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  • Writer's pictureAdam Hlasny

Beyond Potatoes: A Brief Idaho Sojourn

Happy Independence Day weekend to all my American readers! Hope you've been well these last couple months.

Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho
Somewhere in the Sawtooths

In early June 2024, I found myself in Idaho for a work-related conference. I had pretty limited time to explore, hence the more superficial, photo-heavy nature of this post. That said, I still put 400 miles on my rental car in a day and a half, weaving through both tired, flattish landscapes as well as into the scraggy Sawtooth Mountains northeast of Boise.

Idaho was not a new state for me - Dad and I had passed through its southern tier on our June 2017 Given Latitude cross-country road trip. We stayed overnight in Driggs (just over the Wyoming border from Grand Teton National Park), and passed through Pocatello, Twin Falls, and Bruneau Dunes before continuing into Oregon. My first perceptions of the state - having spent less than 24 hours there - were as follows:

Idaho is like a solid, reliable friend who, after a while, gets ignored because more flashy individuals come on the scene. It doesn't have the biggest mountains, the most famous national parks, or even many prominent cities, but willing to disregard its lack of superlative features, Dad and I were very pleasantly surprised by its particular brand of western brawn.

Lemmon Falls

For the 2024 visit, I largely agreed with my initial perceptions. The biggest takeaway? I don't think people realize how vast, geographically diverse, and at times breathtakingly gorgeous this state is. The Sawtooths, while much shorter than Colorado or Utah peaks, are still wildly rocky to an easterner like me. With my short time in Idaho, I had wanted to see landscapes I couldn't see back east (no offense to agriculture and slumping, 2,000-foot hills).

Bellevue, Idaho, cabin
My pre-conference cabin in Bellevue (near Sun Valley)

From a marketing standpoint, perhaps Idaho is finally trying to turn the tide from decades of tuber talk and agricultural muscle flexing. I honestly think the average person - myself included - struggles to reconcile that old-timey farming image with how much varied, rugged elegance exists within the state's robust (9 New Hampshires would fit comfortably inside) boundaries. Perhaps that's intentional - like the shifty Greenland-Iceland naming convention we learned about in elementary school. "Let's tell 'em so much about our potatoes that in boredom they'll go elsewhere and leave the beauty for us to enjoy".

Box Canyon State Park

Roadside pulloff

Hemingway's grave, Ketchum, Idaho
Some author

Within 24 hours, I basked in the rejuvenating spray of a waterfall, trekked into a box canyon, absorbed stunning vistas of pointy peaks, and even visited the grave of an iconic American author in Ketchum.

Idaho City
Historic Idaho City

Redfish Lake, Idaho
Redfish Lake

Readers of the blog may remember my relatively recent (January 2023) day trip to Raleigh. In it, I had been extraordinarily disappointed when my pre-selected rental car choice of a Mustang was unceremoniously replaced with a comically bulbous Jeep. Well, guess what: what goes around, comes around. In Idaho, given that I'd have the car such a short time, I selected a practical Corolla. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw the pony logo when they handed me the keys at the Avis counter.

My (unexpected) ride

My pre-conference route was a rough counterclockwise loop, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Boise itself was moderately impressive too - an agreeable medium-sized city with a modern, mostly walkable downtown. I've definitely seen worse.

Boise, skyline, Idaho
Boise skyline

Idaho's Capitol

Hope you enjoyed a smattering of photographs from this vastly underappreciated state. And remember...

Bonus shot anyone? Going against geographical reason, my return flight layover was in Seattle. Mount Rainier made a memorable cameo during my brief time at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.

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