Sometime late last year my dad informed me that my extended family wanted to take a vacation together this summer and that we would all be meeting up at the end of June… in Idaho.
I can honestly say that up until we started planning this trip, I’d never given Idaho more than a moment’s thought in my entire life, which, I suspect, is exactly how the Idahoans prefer it. Because guys? Idaho is fucking amazing.
I did not see one potato growing while I was out there, but I did see this:
Idaho is surprisingly beautiful.
I actually headed out there with my brother a few days early so that we could do a little camping and rock climbing before the rest of the family got there.
Also, when I say “a little” rock climbing, I mean hiking a couple of miles up in the mountains, and then climbing another 1000 feet straight up some granite. This granite, in fact:
I’ve been gym-climbing for about a year but there are no mountains in Michigan, so this was my first opportunity to do an outdoor climb. It was also, oddly, my first opportunity to share an awesome experience like this with my brother.
We’re 17 years apart, which made it impossible for us to have the typical experiences that siblings have “growing up” together. For reference, this is my brother when I bought my first house, right around the time I started this website in 2004…
Holy shit, I love that little face.
Let me just say, he’s always been my very favorite kid on the planet. When people used to ask me if I wanted children of my own I’d say, “I’d have one if you could guarantee he’d be as awesome as my little brother, but I’m sure as hell not interested in having one anything like me!” (These days I’m not interested in having any at all, but I’m still appreciative of what an awesome kid my brother was.)
Still, back when I was worried about things like my first mortgage payments and getting my MBA, my brother was all of six years old. So, you know, we weren’t exactly sharing the same life experiences back then.
These days he’s an actual adult, a head taller than me, and probably twice as strong (even though I still threaten to put him in a headlock whenever possible.) So when I decided to fly in to Idaho before the rest of the family I asked if wanted to come with me and, you know, go climb a mountain or something.
He was game, so we did.
I spent weeks doing things like running up flights of stairs wearing my full pack to make sure I was prepared for this trip, and it was about a mile into the hike– when my 19 year old brother who did basically zero prep for this trip had yet to even break a sweat– that I realized that any adventure we go on together from here on out is going to be an exercise in humility for me.
And also an exercise in cardio endurance.
Here we are about 300 feet up our first climb…
And at the crux (wherein there was a lot of swearing from both of us, because do you see any hand-holds on that rock? No? Neither did we.)
This was two pitches from the top, maybe 800 feet up, where full-grown pine trees start to look like toothpicks.
And, finally, the summit.
We camped for the night (in the middle of a rainstorm) and had planned to do an even more challenging climb called the Elephant’s Perch on day two.
That’s the Perch in the background, and the raging creek in the foreground is the reason we couldn’t get to it. (Also the snow at the top wasn’t working in our favor either.) We were both a little bummed not to be able to make that climb, and we’ll definitely be back to tackle it again eventually.
However our second day on the slabs wasn’t too shabby…
We spent a few hours climbing and then hiked back out. I did stop when I saw a couple of cairns built on a log and had to add my own to the mix. I’ll let you guess which one is mine.
I’m always building things… even out in the middle of the mountains.
All in all it was an awesome adventure, and hopefully not the last climbing trip I’ll take with my brother.
For the second part of our trip, we met up with the rest of our extended family (our dad, four uncles, and ten cousins) at a ranch a couple hours south of where we’d been climbing.
Our plan had been to rent a bunch of ATVs and take them 80 miles through the mountains to the next town over, stay the night, and then come back the next day. However, every person we talked to told us that we wouldn’t actually be able to make it through the because the trails weren’t cleared and had been washed out in a few places.
Take everything you know about me from this website, multiply it by 16, and then guess whether or not that stopped us…
We had a winch, a hand-saw, and 17 very stubborn people on ATVs… the snowdrifts, flooded trails, and fallen trees didn’t stand a chance.
Well, until we came across these guys…
Then we actually had to stop for a minute.
But for the most part, we were able to clear or drive around every obstacle the trail threw at us…
Okay, except for that one time with Uncle Scott on the 4-wheeler.
But the challenging terrain made the scenery that much more awesome…
Overall, it was one hell of a trip.
I got back just over a week ago and have basically been sleeping every spare minute since. It was the kind of vacation that requires a little recovery time afterward.
Idaho was wild and beautiful– we’ll definitely be back– but at the end of a long week of adventuring, I was also really glad to be home.
I’m just coming out of rest and recovery mode right now, with all kinds of farm updates to share, just as soon as I can write coherent sentences again (took me a full week to write this post and it’s mostly pictures.)
Great post Kit. Loved every word and picture. (We could’ve told them it wouldn’t dissuade you!)
The granite slab reminds of being in Yellowknife where you can see grooves from the glaciers retreating.
Very cool, and as inspiring as ever! This explains a lot! Thank you for sharing your great adventure.
It always gets better and more challenging with you no matter what “it” is! Love this!
I know, Idaho, right? Who would have guessed! Those sly Idahoans are sitting on a gem and unless you happen to be driving through that part of the country (as I was) or have a connection in the know, all you would think is “Potatoes”.
Idaho is also fabulous in the winter! Imagine some snow cover on those mountains…and the skiing is fantastic…so much country to see, so little (vacation) time…
Sounds like a wonderful adventutous vacation and yes the memorable ones require a bit of rest and recoop upon returning. Many moons ago I hauled many tons of Idaho spuds back from Idaho on way back from hauling wheat from So.Dak. (home state) to port Cargill in Seattle. We Left the first and last 3ft. of (Dorsey trailer) tarp rolled back and strapped down good not to flop in wind on way back to let them breathe. Due to the rainy mountain passes on the way back they’d always pick up 3 to 4 hundred # from moisture so we’d always end up giving fresh Idaho taters to friends & family if we stopped in hometown before delivery.
I’ve hiked in mountains, never climbed per se but have watched climbers in Wy. climb Devils Tower in 2015 from the base when I run over there on my bike to see it. I had driven semi close by it years prior but always wanted to see it up close and read some neat history on it in the visitors center when there.
Thanks for sharing awesome fun
Next time you come to Idaho you need to carve out some time to run some of our whitewater rivers. Salmon, Selway, Payette, Lochsa etc… Always a nice cold beer at the end.
Shhh! Let’s keep Idaho a secret…..I was born and raised here, and still have many more places to explore and staycation to here in the beautiful gem state! I’m glad you enjoyed your time here:)
God’s country captured with Kristen’s enthusiasm and colorful language !
Yes, I think you’re right about Idahoans wanting to keep the secret. Did you notice their license plates? “Famous Potatoes”. Really makes you want to check it out!
No Mom? No Aunts?
This is my dad’s side of the family (my mom hasn’t been married to him for 30 years! 😉 )
How fun! Beautiful photos.
I usually choose beach for my vacations, but I can sure see how those views would make a person head to the mountains!
Wow holy shit that is fuckin amazing
It sounds like you had a great time! I wouldn’t be caught dead climbing up a mountain but that view alone has me rethinking things 😉
Coming from the UK I have never been. It looks like a hidden gem though!
what an incredible trip! how many girl cousins do you have? amazing hike. and incredible to see how big your bro is now!!!
Everyone’s talking about Idaho being a gem… The nickname for Idaho is “the gem state!” I’d avoid the panhandle right now though. Lots of smoke from fires in British Columbia.
I find myself unable to leave your blog! I can’t stop reading it! I must say you have a very unique voice in writing, which I personally appreciate. Thanks again Kit!