Take the Scenic Byway

Had we not taken the scenic route we would not have seen the historic Idaho City, a place brimming with history and antique charm.

A new granddaughter and a grandson turning six necessitated a quick run to Caldwell. By taking the shortest and fastest route, we made the trip in record time and enjoyed the birthday dinner and holding the new little princess.

The trip home, however, was not constrained by any appointments, deadlines or schedules. We were free to dally if we so desired. A quick decision led to a circuitous but most pleasant drive across country that was far more interesting than tired Interstate travel through the Magic Valley.

Our trip started when we abandoned I-84 on the east edge of Boise and headed northeast on Highway 21, the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. In a few minutes we passed Lucky Peak Dam. The drive wound through forested hills along the Boise River. We spent a few minutes admiring the rustic downtown section of historic Idaho City where 20,000 miners once worked then headed toward Lowman. We crossed over a divide and encountered the Upper Payette River and followed its course for miles. Finally, we climbed over another summit and dropped into the Salmon River Drainage, pausing in Stanley long enough for refreshment.

At Challis we entered the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway through Mackay and Arco, considered the most diverse and longest scenic route in Idaho, and then we crossed the more familiar Big Desert, home to Idaho National Laboratory then on to Idaho Falls.

A sign near Craters of the Moon National Monument denotes the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway, the longest scenic byway in Idaho

The trip was only 70 miles longer than the Interstate route, but it took an additional three hours. Narrow and tortuously winding roads between Lucky Peak and Lowman seldom allowed for speeds of 50 miles per hour.  But for once, we weren’t shackled by the clock, and we agreed that the time was well spent.

Even more time would have allowed us to explore side roads to more scenic and historic areas. We sadly passed by turn-offs to Atlanta and Grandjean but my imagination ran wild with the possibilities of future camping trips.

Most states are chock full of scenic byways, usually smaller roads that wind through beautiful country but are not the most direct route to much of anything. I well remember the surprise at finding such a road in southwest Kansas, a state not known for its scenery.

Idaho has 31 scenic byways ranging in length from 36 to 140 miles long. They are scattered across the state fairly evenly attesting to the scenic opportunities our vast state offers.

Had we taken the Interstate, or even the back way through Fairfield, we would have arrived home three hours sooner without any new memories and I would likely have spent that time trying to figure out what this week’s column would be about. Instead, we threw out the clock, forgot about responsibility and just enjoyed every moment.

Life’s relentless grip on my calendar isn’t going to loosen anytime soon. So whenever I do get the chance to take the road less traveled I plan to do it because the fastest road between two points may not be the best way.

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho