Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Fairfield Roadtrip

By Nancy Mendelsohn, director of operations

Fairfield is the only city in Camas County, Idaho.  There are less than 500 residents. I come from the Emerald City (Seattle) and this is one small town.  This was my first trip to The Nature Conservancy’s Soldier Creek Preserve, and to get there, we had the pleasure of driving through Fairfield.

Turning off Highway 20, in the 45 mile speed limit area many of us fear (due to the highly dependable work force in the Camas County Sheriff’s Office), I quickly arrived in downtown Fairfield.  Rumor has it, Fairfield is emerging as one of Idaho’s best “undiscovered” small ski towns…….I am not sure who voted on that title, but I think maybe they meant Idaho’s smallest “undiscovered” ski town……..
Soldier Creek Preserve © Nancy Mendelsohn

Besides being home to the Soldier Mountain Ski Resort, Fairfield is also home to a summer rodeo in July and a winter tree lighting and chili/soup contest the first week in December.   There are a couple restaurants, including a family friendly pizza joint and the Soldier Creek Brewery. The ski resort put in a chairlift in 1974. Bruce Willis, the actor, purchased the ski resort in the late1990’s and then donated it to a 501© (3) organization in 2012 and fled the area.

Dang, I didn’t take any pictures in Fairfield.  I passed thru so quickly my little camera phone missed the opportunity. That is all that I can tell you about this town, except that 743 people like Fairfield on the city’s Facebook page. Make that 744 now.

I drove out of the town with Sunny Healey and Clark Shafer, towards Soldier Creek.  It was about 20 degrees (F) and the roads were snow covered and slippery. The highlight for me was seeing the cowboys dressed in warm, winter gear, boots and hats, herding cattle in the snowy fields, just past town.          

Easement Monitoring © Nancy Mendelsohn

Sunny was doing easement monitoring on a conservation easement at Soldier Creek.  Clark, like me, just wanted to see the property and assign a face with a name. Geared up in Carhartt arctic-quilted coats, wool mittens and snow boots we trudged out on the property in about 7 inches of new, powder snow. We intended to view beaver activity in the meandering, flowing creek, while at the same time, not falling thru the icy edges.

Snow at Soldier Creek Preserve © Nancy Mendelsohn

The beavers, semi-aquatic rodents actually, must have been settled in for a long winter nap.  Beavers don’t actually hibernate; instead they hang out in their lodges made of branches and sticks which not only provide shelter, but are a food source. Some of their stick pile was above the water and snow covered.  We saw no tracks and no whiskers, but I could picture them chatting in their lodge, cuddling with each other and sharing a twig or two, just like in The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame published in 1908.  Some things never change.  We hope.