Two Thousand Miles Into the American Redoubt, by M.H.

The following is an extensive review of my journey into the American Redoubt over 11 days and 2,000 miles in July 2014. My traveling companion, during this time, was my adult son, who shares my concern for the rather dim future ahead. My wife of so many years preferred to leave to me the filtering process on which communities we will decide to move to when the time comes. This is not my first trip into the Redoubt but my third; however, this is my most extensive.

There is little in life that is more boring than someone else’s travelogue. I have tried my very best to make my comments brief, cogent, and interesting to the needs of the Prepper community. I made plenty of mistakes and miscalculations that may help others make a similar journey. I have so very much to say about this wonderful area, and I didn’t want to parrot the famous phrase of Horace Greeley when he stated, “Go west young man”, but I do want folks to realize that there is an opportunity to live with liberty-minded individuals.

I was in search of something; I was looking for a community of less than 5,000 but more than 500 people. I have been a huge fan of the fictitious town of Mayberry RFD, with one stop light and just over 5,000 residents. From my perspective, the Redoubt has at least 250 possible Mayberry’s. Towards the end, I will give a list of fifteen possible Mayberry’s for my family to consider.

My area of travel was the upper northwest corner of the Redoubt. This area would be Whitefish Montana to the east, Wenatchee Washington to the west, followed by La Grande, Oregon at the south, and to the Canadian border on the north. This area is roughly 25% of the Redoubt, but I settled on this area because it’s a huge valley between the Continental Divide of the Rockies in Montana and the Cascade Range in Washington State.

I am an advocate for privacy and very determined to guard my privacy during my travels. I used no credit cards, paying by cash at all stays. I roomed at mom and pop motels that prefer cash anyway. I could get a nine cent a gallon discount off my gas at most places by paying with cash. The Snowden revelations have made me more aware that anonymity has great value. Information I would freely give away just ten years ago, I would never part with today. I traveled with my cell phone off and battery in hand. I would text home to my wife every other day to let her know all was well. With all the talk of a carbon footprint, shouldn’t we be more afraid of leaving a digital footprint?

My preparations for travel were to travel light– just a pickup truck and some gear. I did bring along two different GPS devices to be run in tandem. One brand was a Garmin; the other was a Magellan. I had two brands of maps– Rand McNally and Delorme Gazetteer. My son and I had our Go Bags as well as some additional food and supplies we would need along the way.

A few words on GPS systems: I have a love and hate relationship with these devices. Just when you need them most, they will drop satellite contact. Still, they are absolutely critical to your travels in the Redoubt. When traveling into deep canyons, it was the Garmin that would drop contact first and last to pick it up again. We found ourselves using the GPS devices about 60 % of the time and pouring over the maps the remainder. During a SHTF situation, there will not be a single road sign left. The first group will be stolen for scrap metal, and the remainder will be taken off their posts by locals not wanting additional visitors. Also, many signs are already tree covered; it appears that county and state road crews have already cut way back and are not trimming the trees anymore. This is why a GPS locator can be worth its weight in gold. I am a Longitude and Latitude guy; I think postal addresses are relics of the past. A tip for the Prepper community: If you have to evacuate a major city in haste and every car is being guided by GPS, do not be a slave to GPS devices. It took some doing, but I was able to travel about 70% of the time off major interstates and on surface streets and state highways. Since nearly every town is 100 years old and our interstate highway system is 50 years old, a great many fine communities have been bypassed and overlooked.

The Redoubt is vast. To help folks wrap their mind around just how vast the Redoubt is, there was a stretch of forested road that went on for 92 miles without a single sign of human settlement. There was not one farmhouse or barn, simply miles of roadway. Also, there was no chance of cell phone reception. Oncoming cars were few and far between. We entered that stretch with just over a quarter tank of gasoline. This was foolish on my part. There was a small town in the distance with a population of 600, but when we arrived the only gas station in town had been closed for decades. It was a nail biting 14 more miles before we arrived in a resort town that sold only 91 octanes by the half gallon. I figured it was about seven dollars a gallon, but it sure beats walking. Lesson learned, start looking for gas when down to three quarters of a tank or take extra gas.

