Ten days and nearly six thousand miles later, we have returned from our most active vacation since our three kids came along. While we don’t mind traveling long distances, we had become accustomed to staying put once we arrived at our vacation spot – usually on the beach.
With our oldest child heading to middle school and our youngest now a travel-hardy five-year-old, we set out for a different kind of summer break this year. Though we did make it to a beach on the Pacific Coast, we were on the go from the get-go as we took a Whitman’s Sampler holiday through Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Over the next couple of weeks, I will give you this Southeastern family’s take on the great northwest.
PART ONE — IDAHO
We took a five-hour plane ride to Seattle; then immediately hopped into a rental car for the eight-hour drive down to Boise, Idaho. As travel days go, this was a doozy. It seemed a lot more reasonable when we were sitting in Atlanta, gazing at the map and forgetting just how “big” things are out west. We left for the Atlanta airport at 6:30 a.m. (EDT) and rolled into our friends’ Boise neighborhood just after 11 p.m. (MDT) – 18.5 hours of pure travel, spanning three different time zones.
Boise’s high desert climate was a beautiful surprise to me when I woke up with the sun the next day at 5:45 a.m. I’ve never considered myself a fan of brown, arid landscapes, but the sage-dotted, rocky bluff of the Oregon Trail’s historic Kelton Ramp right outside my window took my breath away.
Even though we were travel-weary, the early sun, cool morning air and excitement over seeing old friends was more than enough to get our family up for a day of exploring in Idaho. On day one, we headed downtown to check out Boise’s Saturday morning Farmer’s Market and stroll through the Basque District (a reminder of the significant ethnic Basque community that settled in the area years ago). We then took the kids to a local park (Camel’s Back near the cool Hyde Park district in the north end of town) to climb the massive sandy hill that offers adults a striking view of the foothills around Boise and kids a killer opportunity to slide straight down a giant dune. If you’re a hiker, the park also provides access to many trails throughout the foothills.
Boise heats up throughout the day, and if you’re not used to the heavy heat of Georgia, it probably feels hot. However, the dry air out there made temperatures in the low 90s seem downright comfortable to us. While the kids had pizza and a movie that evening, the adults capped off the day at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s production of Anton Chekhov’s play “The Seagull”. The production was well-done, and the Chastain-like amphitheatre’s preserve setting offered a picturesque backdrop and the occasional odd actor in the play. (For one of the acts, a peacock strutted around the back of the stage before he flew up into the scaffolding to look down on the players below him. He was ushered offstage during intermission.)
Over the next few days, we drove into the mountains outside of Boise to hike the backcountry and go boating on a freezing, canyon-lined lake. The dry air made the hiking in the heat of the day pleasant. We climbed up rocky hills and dipped our toes in river water that had surely been snow melting off the mountains only moments before. Noticeably absent from our hike were the mosquitoes that are omnipresent in the summer in the Georgia woods. While that was a welcome relief, creepy crawlies are still out there. Somewhere in our three-state trek, I encountered a tick that would send me home with a souvenir case of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Everywhere we looked, we were constantly reminded of our country’s frontier history and the rugged beauty of the west. Until now, the kids’ favorite vacation had been the Outer Banks of North Carolina. They couldn’t imagine a summer getaway that didn’t involve hot sun, boogie boards and warm ocean waves. Today, our Georgia girls are clamoring for another vacation in the high desert of Idaho.
How far have you traveled this summer? Did you take a traditional, beach vacation, or are you opting for something a little bit different? Tell us what has made your travels special this summer.