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The Western Idaho Fair

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With a history stretching back to 1897, the Western Idaho Fair is one of the state’s biggest annual celebrations. Concerts, competitions, rides, games, crazy food and an overabundance of stinking, dusty farm animals occupy the large fairground for a week on the northern end of Boise. We couldn’t resist checking it out, and showed up on the fair’s final day.

Bending Over

We started at a horse show, which we hoped might involve trick riding or barrel racing. But it was more like the Westminster Dog Show for horses. Riders simply walked their steeds around in a circle while a panel of experts them on… something. Their gait? Musculature? I have no idea and apparently wouldn’t make a good horse judge, seeing as how my favorites finished dependably in last place.

The entertainment factor picked up considerably at the next event: the Mountain Boarding Big Air Show. Three extreme dudes put on a death-defying performance, hurtling down a steep ramp and leaping over a truck. We had missed the fair’s concerts earlier in the week, including Styx and Weird Al Yankovich, but this was a decent consolation prize. And I needed it! Because after realizing that we’d lost the opportunity to see Weird Al live, I was practically inconsolable.

We headed deeper into the fair, past stands selling Idaho Tater-Dogs (hot dogs shoved into potatoes) and wound up at a petting zoo. A wide variety of creatures were on-hand, from baby pigs to the giant Brazilian Zebu. I’m not much of an animal-toucher, but enjoy petting zoos because there’s nothing better than watching a toddler with a cup full of food pellets get too close to the goat cage. Curiosity, bravery, glee, terror, anger and disappointment, all in the span of about five seconds.

A giant exhibition hall in the middle of the fairgrounds held the arts and crafts competitions, with photographs, pumpkins and quilts joining ceramics and floral arrangements. And we made sure to tour the various animal halls, where I saw what must be the world’s largest rabbit, and tried to figure out the qualities that make for a blue-ribbon chicken.

-Hotels In Idaho

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Horse Show Idaho
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Mounting A Horse
Idaho Cow Girl
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Idaho Belt Buckle
Cowboy Idaho
Texas Longhorn
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Water Buffolo
Zebu
Happy Petting
Fuzzy Cow
Nose Ring Bull
Not Trusting Cowboy
Psycho-Goat
Peep
Egg Hatching
Eggstravaganza
Feeding Goat
Cartoony
Staring Contest

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Antique Washing Machine
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Extreme Idaho
Mountain Boarding Idaho
Juggler Idaho
Idaho Clown
Fair Dude
Western Idaho Fair
Insane Ride
Rides In Idaho
Dumbo Ride
Starship 3000
Idaho Rodeo
Waiting For The Ride
Food Stands Idaho
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Basque Food Idaho
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August 31, 2012 at 6:13 pm Comments (0)

For 91 Days on Boise’s Own KBOI 2

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We woke up at 3:30am in order to make the drive from Cascade to Boise, to appear live on AM Extra on KBOI 2. Check out the video… you might be able to tell we’re not accustomed to being on camera, but it went pretty well. Especially considering that at this early hour, we’re normally fast asleep.

Thanks so much to the news crew: J Bates, Stephanie Smith and Adam Behrman (who hails from my corner of the world: northwest Ohio!)

KBOI 2’s AM Extra – Website

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August 31, 2012 at 1:49 am Comments (4)

Boiled Alive in the Public Hot Springs of Cascade

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Hot Springs of the Northwest

Idaho has more usable hot springs than any other state in the union, and many of them are found on public land, which means that they’re free to access. Quite a few can be found around Cascade, so we decided to go hot-spring-hopping one sunny Saturday morning.

Saoking in a Hot Spring

he water in Idaho’s hot springs is heated by friction between tectonic plates, and comes bubbling up out of the ground at temperatures that can reach boiling point. Idaho rests on top of a ridiculous number of fault lines, along which the hot springs (and earthquakes) appear. It’s as though the Earth wants Idaho to relax in a hot bath, before unleashing the cataclysms which destroy it.

