If you want scenic America, look no further than Idaho.
Personally, I always thought the only thing good about Idaho was the potatoes. After teaching Josh about the license plate game, however, I noticed something interesting about Idaho’s:
Beneath the letters and numbers for Idaho’s license plate, it very clearly states, “Famous Potatoes,” just as I thought.
Above the letters, however, a little word is painted in cursive about the Idaho identifier: Scenic.
Before we got there, I thought that was a joke. Still, to this day, my mind experiences dyslexic associations when I think of Idaho and Iowa, and I never thought either of them had anything special to offer (my mind has since changed on both accounts.) Therefore, when I saw all of Idaho’s “Scenic Idaho” license plates, I thought Idahoans were just kidding themselves, trying to make something out of nothing.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Entering Idaho for the First Time
The moment you cross over Idaho’s borders, especially coming in from Spokane, Washington like we did, it is immediately noticeable that Idaho isn’t kidding when they boast about their scenery.
If for no other reason, even if you never stop in Idaho, driving through it is an absolute wonder.
The mountains climb on either side of the road, ridged and carved along the valley floors underneath the cliffs. National forests make up a large portion of the state, and also account for the largest portion of scenery.
Finding Dog-Friendly Accommodations in Idaho
Idaho was one of those places.
Perhaps it was the time of year, or perhaps things had been booked well in advance to the point where there was no availability, but there were only four places in Idaho that I found decent dog-friendly accommodation:
Coeur D’Alene, McCall, Boise, and Idaho Falls.
Now, this isn’t to say there’s no dog-friendly accommodation anywhere else in Idaho, but some of the places certainly cost a little more than others. At that, as my small California mind ridiculously thought that mid-April would be good weather, Idaho laughed and shat snow all over us to remind us what a winter in the North was like.
(SIDE NOTE: If you’re planning on traveling for a year, winter travel is pretty unavoidable. Just don’t plan to camp during the winter like we did.)
Staying at the Brundage Bungalows in McCall, Idaho
To break up our time and save us some money, Josh and I took a quick skip through Coeur D’Alene, as it was barely an hour from our last stop in Washington, before we headed down to McCall.
McCall, Idaho, is located inside of the Payette National Forest toward the western border of the state. The drive from Coeur D’Alene to McCall is arguably in the top five most beautiful drives in the country.
McCall itself ended up being a perfect winter wonderland. We rented a cabin from the Brundage Bungalows that was right on the lake, and we ended up being the only people in the whole complex.
As discovered in Oregon, Piper absolutely loves the snow, so any time we had an opportunity to walk in it, she jumped on it with no complaints.
Migrating into Boise, Idaho
From McCall, our journey led us further south to Idaho’s capitol city, Boise (which, we learned, is pronounced Boy-see, not Boy-zee.)
If you’re traveling with a dog, Boise is one of the top destinations in the country to bring your furry friend. It’s harder to find people without dogs in this charming little capitol city, and it was anything but difficult finding things to do for Piper.
As it was, we were staying with a friend of mine who has a cat, and we ended up having to get Piper a sitter anyway. If you haven’t used or heard of Rover, it’s an essential tool for anybody traveling with a pet. There used to be a separate website called DogVacay, but they’ve now combined into the one platform, where dog owners like you find dog sitters to take care of your precious pooch.
I’ve never once had an issue with Rover, and I highly recommend it to anybody who wants to be able to enjoy a day in the city without the burden of the dog.
Before we parted ways with Piper, we were able to take her on one of the best walks in Boise: Table Rock.
Table Rock is part of the foothills of the rockies, and it’s located right behind the Old Idaho State Penitentiary. We hit the hike on a great day, as there was no snow preventing us from taking Piper with us. Before this, the last decent walk we were able to give her was on the Grapevine in Southern California.
A cross rests on top of the mountain and marks the end of the hike. From there, sweeping views of Boise come from every direction.
The hike itself is a bit huffy and puffy, so make sure you bring plenty of water for yourself and your fur baby. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the same breeze we did when you summit. Never have I been so appreciative of sweat freezing to my body.
