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.
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.
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.
Whether you're walking down Lake Street, driving along the Warren Wagon road, cruising by the surprisingly busy airport or sipping a cocktail while overlooking the majestic Payette Lake, one thing is never in doubt: life in McCall is pretty sweet.
In business for 27 seasons, Cascade Raft & Kayak is the largest whitewater company operating on the Payette River. They had invited us out for a day of rafting, and I had just assumed that my parents -- who had come up from Ohio for a short visit -- would be content to wait around and read a book while we got wet. Nope! Although my dad had to sit out due to the flu, he only did so very reluctantly. And my mom didn't hesitate at all.
We always try to visit a cemetery in the places we visit and, whether it's the baroque elegance of the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires or the haunting beauty of Savannah's Bonaventure, they often end up among our most memorable experiences. On our day trip to Idaho City, we hadn't expected to even visit one cemetery, but ended up spending time in two.
We enjoyed our self-guided walking tour of historic Idaho City immensely, but our favorite house didn't appear anywhere in the brochure. We decided to just call it the Crazy House, because it's among the most eccentric structures we've seen anywhere in the States.
In the late 19th century, the largest city between San Francisco and Saint Louis was Idaho City -- a boomtown constructed after the discovery of gold in the Boise Basin. With a rowdy population of miners from California, Washington, Missouri and China, Idaho City was the kind of place where whiskey was cheap and lives even cheaper.
In 2001, the Boise Cascade Sawmill ceased operations. It had been the largest employer in Cascade and its closure forebode a grim future for the tiny valley town. But Cascade refused to abandon hope; instead, it took a good look at the incredible nature surrounding it, and decided to give itself a makeover. There was no reason this former lumber town couldn't become a tourist destination.
A popular walking loop leads from the Chinook Campground in the Payette National Forest, along the banks of the Sesech River to the majestic Loon Lake. We woke up early on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend to tackle the hike, which impressed us not only with its beauty, but with a fascinating piece of history hidden within the woods.