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Until Next Time, Idaho

Overview Of All Of Our Idaho Posts

When we announced Idaho as our next For 91 Days destination, the reaction among friends and family was almost unanimous: “Seriously? Idaho? Why?!” But after spending three months exploring the state, sharing our pictures and stories, we started to hear a lot of… “Oh, that’s why”.

Road-Trio-USA

Idaho was the last of the fifty states to be “discovered”, and it’s still among the least-appreciated in the country. A land of sparkling lakes, unforgettable mountain scenery, some of the country’s wildest and most rugged forests, raging rivers, hot springs, strange lunar landscapes, and abundant wildlife, Idaho is heaven for the outdoor enthusiast. We’ve never done so much adventuring, from whitewater rafting to mountain biking and hiking, zip lining, hot air ballooning, horseback riding, and more. While in Idaho, we might have technically achieved Eagle Scout status, without realizing it.

But while the natural beauty might be the most compelling reason to visit Idaho, it’s the human element that could convince you to stay. The people we’ve met here have been friendly and welcoming, almost without exception. Sometimes a bit on the eccentric side, often loud and boisterous, and usually with a dead deer in their truck bed, but always eager to chat or help out with a problem. Idahoans are notably proud of and knowledgeable about their state — as soon as we’d start talking about our project, we’d always get an enthusiastic interrogation about where we’d been, and a litany of suggestions for yet more places we had to see.

And Idaho is not lacking for places to see. I was shocked by the variety offered by the state. Whether it’s the pristine wilderness of the north, the rattlesnake-infested canyons along the Oregon border, the historic reservations, the rugged mining towns of the Silver Valley, the earnest Mormon communities of the east, the dusty deserts of the south, or the comfortable city life of Boise and Coeur d’Alene, there’s something new around almost every bend.

Three months is too a short time to truly exhaust the possibilities in a state as grand as Idaho, and although we made a good effort, we could never truly have hoped to see it all. There are some big sights we completely missed (looking at you Hell’s Canyon) and smaller towns we’d have loved to see. And we never had a chance to experience Idaho in its wintry glory. We left just before ski season: a real shame, and reason enough to come back.

Before checking out, we have to deliver a big “thank you” to Visit Idaho, the state’s tourism commission. Without their ready assistance, advice and friendship, our exploration of the state would have been far less enjoyable.

We were sad to leave Idaho, but also anxious. This was our eighth location, totaling up to two full years on the road, and it was time for a short break. But that didn’t necessarily mean less travel: Jürgen and I call a lot of places “home”, and we visited them all over the holidays: Thanksgiving in Ohio (where my family lives), Christmas in Germany (Jürgen’s family) and New Year’s in Valencia, Spain (our adopted hometown). Three months of friends, family and Spanish sun were just what the doctor ordered. With fully-charged batteries, we’d soon be on our way to our new temporary home: Istanbul, for 91 days.

Coming Soon: Our Idaho Book

Snowy-Mountain
Good-Bye-Idaho
Rocky-Road-Trip
Road-Trip-Industry

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January 10, 2013 at 11:11 am Comments (3)

The Boise State Broncos and Their Smurf Turf

Bet On American Football Here

With over 23,000 students, 200 degrees and 100 graduate programs, Boise State University is the largest institute of higher learning in Idaho. But rather than for its academics or gorgeous urban campus, BSU is most famous around the country for its football program. And, of course, for the crazy blue turf of its field.

Stop-Touch-Down

BSU games are among the most popular events in the state. On matchday, every single person in Idaho smears on blue and orange face paint and crashes the nearest bar, while everyone lucky enough to be in Boise heads to the stadium. We didn’t want to miss out, and bought tickets for a home game as soon as they became available. The Boise State Broncos vs. The Aztecs of San Diego State — capable rivals from the Mountain West Conference in which BSU plays.

We had been invited to a pregame tailgate party by a Twitter friend known to us only as the BSU Pimp. Any doubts we’d harbored about recognizing our host disappeared as soon as he sauntered into view. Decked out from head to toe in blue and orange pimp gear, from a cowboy hat to a sparkling sequin robe, from sunglasses to some outrageous bling that included a Bronco-colored Grill for his teeth, there was no mistaking the BSU Pimp.