Trail Creek Hot Springs was first on our list. Easy to find off NF-22 near Warm Lake, about 20 miles northeast of Cascade (location), this spot is popular with locals. Luckily, we got there early and had a pool to ourselves. It was more developed than I had expected; the pools were walled up and you could regulate the temperature by opening a valve to allow cold river water in. And, as I immediately realized on putting my legs into the pool, some regulation was necessary! The spring water was piping hot, and I needed a few minutes of acclimation before submerging.

From NF-22 we turned onto NF-409 and passed by Molly’s Tubs. We didn’t approach the bathing area, because it was already claimed by what looked to be a rowdy party. Past the tubs, we discovered Molly’s Springs after parking near a trail head and hiking about ten minutes off the road and into the hills (location) I don’t know who this Molly broad was, but she lays claim to some beautiful land.

Burned River

This area was devastated by a 2007 wildfire, which left the forest dead, but hauntingly beautiful. Molly’s Springs weren’t as clean as the pools at Trail Creek, but more remote and exciting. We sat down gingerly in the almost unbearably hot water, and cooked in silence while admiring at the river valley through the blackened skeletons of pine trees. If I hadn’t been so concerned about my kochende eier, I could have stayed here an hour.

We got back into the car completely relaxed and continued down NF-409 to find the Vulcan Hot Springs (location). This required a hike of about twenty minutes through the forest, alongside a creek, ending in a foul-smelling morass of sulphur and algae, where extremely hot water was bubbling out of the rock bed. Even if we had wanted to get wet here, the pool was too shallow and grubby. It was a neat area, but not for bathing.

Visiting these public baths is kind of a crap shoot. We had great luck at two of the four we visited, but unless you’re a local (or have local advice), there’s no guarantee. If in doubt, consult the useful website IdahoHotSprings.com, which attempts to list all of the public and private hot springs in the state, along with pics, grime-level and detailed accounts of past visits.

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Trail Creek Hot Springs:

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Molly’s Tub:

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Molly’s Hot Spring:

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Hot Spring Hike
Molly's Tub
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Vulcan Hot Springs:

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USA Hot Springs
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Hot Spring Alge
Golden River Idaho
Dead Hot Spring Tree

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August 30, 2012 at 5:01 pm Comments (5)

Snowbank Mountain and Blue Lake

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Wearied by the three-day journey across America, we kept close to Cascade during our first week in Idaho. Not a problem, since there is plenty to see. The day after our loop around Lake Cascade, we drove up to the summit of Snowbank Mountain and completed a short hike to Blue Lake, tucked away in the hills of the Boise National Forest.

Snow-Bank-Mountain-Idaho
Don’t be shy; we see you, Blue Lake

The drive up Snowbank was uncomplicated, following NF-446 all the way to its end. This was our first time on one of Idaho’s many National Forest Service roads, and it wasn’t nearly as rough as we had feared. Not all the NFS roads are as well maintained, particularly as you get away from population centers. But NF-446, while unpaved, was smooth and easily large enough for two vehicles.

We started our ascent in the morning, and enjoyed spectacular views of Cascade’s Long Valley awakening to vibrant life in the strengthening sunlight. The scene from the top of Snowbank Mountain was magnificent. We passed by an FAA Radar Station and parked next to an antenna tower where we took in a panoramic view which stretched out over Lake Cascade, extending for miles in every direction.

On the way back down, we stopped at a trailhead marking a one-mile hike to Blue Lake began. This was a short, simple walk, which wound slightly downhill through fields of wildflowers until reaching the lake, as sparkling blue as its name implies. There were some fishermen already present, as well as a rowdy group of kids on the far end of the lake who had spent the night camping.

Location of Blue Lake on our Map

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August 28, 2012 at 11:30 pm Comments (2)

A Concise History of Idaho

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History-of-Idaho

History in Idaho began when the White Man discovered it, and that’s that! Well, no, of course that’s not true. But unfortunately the recorded history of Idaho does begin with the appearance of Europeans in the early 19th century. Everything prior is based on fossil records and legends. So, the known story of Idaho is largely one of conflict between settlers and Native Americans, and of the struggle to populate and live off some of the continent’s wildest land.

