It was pretty simple for me to jot down a few thoughts of what I missed about this part of Idaho when I “was away” from our state.

I grew up in Idaho and tromped the country on foot and horseback. I lived and worked outdoors every day. Poles were cut from lodgepole pine for corrals and posts and fires. Strays were chased in the pines, sage, mountain passes, and river bottoms. Miles of fence was fixed, again and again.

Mule deer were stalked in thigh deep snow, elk erupted the night’s long silence, hen mallards gave that lonesome hen call, and sandhill cranes circled and called out above the highest mountains in preparation for fall migration.

All of this and more leads me in a roundabout way to what I missed about Idaho.

Certainly, the fall colors of Massachusetts and the Northeast are unmatched anywhere as nature’s paintbrush. But those hills had few real mountains and a certain monotony in their harmony of continuous tree covered land with few openings.

Kansas brought the solidarity of wide open grasslands and visions of thousands of bison grazing, but that ocean of green and brown was barren of the mountains I was so fond of –and of public land that required no permission to enter except that of tacit approval of a form of government that protected that bounty by our founders, those before them, and those who followed–and not the king.

While every single area has its own beauty, from the thick ravines of the hill country of Kentucky to bottomlands along the Missouri, they often lack beauty in their sameness.

I grew up with and was surrounded by nature. Every day. And in an area where the same-same just didn’t exist.

The high desert brought antelope “safaris” in a VW bug in the fall. They grew into mini-explorations of side canyons and draws over the years that seldom showed signs of human travel.

The yellow of fall aspens is a special time for just about everyone I know. Go for a walk in them, listen to their rustling leaves, and toss in a few rather unlearned and almost curious ruff grouse and maybe a doe with twins, and life doesn’t get a whole lot better for some of us.

Steep mountains with choked slopes of subalpine and Doug fir break into open ridge tops and passes and checkerboard landscapes that drive away the monotony of the forests of Canada and those of the East.

Jagged rocks, rolling hills, and terrain as flat as the old Stockman’s billiards table–that’s the home I missed most. It is also what brought me back.

It is probably similar, but not quite the same, of anyone’s home place, even New York City.

But the smell of sage, the reddish pink of maple leaves, and scent of pine sap can share their wonders with some of the lucky ones within the same walk for those who are fortunate enough to live in these special places we call home–in Southeast Idaho.

It is this land that defines the words of a natural contentment, beauty, open spaces, and that most important ingredient to many of us–that of variety, and knowing it is the spice of this life.


By Mark Steele. Mark is the editor of the Caribou County Sun in Soda Springs, Idaho.