The-Real-BSU-Pimp

I’ve been tailgating before, but never like this. The parking lot was filled to capacity with trailers and thousands of fans working diligently on their intoxication levels. We hopped around to a few parties — the Pimp is well-known and much-loved in the scene — and were astounded by the set-ups. Huge TVs with satellite reception, boxes of liquor and restaurant-worthy food. We met fun people, ate tamales, shot tequila, and were actually a little disappointed when the time came to enter the stadium.

Of course, I was already grudgingly familiar with BSU’s famous blue “Smurf Turf”. Like 98% of American football fans, I’ve always found it a bit irritating. BSU’s was the first football field in the nation not colored green, and since it wasn’t my team’s blue turf, I was never able to appreciate it. But Idaho was our home now — we were even wearing newly-bought Broncos gear — and I saw the turf with new eyes. Especially when viewed live, it’s actually really cool.

The game, though, wasn’t nearly as exciting as the turf. The Broncos never looked strong, and despite leading at halftime, went on to lose 21-19 to the unranked Aztecs. We were seated in the northern end zone and the crowd’s energy, which had started strong, slowly and steadily ebbed into silence. But Jürgen and I were very transitory BSU fans and, unlike the crestfallen crazies around us, didn’t care all that much about the score. Despite the loss, it was a great night out.

Location of Broncos Stadium

-A Visit To Jackpot, NV

BSU-Boise-Trunk
Tailgaiting-BSU-Boise
BSU-Fans
Mega Pimp
Pimping-BSU-Game
BSU-State-Rap-Pimp
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Bronco-BSU-Potato-Dude
Clockwerk-Orange-BSU
BSU-Marching-Band
Hardees-Broncos-BSU
Real-BSU-Bronco
Players-Stretching
Boise-State-Band
BSU-Mascot-Bronco
Crazy-BSU-Fans
I-Love-BSU-Idaho
Cool-BSU-Dude
BSU-Game
Going-For-Touch-Down
Soldier-Push-Ups
BSU-Football-Field

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January 4, 2013 at 3:43 pm Comment (1)

Malad Gorge & Balanced Rock

Everything 1 Dollar

Shaped during the Ice Age by the cataclysmic Bonneville Flood, the Magic Valley is something of a geological wonderland, loaded with canyons, rivers, boulders, cliffs and fossils. We embarked on a long driving loop starting at the Malad Gorge, through the Thousand Springs State Park to Balanced Rock, near Buhl.

Malad-Gorge

Interstate 84 passes right by the Malad Gorge, so close that you could roll down your window and throw your litter into it (if you were a thoughtless pig, which thankfully you’re not). Despite the proximity, it’s impossible to see the canyon from the highway, and so thousands of people blaze past daily without even registering its presence. But it’s worth getting off the highway at Tuttle (exit 147) to take a quick walk.

Malad Gorge, a part of the Thousand Springs State Park, is 2.5 miles long and 250 feet deep, and there’s a trail on either side of the divide. Near the highway, a pedestrian bridge places you in front of the Devil’s Washbasin, where the Malad River crashes spectacularly into the canyon.

The Thousand Springs State Park isn’t a park in the traditional sense, but a collection of five different units in the area around the town of Hagerman. Malad Gorge is the only one of these units which we explored, but others include Ritter Island, a birdwatching paradise in the Snake River, and the Kelton Trail, which preserves wagon wheel ruts from the Oregon Trail.

The Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument are another protected area in the valley. It was here that, in 1928, the Hagerman Horse was found. At 3.5 million years in age, it’s one of the oldest horses on the fossil record, and is thought to have resembled a zebra. There have also been mastodons and bone-crushing dogs found in the Hagerman beds. As might be expected, it’s off-limits to the casual visitor but there’s an interpretive center in town with a few exhibits and fossil replicas.

A few miles east from the small town of Buhl is the Balanced Rock. An impossible geological formation, this rock perched precariously on a pedestal weighs over 40 tons, reaches a height of nearly 50 feet, and is shaped just like Africa. And it looks as though it would tumble over at the slightest breeze. We climbed up to the rock and enjoyed a packed lunch with an amazing view over the valley.