15,000 to 6,000 B.C. The appearance of humanity, with Big-Game Hunters on the trail of woolly mammoths and mastodons establishing a presence in Idaho.
6,000 B.C. to A.D. 500 The so-called Archaic Period sees a major warming of the earth, which creates massive rivers. The Archaic people, hunters and gatherers, begin to trade with one another.
500 to 1805 Not much is known about the 1300 years before the arrival of the Europeans, referred to as the Late Period. The modern Indian tribes such as the Nez Perce, the Bannock and the Shoshone, took shape and flourished.
August 12, 1805 Lewis & Clark enter Idaho, making it the last of the 50 states to be explored.
1810 The fur trade leads to the establishment of Fort Henry on the Snake River, abandoned just a year later.
1832 Aided by the Nez Perce tribe, fur trappers engage the migratory Gros Ventre people in a bloody battle at Pierre’s Hole.
1836 Henry H. Spalding establishes a protestant mission in Lapwai, writes Idaho’s first novel, opens its first school, and plants its first potato.
Chief Joseph, 1840–1904
Wikipedia
1846–1869 Tens of thousands of settlers pass through Idaho on the Oregon Trail, though very few choose to settle here.
1860 A gold rush leads to the illegal establishment of Lewiston, squarely situated in territory given to the Nez Perce tribe in a treaty.
1863 Abraham Lincoln incorporates the Idaho Territory, which included most of present-day Montana and Wyoming, and had its capital at Lewiston.
1877 The bitterly fought Nez Perce War concludes with Chief Joseph’s immortal words “From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.”
July 3, 1890 Idaho is admitted into the Union as the 43rd state.
1892 Mining strikes in Coeur d’Alene turn deadly and union struggles culminate in 1905’s assassination of Governor Frank Steunenberg.
1905 The completion of Milner Dam allows settlement in the heretofore unpopulated Magic Valley area.
1936 The Sun Valley ski resort opens, featuring heated outdoor pools and the world’s first ski lifts.
1981 The closure of the Bunker Hill Mining Company signals the substantive end of mining in Idaho.
1992 The infamous Ruby Ridge standoff between right-wing separatist Randy Weaver and the US Marshalls leaves three dead, including Weaver’s wife and son.
2001 The Aryan Nation is expelled from the state. Owing to Idaho’s remoteness, right-wing extremism has been a problem since the 80s.
2012 and beyond With the eclipse of mining, Idaho’s economic base turns to tourism and technology, with Boise establishing itself as one of America’s most livable cities, and adventure-seekers the world over beginning to discover the state’s great untamed wilderness.
Camping World
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August 27, 2012 at 9:56 pm Comments (2)

A Slow Drive Around Lake Cascade

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Propped up against the Boise National Forest, and just an hour north of the capital, Lake Cascade is a convenient spot for restless city-dwellers to get their nature fix. The charming resort town of McCall crowns the northern end of the lake, while the smaller villages of Cascade and Donnelly line the east, providing an abundance of places to stay the weekend.

Idaho Travel Blog

On our first full day in Idaho, we mapped out a drive around the lake in order to get a sense of its size, and also to explore the area. I thought the simple loop would take perhaps an hour, tops, but hadn’t reckoned on two things: (a) how huge Idaho is, and (b) how picturesque. Lake Cascade looks like a tear drop on the map, but has a surface area of 30,000 acres.

Jürgen is a professional photographer and, after all the years we’ve spent travelling together, I’ve become accustomed to pulling over and letting him take pictures. It’s his job; I understand. But during our tour of Lake Cascade, we were stopping with absurd frequency. “Pull over here. I’ll be right back!” I’d wait in the car, frustration level slowly rising, until he returned, grinning from ear to ear and proudly displaying a picture of some field, or old bridge. And then, just as soon as I’d finally nudged back over 20mph, he’d ask to stop again.

On the western edge of the lake, we followed West Mountain Drive, which brought us to the doorsteps of Tamarack Resort. This sprawling four-season resort opened in 2004 and almost immediately fell into financial ruin; it’s now in foreclosure. We drove up into Tamarack, past hundreds of impressive lodge houses which were impressively empty. Not a soul anywhere you looked, it was like a ghost town for very wealthy spirits. We later learned that some of these beautiful lodges had been auctioned off for as little as $60,000.

