Hot Spring Break -
Road Trippin' Idaho Style
While friends and
family set sail for some sunny beach on their annual spring
break, my wife and I drive towards one of the coldest inhabited
places in the continental United States. The frigid mountain
town of Stanley, Idaho has a population of roughly 50 hardy
souls and brutal six month winters are the main reason. Even in
these last days of March, Jamie and I expect nightly
temperatures to plummet below zero, and we’ll be lucky if
daytime highs break the freezing mark. We will also be car
camping, an endeavor begging questions from our peers. Are we
crazy? Are we not sick of winter's gray cloak? Are we not dying
to step into shorts and feel warm again? The answer is yes, yes,
and most certainly, yes. In fact, we have swimsuits packed, and,
in the American spring break tradition, predict we’ll see public
nudity along the way.
An hour after leaving our Boise
home, we race along Highway 21 just east of Garden Valley.
Overhead, the sky gradually transforms from clear blue to dull
gray. Abundant elk and deer dot the meadows on both sides of the
road. The lawns and fields of the rural area look like refugee
camps for local ungulates, the elk appearing particularly ragged
as their thick winter coats come unstitched.
Due to the roadside
wildlife, our drive takes longer than expected, but two hours
into our quest we reach the first stop on our itinerary. Were it
another time of year, Jamie and I would keep driving. This
particular site is next to the highway and not deep enough into
the wilderness, amounting to a predictable overabundance of
visitors. However, from across the South Fork of the Payette
River, we spot a solitary hatchback in the paved lot.
“Shall we?” I ask.
“Absolutely,” says Jamie. “It's
never this quiet.”
We cross a bridge just wide enough
for our truck, park next to the other vehicle, and change into
swimsuits. Just beyond a railed viewing platform and descending
staircase, we see wafting steam. Kirkham hot spring is just
below us at the river’s edge. Although not the combative entity
it will surely become as our trip progresses, the cold weather
still forces us to make a quick dash for the riverbank.
Kirkham erupts from
a long rocky outcropping running parallel to the South Fork of
the Payette. It works like a soaking hose with geothermal water
bursting through the rock in flows of differing volume and
temperature. Larger fissures on top of the outcrop create two
cascading waterfalls for the perfect neck and shoulder massage.
Below the showers and random streams, the naturally heated water
collects in pools of various sizes. These natural baths descend
to the river where human engineers have rearranged rocks to form
even more pools, seasonally available depending on the runoff.
We find the
hatchback’s owners in a shallow puddle below the first main
shower. They are ghastly pale and naked as the day they were
born. I can’t help smiling as I am instantly transported back in
time to my first impromptu hot spring lesson.
“Nothing ensures a
private soak like blatant nudity,” the man told me. He was a
human of considerable girth, and I cringe to this day thinking
of those dark, intertwined mats of body hair. My God, that hair!
It was like someone had taught a plump Wookie how to speak. We
had arrived at the same pool at the same moment and reluctantly
agreed to share. Of course, that was before he stripped to the
buff. Shortly afterwards, a noisy and crowded minivan appeared
in a parking lot below the pool. After first glaring in their
direction, the hairy stranger winked at me, and then stood up in
full view facing the new arrivals.
“Use it wisely,” he
said as the minivan tore out of the pullout with squealing
As it was with my
hot spring tutor, I suspect the hatchback couple prefers their
privacy. We proceed past with barely a glance and disappear
around a rocky wall separating the upper and lower showers. I'm
glad they settled for the first because the real gem of Kirkham
is the second waterfall and larger pool. It’s a rare treat to
find this soaker available and we interpret the sight as a good
time we remove our shoes and stash the towels, the other couple
is already leaving. I peek over the rock wall just in time to
see them ascend the last couple of stairs. I pass the
information on to my wife who immediately removes her bikini top
and tosses it over a nearby boulder. With uncontrollable grins,
Jamie and I slip out of our shivering goose flesh and into the
The water feels
unbearably hot, and our smiles turn into a brief grimace, but
the stinging sensation is quickly replaced by an exponentially
expanding synergistic mental and physical levity. Like melting
pats of butter, we slowly sink deeper and spread out on our
backs. The natural lithium begins to take hold, and it isn't
long before our entire beings have turned gelatinous.
