Not quite name brand destinations

I harbor a deep wanderlust—an inclination that COVID has strictly constrained. 

My desire to travel and experience all this world has to offer has found me backpacking through Italy, hiking through Costa Rican rainforests, catching ferries in the Puget Sound and taking trains through Switzerland. Now, cooped up in quarantine reminiscing past journeys and planning for the future, I have some travel advice: 

While it’s easy to fall enamored with the way a place like Paris slips off your tongue, becoming trapped in the allure of “brand name” destinations denies us the beauty of the lesser known.  That’s why you should take a trip to Idaho.

Honestly, any seemingly mundane destination can be approached with the expectation and awe of a city like Paris, but today, I’m going to pitch Idaho.

When I bring up travelling to Idaho to an Oklahoman, I get one of a few responses: “Udaho!”, “you must really love potatoes” or, simply, “why?”

Let me tell you right now, Idaho is a hidden gem.

Reminiscent of Colorado and Washington, it’s home to peaked mountain ranges, glacial lakes and stunning national parks. Plus, it's not an expensive tourist trap.

Idaho is rich with a type of quiet magic that soothes the soul.

My last trip to Idaho found me chasing the sunset on the back of a snowmobile in Island Park, Idaho. The scent of evergreen pines overwhelmed me as I gasped for breath while carrying my bags into the small Lincoln-log style cabin. Sitting just around 7,000ft in elevation, I had a little bit of an excuse to be out of breath.

Walking back outside, I sunk into fresh confectioner sugar snow. 

Tall snowcapped peaks and dense forests shrouded my every view, much unlike the flat plains of Oklahoma. A lazy river babbled to my left, carrying swans and crystal clear glacier water. The wind chill bragged a low of 20 degrees.

The list of outdoor adventure opportunities and possible activities in Idaho, particularly during winter months, is extensive. It includes skiing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, fly fishing, and hiking, just to name a few. Considering I had approximately 48 hours of sunlight to spend in Island Park, my list was narrower. I exclusively snowmobiled.

Low-key, snowmobiling is a sub culture in the Northwest. There are entire restaurants nestled deep in the woods that cater exclusively to the groups of snowmobilers that traverse the area—access by car isn’t an option.

In my group of seven “sleds,” we followed one another through the thick evergreen forests to waterfalls, hot springs, and mountain tops.

Bundled in long johns, sweats, snow bibs, sweatshirts, head socks, heavy coats, and gloves, the arctic air didn’t bother me. The adrenaline of flying across frozen lakes and through thickets at up to 80mph is enough to keep anyone warm.

Over the course of two days, our group of seven traveled nearly 100 miles through western Yellowstone, Idaho and Montana. 

Idaho is a hidden gem, a closeted Colorado.

Unless you’re a resident or a friend of a resident, most people have no clue to its raw beauty. Idaho may not sound as alluring as Switzerland, but it’s a hell of a lot closer and cheaper. If you’re an outdoorsy, nature-lover, you have to give Idaho a try.