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Physical State of Matt #3: IDAHO

Updated: Jul 8

My third state up was Idaho. Why Idaho next? Rather than continue down the west coast, I wanted to save California for the end of the trip. I lived in LA for 23 years, my grandfather lived in Humboldt County with his second wife for decades, and I’ve been up and down the state. Keeping California for the end will allow me to "slide into home", see friends, and reconnect with familiar places as I wrap this up.


PAST VISITS


I’d been to Idaho twice before. The first time was when I drove a U-Haul from Las Cruces back to Portland after Howard passed. I stopped for the night in Boise before the final haul and, despite the heavy circumstances of the trip, had a fun spring night in a very cool little city. 


(not my photo)


My second time through Idaho was last year with my ex on our road trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. The Northern Idaho scenery In August was gorgeous when we drove to our accommodations, the Instagram-famous Crystal Peak Lookout in Fernwood. It’s a decommissioned fire lookout tower on the top of a forested hill that has been turned into an Airbnb. It's a uniquely beautiful location that became the site of the most traumatic vacation experience I’ve ever had. 


(not my photo)


She was set on the destination, but the stairs up to the tower looked incredibly steep in the pictures. I was concerned that our dogs, not being the bravest and most adventurous girls, would struggle to climb them.


Sure enough, once we got there, the dogs were having none of it. The first set of steep stairs up to the landing were challenging but doable. The second set, up to the trap door in the bottom of the lookout, were practically straight up.


My ex's heart had been set on staying there for months, and we were in the middle of nowhere, so she was determined to make this work. We coaxed, cajoled, bribed, and pretty much dragged the dogs all the way up.


(I call bullshit on you Airbnb - bullshit!)


As soon as we got the dogs to the top we realized that we had no idea how we were going to get them down. Whenever we brought either of them close to the open trap door they would struggle and thrash around, making it impossible to help them down safely. Standing on the balcony that evening, I watched a stunning sunset then the Perseid meteor shower while playing through my mind all the awful ways that this could go horribly wrong. 



We decided to tackle the problem at first light - waiting wasn’t going to make it any easier. We attempted everything we could think of, but nothing was working. I got so worked up worrying that we were about to kill our dogs or kill ourselves I started dry heaving over the balcony. 


(bee lost in existential dread)


After a ton of experimentation, my ex came up with a creative solution: Tie a sheet under the front armpits of each dog and another under their waist so we could team up to carry each of them down the ladder-stairs. The final touch was putting a pillowcase over each of their heads like a prisoner hood so they couldn’t see what we were doing - we must have been quite a sight. 


It all worked out in the end for human and canine alike, and that memory will be linked to Idaho forever. That was another trip and I don’t hold it against the state, but I was eager to make some fresh Idaho memories. Because it was February, and I was going to Nevada next, I decided to stick with Southern Idaho. I’d been to Boise already, so…Twin Falls? Why not?


(not my photo)


TWIN FALLS


It was night by the time I reached the Idaho border. Obviously you can’t tell much about a place at night but most of Idaho was dark - very dark. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot out there. It was 10ish by the time I arrived at my Airbnb, which was a charming single story ranch house in a neighborhood of similar looking charming single story ranch houses. 



The next day it snowed. I was pretty sure snow hadn’t been in the forecast, but that didn’t stop it. Coming off of a busy couple of weeks and a long day of driving, I was happy to take it easy and get caught up on some work. Availing myself of the amenities, I sat in the hot tub while the flakes fell on my head. I did a small grocery shop and enjoyed a quiet night in. 



The next evening the weather hadn’t improved, so I stayed in again and worked on one of my hobbies - miniature painting. Over the course of a few hours I was able to complete another member of my skeleton army.



SHOSHONE FALLS & PERRINE BRIDGE


The weather finally broke the following day. I took the opportunity to visit Shoshone Falls, which is what Twin Falls is most known for.


Ironically, the city is actually named after a different waterfall in the area. That Twin Falls got its name from having two side-by-side falls pouring into the Snake River. Since being named, one of those falls has been diverted for hydroelectric power generation and only flows on a schedule set by the power company. 


Driving over, I recognized a sign by the side of the road and pulled over. Turns out I had stumbled on the CLIF Bar bakery - I had no idea they were made in Twin Falls. 



Shoshone Falls, which is named after the Lemhi Shoshone Native American tribe, is a massive falls - 212 feet tall and 900 feet wide, sometimes referred to as “The Niagara of the West”. 


(not my photo)


In all the photographs, great sheets of water pummel the rocks below, crashing through the Snake River Canyon beyond, but when I got there...not so much. Peak flow is spring when the snow melts - I must have come a touch too early. The rock formations forming the falls were fascinating and the views down the Snake River Canyon were stunning, but the falls themselves were barely a trickle. 



Next I went further down the Snake River Canyon to see Perrine Bridge. Perrine Bridge is 1,500 ft long and, at 468 ft above the river, is the eighth highest bridge in the US. There is an area to pull off the highway just before or after the bridge which leads to a view point offering impressive views of the canyon and the underside of the bridge. A work crew made repairs while I looked on, looking like colorful ants on the massive structure.



The bridge is best known today as a site for BASE jumping. In fact, it’s the only man-made structure in the US where you can BASE jump year-round without a permit. But fifty years ago that stretch of canyon was known for other daredevilry. 


In 1974, just a mile and a half up the canyon, Evel Knievel staged his highly publicized Snake River Jump. He was strapped into a custom-built rocket called a “Skycycle” and launched out over the river. The rocket’s parachute deployed as it left the ramp, causing it to fall short and for Knievel to float to the bottom of the canyon where he was retrieved unharmed. The ramp still stands to this day.



Thursday night I went to see what entertainment options Twin Falls had available. First was a pool hall called The Pocket which was a nice spot with a bunch of well maintained tables and a golf simulator. But there was hardly anyone there, and playing pool by yourself is only entertaining for so long. 


Then I tried the Whiskey Creek Saloon & Grill, which I discovered had been renamed Big Papa’s. It was a great venue with a big stage and tons of room. They often host live music, but that night it was just a small group of karaoke regulars. 



I got the chance to speak with DJ Julez who called Idaho the “Hidden Gem” State, citing its natural beauty and laissez-faire laws. I also had a conversation with Liz and her one-eyed husband Curtis who were performing in the local Community College production of School of Rock. I made a mental note to get myself a ticket for Friday's performance.



When Friday rolled around, I spotted an article talking about people kayaking in a lake in Death Valley that had formed from the unusual amount of rain the region had gotten. The article said it was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence and it would only be there for a couple more weeks. School of Rock would have to wait - I left Idaho that afternoon.



It’s safe to say my time in Idaho wasn’t action-packed. You could argue that I didn’t give the state a proper chance to shine, and that would be fair, but it was nice to have a calm week after being so busy in Washington and Oregon. It was also nice to visit the state without putting my dogs in mortal peril…so there’s that.


Yes, and…

Matt

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