Stanley, Idaho -one special small town in the Sawtooths

We have just spent a lovely two days in Stanley, Idaho. Stanley is a town of some 163 persons about an hour and a half north of Sun Valley, but a world away. Stanley sits toward the end of a spectacular valley that follows the Salmon River through the Sawtooth Mountains. It was declared a national recreational area back in the 70’s in order to maintain its unspoiled and non-commercial character. Stanley has quite a setting, here framed by the only Prius from Maine (with Obama bumper sticker) ever seen in these parts.

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We stopped in Stanley to visit Sally’s cousin Ann Hill. Ann and her husband Paul built a lovely home on the edge of the national forest just west of Stanley several years ago.

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They came from Atlanta and were not sure they could live in such a remote area. However, they have found a small town with much to offer- all sorts of outdoor and voluntary non-profit activity that keeps them fit and happy. This is the vista that they see from the deck.

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All in all, it was a lovely visit. We renewed and deepened our relationship with Ann and Paul, whom we hadn’t seen in close to 27 years. Sally and Ann shared their Patch family ( Ann’s father’s and Sally’s mother’s family) memories. We learned much about how people like Paul and Ann are working to conserve the way of life that characterizes this special valley, and we grew to love some of the things that makes Stanley so special.

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Sun Valley and Seattle (Sally)

We arrived in Sun Valley, actually the town of Ketchum , for the 17th annual Spike , Strike, and Hike- a three day golf, fishing, and hiking competition hosted by our friend Blair Hull.  As this is a men’s only event, Sally decided to take the opportunity to visit our daughters, Carrie and Emily, sons-in law Phil and Andy, and grandson Greg in Seattle. However, before flying off, Sally did get in a practice round of golf with us guys…

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The Spike,Strike, and Hike was another great success- good golf, fun fishing, some hiking but mainly just good camaraderie from nine golfers, most of whom go back a long way. 

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This year was a bit different because the Sun Valley area had recently had a significant forest fire. Though only one home in the area was lost, there was significant smoke damage, including rendering our major fishing river, the Big Wood, un-fishable for the week.

Sally meanwhile had a wonderful time grand mothering and catching up with the kids. Our younger daughter Emily is now six months pregnant- so there is lots going on in Seattle. Sally did make it back in time for the traditional lovely dinner that Blair and significant other Gail Severn host each year at the conclusion of our event.

Then it was time to head north to Stanley, Idaho to visit Sally’s cousin Ann Hill and her husband Paul.

 

Jackson Wyoming and The Tetons

On our way from Steamboat to Sun Valley for another rendezvous with friends, we realized that we could diverge from our AAA-approved route to go to Jackson, Wyoming and Grand Teton National Park. Sally had spent time there when she was in college working one summer at Lake Hotel in Yellowstone (just up the road) and was most excited to revisit some of her old haunts.

We had a wonderful guided four hour evening tour of the Park. The Tetons are uniquely striking as our guide explained that they were millions of years younger than the Rockies and had been thrust vertically, without foothills, by the moving of tectonic plates.

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Below is apparently one of the most photographed farmhouse in the US- it’s all in the backdrop.

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The Park is home to the last original Bison herd, some 800 strong. They did not seem bothered by us as we cruised slowly by.

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The males are enormous and majestic. They fear no animal. After this lovely day in Jackson, we left early the next morning to cross the Tetons and head on to Sun Valley.

Six Friends in Steamboat Springs,CO

Almost 50 years ago the lives of six college or grad school students from different colleges and different areas of the country came together in strange and wonderful ways, culminating in three weddings in the summer of 1966. We six, now three couples, have been friends ever since. Each couple has gone separate routes in separate geographies, but we have gotten together almost every year. We have been to the weddings of all of our combined five children. We stay in touch on the big and the small issues. It is something quite special that we share, and we know and treasure it. For the past few years we have gotten together in September in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where one of the couples has a condo. We spend our time together catching up on our lives, our children’s latest developments, the state of the world- and a bit of fishing and hiking as well.

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From the left to right: Ron Bancroft, Denny Cook (Denver CO), Alan Gayer (Portsmouth NH), Sally Bancroft, Gary Cook, and Sally Gayer.

We all are off tomorrow, the Gayers and Cooks back home while Sally and I continue west to our next destination, Ketchum, Idaho.

At last-the West

Remember that old song “My lady love, she stands awaiting, across the wide Missouri”. Well we felt that the lady love of the West was awaiting as we crossed the Missouri at Pierre (pronounced locally as” Peer”) and headed into South Dakota

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What a day this has been. We feel as if we have had at least a week’s worth of adventure. We started early at Pierre and ended with a rainbow at Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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This picture doesn’t begin to capture the rich color of this rainbow, the most beautiful one we have seen. We took it as a good omen for our first day in the real West. In between crossing the Missouri and the rainbow, we had visited what must be one of the most hardscrabble towns in South Dakota, Midland, population 63. We had to look hard to find a cafe and it wasn’t much of one.

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No customers, for sale, yesterday’s coffee, but Tammy seemed to be a survivor. It reminded us that life on the plains can be hard.

After coffee we raced south to the Badlands National Park, a striking contrast to the wide open prairie we had crossed from Pierre. The Badlands is tough territory but in a very different way from Midland. Beautiful and forbidding rock formations just appear without much warning. In the late afternoon light, I am sure they are striking. In mid-day, high nineties temperature, they are less impressive, particularly when one makes the mistake, as we did, to set out for a hike on one of the Park trails.

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At least we made it back – many, in days gone by, did not.

Then we set off to Wall for a visit to Wall Drug, made famous by its technique of having roadside signs extolling its free water ( and other such things) for hundreds of miles before one reaches it. Well, if you travel west this way, don’t bother to stop – the crowds were large and  the food and merchandise mediocre. About the only good thing to say about it is that we saw license plates from perhaps 15 states ( and ours the only one from Maine).

The highlight of day 1 in the West was the trip through the Black Hills past Mount Rushmore. The cool Mountain air and lovely pine forests were soothing after the somewhat jarring experiences that went before. Of course even here there were spots of gaudy billboards pushing Crazy Horse or “Bear Country”. The billboard is something we retired long ago in the East, and similar action is overdue out here in the West.

In all of the excitement of today I almost forgot yesterday, our travel from Kohler, Wisconsin through rural Minnesota on US 14 to Pierre. This is an area of lovely farmsImage

and many small towns, well-kept and friendly. We discovered an original eatery still going strong from the Fifties called the Happy Chef in Mankato, MN. Old fashionedImage

big breakfasts are the order of the day here and, even though I had eaten one already before setting out, I couldn’t resist another here. When next in North Mankato, be sure and try the Happy Chef.

Tomorrow we are off to Steamboat Springs Colorado to meet our long time friends Alan and Sally Gayer and Gary and Denny Cook for three days of fishing, hiking, and good conversation.