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Until Next Time, Idaho

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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”.


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

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

The City of Rocks

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Everything You Need For Rock Climbing

An hour and a half southeast of Twin Falls, near the small community of Almo and just a few miles from the Utah border, is the City of Rocks: a national reserve which holds some of the Pacific Northwest’s weirdest formations. This silent city was a stop along the California Trail, and today is a paradise for mountain climbers.


After picking up information at the Visitor’s Center in Almo, we entered the park, and found the featureless farmland of southeastern Idaho suddenly swept away by towering boulders and rolling hills. We spent all day in the park, stopping the car constantly to take pictures or to hike around the rocks. I scrambled up some of the smaller ones, such as Treasure Rock, where legend says that gold has been buried, and Register Rock, where settlers would write their names in axle grease from their wagons.

It’s not hard to understand the park’s popularity with rock climbers. Remote, expansive and difficult to reach, the City is never crowded, and there’s an almost inexhaustible number of named climbs, which range in difficulty from 5.4 to 5.12 (if you’re into the sport, I assume you’ll know what those numbers mean. I have no idea, but 5.12 sounds plenty difficult.) We saw one group taking on an imposing boulder known as Bath Rock. They were pros, quick-moving and sure-footed, constantly calling out verbal signals to each other. It was fun to watch, and made me a bit jealous.

There’s no development anywhere within the City, so it’s not hard to put yourself in the shoes of westward settlers on the California Trail, and imagine how impressive it must have been to them. Apparently, a formation called the Twin Sisters was one of the most famous sights along the 2000-mile trail, and became the subject of many pioneer paintings. Having the Sisters in view meant that the long journey was almost at its end, and settlers would often weep at the sight.

We hiked along the Creekside Towers Trail, bringing us up and around two miles of monumental boulders, and made the short walk to Window Arch Rock, which forms a natural frame perfect for picture-taking. We also spent a long time resting with a view of the Breadloaves — a bizarre formation with a remarkable resemblance to its namesake. In all, we were in the City for nearly six hours, and could easily have stayed longer. Another amazing natural wonder in a state that has turned out to be full of them.

Location on our Idaho Map

Rent Your Car For Your Next Idaho Road-trip Here

Rocks Of Idaho
Sattlers Cave Writing
Bread Loaf City Of Rocks
Twin Sister City Of Rocks
Nature Blog
Relaxing Rock
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January 1, 2013 at 4:07 pm Comment (1)

From the Peaks to the Craters

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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.

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November 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm Comments (4)

The Salmon River Scenic Byway

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Idaho has no lack of scenic byways. There are 30 which criss-cross the state, and during our six-week road-trip through Idaho, we made an effort to complete as many as possible. Each had something recommend it, from historical sites, to crazy geological formations or interesting towns. But for amazing scenery, none beats the Salmon River Scenic Byway.


This byway begins at the Lost Trail Pass, on the border between Montana and Idaho. From here, it’s a 161-mile journey along Highway 93 to Stanley, through Salmon and Challis. Both of these small towns are worth a stop, Salmon for recreational opportunities on the river and Challis for the Sacajawea Interpretive Center, but it’s the nature you’ll remember most. The byway hugs the mighty Salmon River along its southwest course, offering landscapes that have changed little in the past 200 years, when Lewis and Clark arrived over the Lost Trail Pass.

The road passes from the Salmon National Forest into the Challis National Forest, and wildlife-viewing opportunities are excellent the whole way. We stopped and hauled out the binoculars multiple times. Outside Challis, a bald eagle soared over our heads. White-tailed deer fed in distant pastures. And most excitingly, we found a large group of bighorn sheep grazing along the side of the river, 30 miles north of Stanley.

At first, we thought they were deer and whizzed by the herd quickly, but something about them made Jürgen take pause, so we looped back around to get a better look. Turns out, Bighorn Sheep are awfully similar in appearance to deer — at least the females and youngsters, who don’t have the distinctive, curly horns. Although safely off the endangered species list, they like to keep out of sight and are a rare sight.

As we approached Stanley along Highway 93, the Sawtooth Mountains came into view for the first time. With a number of peaks that reach over 10,000 feet in height, the Sawtooths are hailed as one of the last great “undiscovered” climbing destinations in America. Hundreds of alpine lakes dot the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, and the region’s remoteness almost guarantees a lack of crowds, regardless of the time of year.

