Our Own Private (Not Really) Idaho

Our Own Private (Not Really) Idaho
Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains

We had been living on the West Coast (California and Oregon) for about 2-1/2 months and I for one was ready to get back inland. Idaho was our next stop, one of the places I’d been most excited about. Our first stop would be Boise, just over the border from Oregon, and Idaho’s biggest city. We wanted to stay for a few days, but camping in this growing metropolis was pretty scarce. We booked one night at the KOA, where we could do laundry, shower, dump our tanks, etc. The boys and I also did some swimming in the underwhelming indoor pool. KOA days are always a bit rushed, trying the make the most of the amenities we pay so dearly for.

The Blue! The World Famous Football Turf at Boise State University.

The next morning we made a quick grocery run to Walmart and stashed the RV there for the rest of the day while we went sightseeing around town. Boise is very proud of Boise State University, their prolific football team, and their peculiarly blue colored football field. We headed over to the stadium with a plan to sneak in and catch a glimpse of ‘The Blue’ as the field is known. Little did we know that the University rolls out the welcome mat for visitors, with enthusiastic volunteers giving informal tours. No sneaking necessary. We saw the field, took a few pictures, and poked around the Museum / Hall of Fame.

Posing with a fake Sturgeon at Morrison Knudsen Nature Center in Boise

Just a stone’s throw from the stadium was Morrison Knudsen Nature Center, run by Idaho’s Fish and Game Department. It was a nice way to kill some time, stuffed animals, mounted fish, exhibits, and whatnot. The best part was a nature walk that explored fish in their natural habitat. First was a faux-beaver-pond with absolutely humongous trout and even humongous-er sturgeon. We followed the trail and viewed several tanks with local species of trout, insects, and shellfish. The trail connected to the city’s trail system and we eventually ended up at a playground which the boys thoroughly enjoyed.

We were awaiting a very important package, a MIMO Antenna we thought would be the answer to our internet connectivity prayers (I think it is, although I’m too lazy to do comparison testing), so we killed time at another park while waiting for Amazon to deliver to the locker at Whole Foods Boise. This park was closer to downtown. We were reprimanded by a homeless guy claiming he had as much right to be there as anyone else, as if we were questioning his right by trying to shield the boys from his mumbling, stumbling, white ass. There was just the one homeless guy though so compared to other towns we’ve been through Boise was pretty noice. After receiving the email that our package had arrived we skeedaddled to pick it up, then ate a quick McDonalds dinner, then rushed to our new digs at Camping World Boise.

Jackie had called in advance to ask if it was ok to stay overnight. Indeed it was, according to whoever she talked to. First come first served were the rules. When we arrived there was only one spot available, out of about 12 total. Most were occupied by what we guessed were recently purchased trailers, and one or two seem to have been occupied by overnighters. We felt a little weird like we weren’t supposed to be there, but by now we’re not too bashful about sleeping where we might not belong. We watched Canadians take the NBA Championship that night. Sad!

One of the Hagerman Horses

The first rule of Camping World is to get out before the store opens in the morning. This meant a rare alarm clock wakeup and moving before 7:00 AM, a rarity for the Scotts. We didn’t move far though, back to Walmart where we’d make coffee, eat breakfast, and get dressed. After leaving Walmart, we headed east towards Twin Falls. On the way, we made a small detour at Hagerman to check out horse fossils. Also known as the American Zebra, the Hagerman Horses were buried deep in sediment, then uncovered by erosion sometime before white man’s arrival on the continent. Also near Hagerman was the remnants of part of the Oregon Trail. In some areas, you can supposedly see indentations of the many wagon wheels that traveled the trail. I didn’t see it, Jackie may have.

Hiking around the Oregon Trail near Hagerman Idaho
We saw several of these lizards near the Oregon Trail in Idaho

We continued on, arriving at Twin Falls around mid-day. Our first choice of campgrounds turned out to be full so we had to backtrack a few miles to the small town of Filer where we were able to get in at the Fairgrounds. The Fairgrounds were nice, but we could only stay for two nights due to an impending concert. Fairgrounds have been a great bailout option for us when other campgrounds are completely full, but in almost every instance we’ve had to work around some sort of ‘special event’. As it turns out we didn’t need more than two nights anyway.

