Shhh, Don’t Tell Anyone That Idaho is Amazing

We spent the end of August and early September in Idaho, a total of almost two weeks. Why did we spend so much time in Idaho, you might wonder? The main reason is that it is incredibly beautiful. But please, don’t tell anyone that. The Idaho natives do not want people to find out how beautiful Northern and Western Idaho are. So, do your best to keep this secret or they could come after me!
The main reason Idaho was added to our itinerary was because I wanted to spend time with my cousin Scott, his wife Sam, and their son Augustus. We planned on spending five days at their home, which is about two hours north of Boise and then spend Labor Day weekend at their family’s cabin in the mountains outside Boise. My brother planned to fly in for the holiday weekend and then join us for the next leg of our trip to Yellowstone National Park. We had about six days to kill between leaving Canada and arriving at Scott’s home and decided that we would explore the northern “handle” of Idaho, which proved to be a great idea!

We spent three days just north of Coeur d’Alene at Farragut State Park and then three days just south at Heyburn State Park. Farragut is one of the deepest lakes in the United States, and the Navy still conducts sonar experiments in the lake. During World War II, Farragut was a major training base for the U.S. Navy. The kids enjoyed touring what’s left of the Naval facility, and we had a great time swimming in the lake and kayaking. Heyburn State Park consists of three lakes and the St. Joe River meanders through them. I’ve never seen a river flow through a lake, and it also made for really cool kayaking. We really enjoyed our days relaxing at these State Parks and we fell in love with the beauty of northern Idaho.


My cousin Scott lives in a small town called Donnelley and which is about 10 miles south of the larger town of McCall, on the Payette Lake. Up until the Cubs won the World Series a few years ago, I had not seen my cousin Scott in many years, though he had always been a favorite. Scott came to spend the weekend with us during the Cub’s World Series home stretch and we quickly re-kindled our friendship. He visited us in Chicago last year, with his son Augustus, when the Cubs went to the playoffs. So we were really eager and excited to see them in their “natural habitat” and we were welcomed with open arms. I had only met Scott’s wife Sam briefly during a quick visit to Chicago about ten years ago, so I was really looking forward to getting to know her better, which we quickly did and I found a kindred spirit in her. Some people you just click with, and luckily for me, one of those people is Sam!!


There were so many great times that we shared with my cousin and his family during the time we were together. There was a lot of card playing, and eating, and drinking, and tears (of joy and sorrow) and stories of family legend….all the great things that happen when family gets together. The kids also began homeschool that week, which brought with it some big victories and a few defeats as we started to figure out what worked, and what didn’t, about homeschooling.

To the kids, one of the biggest highlights of their time in Donnelley would be their daily trips to Roseberry. Scott’s house is on the edge of town and there is about a mile of grazing land for cows separating his home from historic Roseberry, an old “ghost town” which closed down in the 1910s after the railroad line bypassed the town. With an old one-room schoolhouse, a small general store, a church and some old houses, the town site became an obsession with the kids. Each day when they were done with school, we would ride our bikes down to Roseberry and explore the old buildings. The biggest hit was the schoolhouse, with its old decks and books, and photos of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. They loved to play pretend school once their real school day was over. One evening we rode our bikes down to Roseberry and had a picnic dinner, listening to some live folk music at the barn. The place became magical to the kids and they talk about it often.

For Labor Day weekend, Sam invited us up to her family’s cabin about an hour away from Boise. I don’t know why they call it “the cabin” as it’s really a compound. These people are like the Kennedy’s, only more fun and refined. The compound is really three cabins, plus an outhouse, an outdoor tub and lots and lots of land! The nearest neighbors are a good five minute hike away and the quiet and privacy is rejuvenating. Sam’s family was so welcoming and fun that we quickly all bonded together. The only recipe needed for a fun weekend is food, games, and booze, and there was a ton of that going on at the cabin. My favorite part of the weekend was when we took a hike through their property. Sam kept on referring to the “trail” we were taking, but nothing felt like a trail to me. I didn’t realize an elk run was considered a trail, but of course they knew exactly where they were going and the views from what they call “Inspiration Point” was just that, VERY inspiring.

There were a lot of firsts that happened to us that weekend at the cabin. Micah used a bow and arrow for the first time, and had a great teacher in his older cousin Augustus. Justin built an outhouse! It’s a real shitter and with the right people, building one can be a great time. Tabatha learned the game Apples to Apples which has become a new obsession. And for me, I beat my husband and cousin at Euchre, not once, not twice, but three times.

I also learned a lot about family that weekend. Families come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t need to be blood relatives. The best ones immediately bring you into their tribe and make a place for you. They love you, accept you, feed you and care about you even if they’ve only known you for a few hours. In hope that they read this someday……..to Jeff, Scott, Sam, Augustus, Adam, Carrie, Emory and Seth, you are all incredible people who are generous of spirit and I would gladly spend every weekend in your company! Thank you for accepting us as your own and for so much laughter!!

And thus our time in Idaho came to an end, as we drove off into the sunset to see what northern Wyoming had to offer. We spent some of the longest amounts of time in Idaho, which some might find very surprising. But don’t be. Go spend some time there. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people. Just don’t tell anyone!!

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