Published: May 3rd 2012April 5th 2012
I tease myself too much sometimes. The holy grail of my USA journey was to somehow get to Montana State and see the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. 5 months earlier I had to turn back whilst in east Wyoming. This time around I was in Idaho and even closer but again I turned back reaching my final crest in the magnificent Craters of the Moon. Once there it was a gradual decline, hitting neutral in the car, crawling my way over the speed limit down the mountains toward the coast of California and my eventual, inevitable flight home.
Idaho doesn’t get too much of a wrap in the states. Dominated by mountain landscape, there is one plain that’s an arc shape that goes along the south. The main city is the capital Boise. Which got a lot of emphasis when locals pronounced it. “BOY-SI!”
It has a similar feel to most state capitols. The dominating building is the marble white state capitol, which is a mini version of DC’s. It also has a quiet city feel with plenty of cafes generally filled with college students from the university.
hostel is in town and some of the long-term stayers were even more surprised to see a tourist. Tourists do come every now and then but I have noticed the hostel scene outside the big cities are more catered to other Americans.
Only days before my friend Chris from Seattle mentioned the possibility of skiing in the region. With this news I started looking at my options in the state and use Boise as my base. Skiing is a lot cheaper in the fields closer to the city. It doesn’t mean they are better because they aren’t (apparently) but for me I’m no good so I couldn’t tell the difference.
A look on the websites and it is a real adrenaline, activity based state. White-water rafting and kayaking, even pigeon shooting galleries - You know the Olympic shooting sport where these red looking dinner plates get flung in the air after the shooter yells out, “Pull!”(or something like that) I’ve always wanted to do this and walk around in snowshoes around the snowfields. It seemed like Idaho had it all.
I decided to get all the main driving out of the
way so I could just have a rest day and do activities before my long drive south to Reno, Nevada. Depending on the weather I was going to do a round trip through the mountains with the half way point being the Craters of the Moon.
The drive out again sees stunning scenery as you climb up the hills passing key landmarks of the Oregon Trail. You start off briefly on the main Oregon Trail along Hwy 20 before joining Hwy 93 and the Peaks to Crater byway.
Almost all states have historic byways where the signs pop up in what seems to be insignificant land. I generally stopped if I was bored then I’d get interested and stop nearly every time. The tollgate from 1868 was interesting. It’s only a sign now but reading these boards help understand the region a bit more and appreciate the early emigrants journey to the west. The terrain is so steep at times only one or two passageways were good for carriages and one spot (the Tollgate) had easy access to the gold mines. So for 20 years they produced a tole to upkeep the passage until
trains and later cars took over.
Other routes in the land were used to cut off the native Indians from being “pests” in their reservations (This is some of the lands that Native Indians were taken to once taken from their home lands in other states). The most interesting of signs were the Goodale’s Cuttoff signs. Closing in on the Craters of the Moon you could see what hell this part of the migration would have been.
The Craters of the Moon is a sea of lava flow, which goes forever in the horizon. On your left is the mountainous terrain. Transporting on wagons they had to pass thorough with barely an inch to work with. One slight misjudgement and the wagons would keel over. During the mid 1860’s many fragments of broken wagons could be seen.
As a tourist the weather created a delightful sight. Mist covered the road completely forcing the headlights to go on and a slowing down of the car. This mist created a hindrance to the overall grand scale of the site but to be around lava whilst freezing (once you exit the car) was quite
bizarre. It was a Spring day but you wouldn’t know it. I lapped it up!
There is a dedicated area to explore for tourists, which is a 7-mile loop you drive around or hike. Even if you drive, there are many points to park the car and hike around. In the peak of winter snow covers the lava land entirely, this turns the tracks into snowshoe tracks. On this day it was a freezing walk.
The main features are the various types of lava flow, with lava caves and cylinder cones. Depending on the wind the land has been influenced differently. One side of a cone is desolate whilst the other side, which has a more protected vantage point, has trees growing and other shrubs.
Early pioneers had mixed feelings. Most thought the lands were an act of the devil. You can sense it in the coolness of late March. Howling winds and an imaginary horse and cart crunching the ground in the distance. Substitute that to now still the howling wind but just my footsteps, the knowledge of a car to get me out of here and the constant shutter
of my camera. Now, we as tourists and geologists see it for its beauty. Amazing what a better understanding of the world changes our perceptions. I didn’t even think of hell on earth when I looked at it.
I could sniff Yellowstone from here but with bad weather it wasn’t worth going that extra few hours. So yet again I turned back so close to USA’s holy grail of nature. It also was the concluding point of my grand scale USA and taking the long road back to the western coast.
Without my Road Trip buddy Scott (AKA: Robert Parish) upon my return I was left with my own thoughts and that Polish/Belarus festival CD as my only form of noise apart from the car. I got a Portland bands CD given to me so that helped but in all truth I spent most of it dumbfounded on the amount of crap that gets blurted out on national radio.
I am not going to take sides here but politics in the states is like a sport. You are either a Republican or a Democrat, that’s it. Once you pick a team
the other side make no valid points and you ridicule via pure ignorance. Both sides have some good points to make but on top of that they have a lot of crap too. It’s this crap that you target just like a politician.
On the radio front it starts off with Rush Limbaugh show around 9am then Sean Hannity comes on after him. At some point all of a sudden Lars Larson is on and it concludes with the afternoon session of NPR’s – All things considered.
