The Bruneau Dunes are perhaps the most bizarre natural phenomenon in the state. Trapped in a low-laying basin just south of Mountain Home, they’re thought to have originated during the Ice Age, in the aftermath of the Bonneville Flood. Unlike most sand dunes, those at Bruneau don’t shift dramatically with the wind. They’re trapped in the basin, and the highest peak stays at about 470 feet year-round.
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.
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.
Comprising 618 square miles of other-worldly lava-formed landscape, the Craters of the Moon National Monument is one of the strangest geographic areas in the entire country. Harsh, dry and largely barren, this craggily beautiful region has remained largely untouched by a humanity that never figured out a use for it. We visited one morning in late October, after a light layer of snow had covered the ground.
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.
When Lewis and Clark met the Nez Perce in 1805, the tribe controlled a territory of 17 million acres which stretched across the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. We visited the museum dedicated to them in Spalding, Idaho, just east of Lewiston.
The month that we arrived in Idaho was a month of fire: August 2012 saw the state’s worst wildfires in more than a decade. Thankfully, we were never directly affected by the flames, but their smoke was a constant companion, obscuring the normally clear blue skies of the Northwest behind a heavy screen of haze.
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.