My Own Private Idaho

“I’ve never been to Boise.”

So stated my father on what I now refer to as the Road Trip to End All Road Trips, the trip I always give as an example when people comment on the mileage I cover on some of my trips today.

View of the Sawtooth Mountains from above Stanley, ID

The Road Trip to End All Road Trips started and ended, as so many of them did, in Salt Lake City.* We headed north to Montana, through Glacier National Park and into Canada, taking in Calgary, Banff, and Lake Louise. We then headed west to Vancouver and Victoria (on Vancouver Island). Finally, we crossed Washington State, admiring the nighttime lights at the Grand Coulee Dam. It was about then that my father uttered the now immortal words to explain our odd route on the way back. “I’ve never been to Boise.”

So, yes, technically I’ve been to Boise before. Although true to my father’s inclinations to see everything and keep moving always, I’m not sure we stopped. Oh, did I mention? The above trip was only two weeks long—that’s a couple hundred miles a day at least.

In any case, on my most recent trip, I hadn’t planned on stopping in Boise either. However, due to the late arrival of my Southwest flight, I found myself contemplating driving through wildfires on a curvy mountain road at 1am, so I booked a room at The Modern. I had already read about their superb bar somewhere, so I must admit I wasn’t as disappointed with the turn of events as I might have been. I started with the official (although ever-changing) menu and had the Clover Club (gin, lemon, raspberries, egg white). While perfectly refreshing after my longer-than-intended trip, after chatting with the bartender, who claimed to make a mean Sazerac, I went rogue and had him make me a couple of rye-based drinks. He didn’t lie: Best. Sazerac. Ever. It was a great start to the long weekend. (Not to be confused with The Lost Weekend.)

Idaho is absolutely beautiful. Really, the whole state could be one big national park. I had seen bits and pieces on various road trips, most recently with my sister when returning to Salt Lake City from Yellowstone National Park last year, but this was the first trip where Idaho was my destination. Thank you very much to J&J for the invitation.

I wish I could have stayed longer.

Canoeing on the North Fork of the Payette River

First stop was a visit to McCall, on the shores of Payette Lake. In addition to enjoying the beautiful lake, I had the good fortune to arrive at the height of huckleberry season—not only did we pick our own in Ponderosa State Park, but we made managed to hit the Donnelly Huckleberry Festival and the tasty huckleberry pancake breakfast. Yum!

You’re my (favorite) huckleberry.

Just off the highway from Donnelly is the historic town of Roseberry, one of many towns I’ve discovered in the West whose fate was decided by where the railroad tracks were laid. Sadly, it was too early in the day for the General Store to be open, but kudos to those working to restore and preserve these buildings.

Roseberry, ID
General Store, Roseberry, ID

Next I was off to the Sawtooth Mountains. I’ve been dreaming of staying at the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch for a few years, but the budget just wouldn’t allow it. Plus, it didn’t really make sense for just one night. I didn’t do too badly though, as you can see by my dinnertime view from the porch of the Sawtooth Hotel in Stanley. My room also faced in this direction. The wildfires made the view a bit hazy, but I’ll take it.

The Sawtooth Mountains from my dinner table at the Sawtooth Hotel

Finally, on the way back to Boise on the perilously curvy Route 21, I stopped for a delicious lunch (including black raspberry pie) at Trudy’s Kitchen in historic Idaho City. The waitress was delightful and even gave me a free brochure to take a self-guided tour of Pioneer Cemetery. And I love a good cemetery. While not quite as interesting historically as the one in Jacksonville, Oregon, this one had some fabulous iron work.

Historic Jail, Idaho City, ID

Yes, unsurprisingly, I managed to see a lot in only four days. What can I say? I’m my father’s daughter.

But I’m not the only one who has inherited these tendencies. Further proof that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree? My sister on our trip to Yellowstone last year: “I want to go to Pocatello, where the potatoes grow.”


*Flights and rental cars being cheap, especially given that back then (I believe) Alamo was one of the only rental companies to offer unlimited mileage and their locations were limited.

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