The first 3 are your pro Republicans who generally are shock jocks of the highest calibre. Whilst NPR is your more Democrats station which try to be more polished and create a variety of subject matter whilst subtly being pro Democrats in a more journalist type of way.
The biggest talking point was the shooting of a black guy Treyvon Martin by the on duty neighbourhood watch “white” Hispanic Mark Zimmerman. To really witness how poor and influential the media can be study the way this has paned out. Bounties being set on the Zimmerman guy, Celebrities giving out the wrong address of the
shooter (Who at this point wasn’t arrested.) meaning people were out the front of an elderly couples house all agro. Treyvon died and the key word in all of it was identifying the shooter as a “white” Hispanic - Creating a race issue. Forget about the hundreds of other shootings that happen this is different it was racists.
NBC put out an edited version of the shooters call to the police whilst on his neighbourhood watch duties. Zimmerman said that Martin was “black” after the policeman on the other line asked if he was Hispanic or black. NBC edited out the police question. So the media is trying to influence the public’s reactions!
So from the initial outrage that a guy didn’t get arrested for shooting someone because of Florida’s unique ‘Stand your ground laws’ was put down to racism by the media. In the end there were rallies and people on the streets wearing hoody’s (Clothes Treyvon was wearing at the time) in Treyvon’s honour. What got me was not the outrage that guns might be a key problem in this but race is the real issue?
Now Hannity makes
a good point because he said for one whole week “Don’t rush to judgment.” Meaning we shouldn’t convict him guilty until all the evidence is out - Fair enough. He craps on that we shouldn’t be discussing him being guilty or not and all that crap but he dedicated 3 hours of his 3 hour show 5 days straight and then talks about it on his 9pm show on Fox TV. What an easy job this guys got! It is such a shame because there are not too many opportunities to get your voice out to the whole nation and the opportunity is spoiled by grandstanding for 3 hours on one or two points.
Other hot topics were the war on women. I hate the term of war on topics of general everyday life. Shouldn’t there be a rule where war can only be used for actual war? The other was Obama Care where you either bag it out or embrace.
But every now and then you get something out of the ordinary like when I was in Oregon. Local radio informed that Oregon only have 2 companies in the top 400 companies in
the US. So that show was about anti business Oregon.
But the other good one I had to note down was in a Kentucky hospital, two patients at a dialysis clinic got into a fight. Over what you might ask? Well just over the crucial Final 4 College basketball game between neighbours Kentucky and Louisville.
College basketball has a similar effect on the college scene but not as big as the way the south treat college football but close. When it gets down to the finals they call in March Madness where they give Trademarked names like Sweet 16, Elite 8. Ice Hockey’s final 4 stage is called the “Frozen 4”.
It was another reason why I decided to use Boise as a base so I could experience the games in a college atmosphere for one last time. So I headed back through the mist and to tell you the truth it was a bit disappointing. Mainly because I think the next day was a perfect day. Once you hit the northern part of the states basically put off all your original plans and go outdoors like what the locals do.
That’s what I did and had two things on the list. The first was a shooting gallery to shot down some clay flung in the air whilst yelling out “Pull!” The other was to go snowshoeing.
Without GPS I used Google maps and had it all mapped out. What a day this was going to be! – Can you sense the sarcasm already? See USA just love to screw over the people who don’t get with the times and have GPS. They provide that tease of a few signs to get you started and than they provide nothing at the end. Giving you no sense of where you are just driving along farm fields. Cows looking at you whilst you bring the map out.
There gets to a point where you have to make a judgment call and it was to give up and go for snowshoeing. Bogus Basin is half hour from Boise and it’s the easiest ski resort to get to…
So I drive along Hwy 55 and the next thing I know I am past the ski village - No signs anywhere. I could have
turned back but I think my success in my travels is when I go, “Well maybe its meant to be?” So I never go backwards and keep going forward. I went with another option, Mores Creek at 6118ft (1865m.) On this occasion that was a wrong call.
The drive was stunning going along another one of those scenic byways. This time the Wildlife Canyon followed by the Ponderosa Pine Byway. The canyon road looks like it will take 15 minutes on the map but what starts along as an easy flowing river turned into a rapid. Once the rapids start you start climbing up the canyon to eventually look straight down over 100m to the river only half an hour earlier you were driving along. Tiny Kayaks with brave souls in them somehow thinking it was a good idea to kayak in these cold waters in March.
The never-ending climb gets you to Ponderosa. Actually I should point out that basically in the North West every road has some fancy name for it. But with scenery like this no wonder they can’t help themselves. Since I hit over 6000ft (1823m) before hitting Mores Creek
Summit (my snowshoeing venue) the roads had been ploughed giving the sides of the roads giant white walls.
I wanted to stop driving but couldn’t, finally reaching my destination. Within a few seconds I realised I stuffed up, its no ski resort so can’t hire anything. My rest day of adventure ended up being me driving the car again for the whole day. I should be disappointed but just having flashes of the land I saw as a conciliation makes up for it in droves.
I think if anyone tells you don’t bother about Idaho or Boise ask, “Have you been there before?” I bet they haven’t. One of the great things about the USA is that it is so easy to get off the beaten track… There’s something you don’t read everyday. “USA, an off the beaten track destination…” Well, it is and Boise with Idaho in all its weirdness is one of many.
There are more photos below