in search of the perfect potato

Shortly after we returned from our trip to Aspen, Alex asked me if I'd be interested in taking another hiking trip to Idaho at the end of the summer. I thought it was a bit out of left field, but when it comes to travel I'm always game. So in early September we packed our bags and flew west.

Our trip started at the Boise airport where we picked up our rental car. Heading east we drove about 3 hours to our first destination- Craters of the Moon National Monument. An ancient volcanic hotbed, COTM is a vast area (618 square miles) full of ancient lava flows, cones, and lava tube caves, which you can explore on your own with a permit from the ranger station. We explored the massive lava fields, climbed up the cones and Alex explored a tube cave (you needed to crawl around on your stomach to get through part of it with the only light coming from your headlamp- I was too chicken). It was cool to think of the people who had been there before- the Shoshone Indian Tribe, Lewis and Clark in 1805, pioneers of the Oregon Trail in the 1860s, and the Apollo 14 astronauts in 1969 training for sample collection for a future moon landing. The park is definitely worth visiting if you find yourself in southern Idaho.

craters of the moon national monument

into the lava tube cave
After spending a few hours at COTM we got back in the car and headed north-west to Ketchum in the Sun Valley where we would stay the night. We ate an amazing dinner at the Pioneer Salon. I wish I had gotten a picture of the "Jim Spud" I had for dinner. It was the best baked potato I've ever eaten- an enormous, perfectly cooked potato stuffed with caramelized onions, butter, cheese, sour cream, and for the meat eaters, prime rib. Thinking about it now makes me hungry.

The next morning we woke up early to drive to the start of our 18 mile hike in the Sawtooth Wilderness. Our hike began at Pettit Lake, a crystal clear alpine lake surrounded by serrated mountain peaks. The 18 mile loop took us from Pettit Lake past Farley Lake to Toxaway Lake, where we camped the first night. There weren't too many people on the trail, maybe 10 over the whole 2 days, which meant that the trail was nice and quiet. We didn't see any wildlife, aside from squirrels and rock mice, but plenty of footprints and scat. The trail was well maintained and the views were beautiful. We hit an afternoon thunderstorm, which was a great time to take shelter and grab some lunch. We hike with a jetboil and backpackers pantry dehydrated food. For lunch we had an Asian pasta dish, what we didn't have was silverware (oops!). All of our meals would have to be eaten with fingers. I guess it was just an opportunity to build our immune systems.

the drive to the trail head

We set up our tent on a rock plateau overlooking Toxaway Lake, a mile long lake surrounded by mountains. It was so beautiful and clean and quiet. We explored a little bit and spent some time at the lake shore watching fish jump. I was happy we picked up bug spray because around dusk the mosquitoes started to emerge. That night I saw my first ever moon rise. Our hike coincided with the full moon and we watched as the it broke between the cleft of two mountains and rose high into the sky.

Toxaway Lake

quiet, scenic trails
camping on Toxaway

Toxaway Lake

the moon rise

The next morning we packed up our camp site, refilled our water bottles and made our way to Snowyside pass. The trail brings you around the lake and up a mountain where you have great views of the lake and surrounding area. After about hiking for 2 miles we arrived at the pass at the same time we started to hear thunder. I was pretty terrified- we were totally exposed, above the tree line. We stopped for only a few minutes to admire the view of the Twin Lakes on the other side of the pass. The clouds above were menacing and the loud thunder chased me down the mountain as we ran the trail. We made it to the bottom safe and sound and dry- it never actually rained on us.

the view from the top of Snowyside pass

the trail from Snowyside to Twin Lakes

A short walk later we arrived at Alice Lake around 1 pm. We broke for lunch and a rest from the running. We had originally planned on camping here, but what would we do for the rest of the day? So we decided to hike the remaining 7 miles after lunch. The hike was pretty gentle, mostly downhill, but you did have to cross lots of rock fields. The last bit of the trail meandered through forests and fields, crossing a creek numerous times. We arrived back at Pettit Lake around 6:30 and decided to camp along the banks of the lake, about 1/4 mile from the car. The gentle lapping of the water put me right to sleep after dinner.

Alice Lake

The next day we drove further north to our next stop- Redfish Lake Lodge. Our accommodations were simple but clean and we had hot water! After a shower we ventured out to the marina where you could rent all kinds of boats. We took a paddle boat out on the water to explore the lake. I think if we wanted to go any great distance a canoe or kayak would've been a better choice. When we returned to the dock Alex went for a swim. The afternoon was filled with knitting and reading. We enjoyed potato nachos and a beer in the lodge's bar for happy hour. The potato nachos were amazing- coins of fried potatoes covered with cheese, sour cream, chopped onions, tomatoes, and wing sauce. So good. For dinner we had rainbow trout and asparagus.

staying at Redfish Lake Lodge

the marina

Our last day in Idaho we drove back to Boise stopping at some hot springs right on the byway. The drive was very scenic, nearly all of it through national forest land. When we got back to Boise we checked into our hotel and then checked out local knitting shops. Fuzz was the closest to my hotel. The woman who owned it was really nice and the selection was pretty good, lots of Manos del Uruguay and they had a ton of things for embroiderers. The second yarn shop I went to was called the Yarn Shoppe. It was a bit of a drive, but totally worth it. Imagine a yarn shop that stocked like every brand of yarn in a million colorways. This is that shop. I came home with four skeins of fingering weight yarn that will one day become shawls. Two of the skeins were hand dyed by The Sassy Sheep and Mountain Colors.

the hot springs
For dinner we went to Boise Fry Company. You get to choose your potato (russet, gold, white, sweet, yam, purple, okinawa) and your fry style (regular, homestyle, shoestring, curly, po' balls). They had a salt and sauce bar. Because we got there at the right time, happy hour, our fries were buy one get one free. The fries were really, really good. I have to say Idaho knows how to cook a potato.

After dinner we went for a walk around the capital. Alex asked me if I wanted to check out one more knitting store but I said I was too tired. He insisted and we walked to a place called the Knitting Factory, not a knitting store at all, but a concert venue. He said, "Let's look who's playing." We walked over to the poster and saw that my blast from the past was on the bill- Bush! Surprise, this is why we were in Idaho. Alex had seen that Bush, my favorite band from my high school years, was playing at the Knitting Factory, a smaller, more intimate venue than the one they would later announce in DC and got us tickets. The concert was amazing. I stood one row back from the stage and rocked the night away. The concert was like a best of show with a couple of songs from their new album. It was an awesome night.

with Lewis and Clark at the statehouse

The next morning we went to the airport and caught our flight home. I had such a fun time. One thing I forgot to mention is the cell reception, or lack there of in the areas outside of Boise. Don't plan on being in communication with anyone. Sometimes a forced break from e-mail, twitter, and facebook can be nice though. I'm looking forward to our next hiking trip- the Inca Trail in Peru May 2012.

alex and alex setting forth

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