Occasionally, I muster enough strength to stand in the waterfall
where the heavy flow pounds my clay like muscles into rapturous
oblivion. Were it not for the necessity of food, Jamie and I
could live our lives slowly dissolving in geothermic heaven.
Every soak must end
and ours does just as daylight begins to fade and a slowly
building mist becomes a light rain. Getting dressed inside the
truck causes the windows to fog from our body heat. As the
vehicle’s defrost creates expanding half-moons of clear
windshield, I notice the campsite is empty. We briefly consider
staying, but only when left with little choice do Jamie and I
utilize developed sites.
My wife takes
command of the wheel allowing me a chance to spot wildlife. With
laser improved vision, I consider myself an animal finding
machine. A wasted gift though as not even the dim light of dusk
provides a challenge; the deer and elk practically line the road
like spectators for our adventure. I half expect one to offer me
a cup of Gatorade as we pass.
Staring out the side
window at a solitary cow elk, I hear Jamie gasp and feel the
sudden lurch of brakes. I spin my head around to see a large
form crossing the road. My brain tries to turn the animal into
another deer, but the image refuses to cooperate. The creature
doesn't match what my mind assumed it would see and I am forced
into a double take. My jaw drops as I realize the animal is a
sizable wolf still sporting his proud grey and white winter
Before Jamie has
brought the truck to a standstill, I open the passenger door and
stand on the running-board looking out across the roof. The
wolf, no more than fifty feet away, gives us a casually
dismissive glance before loping off. Effortlessly, the canine
covers ground and is soon lost amongst the baby pines
establishing themselves at the base of the foothills.
Out of sheer primal
joy, I want to howl into the evening air. This is our second
wolf sighting in Idaho and we are beyond thrilled. Interpreting
the experience as yet another fortuitous sign, we elect to find
a nearby camp. Fortunately, primitive sites in this area are
plentiful and a couple of miles from where our wolf crossed the
highway, we find one complete with dry firewood.
As the temperature
drops and we huddle around a campfire roasting hotdogs, Jamie
relives our fortunate wolf encounter. My wife beams in the dark
as she projects the scene unfolding in slow-motion from her
perspective. Discussion of the majestic animal brings us back to
when a young couple once joined us for a soak near Warm Lake.
They had heard rumors of wolves stalking people nearby and the
man seemed particularly concerned about not having a firearm
handy. Unsure how certain baseless perceptions have persisted
throughout the centuries, we did our best to assure the couple
they had nothing to fear.
Jamie and I call it a night shortly
after dinner. Our shelter is a fiberglass shell over the truck’s
spacious bed. Dry as it may be, the thin walls do little to keep
the cold at bay and climbing into a giant sleeping bag for two
triggers a dueling shivering match. After several torturous
minutes our quivering bodies warm the bed and I drift off
dreaming of hot springs.
With the exception
of a frigid morning scamper in the dark to the nearest bush for
bladder relief, we make no effort to wake ourselves until
sunshine is piercing the frosted side windows. A thin layer of
ice covers the inside of our plastic chamber. The tiny, fragile,
and marvelously unique crystals crushed by the millions during
our clumsy efforts to get dressed while still lying down.
We emerge from the
truck and step into a blinding light breathing dense plumes of
white vapor. Even in direct sun, the air is spitefully cold and
our real elevation climb hasn't even begun. At this point, I can
only imagine the dense sheets of frozen air rolling off the
Sawtooth Mountains to fill Stanley basin with temperatures
rivaling Dante’s 9th level of hell; it is a demon we will face
soon enough. For the sake of getting our day moving, we use a
propane stove to boil water and settle for a breakfast of coffee
and instant oatmeal.
