Twin Falls: The Final Stop

We’ve been on the road for almost 80 days and it’s been fantastic. However, there’s an end to every summer and ours was in Twin Falls, Idaho. We spent four nights in this south-central Idaho city at a local KOA. We sat right next to the highway and could hear (and smell) the cows nextdoor. It was one of our lowest rated campgrounds, but it gave us easy access to Twin Falls which was why we were there.

Our first day there was all business.  I got a new phone, Steve got the truck’s oil changed, and we did a Costco run. Once we were caught up on life we headed out to see the sights.

The big draws in Twin Falls all revolve around the Snake River Canyon. The IB Perrine Bridge spans the canyon and was at one time the tallest bridge in the world.

Now it draws base jumpers from across the world. These daredevils jump off the bridge with only a loose parachute with hopes of landing on the banks of the river hundreds of feet below. It’s quite a sight to watch!

We quickly found the Snake River Rim Trail, a ten mile trail that skirts the edge of the steep canyon edge. We rode it twice. The first time we made it to the Evel Knieval jump site, the place where in 1974 the daredevil attempted to jump the canyon in a rocket-like contraption.

His parachute engaged early and he plunged down to the river’s edge. The launch site is still there, a mini-mountain that Steve had to climb. 

The other day we rode we made it to Shoshone Falls, one of the prides of Twin Falls. Known as the “Niagra of the West,” the falls are pretty spectacular, even though the water levels were low this time of year. 

Riding along the rim provided spectacular views of the canyon and river below. 

Twin Falls and much of the region was hit with a strong “wind event” the night before we were set to leave. With wind gust of over 60mph, the RV rocked and shook for quite awhile. Luckily we didn’t have damage and it didn’t look like anyone else around us did either. Boy, what a mess.

As we drove south toward Salt Lake City it was clear that the storm was even stronger there. Along I-15 just north of Salt Lake we passed over 40 big rig trucks blown over along the side of the road. It was still pretty windy but we made it safely to our overnight stop, another Harvest Host, south of Salt Lake.

All good things come to an end and this trip is about over. We plan to be back home by the end of the week and ready to plan our next adventure!

The Sawtooth

From Salmon we drove about 150 miles south to the center of Idaho and the Sawtooth National Recreation and Wilderness Area.  Most famously known for nearby Sun Valley Ski Resort, the draw for us is the natural beauty. We’ve said lots of “Wows” on this leg of the journey.

First we headed into Ketchum, the closest town with a Verizon store. Replacing the broken iPhone is a priority but in these parts, your priorities are not their problem. After a number of calls and an uncomfortable store visit we left without a viable solution. The last photo my phone took was a call to 911, which I didn’t make.

So, we are working on one phone for the time being. The scenery, however, makes up for it.

Our first destination here was the small town of Stanley and the nearby ghost towns of Bonanza and Custer. This is gold rush country from the mid 1800s through 1960. In Custer we toured the ghost town that once held a large population, all there to work the nearby mill, built to process ore from the mines. Relics from the early miners litter the ground of this historic site.

Along the way to Custer we passed the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge, which is a 988 ton relic of gold mining from the 1940s and 50s. There are 71 one-ton buckets on one continuous chain and each bucket could hold eight cubic feet of dirt.

The dredge dug into the valley over a six mile swath to recover gold by washing and separating the rock, gravel, and dirt from the gold.  Having cut a large swath of land through a beautiful valley, the old dredge still stands as a testament to man’s search for wealth. We toured the four story dredge which over a 12 year period turned out gold valued at  $1.2 million in 1958 dollars.

The next day we hopped on the bikes and rode from our campsite to the nearby Pole Creek Ranger Station. Pole Creek is the oldest Forest Service construction in the Sawtooth National Forest and was home to Ranger Bill Horton for 22 years.

The station is on the National Register of Historic Places and shows how tough and hard working rangers like Horton were. 

The remainder of the day was spent at the popular Redfish Lake. With a lodge, visitor center, and white beaches, Redfish is popular with hikers, paddle-boarders, kayakers, and boaters.

We walked the Fishhook Trail from the visitor center and came across the Kokanee Salmon, a relative of the Sockeye in the nearby creek. It was spawning season, so the red fish were thick, having come up stream from Redfish Lake. Once they hatch and grow they will go downstream tail-first to live and enjoy the beautiful Redfish Lake. 

