fish traps," built up rocks to pool water, I now see used as personal pools. Campers sit in bathing suits along the Moyie River and we all enjoy its peace. How long has this spot been used as natural air conditioning? Did the range riders know of hidden pools discovered while pushing cattle to summer meadows? Did townsfolk gather here, women lifting skirts to wade, men swimming shirtless and bootless further from the shore?

Maybe this jut of land has long been a gathering place. Kootenai must have fished for native trout here and gathered huckleberries. Now it is perfect for pitching a tent and back then it would have been perfect for pitching teepees. This ancient cooling place still serves a purpose.

Reluctantly we leave, wishing we had a tent or simply a mattress to lay out beneath the stars and pines. It's cooled off enough to ride with the windows down and relish a long summer sunset. We find another fishing hole with shoreline frogs and a riffle that hides a 14-inch brook trout. Todd is pleased as he releases his catch back into the Moyie. I watch hummingbirds flitting in the canopy of cottonwood trees, wondering what feeds them once all the blooms fade away.

We get close enough to Canada to have to turn around, but make one final stop along the Moyie before the border. It's twilight and a waning moon, light enough to pink the skies and see the iron sculptures of trout winding through the grass in some strange tribute to industry and wilderness. We eat a dinner of cheese, crackers, hummus and cherries while mosquitoes feast on our ankles.

No amount of heat ever kills off those little beggars.

Linking up with Abracabadra for Wordless Wednesday, aware of the irony but grateful for the no-rules invitation of the blog hop hostess. Photos by Charli Mills.


  1. Even in the dried up countryside you still find beauty in words and share them with your lyrical descriptions. I, too, do not enjoy the heat and understand the relief that would come from dipping into the cooling waters. The hills are definitely hazy - I do hope not with smoke. We see the haze of bushfires in the summer here too and the glorious red of the blazing sunsets.
    Those mosquitoes making a meal of you! You are right, they never seem to lessen in number do they. And they always go for the ankles. I am one of the lucky ones. They don't like my blood. They much prefer my hub and son outlaw who react with huge welts. It's no fun.
    Wishing you some breezes bringing cool; but no lightning or fires please!

  2. Thank you, Norah! You know what? I'm the same way with mosquitoes -- they devour the Hub and I'm like an afterthought to them. But they do go for my ankles and it drives me crazy. Another reason to go dip in the Moyie River again today!

  3. Beautiful pictures and lovely words.

  4. One of the perils of Scotland for those of us that love it are the midges; small but more persistent than even the most aggressive mosquitoes, I've always assumed they were genetically modified to attack the English but it seems, from our hosts on this trip the locals don't avoid the problem - all save one ghilly (ghilly is a servant in gaelic but hereabouts is a game guide showing you the best places to fish and shoot) who ate two whole garlic cloves on toast every morning. No midge touched him but equally no one else ever got close! Hope the fires stay away Charli.

    1. GMO midges! Ha, ha! There may be truth to that English-attacking theory if American mosquitoes are their close cousin. My husband is of English descent with a bit of Welsh for a topper, and the mosquitoes seek out his blood long before my Scots-Irish-and-then-some blood! I've heard that about garlic, though and I'm planning to make up a tonic with habenero peppers, horseradish and fresh garlic steeped in apple cider vinegar. It will ward off mosquitoes, the flu and possibly most human contact! :-) You must be having a fabulous time! Thanks, Geoff!

  5. Wow! I am so glad to be back to see your side of the town amidst this heat...although the temp's are blaring your side, your pix were as cool as a cucumber :)

    Stay cool and hydrated, Charli

    1. If only the photographer could be cool as a cucumber, too! And actually, I should be eating cucumbers -- I've heard that it helps the body regulate a cooler temperature! Thanks, Ruchira!