The last time that I visited my son Mickey was in 2015. We did a road trip together and had a lot of fun. We went to a Brewers game in Atlanta. We saw a Rush concert in Tampa. We toured Kennedy Space Center. We visited Ft. Sumter. And we had a generally good time hanging out in Charleston. Since it had been so long since we had seen each other I talked to him about coming to visit Boise this summer. We were able to work it out and he and his girlfriend Allie planned a trip for the end of August. I was anxious to see him again and looked forward to meeting Allie.
Naturally the first thing that we did when they got to Boise was...leave town. Allie had never been west of the Mississippi before and had not seen real mountains. I figured that the Sawtooths would be a good introduction for her. I booked a night for the three of us at Redfish Lake Lodge, one of my favorite places in the mountains.
We took our time on the drive up to Stanley. We stopped at viewpoints along the South Fork of the Payette River to enjoy the scenery. At Kirkham we walked down to the river to check out the hot springs. We took pictures at Stanley Lake, one of the best viewpoints for the Sawtooths. I think that Allie was suitably impressed by the Idaho mountains.
Normally on a trip to the Sawtooths I would have had a hike planned, but not this time. Mickey still has trouble sometimes with strenuous activities like hiking since his surgery last year. He can get really bad headaches. So instead Mickey and Allie rented kayaks and went paddling around the lake for a while. It's certainly a beautiful setting for it. Meanwhile I walked along the lakeshore. I took the opportunity to stop at the Forest Service Visitor Center. Even though it is close to the lodge, when I come up to hike I usually head directly to the trailhead. I even found Dog Beach, where it is ok for dogs to be off leash and play in the lake. Unfortunately one of the few things I don't like about Redfish Lake Lodge is that they don't allow pets, but here was an Abby-friendly spot nearby.
That evening we went to the Bridge Street Grill in Lower Stanley. It was a beautiful evening and we had dinner on the patio with a great view of the Salmon River and the Sawtooths. Our food was good but the waitress was rather strange. She told us a long story about how the management mistreated her, something about her being sick and throwing up blood and still having to come in to work.
That is definitely not a story that you want to hear while you are eating, especially at a restaurant.
After dinner we had a beer (ok, a couple of beers) at the Rustic Lounge, the bar at Redfish Lake Lodge. I especially appreciated the sign there banning the use of all electronic devices: phones, tablets and laptops. Good for them. You're in the wilderness. Act like it.
The next morning I got up early so I used the time to walk along the lakeshore before we left. The mountains across the lake were beautiful as always although there was a little bit of smoke this morning from forest fires to the north in the Gospel Hump Wilderness. Others were up early to enjoy the nice morning as well. Someone was playing fetch with their dog at Dog Beach, throwing a stick into the lake for the dog to get. Abby would have loved it.
We took the long way home, driving over Galena Summit. At 8,701 feet it's the highest elevation of any highway in the Northwest. We stopped at the viewpoint on the north side of the pass where we could see the whole Stanley Valley and the length of the Sawtooth Range. We stopped on the south side of the pass for the view of the Boulder Mountains and the Wood River Valley. Later we stopped in Ketchum to have lunch at The Burger Grill, eating out back on their patio in the warm sunshine.
Since Mickey is a beer aficianado, after lunch we stopped at Sawtooth Brewery to try some of their beers. Their brewery is actually in nearby Hailey but they had a tasting room and pub in Ketchum.
On the way home from Ketchum Mickey wanted to make one more stop, at Bruneau Dunes State Park. It features huge sand dunes that form along the Snake River. The highest is almost five hundred feet high. I hadn't been there for many years so I was up for it. We parked at the base of one of the dunes and Mickey tried climbing directly up the steepest slope. That turned out to be a lot harder than it looked so we quickly shifted to an easy slope to get to the top. We also stopped at the public observatory located in the park but it was closed up. They have public stargazing nights there much of the year. It's a good location because the skies are dark. One of these days I'll make it to one of their events.
Back in Boise, Mickey and Allie spent some time just visiting with us, some time visiting with his mom and some time exploring Boise. We did take one more excursion and this time Sandy came with us. We all drove out to Marsing to visit some local wineries and do some wine tasting. Allie was anxious to go. Even though Mickey is a beer guy, he was a good sport and came along.
We started with lunch at the Orchard House, a colorful country diner with a homey atmosphere and good food. It's become a regular stop for Sandy and I when we make a visit to any of the local wineries. On tripadvisor.com they rank #1 out of 71 restaurants in Caldwell. They are especially known for their desserts. They have delicious ice cream, fudge, and my personal favorite, pie. Their tshirts say "Keep your fork. There's pie." On this visit I made sure that I saved enough room to have cherry pie ala mode. And I kept my fork.
After lunch our first winery visit was at Ste. Chapelle. It's the largest winery in the state and probably produces more wine than all of the other fifty wineries in Idaho put together. I would have said that I wasn't that crazy about their wines. For that reason I hadn't been there for quite a while. But I was pleasantly surprised. I thought that their Chardonnay and their Sauvignon Blanc were both pretty good. We ended up buying a case of wine to take home.
After that we went Hat Ranch Winery, probably our favorite local winery. Finally we went to Williamson Orchards and Vinyards. That was a new one for Sandy and I - neither of us had been there before or tried their wines. Sandy must have liked it because she ended up joining their wine club.
The wine tasting excursion was successful. Mickey said that he had fun. Allie said that she was spoiled now and could never go back to her box wines. It was a good way to cap off a fun week.
It was time for them to head back. They had been watching the weather carefully all week in Boise because there was a possibility that Hurricane Irma would hit Charleston as a category 5 storm. It almost would have been better if they could have just stayed in Boise. Unfortunately they had left their dog and cats at home. Friends were stopping in to take care of them but that wouldn't be practical if the hurricane hit. So they had to head back just as the storm was approaching. They made it just in time to be ordered to evacuate. They picked up their pets and headed inland, finally finding a place they could stay near Nashville. Fortunately Irma never hit the Charleston area hard so they were able to return home after a couple of days. It was an exciting end to their trip and fortunately all turned out well.