Why Move To Idaho?
Home to just over 200,000 residents, the city is the most populated in the state but barely breaks the top 100 of populated cities in the United States. This creates a phenomenal atmosphere of laid back city life, as even in the middle of downtown, the city never seems chaotic. The downtown neighborhood hosts a booming food and bar scene, with 8th Street being the epicenter. Last night, my first full night as an Idahoan, I enjoyed half-off top shelf Tequila Tuesday and tasty nachos at The Matador. But to get there, I walked by about 50 new and trendy looking restaurants that should keep me busy eating and drinking for the next couple of years. But, as testament to the perfect mix of urban and nature that Boise is, the city is flanked by the beautiful Boise Mountains to the North and the Boise River, which runs right through the city. Along the river, a 25-mile walking and biking path known as the Boise Greenbelt can provide an outdoor escape for even the busiest of city folk. There is a reason why Boise was named the sixth best city to live in by Conde Nast Traveler, and I am quickly agreeing with their verdict. And I would be lying if I didn’t say part of my decision was financially based. Check out buildings like the 110-year-old historic Owyhee. They have some of the nicest apartments in Boise, and even then, they are still a fraction of the cost I was paying in San Francisco.
The wilderness of Idaho is nearly unparalleled by any other U.S. State. At the top of the heap is the 2.3 million acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area, which is the largest area of protected wilderness in the continental United States. Jagged mountains, roaring rapids, canyons and lakes consume the state, providing endless adventure for outdoor enthusiasts and photographers. With all the unspoiled wilderness, it may come as a shock to learn that Idaho is the only US state without a National Park, although the federal government has tried, most recently with the White Cloud wilderness area. Thomas Stanford, a state lawmaker said in the 1920’s “The creation of such a National Park would not add one speck to the beauty of nature’s work.”
107,651 miles of rivers snake through the Idaho wilderness, with each one as visually breathtaking as the next. Many of these rivers are home to some powerful rapids in the spring and summer months, making Idaho an ideal location to test your white water rafting skills. But even without the rapids, the countless rivers make for great photography during any season, as well as a nice recreational break during the hot summer months, as locals descend to the rivers for swimming and rafting.
Mountains, mountains, mountains. They are everywhere in Idaho and are some of the most impressive and photogenic in the entire country. As a photographer, I find no other scene as visually appealing as snow capped mountains and I plan to photograph as many Idaho ranges and peaks as I can in the coming years. The famous Rocky Mountains also run through eastern Idaho, providing countless hiking and photography opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
The Beer & The Food
Speaking of beer, Idaho is in the midst of a brewing renaissance. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my month long road trip through the state was trying as many craft beers as possible at the cool looking breweries that have a friendly, laid back vibe and tasty food. Idahoans love their beer, and the brewmasters take great pride in the quality of their product. My two favorite breweries so far were Sawtooth Brewery in Sun Valley and Salmon River Brewery in McCall. I didn’t try nearly enough my first time I was here, so I better start tasting some of the local Boise breweries!
The Snowboarding & Skiing
I have been snowboarding for 20 years now, and there are few activities I enjoy more than flying down a mountain through soft fresh powder. I was spoiled when I got my first taste of Idaho snowboarding. Nonstop early winter storms gave me plenty of powder days as I rode the mountains in Sun Valley and Schweitzer Mountain. Sun Valley is a popular vacation destination year round and is perhaps the best-known location in Idaho. The main town of Ketchum houses great restaurants (and that awesome Sawtooth Brewery!) so there is plenty to do when the chairlifts stop running. Schweitzer Mountain Resort, located just 60 miles from the Canadian border, has the most rideable terrain of any mountain in Idaho, and I covered every inch of it while experiencing daily fresh powder for over a week. The resort itself is a mini town with condos, lively bars, and delicious restaurants. But the mountain sits just 30 minutes from Sandpoint, a quirky and super fun town that sits on the shores of Idaho’s biggest body of water, Lake Pend Oreille. While in town, grab a burger and a beer at either Eichardts or MickDuff’s before heading to a show at the infamous (and newly renovated) music venue, The Hive. And of course, living in downtown Boise affords me the luxury of having a pretty incredible ski mountain, Bogus Basin, just 18 miles up the road. The convenient location lets me tackle fresh tracks in the morning, and be back in my home office sending emails and editing photos by lunch time.
The Road Trips
I love road trips. I thrive off of them. Either by myself or with friends, I am usually most happy while getting lost on some desolate road in the middle of nowhere. And Idaho was made for road trips. For a photographer, it can be both a blessing and a curse, however, as you will find yourself stopping every five minutes as another dramatic landscape appears around every bend. Not only is Idaho a perfect and beautiful location to road trip, but the entire Pacific Northwest region is equally as adventurous and beautiful. Idaho’s immediate neighbors include Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Alberta, Canada (home to Banff) so the photography and opportunity to get lost on the road is no better than in Idaho.
Granted, I explored Idaho in the cold winter months, but from what I hear, even during the summer, it’s not hard to find your own little slice of outdoor heaven, as tourism here still is not as busy as some of the above-mentioned neighboring states. I found the solitude welcoming and therapeutic, and it allowed me to also concentrate on my photography without having to worry about others.