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November 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm Comment (1)

Pictures from Lake Coeur d’Alene

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Coeur D’Alene Hotels


For 33 miles, a scenic byway hugs the eastern coast of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Given the bustle of the city, the road gets into some surprisingly remote territory: over the gorgeous Mineral Ridge, through the tiny town of Harrison, and into pristine forests. We visited during the autumn and were blown away by the beauty of the drive.

Rent A Car For You Idaho Road-Trip Here

The Lakes of Idaho
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October 26, 2012 at 12:51 am Comment (1)

The White Pine Scenic Byway

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Across 82 miles of old pine trees, historic towns and sparkling lakes, the White Pines Scenic Byway brought us northeast from Potlatch to the old mission at Cataldo. It was a peaceful stretch of driving, with few other cars and increasingly beautiful nature.


The Byway begins in Potlatch, founded in 1905 with the establishment of one of the country’s biggest lumber mills. The business closed down in 1981 and Potlatch emptied out; today, it’s little more than a commuter town for people studying and working in nearby Moscow. It’s got a rugged charm, but wasn’t enticing enough to convince us to pull over.

Highway 6 follows old railway tracks through towns and stations curiously named after famous universities. We passed through Harvard and Princeton; other former train stations included Purdue, Stanford and Yale. Soon, we were cutting north through a thick forest of Western White Pine. As few trees as possible had been cleared to build this road, and it felt as though we were driving through the legs of giants. The White Pine is Idaho’s state tree.

After emerging from the forest, we reached St. Maries (pronounced Mary’s): another old timber town situated at the junction of the St. Maries and St. Joe rivers. It’s a neat town, larger and more lively than Potlatch. We visited the Hughes House Museum and got some grub at a gas station/pizzeria. Nearby, we found an old-time Steam Donkey; a logging winch. Like I’ve always said, any town with a Steam Donkey is a winner in my book.

The byway continued north past St. Maries to a set of small lakes fed by the Coeur d’Alene River. With evocative names like Black Lake, Cave Lake, Medicine Lake and Swan Lake, these pools set in the midst of the forest were unforgettable. We stopped every 100 feet for more pictures, and it’s a real shame we didn’t have time to hike around — Cave Lake, in particular, demanded a proper exploration.

Our drive ended at Cataldo, where the oldest building in the state is found. The Old Cataldo Mission was constructed by the Jesuits to convince the Coeur d’Alene tribe of the wonders of Christianity.

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October 7, 2012 at 1:41 am Comment (1)

The Tough Little Town of Riggins

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Any doubts as to the toughness of little Riggins, nestled between two of North America’s deepest river gorges, can be dispelled by its original name, “Gouge Eye”, which originated from a legendary bar fight between rowdy locals and gold-hunting prospectors.


Unfortunately, Gouge Eye was renamed in honor of its first mailman, John Riggins. Nothing against Mr. Riggins, I’m sure being a mailman in 19th century Idaho was no cake walk, but for a town be named after a bar brawl? That’s awesome.

Just like Cascade, Riggins is a former timber town that has re-branded itself for tourism. It’s well-situated for it, midway between Boise and the college town of Moscow, and straddling the banks of the raging Salmon River. This is a great spot for whitewater rafting, hunting, fishing and hiking (as we experienced in the Rapid River Canyon), and popular with students and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

We stayed in the Best Western Salmon Rapids Lodge, which was both comfortable and rustic, decorated with river rock and timber beckoning back to Riggins’ logging days. The rooms offer views of both the canyon out the front and the Little Salmon River. There was a pool and outdoor hot-tub, a two floor lounge area and, the touch that really won us over, cookies and milk at 8pm.

Location of Riggins on our Idaho Map

Don’t Go Hiking Without A GPS Device

Old Western Lamps
Bull Rider Riggins
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September 30, 2012 at 1:58 am Comment (1)

Sockeye Salmon and Other Idahoan Rarities

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These red-bodied, green-headed Sockeye (or Kokanee) Salmon were just one of the unexpected things we saw during our first month Idaho. Every day, the state seems to be scouring its shelves, finding bizarre new curiosities for our camera. Here are some of the best pictures we’ve taken over the past month.

