Eight years ago we started this journey of exploring the country. A sign hangs in our bedroom; a gift from our son.. “Travel.. the only thing you buy that makes you richer“. On the other walls hang canvas photos from Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Utah. We seem to be drawn back to the west over and over. Those mountains get in your blood and call you back; over and over. Our latest adventure happened around our 38th wedding anniversary. We boarded a Southwest plane destined for Boise, Idaho. Yes, Idaho .. the random reactions for two Middle Tennesseans choosing a vacation in Idaho were comical. “Where is your next trip?” Our simple response: Idaho — almost always followed with the words — “Idaho? What’s in Idaho besides potatoes? Or “Who goes to Idaho?” .. one person even referred to our vacation destination as “potato land”. Ignorance is bliss.. and we knew from some sneak peaks and travels THRU Idaho, along with a bit of research.. that much beauty was to be found IN Idaho. And we were quite optimistic of less crowds than our latest National Park trips. Discovery of what to see near Boise, Idaho came thru a Christmas gift – National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways & Byways. Truthfully, if the drives are scenic .. the stops must be also. We planned two nights in Boise, Stanley, Salmon and one night in Bellevue. Starting and ending in Boise with a few particular destinations: mainly the Sawtooth Mountains and Salmon River. A combination of the Sawtooth Drive and Salmon River Scenic Byway from a Christmas gift that keeps on giving with sweet memories and beautiful photos.
Friday June 11th
Travel day from Nashville to Boise via Southwest Airlines included a short layover in Vegas to stretch on the plane. Six hours with just snacks equals two hungry travelers. Easy car rental pick up and off to find a meal. Our Boise Air B and B host recommended several local places, we chose CopenRoss. Delicious bacon cheeseburgers, tater tots (of course we had potatoes in IDAHO!) and local brews — a BuzzBuzz coffee porter and a blackberry hard cider. Our studio apartment Air B and B was only a mile from the airport, quiet and cozy, convenient to downtown and had backyard chickens. Friday night traffic in Boise? Nope.. it seemed rather non-existence.
Saturday June 12th Downtown Boise; Eagle Rodeo with friends
Awake way before any humans in Boise or daylight, we moved slow .. made coffee and our way into Boise. Albertson’s grocery was the first stop for purchasing breakfast food and picnic snack stuff. Arriving downtown early, we walked thru the Freak Alley Art Gallery an open air mural gallery then the State Capital Building. Kathryn Albertson Park was next , such a beautiful park so near downtown Boise. Next stop was the Idaho Old State Penitentiary, our first admission price for the day. So much rich dark history here, we spent a few hours wandering thru the different building, reading story after story of a hard place. One local guide recommended Basque Block for lunch, Bar Gernika was great. Support the locals is important when we travel, plus helpful in really feeling the culture of a new place. Places we visited today were from research off Trip Advisor. A list I never imagined could be done in one day. After a short afternoon rest, we drove to Eagle Rodeo for an amazing Western Rodeo with some friends who had just moved to Idaho. An outside PRCA rodeo, basically in the middle of a field. Really cool, and probably about five hours long with many people. It was an incredibly full day, but didn’t feel rushed. The traffic and crowds, even in downtown, were nothing compared to home or other vacations we have taken. A day filled with beautiful roses of all colors, ducks, geese, Osprey, Lilly pads, carp, turtles, PRCA rodeo, Basque culture, pickled onions, backyard chickens, gallows, Merci boxcar, spruce trees, parking meters.
