from the upcoming and untilted book about Northern Idaho
A Very Short Backwoods Camping Trip
By Karl Wetter of Plummer, Idaho
The North Panhandle of Idaho is a beautiful area with a pleasant climate. I was raised on a small farm during the Great Depression and World War II.
When I was in the 8th grade, back in 1942, one of my classmates and I decided to take advantage of the Christmas Vacation. We had noticed that an area along the back road, over a nearby forest hill, was inhabited by many White Snowshoe rabbits that that had left a myriad of tracks in the early winter snow.
We decided that it would be fun to camp out in the area and set out steel traps to catch some rabbits. During World War II, rabbit hides were needed to line Air Force pilot’s helmets and gloves. Every hide was worth a dollar after it was stretched and dried. We therefore collected the items needed for the campout. We loaded my Flexible Flyer steel runner sled, with sleeping bags, about a dozen traps, a bag of alfalfa leaves, newspapers and pitch kindling to start fires, and eating supplies to last for several days.
We dressed warmly and started up the snow and ice packed road right after breakfast, taking turns pulling the sled. After about an hour and a half we arrived at the area along the hillside that was covered with rabbit tracks. As we were looking for a spot to camp, we felt very fortunate to find a very large, bushy Douglas fir tree that had a room size bare area around the base of its trunk.
We unpacked the supplies under that tree and had a snack. During the afternoon, we cut dry branches within the nearby area and stacked them under the tree for firewood. Then, we set all of the traps in the nearby vicinity, carefully supplying each with a handful of alfalfa leaves to entice the rabbits to the traps.
It gets dark early in the evening, so we settled down in our dry campsite under the tree. We built a bright campfire, cooked some beans and bacon, and put our tired bodies to rest in our sleeping bags for a good night’s sleep. We had stocked the campfire with enough wood to keep us warm most of the night.
Just before daylight, we were rudely awakened when about a half a ton of snow that had been loosened by the heat of the campfire came sliding off the Fir tree and completely covered and smothered our fire, and partially covered our sleeping bags. The unexpected avalanche put an immediate end to our adventure. We crawled out of our sleeping bags, gathered our traps, loaded the sled, and headed back to our homes.
That was an experience that has never been forgotten, but brings back fond memories of the good old times.