Family Time

It’s time for the main event! This section of the trip is all about seeing friends and family. We had a few brief visits on our way up the coast, including my sister in Las Vegas, my aunt in Los Angeles, father- and mother-in-law in Bakersfield, and our best friends in Eugene. From there, we traveled to Boise and stayed put for a bit to celebrate the holiday season.

But First, Let Me Take a (Bestie) Selfie

On the way to Boise from Port Angeles, we made a quick stop in eastern Washington, where we met up with our super best friends, Adria and Corey. They live in Spokane, where Josh and I lived for several years during our university studies. It is the second largest city in Washington and a short drive from both Canada and Idaho.

20181117_110115.jpg

We had an amazing time re-connecting with our friends and returning to a former home town. One of the things I have always loved about Adria is how similar we are when it comes to planning. She kept us delightfully entertained (and fed) for the whole visit and even surprised us with a night at the local casino. We also got the chance to spend some time with their adorable daughter that we hadn’t yet had the privilege of meeting. Our stay in Spokane was definitely too short, but we made the most of our time together.

20181119_104503 (1).jpg

Holidays in Boise

Before hitting the road again for #Vanlife Part Three, we spent a full month in Boise, Idaho for the holiday season, staying at Josh’s mom’s house. I got a part-time job at the local Target during that time, and though it wasn’t as glamorous as my old position, it was nice to get out of the house and earn some extra holiday cash. Thanksgiving was spent at my mother-in-law’s, where we had turkey, mashed potatoes, string bean casserole, stuffing, and candied yams — way too much for only three people! Christmas was spent at my dad’s house, where we enjoyed a home-cooked German meal and spent time hanging out with our nieces as they opened gifts and listened to a special holiday reading by Santa. We even had a mini-book signing to celebrate the publication of Josh’s short story collection. The holidays were great fun, and it was really a special treat to get to spend them with family once again.

20181215_214159-ANIMATION.gif

The Glamorous Lives of Jen and Josh

Much of our free time in Boise was spent cooking and baking. Some of our special dishes included Nasi Lemak and a Chinese feast. Our baking dedication really came to a head when we vowed to bake at least one cake per week. We even baked my niece’s birthday cake, a three-tiered snowman whose head hilariously fell off in the middle of the birthday song.

We’re still learning.

And then there were all of the parties. That’s right, we hit just about every hot party in town, including several holiday parties, a roaring 20’s party, a pajama party, and a Mardi Gras party. We ended the month with a new collection of amazing costumes, fun prizes, and lots of new friends.

#Vanlife Part Three

There’s a lot more to say about our month in Boise, but I’m a bit overwhelmed and running behind right now (obviously as it is currently April and I’m writing about December). We made a lot of memories in Boise, but now it’s time to move on to the final portion of #Vanlife, which sees us traveling across the southern US from California to Florida. Stay tuned!


#Vanlife Part Two

Part One of our USA #Vanlife adventure has come to an end! Starting in Melbourne, Florida, we’ve driven 11,000 miles (17,700km) through 14 states over the course of 48 days. We met some amazing people along the way, and sampled the spectacular natural beauty of the United States. Now it’s time to start the second leg of our journey, starting with a week in Boise, Idaho. Get ready for #Vanlife Part Two: Family on the West Coast.

Vanlife Diaries Part One - The Places We Live.jpg

A Week in Boise

The first “official” stop on this part of the adventure is Los Angeles, but we couldn’t just skip straight to LA without writing about the fun we had along the way. Our first pit-stop was a week in Boise, Idaho for Josh’s birthday. It was a whirlwind of repacking (time to switch to winter clothes), parties, and fun with the nieces.

As a birthday gift, Josh scored two tickets to see Boise’s premier burlesque act, The Red Light Variety Show at The Visual Arts Collective. It was terrific and included some really impressive performances. Josh’s big #35 was spent with his mom and our Boise friends. We went out for dinner, hit the bars, and had a fun night of youthful debauchery.

Sushi Cake Challenge

One of our more involved adventures during this week was our small obsession with the Netflix show, “Nailed It!“. In the show, amateur bakers compete to recreate amazing baking challenges. The bakes almost always come out hilariously horrible. After binging nearly every episode, we decided we had to try it for ourselves. Enjoy!

