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The Scenic Route

As temperatures warm, the valley begins to green, farms are plowed, and waters rise in the rivers and canals. This year has been marked by abundant precipitation as daily storm clouds form and dissipate overhead. The evening light cast by our setting sun illuminated the world around me as I drove back to Idaho Falls following a Sunday drive to the dunes north of Rexburg. Instead of the highway, however, I chose the scenic route home.

To take highway 26 out of Idaho Falls is to begin a journey into the mountains. From this highway, you'll enter Swan Valley, about an hour away. The Palisades recreation area, Alpine, WY, and eventually Jackson Hole, Teton Valley, and much more are within reach. However, if you exit the highway early and veer towards Cress Creek and Kelly Canyon, you can embark on a scenic river drive on dirt roads. Lush green farms, a vast river, deer, eagles and osprey, rising hills and cliffs, and more await you as you wind through the tall poplar trees lining the water's edge. From the river, you can make your way into the hills south of Rexburg and get lost on farm roads that connect to forest service roads, paved farm roads, canyon roads, etc. Using maps, you can navigate into town, or begin your own adventure into the Big Hole Mountains. The Big Hole Mountains are cut by miles of dirt roads that provide access to secluded areas of camping and hiking. From these dirt roads you can connect to Kelly Canyon, Wolf Flats, and Teton Valley. 4-wheel drive is recommended as many of the roads are not maintained most of the year.

As the snow persists in the high hills and mountains, I opted to instead explore the St. Anthony Sand Dunes with a good friend, and introduce him to our unique dunes located about 45 min north of Rexburg. These dunes are stunning in the evening light, and offer a remarkable place for evening campfires and stargazing. When you visit, please clean up after yourself, and refrain from burning pallets and any wood with nails. People like to walk barefoot, and use the dunes from riding. Nails pose a significant risk of injury and property damage. From the dunes, we continued to drive north and explore the back roads in the seasonal elk range. These high plains are marked by older lava flows and extinct volcanic vents, cones, and lava tubes. Truly a remarkable area in our geologically diverse state! Several caves including the Civil Defense and Ice caves can be accessed from Red Rd. north of the sand dunes.

I have written about these areas multiple times now. Yet, like the old saying: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” ― Heraclitus. Every time I visit the spots I have explored many times in the past, I discover new growth, subtle changes, I see the spot in a new light, under different clouds, and with varying animals. Each trip is unique and wonderful! I am a different person, living the future I once dreamed of living. The past and my memories echo from the landscape that I once visited under different circumstances and with different people, many of whom I've lost contact with.

To close, I leave you with a perspective voiced in a poem that I have grown to cherish:

"Let's suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream that you wanted to dream. And that you could, for example, have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time. Or any length of time you wanted to have. And you would, naturally as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes. You would have any kind of pleasure you could conceive. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each, you would say "Well, that was pretty great." But now let's have a surprise. Let's have a dream which isn't under control. Where something is gonna happen to me that I don't know what it's going to be. And you would dig that and come out of that and say "Wow, that was a close shave, wasn't it?" And then you would get more and more adventurous, and you would make further and further out gambles as to what you would dream. And finally, you would dream...where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today." - Alan Watts

Enjoy a few pictures from our adventure yesterday!

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Catherine Sweet
Catherine Sweet
May 09, 2023

Sure grateful you post!

The photos and words are truly poetic and grace our views and senses, from your "geologically diverse state" - truly stated! Like the quotes too. And what a handsome horse!

Thanks for sharing! 😘

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