Pretty Nice Campsite at the Twin Falls County Fairgrounds in Filer Idaho

The next day we got going early to visit the main attraction. You guessed it, waterfalls, two of them. We paid the $5 entrance fee to Shoshone Falls Park, the place to view the massive falls on the Snake River. Just downstream, Evil Knievel attempted and failed, to jump the Snake River Canyon in a steam-powered rocket. The falls were very scenic, although a bit tainted due to the hydroelectric plant built at the top. 1920’s people were unsentimental about natural beauty, so instead of a pristine waterfall, we’ve got something less. It’s still awfully pretty though, and we had a fun day snapping pictures and walking through the nicely manicured park. Since we’d paid the entrance fee, we also checked out Dierkes Lake Park, located just above the falls. The boys played on the playground, it was pretty decent.

Hamming it up in front of the Twin Falls
Perrine Memorial Bridge, Unfortunately no BASE Jumpers.

Next, we headed down-river to Centennial Waterfront Park, where we could view the massive Perrine Memorial Bridge. The bridge is well known for BASE jumping as well as bungee diving. Unfortunately, we didn’t see either activity the day we visited, but the park was very nice nonetheless. After some more playgrounding, we headed back to the Fairgrounds. On the way, we took an automobile tour of Twin Falls. The downtown was quaint and quiet, and a Zillow search revealed some surprisingly affordable real estate. The Fairgrounds were abuzz with activity when we arrived back home. It was Filer Fun Days! We brought the boys over and they had a blast on the inflatable bounce houses and playing carnival games. The night was capped off with a delightfully immodest fireworks display. We scored a primo view right from the campground.

Bouncy House at Filer Fun Days

We left Twin Falls confident that we’d seen everything that needed to be seen and made our way towards Craters of the Moon National Monument. This accurately named monument was created by fairly recent volcanic activity and features lava flows, cinder cones, caves, and kipukas. We arrived fairly early in the day and were lucky enough to snag a spot in the Lava Flow Campground. We popped into the visitor’s center and took in the exhibits before calling it a day.

Nice Campsite at Lava Flow Campground in Craters of the Moon National Monument

The next day we went on several hikes showcasing the geological oddities of the park. We started easy with a short nature trail at Devil’s Orchard. Next, we climbed Inferno Cone which provided 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape. After that, we checked out the spatter cones, which were still filled with snow in mid-June despite the Park’s hot temperatures. Finally, we explored the Indian Tunnel Cave, one of many just off the Caves Trail. The boys were lukewarm on hiking that day but enjoyed spelunking very much. Craters of the Moon isn’t all that big, so one full day was just about enough time to explore.

Craters of the Moon Hiking
Spelunking under Craters of the Moon

Next on the agenda would be Sun Valley / Ketchum, in the heart of Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Again, we got lucky with camping spots and got in at the Boundary Campground, a small Forest Service campground just outside of Ketchum, and within easy biking distance. The icing on the cake was the bargain nightly rate of only $10. The cherry on top of the icing on the cake was the mountain biking trailhead adjacent to the campground. I went for a ride almost as soon as we arrived. My brakes were abnormally loud, which I ignored.

Our Site at Boundary Campground near Ketchum Idaho

The next morning I went for another ride. I concluded something wasn’t right, and everyone I encountered non-verbally agreed. Later that day we rode bikes into town. I avoided using my rear brakes, not the safest maneuver, but at least the bike trailer was there to hold my rear end down.

Ketchum’s very nice bike trail

While the boys played at the park, I visited a few bike shops looking for parts. The ‘big’ bike shop in town was pretty rude and unhelpful. I always have to laugh when people complain about not supporting your local bike shop when they are almost universally overpriced, unfriendly, and condescending. One of the smaller bike shops in town was more helpful, and I ended up buying pads and rotors which I installed later that day. Upon inspection, I realized my old pads were worn all the way through to the metal backing. Whoops! Problem solved.