Sunday June 13th Boise to Stanley via Sawtooth Drive
Breakfast with our Idaho friends at Joe Mammas in Meridian. Sweet conversations, hugs and one last photo together taken by a first unwilling and then very apologetic 6th generation Idahoan. Saying goodbye was hard, who knows when we will be in Idaho again. Before driving to Stanley, we took a road trip to the Human Bean coffee shop, using a rodeo ticket freebie. Equipped with a Green Tea Smoothie, coffee expresso beans and a black coffee, we drove Hwy 21 out of downtown Boise to Stanley. Following the Scenic Highways and Byways Christmas gift .. we took Warm Springs Avenue out of downtown. This route follows the Boise River, climbs into the hills above Boise then opens to expansive views of the Snake River Plain. Idaho City, then Mores Creek Summit at 6117 feet. Temps were a super warm 98 “dry” heat degrees. For us Tennesseans it felt like being in a sauna.. a beautiful sauna. Driving among Ponderosa Pines, blue sky, water, and again not a lot of traffic, we stopped at several overviews, more than one Pit toilet and wildlife areas. We arrived in Stanley, Idaho – population 63 — right after our first glimpse of the Sawtooth mountains. Stanley, a mining town turned ranching town that caters to fishermen, hunters, backpackers and white-water rafters. The Sawtooth Hotel located at 755 Ace of Diamonds Street is Stanley’s authentic hotel, built in 1931 – super cute place with only nine rooms and a downstairs restaurant, our home for two nights. We ate dinner outside on their front porch, a delicious meal prepared by a chef whose parents accidentally mixed up rooms with us. But that’s another story for another day, a funny one. Dinner was Sour Dough rolls, Beet and Manchego Salad with Smoked Trout, a Salmon Entrée with Sockeye Amber beer… so delicious. Beautiful cozy rooms with a great king-size bed and perfect showers. A wild west feel that somehow seems familiar. Stanley, Idaho immediately felt like home and became a special place in my heart.
Monday June 14th Redfish Lake Trailhead – Fishhook Creek – Salmon River
Experienced a great night of sleep with open windows in the corner upstairs room #9 at the Sawtooth Hotel. Self Serve coffee downstairs ready by 7 am, the creak of wooden steps on the way down. So many hikes in the area to choose, Redfish trail head was our destination. It took a bit to figure out the trail system. We hiked Fishhook Creek Trail. A beautiful 4.5 mile hike, along Fishhook Creek – with Aspens shimmering above us, water flowing beside. The trail was not hard or busy with people, however it was pretty warm temperature wise. Glad we got an early start. All our senses were engaged; the smell of sage, sounds of birds singing, cold water to step in, the taste of outside, the feel of the sun.. so clear and pure. Idaho feels similar to our Wyoming experiences, so crisp and the Sawtooth Mountains may not as tall as the Tetons, however they are very majestic. We saw butterflies, picas, maybe a prairie dog or two? Hard to tell what those fast little creatures are. At the end of the trail, we removed our shoes and socks to wade in bone chilling Fishhook creek. Or should I say .. just put our feet in, beautiful place. After returning to the car, we grabbed a picnic lunch from our stash, ate on a fallen tree limb by the creek. The shade felt great, the water was wonderful. After eating, we explored a bit, finding Redfish Lake, a few miles of the Salmon River Byway, skipping rocks in the Salmon. Clear and pure water with very blue skies and great views.. and not a lot of people. Cute little local coffee shop called Perks and Peaks made for a nice afternoon stop – Huckleberry and White chocolate .. caffeine, sugar and beauty alongside my person on a bench gazing at the mountains. Spent the evening looking for wildlife; found sandhill cranes, pronghorn antelope, bluebirds, prairie dogs, a golden eagle, mule deer and elk.
Tuesday June 15th Alpine Lake Hike – Salmon River Byway to Salmon
Checkout day @ the Sawtooth Hotel, but Stanley offers so much, we remained there after checking out. With lower temps predicted, we choose to hike. After a delicious breakfast at the Sawtooth Baking company, Alpine lake trail – an 8 mile 1274 feet elevation hike was our choice. A beautiful hike, long with different surfaces which included rock, gravel, dirt, even some snow. Turquoise snow melt mountain Alpine lake; where we stayed a while to eat lunch at the water edge, got in the lake knee deep. Watching the snow melt into the lake was magical. Again, not a lot of other hikers but enough to not feel totally alone. After the hike out, we returned to Stanley, grabbed coffee at Peaks and perks again, then drove the Salmon River Scenic Byway to Salmon, Idaho. A beautiful drive, two hours plus with river views, farmland, mountains. Our Air b and b in Salmon — J&J Cabins, a 12 X 16 cabin that offered everything you could need in a super small space. Dinner was at a local place called Junkyard Bistro. Long spectacular day of hiking, driving, lake and river views, dry desolate land or lush irrigated farmland, what looks to be a hard life, and a town called Clayton – population 7.