A half-hour later we
are back on the road silently thanking the gods for the truck’s
blasting heater. It isn’t long before we climb into the receding
snowline. At first, islands of mud and dead grass can still be
seen amongst the white, but soon even those are swallowed in the
icy landscape. Shortly after crossing the threshold of winter,
we arrive at the turnoff for our second destination.
The road into
sprawling Bonneville Campground, and at its far end, the
trailhead we are seeking, is blocked by a Forest Service gate.
We’ll have to hike from highway to hot spring, an endeavor
suiting us just fine. Long walks tend to keep others away, and
with no other vehicles around, the bathhouse should be all ours.
We load a daypack with towels, a small lunch, and drinking
water. There will be no need for swimsuits this time.
After a slow and
slippery hike along an ice-encrusted trail, Bonneville hot
spring greets us with a faint smell of sulfur. As we drop from
the hillside path into a narrow meadow just above a cold creek,
the ice and snow vanish and we are left standing on damp grass.
Beneath our feet, geothermal water heats the entire plateau with
enough energy to keep the ground clear year round.
lowest pools, the availability of a creek-side soak depends on
the time of year. During spring runoff, the hot springs are
swamped and cleaned. As the creek recedes, pools become
available, but over the course of several months grow to be
ridden with algae, spiders, and dead minnows. Thank God for the
Built on a rise above the creek, and just below one of the more
voluminous geothermal flows, is a ramshackle wooden structure
surrounding an actual bathtub. Through a couple of crusty pipes,
gravity feeds separately heated streams from the originating
seeps straight into the tub. Like a real bath, controlling the
soaking temperature is done by manipulating the flow of either
We head straight for
the shack and deposit our packs outside the door. Although empty
of people, someone has left the tell-tale calling card of empty
beer cans. Compared to the typical littering devastation we find
at hot springs, this refuse is mild.
“These idiots can
carry full ones in, but not empty ones out,” I say, shaking my
head in disgust. Like an old friend, I feel the rage well in my
“Don’t let it get to
you,” Jamie says, running a hand over my shaved scalp as if
trying to sooth an angry dog.
We crush the cans and place them in
the outside pocket of our backpack. After bagging the rest of
the trash, Jamie and I undress and wedge into the tub for our
civic minded reward. The two of us barely fit, but soon find a
position in which both of us can relax and let the hot water
work its magic. The steam builds inside the small shack until we
are lapping in the luxury of a hot tub and mild sauna at the
I lay back taking
note of the dates and initials carved into the wooden walls,
most surrounded by a crudely shaped heart. The oldest date I
find is 1980; I can’t believe this flimsy structure has lasted
30 Idaho winters. I also find myself wondering how many of the
couples are still together. Between the soothing heat and
hypnotic trickle of water, I close my eyes. Forgetting about
those who came before, I nod off only vaguely aware of Jamie’s
head on my chest as she too slips into a level of contentment
bordering on unconsciousness.
Eventually, we are
forced to remove ourselves from the therapeutic bath. We open
the door to let steam escape before drying and getting dressed.
Jamie hands me strips of jerky while we lethargically lace our
boots and take in the isolated surroundings. Even during winter,
I am constantly surprised we don’t find more backcountry
travelers taking advantage of the fact Idaho has more geothermic
pools than all our neighboring states combined.
Jamie and I return
to the truck and debate whether to drive on or locate another
campsite. The temperature is already dropping, so we decide to
find the closest available site. We locate a large primitive
camp almost immediately after returning to the highway and Jamie
selects a spot close to the river. While she unrolls our bed, I
pick through tree wells for a meager load of dry wood, pine
needles, and brown moss.
I build a small fire
and attempt to coax Jamie into trying a chilidog instead of her
usual no-frills hotdog. I guess she had a bad experience as a
youngster and never gave the dish another chance. Finally
relenting to the peer-pressure, my wife agrees to sample the
classic culinary delight.
