Describe Idaho in one word

TravelingThePNW would like to welcome Olivia Metcalf, who writes about life’s Winding Path at her blog, as our new contributing writer. She and her family recently went camping and she wanted to share their experiences here. So, without further ado, here is her story.

Idaho is known for a lot of things. If you live outside of the state you probably wouldn’t use the word “beautiful” as the first adjective. But Idaho is beautiful! We recently spent four nights at Warm Lake campground 26 miles outside of Cascade, Idaho. The drive is spectacular and on a paved road, which is a bonus.

At nearly a mile high, the terrain offered burnt out trees, rolling hills and craggy rock outcrops. Combined with the blue sky, it was beautiful to say the least.
At nearly a mile high, the terrain offered burnt out trees, rolling hills and craggy rock outcrops. Combined with the blue sky, it was beautiful to say the least.

As we neared our destination we drove through many miles of burned out forest. The towering mountains, covered in rocky crags, and adorned with burned out trees were strangely captivating. Sometimes it is in the stark and desolate places that beauty surprises us.

Despite its beach-less shores and muddy bottom, Summit Lake provides a wonderful place to wade and fish.
Despite its beach-less shores and muddy bottom, Summit Lake provides a wonderful place to wade and fish.

I was also surprised to find that we were one of two families in our entire campground. The area around Warm Lake wasn’t burned at all and the campgrounds are well maintained. Our spot was perfect – towering Ponderosa pine trees, Chipmunk Creek running at the backside of our spot, a shady set of trees to hang our hammock, and the campground water pump within a stones throw of our pop-up trailer. We built fires, roasted marshmallows, attempted to dam the little creek, read books and played board games.

Damming Chipmunk Creek was fun for the whole family, as Andrew, left, Dustin and Ethan join in.
Damming Chipmunk Creek was fun for the whole family, as Andrew, left, Dustin and Ethan join in.

When we were ready to explore, it was an easy drive to the incredibly muddy and beach-less Tule Lake, gorgeous burned out Summit Lake and a variety of forks of the Payette and Salmon rivers. Summit Lake was just nine miles up the road, at an elevation of 7,291 feet, and a short, steep, hike from the Summit Lake campground. Our voices echoed, the fish jumped and the burned out gray trees clacked together loudly in the wind.

It was a perfect place to spend the day. We caught enough trout to feed us all with leftovers.

Fishing is a family affair, though Dustin, rear, is the one who untangles the lines, baits the hooks, and cleans the fish.
Fishing is a family affair, though Dustin, rear, is the one who untangles the lines, baits the hooks, and cleans the fish.

Not only did we explore Summit Lake, but less than a quarter mile from our spot was a developed swim beach. It wasn’t well maintained because the small lodge and cabins that are a part of that beach area have changed ownership and are sitting empty and unkempt. That meant we had the beach to ourselves, apart from the Canadian Geese and their lovely droppings. As we walked the gravel road you could imagine that this area had, at one time, been a happening place where many people gathered to enjoy this mountain retreat!

Summit Lake offered an under-used beach area that was perfect for swimming. Here, Andrew wades in and beats the heat a bit.
Even though there weren’t many beaches to be had on the lakes in this area, Andrew still cooled off with a little wading.

The wildlife is mostly what you would expect in the mountains – deer, squirrels, frogs, chipmunks and rumors of bears. One thing we didn’t expect was to run into a four-foot tall Sandhill Crane. I swore it was an escaped Emu that was living in the wild! It was enormous and had the weirdest call you have ever heard. Since there was no cellphone coverage where we were we couldn’t figure out what it was until we got home. It was our very own Bigfoot-type legend until Google gave us the real details!

The Warm Lake Campground offered plenty of shady trees, and a wonderful place to hang our hammock. Ethan enjoyed it in this photo.
The Warm Lake Campground offered plenty of shady trees, and a wonderful place to hang our hammock. Ethan enjoyed it in this photo.

Vault toilets, potable water, nice camp host and a lovely location all made for a perfect summer getaway for our little family! I’m telling you, beautiful really does describe Idaho.

– Olivia Metcalf

If you go
Location: Campground 26 miles northeast of Cascade, Idaho.
When: Summer only.
What: Campground with boating, fishing, hiking, swimming, wildlife viewing and seclusion.
Fees: $15 per night.
Kid-friendly: Absolutely.

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