Idaho has some lovely small towns settled along the inland lakes and extremely small farm towns hidden around the rest of the state. I first spent some time in Sandpoint which seems like a great place to take a family lake vacation. I had an excellent campsite right on the shores of the lake at Springy State Park. The downtown area was small but seemed to have a nice gathering of eclectic shops and restaurants. Unfortunately everything except a couple restaurants were closed Saturday night and the shops I was interested in were closed Sunday morning. So I didn't get to experience the town like I would have liked to.
A similar town further south, Coeur d’ Alene, has a larger downtown corresponding with a larger lake. The city has a bike path and trails along the lake and has an immaculate park on the lake’s edge. The population is largely retirement aged and the numerous huge high rise condos cater to that demographic. It seemed like a great place to live, but for me it was too manicured and the high rises were eyesores.
Another high-light of the trip was Craters of the Moon National Monument. It’s a large section of the desert covered completely with lava flow from fissure releases that occurred about 2,000 years ago. The lava rocks are still large and solid. It was really neat to have a campsite bordered by nothing but huge black lava rock. The landscape was otherworldly, especially at night when the sky glowed purple and the stars came out in a sky so clear I could see the milky way for the first time in years. I imagined getting an Airstream trailer and raising lamas in the middle of the desert … but then I realized there’d be nothing for the lamas to eat.
In the morning I took to some of the trails in the park. The best are the caves created when the upper layers of lava cooled and solidified before the lower depths cooled. The thing I regret the most so far on this trip is that I didn’t read the brochures before and didn’t bring a flashlight to explore the caves. I just expected that they wouldn’t allow people to explore alone. I went down as far as I could before things got pitch black. It was so cold that there was still some snow left in the caves despite it being 90 degrees above. I love the way that everywhere the lava is textured and is frozen in its flowing patterns and is sometimes ribboned like pulled taffy.