“You sure know how to show a woman a
good time,” she says doing her best hillbilly impression. “I'm
surprised you ain't fryin' up road kill on a hubcap.”
“Yeah, well this
trip isn’t over yet,” I retort.
As predicted, the spicy chilidog is
a hit. Jamie wolfs through a second portion as quickly as I do,
a rare feat in our house. Climbing into the frozen bed after
supper, she jokingly laments the lost time in her life that
could have been spent eating chilidogs.
We awake at the first hint of light
to a shrill chattering. On the spruce next to the truck bed's
sliding window is a gray squirrel vocalizing his discontent to
the entire forest. After the long string of what has to be
expletives, he fixes us with a menacing cock-eyed stare and then
vanishes up the trunk. A moment later there is a loud “thunk” on
the shell overhead. The little bastard is dropping pinecones on
we're up already,” I snarl and detach myself from the layers of
warmth. There is no evidence of the delicate frosty kingdom from
the morning before. Before going to bed, we opened the side
windows to allow the condensation from our moist breath a chance
to escape. The squirrel descends into sight once again and
unleashes another barrage of insults before racing up the tree
and into his hole.
The skies hold as we
travel up and over Banner Summit. Coming down the other side
offers a panoramic view of the distant and snow covered Sawtooth
and White Cloud Mountains, as well as the expansive meadows
bordering each side of the highway. By the time we reach the
snowed-in turnoff to Stanley Lake, both of us feel the need to
remove ourselves from the vehicle and exercise. Pulling over, we
prepare a lunch, unpack our snowshoes, and agree to make the six
mile trek into the lake.
Stepping out of the
warm truck and into Stanley basin, we realize we are in another
climate, possibly on a different planet altogether. Against the
brilliant blue backdrop of sky, the bright sun offers no warmth.
Gusting winds tear across the snowfields peeling off the top
layer and sending it airborne in white tornados. Protected by
snowboarding gear and goggles, only my nose is exposed to the
elements. The inside of my nostrils seem to harden with every
breath of dry, frozen air.
In a world where
even the hardiest mammals have sense to flee the winters, we see
no wildlife other than the small, dark birds that inhabit this
region year round. The last snowstorm must have been one massive
dump of dry powder. Even in snowshoes, it’s like stepping
through a knee-deep sea of foam packing peanuts. Progress is
slow and we are sweating by the halfway point.
When we finally make
out a faint trace of the frozen shoreline through a gap in the
distant trees, Jamie and I give up on further progress.
Technically, at least our vision reached Stanley Lake. Ravenous
and thirsty, we sit on a fallen log and eat every snack in our
pack. We also drink what’s left of the water that hasn’t frozen
It isn't long before
inactivity has us feeling the biting cold, gusting winds finding
the tiniest seams in our clothing to send uncontrollable shivers
down our spines. We climb grudgingly to our feet.
“Sunbeam,” my wife
says, her worn expression vanishing in an instant.
It takes my weary
mind a moment to realize she is talking about our next stop. Ahh,
Sunbeam. One of my all-time favorite hot springs, at least when
it isn’t overrun with travelers. The very idea has me recharged
Despite the building
fatigue with each heavy step, the trek back feels more like a
struggle with anticipation than one of physical hardship. We
maintain an astonishing pace and in half the time it took to
walk in, we are back inside our vehicle to thaw once again.
“On to Stanley!”
Stanley, Idaho is the proverbial
Rocky Mountain town, located in the pristine wilderness of
central Idaho and serving as a gateway to the Sawtooth
Mountains, Frank Church Wilderness, and famous Salmon River of
No Return. This picturesque community, nestled between river and
mountains, is oftentimes referred to as the American Alps. The
towering and jagged southern skyline is arguably the most
impressive in the northwest.