Locations on our Map: Malad Gorge | Hagerman Fossil Beds | Balanced Rock

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Malad-Gorge-Waterfall
Narrow-Canyon
Devil's-Washbasin
Dangerous-Canyon-Idaho
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Munchers
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Giant-Idaho-Flood-Rock
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January 2, 2013 at 7:51 am Comment (1)

Twin Falls – A BASE Jumping Paradise

Great Hotel In Twin Falls

There are extreme sports, and then there’s BASE Jumping. It’s bungee jumping without the cord. Skydiving without the airplane. You just strap on a parachute and jump off something tall. And Twin Falls is the only place in the world you can legally do it year-round.

BAse Jumper

The Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls is famous around the world’s community of BASE jumpers as the perfect launch spot. The Snake River Canyon is deep enough for a long, scenic descent, and perhaps most importantly, you don’t need any kind of permit. Perhaps wanting to avoid liability, neither the state, the county nor the city claim the bridge as in their jurisdiction, so there’s no place to seek permission. Just strap a parachute on, stomp out to the middle of the bridge, and jump off into the void.

Of course, it’s only that easy for truly experienced BASE jumpers. Most people participate in this activity with organized groups, with experts on hand to provide training and assistance. We were lucky to see one such group in action. It was just crazy to watch these guys and gals stand on the bridge, look down 500 feet, gather their courage, and then actually jump off.

And it looked like crazy fun. Some of the more advanced jumpers did a back flip or a swan dive, falling for ten or twenty meters before releasing their parachutes. They’d then steer themselves back down to the landing strip, next to the river. Most accomplished this pretty well, though we did see one guy land himself in the trees.

Don’t tell Jürgen, but I’ve mentally added BASE jumping to the list of experiences we’re going to try out one day. It must be the ultimate thrill.

Location of Base Jump Spot

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Preparing-Base-Jumping
Idaho-Base-Jumping
Pulling-Parachute
Parachuting-Idaho
Base-Jumping-Idaho
Base-Jump-Vidoes

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January 1, 2013 at 9:50 am Comments (0)

Twin Falls and the Snake River Canyon

Great Place To Stay In Twin Falls: Red Lion!

After exploring eastern Idaho, we slowly made our way back west. The eventual goal was Boise, but first we’d be spending a few nights in Twin Falls, to see the city and investigate the surrounding area, which goes by the promising name of Magic Valley.

Travel Idaho

To enter Twin Falls from the north, you have to cross the Perrine Bridge across the Snake River Canyon. Dropping down 500 feet and stretching across a quarter mile, the canyon serves as a jaw-dropping front door for the city. From the bridge, the view of the valley takes in the Snake River far below, winding its way west, and a golf course on the canyon floor. You can walk across the bridge or take a pedestrian path leads most of the way along the canyon’s rim.

The Snake River Canyon is well-known as the site for one of Evil Keneival’s bravest, most death-defying stunts. In 1974, the daredevil attempted to jump the canyon on his Skycycle X-2. He didn’t even come close, but it was a spectacular failure.

Unfortunately, apart from the amazing front door provided by the Snake River, Twin Falls itself fails to impress. For a city of over 40,000, the downtown is surprisingly small. There are a couple decent joints, such as O’Dunkens Draught House where we had a delicious lunch, but otherwise you’ll not find much to do. Immediately outside of downtown, it’s all strip malls.

No, the real reason for a stay in Twin Falls is the beauty of the surrounding area. The Shoshone Falls are found here, just a few miles from the city center. These massive waterfalls on the Snake River are called the “Niagara of the West”, and are in fact bigger than their more famous eastern cousin. Unfortunately, during the late-autumn season in which we were visiting, the water had mostly abated, leaving it much less impressive than in the spring, during the winter run-off.

Location of Twin Falls | Shoshone Falls

-Bear Spray!

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double--Rainbow-Idaho
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Shoshone Falls: A trickle now, but raging in the spring
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December 31, 2012 at 7:22 am Comments (2)

The South Eastern Corner of Idaho

USA Travel Insurance

After driving through Soda Springs and Montpelier, we continued along Highway 30 into the southeastern extreme of Idaho, occupied by Bear Lake and a handful of small towns. It was late October, but winter had come early to the region and a fresh layer of snow was blanketing the ground.

Snow-Camping

The border between Idaho and Utah cuts through the middle of oval-shaped Bear Lake. Set on top of limestone deposits, Bear Lake has a unique ecosystem which supports several endemic species, such as the Bear Lake Whitefish. And the strange, intensely turquoise color of the lake’s water have led locals to call it the “Caribbean of the Pacific Northwest”.

