Saturday, May 29, 2010

Raw Saturday

It's cold up in them thar hills!  You can click here to see a regional mosaic of the current temperatures around Eastern Idaho.  Everywhere that people go to camp is in the 30's, often the low 30's.  And the wind is blowing probably in the teens to mid-20's.  Meanwhile, most of those areas rec'd at least a quarter inch of rain yesterday. That means this morning's humidity is probably pushing 90% in most camping areas. It's a heavy overcast everywhere today, too.  This is "hunker down" weather.  This ain't "fun weather."  It's a raw Saturday morning.  Heck, it's so raw we might not even go to the Farmers Market this morning.  Sure is nice to be inside a warm and cozy home.  Hopefully, the depths of this low pressure system will soon migrate into Goat Roper Country (AKA: Wyoming) and bring fairly fair weather tomorrow.

Stasea Rae posted a comment asking for a photo of the "tiled toilet."  No problem, we will take one and bring it back to post on June 8th or 9th.  Nationwide, the Forest Service has 5,800 campgrounds.  I'd venture to guess far less than 1% of those have toilets as nice as those at Baumgartner.  Therein lies a story.  Here it is.

Back in 1865, John Baumgartner was born in Bavaria.  His family emigrated to America shortly thereafter and John became a naturalized US citizen while living in Wisconsin.  Gold fever gripped John as a young man and he drifted the various gold rush areas of the West. He washed ashore in the Boise River watershed sometime in the 1890's, well after the main gold excitement had run its course.  John filed claims on the land which now bears his name in 1897.  He made a meager living placer mining the gravels of the South Fork of the Boise River.  He also began improving his hot springs, especially for the "vimmins and kids."  Soon, people began to come to John's springs.  Their numbers grew over the decades and John became a sort of homegrown celebrity.  He was known all across Idaho as a humble man who took pride in the public's use of his hot springs.  When the Forest Service was born in 1905, John became the first ranger for the area and helped make important improvements, some of which are still in use over 100 years later.  As John aged and as his springs became even more cherished by folks far and wide, he took a bold step in the middle of The Great Depression.  In late 1935, John deeded all of his land and springs to the Forest Service so that it could remain in its natural state forever and all time.  A condition of the grant allowed him to live there until he died.  John only lived another six years and was found dead in bed at the nearby Bascom Ranch in the early winter of 1941.

The Forest Service has always done its best to honor John's legacy.  Public interest in the hot springs continued to grow.  Eventually, people began demanding even better facilities at the famous springs.  In the early 1980's about 40 years after John's death, the Forest Service conducted (for them and at that time) a milestone project.  The agency reached out to the broader public to help made Baumgartner Hot Springs a real show piece in the National System.  People from all walks of life eagerly stepped forward with money, time, materials, skills, resources and People Power to help Ol' Smokey "stand & deliver."  The Forest Service itself ponied up $340,000 in cold hard cash to help implement the upgrading of the campground. (The BLS inflation calculator says that's the same as $689,000 in 2010 dollars.)

Now, mind you, Ol' Smokey hisself wouldn't be puttin' in no tiled toilet.  Nope, Ol' Smokey don't think like that.  Bears do in the woods what bears do and they don't need no tiled toilets to do what they do.  The tiled toilets at Baumgartner are the direct result of an adoring public's involvement in the renovation of the famous Baumgartner Hot Springs.  Reading a list of the participants in that project is like reading a "Who's Who" for the recreational movers and shakers of Idaho in the mid-1980's.  I can be quite confident in stating I'm 100% certain those tiled toilets were part of an in-kind donation by one of the public partners in that landmark project.  The Baumgartner project is turning 25 years of age this year.  Most such projects show inevitable signs of wear and tear after 25 years.  Vandalism usually takes its toll.  Well, it's not that way at Baumgartner.  The project looks as good today as it must have when it was new.  Although we haven't visited every single toilet, we've yet to see a cracked or missing tile in any of them.  They show no signs of vandalism or mistreatment.  What they DO show is that the people who are using this place care as much about it today as they did when they all chipped in to help Ol' Smokey transform Baumgartner into a showpiece campground.  It's a remarkable place and the Spirit of those Stakeholders really Shines!

And, as Paul Harvey loved to say, "That's the REST of the story."

Cheers, jp

PS--The Forest Service sought and received "stimulus money" for Baumgartner.  The funds will be used to resurface the hot springs pool in June 2010 as well as redo all of the signs on the nature trail!  Way to go, Smokey!

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