Monday, November 21, 2016

Idaho City

This weekend Skylar and I drove from Portland to Salt Lake City. In case you're not familiar with maps, that is just under 600,000 miles and it takes 12 weeks to travel the full distance. Actually a little more when you factor in the time warp.

Obviously I don't have the temperament or . . . what did Skylar call it? Oh yes, "human decency." I don't have the temperament or human decency to "behave like a good person" on road trips exceeding two hours.

We split the drive into three days and explored Oregon and southern Idaho, which made it a lot easier for me to avoid a toddler-like tantrum.

The plan was to stay in Boise over night before making our final leg of the drive, but then I serendipitously stumbled upon a place called "Idaho City" while interneting. After google imaging the place for five seconds, I demanded that we visit the 300-person town, 45 minutes out of Boise and buried deep in the mountains.

I demanded it because the whole town looks like this:

Idaho City is a gold rush hoarder town with basically no accommodations and no tourism presence. We were able to locate the one Airbnb in the town, owned by a man who brews beer in his garage and evidently tries to force-feed it to any stranger who walks through the door.


It was dark by the time we got there. And when I say "dark," I mean dark. No streetlights. Very little sign of life. Just a main street that looked like the set of an old western film.

There was an ice cream shop still open so we walked in. The owner was sitting at one of the tables finishing the Boise County weekly newspaper's crossword puzzle. Two little girls (his?) were playing a game at one of the other tables.

The man sat us down, and began a very long history lesson on the town. At one point two women appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, to add their two cents, informing us which local buildings are haunted (all of them), where to go to see a petrified cat that died in someone's basement and then never got removed from the area, and whose doors to go knock on right then to get some good stories about the town (Thelma is 106 and is apparently a pretty good Idaho-City time).

Obviously we departed from the ice cream shop as quickly as possible and went straight to the petrified cat building. A woman there confirmed that the story was true but hesitated walking two strange men late at night into a basement with no one else around. We didn't push the issue.

Also, we swear we heard someone across the street call out to us that we "best not be askin' anymore questions!" But that may have been one of the ghosts.

We drove a mile down the road to some hot springs the people on Main Street told us about. In the parking lot we pulled up to a group of young people whom I'm quite sure Cathie would call "hooligans." They were drinking.

When we walked into the reception area of the place that owns the hot springs, a young man who worked there and who I swear to you was chewing on straw, asked us in his best Mayberry accent if we "seen some kids out there liquoring it up and carrying on."

We narked, because that's the kind of people we are, and then floated around in boiling sulfuric water for an hour.

We picked up some snacks at the town market before we turned in for the night. There was a small shop not even the size of my little house. We wandered around it for a minute. And then Skylar made an obvious observation:


Eli: What do you mean?

Skylar: In a town of this size! There's nothing here! And it's so dark! And the main attraction is a petrified cat in someone's basement! THE MAIN ATTRACTION IS SOMETHING THEY SHOW ON HOARDER NIGHTMARES!

Eli: Honey child. These people are lucky. If they want to find a grocery store, they can drive 45 minutes down the mountain to civilization. Imagine if we were also surrounded by 15,000 miles of ocean.

Skylar: Palau?

Eli: Yes.

Skylar: You were so brave.

Eli: I know. They keep trying to give me the presidential medal of freedom. I turn it down because you know I don't like to make a fuss about anything.

Skylar: Says that man who is still complaining about living in tropical paradise three and a half years later . . .

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I tried so hard to read the sign on the front of that house. "The sluice box"? "The scoose box"? "The sconse box"? Please tell me you investigated this box, or at least can clarify what the sign said. This will make or break thanksgiving for me.

    1. I got your back, sister. The Sluice Box. But I have no further explanation for you.

    2. Haven't any of you seen "Gold Rush" on Discovery channel? It'll teach you all you need to know about sluice boxes.

  2. Here you go: A sluice box is used to separate the gold and black sands from the other worthless materials commonly found in a river.

    Your Thanksgiving has been saved.

    1. Krishelle to the rescue! AKA - An ongoing theme in Eli's life. . . . . .

  3. When I was 15 my parents took me on what was supposed to be a month-long trip out east (it took us two weeks instead). One of our stops was in Pocatello, Idaho. My dad loved the town so much he considered moving there. Like seriously considered moving there.

    Right before my junior year of high school.

    I told him there was no way I was moving across the country to a town in the middle of nowhere Idaho in the middle of high school. I threatened to move in with my sister and they could live the rest of their lives without me.

    We didn't move - although I have little faith it was because he was concerned about me deserting them.

    1. parents did move me to Pocatello right before my junior year of high school. It wasn't as bad as I was expecting, but it definitely was a step down from Washington DC. :)

    2. Nicole, Phip Shar has lived your alternative life. Do not screw this up. An opportunity like this rarely comes along.

    3. Is it just me, or does anyone else have a problem with Idaho being referred to as "out east"?

    4. It's because we're coastal elites.

  4. Was there also the World's Largest Ball of Yarn in this town? Inquiring minds want to know.

  5. When I was 13, my sister and her husband ran a museum for the Forest Service in the Middle of Nowhere, Idaho. My mom thought it would be great to send me, a cousin (that I didn't get along with at the time) and my grandmother to visit for a week. No hot or cold running water--had to go down to river to get the water with a bucket. We slept in the saloon--that was the living quarters--and you would wake up in the middle of the night because of the squirrels and other unknown critters running in between the walls. It was the longest week of my life! One night, we went into the closest town for dinner (I think it was Salmon, ID). The diner we went to--cook walks out wearing a tank top, with a dish towel around his neck. He was sweating up a storm and was extremely hairy. We order our food, he sends the order back, then goes behind the counter and starts drying silverware using the sweaty towel tied around his neck! And I wonder why I'm so obsessive compulsive about things being clean....

  6. Last summer our family went white water rafting down the Main Salmon for 6 days. We flew into Boise and fell in love with the town. While we were rafting we were able to see how people "in the olden times" were able to create a life for themselves in the middle of nowhere. It was so cool! But reality is that there is no way "On God's Green Earth" that I would be able to do that. I agree with Skylar, I don't get living in a town that small. We didn't see Idaho City (I think), but we saw Salmon, Idaho. Love the area. Couldn't live there.