We travel to Idaho every summer. My family is there, parents, at least. Since we live in southern Arizona, we’re still in the West, and I always tell myself it won’t be that different from here. The southern part of Idaho is still considered part of the Great Basin, it’s a desert, there’s a drought there right now–my dad’s a farmer and drought is the talk o’ the year.
However, as we drove the green, crop-filled valleys, cut through by the winding rivers brimming with fish and cattails, drove up the verdant canyons and saw hillsides covered with quakies and dock, and played in the warm water of Bear Lake, my kids kept saying, “It doesn’t look like a drought.”
Well, it doesn’t. It looks like Eden.
Maybe I shouldn’t say this aloud. Maybe I should just keep Idaho our own little secret.
As a kid I lived on the border with Utah. We picked up Utah radio stations, including stations from as far away as Salt Lake City. I remember for a while one station had a morning feature “Idaho Joke of the Day.” For instance, “What happens when Idaho trips?” Answer: “Idaho Falls.” They went on and on. One teenage boy I knew, though, snarked, “That’s fine. Let them think it’s lame. We don’t want them here anyway.”
Don’t get me wrong. Where we live now is lovely. It’s fine. I love the people, and the landscape is striking and stark–the kind of place movies are made. And we have mountains and valleys and streams–even if they look more like someone left the garden hose running. They’re still streams. And we call them rivers here.
Anyway, super fun vacation! It was in the balmy 90s. We went to the farm to ride motorcycles and a zip line my dad put up.
The kids all slept outside on the lawn and the trampoline with all their cousins. There was shooting. My 10 year old crashed on the motorbike, skinning her knees. The boys practiced driving trucks and the Rhino by going to the town market and buying penny candy. We went to the local hot springs, Downata (pronounced Donnetta) and the kids went down the Dragon Slide and the Black Hole (which is almost vertical and partially buried in the hillside and therefore dark and quite scary), and my daughter’s skinned knees were healed miraculously by the mineral water.
That night we took the kids and their cousins to a parade where they garnered roughly 4 pounds of saltwater taffy and Tootsie Rolls apiece, after which we all went to a night rodeo. Man, I do love a rodeo. Screamed myself hoarse during the bareback rides. It went on for three hours, until 11 p.m. Late! When I asked my 5 year old daughter on the way home how she liked the rodeo, she said, “Seemed kinda short.”
We took the kids to a family reunion at a park that had a shallow stream running through it, and they walked across stepping stones and played in the water and ran across the arched bridge and danced in the misty rain. And enjoyed KFC. (Of course.)
One day we went to the aforementioned Bear Lake. Like they say in the extended version of the Phineas and Ferb theme song, “This may possibly be the best day ever.” It was amazing. The beach there was soft sand the kids could dig in. The water was shallow and really warm, like a bath tub. The sun was shining and it was about 80 degrees, but with a light, cool breeze. Incredible. And after that we went to the mountains nearby and met my brother, built a fire, made tinfoil dinners, the kids took a hike, enjoyed the luxury of a primitive outhouse and a fun hammock swing. They roasted marshmallows, and my 8 year-old learned to make them golden brown. We drove home through Mink Creek and it was just the most beautiful, spectacular drive in the full moon’s light.
(I tried for an hour to insert another pic right here, a really good one from the lake, but it just wouldn’t work, so just imagine the prettiest lake on the clearest day with the bluest water and the cutest kids having the best time in the sand ever, ever, ever. Thanks. Sheesh. The things technology puts me through.)
I mean, I don’t want to make someone else’s summer vacation to a major theme park seem somehow inadequate, but for me, Idaho is the place for summer fantastic-ness.