We’ve never spent time in Boise, but were anxious to visit Idaho’s largest city. We found a gem of a military campground, the National Guard’s Gowen Field, conveniently located on the back side of the airport and providing concrete pads with full hookups, and settled in for what became a two week stay. We were surprised at the size of the Boise metropolitan area; over 600,000 and growing. And no wonder – it’s a wonderful location at the base of the mountains with vibrant downtown, great city park system, and of course, the Boise State Bulldogs and their blue football field.
We had read about the Downtown Saturday Market, and with the temperatures in the 80s and a blue sky, headed downtown to pay a visit. Unlike so many downtown areas, Boise’s is bustling, especially on a Saturday. We found the market, a large area of vendors covering almost four blocks. There was a bit of everything, fresh vegetables and meats, cheeses, spices, flowers, and ohhhh, the baked goods! We loaded up on a variety of peppers, yellow tomatoes, and fresh baked bread, all at reasonable prices – what a great place! The tough part was selecting a restaurant for lunch. We finally settled on the Red Feather Lounge, winner of the “Best of Boise” for three years running. It’s the kind of place we love to visit, with an innovative menu unlike the typical chain restaurants. The food was wonderful. We resisted the intriguing desserts, although we almost broke down when we saw the Upside Down Caramel Corn Cake.
There’s so much to do in Boise – we visited the Idaho State Historical Museum (well done, lots of interesting exhibits), the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge (nice visitor center), and toured the Old Idaho Penitentiary. It was an interesting place to visit, and reminded us of the old prison we visited in Deer Lodge, Montana. Same sandstone walls, small, dingy cells, and depressing atmosphere. Here, though, there were interesting narratives of some of the more famous inmates that helped us understand the lives they lived and the crimes they committed.
We of course had to explore the surrounding mountains, and drove north to the towns of Idaho City and Lowman. Idaho city is a rustic and still active town; Lowman, not so much. Both were founded by miners looking for gold, and around Idaho City you can see the large piles of rocks left by the dredges. The Payette River runs through Lowman, another of the crystal-clear, tumbling rivers we’ve seen throughout this beautiful country. Continuing on past Lowman, we came upon the back side of the Sawtooth Mountains, decorated with the first snow of the year.
Back in Boise, we visited the World Center for Birds of Prey, an exceptional facility with an extensive collection of raptors, beautiful grounds, and a large visitor center. Many of the raptors here are not native to the “lower 48”, so it was a treat to see new birds. We especially liked the Aplomado Falcon and Gyrfalcon, but the Harpy Eagle really captured our attention. What an amazing face – it’s feathers look like an Indian headdress! (by the way, these are all live birds!)
We’re heading for our next stop in Reno/Sparks, so be sure check back and visit!