We completed our loop of Lake Cascade in four hours, and were compelled to scrap all remaining plans we’d had for the day. Underestimating the time required for excursions and road trips would be a recurring problem during our 91 days in Idaho. But Jürgen was on cloud nine, and I couldn’t help but share his elation. Our first little road trip had only confirmed how amazing Idaho was going to be.

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August 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm Comments (2)

A Whirlwind Tour of Yellowstone Park

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Yellowstone Park Guide Books

We fully subscribe to the concept of “slow traveling”. After all, that’s what the For 91 Days project is all about — dedicating sufficient time to each new destination for comprehensive exploration and total familiarity. So when we arrived at the entrance gate to Yellowstone National Park, it was with conflicting emotions. Excitement, surely, but also frustration. Here we were at one of the wonders of America, and we had a ridiculously tight schedule. Four hours. We had given ourselves just four hours to see one of the most amazing places in the world.

Old-Faithful

Though we didn’t get to explore Yellowstone to our liking, we made the most out of our time. Within minutes of driving into the park, we took a curve and almost smacked into two bison who were moseying down the road without a care. What an introduction! Throughout the day, we were continuously floored by the park’s wild beauty — and by its popularity. Although this was a Tuesday morning at the end of summer, the roads were jam-packed with tourists.

After driving along Yellowstone Lake, we found ourselves at the geyser basin of West Thumb: a small piece of land peppered with bubbling, steaming pools of varying size and color. We parked the car and took a stroll through the area, Jürgen with his finger on the camera shutter, and me with a frustrated eye on the time.

The highlight of our speed-tour through Yellowstone was Old Faithful. A piece of American lore, I doubt any kid grows up in this country without aching to see the geyser spout, and I finally had the chance. The explosion was more impressive than I had expected — having anticipated the moment for so long, I was prepared for disappointment, but I suppose it’s called Old Faithful because it doesn’t disappoint. Ever.

The final stop of our drive was at the Midway Geyser Basin to see the Grand Prismatic Lake. We had a hard time finding a place to park — Yellowstone, the main strip at least, is really not the place to escape into solitude. We shouldered through the crowds along the path, and arrived at the lake harried and frustrated. From far off, we had seen the steam rising off its surface, reflecting the pool’s multiple colors, and the effect was stunning from up close. The intense blues, reds and greens are actually pigmented bacteria which live in the lake.

By the time we finished at the Grand Prismatic Lake, we had completely overstepped our self-imposed four-hour limit, meaning we’d arrive in Idaho much later than expected. But it was worth it. Yellowstone might have been worth postponing Idaho by a couple days let alone a couple hours. It’s a real shame that we didn’t get to stay longer, but I’m fairly confident that we’ll be back someday.

-Places To Stay in Yellowstone Park

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August 27, 2012 at 1:47 am Comments (5)

Go West, Young Men!

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Since we’re never on one continent for long, we don’t own a car. But during our 91 days in Idaho, the ability to drive was an absolute requirement. Luckily, my parents generously let us borrow their second car. “If that’s the price of having you in America”, reasoned my mother, “then I suppose it’s worth it”. Yep, mom, that’s the price. Now give me the keys.

Ultimate Road Trip

Over 2000 miles separate Springfield, Ohio from Cascade, Idaho, and we split the 33-hour journey into three days. Google Maps suggested we speed along Interstate 80, through Nebraska’s interminable farmland and southern Wyoming. That sounded boring, so we tweaked the directions a bit. It would be a bit longer, but when you’re already going to be on the road for three days, you might as well enjoy yourself.

The first day was the worst — through west-central Ohio, Indiana, central Illinois and then Iowa. Twelve hours of corn, soy, corn, Peoria, corn and cows. The highlight was probably the soy (sorry, Peoria). We listened to Sufjan Stevens’ album Illinois albumIllinois as we cut through the state which inspired it, and then put on some Korean Pop for the stretch through Iowa. Iowa looked like it needed some K-Pop.

