“I hope we don’t lose sight of one thing; that this was all started by a mouse”
State 18: Idaho - October 13 & 14, 2017
We woke in Arco, ID at a campsite in Craters of the Moon National Monument surrounded by a 15,000-year-old lava field. We had a very restless night sleep, because we kept hearing wild animals walking around the outside of the van. However, we were surrounded by ancient lava fields, and for the life of us we could not figure out what animal could live in such a desolate environment. I insisted it was a bobcat, and Nate was certain it was a coyote. To settle our disagreement, we asked the Ranger on our way out of the park, and she said it was most likely a chipmunk! Nate and I both agreed what we heard last night was certainly NOT a chipmunk!
After departing Craters of the Moon National Monument, we were going to drive to the national park depicted on the reverse of the Idaho State Quarter “The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area". At 2.367 million acres, the wilderness area is the largest federally managed area in the continental US! The wilderness area protects several mountain ranges, extensive wildlife, and numerous waterways including the Salmon River! The wilderness area was created by Congress in 1980, and renamed in 1984 as The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area in honor of US Senator Frank Church. Let me see if I understand this correctly. It is named a wilderness area because it encompasses over 2 million acres, and is named Frank Church after a prominent US senator. What worries me most is the “River of No Return” part, for which I could not find an explanation! EEEK! Unfortunately, the more we investigated, the more creepier this wilderness area became! There were no visitor’s centers, minimal roads and no services. No Gas stations! No Walmart’s! No electricity! We couldn’t even find a place to get our National Park Passport stamped! One of the goals we set before embarking on this trip was to visit the national park depicted on each state quarter, and we refused to let 2.3 million acres of wilderness with a very ominous name stand in our way! We have come too far to fail now! There must be a way! After playing a very frustrating game of telephone tag with the National Park Service, we finally found a Ranger who was able to help. She directed us along a series of 3 scenic byways taking us from our current location in Arco, through the Wilderness area, which would spit us out at our next scheduled stop in Coeur D’Alene, ID.
Off we went through The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area for an extremely long 529-mile drive North to the Cross Country Couple's Can’t Miss Attraction for the state of Idaho “Coeur D’Alene”. Google maps stated the drive would take 9 hours and 26 minutes. We would break the drive up over 2 days, and would spend the night at the approximate halfway point in Missoula, MT. The first leg of our plotted path would take us North hugging the Western Montana Border via the Craters to Peaks Scenic Byway, which turned into the Salmon River Scenic Byway. This was one of the most beautiful drives of our entire cross country trip, which took the sting out of a 5-hour day of driving. Along the way, we came across the absolutely adorable town of Salmon, ID with a population of 3,100 people. The town's most famous resident is the female Native American Scout; Sacagawea who helped Lewis and Clark on their expedition to explore the West. If it wasn’t for the town being located in the middle of nowhere and being a little too tiny for my taste, I may have considered it as our potential new home as it was just that quaint and cute! Nate joked at the irony of two vegetarian cross country travelers whose new home ends up being a town called Salmon! Since we both agreed Salmon, ID was not our new home, we continued on our journey!
After an exhausting and beautiful 5 hour day of driving, we finally arrived in Missoula, MT where we would spend the night. There are two Walmart’s in Missoula, and the reviews for both were absolutely awful. I am taking about, panhandlers, drunks, drug addicts, prostitutes, cops towing and ticketing! One horrid review after another, after another! We decided to drive to each of the Walmart’s to scope out the situations for ourselves! When we arrived at the first Walmart we were absolutely shocked by what we saw! The parking lot was clean, there was no homeless, no signs of illegal activity, and 4 new Class A RV’s already parked in the lot for the night. It was one of the nicest Walmart parking lots we have come across! We actually double checked the reviews to make sure we at the correct Walmart, and sure enough we were! When I went in to ask permission to spend the night, the customer service manager was friendly, welcoming, and approved my request! This Walmart required me to sign in, and provide a picture ID, which I didn’t mind. This was the first time on our cross country trip where the Walmart reviews were blatantly wrong! The Missoula Walmart must have recently put new polices in place to help “clean up” their parking lots. Over the last 5 months on the road, we have had front row seats to seeing people abuse overnight parking privileges at Walmart, which ruins it for the rest of us. I greatly commend Missoula, MT Walmart for rounding up the riff raft instead of just banning overnight parking all together!