The food pyramid is here. I witnessed endless miles of grains being grown. Granaries were at the ready to receive this fall season’s crops. There were ribbons of corn, potatoes, and feed stocks being grown, as well as scattered herds of livestock that covered the landscape. When dropping down into the Chewelah Valley in Washington state, a small herd of 300 beef cattle was on the road and not about to move. It took some coaxing, but we were able to get through. Wineries and orchards plus the ability to process foodstuffs were readily apparent to be shipped around the world. The iron horse may have lost favor in other regions, but here the rail lines are the backbone of commerce.

Extended family is already there. I mentioned that this was my third journey into the Redoubt, while two others were to visit other extended families that had already made their decision to move to the Redoubt. Given the nature of their remoteness, I was provided only the GPS longitude and latitude, which made the drive quite possible.

The first family member had a sparsely treed mountain top retreat, 25 miles outside of a city of 40,000 people. How he found this location is beyond me. He has a cabin and shares this mountain top with nine other neighbors. You can literally see for 100 miles in all directions. There are no fences, because this is a free range county. Huge herds of Elk migrate down the mountains in the fall. Annually there is an old fashion cattle drive that goes through this region in the spring and fall. There are two radio stations that use this mountaintop for their broadcast towers; they were the ones that brought in the electricity. Without electricity this location would be very difficult, because the well water is 300 feet down in the ground. A hillside spring runs year round but only at about one gallon per minute during the dry summer months, which is not enough for any sort of agriculture. On a score of one to ten, I gave his location a six. I love the beauty and remoteness, but the water situation and the punishing winds in the winter make this a less than perfect choice.

The second location was a 60 acre parcel located 26 miles east of a town of 3,000 people. It was on a major state highway. They had well water, power, septic, land line telephone, and a nearby deep creek. They had built a huge 8,000 square foot pole barn with 20-foot high sidewalls with a concrete floor slab. Inside they had built a mezzanine loft of 800 square feet as their living quarters. From the roadside it looks like a huge hay barn. When we had arrived at the location, a neighbor rode up on his quad and aggressively asked what our intentions were. I had this guy pegged as the Nosy Rosy type. I had no patience with him, and I told him so. A heated argument ensued, and my relative came out of the barn to separate us. This was an older gentleman that was probably harmless and just had too little to do, but I want to warn the Prepper community that folks like that are out there. I only scored this property as a five because of the state highway being so busy and the run in with the territorial neighbor.

The rich are already here. Don’t kid yourself folks. The rich know something is afoot, and they have been making contingency plans. I saw plenty of new high end summer homes and gated communities. I used the “Starbucks Index”– a community that could support two or more Starbucks was simply too large and wealthy for me. When I was driving past the Glacier Park Airport just north of Kalispell, Montana, I was surprised to see a string of private jets on the taxiway readying for takeoff. I wondered to myself if this would be the next Jackson Hole resort area. On my final list there are no wealthy communities or high end resorts. I was looking for sturdy houses and a sturdier people. I simply don’t want to be around the well off when the sudden drop in standard of living beckons.

I must be within 100 miles of the Canadian border. The Canadian people have a long history of helping oppressed Americans. To help end the scourge of the slave trade, the final destination of the Underground Railroad was that of Canada. When the Quakers and the Mennonites could not find religious freedom in parts of United States, it was the Canadians that took them in. In the late 1970s when Iran tried to kill the Americans held hostage in Iran, it was Canada that risked their people and embassy to get them out. No, this American must locate within 100 miles of the 49th parallel. This current Federal administration has repeatedly used the full weight of the Federal government against innocent groups within its borders. Those that carry the moniker of Christian Conservative have a great deal to fear from this administration. The bone chilling effect of the IRS- Lois Lerner scandal, along with the lost hard drive cover up, demonstrates that those that love the Constitution will continue to be the targets of oppression. I look upon Canada as the Switzerland of North America. My reasoning is simple, if Canadians draw close to the United States border for economic security, shouldn’t Americas draw close for political security? The question is worthy of debate.

There has been a lot of talk recently about our southern border with Mexico, so I went to see for myself our northern border with Canada. Yes, at the border crossings the American border is formidable, but within 300 yards on either side of the border it was nonexistent. What I repeatedly saw was a tired, 40 year old, three-strand, barb wired fence that was mostly down, not up. There was an occasional sign or moss-covered pylon denoting on which side was Canada and which was the United States. I was careful to stay on American soil, but I was dismayed at the billions spent on the nonsense of Homeland Security to come away with this.

