We all have the place in Idaho…

Words and Photography by Kate Matthews

Every summer my son and I (along with Aunty Jamie who lives in NYC) unplug for as long as we dare and head north on Highway 21. After a hectic day of foraging the wilds of the Boise Co-op and Winco for sustenance, pillaging the Flying M for all it’s worth, and paying way too much to fill up the tank of my not-so-trusty Volvo we cross our fingers that we won’t need AAA, crank up the stereo and head for the hills.

Without question we always stop at Donna’s Place in Idaho City for chili-cheese dogs and milkshakes before weaving our way up and down again to Lowman where somehow, the stress of it all finally starts to slip away.

A few more miles and we start ticking off the mile markers to our favorite (undisclosed) swimming hole on the South Fork of the Payette River; a place we have ceremoniously dubbed The Kingdom of Feldspar.

Day or night, rain or shine – whenever we arrive we dive straight into the deep, cold, flowing waters of the South Fork of the Payette and I know with a singular clarity reserved only for this place, that I am home. We take our time. We swim, we float, we skip stones and stack rocks until the mounting hunger in our bellies pulls us out of the water and up the road to Jamie’s folks’ cabin, nestled behind Bonneville Hot Springs.

From there, the days spread out before us as we follow the flow of the river. Our ritualistic journey takes us on our annual pilgrimage to Grand Jean and the rustic Sawtooth Lodge, where the huckleberry-chocolate milkshakes can’t be beat. But really it’s Sacajawea Hot Springs that calls us home.

Sacajawea is an oasis in the truest sense of the word. Adjectives pale in comparison to the profound healing experience the waters of this place bring. This place, where the heat of the Earth comes into balance with the cold waters of the river and restores the harmony of nature. This place, where, as you lie back onto the rocks and soak in the pristine water as the golden sun dips behind the great pines and quaking Aspens, you are reborn.

Inevitably the days and nights begin to run together, and before you know it the time has come to once again bid farewell to the mountains and the Milky Way and head back home. A final plunge in the waters of the Kingdom of Feldspar forge a final and deep connection to the place; a connection that will sustain us until the next time, and will keep us coming back, year after year.