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Moose Sighting in the Payette River

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Moose Candy Dispenser (Funny)

On a whim, we decided to return to McCall from Warren by looping around the east side of the Payette Lake. We’d done the western road a few times, and wanted to see something new. And we certainly did: there, standing knee-deep in the North Fork of the Payette River, were two moose.

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Two young moose, a bull and a cow, were chilling on the far side of the river, probably 50 feet away. They raised their heads, registering our presence, and then went right back to eating and drinking, utterly unconcerned. We stayed for fifteen minutes watching them.

Of course, the first thing I did when I got home was get on the internet and read up on moose. The ones we spotted must have been young, because they weren’t as large as fully-grown adults. Bulls can reach seven feet in height, and weigh up to 1500 pounds. Next to bison, moose are the largest land mammal in North America. The ones we had seen weren’t that big, and the bull still had velvet on his antlers.

I also learned it was good that a river had been separating us. Moose can get surprisingly aggressive, particularly when their young are involved. In fact, more people are attacked by moose than by wolves and bears combined! They’re herbivores, with no interest in munching on human bones, so won’t pursue if you run away. Against predators, though, they fight ferociously; battles pitting wolves against moose can last days.

Perhaps the most surprising thing I learned about moose is that they’re not considered endangered at all. I had always just assumed that they were among the rare creatures we’re duty-bound to protect, but they’re so common that they can even be hunted. The non-resident license to kill a moose currently runs at $2100. Funny, since that’s about the same price I would pay to save one.

Location of our Moose Sighting


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September 19, 2012 at 1:38 am Comments (3)

Riding the Thunder Mountain Line

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Northern Pacific Railroad Books

Around the rest of the world, trains are an everyday mode of transportation — whether it’s the high-speed bullets of Asia and Europe, or the achingly slow, rustic rides we’ve endured in Sri Lanka and Bolivia. But in the States, nobody takes the train anymore. In fact, American train rides are such a rarity that they’re now sold as touristic experiences.

Train Is Coming

The Thunder Mountain Line offers such an experience, billing itself as Idaho’s only scenic train ride. We joined a Sunday morning tour and rumbled along the edge of the Payette River, enjoying the scenery between Horseshoe Bend and Banks.

Before the train set off, we took a quick tour of the cars with Larry, who would be the official greeter/guide/storyteller during the ride. Most of the cars that make up the Thunder Mountain Line come from a rather unexpected source: Long Island. They’re decommissioned commuter rail trains which have been stripped and refurbished for comfort and charm. The attentive passenger might notice that the ceiling pattern still features New York’s state seal.

There were about five cars making the trip on our journey. First-class passengers got their own section with dining tables and a full-service bar. One car had been transformed into a souvenir shop, and another held the kitchen. The coolest car, though, was The Texan, which can be rented by private parties. It’s fully outfitted with a living room and bedrooms, and Larry told us that, for a baherlor party, they’ll often drive this car up to Banks, leave it for the night, and then pick it back up the next day.

The train lumbered slowly along the river for an hour and a half, each way. We disembarked for a short pause in Banks, where, to my confusion and terror, the crew tried to get us to participate in a Chicken Dance. I thought they were kidding at first, but nope — there were even costumes. We politely demurred. All good fun, I suppose, but a jarring interlude in what had been a morning marked by class.

Back on the train, we washed the memory of the Chicken Dance away with drinks from the bar, and settled down onto the outside benches to better enjoy the view. For train enthusiasts, or anyone looking for an enjoyable and unique way to admire some beautiful Idahoan nature, the Thunder Mountain Line offers a great day out.

Thunder Mountain Line – Website
Location of the Office

-Idaho Car Rentals

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September 18, 2012 at 2:46 pm Comments (5)

The Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway

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Don’t Come To Idaho Without Binoculars

33 miles of paved road between Banks and Lowman constitute the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway. Although we didn’t see any elk during our trip, they’re a common sight during the winter. Along the road, there’s even a turn-out with binoculars pointed at a large plain called Gallagher Flat, where they especially like to congregate.

Scenic-Drive-Idaho

The road hugs the South Fork of the Payette River, passing waterfalls of varying sizes and breathtaking canyon scenery. Sheer walls of rock infused with pitch-black streaks lava tower overhead, while far below the river winds its way through the valley. There are frequent turn-outs at spots of special historic importance, as well as at places with particularly beautiful views. And we took advantage of every one.

Check out the route on Google Maps

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September 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm Comments (2)