It's a little hard to feel that thrill of discovery, the joy of unearthing another hidden travel gem, when the gem in question is as popular as the Enaville Resort. But we couldn't resist patting ourselves on the back after entering this Silver Valley establishment. Even if it's no secret among the locals, to whom it's known as the Snakepit, it was an exciting find.
The longest single-stage gondola in the world isn't found in the Alps or Asia, and doesn't belong to a famous resort like Vail or St. Moritz. Nope, this record goes to the Silver Mountain Ski Resort, in humble little Kellogg, Idaho.
Although it's not as well-known as nearby Wallace, Kellogg is the Silver Valley's largest town, and was our base during our four-day stay in the region. It's a nice village stretched out along the Coeur d'Alene Mountains, with a population around 2000; less historic and picturesque than Wallace, perhaps, but with a burgeoning tourism industry of its own, thanks largely to the Silver Mountain Ski Resort.
Billed as one of America's most unforgettable bike rides, the 15-mile Hiawatha Trail follows the path of a former train route through pitch-black tunnels and across bridges which overlook vast valleys of pine. On the final weekend of the season, we rented bikes and completed the trail -- "unforgettable" doesn't even begin to describe it.
The day after visiting the Sierra Silver Mines in nearby Wallace, we were invited to check out Kellogg's Crystal Gold Mines. Two mines in two days might sound repetitive, but they offered sufficiently distinct experiences to make each worth the time.
Not much is required for a good Zip Line course. A few high-altitude hills or trees. Some poles stuck into the ground. Wire. Harnesses and helmets. That's about it. Nice views are a plus, but optional. After all, when you're flying through the air at 45mph, looking around isn't a priority. But the mountain vistas on display during our run through Silver Streak's course were too beautiful to completely ignore. Most of my zips went like this: terror ("WAGHHHHHHH!"), admiring nature's beauty ("AHHHHHHHH!"), and back to terror ("AAYYYYGGGHGHGHHG!").
Big Ed Pulaski was probably as famous as it's possible for a firefighter to be. He invented the Pulaski: the hatchet/pick-axe tool which has become the fireman's most important weapon. And as a young man, Big Ed's accomplishments were even more notable; unless you're unimpressed by something like saving 40 men during the biggest wildfire in North American history.
The history of Wallace is synonymous with that of silver mining in the Coeur d'Alene Mountains. The town was founded when silver was discovered, thrived as long as the mineral was abundant, and faded once the mines closed up shop. The Sierra Silver Mine Tour confidently describes itself as "the most popular, interesting, and instructive tour in the Northwest", and offers an excellent primer to both Wallace and the industry which defined it.
Word had spread around Wallace that the Feds were on their way in, and the town's bordellos had to close up fast. Under the vigilant eyes of Madame Ginger, the working girls of The Oasis grabbed what they could carry and left everything else behind. Their departure marked a sudden and unexpected end to prostitution in Wallace. The year was 1988.
Without a doubt, Wallace is among the most unique towns that we've ever set foot in. The entire downtown district is on the National Register of Historic Places. It had active bordellos until 1988. And leading theoretical physicists agree that Wallace is the exact center of the universe!