ZUKIWORLD Travels To Silver City Idaho, Rome and Fields, Oregon
Story/Editor: Eric Bewley Photo: Sara Bewley, Heather Galvin
SILVER CITY, ID. ZUKIWORLD traveled to Silver City Idaho a mining town founded on the promises of gold and occupied today by a close nit group of towns people that have found the simpler life to their liking. Our adventure began in Jordan Valley Oregon a small gas stop on the way to somewhere that is a small oasis in an otherwise desolate and vacant area of the west that is dotted with magnificent natural wonder. This adventure was going to be a little different because we were going to have people drift in and out of the group over the course of the five day adventure.
In Jordan Valley we met up with Gene and Sharon Fourer, Adventure Series veterans, and a couple they’ve introduced to the joy of Suzuki Dusty and Rosie Stahlbacker. Gene’s driving a hardtop ’87 Samurai with a Calmini 2″ S/R lift while Dusty is in a stock ’91 Sidekick.
The road into Silver City is definitely under maintained and over traveled, but has several interesting stops along the way. There is a company currently strip mining for gold and the local say that if gold prices stay above $450 and ounce they’ll start rock mining again. It sure would be interesting to see a revitalized town but at this point most of the area is abandoned and secured away waiting for the day when it will have relevance again. As we were traveling into the town we stopped at a couple of the old buildings and mines visible from the dirt road.
We met up with several members of the White Pine Adventure club based out of Boise, Idaho who will be joining us for the rest of the adventure, or so we thought. Silver City has about 15-20 residence during the summer and one full time resident that watches after the town in the winter.
We had agreed to meet up in Silver City and the majority of use were going to stay at the Idaho Hotel. A quaint long standing, well standing at an angle at least, hotel that had been in business since the 1866.
Certainly one of the better ghost towns having enough still standing to give visitors a good idea of how it was in its heyday. Silver City even had a brewery and a bottling plant. Some of the mines produced ore well into the millions of dollars during their lifetime. Silver City started its decline about 1889 when the inevitable began to appear. Even at that time, the city still had six general stores, two hotels, a newspaper, two lumber yards and several doctors and lawyers and, of course, its “Virgin Alley.”
After a blissful night’s sleep in the hotel where a serious and entertaining bar fight broke out between local towns’ people our group was headed west to see what we could see. Shortly after departing, Nate and Heather Galvin driving a ’96 4-door Sidekick from Boise had an issue with their rear brake drum assembly. Their club mate, Kimball Mcdowel with his ’86 Samurai pulling a Samurai based trailer came to the rescue by scavenging some parts off of the trailer to fix the Sidekick.
Problem solved, we were on our way to Three Forks of the Owyhee. At the Three Forks we met up with Stasi Vaillancourt in his ’87 Samurai from Albany, Oregon.
The Three Forks area is a unique one with several hot springs suitable for soaking and washing away your worries. Unfortunately for us, we were treated to a significant downpour that proved to be more than a few of our fellow travelers could handle. The White Pine group decided to head back to civilization and dry off. The rest of us headed on to the Pillars of Rome.
The name Owyhee is an outdated spelling of the word “Hawaii”. In 1818, Hawaiian natives, brought to the Oregon Country by fur-trading ships, were lost in the Snake River Valley…trying to become fur hunters. They set traps as far north as Salmon River, Idaho down to Scotts Dam, Oregon in the Wild Owyhee Canyon on the Wild Owyhee River.
The Pillars are tall and Majestic, we all took time to hike around the area and take pictures of this geologic phenomenon. Then we were off towards the Alvord for another rendezvous but first we will make camp in the high-desert along the old Military Wagon Road. A road used in the 1800’s to supply the military that occupied this region. Some stage stops are still remaining along this route.
We made our way to the Alvord Desert by way of Coyote lake, another dry lake bed that is used even less than the Alvord, this area is extremely remote and it was satisfying to see the colossal Steen’s mountain range come closer into view. We have been seeing the mountains in the distance for two solid days and now they were finally getting closer. Which meant that our friends, already camped in the Alvord, were close too.
We made a stop in Fields, Oregon to get a couple supplies and top off on gas. Fields was established in 1881 by Charles Fields. Fields consists of a store, cafe, gas station, camp ground, hotel, post office, and a few houses. The restaurant is famous for Milk Shakes and Hamburgers. We took lunch and then headed to the the borax springs directly South of the Alvord.
The Borax industry operated in the Fields area many years ago. Hot springs in and near Borax Lake contain about 80 parts per million borate. When the spring water flows onto the surrounding desert and evaporates, it leaves a thick white surface of alkali. From about 1892-1902 the Rose Valley Borax Company hired Chinese workers to collect the salt crust into small piles during the summer. The salts were dissolved in large vats (about 6,000 to 8,000 gallons) by boiling them with water and acid. Sagebrush was used to fire the dissolving tanks. When it was cooled, crystallized borax was collected, sacked, and shipped by mule team to the Central Pacific Railroad in Winnemucca. It was about 130 miles away from Borax Works. About 400 ton of borax was shipped each year. Now you can still see the rusted tanks where they processed borax near Borax Lake.
It was interesting to compare this area to the Borax mines of Death Valley we had recently visited in the Spring. There were many similarities with one distinct difference. This area is far less known and visited and gives a better glimpse of untouched borate springs.
Now, it was onto the Alvord and our friends. This year we had decided to make motorized bar stools to play with on the plateau. I went for land speed styled designs while our friend Stasi went for a wheelie machine. We all took turns riding the stools and conversing. We were even lucky enough to have a visit from a BLM ranger who is a Suzuki enthusiast too. We spoke of Samurai modification, the weather, and such but we couldn’t convince him into riding one of the racing barstools. He mentioned something about being on duty.
After a night’s worth of festivities we were ready to begin our journey home to civilization. First, we stopped at one of the abandoned mines located in one of the canyon’s of the Steen’s mountain range. This area is rich with early pioneer history and it was a pleasure exploring this area. A great time was had by all participants and a hardy farewell was wished to all as we made our separate ways back to our homes. This annual trip has always been a blast. If you’re thinking about exploring this area of Oregon, I encourage you to explore with us next Memorial day weekend.