The Hell’s Half Acre Hike
As stated previously, I didn’t necessarily pick the best time of year to start this trip. Winter travel is inevitable on a year-long trip, yes, but beginning the adventure in the winter season is something I’d recommend against.
Due to snow, we were unfortunately unable to experience the Craters of the Moon National Park. The park itself was open, and a few roads allowed us to see a little of the hype, but fresh, avid snowfall and dark, low clouds prevented us from fully appreciating this out-of-this-world experience.
We were, however, fortunate enough to find an alternate: Hell’s Half Acre.
Hell’s Half Acre is a basaltic lava field just outside of Idaho Falls. You could take the 26-mile trek around the whole thing, but Josh and I opted to stick to the one-mile loop.
The only thing that guides you through the lava field, as there are no defined trails, are colored poles placed every so often. We followed the poles in hopes we were going the right way, but still ended up getting partially lost.
While we were out in the lava, loud, crying noises filled the air around us.
The last time I heard coyotes, I was huddled under camouflage in the middle of the woods for a Search and Rescue dog training. A pack of coyotes found my hiding spot first, but fortunately, they never actually found me.
Once the call of the coyotes rang into the air, Josh and I knew it was time to head back. From there, we only faced one more little problem:
Piper was too scared to jump over the little cracks in the lava. For some reason, she looked down and decided she didn’t want to move anymore.
Would. Not. Move.
Scared the coyotes would catch us, Josh picked Piper up and walked her over the crevices. We made it, in the end, but not before an innumerable amount of visions showed me how bad things could have gotten if we didn’t.
The Trip’s First Thunderstorm in Idaho Falls
The clouds rolled in on us during the Hell’s Half Acre hike, but fortunately, this time they didn’t bring snow.
They brought something better:
Josh and I are each fans of a nice flash of lightning followed by a heaping roll of thunder. Idaho Falls introduced us to the first of many lightning storms along the road. Stark difference from the snow we had pushed our way through, and the hail didn’t make it any easier.
The storm also prevented us from seeing the actual “falls” of Idaho Falls, but we’ve seen no shortage of those nonetheless. It seems like every state has some sort of “falls” or “rapids,” with cities named after them to boot. Although we would have liked to have seen the Idaho Falls, fate just had something else in store for us.
Travel Tips to Help You Stay Sane
It’s no secret that traveling isn’t always the easiest thing in the world. Fun? Yes. Worth it? Totally. Easy? Not a chance in hell.
Here are a few tips to help stop you from losing your mind:
1) Do your best not to stress out about money.
This is still one I struggle with daily, and it’s the only stress I have on the trip. You can’t enjoy yourself if all you worry about is the future. Be smart, be frugal, but don’t get so bogged up in money thoughts that you forget to enjoy yourself. There may be a regret or two I have in certain places in the country where I did this.
2) Be aware of time.
It may sound strange, but especially on a trip like this, we had a huge challenge juggling the difference between “distance” and “time.” For example, we could be in Idaho Falls on one day, and within two weeks were in South Dakota. The 3,000 miles in between made the distance seem farther than the actual time it would take us to get there.
Maybe you had to be there, but I’m finding myself saying things like “California was so long ago” as opposed to referencing March when we left. Three months seems much longer when you cover 17,000 miles worth of terrain during that time.
3) Get plenty of road snacks.
You never want to go hungry on the road. Hungry and cranky in the car for hours is a recipe for disaster.
4) Plan ahead.
Truth is, Josh and I got so busy trying to maintain this blog/podcast/vlog/my book/Piper/traveling experience of ours, and we often found ourselves booking just a week ahead of the game. Although we had the itinerary, we always left room for possible changes. While I still recommend doing that, plan far enough ahead to try and avoid as many obstacles as possible. Our procrastination on this subject has been a huge issue on the East Coast, but that’s neither here nor there.
Most importantly, HAVE FUN!
Especially if you’re traveling in America, understand that there’s so much more to do than anything you could ever see on the TV. So many places, so many people, and for the sake of the road trip, so many intensely epic drives that make every second worth it.
Don’t be afraid. Just get out there and go.
Author’s Note: This is the first of a three-part post to cover everything discussed in the above podcast. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast for more stories from across the country!
Encouraging you to see it all