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Venus Fly Trip
We wont Dial 911
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September 29, 2012 at 1:33 am Comments (2)

Burgdorf Hot Springs

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Idaho Souvenirs

On the drive back from historic Warren, we decided to check out the Burgdorf Hot Springs. This had been an area sacred to the Nez Perce tribe, but was taken over during the gold mining days by an enterprising fellow named Fred Burgdorf. He saw the financial potential in the natural hot springs, and turned Burgdorf into one of Idaho’s first resort towns.


Burgdorf has been owned privately since opening in 1870. It was the first commercial hot spring we visited in Idaho; you can bathe for as long as you want, for $6 per person. Besides the large main pool, which maintains a comfortable heat of 100°F, there are two smaller pools which are much hotter, at 112°F. The guy working the desk warned me to bathe in these pools for no more than two minutes at a time. I had a hard time staying in even that long.

Burgdorf is famed locally for the lithium in its water. We’ve heard that some visitors will even drink from the pool for the therapeutic effects of the lithium… which, considering the number of people who bathe here, probably isn’t the greatest idea. Lithium is known for its ability to smooth the edges and after my dip in the pool, I definitely felt relaxed.

Burgdorf has fifteen cabins which you can rent for $35 per adult ($10 per child). With its beautiful location in the woods just 30 minutes north of McCall, it would make for a great, and very relaxing, weekend.

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Burgdorf Hot Springs – Website

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September 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm Comments (0)

A Walking Tour of Historic Warren

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After learning the year-round population of tiny Warren, located in the western foothills of the Salmon River Mountains, I was shocked. “Twelve?!” I couldn’t believe even that many people lived here.

Warren is the most remote town that we visited in Idaho, stationed at the end of a dirt road 45 miles out of McCall. It’s a moderately popular summer getaway which empties out almost entirely once snow sets in. Understandable, since the only road into town closes for winter. After that, it’s either snowmobile or airplane.

As with many of central Idaho’s tiny towns, Warren had its heyday back in the 1860s with the discovery of gold. Prospectors moved in from every corner of the country — Californians, Missourians, Secessionists from the South — but they were all out-numbered by the Chinese. Over 1200 workers from China flocked to Warren, establishing their own saloons, restaurants and barbershops. One prominent member of the Chinese community, Ah Sam, even became an honorary mayor of Warren.

The Forest Ranger station in McCall had equipped us with a pamphlet titled the “Warren Historic Walking Tour”, which describes the ancient buildings which are still standing, and relates some of the more colorful stories of the town’s past. As we walked past the Green House, for example, we read the following about the overly conciliatory judge who resided there:

Andy Kavanaugh assumed the office in 1895 and was distinguished by never rendering a verdict. Kavanaugh threw all his cases out of court on the basis of “hearsay evidence” because “it made a lot smoother living in the community.”

Perhaps my favorite of Warren’s buildings was the old schoolhouse, noteworthy for its backwards “N” — particularly embarrassing, since this was where children were taught to write. In the 1930s, townspeople rejected a proposal that the “N” be corrected, huffing that “this is the way it’s always been!”

At the schoolhouse, I pointed out an odd bit of playground equipment to my mom. It looked like a medieval torture device, but sent her into a fit of nostalgic ecstasy. “Giant Stride”, she squealed, running toward it like the schoolgirl she actually was the last time she had seen one. Apparently, these deathtraps were all the rage in the playgrounds of 1950s-era Indiana. It’s like a tetherball set, but taller, and with six ropes instead of one, and they’re metal chains instead of rope, and instead of a soft ball on the end of each, there are heavy, metal stirrups. Of course, it’s incredibly fun — I swung around on it for awhile, cursing the dumb kid who must have wrapped a chain around his throat and forced the nationwide ban on this awesomely dangerous toy.

We finished off our day in Warren at its bustling saloon. Literally everyone in town must have been there. A very cool place, quirky like only the bars of very small towns can be. They had old Chinese artifacts on display, and a book compiling the editions of the defunct Warren Times.

Warren was a far more entertaining day trip than I had anticipated. The beautiful Warren Wagon road which leads there from McCall is almost worth the drive itself, but the town has a lot to recommend a visit. Just make sure and pick up the Walking Tour brochure in McCall, first.

Location on our Idaho Map

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September 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm Comments (4)

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Until Next Time, Idaho 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".
For 91 Days