Snake River Canyon

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Today was one of those beautiful days that unfolds effortlessly. I woke up at the cabin with the men of the family. We made hash browns and eggs, saw a bluebird at breakfast, washed the dishes, slowly packed up our things. And then instead of heading back to Boise like I planned, I joined the boys on a “quick stop” at the clay caves south of Jerome.

They promised a fast trip, “It’s only an hour and a half from here!” I figured in five hours for stops, but now ten hours later I’ve just arrived home and I’m tired but still smitten with the smells of Sagebrush and Russian Olives, sweet June sunset air in the Snake River Valley.

Snake River Canyon 13Southern Idaho seems barren and brown from the freeway. It’s a mostly flat desert of lava rock and sagebrush, where grasses dry up over the summer. But if you follow your dad and his brother up roads only locals know, you’ll get your car stuck in the deep ruts of a dusty road lined by sagebrush, and then you’ll be forced to see: it’s beautiful out here.

My cousin, Alex, and I were both laughing. Somewhat out of nervousness and mostly at how preposterous our day was turning out. What did we get ourselves into? Why did we trust our dads? The men who forgot to feed us lunch and got us only kind of lost in the desert trying to find an unmarked cave.

We ditched the smaller vehicle Alex and I were driving, and bounced our way to the cave entrance, finally arriving five hours after starting this adventure.Snake River Canyon 19

There we got our flashlights ready, and ducked inside. The cave is short at first, and then it opens up wider and taller into a lava tube with a slippery clay floor, partly dug up by potters, and with remnants of high school parties. Burnt fireworks, charred logs, spray paint graffiti of the names of our parents’ high school classmates. Snake River Canyon 08We wandered the half-mile long chamber, and once we hit its end we turned around and came back out into the startling sunshine.

From there, a pit stop for sandwiches because the kids were starving and we had another two hour drive home. Over dinner, “Hey, want to stop at the bridge since we’re here?” “Okay, since we’re here.” “Should we stop at Shoshone Falls too, you know, since we’re already here?” “I don’t see why not!”

We drove to the park on the canyon rim where we got out of our dusty cars and walked onto the viewpoint, then up the hill over the canyon, marveling at the falls and how beautiful the canyon itself is, opposite the water. We saw kayakers below. We saw teenage girls who’d snuck to a crumbling cement staircase with beers in their purses.

Snake River Canyon 09Snake River Canyon 10Snake River Canyon 12Snake River Canyon 11When we’d got our fill of waterfall, we started heading north towards home. On our way, we stopped at the Perrine Bridge viewpoint and watched base jumpers preparing their chutes on the lawn.

Snake River Canyon 14

From there, across the bridge, another stop at Emberton Viewpoint. Named after the grandfather of my dad’s childhood best friend, now closed off and unmarked. There is a trail between massive sagebrush that leads to a fence and then the steep drop off of Snake River Canyon. Blue Lakes below. Golf course in the distance. Lush green river valley sunk hundreds of feet below the dry black and cracking canyon rim.

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Snake River Canyon 16I watched the boys throw rocks over the edge, and wandered through the fragrant brush as the sun started to dip low in the June sky. It smells like summer here. And it feels like family.




6 Comment

  1. Dyllie S. says: Reply

    Hi! I just found your IG and blog through She Explores and I am happy I did! My husband and our two kids just moved to Pocatello this summer, so it’s cool to find someone in the Idaho area. This whole state is completely new to us, but I can’t believe how gorgeous it is. You’re right, even in the sagebrush and desert, it is so so beautiful and I am surprised by the landscape every weekend we go hiking and camping. We’ve just been exploring the area around us now, but I hope to get up to the Sawtooths soon. I saw that you have explored a lot of the area! We might be moving to Twin Falls next year so I am excited to explore that region too. Anyways, just wanted to say hi! Maybe you can point me to some good trails that you know of. We are still so lost here, so it’s helpful to know an Idaho insider! Best wishes to you, Dyllie.

    1. Hi Dyllie! Thanks for commenting, I’m glad you found me! Where did you move to Idaho from? The Sawtooth/Stanley area is my favorite part of the state, but there are so many different landscapes to explore and they all change beautifully with the seasons. As far as hiking trails, Fishhook Creek trail is a great one to start with near Redfish Lake in the Sawtooths. If you’re looking for a longer one, or a backpacking possibility, the Toxaway Lake loop from Petit Lake is BEAUTIFUL! (I recently got engaged on a backpacking trip to Alice Lake) and I’m dying to go back and hike further into those mountains. Keep in touch!

      1. Dylann says: Reply

        Hi! We moved from living and growing up in California, northern and southern. And while the landscape is insanely beautiful there, I love the lower cost of living and the no-traffic thing here! I think it’s just as beautiful even though I miss the ocean. I definitely would love to explore some lakes in the area, and obviously Snake River, too! Do you live in Boise? We haven’t been to the city yet or anywhere over there. My mom actually grew up in Mountain Home, so I’ve been here once as a kid, but I don’t remember any of it. Have you been to the Pocatello area?

        1. My sister lives in San Diego right now, but is planning to move back to Idaho soon because of both of those things! I’ve been loving visiting her in California, but it’s easier to live here in a lot of ways. Yes, I’m in Boise! Born & raised here, moved away for college, studied abroad, then spent a winter in the Canadian Arctic, but Boise keeps drawing me home. I haven’t been to Pocatello for years but I remember it being nice 🙂 Have you been to Craters of the Moon or City of Rocks yet?

          1. Dylann says:

            Oh, cool! We just lived near San Diego not too long ago. It’s such a pretty area, but expensive! I actually have heard of Craters, but we haven’t been yet. Are both of those in the southeast region? We’ve just been travelling around Pocatello area, exploring the local mountains and creeks. I love how much water is here, and deer! I am amazed everytime we see one, and it probably makes me look like a weirdo tourist. Haha! The other day I saw a dead moose laying in someone’s front yard, apparently after they hunted it, and that made me think, “I am definitely in Idaho now!” I love it though, it feels like more of who we are, as my husband loves to hunt and fish. Excited to try out fly fishing next season! We can’t get our permits until we’ve lived in the state for 6 months, so I am really looking forward to next summer.

          2. Yes, Craters and City of Rocks are both fairly close to Pocatello! Same region, still a couple hours of driving away, but definitely worth a trip to hike or camp in those cool landscapes. I always forget how lush eastern Idaho is! Boise’s on the edge of the desert, so by August it feels pretty sun baked and dried out unless you’re near the river. Haha the moose in the yard!! That’s so Idaho. It sounds like your husband is in the right spot for sure. Good call waiting on fishing until next year – the out of state non-residence fees are outrageous! My (Canadian) fiancé considered buying one this year but decided it wasn’t worth it. Maybe if we ever get more serious about fishing, he will! I’ve always wanted to try fly fishing too.

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