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is filled with campsites, streams, and trails. We spent some time on the Harriman Trail, an 18 mile mountain bike trail that runs along the Big Wood River. We rode just a section of the trail, which was a good workout with incredible views. 

From there we headed to nearby Pettit Lake where Steve did a seven mile trail run while I rode the bike a little more. Steve’s run took him from Pettit Lake to Alice Lake. Along the way he had incredible views and scenery. 

The campgrounds were beginning to fill up in anticipation of the upcoming long weekend, which is our cue to move along. We really loved our time in the Sawtooth area and hope to return to explore more trails by foot and by bike. 

We are heading south towards Twin Falls for our next set of adventures. 

Northern Idaho is the Bomb!

Our summer RV adventures continued this week in northern Idaho and boy were we impressed! This place ticked off a lot of our “must haves” in a destination, and we are excited to share the highlights with you.

First we spent the night in a little town called Laclede which is the home to the Riley Creek Blueberry Farm.

Another Harvest Host property, we were able to stay on their grounds with our membership. Stan and Anita, the farmers and owners of Riley Creek, met us with a big smile and encouraged us to roam the farm. We picked blueberries and bought a blueberry pie and jam.

The best part, however, was the beautiful setting. We parked right in the middle of the blueberry bushes, surrounded by wild blackberries, farm animals, and a beautiful garden. With great weather and a few other very nice Harvest Host members, we enjoyed our overnight on the farm. It was hard to leave.

Oh, and there was a tractor!

Our next stop was Coeur d’Alene, and we were lucky to snag a spot at the Blackwell Island RV Park, right on the shores of the Spokane River and Lake Coeur d’Alene. This was one of the nicer parks we’ve stayed in with sparkling clean laundry facility and a large beach from which to launch a kayak. We kept busy just at the RV park.

Of course, we did venture into the city several times and checked out the town. One morning we biked into town, watched runners of the Coeur d’Alene marathon, and had a cup of coffee.

Steve would have loved to run but we didn’t realize the race, modified for COVID-19, was being held over a three day period while we were there. 

From Coeur d’Alene we headed east along I-90 until we found the cute little historic town of Wallace, Idaho. We hadn’t planned on stopping here but when we learned about the Route of the Hiawatha, we found this town to be a convenient base.  We had no idea what we were in for! Wallace is an old silver mining town where every building in town is in the Registry of Historic Places. In town there is a mining museum, a railroad museum, and a bordello museum—all commemorating the area’s historic past. I did the Sierra Silver Mine tour and learned about the process and history of silver mining in northern Idaho’s Silver Valley.

Meanwhile Steve ran the Pulaski Trail, a two mile hike that commemorates the 1910 fire that ravaged the town and region. 

The real draw to Wallace these days is biking. Almost everyone at the Wallace RV Park where we stayed was doing the Route of the Hiawatha. Considered the “crown jewel” of America’s rails-to-trails routes, the Route of the Hiawatha follows the abandoned Milwaukee railroad grade.

Over the 15-mile downhill route we passed through ten tunnels and seven sky high steel trestles with sweeping views of the Bitterroot Mountain range. The adventure begins with the 1.7 mile long Taft tunnel which required us to use our lights and traverse through darkness. A little scary, but super fun!

Most do the Hiawatha in one direction and take a shuttle back to the beginning. It’s an easy, leisurely ride with interpretive signs along the way that inform about the development of the railroad and the area. Steve had planned to ride back up, get the car, and then come get me. Once we learned the drive to the finish took almost as long as the bike ride due to the terrain, and after seeing the crowds waiting for the shuttle, I decided to give the uphill return trip a try.

It was a long 15 miles uphill but rewarding to finish. Plus, we got to see the route from the other direction and really savor the experience. We even met a nice deer along the trail–probably because by that time there were few bikers on the trail.

Four hours on the bike over 30 miles was the most I’d done in a while!

Running right through Wallace and adjacent to our campground was the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Another rail-to-trail, this one runs through the Silver Valley from the Montana border to Coeur d’Alene.

Each day we enjoyed this relatively flat paved trail for a few miles in each direction. We keep saying, “Why doesn’t Arizona have trails like this?” 

One other interesting fact about Wallace: it’s the Center of the Universe. Supposedly a few of the locals decided it was so and they say that it is that way until proven otherwise. They even have a manhole cover in the main intersection to declare it. It must be so!

We’re now heading into Montana and then south to central Idaho for more fun.