Southeast Idaho Unmasked

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Now I know the title seems misleading. Why would anyone visit southeast Idaho and furthermore, who would write about visiting southeast Idaho? And what does unmasked even mean in the context of Idaho? Before you get any ideas and stop reading all my posts, let me explain. I HAVE REASONS, GOOD REASONS.

This was the first real road trip Andrea and I took together. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “I want to go to Jackson Hole, come with me?”

Andrea: “Sure.”

Little did she know….

I would put together a crazy itinerary and this would be the first of our many adventures! But, before I delve into anymore of southeast Idaho because I know you absolutely cannot wait to hear all about it, let’s back up real quick and start with how Idaho came into the picture….

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It all started one morning- a year or so before the trip. I got out of bed, poured myself a cup of black coffee, sat on the couch, and then it came to me. I wanted to be like Ernest Hemingway (except for committing suicide and alcoholism, of course) and live out my dreams in the vanishing frontier. I knew I could not quit my day job and live in the West herding cattle, but traveling there would suffice for now.

Thoughts of obscurity and hermitism permeated my mind. Being away from all civilization engulfed my every thought I could not stop thinking about escaping to the mountains! I would go on a few warm fall days and… become a writer. And fall in love, because you know, that’s what writers do and then they write about it.

I had read a great deal of Hemingway and his life, particularly his fondness for Jackson Hole and the general West. He owned a place in Ketchum, Idaho (a few miles from Sun Valley), where he ended up killing himself. I always love a good sob story. So, putting two and two together- Idaho and Wyoming are relatively close on a map (here we go again) and you know, death and wanderlust- it made since to make our 5-day trip an adventure in both states.

^Hemingway’s house in Ketchum, Idaho

Now to the juicy stuff. I set about writing an itinerary. First, I landed on Idaho Falls for 2 days and had this actually transpired I have no idea what Andrea and I would have done for that length of time. Ride our bikes around the Snake River greenbelt for hours on end? Go to the local Target and hang out? Drink coffee and contemplate our existence all day long? Mourn the loss of King Arthur? I really couldn’t tell you.

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Unfortunately, I don’t have much more information about Idaho Falls except what’s listed below. I could start to lie (which I have no qualms about doing), but believe me you, I think it best for the both of us if I finally move on to the itinerary.

But first, I do want to mention Idaho Falls is home to St. Anthony Sand Dunes and Darby Wind Caves- both look worth checking out if you do a Google search. Please do not blame me if it doesn’t work out. We all know Google has a tendency to play mind games.

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Which brings me to my next point…the itinerary (finally). A lot of editing and a lot of places later, I came up with different cities we could stop in Idaho on our way to Jackson Hole. And no, we did not make it to Ketchum or Sun Valley or whatever you want to call it, which makes no sense because that was the point in the first place- to live like Hemingway. But were you really expecting it to make sense?

Here is the Idaho itinerary with my commentary since I always have so much to say about everything:

Fly into Salt Lake City on Tuesday night, Aug. 30. If you have time to spare (which we really didn’t but we like Turkish coffee and Baklava’s) stop at Salt Lake Coffee Shop. It’s only about a 10 minute drive from Salt Lake City airport and has cool bathroom wall art.

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Drive to Twin Falls, ID that night. We did this. You can do it too, but know there is construction and few stops along the way. I will note an item of importance: cell phone signal does work. So if your car were to break down, it is likely you will not end up in the Idaho sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Disclaimer: this is pure speculation like nearly everything I say.

Twin Falls-Tuesday, Aug. 30/Arco, ID-Wednesday, Aug.31

  • Twin Falls-Shoshone Falls (more pictures on later blog post)

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  • Twin Falls-Snake River Canyon. We did not go here because maps failed us. GPS led us to your stereotypical southeast Idaho sprinkler heads, wheel axles, and tumbleweeds in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere. What’s more, it was a dead end and seemingly barren except for one lone guy with one lone lawn mower who spoke Spanish. Per Andrea (serving as translator), he told us we were not at Snake River Canyon.
  • Arco, ID- Craters of the Moon-need to get cave permit. I’m glad I did research and knew we needed a cave permit.
  • Pocatello, IDSwore Farms, Poky Popcorn Shop, The Warehouse, Palace Playhouse, Oasis Bar, Toad’s Store and Ale House. No, Pocatello is not what you think- it is not like Dora the Explorer or The Backyardigans or some cheesy kid’s adventure television show- except that’s what I was expecting and dreams were crushed. *We did go to Poky Popcorn Shop. (Beware, there is only popcorn here, no ice cream. We felt misled because what’s in a name anyway? Needless to say, we learned a valuable lesson- the first on this trip- you can’t have expectations.) As far as I’m concerned, the other places (Toad’s Store, Palace Playhouse, etc.) were made up on Google by some jerk wanting to trick unsuspecting road trippers into thinking they were going to Candyland.

We did go to Lava Hot Springs and Portneuf Brewery while we were in Pocatello- cool places. Not Candyland, but close.

I’m not sure why, but Pocatello is the only place I did not take pictures. If you’re still doubting its existence, I’ll post one I didn’t take.

  • Pocatello, ID-Wednesday night, Aug.31. We stayed at Thunderbird Motel. Through a series of unfortunate events, our door initially did not have a lock, causing minor concern. There we were, about to be in a remake of an Alfred Hitchcock film- Rear Window or Psycho- at that moment most likely Psycho due (more or less) to its eerie resemblance to Bates Motel. And who knows, maybe it was Bates Motel, but guised under another name.

Exactly my point.

You can sigh with relief, though, because our stay here was more like Night of the Living Dead. We saw a few potential, some probably real, zombies walking around. The motel, we discovered, is right by Idaho State University and a grave yard (Mountain View Cemetery)- so you get both the college party vibe as well as the death is around the corner vibe- which would explain the zombies. And would also explain why the lock was fixed quickly- the landlords were trying to protect us from the dead. Gosh, they’re nice. I highly recommend staying here if you don’t care where you sleep and obviously, to escape the dead.

Idaho Falls-Thursday, September 1, spend the night in Swan Valley

  • Idaho Falls, ID- Snake River Greenbeltcan eat lunch here. We did not eat lunch here, but did rent some bikes and roamed around the greenbelt and town. It was a lot of fun. I recommend it. We did not see any zombies.

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  • Idaho Falls, ID- Hell’s Half Acre-Lava Field. This is right off the highway going to Pocatello or Idaho Falls, depending on the direction you’re headed. Hell’s Half Acre is a short trail, so if you’ve been in the car for a while, it’s a nice breather.

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  • Idaho Falls, ID- Minnetonka Cave ($8.00 admission)- We did not have time. And apparently this is the only place that comes with a price tag.
  • Swan Valley, IDWinery in Swan Valley-Mago Coffee, House of Honey, Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail. All of this sounds great, I know. Unfortunately I got my countries mixed up—this is in Perth, Australia. Don’t ask.

Instead, here’s a picture of a cat. He was a bit odd- he drooled a lot, which probably means he had rabies, but still cute and personable.

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Have you ever been to southeast Idaho? Does it make you depressed just thinking about it? Do you find yourself longing for wheel axles and sprinkler systems? Do my pictures offer all evidence to the contrary? What does adventure mean to you?

***I know, I know there is no ridiculous talk about maps or even a slightly strange desk in the middle of nowhere. But, I want to take more time to explain every place in a little more depth. Stay tuned for future posts on southeast Idaho. Up next is blog post 6 whatever that may be.


“You talk like a time-table. Did you have any beautiful adventures?” –Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

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