November 14, 2021

Idaho in Our Rear View Mirror (Part 1 of 2)

I promised at the end of my last post that the following post would be a summary of our recent 5+ week camping expedition.  Well, I lied.  Not intentionally, though.  As it turns out, I didn’t have it in me to summarize a trip of nearly six weeks in just one post.  I needed two.  So, welcome to Idaho - Part 1!

Last year, at the height of the COVID pandemic, Alan and I spent a total of about six weeks camping at State Park campgrounds within our home state.  Because we’re self-contained with our own kitchen, bathroom and sleeping quarters, our only necessary contact with others occurred when we checked in at the gate or office of each Park.  There were, of course, gas and grocery stops, but we would have made those same stops if we had stayed at home.  So, we felt completely safe in our State Parks and had quite the enjoyable camping season in 2020.

This year, Alan and I obtained COVID vaccines early in the spring, but we remained concerned about traveling since so many attractions hadn’t yet fully opened and we were still uncomfortable with restaurant dining.  We examined our bucket list looking for an appropriate destination and came up with . . . Idaho!  Even though the number of COVID cases in the state was rising, we knew that we planned to keep to ourselves as much as possible, plus mask up and use sanitizer whenever we needed to access groceries or gas.  We agreed that we were both comfortable with our decision and happy with our destination.  The focus in Idaho would be on the magnificent scenery and outdoor activities that would allow us to enjoy it, and we ended up with a perfect combination of camping and biking.

Luke hasn't quite got the mask thing figured out yet.

My intent here is not to document our Idaho adventures day by day.  This post is actually more of an overview of the entire trip; my plan is to cover the details in a series of future posts.  For now, this will have to do since I’m exceptionally far behind in documenting our past journeys.  Along the lines of half full or half empty, I’m choosing an optimist’s perspective – we’re blessed to have enjoyed so many memorable expeditions that it’s difficult to keep up with the documentation.

Eastbound and down - sunset in the side view mirror

Because I like you all so much, I won’t whine and complain about our GPS unit kicking the bucket and abandoning Alan and me to our own devices somewhere in central Idaho; the hot spot in the truck going MIA not once, but twice during the trip (once after the GPS gave up the ghost); one of the sensors on our tire pressure monitoring system continually draining its battery and refusing to transmit data; or our generator requiring a visit to the "Small Engine Urgent Care Center" after it suddenly quit on us.  Let’s face it, folks, technology is not always our friend.  The bad stuff was not fun.  But the good stuff?  Well, the good stuff was really, really good!

Not whining about the gas prices either - I'll just say, "Ouch!" once.

Amazing Campsites

While I admit to being a bit overzealous when it comes to planning, I sincerely believe that all the time I spend researching not just good campgrounds, but the best campsites within those campgrounds, is time well spent.  At least, as far as I’m concerned it is.  Because we end up camping in some absolutely sensational sites.  Examples?  I thought you’d never ask!  Note that these are not all the campgrounds in which we camped, but the ones we consider highlights of the trip.

Shady Creek Recreation Area (Muscatine, Iowa) – An Army Corps of Engineers campground directly on the Mississippi River.  When I checked in and the Campground Host saw my site number she said, “Oh, that’s a good site.  You’re going to love it!”  Remembering my manners, I refrained from smirking and admitting, “Yes, I know.”

Our large corner site with the Mississippi River out the big back window

Riverside Campground (Island Park, Idaho) – A U.S. Forest Service campground on Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, an area renowned for its fly fishing.  The absolute best site in this campground was already booked.  (If you saw it, you’d know why.)  So we ended up with the second best site – waterfront, yes, and it included a tall rock formation with just enough flat area on top for us to set up our camp chairs.  VoilĂ !  A bird’s eye view of the river in both directions!

A view of Henry's Fork from our rock outcropping at Riverside

Sunny Gulch Campground (Stanley, Idaho) – Another U.S. Forest Service campground in the magnificent Sawtooth Mountains.  We liked this campground SO much that we upended our future travel plans just so we could stay an extra night.  If you know me well, you know that it is definitely not in my nature to disrupt all the reservations I worked so hard to get.  So, it goes without saying that this place was really special – but I felt the need to say it anyway.

Sunny Gulch Campground with the majestic Sawtooth Mountains in the background

Farragut State Park, Waldron Campground (Athol, Idaho) – Farragut State Park is located on spectacular Lake Pend Oreille, but the campgrounds themselves are not directly on the water.  Our campsite looked out over a peaceful field with a beautiful mountain view beyond that.  Each day we’d watch wild turkeys run crazily through the grass and clouds play around the mountain tops.

