That is right, we are not going back to a wonderful place. It was just too hard, so hard we are not going back. Once and done is good enough. This is not the first time we have declared that we were not going back to some particular place, but it might be the first time that we have decided not going back to a wonderful place.
I am very thankful that this doesn’t happen very often. Overall I can come up with only a handful of places that I put on my do not return list. This is the only one that I can think of that was a wonderful place that we are not going back to because it was too hard to go there.
Now get me right, this place was so nice that if I didn’t have to drive there in a motorhome I would go back. Not only that, it was so nice that it might be a place to settle down. But in our motor home not going back.
In our last story, we ended the story with our tale of being stuck on the road with a rock slide in front of us and the campground on the far side of the rock slide. That next morning we drove to Orofino Idaho and found a place to stay for two nights. It was the weekend, and we were lucky to get a spot with electricity. We usually pick shade or electricity we got lucky and had both. This was important because it was getting hot.
Overall Orofino was fine. It is a small town on the west side of the Idaho panhandle. I judge the size of towns by how many grocery stores they have. In Orofino, I found two. For the last hundred miles, the grocery store count was zero. The gas station count was one. Here is a link to our last two posts about crossing Idaho on the path that Lewis and Clark took. Across the Bitterroot Mountains and The Lochsa River
With our kayaks, we got to explore a lot more shoreline than we could have seen while walking around the lake. This is a big lake and we explored less than one percent of the shoreline.
Historically the towns downstream of Orofino had a flooding problem. The main channel of the Clearwater River would join the north fork of the Clearwater River just downstream of Orofino. Nearly every year the combined flow of the Clearwater River would flood the towns. So with the primary objective being flood control Dworshak Dam was constructed north of Orofino and created a huge reservoir.
When the water started backing up when the dam was finished, it flooded the tiny town of Dent. Now Dent is a small neighborhood at the end of Dent Bridge road and for us, it has a really nice campground called Dent Acres.
Dent wasn’t much as far as towns go. Mr. Dent was named the postmaster in 1896. He named the town after himself. I’m not sure there was ever a post office building. The location was removed from the postal records in 1954. They closed the post office ten years before they decided they needed to create a dam and flood the area.
Not going back
As part of the construction of the dam, the government decided to build a bridge so that access to the north side of the Dworshak reservoir would be possible. Because of the terrain, a suspension bridge was part of the project. Without this bridge, the drive from Orofino to Dent, which was twenty miles would have been way more than 100 miles. In fact, without the bridge, they would have had to make a hundred-mile new road in addition to the pre-existing roads.
Without the bridge
Without the bridge, we wouldn’t have been able to get there. What I didn’t know was that even with the bridge it was going to be so hard to get there.
A quick glance at the satellite picture will also tell you how the road was laid out in the steep sections. It wasn’t straight at all. Most of Dent Bridge Road uses the same path as the old Dent Road. When building the dam the engineers were looking for the lowest-cost option. Building a huge suspension bridge was the lowest-cost option.
Right of way
When driving in the mountains one of the “rules” is that downhill traffic should yield to uphill traffic. I don’t see that happening very often because most roads are big enough for traffic going in both directions to pass safely. In these constricted areas especially on turns, larger vehicles (me) nearly always need to use the center of the road to keep all their wheels on the road. This is especially true on right turns. So this middle-of-the-road “need” becomes an issue for the right-of-way decisions. We also don’t have the option of backing up because of our tow car. So that problem creates other decisions pertaining to how to safely operate. In the Navy, we would have called this restricted maneuvering.
There is also the consideration of vehicle age. If you are facing a logging truck that is old, dirty, and looks like it has been hit before, you can conclude the driver doesn’t care about the above right-of-way rules.
A new bridge, on an old road
Really the reason we are not going back is that the road (Dent Bridge Road) is not friendly. It is too narrow for two RVs to travel and cross paths except in a few places. It is also very steep. Grades on this road are 9% and sometimes exceed 10%. The curves on the road ensure that in a large RV you will not be able to stay on your side of the road. To stay safe on this road you need to take it slow. For us, it took more than an hour to travel twenty miles. Most of the time I was climbing or descending in first gear.
Understanding road grades
A typically steep road will have a grade rating of 5-6%. This means that for each one hundred feet of travel you will climb or descend five or six feet. Six feet per hundred is a moderately steep road. Ten feet per hundred, especially on a switchback, is a very steep road. We have been on some steeper roads, but not in the RV.
Logging trucks in this area drive this road very fast, much faster than we do. I am very glad we only crossed paths with one truck on our way in and didn’t see any on the way out.
I mentioned that the government built a bridge to cross the lake. It is more than fifteen hundred feet long and saved more than one hundred road miles. The one thing that Dent Bridge lacks is lots of traffic. Mostly it is used by the previously mentioned logging trucks, a few locals, and tourists (like me) heading toward Dent Acres Campground.
Too bad we won’t go back because Dent Acres was a wonderful campground. It is on a south-facing slope and overlooks the water. The reason people go here is to play in the water. From the campground, you can explore the lake and play in the water. Fishing and waterskiing are typical when staying there. For us, even though the mid-afternoons were hot, we would typically go for an after-dinner paddle in our kayaks. To the west of the campground, there was a forest service road that was perfect for a mountain bike.
The lake is so large and the places to stay on the lake are so few that some solitude is nearly guaranteed. If you have the right type of boat you could explore the Clearwater Arm of the lake. Starting at the dam you would be going more than fifty miles before you get to the river. You would also be going fifty miles without any nearby roads.
Maybe we should just stay in town
If we get near here again, maybe we should just stay in town. Because we were up at Dent Acres we didn’t explore the attractions of the dam or fish hatchery. Instead, we just chilled in our semi-private paradise knowing that we were not going back to this location.
If you go to Dent Acres, and it really was nice, I hope you are driving a truck with a lightweight trailer. Maybe two trucks would be in order, one for the trailer and the second one for the boat.