Grand Tour of Idaho, Part 1
June 29, 2021
Emboldened by the success of our short trip to western Washington in May, Mr. Karen and I decided to go on a full blown vacation earlier this month, taking a road trip around Idaho that had been on my list for a while. The goal: set foot in all 44 counties while seeing things both familiar and new to us. I planned our itinerary with the help of a lot of different websites, looking up various lists of Idaho counties, researching the attractions therein, and plotting and re-plotting our route with the My Scenic Drives website and Google Maps. I also made a spreadsheet, because of course I did.
We set out the day after the Memorial Day weekend holiday with a clipboard holding a printout of my spreadsheet and the final route I’d made on the scenic drives site as well as two sock monkeys to pose with the license plates that I decided photos of which would be our main souvenir (each county has a unique prefix on their plates). Our first stop was the county north of us. We did pull over and take a photo of the sign at the county line, and that turned out to be the only one of those we did on the whole trip, as often the signs were in places where we couldn’t pull over safely. This county slants even more to the GQP than ours does, so it was not entirely surprising that the bar we chose to eat lunch at had OANN playing on the television, a customer wearing a III%ers shirt, and a table of other customers loudly talking about how Derek Chauvin should get a medal instead of a trial. We ate our lunch quietly, paid our bill, and will not be going back.
After lunch, we heading back south, zipping through our home county on the way to three others. Since we already have spent a fair bit of time in the county south of us, that was just a quick stop of no particular import. It could have been just another errand-running outing but for the way I skulked around the parking lot looking for a suitable license plate to pose the monkeys with. In the county south of that, I’d put a historical monument as our goal, but looking at the map as we drove, decided a state park might be better. That turned out to be so quiet by the time we got there that I had to grab the license plate photo at the gas station where we filled up in town.
We spent the most time in Moscow, having dinner from a Bangladeshi food trailer sort of place followed by a stroll around town with a stop for ice cream. I liked the vibe, which was maybe due to the influence of the university there. In what would become a theme for the trip, several places we would have liked to go into were closed by the time we got there, but I guess that just means we’ll have to return someday.
The drive to Lewiston in the fading light was picturesque, with rolling hills and open spaces, much different than the mountains and valley motif of our home county. When we stopped for the night in Lewiston, that made six counties for the day.
We did five more counties on Day 2. Again, one was not even trying to hide that it was a hotbed of irrational thought, as evidenced by the window display (see below) in a restaurant we most definitely did not eat lunch at. We did eat lunch in the next county, at a restaurant that the internet said had good huckleberry pie. They had very little pie of any kind, as it turned out, but my coconut cream was tasty.
Our next stop was one of the units of the Nez Perce National Historical Park, which has something like three dozen sites across four states. This particular one was Heart of the Monster, a landmark central to the creation story of the Nimiipuu people.
There was quite a lot of scenery to take in that afternoon, which we did both from the moving car and at viewpoint turnouts (some official with signs, some not) along the way. The ones next to the Little Salmon River were especially nice, with the cool water bringing the temperature down.
The landmark that I’d picked as our goal in the penultimate county of the day turned out to be unmarked, so instead we drove around the little town it was in until we spotted a good place for me to hop out and get license plate photos. On the way to our hotel for the night, we swung by Brundage Mountain, a ski area we hadn’t been to in years. It hadn’t changed a whole lot that we could see, which was somehow comforting. Then it was down into McCall, which was busy and bustling even though it wasn’t a weekend. We had trouble finding a place to eat dinner, eventually ending up at a sushi place within walking distance of the lake. That meant when we were done, we got to enjoy taking in the the views just after sunset at the beach.
In the interest of giving myself a feeling of accomplishment and also not posting the longest journal entry ever, I’m going to stop here for today and do other entries to cover the rest of the trip. All the pictures I saw fit to post from this part of the trip are here.
NOTE: Edited 01-Jul-2021 to address that I messed up in the original version of this entry and said we did five counties the first day when it was actually six, so I needed to fix that.