Our serene setting in the Waldron Campground at Farragut State Park

Woodhead Park Campground (Cambridge, Idaho) – A large and well-maintained campground operated by the Idaho Power Company (one of about a half dozen in the state) which is located on the Snake River in Hells Canyon, the border between Idaho and Oregon.  At nearly 25 miles from the town of Cambridge, this campground requires some effort to get to (and extra effort by those of us who are not particularly fond of roads with big drop offs and no guard rails) but it was SO worth it!  Check out this view - and remember, we had a big back window and recliners from which to enjoy it!

Woodhead Park Campground, Hells Canyon - remote but magnificent!

Beautiful Bike Trails

Okay, I’ll admit it . . . I’m a wimp.  Fear of heights – check.  Fear of water over my head – check.  Fear of hairpin turns with no guard rails – check.  Honestly, some days I wonder how Alan manages to travel with me.  According to many sources, the Route of the Hiawatha is THE best bike trail in Idaho.  In fact, it’s often recognized as one of the best bike trails in the country.  We didn’t bike it.  Why?  Because of the trestles.  Seven of them, as a matter of fact, all of which have been described as “sky high.”  Yup, the very reason many bicyclists LOVE this trail is the reason I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Plus, the crowds.  COVID, remember?  Here’s the problem:  The Route of the Hiawatha isn’t a public bike trail.  Although the trail is on U.S. Forest Service land, it’s an attraction operated under special permit by the Lookout Pass Ski Area.  Most people ride from the top to the bottom (between 14 and 15 miles) to avoid the light grade going from bottom to top.  Then they take a shuttle back up after the ride.  It’s a bit more complicated than just pulling into a parking area and unloading your bikes.  I was concerned that, if I had a problem with any of the trestles, I’d be pedaling back up the trail and traversing the mile and a half long tunnel going against the flow of traffic.  Plus, a shuttle just felt a little too “peoplely” as our friend Peg would say.  No thanks, I’ll pass.  But don’t let my fears stop you from enjoying this unique and memorable ride.

So where did we ride?  Well, we started with the Victor to Driggs Trail in eastern Idaho, then we traveled part of the Ashton to Tetonia Trail, also in eastern Idaho.  When we moved on to central Idaho, we biked the Wood River Trail between Ketchum and Hailey.  In northern Idaho, we tackled three different sections of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.  Plus, there are at least three more bike trails I can think of off the top of my head that we didn't plug into our itinerary.  With bike trails galore and phenomenal scenery, Idaho is truly a cyclist's paradise.

The Ashton to Tetonia Trail runs through some of Idaho's stunning agricultural country.

Because all of the trails we rode are rail trails that run along corridors formerly used by railroads, they’re all fairly level.  Less work, more fun – yay!  (Obviously, I’m a cycling wimp, too.)  Every one of these trails provided gorgeous views and we enjoyed some excellent rides. Note that, with the exception of the Victor to Driggs Trail, we only biked sections of the trails, not the entire length of them.  Sigh.  So many trails, so little time.

A view of the river from the Wood River Trail

The Victor to Driggs Trail turned out to be the most difficult for us.  Not because of the trail itself (16 miles roundtrip), but because on our return we were pedaling against a 16 mph headwind the entire way back.  Alan said it’s the only time he ever had to downshift when going downhill.  The views of the Teton Range were breathtaking, but that was definitely a “one and done” trail for these two recreational cyclists.

Battling the wind on the Victor to Driggs Trail

When we encountered our first trestle on the nearly 30 mile long Ashton to Tetonia Trail, I promptly stopped.  I debated.  I gathered my wits about me – and I did it!  (By this time, Alan was patiently waiting on the other side of the trestle.)  Truthfully, I walked my bike over, looking down at my feet the entire way across the trestle.  But, on the way back, I biked it!  Yes, I AM proud of myself, thank you very much!

That's Alan, patiently waiting for me to get up my nerve on the Ashton to Tetonia Trail.

The Wood River Trail (approximately 36 miles long) actually runs from just north of Ketchum south to Bellevue, but we chose to avoid biking through Ketchum proper.  We scouted out a parking area just south of town and rode from there toward Hailey.  This was a lovely trail with pretty scenery and a fabulous view of the river at a sweet little rest stop.  I loved the short tunnels where signage always reminded us to keep right and ring our bells.  (Fun fact: I tend to annoy Alan by ringing my bell at random times just for pure enjoyment.)

