Offered a free trip into a remote Idaho wilderness that she loves and studies, Professor Dawn Edwards can’t refuse. On the trip she meets Professor Madison Rogers, and they fall for each other before they even reach their destination.
But living in the Old West proves to be a brutal task. Somehow, Dawn must survive to rescue herself, her friends, and the man she loves.
A science fiction novel of the old west and true love.
I met USA Today bestseller Dean Wesley Smith over a decade ago. He started as a mentor and has long since become friend. With over a hundred novels and hundreds of short stories, he has been on numerous list for many genres. When he offered an Old West time-travel romance, I snapped it up and am thrilled to include this journey into the Idaho wilderness. – M.L. Buchman
DAWN EDWARDS STOOD on the edge of the narrow trail, staring at the metal plaque attached to a flat stone among the tall pines. She couldn’t believe she was actually here, at the Roosevelt Cemetery, one of the most remote and difficult to find cemeteries in all of Idaho.
Maybe in all of the United States.
Around her the day was going to turn hot before it was finished, but the sun had yet to clear the tall mountains towering over her and there was still a chill to the crisp, clear air under the tall pines. Monumental Creek ran about twenty feet below her, the beautiful mountain stream filling the air with a relaxing sound of water over rocks.
This August morning couldn’t get any more perfect as far as she was concerned. The smell of the dried pine needles seemed extra strong. She had managed to get into one of the most remote places in the country, a long distance inside the River of No Return Primitive Area. And she had found a tiny cemetery she knew existed, but never thought she could find.
A perfect morning.
She had on jeans and her old comfortable hiking boots. At the moment she still had on her parka, even though it was early August. But she would shortly shed that and the light sweatshirt under it as well for the white hiking shirt and sports bra under that.
She and two old friends from college were camped back up the stream above the lake about a half-mile. She had wanted to come down to the lake and cemetery on her own this morning. They hadn’t cared and were both still sound asleep in their tents when she left.
She kneeled down and brushed some pine needles reverently away from the plaque.
The engraved metal plaque had been installed in 1949 by the Pioneers of the Thunder Mountain Gold Rush. That gold rush had happened from 1901 to 1909 with the peak years being 1902-1907.
Five very short years.
The small cemetery was roped off between trees framing a small square area of brush and dried pine needles not much bigger than a small front yard on a suburban street. The rope looked to be only a few years old, brown, but not frayed yet, so someone still sort of took care of the place. She wondered who that might be and if she could find that person or group.
There were still a few wooden grave marker boards, all weather-beaten and brown with names long worn away. They marked a few graves and she could see a few other unmarked graves where the ground under the needles had settled in. One grave kept drawing her eye, the depression closest to the stone, but she didn’t feel it would be right to cross inside the rope and get closer.
There would be nothing to see.
She knew so much about this area and had been studying it for two years for her new book The Great Secrets of the West. The remains of the Roosevelt mining town under the lake between her and her camp was one of those secrets. It would be a great chapter in her book.
The problem was there was very little to research. Very, very little, actually was known or written about this area. Even though as a college professor, she had special privileges at the Idaho Historical Society and access to the records of papers of towns that no longer existed, including the few copies of the Roosevelt Avalanche that managed to survive, she could find very little.
Now she was lucky enough to actually get in here and see it for herself.
For some reason, this area really had pulled her more than any other place she researched. It felt magical.
Which is why she had funded this camping trip into this wilderness and paid for two of her old college friends to come with her.
It had taken them a two-hour drive yesterday to get to the recreation town of Cascade, Idaho, from Boise where they all lived. Then it took another three hours to get to the remote old mining town of Yellow Pine on mostly dirt roads.
They had had lunch there in an old bar that looked right out of 1900. Everything in it seemed authentic right down to the two horses that were tied up outside and the dried smell of old cigars inside. There were guns and animal heads hanging on the walls along with old rusted mining equipment and a large wagon wheel.
She found it wonderful and familiar. Her friends found it “quaint” but they loved the fantastic cheeseburgers made on an old grill. Dawn had to admit, her cheeseburger was one of the best she could remember. And the fries were greasy and covered in salt, just as she liked them.
From Yellow Pine, it took three more hours of horrid driving on a one-lane winding dirt road to get through another ghost town named Stibnite and up to the Monumental Valley Summit.
The road had switchbacks so tight, she had to back the van up to get around them. The road scared the hell out of her two friends and if she hadn’t been driving, it would have scared her as well.
Her research made vague references to a grand hotel that stood on that summit at one point, but there was no sign of the ruins now, and no record was really sure where it had been.
Or even if it had existed at all.
Sometimes history could be so elusive. Especially history of the Old West.
She had walked among the trees on the flat top of the ridge, getting the strangest feeling that she really knew the place. Yet she had never been here before.
Weird. Not creepy.
More like she had come home. It was so beautiful. You could see seemingly forever in all directions. And the views of the mountain ranges going on and on just took her breath away.
That ridge summit marked the edge of the River of No Return Primitive Area, but a mining claim inside the primitive area had managed to keep a road open, so she could drive down the two thousand foot drop on a frighteningly steep road into the Monumental Creek drainage.
Once in the bottom of the valley, the road wound leisurely along the stream among the tall pine trees. They passed a lot of ruins once they got to the valley floor.
They camped about a mile above the lake that marked the death of Roosevelt, Idaho in 1909.
Now, this morning she had seen the lake and taken pictures of the remains of the old ghost town under the water.
And now she had been fantastically lucky and found the cemetery below the lake on a small hillside.
The plaque attached to the rock on the edge of the cemetery read:
In Memory Of
The Thunder Mountain Dead
Of Whom Thirteen Are Known
To Rest In This Cemetery
There were ten names on it with an inscription about three unknowns that were also buried here.
Two of the names were only last names.
She had a picture of this plaque blown up and framed on her office wall at Boise State University and she knew those names by heart.
She had managed to find family history on eight of the names, but the two without first names remained elusive as well as the three unknowns.
Again, she reverently brushed away more pine needles, then she took a few pictures of her own of the plaque.
And a few pictures of the sunken grave closest to the rock.
Then she stood and looked around, taking long deep breaths of the clear air, enjoying the smell of pine and forest.
What was it about this place that had her so fascinated?
What kind of connection? It had been with her since the first moment she heard of this valley and the lost town.
She sat again next to the plaque on the dirt beside the trail, her back against the base of a large tree and pulled out a bottle of water.
The peacefulness of the forest and the tall mountains around here just seemed to relax her, like she belonged here in these high mountains. She took a drink, savoring how the water took the dust out of her mouth.
Then slowly and carefully, she looked around, studying the trees, the hillsides, and the stream below her, trying to memorize every detail of this perfect morning.
She could almost imagine this valley alive with people instead of forgotten by all but a few.
She wished she could see this valley when it had seven thousand people in it, when the town of Roosevelt was a booming mining town, when the sounds of the pianos playing in the dozen saloons and two dance halls along Main Street echoed through the trees and the high peaks at all hours of the day and night.
For over six years, until a mudslide blocked Monumental Creek and backed water up over Roosevelt, this valley had been alive and booming, one of the great secrets of western lore.
And then it had died.
Quickly and without anyone really remembering it.
Or writing about it.
Now, legend had it that on a calm night sitting beside Roosevelt Lake with the remains of the town visible through the clear water, you could still hear the pianos from the saloons.
Tonight, as the sun dropped behind Thunder Mountain, she planned on sitting beside that lake and listening.
And maybe, just maybe, if she listened hard enough, she would hear the music.
At least she hoped she would.