The Challenge: Sushi Cake (recipe here)

The Drive to LA

We couldn’t drive through Utah without stopping to see some of our favorite peeps along the way. The first stop was Salt Lake City to catch up with coworkers and friends. It was so wonderful to see everyone and catch up on all of the gossip. Next up was St. George, Utah to share lunch with one of our Oregon friends who had recently relocated. I could go on forever about how much I love all of these people, miss them, and appreciate them for taking the time out of their day to be with us. Thank you everyone!

From there, we had a quick overnight stop in Las Vegas to see my sister and her family. We arrived late in the day, just before the kids went to bed, so we woke up a little early so we could see them off for school the following morning. It was hard to show up and leave again so quickly, but we’ll be seeing them again for New Years, so I guess I’ll just have to wait.

#Vanlife Part Two

Three days and 1,000 miles later, we finally arrived at our house sit outside of Los Angeles, California. This is where we were originally scheduled to begin our #Vanlife adventure before Mom got sick. From Australia, we had booked one more month in China and two in Thailand. From Thailand, the plan was to fly to LA for this house sit. The change in plans was quite costly, but it was worth it to be there for mom, and #Vanlife Part One was a lot of fun, taking us to many places in our home country that we’d never been to.

Boise to Glendora - The Places We Live.jpg

So now begins The Places We Live #Vanlife: Part Two. We will be spending the next 14 days here house sitting for my aunt and uncle in their beautiful California home. The temperature is warm, the fridge is stocked with beer, and our new fur babies are over-the-top lovable. I think this is going to be an excellent start to our next set of adventures!


Craters of the Moon National Monument

Between Yellowstone and Boise lies Craters of the Moon National Monument, a region of the Idaho desert filled with dormant volcanoes and fields of ancient lava beds. Having grown up in Idaho, we were both aware of Craters of the Moon, but had never actually visited before, so this was a natural next stop for our #Vanlife adventure.

It turns out that Craters and Yellowstone were both created by the same source of volcanic activity. Yellowstone National Park sits on the Yellowstone Caldera, a supervolcano spanning an area of 1,530 square miles (3,960 sq. km). The caldera is fueled by a hot spot that, over the course of millions of years, has migrated across the whole of southern Idaho. Craters of the Moon National Monument, then, is essentially Idaho’s Yellowstone of the past, a volcanic wasteland that stands as a testament to the raw power of the earth and the passage of time on an inconceivable scale.

Craters of the Moon National Monument - The Places We Live

Craters of the Moon National Monument

Craters of the Moon National Monument is located 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Arco, Idaho. The entrance fee is $20 per vehicle, or free with the America the Beautiful Pass. The major points of interest include the Visitor Center, loop road, and underground caves. Unfortunately, we were unable to enter the caves on our visit. A disease known as White-nose Syndrome has been sweeping the USA and Canada, decimating bat populations. Therefore, some restrictions have been placed on cave entry at Craters. Because our shoes had been inside of several caves within the last year (Seven Star Cave in China, Khao Sam Roi Yot Cave in Thailand, and Batu Caves in Malaysia), we were politely asked not to enter the caves. It was a bit of a bummer, but I would rather save the bats than take the risk.

Instead, we explored the stops along the loop road. Before getting to the loop, we first visited North Crater Flow Trail. If you’re in a hurry, this could easily be the only stop you make. It displays great examples of the types of volcanic rock found throughout the area. There were even Syringas (Idaho’s state flower) sprouting amongst the rocks. After that we walked Devil’s Orchard Nature Trail, which wasn’t nearly as exciting and could be skipped if you’re pressed for time.

Cinder Cone Fragments, Craters of the Moon National Monument - The Places We Live

Craters of the Moon Loop Road

After passing Devil’s Orchard, there is a one-way loop road that takes drivers past some of the monument’s best features. The first stop we came to was the 6,181 ft (1,884 m) Inferno Cone. It looked like a mountain made of black sand. It’s a bit of a hike to get to the top, but it’s worth the effort, as the crest offers a panoramic view of the park.

Inferno Cone, Craters of the Moon National Monument - The Places We LiveTop of Inferno Cone, Craters of the Moon National Monument - The Places We Live

However, our favorite stop was the Snow Cone. It’s a short hike to the top for an amazing payoff, home to long solidified lava tubes that still look wet and sticky, as if they’d just hardened moments before. Certain sections of the tubes had broken open over time, revealing the hollow core. The trail puts you right next to the volcanic rock, so you can feel how light and brittle the stone really is.

