Forboding beauty of Hell’s Half Acre, Idaho

A designated national natural landmark and wilderness study area, Hell’s Half Acre Lava Field is a basaltic lava plain found in the desert ecosystem of the Snake River Plain of Idaho.  It consists of about 150 sq miles of other-wordly terrain created by a lava flow from about 4,100 years ago. There’s a 1/2 mile trail marked by blue poles, you can follow those to the red poles that lead you out 4.5 miles to the central vent, where the lava broke through the surface thousands of years ago  (9.4 mile round trip).

Hiking across a lava field is not for everyone, especially not for the tender footed. It’s cool, but the novelty wears off fast. While the trail is flat and easy, the terrain itself is tough and unforgiving. Lava rock is extremely sharp – like glass shards- and fragmented and the field is a trap of open cracks, gaping holes, jagged rocks and uneven, tortuous footing. It’s slow and treacherous going. One misstep can land your foot or your body in a hole. And if you trip, you’re likely to be broken, bruised or bleeding. Sneakers are not enough, the lava will eat them up. I’d recommend sturdy hiking shoes even for the short stroll. Also, it’s easy to get lost in the vast monotonous beauty of the lava field, you really have to look for those trail pole markers. Not a hike to set the kids loose on. Do not attempt the long hike in the summer as this place gets hot as hades.

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Normally, I’m up for a hiking challenge, but I was happy to keep it short here, especially when I heard the rednecks firing shotguns close by…(sigh).

Mysterious poem at the Hemingway Memorial, Ketchum ID

You have to look for the Hemingway monument, it’s not visible from the road, but the sign is. The monument is a bronze bust of “Papa” propped upon a stone column. It’s situated along a meandering stream, suitably facing the mountains. (Not so suitably,  directly adjacent to a golf course.)

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Anyhoo, the words inscribed on the monument are part of a eulogy Hemingway wrote for  Gene Van Guilder, a publicist for the Sun Valley Resort, who died in a hunting accident. Nice, but a bit flowery compared to his customary, terse writing style…

While the monument itself was a bit anti-climatic. (Not quite sure what I was expecting.) The mysterious poem that was tucked into the rocks at the foot of the monument was quite intriguing and made the stop worthwhile for me…

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Touching and well written. (Also interesting that it appears typewritten old school.) I did think twice about posting it since it’s quite personal and in memoriam. But it so’s beautiful and worth sharing. Also, I rationalized that anyone who deliberately leaves something at what constitutes a tourist stop may want that thing to be discovered. After capturing it with my camera, I did fold it back up and slip it back between the rocks. No doubt the elements of this snowy winter will take the final toll.

Many people aren’t aware that Hemingway was also a poet. Perhaps that’s because he only published 25 poems during his lifetime.  Minus 4 personal poems that his widow did not make available for publication, the remaining 88 poems can be found in his “Complete Poems“.

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For those into Hemingway memorabilia, there’s a cool vault room in the Sun Valley Starbucks / Visitor Center featuring larger than life size pics of him and his cronies.

 

Another little known fact, Papa Hemingway was one of the first to use a stand-up desk. He tucked his typewriter into his bookshelf and stood typing whenever he wrote his fiction. The pictures you see of him sitting at a desk are when he is paying bills and doing other administrative tasks. At least that’s according to his old pal, A. E. Hotcher, author of “Papa Hemingway.”

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So what do you think? Should I leave the poem up or take it down? 

Boise River Greenbelt: A shining example of riverbank restoration

Alas, every trip must come to its end. Enjoyed Sun Valley so much, I opted for another day there, which left me with only an hour or so to explore Boise before catching my flight. I opted for a leisurely ride along the Boise River Greenbelt.  For a trip that started in Spokane with a bike ride, it seemed fitting to conclude with one in Boise. Read more

Sun Valley, ID: Pioneer Cabin Hike

Tremendous hike in Sun Valley. Rewarding views, great workout, super cool cabin.

