Pattie Discovers the PNW…Camping in Idaho & Montana (Part 1)

by Patricia “Pattie” Elwing

Happy Summer Friends of the Columbia Basin,

Patricia Elwing

The travel bug bit me long ago and I took to the air to visit other countries. In 2020, I moved to Washington and that travel focus landed me…I became more grounded and interested in discovering my own backyard, now the PNW. The history is rich in this area and a journey of discovery that I gladly embark on. As the journey unfolds I will be sharing my specific findings and perspective on these travels. I hope to spark interest for the reader to get out into nature and see the world, in general, or in your own backyard.

Our two-week journey began with a trip down to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley…during a 118-degree heat wave. Yikes! As I stood overlooking the Valley from 2,756 ft and feeling the heat rise off the pavement that day, my husband, Matt, pointed out the steep old wagon road which winds down into the Valley. He told me that he had driven down that road with his family as a child. I was grateful to be taking our RV into the Valley on the new Lewiston Grade. While it is still a steep incline, the zig zag pattern is not as radical. From our site-seeing view above the Valley we could see the amazing view shown in the photos below.

The confluence at Lewiston, Idaho/Clarkston, Washington creates a recreational waterway and offers tourists: cruise ships, boating, fishing, jet skiing, paddle boarding, kayaking, parks, walking trails, public docks, camping opportunities and swimming destinations. We stayed just one night at an RV park at Aht’way RV Park/Clearwater River Casino & Lodge, and spent most of our time in the pool meeting other travelers. A fun dinner at Roosters Waterfront Restaurant located at 1010 Port Way, Clarkston, WA, provided us with a sweet view of Clearwater River while dining, but it was too hot that day to dine out on the deck. I look forward to discovering the Wine Country in our next visit(s), during lower temperatures. To learn more about the legends of the Nez Perce, you can visit the Nez Perce County Historical Society and Museum. For information on planning your own Discovery destination, check out:

This junction is often referred to as The Gateway to Hells Canyon, which the Snake River flows through. At 7,993 feet, Hells Canyon is North America’s deepest river gorge. Hells Canyon actually runs deeper than the better-known Grand Canyon in Arizona. The Lower Clearwater River empties into the lower Snake River, creating the border of Washington and Idaho. The Port of Lewiston is the furthest end of the Columbia-Snake River System and is part of our nation’s “Marine Highway” and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is designated as The Inland Marine Transportation System, and handles 1/6th of the nation’s industrial materials, commodities and products. Utilizing this route offers a more equitable, alternative route for destinations into Canada and the U.S. Midwest for shipping and thus reduces the carbon footprint, transportation, permitting and strategic planning costs.

In Lewiston on June 30 and again in Grangeville on July 1st, we experienced severe thunder and lightning storms during the early morning hours. The sound was rattling and amplified through the Valley as we slept. Alas, it woke us with its grandeur and we could not resist going outside to witness the illustriousness of nature raging with crackling sounds, flashes of light, powerful wind and rain.

Grangeville, Idaho
Grangeville, Idaho

Grangeville hosts Border Days annually for three days, ending on the 4th of July. Border Days offers several events including three parades, two, sometimes three rodeos (said to be Idaho’s Oldest Rodeo), daily egg toss championships, music and gatherings in the park with local and surrounding vendors. As we visited each vendor we found beautiful hand-made jewelry, art, clothing, soaps and salts, and had the opportunity to meet their creators. In addition to homemade cookies and treats, we enjoyed a “walking taco,” which I was happy to find out is a taco salad in a bowl, so you can eat and walk around the event. This year it seemed to be missing the Strawberry Short Cake feed and Matt was sorely nostalgic at this finding. Everything is in a state of flux, even the things we would like to never change. Although no one I asked seems to know where the title “Border Days” came from, I wonder, do you know? (If so, please post your answers at the online version of this article in the comments.)

It was a pleasure to visit and stay at property owned by Matt’s cousins and to meet a former Border Days Grand Marshal, cousin, Wayne James. As a local rancher and owner of Francis James Ranch and star of the documentary “Sky Settles Everything: the Wayne James story.” The James’ family moved from Missouri in 1910 to a property adjacent to where James currently resides, and attended a 1911 Border Days event, giving them over 120 years of ranching in Grangeville, Idaho.

Well friends, in Part II of this Discovery article I’ll be sharing my visit to Glacier National Park and a few of the many spectacular lakes of Northern Montana. May you be intrigued to visit or revisit the Earthly wonders just outside our back doors.


Patricia “Pattie” Elwing moved to Washington State in August 2020. A West Coast woman, her love for travel and discovering new places leads her around the world, and now, around the PNW and Columbia Basin. Watch for her Discovery articles where she will offer fresh reviews and information about places she visits. If she sparked a bit of the travel bug in you, leave her a comment below!