We parked Rosie in quiet corner of the lot, and set up the bed to sleep for the night. No sooner than our heads hit the pillow, we heard the same footsteps walking around the van that we heard the night prior at our campsite in Craters of the Moon. Since we were currently in a Walmart parking lot, clearly this was not a bobcat, coyote or an even chipmunk! Whatever it was wasn’t crawling around outside of the van, it was crawling around INSIDE of the van! OMG! The hair was standing up on the back of my neck, and I wanted to scream! Nate tried to keep me calm, and assured me he would address the issue. He reminded me the sound of a woman screaming coming from the back of a van in a busy parking lot would surely attract a visit from the cops. I zippered the sleeping bag real tight, and mummified myself with blankets to keep out whatever was in. I hate bugs and rodents! Before departing on our cross country trip, I looked into every way to keep bugs and rodents out of the van. All of our food is sealed in mason jars, plastic containers and inside of our fridge with a latched gasket seal lid. We also dispose of all trash immediately. Besides not wanting pests inside our home, once they were inside we would have to get rid of them, which usually means killing them.
Nate turned on the lights to access the situation. He noticed small claw marks in our paper towels, and a half eaten avocado on the floor. Apparently, Nate forgot to put the avocado away last night. Clearly, we had a stowaway on board of the M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E variety! After we finished our late night duet of everyone’s favorite children’s song, we realized in addition to a pest problem, we also had quite a moral dilemma on our hands. As vegetarians, Nate and I are against the killing of any animal. A heated debate broke out between us about the morality of mouse extermination. I argued, when it is cold outside, mice naturally seek shelter indoors. Why should we condemn a mouse to death for doing what comes natural to a mouse? Nate’s position was mice are carriers of diseases, and can chew on wires causing thousands of dollars in damage to Rosie. Besides, it’s not like we can just ask the mouse to leave. Although we both agreed the mouse had to go, we greatly differed on how we would accomplish such a task. I wanted the most humane method of extermination, and Nate wanted it gone by any means necessary! We went back and forth for quite some, before we agreed on a compromise. We would first start with the most humane method; a catch and release mouse trap, and ran in to Walmart to get one.
What should we use as bait for the trap? We already knew mice like avocados. However, they cost $3.00 each in Montana, and Nate was not about to kamikaze another avocado! A quick google search revealed despite popular folklore, mice actually do not like cheese! Instead, they prefer foods high in fat like peanut butter, and chocolate. Of course, Nate wanted to use chocolate, and I wanted to use peanut butter. In the end we compromised, and decided used a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup as bait. We loaded our catch and release mouse traps, and placed one in the front of the van, and one in the back. We hopped back into our sleeping bags, turned off the lights and anxiously awaited our trap to spring! About 30 minutes later, we heard the mouse enter the trap, and then scurry away. Nate turned on the light to examine the traps, and found the peanut butter cups were gone, and so was the mouse! It is quite a blow to one’s ego to get outsmarted by a rodent, and Nate took the news particularly hard. It was time to up the ante, since clearly the catch and release trap had failed!
Thank God for 24 hour Walmart’s, because we headed back inside in search of a better mouse trap. Next, we tried the catch and contain trap. This trap catches the mouse by dropping him within a plastic container via a trap door, but does not allow for release. We loaded up our newest mouse traps with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and once again placed them in the front and back of the van. We actually heard the mouse enter the trap and fall through the trap door. It was actually heart breaking to hear the mouse attempt to scratch, claw, and squeak his way out of the trap! After a few moments the clawing stopped, and all went silent in the night. Once again, Nate turned on the lights to look at the trap. To our surprise, there was once again no peanut butter cup and no mouse inside! This was getting extremely frustrating! We were accomplishing nothing except giving the mouse a midnight snack!
