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Letter Re: Idaho as a Retreat Locale


In response to Jonathan’s letter about places to consider in Idaho [1], I would like to make the case for two small towns named Pierce and Weippe (We-I-P). While JR got close to talking about them when he mentioned Fraser (“Freezer”), I think he may be overlooking a couple of gems.

The population of Pierce is just over 500 and Weippe just over 400. The local K-12 school (Timberline) has a total of just over 200 kids with an average class size of 16 (several classes only 3, 4, or 5). Pierce and Weippe are about 10 miles apart, and the school is between them. I live in Pierce.

There are two streams that run directly out of the mountains and right through Pierce. They converge at the edge of town and then run down the hill towards Orofino. One of them is the town’s water supply and has never run dry, as far as anyone knows (i.e., water should never be a problem). The stream that the city uses to supply the water used to support a population of about 4000 (until the mill closed in 2000 and the city shrank).

One of JWR’s “rules” is that you should live “off a side road of a side road”, and both Pierce and Weippe fill that bill nicely. The only road that runs through both towns is a loop road that runs from route 12 in Orofino up through both towns (and Fraser, if you wish) and back down to route 12 in Greer, so the only traffic we get is that which REALLY wants or needs to come through here.

Pierce and Weippe are the last two towns before you go over the Bitterroot Mountains to Montana, so you have about two hundred miles of some of the best fishing (including one of the world’s most renowned fly fishing streams) and hunting available. Most of houses on my street are “hunting cabins” that are only occupied during the hunting and fishing season.

Real estate is relatively inexpensive. Just a couple of months ago there was a 2600 sq ft house near “downtown” on a good sized lot, not in very good shape, but certainly livable, that was listed for $29,000 and sold rather quickly. There are a lot of houses for sale that have been on the market for a long time, and I imagine the owners would be pretty flexible on price, but that’s just my guess.

The only businesses in Pierce are a grocery store, a hardware store, a car parts store, an art store, a gas station with 50 year old pumps, the library, a couple of restaurants, and the post office. Oh, and, of course, lots of bars and churches.

The last couple of winters have been relatively mild. Last year I never had more than three feet of accumulated snow in my yard. So far this year I haven’t had more than one foot. Next year, who knows?

As in most places, employment is an issue. The only employers of any size are the school district and the lumber mill in Weippe. Also, as Johnathan mentioned, the growing season is shorter, but if you’ve done your canning and dehydrating, you should be able to replenish your food supply during the summer.

Cell service is almost nonexistent. You can stand in a few places in town and get reception, but it is spotty. The best part (or worst part, depending upon your perspective) is that it is 63 miles to the closest starbucks! Weippe has the better Internet service (as it is not very good in Pierce), if that’s a consideration for you. Who knows how long we’ll even have an Internet though.

As a side note about Fraser: It is almost all farm land with lots of wheat fields there!

If you want to be relatively remote without being out in the hinterlands, you may want to check out Pierce, Weippe, and Freezer (I mean Fraser).

BTW, I am not a real estate agent nor do I work for the Chamber or Commerce. – A.G.