But Bear Lake is most well-known for the legendary creature which haunts it. The story of the Bear Lake Monster stretches back to the 19th century, and the arrival of the original settlers. The deadly beast hunts in the water, but can run onto land in pursuit of its prey. Like an Alligator-Shark-Bear. And it totally exists! If you don’t trust me, perhaps you’ll believe that shining beacon of journalistic integrity: Animal Planet.

Perhaps some skepticism is warranted. After all, the man responsible for the original reports of the Bear Lake Monster, Mormon missionary Joseph C. Rich, eventually admitted it was all a scam; a ruse to drum up curiosity about the region. Usually, a full confession would be enough to close the case, but nothing can apparently deter the charlatans at Animal Planet from peddling their sensational myths. And, apparently, being a hoaxster doesn’t put off the voters of Idaho: Joseph C. Rich went on to become a state senator!

The sky was overcast when we visited, so we weren’t able to appreciate the famous blue water of Bear Lake, and neither did we encounter any monsters. But it was still a gorgeous drive. We drove along the lake’s northern border, on a narrow strip of land that separates it from the rather less enchanting Mud Lake, then picked up Highway 89 which brought us into Paris.

A tiny town in Bear Lake County, Paris best known for its tabernacle, built in 1889 by Mormon pioneers. A Romanesque structure of red sandstone, the tabernacle is completely out-of-place in the unassuming little village. But the impressive temple is in wonderful condition and still in use today.

We also swung by the Oregon Trail Museum in nearby Montpelier. Although it was closed for the season, we managed to charm our way inside so that we could snap a few photos. More than just a collection of information or dry exhibitions, this museum attempts to recreate the experience of being a settler on the trail; visitors first equip themselves at a general store, then walk along the trail with stops for camp songs and stories.

Location of Bear Lake | Paris, Idaho

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Frosty Morning Idaho
Bouncy-Road-Idaho
Cloudy-Hills-Of-Idaho
Golden-Clouds
Idaho Road Trip
Weather-Front-Idaho
Stuck-Oregon-Trail
Oregon-Trail-Camp
Mercantile
Store-Saddler-Museum-Idaho
Wagon-Restaurant-Idaho
Old-Oregon-Trail-Art
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Snow Tree
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Scary Clouds Idaho
Take A Rest In Idaho
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Crazy-Weather-Idaho
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December 24, 2012 at 12:24 am Comments (4)

Table Mountain… and Crime in the Tetons

Hiking Boots

While we were visiting Driggs, we couldn’t resist sneaking over into Wyoming for a hike in the Grand Tetons. Sure, we’re supposed to be concentrating on Idaho’s sights, and yes, there’s plenty to see without ever leaving the state. But look at them! How could we resist?!

Lonely-Hiker

We had chosen to embark on an eight-mile hike to Table Mountain. While parking our car at the Teton Campground trailhead, just over the state line, we should have sensed the sinister shift in the air. We had left the safe haven of Idaho for Wyoming, a lawless land of thievery and malice, and it was a decision we’d regret. But we’ll get to that later, because the hike was amazing, and it’s better to concentrate on the positives.

The trail to Table Mountain was exhausting, sharply uphill for the first six miles, with a gain of over 4000 feet in elevation. But it was a glorious day; autumn was in full swing and the Tetons provided such a dramatic backdrop that it was easy to ignore our burning thighs. As we neared the flat cylinder-shaped summit of Table Mountain, the unmistakable profile of the Grand Teton came into view. After cresting the top, we took a long break to appreciate the landscape below us. Fresh air, unforgettable views, pure nature, exhausted muscles and the satisfying feeling of accomplishment, there’s nothing that makes me happier than hikes like this, and I was in tremendous spirits during the walk back to the car.

My mood changed immediately, though, once we arrived. Thieves had broken into our car and stolen my laptop and tablet. Unbelievable. Here, we travel around the world, Sri Lanka, Buenos Aires, Bolivia, and the first place we’re the victims of crime is Wyoming. The cops told us later that, although they have suspects, it was unlikely we’d ever see our stuff again. There’s a gang which targets cars parked at trailheads. Pretty clever; it’s a remote location where people are guaranteed to be gone for hours.

