I love to travel. LOVE. I really love to travel alone. And it seems that at least 70% of the time when I do, I head west. Often, I think, because I feel a sense of safety and connected-ness in the mountains. So when I received an invitation to attend a friend’s wedding in Oregon, my answer was an instant and impassioned ‘HELL YES”!
I had arranged meetings in Portland, OR – since I was going to be in the general vicinity anyway – and had found an adorable little AirBnB(c) tiny house to rent in Vancouver. (That’s Washington, not BC. For a minute I thought I had to have a passport to get there. Sometimes I’m a 37 year old woman who remembers high school geography, and sometimes I’m a distracted 16-year-old-blonde-girl. (I get to say that. I’m a 37 year old blonde girl.))
Rumi and I stayed with friends in Bozeman, and then trekked on toward Vancouver. One of my favorite thing about this particular stretch of I90 is all the tiny little towns scattered throughout Idaho’s stunning landscape. Towering, tree covered mountains rise and fall on either side of the Interstate, and the South Fork Coeur d’Alene river runs right next to it, and tiny little Wallace, Idaho just beneath it.
We stopped mostly because I had to find a bathroom, and I needed some coffee to push on to Vancouver, but as we wound down the exit toward what appeared to be the center of town, I got so distracted by the quaint postcard-perfect quality of the place that I made two laps up and down Main Street before I finally made myself park my car and get out for a cup and a tinkle. The Wallace Coffee House provided both – quite well, I might add – and in one of the incredible historic buildings that made Wallace just so sweet; the Wallace Corner Hotel.
Fully satiated, I gave Rumi her time outside the car and wandered around this sweet little town. The train depot caught my eye, beautifully curated – even outside. I didn’t go in… it was too hot to leave Ru in the car… but I did learn some about it – and the rest of the town – when I searched it online later.
Interestingly, the entire town of Wallace, Idaho is on the National Historic Register. It’s roots are in 1884 Silver Mining and by 1887, when the railroad connected Wallace and the rest of the country, the little town was prospering. Just three years later a fire near the town center burned much of downtown. One of the only surviving structures was the Kelly building, which now houses the 6th Street Melodrama and provides live theater for guests.
Undeterred, Wallace residents rebuilt – this time with brick – and many of those historic buildings stand today – even after another fire. The BIG one.
According to the History of Wallace website (www.wallaceidahochamber.com/history-wallace/), “In 1910, the largest forest fire in U.S. history, the Big Burn, swept through the Wallace area destroying one third of downtown.” Interestingly, a man perhaps famous among firefighters and those who love them; Ed Pulaski was a Wallace, Idaho man. While the rest of the world knows him for his specialty ax and hoe combination tool dubbed simply “Pulaski”, “Big Ed” Pulaski is known in Wallace for saving 38 men from that fateful fire “by guiding them to safety in a mine tunnel south of town and holding the frantic workers there at gunpoint until the fire passed.”
In case you were curious, this is a Pulaski:
Pretty fascinating stuff, huh? Who knew, that a tiny little town of just 759 people could hold so much ‘awesome’? And since I also learned that Wallace is very near Lookout Pass ski area – where you can ski in two states nearly simultaneously – and Silver Mountain Resort where there’s a waterpark in the summer and an alpine dream in the winter… and it’s also quite near the Route of the Hiawatha known as the most scenic hiking and biking trail in the USA… So, um, yeah. I’ll DEFINITELY be back.
Next up: Exploring Vancouver. (That’s WASHINGTON, people!)