After two weeks of stress reduction in Missoula, I was ready to ride in the passenger’s seat when we bid farewell to Montana. We drove south on I-90 and merged with I-15 in Butte, taking the southbound interstate all the way toward Idaho Falls. The exit to I-15 in Butte was one exit west of where we stayed when we were there a few weeks earlier. This means Mike’s preferences were realized and we never back-tracked… not even for one mile! Lucky for me the route took us through meadows and valleys. No drastic elevation changes, almost zero construction, wide lanes and a respectable shoulder on the road meant I never got close to freaking out. That was nice.
The drive was long, though. We were ready to park and get situated by the time we arrived at Juniper State Park on the Ririe Reservoir. Over five hours of driving is just about the max time that is tolerable on travel day. By the time you factor in the time it takes to get the rig shut down and ready to drive, then set back up at the end, it is a full day.
Juniper campground was very nice. Our spot at C12 was an enormous pull through spot with full hook-ups. Of course, Mike selected this location because it fit his two main criteria… the price was inexpensive and fishing was abundant! Ririe Reservoir was created when a dam was built at Willow Creek in the 1970’s. The creek was in a canyon, so we were situated about 100 feet above the water. The views were great! We were out in a secluded spot in Bonneville County, so we didn’t hear the sound of trains, traffic, sirens or anything for two weeks!
Eastern Idaho is spectacular. The South Fork of the Snake River runs through this area and the scenery is amazing. The landscape is comprised of rolling hills covered in farm fields painted in a precise camouflage that is slightly brighter and more orderly than what the hunters wear. The river meanders through the terrain, giving the illusion of a sapphire band of energy electrifying the earth with power and grace all at once. When you sit back to take in the views, the spirit seems to brim with equal parts vitality and tranquility. We liked it there.
We drove west to Wyoming on two different occasions, once to see Grand Teton National Park and again to visit Jackson Hole. We spent some time in the cute town of Idaho Falls, and the rest of our time was dedicated to chilling out at our park. We couldn’t help but snap heaps of photos during our visit, so I will let some of those images complete the story of our introduction to The Gem State.
The view from our bedroom. Can you spot the windmills in the distance?
The campground was surrounded by farmlands. Of course there were potato crops, but Anheuser-Busch had signs on many fields… so I guess Idaho grows lots of beer too!
Our spot was C12. It was a VERY spacious pull-through. We didn’t have neighbors anywhere near us. The best part, however, was no stickers in the lush grass. All for $18 per night.
We went to the Idaho Falls Farmers Market the first Saturday morning we were at Juniper. I was surprised there weren’t a ton of local farmers. The vendors were peddling things like baked goods, jams, fresh tacos, soaps, honey, flowers… stuff like that. Only two booths were selling almost all of the vegetables… and to be honest I don’t think they were local. My guess is these families just bought a load of inventory from a wholesaler and set up a tent at the farmer’s market.
The paved road leading to the campground turned to gravel after the entrance gate. The gravel road went for miles so we thought it would be a good place for our daily dog walks. Unfortunately, the rocks were painful on the dogs’ paws, so it was only a one-time thing. Piper and Cessna wanted no part of that road after that afternoon.
We have never stayed anywhere on this trip where the sunsets were so magnificent. Every night was a different show of lights, shadows and colors.
I already put one Ririe nightfall photo on our “Sunsets” page, but I couldn’t just feature a singular choice from two weeks at this spot.
Mike watched these two eagles soar over him on most days he was fishing. There were lots of owls too!
There is a riverside trail in downtown Idaho Falls and every few feet features a uniquely creative bench.
Life size chia deer on the riverside trail.
A selfie from the Sandpiper Restaurant. There were only a couple of waterfront dining options in downtown Idaho Falls and we were lucky to pick a good one. They even let Piper and Cessna join us on the patio. When we asked how we got them around to the back, they said bring them in the front door and through the restaurant. What? No problem.
I call this one calico sunset.
Alive After Five was a free summer concert series at a park in the middle of downtown Idaho Falls. The music was great. They actually sold beer and wine. And, the people watching was superb.
When we took a daytrip to Grand Tetons National Park, we drove over the Teton Pass. The Honda did not like that. The pinnacle of the pass is 8,431 feet. The grades are about 10% going up and back down. When I got out of the car to take this picture, our little 4-cylinder engine was very smelly! It sure was pretty, though!
Our first good look at the Tetons.
A plaque inside the Chapel of the Sacred Heart near the Jackson Lake Dam says it was built by a family of New York and Wyoming after the tragic events of 9/11.
The only wildlife we saw during our day in the Grand Tetons.
This was the view from our picnic in the National Park that day.
Colter Bay on Lake Jackson. I think Eagle’s Rest Peak is in the distance – 11,258 feet up into the sky.
The surface elevation of Jackson Lake is 6,772 feet.
Summertime in the Grand Tetons.
Dogs are only allowed on paved sidewalks or parking lots inside the park. We still found a way to get these two their exercise for the day.
The Grand Tetons from Hwys 191/26/89.
The Snake River.
The Park Road dumped directly into downtown Jackson Hole, and the traffic was horrible when we got to town. It had been a long day and we were overwhelmed by the crowds, so we decided not to stop for a look around. We agreed we would drive back to Jackson on another day to explore this resort town when we were fresh and more tolerant.
A panorama of the South Fork of the Snake River near the Swan Valley of Idaho.
We had a family of rabbits living with us in our campsite. The dogs spent their evenings watching the cuddly creatures and wishing they could catch them for a little after dinner treat.
Yellow sunset ball.
Mike and I drove over to Cress Creek Nature Trail for a quick hike one afternoon. It was hot and the trail went straight up, so the dogs waited at home. It was a good move. Piper wouldn’t have liked it… would have been too strenuous on his old bones.
The Snake River from the Cress Creek Trail.
He drives the bus. He grills the dinner. Is there anything this man can’t do?
Our campground fire pit was a good distance from our rig and all of our stuff, so we used our own with some wood scraps underneath to protect the grass. So far, this is the one and only campfire we’ve had in Idaho.
Some rolling farm lands in the Swan Valley.
We took another route when we returned to Jackson Hole. This time we drove Highway 26 along the Palisades Reservoir and then through the Bridger National Forest. The Honda was happier with no dramatic passes to conquer.
The Snake River in the Bridger National Forest.
A panorama from the National Elk Refuge on the edge of downtown Jackson Hole.
Family selfie at an arch of antlers.
The National Elk Refuge looking into the Teton National Forest.
There was a crazy vertical garden on the side of the garage where we parked the car when we returned to Jackson Hole. It was like a big ferris wheel of vegetation!
This silo outside the Snake River Brewing Company was covered in stickers. We were wishing we had a couple of Longhorn decals to leave behind.
Beer Selfie. Cheers, y’all!