The theft was a setback, but we got off pretty lightly. Everything we own was in that car. I can deal with a lost laptop, especially since it meant that I’d be getting a new one. But it was a rough end to what had been a wonderful day. Sorry, Wyoming; you have some amazing nature, but the chances we’ll someday be spending 91 days with you have dropped significantly.

Location of the Trailhead

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December 13, 2012 at 8:59 am Comments (0)

Arco and Atomic City

Read About Nuclear Power Here

In 1955, tiny Arco won fame as the world’s first nuclear-powered city. Today, it mainly serves as a jumping-off point for excursions into the nearby Craters of the Moon National Monument. Arco is one of Idaho’s strangest little towns, although nearby Atomic City manages to be even stranger. And littler.

First-City-Atomic-Power

Besides the lava-scorched earth to the south and a range of mountains to the north which include both Idaho’s highest peak (Mt. Borah) and its most awesomely-named (Appendicitis Hill) the most striking feature of Arco is its “Hill of Numbers”. For decades, the senior classes of the local high school have been decorating the nearest mountain with the last two digits of their graduation year. Graffiti on a grand scale.

Arco’s story has been tied to nuclear power ever since our country started experimenting with it. The reason that the government chose this corner of eastern Idaho as one of its nuclear sandboxes is fairly self-evident. Remote and sparsely-populated, Arco is the kind of place that a nuclear accident might go unnoticed. Or at least under-reported. Case in point: did you know that the USA’s only fatal nuclear accident occurred in Arco, Idaho? In 1961, there was a core meltdown in the National Reactor Testing Station which killed three servicemen. [Uncle Sam clutches his chest in mock concern... "Oh, you didn't know about that?"]

Thirty miles to the southeast, Atomic City is even more closely associated to nuclear power than Arco. A ghost-town for all intents and purposes, Atomic City still clings to life with a bustling population of 29. We cruised slowly down the town’s only street and were vaguely creeped out. Although we didn’t see a soul, I was certain that radiation-scarred monsters were watching us hungrily from behind curtained windows, and refused to get out of the car. Jürgen chanced it, for a picture of a trailer that had been designed to look like a boombox.

Giant Idaho Radio
Jürgen, boom-box trailers are how the mutants lure you in!

Close by Atomic City is the Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I), a nuclear plant decommissioned in 1964 and today designated as a National Historic Landmark. The world’s first atomic-powered electricity was generated here and, during the summer, you can tour the interior of the plant. It’s supposed to be pretty cool, but we were visiting too late in the year to get inside. Frustrating. There was no one around, and I briefly considered opening a window, but I’m pretty sure that breaking into a nuclear reactor, even a decommissioned one, is the kind of thing that lands you in Guantanamo.

We contented ourselves with examining the prototype reactors from the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion project. This attempt to build nuclear-powered was a failure, abandoned in 1953, but it left behind some marvelous pieces of engineering to admire.

Location on our Idaho Map: Arco | Atomic City

-Cheap Flights To Idaho

Arco-Idaho-Numbers
Cloudy-Arco
Arco-Map
City-Of-Arco-Trash-Can
Submarine-Arco
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December 6, 2012 at 11:53 am Comments (9)

From the Peaks to the Craters

Travel Insurance For The Unites States

After an extended stay in Sun Valley, we got back on the road. Destination: Arco. We took Highway 26, which is also known as the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway. It couldn’t be more perfectly named. The picturesque aspen-covered mountains of Sun Valley slowly give way to the bizarre lava-formed landscape of the Craters of the Moon National Monument. We were lucky to have stunning weather during the drive: a perfect showcase for Idaho’s stunning natural diversity.

Idaho Blog
Dusty Road
Idaho Fence
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Spider Cow
Idaho Road Trip
Perfect Road Trip
Idaho Landscapes
Roads Of The United States
US Roads
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November 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm Comments (4)

More Photos from the Trailing of the Sheep

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We spent a total of four days in Idaho’s Sun Valley, during the annual Trailing of the Sheep festival, and had a blast. Whether we were eating lamb, meeting ranchers, touring galleries and museums, or just enjoying the lovely weather, we kept busy and took a ton of photos. Sun Valley is certainly a photogenic little place.

Villa-Sun-Valley
Hailey-Idaho
Idaho Truck
Hipster Biker
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November 27, 2012 at 2:21 pm Comments (0)

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