Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Visiting the Wild Wild West (Boise Idaho)

I used to live in Idaho many years ago when I was stationed at Mt. Home AFB.  It was strange to arrive there.  You'd expect gorgeous mountains and scenic vistas at a place like that, but it was a bit underwhelming. It grows on you.  I still have many friends who live there, among them my good friend and travel buddy who lives in Boise.  It's always a treat to see her and create some adventures.  What I forgot when I booked this was that she's a teacher and would be working during the day.  Boise schools starts in August, while Wisconsin waits until after Labor Day. I went anyway, taking my 9 year old son with me for some wild west adventures.  I remember someone from Wisconsin asking me while I was there, "Idaho?  Who vacations in Idaho??!"  People really don't know about what a special place it is.

We took a weekend to drive through the mountains to get my fix of fresh air.  What I imagined and what it was were very different this time.  It was August but the temps were in the 40s and 50s!  We had thought we could swim and paddle board.  Instead we taught Omar to fish near the hatchery by Stanley.  They even provide worms and poles to kids for free.  We rented a motor boat at RedFish Lake for an hour, though neither of us had ever used one.  Libbie is fearless.  She said as long as we got the vendor to start it, we could certainly keep it going.  Of course, she was right.  She knew about a spot in the river near Sun Valley that had a hot spring, so we checked that out too, which felt great in the cold air.
Casting the pole would have been more fun if he'd caught a fish, but that didn't stop him from trying.
The mountains were gorgeous in spite of cool weather and Omar loved the boat ride.  I'm only posing here.  Libbie did the real driving!
Omar loved the hot water but not the muddy bottom
The west is still pretty wild.  You can still find rodeos, mules, horseshoes, and cowboys in Idaho.  We spent a morning with my friend, Karaly, who works with horses at a private stables.  She let Omar brush and ride the show horses.  We had fun watching the mules keep away from the flies by putting their legs in a watering barrel. The flies were awful.  Must be hard to be an animal and have them buzzing all day long.  The animals have nice stables and get out into the rink every day for exercise.  It was interesting to learn about modern horse farms.  Karaly mentioned that it was more of a hobby for people, as there isn't big money to be made in the horse industry.
Omar got to ride this beautiful show horse

An award winning mule trying to keep the flies away
Idaho is still full of history from the pioneers and earliest settlers.  The state has gone to great lengths to mark the roads so you can drive around the state and see historic places.  They are well marked and you can find additional information on signage at the sites, as well as websites. We found a few places to see where the Oregon Trail came through. The first is a Boise city park, the Oregon Trail Reserve.  You get a view of the city and one of the newer neighborhoods, plus a short history lesson. The other spot at Bonneville Point is 16 miles outside of Boise. You can see what they must have seen.  To come through the deserted land and see a grove of trees must have given them hope. The ruts from early wagon wheels are still there!  It's great to see an important part of the nation's history featured so prominently.
There's also a spot near the Snake River where you can see petroglyphs from the native Americans.  Considered a kind of early billboard system, it's now a county park- Celebration Park in Canyon County.
There are additional stops but we stopped at Bonneville Point

Ruts still visible from the wagons that took the Oregon Trail

Signage letting you know where else you can go nearby to learn about the wilder west

early petroglyphs cover many of the rocks near the Snake River
There's also a large amount of modern and historic fun that can be had right in Boise.  We ate at Goody's Soda Fountain and had some good tasting ice cream.  Boise Fry Co. had a huge variety of potatoes you could eat as french fries with sauces in all flavors you could mix and match. Libbie took us ice blocking down Simplot Hill.  That was just a hoot.  You buy an ice block at a nearby gas station and ride it down a hill.  It's much, much harder than you'd think.  Ice blocks just don't fit your bottom very well!  It was fun to try it out though.  Some passers-by even stopped to watch us and gave it a try.  The newly restored capitol building was beautiful and we did a self tour.  The highlight of the week was watching the hot air balloons fill the skies at the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic.  Omar even got a free ride in a tethered hot air balloon!  It was a great way to see the area.  What a great week we had!

The menu at Boise Fry Co is colorful and plentiful!

Ice blocking- a cloth bag over the top to keep your pants from getting soaked

The capitol building

Early morning at the park while the balloons fill the sky

Omar loved this part of the vacation!