Back into Walmart we went in search of another mouse trap, but this time we were going old school! We purchased the wooden spring board mouse traps. The design has not changed in over 100 years, and over 1 billion traps have been sold! I like products that have been around a very long time, because they are effective! For the third time this night, Nate loaded a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup into a trap, and placed the trap in the front and back of the van. We also left a lone peanut butter cup on the floor to see if it was still there in the morning. Off we went back to bed lying in the pitch dark in the back of Rosie listening intently anxiously waiting to hear the loud “SNAP” sound of the mouse trap going off. However, all was quiet the rest of the night, and we eventually drifted off to sleep.
In the morning, I made Nate check the traps as there was no way I wanted to see a dead mouse. To my surprise, the traps were still set, and the bait was still present! The peanut butter cup we left on the floor was also still where we had placed it. We were dumbfounded! Perhaps all of the traps we threw at the mouse last night scared him away, or maybe the mouse was full from all of the bait we had already fed him. As a precaution we would leave the traps out for a few more nights! As of today, the mouse was finally gone and it was time to celebrate! Hip Hip Hooray! To the victor goes the spoils! To celebrate Rosie being rodent free, Nate and I ate Reeses Peanut Butter Cups for breakfast, and washed them down with a tall cold glass of almond milk! It was the best breakfast we had so far on our cross country trip!
After finishing our breakfast of champions, we departed Missoula, MT for a 164 mile drive Northwest across the Rocky Mountains to Coeur d’ Alene, ID. Crossing the Rockies was a significant milestone on our cross country journey. We will be West of the mountain range for the next 3 months exploring the Northwestern, and Southwestern US. Crossing the Rockies was a forever memorable and special moment for Nate and I. The beauty we encountered was indescribable! However, we decided not to take any pictures of our crossing. We would keep this special moment of our trip confined to our own consciousness. If I am ever asked to go to my happy place, I know exactly where that place will be! If you happen to find yourself out West with some time to kill, the 9-hour drive from Arco, ID to Coeur d’ Alene, ID will be an experience you will certainly never forget.
Coeur d' Alene is the largest city in the Idaho Panhandle with approximately 44,000 people. The city is located on the North shore of the 25 mile long Lake Coeur d’ Alene. I have been looking forward to visiting this lake for over 2 years! Even the famous broadcast journalist Barbara Walters called Coeur d' Alene “a little slice of heaven”, and “one of the most fascinating places she had visited!”. Not only do we love lakes, we love Barbara Walters, so we should be in for a real treat!
Upon our arrival, we headed to Lake Coeur d' Alene Scenic Byway, which spans 35 miles along the East side of the lake. After driving the entire length, we were left overall unimpressed. While the lake was pretty, we have seen much more picturesque lakes on our trip. The tranquil beauty the lake once possessed has been ruined by human development lining the lakes shore. I was able shoot a few pictures on the lake without being photo bombed by mansions or million dollar yachts, which was no easy task. Please see the pictures below.
When we drove into the city of Coeur d' Alene, everything just went from bad to worse. Commercialism ruined what was probably once a beautiful lakeside community. Coeur d' Alene is a chameleon city lacking an identity, and is clearly trying to cater to everyone. If you’re a wealthy transplant from California, we have what you want! If you’re here on a vacation, we have what you need! And so on and so on. Lake Coeur d' Alene is a perfect example of why we need the National Park Service to protect our environment from being destroyed by human development! What a disappointing experience! I am going to have to send Barbara Walters a letter!
We will spend tomorrow relaxing in the beautiful Idaho Panhandle and catching up on blog posts. We will see you in Washington!