We’re at our summer home in Northern Idaho at Farragut State Park. Parked under tall pines next to beautiful Lake Pend Oreille, we’re looking forward to a busy season leading hikes, teaching children, and conducting evening programs.
We’ve never returned to the same park in consecutive years, but this park and our role as interpretive hosts are so enjoyable that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return. At a bit over 4000 acres, this large park has 45 miles of trails, over 270 campsites, some with full hookups, 4 disc golf courses, group camps, day use areas, beach, museum, boat launch, and the “Tree to Tree Adventure“. With a large staff of volunteers, what makes this place special is the ranger in charge of volunteers and interpretive programs. She manages to keep all of us grumpy senior citizens happy and is a joy to work with.
We had a great trip here from the Oregon Coast. We traveled over the Coastal Range to the Willamette Valley, then over the Siskiyou Mountains to Redmond where we spent a few days exploring Bend and the surrounding area. We stayed at the Redmond Fairgrounds, a great park with long concrete pads and full hookups. From there we drove up to the Mount Bachelor ski area, which in late April still had lots of snow, especially in the parking lots. It surprised us that the parking lots were full on a midweek day, but then Bend is a place where outdoor activities are a priority; everywhere we drove in Bend there were hikers, bikers, and walkers and almost every one had a dog. We had planned to take the scenic loop around Mt Bachelor, but quickly realized that even with all wheel drive the 8′ drifts might be a bit difficult to navigate. So instead we visited the High Desert Museum, a world-class facility located in the forest. The exhibits are all well developed and interesting, there’s a number of outside exhibits including a sawmill, and for the ladies, a large gift shop.
We traveled leisurely along the Columbia River, then north through the Tri-Cities of Pasco, Richland, and Kennewick north to Spokane. From there it was a short ride to the park. One of the reasons we enjoy volunteering here is the great RV sites. We’re in a area separate from the campgrounds, a row of six large sites, tree covered and landscaped. It’s nice to be in a area where we don’t have to put up with campfire smoke and the busy traffic of vehicles and people. We’re lucky to have fairly good Verizon cell and data here, and with a 200′ cable I was able to find a clear spot for our TV satellite.
It was just a few days after our arrival that the school field trips began. We’d meet the buses and teachers at the visitor center and discuss our “game plan”, normally dividing the children into two groups; I’d take one group on a hike while Brenda would use our supply of animal furs to teach the kids about local wildlife. If we had older kids (4th grade and above) we’d take them to the Brig Museum for a tour. Although it was a bit demanding, the 1st and 2nd graders were fun – excited, energetic, and eager to learn. Along the trail, we planted gold-painted pine cone “treasure”, led the kids to the ruins of a WWII anti-aircraft training site, and taught them how to hoot like a Barred Owl. The 4th graders were a bit more challenging – every one had a cell phone that they were focused on and didn’t seem particularly interested in nature.
On Saturday mornings, we set up our furs of local animals and a craft for the smaller kids at the Brig museum. Parents and children are surprisingly eager to “pet” the furs, and we’ve had a number of adults ask if they could do the draft “for their grandchildren” (wink wink). Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night we host programs at the park amphitheater. We each the audience the “Leave No Trace” philosophy and hand movements, followed by nature movies. We’ve found from feedback that the adults prefer a movie to a hands-on program, as it serves as a chance for the kids to start winding down after a busy day. We’re grateful that Errin, the interpretive ranger, has given us the latitude to develop our programs and schedule. She’s an amazing woman, has become a good friend, and is the main reason we returned again this year.
So that’s it for now – we’ll be here until after Labor Day, so if you’re in the neighborhood stop in and see us!