Volcanic Rock, Craters of the Moon National Monument - The Places We Live

After the Snow Cone, we enjoyed the remainder of the loop’s scenic drive, only slightly bummed at having to skip the caves (it’s kind of our thing). Craters of the Moon National Monument was a lot of fun, and definitely worth the drive for anyone traveling across southern Idaho. It was a short visit, lasting about two hours, the perfect scenic pit stop before continuing on across the desert on the way home.


Like it? Share it!

Idaho's Craters of the Moon National Monument - The Places We Live


Valley County, Idaho

Our hot springs guidebook described our destination as “a turn out with rocks on the other side”. There were turnouts ever mile or so, and all were rocky, so it’s actually a bit of a surprise that we were able to find Trail Creek Hot Springs.

Things have been a bit busy here at the blog, and I have been getting a little behind on my posting. Rather than get overwhelmed, or worse, not post at all, I have decided to start a Throw Back Thursday post on the weeks that I need them. So, I would like to formally introduce you to my very first The Places We Live #TBT post: Valley County, Idaho!

Josh and I grew up in McCall, Idaho in Valley County, and had been debating on whether or not to return during our month in Boise. The answer should have been an obvious “Yes” since it is, in both of our opinions, one of the most beautiful areas in the world. But there is a sadness about going back to a home town that is no longer your town. Both of our families have left the area, as have most of our school friends, and the town has seen a growth spurt in the 18 years since we’ve been gone. Will we even recognize it? Will anyone recognize us? Will it still feel like home?

Thankfully, my step-sister saved the day and whisked us off to the emotionally safer neighboring town of Cascade, Idaho (also in Valley County) for a trip to a hot springs. Cascade is about 1.5 hours north of Boise along a beautiful, winding canyon highway. Once in Cascade, we pulled off onto Warm Lake Rd and drove for what felt like forever on the lightly plowed, snowy road. Our hot springs guidebook described our destination as “a turn out with rocks on the other side”. There were turnouts ever mile or so, and all were rocky, so it’s actually a bit of a surprise that we were able to find Trail Creek Hot Springs.

20171228_144126

It was an awesome, non-commercialized but still a well-constructed natural hot springs. There were a couple of ropes to help us climb down the steep and snowy slopes, and a couple of warmed rocks to put our clothes on while we were soaking.

Josh2

There were three different soaking pools, each with handy nozzles to let in some freezing river water and maintain a comfy temperature. It was empty of people when we arrived, so we had plenty of space to explore and relax.

Untitled Project (Time 0_12_42;25)

Then the time came to decide whether or not to make the 30 minute journey to McCall. To face our worries and fears in order to visit the most beautiful place on earth. How could we not?

McCall, Idaho is the most adorable town that anyone has ever seen, ever (at least, in the humble opinion of Mrs. Dr. Lowry). It is located 100 miles North of Boise and hosts a lake, ski resorts, camping, fishing, hiking, and so much more. The current population is around 3,000 people, but that increases significantly during the peak tourism seasons of summer and winter. Even when at night, when the lake is frozen over, the view will take your breath away.

20171228_173149b

Like many of my irrational fears, it turned out to be… irrational. McCall was beautiful, we were recognized by a couple of locals, our favorite shops were still there, and the memories were still fresh. I love and will always love my foresty wonderland.

 

Idaho Brews – World Beer Collection

Idaho has a pretty decent beer scene and is growing in popularity for wineries as well. Here is my collection of Idaho brews!

Idaho, USA has a pretty decent beer scene and is growing in popularity for wineries as well. Since my birding in Idaho didn’t seem to be going very well, I figured I better put some extra effort into my world beer collection. We participated in a couple organized pub crawls and did some of our own Idaho brew adventuring as well. I was pretty happy with just about everything we tried.

[amazon_link asins=’B017IE9A9M,1612127770,B06XP4286L’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’theplacesweli-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’bc6928b8-892a-11e8-80ce-a1c1c8abe963′]

Idaho Brews

My favorite Idaho brew was Udaho Gold by Salmon River Brewing in McCall, Idaho. I didn’t get to try this while I was in McCall, but if you get the opportunity, I strong suggest going. McCall, Idaho is, in my humble opinion, one of the best places on earth.

