Bliss, the place we stayed at, is very close to the total Eclipse path (~130km), so we are not in too big rush anymore. Still, the people in 3 of our 6 cars have decided to do a shortcut and not go along the scenic routes to the little town Stanley over the mountains. The other 3 are ready for the small detour. The road (Sawtooth scenic byway, road nr 75) gets nicer with every mile and we go over a mountain pass more than 2.6km high. A small parking area with a beautiful scenery soon after that where we not only see the mountains of Sawtooth ridge, but also some curious animals, maybe groundhogs.
Soon after we arrive in Stanley – Lonely Planet guidebook says it’s one of the most beautiful towns in the US. I must admit that this place is indeed pretty. Wooden houses on hillsides surrounded by mountains still having some snow. However, there were couple of other towns where we have passed through during this trip that have been pretty as well – just in a different way.
We agree to walk around and leave in about an hour. Stanley had its own tiny town center and its very own Wall street which doesn’t at all resemble its namesake in New York. We pick up a geocache here, others meanwhile are having breakfast in the local cafe. The food is reported to be tasty, but the highlight here is the bathrooms – decorated so nicely as if this was a palace.
After visiting Stanley we continue on another scenic byway – nr 21, named for Ponderosa Pine. The pines are indeed dominating the scenery. So much that we get a bit bored by looking outside. Luckily there’s another stop planned to chase the sleep away – Kirkham hot springs. We put the 5$ for parking in an envelope and drop it in a box – there is a ranger to check the parked cars for the parking note which comes from the envelope, but the payment system is similar to that of the first-come first-served campings. It’s relying much on the responsibility and honesty of people so can be easily abused. But it’s easy to see what we pay for (people keeping these places clean, maintaining toilets etc), so cheating is not on our minds.
The hot springs are indeed hot. One can only stand the heat for less than a minute. However a mountain river passes right by, so on the bank where the spring water meets the river, the water is just in the right temperature. If you move more to the side of the bank, you get warmer water and if you move closer to the river then you can cool down. The river itself is very cold, but after heating up in the hot water it is perfect for a quick swim – a process that can be repeated.
We bathe here a while, have a quick lunch and then continue to Weiser – a town where we will stay tonight. The other 3 cars are already there after visiting another place of hot springs – Idaho is known to have lots of them. We stop in a Walmart for groceries, gas station for petrol and arrive in Weiser before sunset. Someone has an idea of swimming because the Snake river is very close by. Daumants leads us to the bank, but the colour of the water is not inviting in this place, so we decide to skip the swimming tonight. Later on a group of us find some geocaches, some others visit some activities of the town festival. Everyone is delighted about the possibility to sleep longer tomorrow – will only be leaving at 10:30.
When I asked an American friend what is Idaho famous for, I was said – potatoes. We didn’t check every field, but the car licence plates do confirm that locals are proud of this vegetable. However, for me Idaho will be the state of fountains. The agriculture here is so important that almost every field has long rows of water sprinklers working all around. Not fountains by design, but generally having the same effect.