Housing for new arrivals will be required. We have not had a land rush in the United States since the mid 1890s. In that case, it was a rush for free land and potential prosperity, but the new land rush will be to protect our progeny and bring us to safety. What I observed is that the vacation home market within the Redoubt has taken a real beating. Most of these homes were built in the 1950s to 1970s, when we had a real economy, gasoline was far cheaper, and the middle class could afford a second home. Those days are long gone. The six-year recession and sky high gas prices have taken its toll on these homes. Many appear to have been unoccupied for years and suffering from financial neglect and lack of any maintenance. Between Mother Nature and Father Time, these homes will need rescuing. When the final chapter is written on the Federal Reserve and the magnet of all jobs is gone, these homes could welcome new families as housing for newcomers, beginning as possible tenants and then later as homeowners.

Gun-friendly communities are the norm, as every small town had a sporting goods shop or a gun store. This could be a great source for local information and male gossip. The Redoubt is dotted with the mom and pop restaurant chain called Zips. This burger joint makes some of the very best food, much to the dismay of my waistline. They’re decorated in the motifs of the Beachboys and a much more pleasant time of the 1950s. Their motto is “Swift and Thrift”, and boy, are they good! My reason for mentioning this is we came across, in Zips, three young men in their mid- to late- teens all open carrying large frame handguns, dressed in denim pants and flannel shirts. I just had to find out their story. I found out they were Huck Pickers. Huck Pickers are people that go up into the high mountains to pick the elusive and much coveted mountain huckleberry. It’s much like a small blueberry but very sweet. The problem is the woods are filled with black bears and some Grizzlies with the occasional cougar thrown in. The bears share the same sweet tooth we do and could be picking right alongside of you in the thick brush and you would never know it. The bear may desire a change in the menu, hence the need for self protection.

The Huck Pickers day usually starts at 3 AM, when they make their way to the berry fields high in the mountains. Each Huck Picker is careful not to disclose his patch to any other pickers. Prices last year were $100 per gallon; this year it was down to $45 gallon. I paid $18 for a fresh Huck Pie, and it was worth every penny.

The American Redoubt will never go dark. That is a very bold statement to make, but nowhere on earth have a people mastered the art of falling water to spin their turbines so thoroughly than in the Redoubt.

These folks are the Saudi Arabia of hydroelectricity, in a hot second they send most of their product outside of the Redoubt. When your endless fuel falls freely from the skies in the form of rain or snow, you are truly blessed. When dam tours were offered, I took them. I was not interested in the behemoth of the Grand Coulee dam of Washington State, even though it’s the 7th largest hydroelectric project in the world and four times larger than the much-vaunted Hoover Dam of Nevada. No, for me I was most interested in dams nobody has heard of, like Albini, Boundary, Hungry Horse, Dworshak, Box Canyon, and Glenwald. The first thing that strikes you is all the technology is 70 to 100 years old. I found the Kaplan turbines, many of which are still functioning today, are decades old. Clever people armed only with slide rulers made major engineering feats. The small community of Glenwald had formed an electric co–op in 1932 to take over the local sawmill’s power plant when the mill went bust during the depression. With a wooden penstock and a turbine, built in 1919, electricity is still being generated today in Glenwald– enough to power 60 homes. Electric rates are a remarkable four to seven cents per kilowatt hour, but plenty of folks still heat with wood.

Here is my list of top 15 picks:

  • Dayton, Washington
  • Newport, Washington
  • Republic, Washington
  • Chewelah, Washington
  • Sagle, Idaho
  • Bonners Ferry, Idaho
  • Priest River, Idaho
  • Orofino, Idaho
  • Grangeville, Idaho
  • Enterprise, Oregon
  • Joseph, Oregon
  • Hamilton, Montana
  • Libby, Montana
  • Eureka, Montana
  • Hungry Horse, Montana
  • Thompson Falls, Montana

I was hoping a boots on the ground perspective, or in my case tennis shoes, could help the Prepper community and maybe spur others to explore this region for possible relocation. My wife and I will narrow the list down to five, and through much inspiration and prayer will revisit these locations in the splendor of fall color to make our final decision. However, I must give full respect to Horace Greeley when he uttered that famous phrase, “Go west young man”; the rest of the phrase is “Go west and grow up with the country.”

It’s that potential to grow up with a new country that excites me the most.