Wow. And I thought Wyoming was pretty! At first, I thought I would post one session about our trip to Idaho. Not so fast, big boy. This state is turning out to be one hell of a beautiful state, with so much to share! So here is our first post of several about Idaho. Based on what we have seen so far, we’ll be back in a heartbeat.
Side note: These posts about Idaho are going to be filled with superlatives – just fair warning. I can’t help it. Idaho: it’s not just about potatoes.
This post will cover our travels from Jackson Hole (WY) to Twin Falls, Twin Falls to Stanley, and Stanley to Riggins.
We made entry into Idaho to Twin Falls by way of Teton Pass from Jackson, WY. Our route was spectacular, let me just say. This route past Mount Glory (hike up, ski down – a locals-only favorite ski opportunity before work) happens to be a daily commute for many who work in Jackson Hole but live in or near Victor, ID. Cost of living stuff – and probably quality of life. Most of what I have to say cannot be backed up by photos, but what I can say is Idaho is stunning.
We continued into Idaho, past Rexburg and Arco and on towards Twin Falls via the route (Rt 22 to Rt 33 to Rt 26/93) that skirts the Craters of the Moon National Monument. We drove hours past miles of what we presume were potato fields – all beautiful views.
Past the crop fields, we entered a huge area (like the size of Rhode Island) that was flat. Really flat, all directions. During the winter, the area, called the Egin-Hammer Human Entry Winter Closure Area, is off limits to humans (that means you wise guy) to protect wintering wildlife. I kind of presume that means wintering elk as they get out of the mountains during the harsh winters at higher altitude. Snowbirds, so to speak. The Villages for elk.
We drove past pristine views of the Craters of the Moon National Monument. From the truck, my initial view was something akin to underwhelmed. Sure, lava flows. But then we followed the road that either abutted or went through the lava field for probably half an hour – at 65 mph! This place is huge! Totally amazing. We are driving a 55+ foot rig that does not stop just anywhere to take pictures, so I have no pictures, sadly. I commonly say that in certain circumstances photos don’t do a topic justice, but in this case that is clearly a fact. It would not be possible to get a good enough picture that would capture the enormity of this area, short of perhaps an aerial shot.
We descended into Twin Falls to meet up with other friends, and honestly, shop for groceries and do laundry. Our apologies to Twin Falls – we’ll come back another time.
HOWEVER, during our brief stop in Twin Falls we had dinner at a local brewery/restaurant called Milner’s Gate. Wow! Not your normal food fare for a brewery, this was one outstanding meal. And their beer was great, also! We’d go back – and love it again.
On to Stanley!
On the way to Stanley, we stopped at Sun Valley (at about 9,000 feet elevation) for lunch. We took the gondola to the lodge near the top of the mountain and had a totally atypical lunch for a place like a mountaintop lodge – that was great! Usually, our experience shows that such a venue is met with (at best) average food, but we were delighted! And the views – well, what can I say. We’ve never skied at Sun Valley, but from looking at the terrain I would guess this is an extraordinary place to ski.
The views from Sun Valley of the Pioneer Mountain Range are just stunning, with mountains ranging from 10,000 to 12,000+ feet elevation.
We continued our trip on to Stanley, the Sawtooth Mountains, and the Salmon River. You could be excused if you don’t have friends or relatives from Stanley, ID. The town has a population of 63 people.
I am told the town has the coldest weather in America, where in the winter, due to certain circumstances of the valley, the temperatures can drop to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. But this may be one of the prettiest places we have been. Ever.
The Sawtooth Mountains and the Salmon River are spectacular assets that weave themselves throughout this area. We read that the Salmon River is the longest free-flowing river (425 miles) in the lower 48 states. And there is a huge parcel of land designated as the Sawtooth Wilderness, where obviously we could not go without permits and requires the absence of anything motorized or mechanical. A designated Wilderness is the highest designation given to an area to protect it from human interference.
As a group of eight adults (more accurately 7 adults and 1 juvenile delinquent), my bride rented us two side-by-side ATVs to take up into the mountains to an old, abandoned fire watch station. This was SO much fun, and honestly? The views were breathtaking. And the ride itself was fun as hell! While the beauty is breathtaking, you cannot help but be reminded of the impact of fire, as it is evidenced in so many places – both on the ground and in the air.
We stayed at the Stanley RV and Camp, which was great – located just a few miles out of “town”.
The town of Stanley contains zero traffic lights, and only a handful of businesses. One of them, though, was the Bakery – the Stanley Baking Company, where we had the best breakfast ever. We were told by others from Idaho that they served the best breakfast in Idaho, and while I cannot say that is definitively true, I’ll guess it to be so. SO good – prepare to stand in line. The town during this season is full of folks who come here to enjoy the mountains, rivers, hiking and rafting.
There are guided raft trips down the Salmon River – some that are 6 days in duration, on Class II, III and IV rapids. Thanks anyway. Busy.
We took a beautiful 4-mile hike at Redfish Lake, which again offered stunning views.
For a little lake experience, we rented a pontoon boat on Redfish Lake. While we were enjoying a splendid stop in Stanley, not some 20 miles north of here was a wildfire. To help combat the fire, the state or forestry fire service was flying aircraft in to grab water out of the lake to help douse the fire. We were able to watch this process up close as the planes dipped into the lake to fill their reservoir with water. Amazing. We even had one of the planes dip their wings at us as we cheered them on. Despite how the photos may appear, we were never, nor did we put the pilots, in harm’s way.
I captained the vessel, but was ably assisted by my first mate Pat and boatswain mate Greg, who both performed a yeoman’s job guiding the craft across the troubled waters. I won’t lie… Greg had a little bit of trouble understanding port and starboard.
Onwards to Riggins!