Our next stop on this quick tour through Idaho was the capital, Boise, about 6 hours from Lewiston. Once again we disregarded the suggested route from the GPS as it was over seven hours. We headed back through Spaulding and turned south on US 95. Very quickly we realized the GPS had been trying to keep us off steep grades. We were committed now (or maybe that should read we should be committed) to drive what is called White Bird Hill,. It was named after a Nez Pearce chief and a battle in 1877. The present road took ten years to build and opened in 1975 with an elevation change of 2700 feet and average grade of 7% in seven miles. The pass is the dividing line between the Salmon river and the Camas Prairie. An older road by the same name still exists as a National Backcountry Byway. there are a few You Tube videos showing the drive. While not particularly good clips they will give you an idea of the road. Now imagine you have a 16,000 pound trailer pushing you along so you are using your lowest gear to slow down, a heavily loaded truck is in front of you going 15 mph and you can’t pass, runaway truck ramp signs are all over the place and the GPS says the road has a 48 foot limit and you are 54 feet! We made it down without incident. Now we know why all the other RVs we saw were going up, not down. I was nervous and my hands were sweaty as I hoped our brakes or engine wouldn’t overheat. Later I asked Steve if he was nervous. No. I knew we were fine. I married a man with nerves of steel!
US 95 followed the Salmon River through the Sawtooth Mountains. We’d heard how beautiful this area was and it didn’t disappoint us. All along we made notes of where to stay and made plans to return taking a week or more to travel this route. We arrived in late afternoon to Lucky Peak Reservoir CG just northeast of Boise. This is a COE park but with no facilities. When they say a 35 foot limit they mean it. We just fit. We had to park the truck elsewhere. It is a pack in-pack out park for trash but we did find a dumpster at a day use state park just down the road.
Our time in Boise would be three nights and split between errands and sightseeing. We had to return to a Chevy dealer due to a containing problem caused by the side mirror repair. The dealer in Montana had to remove the plastic panel on the door and didn’t get it back in place properly. It would catch when you tried to open or close the door. With brute force you could force the door to work but we were afraid either the door wouldn’t work in an emergency or the plastic panel would break. The dealer in Montana agreed to pay for repairs and we located a dealer in Boise. Once the repair was made we needed to do shopping, laundry and haircuts. Right next to the Chevy dealer we found a fresh fruit stand, beauty shop, butcher and bakery. We decided to have lunch at the bakery. During lunch Steve said “Your hair is getting lighter.” I replied “No. It’s turning gray.” Remember this when you read the end of this post. With all of our chores done we had a day to play.
Looking at area points of interest we noted The Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. This turned out to be the World Headquarters for The Peregrine Fund. They have birds from all over the world who cannot be released into the wild on display for educational use. It was very hard to photograph the birds through double wire cages but a few photos are worth posting here. The Center is a primary breeding location for the California Condor Release program. In fact, the birds we saw in the wild in 2010 at Navajo Bridge in Arizona most likely came from this facility. A volunteer gave a short talk after a film and brought out Wilbur the western screech owl. Then you could go with here for a tour of the archives. I’m glad we went as this was the best part of the visit. We learned that falconry used for hunting came from the middle east and is still popular there. Beautiful wildlife art and photography is on display. The star of the visit though is a display of desert Arab life with falconry, a gift from the family of Sheikh Zayed a lifelong falconer and conservationist. To read more about the archives go to http://www.peregrinefund.org/heritage-wing.
We didn’t have time to explore Boise but learned that this area has a strong Basque heritage. So we dined at a Basque restaurant called Bar Gernika which was a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives establishment too. Gernika was immortalized by the Picasso painting of the massacre during the Spanish Civil War. Neither of us had ever had Basque food. We started out with a cheese and sausage plate. There was enough for six people so we took home the extra and made two more appetizers from it. Our main dishes were equally good and filling. This is a very small place with about eight tables and bar seating inside supplemented with patio dining in good weather.
Now I’ll turn the blog over to Steve.
“If all your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you have to do it too?” What mother hasn’t said that to her kids? In my case, it was a very specific bridge in the question, the Brooklyn Bridge, my mother had in mind, but I’m sure any bridge would do. I must have heard it hundreds of times between the ages of eight and eighteen!
Twice in the past week that question came to mind, and the answer was a big fat YES!
While out for a ride in the Boise area, we decided to check out camping facilities for future reference at Centennial Park. There is an old bridge there, probably originally a railroad bridge, now used by pedestrians. It’s at least fifty feet over the Snake River. There were two guys with ropes and other paraphernalia out in the middle of the bridge, a third was on the shore looking up at them. I was walking out there to take a few pictures while Chari was taking a few shots from the shoreline.
“What are you guys doing?” Are you going to bungee jump?”
“No, we’re setting up a swing.”
One fellow explained the procedure… tying one end of the rope to the bridge, setting it to just short of the drop to the water, attaching the other end to a harness worn around his waist, walking out along the edge until the rope is taut, and jumping off. What you have is a swing, except unlike a playground swing that starts from ground level and you swing up, this starts from the top!
“Have you done this often?”
“Just heard about it yesterday.”
“But you have to be careful the rope isn’t too long, or all you do is splash into the water, as I just found out!” the other one, the one preparing the rope, commented. (Apparently, this one had some experience!)
“Do you mind if I take a few pictures?” I said, wondering if I was about to record a suicide jump.
“Not at all… go ahead.”
A friend on shore was taking pictures with his telephone.
Chari didn’t know what was going on until she saw this guy swinging over the water.
I had walked down to the river’s edge with Opal to take pictures and to look at some of the boulders deposited when ancient Bonneville Lake caused a massive flood. I heard this whoop, turned and saw someone dangling above the water. Not to miss out, I left to join Steve on the bridge.
As the second jumper was getting ready we talked. He was from Florida visiting his brother. He had never done anything like this before. He made his way across the bride framework until the rope grew taut. I was positioned to take pictures through the fence. I could feel his tension, his indecision and his fear. then he stepped off….
YOW!!!! echoed off the banks.
We watched the third jumper from shore then exchanged e-mail addresses promising to send photos which we did.
A couple of days later, we were driving through Twin Falls, Idaho and stopped at the bridge over the Snake River Canyon, not far from the spot where Evel Knievil made his motorcycle jump. We had been told it was an impressive sight, and not to miss stopping at the scenic overlook. The bridge was about four-hundred feet over the water. While we were there, first one, then another, a third, and finally a fourth jumped off the bridge! No ropes! But, they were wearing parachutes, and we managed to get a few shots of them gliding down to the far shore.
“Yeah, Mom. Maybe I would!”
On the morning we were to leave I was walking Opal near the tent sites. A mother and her daughter who I’m guessing was about three were walking to the latrine. In that clear voice child’s voice that carries a long way I heard “Oh look, it’s a grandma.” Well, sometimes there is no denying the truth. I was the only other person around. I couldn’t help but laugh much to the mother’s relief. Kids, you’ve got to love them for their honesty!