When I packed the kids in the van and drove over to Melba, Idaho a few weeks ago I was under the impression that we were going to a “fairy” trail. Shay my daughter is obsessed with all things fairy and magical so I was sure she would love it. When we pulled in to Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Trail I was a little confused but pleasantly surprised to find it was in fact a “ferry” museum which was a nod to the still standing 150-year-old buildings which at one time housed the ferry services across the Snake River. What I soon discovered was that a man by the name of Dr. Samuel “Pappy” Swayne and his wife Cleo purchased this land and constructed buildings to house his medical practice and for them to reside in. When Pappy passed away in 1976, Cleo decided to turn their property into a religious nature trail.
The sign that we passed as we entered says it’s a “faith adventure”. Anyone could see as you start your journey walking the trail that it is heavily influenced by Christian religious beliefs whether the various decorations are subtle or not so subtle. Cleo put up bird houses along the trail which all have included signs with whimsical and religious quotes on them about life, love, and family. Judging just by looking, there must be thousands of houses so that feat was amazing in itself to achieve! This part of the trail also houses a cemetery which is the final resting place of the beloved Pappy Swayne and various other family members.
There’s also a kitschy side of this trail. Mixed amongst the Christian decor are spectacularly kooky lawn decorations including life-sized African safari animals, a full Hansel and Gretel set, a random rocket ship housing an alien with included “Take me to your leader” sign, and a collection of bronze sculptures including historical figures. I took a photo with William Shakespeare because I recently discovered he is a distant cousin of mine! (And by distant I mean like 14th cousin twice removed or something crazy like that!) The dichotomy of different worlds just kind of makes you cock your head and say “Huh.”. But it’s also a very interesting contrast and just makes you feel like you’re in a giant attic of your favorite grandma. Despite it being almost 100 degrees that day, we enjoyed our nature walk. There are also chickens roaming free, and there is a muster of peacocks which the kids had a phenomenal time feeding, and we loved seeing the babies!
If you’re in the neighborhood, head on over to Cleo’s Ferry Museum and Nature Walk. It was a very unique discovery for us, and whether you’re religious or not you can appreciate all the time and work that went into this beautiful space.
The Raw Brunette