The annual firefighter festival happened while we were staying in Ketchum. We decided to hop on our bikes and check it out. It was a pretty neat event, with live demonstrations, a life flight helicopter landing, and free food. Just as the boys made it to the front of the line to get inside the helicopter, an emergency call came in and it had to quickly leave. Major bummer, but cool anyway.

At the Sun Valley Firefighters Festival

Later that night we went to Saturday night church, the first church visit of our adventure. The Ketchum Catholic church was architecturally spectacular, understandable for such a wealthy community. After Mass, we headed downtown to eat some pizza at Wiseguy Pizza Pie, the goto place for pizza in Sun Valley. Buying by the slice and not drinking beer helped keep the tab under $20, not bad for a night out.

We ended up spending five nights total in Sun Valley. It was a stunningly beautiful destination, with endless outdoor activities. The people, on the other hand, were aloof and entitled, especially compared to the friendliness we’d encountered in the rest of Idaho. Age skewed heavily towards baby boomers, which was part of the problem. There’s also the issue of most residents being wealthy seasonal visitors from less friendly states. Not naming names… cough-California-cough.

After getting our fill of Ketchum we headed north to the Redfish Lake area, near the tiny town of Stanley. Being peak season, we knew the area would be lousy with visitors and campsites might be difficult to procure. Upon arrival, our suspicion was confirmed by the signs indicating all of the Redfish Lake campgrounds were full. We decided to take a peek anyway and were glad we did when we found a few open spots in the Chinook Bay Campground on Little Redfish Lake. We snatched one up and settled in. The views of the Sawtooth Mountains above Little Redfish Lake were spectacular, and a small beach where the boys could hunt for minnows was just a few yards away.

The boys’ beach at Little Redfish Lake

We spent several days in the Stanley area. There was plenty of mountain biking around, the most popular being the Fisher Creek Loop, which I decided to ride on day 1. I did it all wrong. First of all, I thought it was closer to our campground than it actually was so I set out on my bike rather than driving to the trailhead. After a long stretch of boring road riding I finally got to the trailhead and started up the trail. My first thought was ‘hey this isn’t what it was supposed to be like’. I found was a steep, seemingly never-ending climb up singletrack. Everything I’d read said I should be climbing a relatively easy forest road. I was about halfway up when someone bombing down asked why I was going backward. I indeed was going backward, and shortly after I turned around and headed for home. The downhill was pretty fun though.

Our site in the Chinook Bay Campground near Stanley Idaho

I got home just in time to accompany Jackie and the boys down to the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery, just a mile or so down the road. We were hoping for a tour, but tours seemed to have ended for the season. We explored the grounds by ourselves, looking at the big tanks of baby Salmon and Trout. It’s amazing to think that Salmon run all the way from the Pacific Ocean to the mountains of Idaho.

Chinook Salmon Tank at Sawtooth Fish Hatchery

We went up to Upper Redfish Lake a few times. The weather wasn’t great either time but the boys had fun wading and splashing in the water. The lake was very busy, even on weekdays, understandable given the beautiful surroundings. The lake got its name from the profusion of red Chinook Salmon that spawned every year before white man’s overfishing. As of 1992, only 3 Salmon returned to the lake. That same year Idaho Sockey Salmon were added to the endangered species list. The aforementioned Sawtooth Hatchery is helping the Salmon make a comeback.

Playing on the Beach at Upper Redfish Lake

After a day’s rest, I returned to the Fisher Creek Loop trail, this time I drove and started at the correct trailhead. The difference was huge. After an easy (but for the final mile or so) climb up a forest road, great singletrack awaited. At the top, there was a group from Fort Collins. I said ‘hey I’m from Loveland!’. They didn’t seem to care. Unfortunately, I got behind their slow white asses on the way down. I did eventually get around and enjoyed the fast downhill ride.

Affordable Campsite at Tower Rock Recreation Area on the Salmon River in Northeast Idaho

We had a good run in the Redfish Lake area, and it was one of the more enjoyable places we’d visited thus far. After leaving we spent one more night in Idaho at the Tower Rock campground on the Salmon River. It was a very nice BLM campground priced right at $5 per night. There was only one other family there the night we stayed. The Lewis and Clark expedition camped in this very spot on their journey of discovery. The next day we awoke and set off or Big Sky country. Montana!

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