|Wending our way north from Fruitland, ID (the Snake River seperates Fruitland from Ontario, OR which is where we had spent the night) we had hoped to see lots of harvesting going on in the flat lands but were disappointed that no fruit and vegetable crops were growing along Highway 95. With the promise of soon being in the mountains, we noticed how smokey it was ahead. One of the things we so enjoy about not traveling the freeway is coming upon something totally unexpected that we had never heard about. Stopping at Historical Markers when they're on our side of the road, we see and read about things we never knew existed which was the case north of Fruitland. Around Payette we came upon a marker which said MESA ORCHARDS which was a 1400 acre Apple Orchard started in 1910. You could purchase 10 acre lots for a mere $500 per acre...a lot of money back in those days. The lots were purchased mostly by rich Easterners. It is thought to be the largest orchard managed by a single group in the US. While there are still apple trees visible, it went out of business about 1960 when production problems and frozen crops led to its demise. You can read about it at the following link. http://payettecounty.info/marlow/mesaorchards.html Had we not of taken the back road to Montana, we would never have know about the orchard...is this a great country or what? One of the other cool things we saw was a sign on a motel in the little town of Cambridge, Id that said "Since January 1st we have served 1904 nice guests and 2 grouches!" We thought this also applied to our camp hosting job at Union Creek! We soon made our way to the Salmon River Valley where the beautiful river winds its way through the mountains. While it is a different part of the river than what we saw in June, it was now clear and beautiful where in June because of all the rain, flooding and mega snow melt, it was gnarly, brown and high. We unhooked the car and drove out to the Heaven's Gate Vista of Hell's Canyon but the smoke was quite thick so our view was quite limited...was the drive on 17 miles of rough dirt roads worth it...debatable! We stayed right next to the river that night just south of Grangeville where the temp was 97 degrees. The next morning after spending some time down by the river and playing in the sand we made our way up the Salmon to the Clearwater River which has to be one of the most beautiful rivers in the country. The farther north and east we traveled toward Missoula, the thicker the smoke became but a real treat awaited us around some corner that day when we saw signs that said "Huckleberry Pie "ahead. Mike stopped so I could run in and buy us each a piece of pie...lo and behold, they didn't sell pieces, they sold WHOLE pies, so after being $25.00 poorer, we were back on the road and anticipating just how good that pie was going to taste that night. Was the pie worth $25.00...after picking them ourselves...absolutely!!! At times the smoke was so bad you could smell it in the motor home and couldn't even see the beautiful mountains we were traveling through. Mike had a special spot along the Clark's Fork River along I-90 where he had always wanted to stay so heading east about 25 miles we found the RV Park right along the river. He certainly has changed his mind since spending the night as the traffic from the freeway and trains running all night, we sure didn't get much sleep! Arriving in Big Timber the next afternoon, we made plans to visit the ranch the next morning and settled in for a long winter's nap. Our trip to the ranch was very bittersweet for us both, having loved the many years we had spent there. Still as beautiful as ever, the country is brown and harvest is over. Spending the afternoon and having a yummy lunch with Kit and Asja, we caught up on all the news, family, friends, etc. before getting down to discussing what things they wanted us to do to the house. The next day we headed for Billings to see mom and have a great visit with her. Mike is now out at the ranch doing the wiring for the house and loving it! I am in Billings spending lots of quality time with mom which at the age of 89 is very precious. Have run into several friends I haven't seen for years, its been fun catching up with them and their families. The weather is still warm and beautiful so our plans still are to head south mid-October. Where oh where...nobody knows!