Westward Ho

Overheard at the Boise Airport Avis car rental counter:

RR: Hi, we have a rental car reservation.

Dippy girl behind counter: Ok, you can have either a Saturn Ion or a mini-van.

RR: Uh, no. We pre-paid for a full-size car through Priceline. Here's the receipt.

Dippy girl behind counter (while fumbling through various keys in the drawer): Um, OK. How about a Chrysler Sebring convertible?

RR: Sweet. We'll take it. Bah bye.

And so began our return to the Pacific Northwest, a place we lived for several years back in the day and a place we've since returned to often for rafting trips, hunting trips, and just disappear trips. For the next several postings, you'll ride shotgun in the RR convertible and visit places known, places unknown, and places long forgotten. We'll cross over the alpine headwaters of major rivers and pass through dusty desolate desert outposts onward to salty ocean fishing villages. We'll visit sun-kissed ski towns for the rich and beautiful, old gold mines far off the map where the only inhabitants are dead miners with fading wooden grave markers, and secret places known only to locals with well-worn leather boots.

Little will slow us down. The only road hazard will be the many lightning-strike fires which have burned hundreds of thousands of forest acres this summer, and will likely keep burning until the snow begins to fall in a month or two. The mountain skyline was often obscured from all directions by an omnipresent smoky haze, further excerbated by a low system from Canada which allowed nightly inversions to perpetuate the condition day after day.

These fires kept us from getting into a couple of remote backwoods locations, but made for interesting sunsets, to say the least. As seen here at dusk in Stanley, Idaho (population 170), one of our favorite mountain towns in the region, where thankfully the Black Butte Porter tap at the Mountain View Lodge continued to pour despite the ever-present threat of fire.

As we headed south over Galena Summit (elevation 8,701 feet), en route to Sun Valley, the smoke began to wane and the sky returned to a familiar Idaho cobalt blue. Here's how the drive looked with the top down, as we descended through lodgepole pine forest at Mach III speed. Buckle up.

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