We pass through the
small town with equal resolve to reach Sunbeam. Jamie and I
force ourselves to ignore the always intriguing outdoor retail
and rental shops lining the main strip. The variety of
activities offered by the nearby wilderness, unparalleled in the
lower 48, combined with the mighty Salmon ensures Stanley will
forever be a destination for those afflicted with adventurous
I have the pedal
down outside of town when I remember another hot spring. The
locals still refer to it as the “boat box” although there is
nothing currently boxy about it. On the outskirts of Stanley, a
gigantic wooden barrel sits beneath a boiling seep flowing from
the southern bank of the Salmon. There is a small pullout on the
highway just large enough for one vehicle to mark the location.
Because of its proximity to town, the big barrel is usually
Reading my mind,
Jamie asks, “What about the boat box?”
“Tomorrow,” I say. “If we don’t get
to Sunbeam tonight, I’m not sure we’ll make it at all.”
The highway is
endlessly winding as it follows the river and our anticipation
grows by the mile. Never smelling so good, we detect the strong
sulfuric aroma long before rounding the final bend. Looking like
we took a wrong turn into a dragon’s lair, our truck is
swallowed by a wall of billowing steam upon our arrival.
Sunbeam emerges from
its main vent 60 feet up the sloping hillside north of Highway
75, staining the rocks below in a cone shaped pattern of yellow
and orange from eons of accumulated algae. A culvert channels
the water beneath the road before fanning out across the
riverbank. As with Kirkham, there are a variety of pools at the
river’s edge changing almost daily due to runoff and
ever-present opposable thumbs. Unlike Kirkham, the water here
will scald flesh unless blended with the river.
figure-eight, the two main pools sit next to each other;
channels of geothermic water, and a stream of diverted river,
mix in one and flow into the other. These two soakers are a
constant amongst the perpetually rearranged shoreline. Swinging
into the parking lot, we notice a small group of people with
fishing poles standing in the larger pool. Rubber pants cover
their lower halves. What the hell? Who stands in a hot spring
Screw it. Sometimes, the world of
soaking calls for a little aggressiveness. We'll take the
smaller pool. They can just stand there and watch. While my wife
readies the usual supplies, plus a plastic jug of wine, I change
into my swimsuit and step outside to claim our territory. The
digital thermometer in our truck shows an outside temperature of
zero degrees and the cold rips through my bare torso; the slight
midday breeze feels like sharp icicles raking my skin. Already
shivering, I close in on the fishermen. They are three kids and
what looks like their grandfather. All four watch my approach
with curious expressions.
“I don't think you can lie down
in...” a boy with blond hair begins to say as I make three quick
hops on dry stones across a boiling stream.
“Oh, sure you can.” I reply as I
step around them and flop my body into the lower soak. It’s a
slight gamble on my part, not checking the water before diving
in, but I'm fairly certain it’s safe, and besides, it makes me
look tough in front of the tourists. They stare in surprise as I
submerge myself within the rock walls. The water is extremely
hot, but not intolerable. Compared to the biting cold, even the
receding pins-and-needles sensation of thawing flesh feels like
paradise. I offer the gawkers a victorious grin.
Jamie arrives wearing a plush hooded
robe concealing her face. She carries a white bag with strange
black symbols all over it. The markings are actually legendary
Wyoming cattle brands, but our neighbors must think my wife is
some sort of hot spring druid, here to practice crazy rituals in
the reek of hellish brimstone. Setting the bag on a dry rock,
she throws off the purple robe revealing her lean, tattooed body
clad in skimpy black bikini. Slipping into the pool, Jamie winks
at me before wincing slightly from the burn. I almost laugh as
the elderly gentleman stammers a halfhearted, “Guess we ought to
Rounding up their tackle boxes, the two brothers and their
younger sister stare back at Sunbeam's free glory with envious
eyes. The last thing I hear as they make their way up the trail
is the blond boy saying to his siblings, “We should have brought
from our snowshoeing adventure, and now subjected to the
soothing sounds of the Salmon, Jamie and I drift off into a
divine coma where we are conscious of our surroundings, but feel
paralyzed from the neck down. The dozen or so nagging aches from
injuries over the years dissipate into a memory of when I could
play all day without breaking down.
At some point during
the steamy dream, we pound the wine and eat apples with sliced
cheese before melting back into the water. We are dimly aware of
the occasional passing car, but not a single one stops. Our luck
is holding. However, in the back of our minds, we know we'll
soon have to stand up soaking wet in arctic conditions, the cold
hovering over us like an evil presence biding its time. Three
hours after first slipping into the priceless soak, and feeling
more malleable than boiled hotdogs, my wife and I are ready to
face that reality.
Standing up, and in a split second,
dropping the outside temperature by over a hundred degrees has a
profound effect on my wet and mostly naked body. It feels like
having a severe sunburn blanketing my skin and being slapped
everywhere at once. The icy air feels as if it could freeze my
lungs solid in mid-breath. Gnawing into our flesh, the
undisputed king of winter sens us scurrying for the truck where
we must frantically dig through Jamie's branded bag for keys.
Our panicked haste and fumbling fingers only prolong the
suffering, but we finally manage to work the lock and jump
inside the cab.
We scramble into clothes and the
heater starts pumping hot air just before the chronic shivering
and tense muscles set in. Soon we are relaxed once again, able
to stare out into the frigid scene without feeling its sharp
teeth. Between the soak and the hike, Jamie and I are spent. We
decide to drive back towards Stanley and stay the night at
Mormon Bend campground. Normally, we wouldn’t consider the
developed site, but the extent of our evening’s plans consist of
eating leftover pizza from our cooler and then burying ourselves
deep in bed before the nighttime temps become unbearable.
When our bodies
begin to feel as if they are developing bed sores, we cautiously
emerge from our frosted, fiberglass cocoon and take note of the
grey skies. We might see a storm today. The truck’s digital
clock indicates we have slept until noon. I feel like a stiff
bear trying to shake the atrophy of hibernation. With numb,
clumsy fingers I make coffee on our propane stove. With caffeine
pumping through my veins with warming, waking goodness, I feel
“How about we check
the Boat Box this morning… er, afternoon?” I ask.
“I was just going to suggest the
remarkable streak of good fortune, there is nobody parked at the
Boat Box. However, as we pull in, we notice the old barrel has
been replaced. This already misnamed hot spring is now not only
not a box, but the “box” has been replaced by a colossal metal
cauldron looking like something straight out of a witch’s lair.
I can imagine carrots, onions, and human appendages floating in
the giant pot.
“What the hell is
this thing?” I ask.
Jamie shrugs. “I
think it’s an ore bucket they once used in mines, but if the old
barrel was always too hot, what’s this gonna be like?”
“I don’t know. Just
how badly do you want to stew in rusty metal,” I say, eyeballing
the soaker suspiciously. Already shivering in the freezing
breeze, Jamie nods her head in agreement.
“Yeah, I don’t think
I’m climbing in there.”
The volatile nature of geothermal
flows, and the unpredictable human hands constantly manipulating
those springs, means every trip to one is subject to surprise
and sometimes, disappointment. All too often, efforts made to
improve hot springs only wind up compromising the quality of the
soak, or ruining one altogether. Feeling slightly defeated, we
retreat to our truck, where Jamie throws a curveball into our
want to go sledding and get dinner somewhere other than our
cooler, and then I want to reserve a room at the Mountain
Village Resort. It has its own hot spring, so we wouldn't be
cheating... that much”
I immediately recognize the plan as
a cop out, but can't say I didn't plant the thought in her mind.
It's the last night of our vacation and we deserve to spoil
ourselves after all this camping in hostile conditions.
“Yeah, back by Stanley Lake turnoff;
on that hill we walked back on. Perfect spot and we have the
She’s right. We do have a child’s plastic sled we occasionally
use for pulling gear through the snow. Why not? For the next two
hours, Jamie and I are kids again. It takes a few runs to get
the dry powder compact enough to form solid runs, but once it
does, the red toboggan flies down the sunken channel. The
challenge, we discover, is staying anchored to a sled designed
for much smaller bodies as it hits bumps at high speeds.
Eventually, our snow pants begin to soak through and we are
exhausted from climbing the small hill.
Back at the truck,
we change into our cold weather gear most resembling normal
clothes and drive back to Stanley in search of a restaurant. We
choose the diner closest to the hotel so Jamie can secure
reservations while we wait for food. Between drinks of amber ale
and bites of cheeseburger, Jamie informs me our room is
reserved, as well as the latest timeslot for the private soak.
“Nice work,” I say.
“Oh, and I also reserved the first
available soak in the morning at seven.”
“Seven? Why'd you do that? I'm
getting used to sleeping 'til noon.”
By the time our scheduled hour
arrives, we are chomping at the bit, spurred on by free hotel
coffee. Jamie returns from the office with a key tied to a stick
and we set out, each carrying a towel and bathrobe. I also hold
another plastic jug of red wine. While walking, we take note of
an unsettling energy, a sense of building static in the dead
air. The eerie calm defies roiling pink clouds descending over
the basin, lights from Stanley setting off the approaching mass
in vivid highlights.
A quarter mile from
the hotel, at the edge of an otherwise deserted meadow, there is
what looks like a small barn built over the cemented pool.
Double doors swing open to reveal what is usually a stunning
scene of river, meadow, and mountain. As we unlatch the heavy
doors, a sudden wind tears them from our grip and we notice the
clouds have swallowed the distant silhouette of the Sawtooths.
The first thick flakes of the snowstorm charge through the
opening only to be met with instantaneous death on the surface
of the pool. We secure the doors with heavy rocks, rip off our
clothes, and plunge into the steaming water.
superheated ecstasy, we watch the storm descend over our
shelter. Impervious to nature’s fury, we welcome her arrival
with a toast of wine. Few sensations compare to the synergistic
mix of a relaxing soak while chaotic weather rages overhead. In
the middle of a blizzard, shutoff from the rest of the world, my
wife and I have discovered our natural element. We are home.
Our soak drags on past the scheduled
hour, but as the last time slot, the hotel owners don’t mind. We
wait for the storm to relent, but mother earth isn’t
cooperating. Eventually, Jamie and I emerge from the pool and
prepare for the quarter-mile trek across a windswept field of
sideways snow where we can’t even see the lights of our
destination. Neither of us cares. After drying off, we don only
our robes, fleece pants, and boots for the walk back.
This time, both of
us look like hooded druids as we set out for the hotel. Wind
whips snow all around and visibility outside of a ten foot
radius is virtually impossible. I can barely see my wife
floating through the whiteout in front of me. Wrapped up tight
in my robe, I hardly feel the freezing Stanley night. I am warm
inside and overjoyed to be out in the storm.
“I don’t wanna go
back!” I shout over the wind. Jamie stops and I almost walk into
“You should have
thought of that before. Besides, we have to give the key back.”
“No, I mean, I don’t want to go home
My lovely wife
smiles. “Me neither, but we still have our morning soak. And
maybe we can hit Kirkham again on the drive back. Who knows,
maybe we’ll see our wolf.”
I grin wildly, buzzed on adrenaline
and wine. “If we do, you and I are running off with it and
forming our own pack.”
Jamie laughs as I throw back my head
and howl into the storm. Our vacation has seen us endure a
barrage of fluctuating temperatures, experience private
extravagances, stare unflinchingly into the eyes of Idaho’s most
brutal winter climate, and from it all, emerge revitalized, if
not victorious. Another hot spring break may be nearing its end,
but knowing us, we’ll have next year’s itinerary worked out
before we even get home.