Older than Vail, Jackson Hole, Aspen or Lake Tahoe, Sun Valley was America's very first winter resort, hosting celebrities, families and skiing fanatics since 1936. We spent two autumn nights there, basking in its classic elegance.
With a year-round population of just 63, tiny Stanley has an out-sized reputation. Geographically, it's in the center of Idaho, and it serves as a jumping-off point for adventures in the Sawtooth Mountains, which form one of the state's most emblematic landscapes.
America's third-highest dam is found in north-central Idaho, just outside the small town of Orofino. In fact, the Dworshak Dam is the tallest straight-axis dam anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. During our road trip along Highway 12, it was the first pit-stop.
Many of the places in Idaho's panhandle feature memorable names. Some are drawn from French, such as Coeur d'Alene or Lake Pend Oreille, while others have intriguing historical connotations, like Priest Lake and Bonners Ferry. And then there's Sandpoint, a town whose name evokes the stirring image of some guy pointing at a pile of sand. Yep, we see it. You've found the sand.
Coeur d'Alene is the largest city in the Idaho panhandle; a mix of remote nature, urban ease and ostentatious wealth. It's well-known in the Pacific Northwest as a resort destination, with a prime location on the lovely lake which shares its name. We had been eagerly anticipating our short, two-day stay there, and found it to be just as memorable as advertised.
It's a little hard to feel that thrill of discovery, the joy of unearthing another hidden travel gem, when the gem in question is as popular as the Enaville Resort. But we couldn't resist patting ourselves on the back after entering this Silver Valley establishment. Even if it's no secret among the locals, to whom it's known as the Snakepit, it was an exciting find.
Although it's not as well-known as nearby Wallace, Kellogg is the Silver Valley's largest town, and was our base during our four-day stay in the region. It's a nice village stretched out along the Coeur d'Alene Mountains, with a population around 2000; less historic and picturesque than Wallace, perhaps, but with a burgeoning tourism industry of its own, thanks largely to the Silver Mountain Ski Resort.
Without a doubt, Wallace is among the most unique towns that we've ever set foot in. The entire downtown district is on the National Register of Historic Places. It had active bordellos until 1988. And leading theoretical physicists agree that Wallace is the exact center of the universe!
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.
Moscow is best known as home to the University of Idaho. It's a college town through and through, with the kinds of shops, restaurants and environment which cater to students and professors. With its tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly streets, youthful population and progressive, laid-back atmosphere, Moscow might fit better in New England than Idaho.