Eastern Idaho road trip summary

Sometimes when we visit my mom we like to take an overnight trip away from Pocatello. This time we went on a long day trip with her.

We headed north on I-15 through Idaho Falls. There’s a highway rest stop along the way at a lava flow called Hell’s Half Acre. It’s a lot more than a half acre, and has some short walking trails among the basalt rocks. If you’re not going to get to Craters of the Moon, it’s a quick introduction to the volcanic history of this area. We stopped, used the restrooms, walked, and photographed cactus blooming among the lava.

At the far side of Idaho Falls we got off onto US highway 26 and drove through Rexburg to Ashton, where we stopped for lunch. Ashton is a very western looking town with grain storage bins as the dominant architecture. Chriswell’s Trail’s Inn looks like a renovated old lodge, with mass quantities of hunting trophies as decoration, a barbed wire collection on display in the men’s room, and good french fries (you hope so, in Idaho). An older man in full cowboy regalia, jeans, leather vest, ten gallon hat, garish red, white, and black shirt (no chaps, though) was walking into the restaurant as we were leaving.

From Ashton we headed east and north on route 47/Mesa Falls Scenic Byway to Mesa Falls. I had remembered the road as mountain driving from a previous trip, but the road was much wider, less winding, and less exposed than I had remembered. It wasn’t a Boston area parkway, but it was pretty mild as mountain driving goes. We stopped at a lookout (where we saw a western tanager) and at both lower and upper Mesa Falls parking areas. Wildflowers, balsamroot, yellow and white mule’s ear, camas, larkspur, and chocolate lily, were in profuse bloom (chocolate lily not so profuse; we had to look carefully because it’s not showy, but there were lots of plants in the one spot where we saw them).
From Mesa Falls we continued north to Big Springs. It’s the source of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, one of the country’s best trout streams. There are immense, I mean easily two feet long, trout under the bridge in Big Spring, easy to see and easy to understand why people want to fish in that river but of course they’re not allowed to fish right there.

We stopped for ice cream back where the road out to Big Springs joined the main road. A ten-year-old kid was minding the ice cream counter. A teenager who was more in charge told me that the wild huckleberry ice cream was excellent, but the tub of it was empty. The kid went to look for more in the back room which had an “authorized personnel only” sign on it. I asked him if he was authorized, and he said, “sure”. A real grownup came out and asked, “Where’s Jason?” I said, “here he comes back with a three gallon tub of Wild Huckleberry” and everyone was happy.

Heading back south, we pulled off at Swan Lake when Arlene thought she saw sandhill cranes on the far side of the lake. Sure enough, that’s what they were. There were lots of yellow-headed blackbirds there, too. We pulled off again to walk out to the edge of the river.

We took the main route back to Ashton and then turned east and south on the Teton Scenic Byway. Most of the pictures you see of the Teton mountains are from the Wyoming side, where Grand Teton National Park is. We were sort of on the “can’t get there from here” side of the mountains, but plenty close to have spectacular views for that whole drive.

We stopped for supper at O’Rourke’s Sports Bar in Driggs, Idaho. I doubt if any of my regular readers will ever need a restaurant recommendation for Driggs, Idaho, but if you found this from a search, they have great pizza. We split one large pizza and thought the crust was as good as any. The pizza came out quickly and hot. Go, O’Rourke’s. There was a Red Sox game on ESPN showing, as a bonus (but the Sox lost to Arizona, phooey.)

Time to get dressed to go out for dinner — more in a few days, and pictures too.

2 Responses to “Eastern Idaho road trip summary”

  1. Terri Says:

    Can’t wait to try those fries!

  2. deanb Says:

    I didn’t know if that comment was real, so I emailed. she wrote back

    “I was googling Chriswells Trails Inn and found an article about the food and fries! I am going to Idaho the end of this month and actually it is my father who owns the restaurant and I haven’t seen him in 25 years or seen the restaurant! So, your review was exciting for me. :)”