Distance: 8.5 miles                  Rating:  Difficult            Elevation gain: ~2,550 ft

Took the steady climbing Pioneer Cabin trail #122 up and descended the loop via the Long Gulch trail #123. Minus the snow and ice on the top and down the backside that we encountered, this would be a fantastic trail run. The terrain on 122 is pine needle smooth as you traverse 23 switchbacks through an old growth forest with glimpses of the Pioneer, Smoky, and Sawtooth Mountains through the trees. As you continue up into high alpine meadow, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views .

 

 

But you’re not quite there yet. Just one more push and a panorama of peaks opens up and a rustic cabin welcomes you.

Pioneer Cabin was built by Sun Valley Company in the 1930’s to encourage Alpine skiing. (If I’d known the cabin was open, I would have made it an overnighter.) Underneath the snow, emblazoned on the roof greeting all those who ascend to its heights is its signature quote “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get.”

 

 

Unlike trail#122, 123 is a bit tortuous, very rocky the last 2 miles or so.  Not to mention all the snow we encountered on that trail, but it was all so worth it! This hike makes most people’s list for the top ten in Sun Valley. It’s certainly tops with me.

 

 

Idaho Falls: Coffee, stroll & art you can sit on

Left Yellowstone at sunset, sacrificing any scenery to darkness along the 110 mile drive . The first thing you see as you get near city range, glowing  a bit too bright in the distance, is the Mormon Temple. No dark sky preservation here.  It was a bit of a shock to my system to be entering a more congested area (1.6 M pop) after the bliss of the natural parks, historic towns and small resort villages.

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Road trip: A quick stop in Sandpoint leaves a lasting impression

After a brief drive through and pit stop in Coeur d’alene  , we pushed on to the next town.

To be fair, we saw CDA through the lens of a rainy dusk and a long day, but nothing compelled us to stop and stay a while. My impression was that it’s a high-end resort town with lots of restaurants and shops, not unlike what we have in California. Granted we don’t have that lake and the mountains as a backdrop, but CDA was a little too polished / manicured for what I was seeking on this first timer’s exploration of Idaho and Montana.

The next “big town”,  Sandpoint, wasn’t even on our radar, but oh, my – what a charming little gem. Even in the dark, I could tell there was something special about this community.

We grabbed a bite at a local brewery where the locals were having a “snow making” party – cutting snowflakes and drinking the local IPA. Passed a wine shop filled with Halloween costumed oenophiles raising their glasses to toast each other.

In the morning, we strolled the town and the beach along the scenic shore of Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest lake (148 square miles surface area and 43 miles long) and the nation’s 5th deepest (1,150 feet ) and 38th largest in the country.

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Sandpoint City Beach Park, Lake Lake Pend Oreille
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Sand Creek Park Area

Sandpoint was mostly a ghost town in the “early” morning. It’s the shoulder season -shops don’t open until 10:30 and the locals sleep in. Stopped at a coffee shop and spoke with the owners, a couple who moved here in 2001 after living around the country. They love Sandpoint and say that the weather is nice and temperate from about May until October, when Indian Summer usually hits. Apparently, the current cold front (30-40 degrees) was an anomaly.

Rand McNally must have a crush on Sandpoint as they named it the most beautiful small town in America in 2011 and #1 ski town in 2012. It’s easy to see why this town has earned so many accolades as an outdoor paradise. Summer sports galore – swimming, SUP, hiking,  biking – and it’s also on the famous road biking International Selkirk Loop.  (Sounds like I need to add that to my “to do” list too.)

Apparently, the  ski season invigorates the town as Schweitzer Mountain Resort (downhill & cross-country) is just a stones throw away. On our stroll, we ran into an avid skier from New York on a quest for coffee. He scouted this place for his ski club and liked it so much he came back to try it out for a month. Hmm, sounds like a good idea to me. I think I feel a crush coming for my Idaho 1 night stand charmer, Sandpoint…Definitely deserves a repeat.