Category: Daytripper

Yellow Pine Harmonica Festival 

This annual festival, held in Yellow Pine (population 40), is a three day affair beginning Friday, August 5. While DAY-trips by definition are there and back during daylight hours, hardcore mouthharp fans may consider camping out all weekend. If you had to pick one day, go for Saturday’s full lineup. You might miss the pancake breakfast, but get an early start to make it for the beginning of the harmonica contest at 9 a.m. The whole event has open mikes, harmonica lessons (if you don’t know the difference between a chromatic and a diatonic harp) and contests in a variety of categories. What’s unique about this festival is that competitors who make more than 50 percent of their income from playing the harmonica professionally are not allowed to compete, which amounts to about three or four people in the world. Some events at the festival charge admission and there’s really too much to do in one day. ( for all the information (including camping) that you’ll need.)

But it’s about the destination, not the journey. From Boise, go north on Highway 55 to Cascade. In Cascade, get gas-there will be no more! Turn east on Warm Lake Road looping around Warm Lake on Forest Road 579. These are mountain roads so take it slow and easy. If you want, take a dip in the lake as a nice rest stop, but we’ve heard the leeches are a little bad this year, so bring some salt.

When Forest Road 579 ends at Johnson Creek Road (FR 413), go north (left) until you get to Yellow Pine. There is a short cut on FR 467 but it is listed as an unimproved road. Inquire locally about road conditions if you are concerned. Mapquest says this 130-mile journey from downtown Boise will take a little over four hours to get there, but with sight-seeing and rest stops, we say take a little time to enjoy yourself.

Returning to Boise, take a different route east out of Yellow Pine on the East Fork Road (FR 48) along the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River, which would take you back to McCall. But when you get to FR 674, where the river joins the main South Fork of the Salmon, go upstream like the Chinook do until you return to Warm Lake. Along the way, take a dip in the river in one of the many swimming holes or stop by the Mile-16 hot springs for a soak.


A Trip Through Basque Sheep Country 

One of the things associated with Basques in the Great Basin over the last century is sheepherding. Throughout Eastern Oregon, Northwestern California, Central and Northern Nevada, Utah and Southern Idaho, Basque men have been tending to their flocks in the mountains in summer and driving them to lower elevations in the winter. This time of year would have found Basque herders in the Stanley Basin, which, if you look around, you can still find a few sheepherders today, sheparding sheep in much the same way they did 80 years ago.

The best way to see Idaho through their eyes is with a road trip that begins in Boise. And your eyes will see the country in much the same way they did. All throughout the Treasure Valley and Magic Valley-cities like Caldwell, Mountain Home, Emmett, Marsing, Boise, Twin Falls, Burns, Nampa and others-communities were settled by Basques. While the families mostly stayed put, the men often worked the flocks.

Travel east on I-84 to Mountain Home, then a left turn at Bliss on to Highway 26 will take you to Gooding and Shoshone. For most Basques, Shoshone was their first stop, as it was the drop-off point in Idaho for Westbound railroads coming from the East Coast.

From Shoshone, drive North on Highway 75 to Hailey, Ketchum and then over Galena Summit to Stanley. This is the route the herds would take in the spring, each seeking out lush mountain meadows and grasses to eat. Ketchum still celebrates in the fall with a “running of the sheep” festival as the herds come down out of the mountains.

Basque sheepherders would set up camp in these high valleys, a favorite among groves of Aspen, places that usually had water and plenty of grass. There, to while away the hours they often carved into the trunks of trees. Today, in hundreds of locations around the West, these carvings, called arbor glyphs, can still be seen. They vary in their forms, from simple graffiti with names and dates, to poems, to notes left for other herders, and, probably because sheepherding is a lonley pursuit, carvings of naked women, sometimes engaged in lewed acts.

Unless you know exactly where some arbor glyphs are, it might be a scavenger hunt, but worth the effort if you find one.

Take a left at Stanley onto Highway 21 and continue on over Banner Summit toward Lowman. Consider a stop at Bonneville Hot Springs or even Sacajawea Hot Springs. Then either continue up and over Moore’s Creek Summit to Idaho City, or the less curvey and tamer trip to Garden Valley and Banks, where one meets up with Highway 55. From there, it’s less than an hour back to Boise. Either return trip takes you through areas that were prime Basque sheep grazing. And who knows, you just might find an aspen with an arbor glyph.

The Hills are Alive 

With as much rain as Southwest Idaho has received in recent weeks, it’s amazing to see the green hills instead of the pale brown most Treasure Valley residents are used to. When you get up close, you might even notice that the wild flowers like it, too. We think it’s time for a drive along the South Fork of the Boise River!

Our recommended “green” road trip will have you putting on your lederhosen and singing like Julie Andrews as you drive up Black’s Creek Road past Three Point mountain and into the canyon of the South Fork of the Boise River. This dirt road is fine for all makes and models, just take it a little slow so you can enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature.

Drive up out of the canyon on over to Prarie, then make your way back down to Cow Creek Road. That will take you back out to Highway 20 and Mountain Home. Take your Idaho Atlas and Gazetteer, but don’t worry if you get lost … you’re on an adventure. If you want, take your fishing stuff and stop for a while on the river.