It was around 8pm when we arrived at South Sioux City, just over the Nebraska-Iowa border, and pulled into the Budget Host Inn. When a motel’s parking lot is filled with sketchy people in lawn furniture drinking Busch Lite, it’s usually a sign to stay away. But it’s also a sign of economical pricing. Yes, there were bloody scab-boogers crusted onto the sheets, and the room smelled faintly of butane and pickles, but a bargain is a bargain.

Neverending Street

South Sioux City might have more to recommend itself than nasty motels, but we wouldn’t know. We went to bed immediately and left at dawn on the next morning, for an entertaining day on the road. Highway 20, also known as the Bridges to Butte Scenic Byway, skirts across northern Nebraska within five miles of the South Dakota border. The empty, perfectly-maintained road cuts through beautiful, undulating countryside, and made for fun driving.

As we crossed into Wyoming, the landscape became ever more dramatic. Past Sheridan, we took Highway 14, which ascends into the Bighorn Mountains. The sun was getting low in the sky, and we pulled over in order to look back east over the flat, endless land we’d just traversed. These were the first mountains we had reached, and it felt as though we’d finally arrived in the Great American West.

We spent the night in Greybull, Wyoming: as western as a town gets. A massive guy welcomed us into the Greybull Historic Inn, and recommended dinner at the saloon. The bar was rocking and we probably could have gotten into a game of billiards with the locals, but we were too exhausted to be social. And another big day loomed in front of us. The final segment of our journey would take us through Yellowstone National Park into Idaho…

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August 25, 2012 at 11:35 pm Comments (5)

Howdy Idaho!

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After 91 busy days spent in the South Korean metropolis of Busan, we were ready for something completely different. So I grabbed a thesaurus and flipped to the “K” section. It’s a strange and little-known fact, but it turns out that the antonym of “Korea” is “Idaho”. Exact opposites. And just like that, our next destination was set!

Welcome To Idaho

A month before arriving, everything I knew about Idaho could have fit onto a potato. I mean, it would have just been the word “potato” scratched into the side of the thing. But friends had been raving to us about the state, extolling its natural beauty and surprising diversity. If we were looking for something different to a Korean mega-city, they said, we could hardly do better than wild, sparsely-populated Idaho.

And so, after a couple weeks visiting family in Ohio, we embarked on a road trip across America. We needed three full days to arrive at Cascade, Idaho: the tiny, lakeside town in the middle of the state which would be our home for a month. Here, we would fully disconnect from city life, and begin taking advantage of some of the outdoor adventures available in Idaho, such as whitewater rafting, zip-lining, hiking, kayaking, and even hot air ballooning.

After four weeks in Cascade, we got on the road. Idaho is massive, and the only way to adequately explore it is by car. We spent six weeks driving into every reachable corner of the state, resting for no more than a few days in any one spot. Our reward was an appreciation for how diverse Idaho truly is. We saw gold mines, canyons, forest fires, hidden lakes, and hot springs, and had some exhilarating encounters with wildlife — of both the human and animal varieties.

We wound up our 91 days in Idaho with a few weeks in Boise, the state’s capital and by far its biggest city. For such an unheralded spot, Boise has a lot to offer. It’s large, but not overly so, and green; with a river running through the town center, it’s not uncommon to see deer. Our time here was blissful; with great restaurants, strange and fascinating history, beautiful buildings and a young, hip population, it’s no wonder that Boise is often touted as one of the USA’s most livable cities.

Idaho proved to be an incredible home. For 91 days, the state did its best to wear us out, bombarding us with one unforgettable experience after the other. At times, it was almost overwhelming, but we persisted. (“A 15-mile bike ride, the day after zip-lining and visiting a gold mine? Bring it on!”) By the time we left, we were exhausted, but had succeeded in seeing most of the highlights, as well as some hidden gems unknown even to most locals. Please enjoy reading about our adventures in this amazing state, starting with the three-day trans-American journey that brought us there.


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August 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm Comments (17)