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.


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.


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.

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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.


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.


Florida Birding – November 2017

Bird list from my month on the Atlantic Coast of Florida.

The birding here in Florida is wonderful! Most of the birds listed here are ones I found pretty regularly, either on the beach, the backyard, or at the numerous nature parks. My favorites were the Wood Storks; they were listed as being a rare find, but I saw quite a few of them and they were not particularly afraid of people. Their attitudes reminded me a lot of chickens.

The Anhingas were another enjoyable find. They were everywhere, but I mostly saw their silhouette during flight or just their heads poking out of water, and therefore mistook them for Cormorants for quite some time. It wasn’t until I saw one up close, with their distinctive coloring, that I realized I had made the mistake. It was an exciting moment.

I’m still having trouble identifying differences in common birds like doves/pigeons, sand pipers, terns, and seagulls. There are just so many of them! My goal for the trip was to identify two different types of seagulls. I saved the identification guide and brought it to the beach with me each day. I learned a lot, but I still have a ways to go. I did, however, make some good strides in my dove identification thanks to the open windows of my bedroom each night. The sound of the various doves are pretty distinct and really helped to boost my identification confidence.

Birding Update – November 2017

Identified: 15

New: 6

Life List: 89

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  • Anhinga
  • Bald Eagle
  • Black-bellied Plover 
  • Black Vulture
  • Brown Pelican
  • Common Gallinule
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove
  • Great Egret
  • Muscovy Duck
  • Osprey
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Sanderling
  • White Ibis
  • Wood Stork


Sebastian Inlet State Park

Sebastian Inlet State Park is located just ten miles South of Melbourne Beach and is the second most visited state park in Florida.

Sebastian Inlet State Park is located just ten miles South of Melbourne Beach and is the second most visited state park in Florida (wikipedia). We spent half a day exploring the ten mile drive down to Sebastian and the park itself.

The majority of the drive was through beautiful water-front neighborhoods and was along the famous Florida Birding Trail. Our first stop was the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Information Center, where they had a lot of free and informative interactive material about sea turtles. It also detailed the conservation efforts undertaken at the refuge specifically, and in Florida more generally. For example, proceeds from the sales of these license plates go to fund sea turtle research and conservation efforts around the state.


There were several hiking trailheads along the side of the road during our drive. We stopped at one of them, but due to the recent hurricane, much of the trail was flooded and covered in plant debris. We didn’t make it very far before we were forced to turn around and go back to the car.

Many “nature walks” in Florida are built on raised walkways like this one.

After our failed hike, we reached the main attraction, Sebastian Inlet State Park. It is a fairly large park, with sections on both sides of the inlet that connects the ocean and the river. There is an entrance fee, but it’s only $8 for the day. The park also showed signs of hurricane damage, with some fallen trees left uncleared and dark waters that are usually crystal clear.

Even a short walk through the park allowed us views of more flora and fauna than we had seen during the entire rest of our trip. We saw several species of birds, including a rare sighting of Wood Storks, along with several sea turtles, fish, a huge land crab, skinks, hermit crabs, and a few types of butterflies. Our favorite was the land crab; we chased it for a while, trying to capture a photo of it’s bright ruby coloring before it could disappear back into the water.


Josh and I spent a decent amount of time crabbing when we lived in Oregon. Despite our lack of actual spoils, we consider ourselves quite the seamen. Therefore, it was with confidence that we walked out onto the park’s crowded fishing piers. These docks were huge, jutting out much farther into the ocean than what we were used to. Not only that, but the fishermen on these piers were serious, not the laid-back Oregonians we usually met. These guys were cut-throat, and had more gear than our usual net, bucket, chair, book, and beer. And it appears that was for the best, because they were actually catching fish!

We watched three different large fish get lifted out of the water during our ten minute venture onto the pier. They looked to be at least two to three feet long. One fisherman told us that the fish we watched him haul up was limited to one per fisherman.


Once the fish smell hit my nose, I had an immediate craving for fish. Thankfully, there is a large gift and snack shop in the park that provides decently priced food. It had all the expected park food, with the added treat of fresh seafood, most of it grilled or fried. Unable to resist (not that we really tried), we ordered a couple baskets of clam strips and ate them on the shaded patio overlooking the ocean.

I really enjoyed our trip to Sebastian and look forward to coming back next year once the area has had a little more time to recover from the hurricane. There’s some calm water off the inlet that looks like an amazing place to do some of my favorite “paddle birding”, and we may even bring some poles and try to reel in some of those delicious ocean fish.