Farmland stretches as far as the eye can see, and it isn’t uncommon to come across a desolate wooden structure, sagging into the soft earth. Most of these ancient houses are abandoned; yet remain on the property like prized antiques. These heirlooms are full of character and history, and I find myself filling the doorways with stories of the lives that once passed through them. It becomes a mysterious and romantic tale of the land.
While I don’t know what they are at first, we experience the sight of potato shelters for the first time, the mounds of green with little doorways look like large gnome homes. After passing many more of these earthen warehouses, we find ourselves at another National Historic Landmark. This one is the World’s First Nuclear Power Plant and free tours are given daily. To be honest, I’m a little hesitant about taking a tour so we choose instead to visit the fire and ice caves of Craters of the Moon National Monument instead. We climb in and out of black lava caves and without warning the sky changes above us. In fact, we quickly learn that the Idaho clouds are predictably unpredictable. Each day brings another unique, and illusive sky. It seems that between lightning storms and sudden hail showers, the ever-changing world above becomes an endless canvas of wonder. One minute, pink rays fan from the burning orange sun. Eight hours later, light cuts through the veiling clouds, creating a dark and ominous ceiling.
In Soda Springs we learn that settlers drilled for hot water but only ended up with a man-made, cold-water geyser. While it wasn’t exactly what they were looking for, more interesting is the fact that the geyser began throwing off the timing of the world famous “Old Faithful.” Finally, the government forced the town to cap their spewing spring, only allowing it to go off on an hourly timer. This is just another example of how everything in this beautiful land is connected… to work in harmony or against it.
Entering Idaho, we had no idea that we would find the most serene breath of fresh air that this country has offered us. Just north of Ketchum and Sun Valley at Sawtooth National Rec Area, surrounded by white mountains, Alfonso and I set up the tent in a bed of daisies. We spend the day exploring the swollen river next to our free camp retreat. There are tree bridges, mushrooms, mountains, bones, and the crisp air is insect free. The water is ice cold, but I decide to board my bed mat to ride down the mini rapids. The inflatable mattress doesn’t hold me up as much as fold me up under my weight and the numbing water, while shallow enough to stand up in, is pulling faster than I predicted. As the current drags me down stream, I laugh a bit at first, but then when I attempt to stand and can’t find my footing, I start to question my spontaneous plan. The tree dam in front of me, is riddled with sharp limbs so while I am able to straddle a fallen tree, sitting upon it, I’m afraid to move. To my right, water crashes into my body. To my left, a six-foot deep whirlpool leads out into an assemblage of logs and limbs. I am facing the bank and in front of me, Alfonso has thrown down the video camera to reach for my hand.
“Just let go,” yells my husband. Terrified, I finally listen. Instead of falling over the edge, he pulls me onto shore. Of course this isn’t the first time he has had to save me from one of my “brilliant ideas,” so we finish the evening roasting marshmallows on the fire, and relive the adventure at my expense. The next day, Alfonso ventures down river and comes across one of my sandals that has washed up onto shore. We spend almost four (or so) days of our week in this amazing landscape. There are patches of snow to store our drinks and we warm water in the sun for showering. I paint the entire Wyoming painting in plein air and then inside the tent during the random hail storms. It is time to leave so we pack up again. We place “Much Like a Fairy Tale” on display at a gallery on display in Coeur d’Alene and head toward another state border. We promise each other that we will return, but until then, a glimpse of this beauty will be forever captured in paint with the piece titled “My Own Private Idaho.” This becomes one of my favorite paintings in the series and it sells quickly to a private collector.