Wednesday June 16th Salmon, Idaho
Happy birthday morning conversations with our oldest son back home, before an easy day of exploring Salmon, Idaho. The morning was spent exploring the Sacajawea Interpretative Center. Walked the trail thru their meadow and a nature trail along the river. Standing under Aspen and Cottonwood trees by the Salmon River listening to Warblers and possibly meadowlarks sing .. Horses to pet, Bitterroot Mountain views and a film on the history of the area – the Shoshone tribes. In downtown Salmon, we walked thru the Veteran City Park and the Lemhi Museum. Lunch was at the Pork Peddler, then we wandered in a few stores, An art store, hat store and a fly fishing place. Grabbed some deli food for dinner and spent the afternoon reading at the cabin, then caught a Braves game on ESPN.
Thursday June 17th Salmon River Byway to Bellevue, Idaho
Ah, the goodbye tour begins. Checking out of the cabin, we drove the scenic Salmon River Byway back to Stanley and then onto Bellevue. Seeing the river fresh in the morning light, the irrigation pivots that define green and life vs the dry parched desert land. The spiritual symbolism was so evident, how Living Water can give life and renewal to us. At one pull off, we watched a family of geese nurture their five little ones along the Salmon. Arriving in Stanley near lunchtime, we purchased take out sandwiches from Sawtooth Baking Company. Settling on a log near Red Fish Lake, we ate lunch with the beautiful clear water and blue skies in sight of the snow covered sawtooth mountains. On our continuing drive more mountains, green ranches, up and down elevation thru Ketchum into Bellevue .. where we found out first traffic! Away from it for nearly an entire week, we experienced a little reality check. The last Air B and B – Long Horse Ranch in Bellevue, Idaho was the most roomy one of all. Perfect to repack for the flight home. So grateful for a chance to get away, have companionship and provision, for safety, protection. For rest and a healthy desire to travel. We spent the afternoon/evening repacking and relaxing on the front porch of this cabin.
Friday June 18th Back to Boise – Mexican lunch – Dog Park – Late night to Nashville, TN
Ah.. the gift of a super long night of sleep and a bathtub soak to start the day. Our last day in Idaho, the drive back to the airport from Bellevue to Boise was beautiful. Thousands of acres of alfalfa fields along highway 20 to interstate. We saw black angus cattle, antelope, and even a few tractors busy at work in their fields. I always enjoy watching Mark relive his farm days as we pass thru farm lands. And know he will tell his dad; they speak a farm language together; share that bond. When we arrived in Boise, we chose a local Mexican Place for lunch, recommended by our first Air BNB hosts. Andrades; where we both had a lunch taco salad and I celebrated our spectacular week in Idaho with a strawberry margarita. Then off to find another Human Bean for coffee .. using our last rodeo ticket stub coupon. With time still left, we drove to the Ann Morrison park in Boise, drank our coffee by the pond, watching labradoodles, labs, and even two fluffy white dogs that reminded us of our Dixie, play in the dog park and pond. Fetching and running all while surrounded by geese, ducks and seagulls. We returned our Enterprise rental car with ease; and possibly the greatest amount of dust and dirt ever! Boise is a small airport, we were caught a little off guard at the Southwest Line .. but made it fine. Boise to Denver; about an hour and twenty minutes. Then home to Nashville where our son graciously picked us up, returning us to our car parked at his place.
Random things we learned this trip: Soma underwear can be wash and wear .. Teva Sandals for men are comfy .. Idaho is not just for potatoes.
Random things we pack: flashlights and a nightlight
The one piece of clothing I did not wear: Blue jeans
Scenic Drive = Scenic places to explore
“The Sawtooth National Recreation area: an enchanting land of towering granite peaks, rushing rivers and pristine wildlife habitat.”
Idaho may be the best kept secret of all …. shhh!
til next time,