Saturday, August 7, 2010


We spent three night in Idaho. I hadn't ever been to Idaho before, so it existed in my mind as a flat, nebulous, vaguely mid-western state covered in a thick shellac of potato fields. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Sure there are many potato fields here (also wheat and sugar beets and alfalfa for hay), but there are also many, many mountains and big clear rivers and rolling desert foothills.

We started in American Falls, a welcome first stop after our days in the woods. We spent a lovely day with Neil and Marita, Rebecca's paternal aunt and uncle. They are building a house on, or really, in a hill just outside of American Falls, ID, about four hours east of Boise. The house uses a lot of reclaimed materials (check out the vaulted ceilings made of old grain silos) and will use a variety of sensible and ecological means to heat and cool the house. Rebecca and Marita and Neal did quite a bit of architectural talk during our extensive house tours--at least the part we could through walk because the tile had just been laid.

We went for a swim at the Indian Springs pool, which seemed like something out of a Norman Rockwell print. The pool was partially fed by a spring (thus the name) and the water flow through the pool allowed them not to have to use much, if any chlorine. Marita went down the water slide ("The lifeguards said it wasn't just for kids!"), and Rebecca and I floated around in a giant inner tube (after I accidentally kicked her in the head while capsizing it). Neil, who grew up in American Falls, gave us a tour of the town, complete with the old grain elevator poking its head out of the water of the reservoir. American Falls was one of the first towns ever to be relocated because of a dam engineering project.

The next morning we got the complete tour of the house (the tiles in the kitchen were done curing), went out and saw the Family farm, and then we set out to Massacre Rocks State Park to see the wagon ruts from the old Oregon Trail (you know, since theoretically this trips ends with us in Oregon). To get to the ruts, we walked under the interstate, and found ourselves for the first time ever standing between the two parts of a divided highway.

From there we cruised west to Boise, where my cousin Bo, his wife Gretchen, and their two kids Lyla and Henry live. We had a great time in Boise; we rode around the neighborhood with the kids; Bo and I went for a mountain bike ride, and Rebecca drove over to Middleton to check out Ben and Brenda's new restaurant (Ben and Brenda are Rebecca's cousins; lot of cousins in Idaho). It's been a long time since I've seen Bo (Lyla was a year or so, and Henry was still in utero), so it was good to catch up. Lyla is now six, and Henry is four. It was too bad we missed Gretchen, who was in Spokane on business, but since Eugene is only a day's drive from Boise I will be seeing much more of them in the near future.

We took the scenic route from Boise to Missoula following the Lewis and Clark trail up the Lochsa River and then over the Lolo Pass. It was a long, twisty and beautiful day of driving, following rivers the whole way (the Salmon, Clearwater and Lochsa). To our west was Hell's Canyon, which skirts the Oregon/Idaho border, and to our east was the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, one of the largest wilderness areas in the lower 48.

We are heading out for two nights in Glacier National Park, then on to Washington and, in a little less than a week, Oregon.

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