Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Third Sunday Drive, Day One: Idaho

Yellow Composite growing alongside US 93, Lemhi County, Idaho
I'd see thousands more of these on the trip

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow, and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember and if you remember, then follow.
--Lyrics by Tom Jones
To hear Jerry Orbach sing this beautiful ballad from my favorite musical, The Fantasticksclick here.

I ask you now to remember why this blog is titled "If there were witchcraft."  I explained it all in the first post some 176 posts ago and who knows how many years, so I'll forgive you if you don't remember.  In a nutshell, the song we used to sing around the campfire names the two wishes I'd wish for, "if there were witchcraft."  Of those two, the first is a "winding road that beckons me to roam."  I've long had the feeling that in an ideal life, I'd have both the time and the money to travel the world, seeing wonderful sights, recording them with my camera(s), and sharing the experience through words and pictures with my friends (and anyone else who wants to come along).   What follows, therefore, is the story of a week-long drive circling through the Rocky Mountains and the western Great Plains.  On this trip we'll drive across Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and back where we began in Montana.  Day One is all about Idaho.

The fastest way to get from western Montana to Salt Lake City, my day one destination, is to stay on the interstate.  First I-90 heading toward Butte, then south on I-15 which is a direct line to Utah's capital city.  The fastest way, not the most scenic.  Instead I chose to drive south on US 93 through Montana's Bitterroot Valley, crossing into Idaho at Lost Trail Pass, then dropping down through Lemhi County to drive along the Salmon River with a stop at Salmon, Idaho for lunch.  From Salmon, I would continue on Idaho 28 through the Lemhi Valley until Idaho 33 would take me east to I-15 or even further east, should I so desire.  At some point I would merge onto I-15 and head South, but I may just choose to stay on what is left of US-91, the federal highwy that I-15 has largely supplanted.  Time would tell.

One-lane bridge spanning the Salmon River
Near North Fork, Idaho

I neither stopped nor took any pictures while driving through Montana's Bitterroot Valley.  This is my old home and while there's always something new, I felt no need to stop along the way, not till I reached Lost Trail Pass and stopped to take pictures of both the "Welcome to Idaho" sign and the "Entering Lemhi County" sign.  At some point I might make an Idaho portrait book, similar to my Glory of the West book of Montana counties, and if so, I want those county line signs.  I'll also want the county court house and some landscape shots, so driving south into Idaho I kept my eyes posed for scenic vistas.  While stopped at the pass, I couldn't help but notice the smokey smell to the air.  Both Idaho and Montana have been plagued with forest fires this year, and the smoke was particularly thick at the state-line.

U.S. Highway 93 drops rapidly from the pass (elevation 7,014 feet) to the town of Salmon (elevation 3,944 feet), some 46 miles to the south.  Along the way, the highway follows first the North Fork of the Salmon River then the Salmon itself.  The Salmon River is also known as The River of No Return as it crosses Idaho from east to west through the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.  There are also many natural hot springs in the area, but this was not the trip for me to sample their healing waters.

In the town of Salmon, I first sought out the Lemhi County Courthouse which, conveniently, was located right across the street from the Salmon United Methodist Church.  Followers of my photography know that two of my favorite subjects are court houses and Methodist Churches.  One stop allowed me to get both.  A visit to the Yelp application on my iPhone next led me to the Junkyard Bistro where I happily ordered the day's lunch special, The Grubber, which turned out to be a hot sandwich piled high with thinly shaved meat and lots of other goodies.  Of particular interest, although I myself did not order any, was the number of Vietnamese and other Asian dishes on the menu.  Not what I would expect in Salmon, Idaho.

The Lemhi Valley and their eastern boundary, the Bitterroot Mountains

I picked up a quick Geocache on the south side of Salmon, and drove through the Lemhi Valley at the speed limit.  On the entire trip I would see only three wild animals, and two of those were in Yellowstone Park.  Driving down Idaho 28, I passed a moose happily grazing in a swampy area.  Unfortunately, I passed him too quickly to stop and take his portrait.  It would be six days before I saw any other wildlife.

Idaho 28 took me out of Lemhi County into the eastern section of Clark County then across a very small corner of Butte County.  I had originally considered driving west through Butte County to its county seat, Arco, the world's first locale to be lit by nuclear power generated electricity.  Arco is also the town closest to the Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Much as I love the photographic possibilities in the Craters of the Moon, this trip was about heading south and east, so I forewent visiting Arco and continued on into first Jefferson then Madison counties, crossing I-25 en route. 

Idaho Highway 28 crossing Butte County
Madison County does not extend westward as far as I-25, and I had never been in the county before.  The county seat and largest city is Rexburg, home of BYU-Idaho (formerly known as Ricks College).  It is also home to a relatively new Mormon temple, dedicated on February 10, 2008.  As I am not Mormon, I felt this temple looked pretty much like every other Mormon temple I've seen, but according to Wikipedia, the Rexburg temple was designed not by church architects but by a private firm because "the church wished it to have a fresh new look."  As is usually the case, in my experience, the temple sits on a hill and is the most prominent feature on the eastern landscape as you drive into Rexburg.

Having shot the temple, as it were, I continued south, re-entering Jefferson County where I was unable to find the county court house in Rigby.  That is I found a building that certainly looked like a court house, and even had the words "Court House" inscribed in the marble above the front doors, but the grounds surrounding the building looked abandonned, and a sign in the window above the main doors read "Liberty Montessori Academy."  It was at this point that I learned the GPS Navigation system in my Saab does not necessarily consider county court houses a "Point of Interest."

The Rexburg (Idaho) Mormon Temple

Abandoning my search for a more modern (and ipso facto probably uglier) court house building, I caught I-25 and drove through Idaho Falls heading toward Pocatello and Salt Lake City.  I was running out of light, so further photographic efforts seemed foolish at best, and besides I was getting hungry and tired.  Yelp once again came to my rescue, and after filling the Saab's tummy in Pocatello, I stopped at Marhaba where I was greeted by Sanjay.  Sanjay asked my name, and thereafter always called me Bryan as he'd ask how the lamb curry was.  Delicious, by the way. 

Along the way I'd been listening to Sirius XM OutQ gay radio, and had heard an ad for a phone app called "Hotel Tonight."  I downloaded the app and sought a room in the greater Salt Lake area.  Hotel Tonight found me one on the south side of the city, and that's where I headed ending day one.  Total miles driven:  654

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