Three Weeks in Northern Idaho

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A year ago, May, I spent 3 weeks in Idaho…mostly the bottom half of it.  This July, I made it to the top half of Idaho, and spent another 3 weeks exploring.  I didn’t pull out the French fries and ketchup costume for the state sign challenge, because I figure I only need to do that once, but the state sign in Idaho is easy to find!

This time while in Idaho, I visited Stanley, Wallace and Bonners Ferry.  I had briefly visited Stanley (which is really central Idaho) over 11 years ago on my year long road trip around the USA, and I visited Coeur d’Alene last fall for a weekend, but beyond that I haven’t spent much time in this part of the state.

As usual, Idaho did not disappoint, except for the people that still like to park in my campsite.  That seems to be a common practice these days.  But I won’t let that spoil this lovely, underrated state.  As I’ve had people park in my campsite in Colorado and Montana too.  It’s quite remarkable to me.

While in Idaho, I drove 1,565 miles, camped, hiked, rode bikes, visited ghost towns, took a mine tour, tasted the local cuisine, saw a melodrama, checked out museums, strolled the streets, took some scenic drives, and even stood at the center of the universe!

center of the universe in wallace, idaho
The Center of the Universe

Campsites in Idaho

My campsites varied dramatically.  The best was definitely in Stanley with an excellent view of the Sawtooths, and it had cell service!  That’s a hard feat in the mountains.  In Wallace I didn’t try hard to find a campsite because cell service was intermittent in town, so I knew it wouldn’t be great anywhere.

campsite on nip and tuck road, idaho

I found a pull out on High Bank Rd just past the Pulaski Tunnel Trail.  I’ve learned finding a pullout is nice in a way. I pull out and don’t bother with chairs or anything, and I don’t have to worry about someone parking in my site since chairs and rug don’t seem to stop them!  For that matter, VANgo doesn’t always make a difference.

In Bonners Ferry, I bounced all over the place.  I camped at trailheads, in the visitor center parking lot, and at the Boundary County Fairgrounds.  None of it was amazing, especially with the active train that runs through town, but they were convenient locations for my next activity.

Hikes in Idaho

I get asked how many miles I hike in a summer.  And I never can answer.  I probably average 25-30 miles a week, not counting any street strolling or quick walks for Annie.  Annie and I took several lake hikes in Idaho.  In fact, lake hikes were the main theme for all three towns, because if there aren’t any wildflowers, at least there is a mountain lake!

My favorite hikes were Alpine Lake, Pear Lake Trail, and Roman Nose Lakes.  Alpine Lake, in Stanley, was on the way to Sawtooth Lake and looking down onto it was beautiful. 

Pear Lake Trail, was a hike in Wallace, and initially was a bust since there was too much snow to for me to follow the switchbacks down to the lake.  But in the end, I continued along the main trail past the lake and up the ridge which offered magnificent views of four different lakes in a mile!

Pear lake trail, idaho

Roman Nose Lakes, a hike in Bonners Ferry, was a pleasant surprise after a long drive.  The drive probably took as long as the hike, which I find annoying.  Fortunately, the lakes and views were outstanding.

Wildlife Spottings in Idaho

My wildlife spottings weren’t as remarkable as the lakes.  While deer were around every turn, I had hoped to see a moose or a bear.  I did see a baby grizzly on the road, but it didn’t stick around for more than three seconds.  It was likely running after mom.  The pronghorn, an occasional pika, and bald eagles made up for the lack of moose and bear sightings, but again, the pictures eluded me.

mama and baby deer

Meals in Idaho

The last time I was in Idaho, I ate all the local favorites, especially Huckleberry flavored things.  This time, since I finally learned that a histamine intolerance causes my headaches, I was relatively boring and broke the diet only a few times.  I had my first beer in months.  It was a local pilsner from the Kootenai River Brewing Company.  But other tasty treats like pizza and mixed berry pie aren’t unique to Idaho.

taster beer with my salad

Unique Sightings in Idaho

From the giant Welcome to Trump Country sign to the cattle drive going down the middle of the road in Bonners Ferry, I’d say I saw a few things that caught my attention. 

On my drive from Wyoming to Stanley, I passed through Arco, Idaho which was the first city to ever be powered solely by nuclear energy.  Had I known about it in advance, I might have toured Experimental Breeder Reactor-1 Visitor Center. There was also a single mountain popping up above the plains loaded with antennas.  It reminded me of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs.

Additionally, I enjoyed a lot of cute signs at a store in Wallace, my favorite being, “In Dog Beers, I’ve Only Had One.”

Musings from the Road

Somehow, I didn’t have a ton of musings from the road like I usually do.  Perhaps, my mind is cluttered with the construction process on my townhome and thinking about my new horse Wi, that I’m not riding while on this road trip.

I did wonder a few things:

  1.  What would happen today if eggs cost $16/dozen like they did during the gold rush days in Custer!  Can you imagine the riots?!?  Or maybe if suits only cost $4.50 like they did in Custer, things would be OK.
  2. I so wish we could eliminate mosquitoes from earth!!!  Can’t we create some other bug for the survival of the food chain that doesn’t bite humans and spreads less disease?  Or genetically modify these blood sucking beasts?
  3. By the looks of it, there are a lot of long-term campers in this state.
  4. Is it is always this hot in Idaho in the summer? I’m five miles from the Canadian Border, and it is 95 degrees.  At least it is not 109 since I don’t have A/C when I’m not plugged in.
  5. Why didn’t I plan visiting Canada when I was all the way up here?!?  That’s another trip entirely!
  6. The manager at Safeway in Bonners Ferry must have had a policy that workers must greet shoppers.  I think I responded, “hello” five times as I perused the aisles.
  7. I’ll have to watch Dantes Peak. It was filmed in Wallace.
  8. Can you imagine being 9,000 feet below sea level inside the earth like silver miners? I never knew the mines were so deep!

Next stop…Montana. ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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