Read about our short trip to McCall from Boise. ♥

I set up a Happy Hour tour for Josh and I with several stops scattered throughout downtown. We didn’t end up making it to a single planned stop because we kept getting distracted by other pubs and breweries along the way. One such place was Barbarian Brewing Downtown Tap Room. Very few locals I have talked to have even heard of it, which surprises us, since it ended up being our favorite Boise brewery! We only had time for three tasters, but each one was better than the last. We enjoyed the service, the vibe, and really enjoyed the delicious beers. My favorite was The Everman, a honey beer.

World Beer

Idaho ended up being a great stop along our world beer tasting journey. I only got a taste for the flavors around me, as there are so many local breweries. Please share your favorite Idaho brews in the comments, and if you’re an Untappd user, add us as friends.

More of the World Beer Collection ♥


Beer Update – December 2017

New Idaho Brews: 12

 New Idaho Breweries: 9

Flavor Life List: 35


Laughing Dog Brewing – Sandpoint, Idaho

  • Cream Ale

Salmon River Brewing – McCall, Idaho

  • Udaho Gold

Edge Brewing Company – Boise, Idaho

  • Edge Lager

Barbarian Brewing – Garden City, Idaho

  • The Everman Honey Beer
  • Wolf Pup Pale Ale
  • NeoWolf 001 IPA

Powderhaus Brewing Company – Garden City, Idaho

  • Hinterlander Porter

Wallace Brewing Company – Wallace, Idaho

  • Compressor SMaSH

Bear Island Brewing Company – Boise, Idaho

  • Christmas in Your Mouth Winter Warmer

Boise Brewing – Boise, Idaho

  • Broad St Blonde Ale

Payette Brewing Company – Boise, Idaho

  • North Fork Lager
  • Hazelnut Mutton Buster Brown Ale

 

Idaho Brews – December 2017

Idaho has a pretty decent beer scene and is growing in popularity for wineries as well. Here is my collection of Idaho brews!

Idaho has a pretty decent beer scene and is growing in popularity for wineries as well. Since my birding in Idaho didn’t seem to be going very well, I figured I better put some extra effort into my brew collecting. We participated in a couple organized pub crawls and did some of our own brew adventuring as well. I was pretty happy with just about everything we tried.

I think my favorite brew of the month was the DBA (Double Barrel Ale) from Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles, California. My favorite local brew was Udaho Gold by Salmon River Brewing in McCall, Idaho.

I set up a Happy Hour tour for Josh and I with several stops scattered throughout downtown. We didn’t end up making it to a single planned stop because we kept getting distracted by other pubs and breweries along the way. One such place was Barbarian Brewing Downtown Tap Room. Very few locals I have talked to have even heard of it, which surprises us, since it ended up being our favorite brewery! We only had time for three tasters, but each one was better than the last. We enjoyed the service, the vibe, and really enjoyed the delicious beers. My favorite was The Everman, a honey beer.

I only got a taste for the flavors around me, as there are so many local breweries. Please share your favorite Idaho beers in the comments, and if you’re an Untappd user, add us as friends!


Brew Update – December 2017

New Idaho Flavors: 12

 New Idaho Breweries: 9

Flavor Life List: 35


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Laughing Dog Brewing – Sandpoint, Idaho

  • Cream Ale

Salmon River Brewing – McCall, Idaho

  • Udaho Gold

Edge Brewing Company – Boise, Idaho

  • Edge Lager

Barbarian Brewing – Garden City, Idaho

  • The Everman Honey Beer
  • Wolf Pup Pale Ale
  • NeoWolf 001 IPA

Powderhaus Brewing Company – Garden City, Idaho

  • Hinterlander Porter

Wallace Brewing Company – Wallace, Idaho

  • Compressor SMaSH

Bear Island Brewing Company – Boise, Idaho

  • Christmas in Your Mouth Winter Warmer

Boise Brewing – Boise, Idaho

  • Broad St Blonde Ale

Payette Brewing Company – Boise, Idaho

  • North Fork Lager
  • Hazelnut Mutton Buster Brown Ale

Idaho Birding – December 2017

I enjoyed an abundance of mallards and a few scattered magpies, but that was about it.

The birding in Idaho was a bit limited due to the cold weather and our proximity to the city and suburbs. I enjoyed an abundance of mallards and a few scattered magpies. I saw several raptors of one sort or another soaring or settled on lamp posts, but wasn’t able to get a firm identification on any of them.


Birding Update – December 2017

Identified: 4

New: 0

Life List: 89


  • American Coot
  • Black-billed Magpie
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard