Idaho: Stanley and Beyond

posted in: Idaho, Van Life | 12
Beautiful sunrise over a mountain peak.

If you have read just about any of my blog posts, you know good and well how much I love Idaho. What’s not to love? Idaho has it all! It is the land of cold, crystal clear water, majestic mountain tops, and secret oasis’ void of crowds (if you either get lucky or know where to look!). It remains my heart’s most treasured location on this great Earth. But, in keeping an open mind, I’m eager to see if anything can top The Gem State!

Now, before we talk about our latest and greatest find, let’s rewind a bit.

Eric and I officially set off on our journey, Tuesday July 28th after a LONG week of cleaning, packing, and decision making. We fled the bustling city on a scorching hot day, mixed emotions long gone, unlike our first attempt to escape the “normal life”. As we got closer to the mountains, we knew without a doubt that this was NOT a road trip. Instead, we were embarking on an entirely new life. It felt good to leave with heart and mind on the same page.

First stop, Stanley!

Eightmile Mountain

Well, I should say the outskirts of Stanley. Eric and I both were in need of some decompression time and the last thing we wanted was to share the outdoors with a million other adventurers.

The front view of the van surrounded by trees.
Side view of the van surrounded by trees.

Eric and I spent our first night nestled within the trees listening intently to the babbling brook as it reassured us we were on the right path.

Who knew brooks could be so consoling!

After self-isolating (with the exceptions of work and the grocery store) for the last 5 months and battling with a major need for the outdoors, this was the perfect place to unwind and let all the bitterness from social distancing be cleansed from our spirits. It took all of 5 minutes for my deflated spirit to rise. One whiff of that fresh pine sent a smile to my face and before long I was off shooting photos and thinking about writing again.

I’m not even sure I realized how depressed I had been until I remembered what it was like to live, explore, and be free.

Unfortunately, we didn’t stay here long. It was a great spot, no doubt, but it was a bit trashy and looked like a potential party spot for the local teens. The furthest thing from what we were looking for! So, we decided to venture further north to see if we could find a home for the next 4-5 days. As luck would have it, we did!

West Stanley

Camp 1

A side view of the van with large hills and lot of trees in the background.

We explored some forest service roads just north west of Stanley and came across this gem. To say this lot was gigantic would be an understatement! This was the ONLY spot and we were thankful for the solitude.

Things we liked about this spot:
  • Close to 2 major hiking trails.
  • A large network of FS roads to explore.
  • Great views.
  • Didn’t have to share the space with others!
Things we didn’t like about this spot:
  • Busy road
  • HOT (no shade!)
  • No water source

The pros definitely outweighed the cons and we ended up staying 3 nights before moving across the street!

The hammock setup between two trees with large hills covered in burnt trees in the background.
Ah.
Another view of the hills from the hammock.

I was finally got a chance to utilize the hammock and use it I did! A whole day was dedicated to reading, sleeping, lounging, gazing, and daydreaming. Yes sir’e, I lazed one of those blazing hot yet magnificently free days away and I enjoyed every minute of it!

Biking

Eric on his bike looking at the mountain views in the distance.

If you don’t require the big downhill rush from mountain biking, the next best thing is exploring forest service roads. That of course does come with a few downsides like dust from passing cars, gators/razors, and RVs, but overall, not a bad way to view the area.

We enjoyed several rides during our stay—found nice spots on the river to cool off, discovered a hidden lake boasting massive mosquitoes and distant views of the Sawtooth Mountains. Here are some photos from our journeys.

The hidden lake with mountain views in the background.
Eric on bike riding in a burned area with the sawtooth wilderness in the distance.
A zoomed in view of the sawtooth mountains
A river valley with mountains in the background

Hiking

Lola Lake Trail
Eric sitting under a tree having lunch and admiring the mountain views

Well, we didn’t make it to the lake but considering we’ve been held up in a house for 5 months, a 6 mile hike almost entirely uphill wasn’t a bad start to getting back into shape! You gotta start somewhere!

Overall, it was a nice, quiet hike but due to lack of shade VERY hot. I would recommend doing the trail early in the day or in the fall as there are several burn areas and not a lot of shade.

Here are some photos from our hike.

A view of the trail surrounded by burned trees.
A weathered log surrounded by yellow and purple wildflowers.
Pink flowers with downed trees in the background.
Purple flowers with a blackened tree behind them.
A patch of water amongst trees.

We did find a good little spot to cool off and filter some water about 2 miles in which was nice and much needed on a hot afternoon.

Camp 2

The van with the awning out, trees in the background.

As I mentioned earlier, we moved camp about 3 days in to beat the heat. Despite the awning, that midday sun was brutal due to the angle of the sun. We were hell bent on having a wide open space to ourselves, but let me tell you heat wears on a person’s soul and eventually we caved!

Despite the fact that this spot had 4 adjoining sites, we never did get any neighbors. Yay!

Plus, our new location offered a new and impressive view. Although we only moved across the street, it felt like an entirely new world.

Silhouette of trees with the sun setting.

While we did enjoy our visit NEAR but not IN Stanley, it was time to move along. This area is fantastic, but it’s just too crowded. Plus, there is so much more to see and do so off we went.

We stopped in Stanley for gas only. Big mistake. First of all, they were price gouging. It was over .30 cents cheaper just down the road. Secondly, the pumps were running so slow, it took over 30 minutes to pump 1/2 tank of gas (not counting the wait for 1 other guy to fill up first). So, we spent over an hour at the gas station. No bueno. The other surprising thing was, in the midst of a pandemic, only 10% of the thousands of people we saw gathering in Stanley were wearing masks.

You HAVE got to be kidding!?!

There is no excuse for that kind of idiocracy. Deep breath. You can’t control others.

Let’s just say we high tailed it out of there in search of solitude and boy did we find it!

The Sawtooth Mountains (East)

Jenni and Eric's shadow with the van and an epic mountain scene in the background.

Now we’re talking. This is what makes life worth living right here! A random road that looked like nothing much lead us to one of the most magnificent places we’ve ever been. E-V-E-R.

Words are useless in this type of situation. This area brought me to a whole new high. It’s one of those places that could bring a person to tears with the 360 degree views and a quiet that is almost deafening. These peaks will make you feel both alive and insignificant all at the same time. I loved it!

Eric and I both have agreed, this will be our final resting place someday.

I took about a half million photos, so I’m only going to post some of my favorites. Like I said, words are useless here so I’ll try to keep it brief. Enjoy!

The Road Up

Gravel road with bright blue sky and white puffy clouds in the background.
Never underestimate a random gravel road—It can lead to great things.
A view of the green hills leading up to the mountain view.
The further we went, the more promising it became!
A cow on a hill with an epic mountain scene in the background.
This cow says, “Moove over California. Happy cows come from Idaho”.

The View

Stunning mountain view with green valley below and big puffy white clouds and a blue sky above.
At the top, we were met by this epic view. Totally worth the slow going, bumpy, hour plus drive up!

And, after we got to the top and the day progressed, the views just kept getting better and better! Hard to believe, I know.

I went for a short hike up a BIG hill to catch a full glimpse of the mountain range.

Trail to the other view of the mountains
I just had to see what was over the ledge!
Jenni smiling with large mountain view in background.
Totally worth it!

Golden Hour

Shadow with a panorama of the hills and mountains; a golden hue from the sun.

As the sun began it’s long descent, it drenched the hills with golden hues and filled my simple heart with delight. We sat our chairs out, but it was hard to sit still. I found myself popping up every few minutes as the light changed. I was twirling around like a schoolgirl with her first crush taking photo after photo sucking the marrow out of life with a gigantic smile spread across my face. It was pure bliss.

Rear view of the van with our camp chairs sitting outside for admiring the view.
Jenni looking wildly happy with the van and a beautiful sunset in the background.
Me not able to sit still.

Eric on the other hand is more Buddha-like and calm. He really knows how to relish in the moment with a contemplative appreciation that only a wise person can accomplish. Thankfully, he’s also able to block out my manic state of running around taking photo after photo and talking 100 miles per hour due to my excitement. We really balance each other out which is why we’re the perfect pair!

Eric overlooking the mountain view.

But don’t let the calm demeanor fool you. He was glowing as well.

Eric smiling with the van and a sunset in the background.

I even caught him SMILING!

Unbelievable!

Much to our surprise, we were granted another gift from the gods as the sun was settling in for the night. Not only did we get beautiful colors and a grand view but a full moon to boot! A special treat indeed. The day could absolutely not have been any better!

Jenni with her arms raised high celebrating the purple sunset over the mountain with a full moon rising.
Purple sunset over mountain with full moon rising up.
A worms eye view of the mountain with an orange frosted rock in the foreground and the mountain and full moon in the background.

Nightfall

Eric and I enjoyed the rest of the evening in similar style. The stars were exceptionally bright despite the full moon. We played around with some of Eric’s phone settings and were able to get some interesting photos that I wanted to include here.

A silhouette of Jenni looking at the full moon in the dark.
Jenni overlooking the full moon. What a view!
The big dipper (stars).
We were even able to capture the Big Dipper constellation.

Sunrise

The gods of wonder must have been feeling exceptionally giving. We were suddenly woken by some intense, high winds, which later I realized must have been sent to get my lazy behind out of bed. I was a little nervous at first and we considered heading down to drop some elevation. I’m so glad Eric is a manly man and climbed back into bed falling fast asleep in a matter of minutes; otherwise, I would have missed a magnificent sunrise.

A pinkish/purple sunrise.
A vibrant pink and dark blue dramatic sunrise over the mountains.

All Good Things

They say all good things come to an end. I would say, I agree. All the more reason to appreciate the moments we have and live life to the fullest. I would say that so far, Eric and I are doing a damn good job at that and we can’t wait to see what’s next moving forward. Only time will tell.

Until next time friends!

12 Responses

  1. Debbie

    I absolutely loved hearing about your adventures so far! Oh my gosh, those pictures!!!!! I am so thrilled you are out of your funk and writing again. This is the Jenni I know and love! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jenni

      Thanks Debbie! Happy to be out of that funk too! My heart was made for adventuring 🙂 It’s hard to write when all you do is go to work and the grocery store for 5 months in a row. Out here in the wilderness, it’s like the virus doesn’t even exist. We’ve seen very few people while out and about. I suppose this is social distancing to the extreme! haha Thanks for reading and I’m so happy you loved the photos.

  2. Susan Hopkins

    I’m thrilled to see you out on a new adventure so I can enjoy this ride with you…
    Beauty is in and around you and I love you with all my heart. Enjoy the ride of your life!

    • Jenni

      We seem to find the adventure even when we try to stop looking for it! The world is a beautiful place and we hope to explore as much of it as we can before we die. Thanks for all your warm wishes and support. You’re the best Mom a girl could ever want! Love you.

  3. Bill & Elsie Davis

    Love it the views are wonderful. We are so glad for you both. Enjoy every day

    • Jenni

      We’re enjoying every second of every minute of every day! I guarantee it. 🙂

  4. Bill & Elsie Davis

    Happy for you guys. Enjoy it all and make very good memories.

    • Jenni

      It seems were making memories faster than we can keep up with 🙂 Every day is a new adventure! We love you.

  5. Brenda Dunne

    It’s good to hear from you after such a long silence. We were starting to wonder what had become of you! What have you been up to? Where are you working? Full or part time? Are they nice to you at work( as in do they have insane, soul-sucking productivity requirements)? Where are you living?

    • Jenni

      Hi Brenda! Yes, a long silence it was. Eric and I had been living and working in Boise (Feb-July) but we’re on the road now full time. Covid changed our lives. Instead of fighting it, we’re running with it. I actually finally found an OT job I loved too working for an acute care hospital in Boise. Unfortunately, with everything that happened I had to give it up. I hope you are both doing well. How is Jim’s retirement going!?! Are you going to be retiring soon. Stay in touch and next time we’re in Columbia, I will let you both know. It would be great to see you!

      • Brenda dunne

        Call or text us when you are in Columbia. I am a little over 3 years to retirement. Am lucky to have a job I like, a great boss, and amazing coworkers. COVID definitely makes work more complicated, I just need to outlive this crisis.

        • Jenni

          Lucky for sure! You can’t beat that 🙂 Yes, that’s the goal….outlive the crisis! I will reach out next time I’m in town.

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