Ring, ring!  Ring, ring!  Coming through on the Wood River Trail!

Our favorite bike trail was the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.  We chose three particular sections we wanted to bike since time constraints in our schedule prevented us from completing all 73 miles of the Trail.  My absolute favorite section?  The part that runs through Heyburn State Park and crosses the lake on the Lake Chatcolet Bridge.  Yes, I was nervous and, yes, I did it anyway.  I’ve said that being out in nature feeds my soul, and it’s in incredibly awe-inspiring settings like this that I’m filled with a deep sense of peace and contentment.

A view of the lake from the Lake Chatcolet Bridge on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

I’ll pause here and leave you to wonder what other people, places and activities we enjoyed on our epic journey to, from and though Idaho.  I hope you’ll return for Part 2!



  1. It amazes me how you find such idyllic places to stay and interesting things to do, often on the cheap. Your research regimen must be impressive. Makes me think our penchant for "glamping" may need rethinking. Nah.

    1. Mike, I truly love the fact that there are so many different ways to enjoy this RV lifestyle. Our style of camping works perfectly for Alan and me and makes us both happy. Glamping works perfectly for you and Sandy and makes you both happy. (I would not want to be the one to tell Sandy that she's staying in a State Park with no hookups. Would you?) Maybe that's one of the reasons why you and I enjoy each other's blogs - we can easily catch an intriguing glimpse of another RV lifestyle then go back to our own comfortable-to-us campsites. I hope that new knee of yours is working well and you're continuing to see improvement every day!

  2. One of the best rides I've ever been on was the Route of the Hiawatha rail-to-trail ride that crosses over the Idaho/Montana border. Lots of very tall trestles, yes, but with magnificent views. I hope next time you are in the area, you'll reconsider and Just Do It!

    1. Well, I would love to say I'll be brave and try. Honestly, Janis, if you knew how long it took me to get over that small trestle on the Ashton to Tetonia Trail, you wouldn't waste your money on a ticket to watch. Never say never, though. If I ever do get up the courage to ride the Route of the Hiawatha, I promise that you'll be the first person I share that accomplishment with!

  3. Mary,
    I agree completely that you know how to pick 'em. We have camped at Farragut State Park and I have some wonderful pictures from hiking around Pend d'Oreille Lake. I fished Henry's Fork this summer, and one of the most fabulous days I ever experienced was a float trip down the Snake through Hell's Canyon with my boys. You brought back some great memories. Thanks! Joe

    1. Aw, that's so sweet, Joe! That entire trip was built around our desire to visit the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and, truthfully, I'll bet we could have easily spent another three or four weeks exploring Idaho. Your float trip through the Canyon must have been phenomenal! I'll bet it remains a favorite memory for your sons, too. Life is such an incredible adventure, isn't it?!

  4. Thanks for sharing the fabulous campsites. Since we spent two months in Idaho in 2016, I was familiar with some of the sights you saw. It's a beautiful state.

    1. My pleasure, Ingrid! Alan and I often commented to people we met in Idaho that their state was absolutely gorgeous. We spent a bit of time in State Parks there, too, but there was SO much we missed. That's the problem with our bucket list - a number of destinations on it simply get moved to the "return to" list so we never actually cross much off!

  5. What a fantastic Idaho trip! You certainly do know how pick great campsites. Like you, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for not only the best campgrounds, but the best site in the campground. :-) You did so much biking! We've only biked one of those trails, but I'm happy to discover that it was your favorite.

    We've stayed at Heyburn State Park twice, and both times biked the section of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes that crosses Lake Chacolet. Biking over that bridge was so much fun! I remember it felt like riding a gentle rollercoaster. I enjoy biking over trestles, but I don't like biking through long dark tunnels. When I read that the Hiawatha Trail passes through 10 tunnels—including one that's more than a mile-and-a-half long—I decided, "Nope! Not for me!"

    1. Of course you obsess over your campsites, Laurel - I should have known. ;) At the time of our visit, Heyburn had already transitioned to first come, first served which is why we weren't camping there to bike the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. It would have made an excellent home base for part of the Trail. Alan and I had never seen a bridge like the one on Lake Chatcolet. It sure made crossing much easier. (Note to readers: The bridge was high and the approach to it was built in a series of "steps" on both sides.) "A gentle rollercoaster" is a very appropriate description. You don't like tunnels; I don't like trestles. I guess we all have our limits as to how far we're willing to go for an adventure!


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