People who say, “keep Austin weird” haven’t been to Idaho (and don’t get me started on Nevada). I didn’t start this US road trip thinking “yes! I finally get to go to Idaho!”, but what I really wanted was to be surprised and learn more about my own country. That’s the case with Idaho.
First off, yes there are lots of potatoes. I happened to travel through Idaho during potato harvest season, so there was no doubt about the potatoes. In fact, the trucks hauling them from the fields were so full of potatoes, I could probably fill my entire house, or at least my first apartment with one truck of spuds. Beyond the endless trucks of tubers, Idaho has something else to offer, dramatic contrasting landscapes.
For example, Victor, Idaho is just a short drive over a mountain pass from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and offers stunning views of the Teton Mountains (but without the price tag). Head west and the mountains yield to vast agricultural communities full of you ‘betcha, potato farmers. Eventually, the earth’s soil becomes too volcanic to farm, and the “warning, do not enter or you will be shot” signs start lining up along the highway.
Idaho actually leads the nation in industrial research, keenly nuclear research. Our route towards central Idaho lead right through the Idaho National Laboratory, a National Security site sitting on a massive chunk of desolate volcanic soil that rivals Area 51 on the creep factor. Looking beyond the almost alien rock outcroppings, you will spot sporadic installations cooking up who knows what in those laboratories. This testing ground really helps keep Idaho on the cutting edge of technology, in fact, nearby Arco was the first city in the world to be lit by electricity generated from nuclear power.
Idaho also hosts a relatively unknown, yet aptly named National Park, the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. I’m not sure why the conspiracy theorists believe the moon landing was filmed in Hollywood, it could’ve been shot in central Idaho! Hiking around the craters and lava flows formed from two ancient volcanoes really gives you the feeling you’re on another planet (or moon).
The lunar landscape isn’t the only surprise Idaho threw at me. The majority of Idaho seems to consist of rugged, wild national forest and wilderness areas, consolidated in the central and panhandle portions of the state. Driving north from Craters of the Moon along the Salmon river through the Salmon mountain range I started to realize that Idaho has just about everything to offer, including pristine wilderness. The next time I’m fighting for a fishing spot on a river in Colorado, I’ll remember the hundreds of miles of pristine river with only a handful of anglers.
I like Idaho because it’s different, and a little weird, and that’s cool. It’s wild, diverse landscapes constantly surprised me, and they even made me feel like I was on the moon. So, keep Idaho weird.