Bonners Ferry to Sun Valley….

We spent the week after Easter in Sun Valley / Ketchum, ID. I’d always wanted to make the drive from Bonners Ferry to Ketchum, but never could really justify it. Rodd had a conference to attend so I tagged along. It’s nice being able (and allowed) to work out of the office at a remote location. When it works, technology is marvelous! Because flying into Sun Valley is so ridiculously expensive we opted to drive down. We took Hwy 200 out of Sandpoint toward Clark Fork to Missoula. At Missoula you hook I90 for just a few miles and then jump off on the Reserve St. exit. Follow Reserve to Hwy 93. Once on 93, you follow this south through Hamilton, Salmon and Challis. At Challis, leave Hwy 93 for Hwy 75 and head for Stanley. Following 75 west and then south, you’ll drop right into the Valley. It’s about a 9-10 hour drive from Sandpoint, depending on the weather. If you’re of a mind to stay at a mid point, the Super 8 in Hamilton, MT is an extremely “doable” lodging situation. I’m not huge on Super 8 as it’s generally a lower end motel, but this one was really very nice and the staff was fabulous. It sure beat the H-E-double hockey sticks out of the Best Western we stayed at in Ketchum! (We’ll get to that shortly!) The price was right, too! I think we paid all of about $58.00.
The drive has a lot to offer. We saw coyote, deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and unfathomable quantities of elk. You also drive by Sunbeam Hot Springs before Stanley. We didn’t have time to stop, but maybe on a future trip.
One thing I found odd on the drive is that the home carrier route mail delivery people must not go down many of the county roads in that area. We saw bank after bank of mailboxes at the end of county roads along side the highway. They really grabbed my attention just because it was odd. I stopped to shoot this particular bank because I liked the fact that only one had its flag up. I decided to isolate it using a very shallow DOF with my 50mm 1.4. I think in retrospect I should have shot it from the other side. I did a few from the “flag side” but I didn’t isolate the box as well as I could have. This one was shot at 50mm at 1.6.
The cabin is found as you’re just entering Stanley. It might offer a nice opportunity in the summer. The day we passed by it was snowing and blowing and a bit frigid, really. I took a few shots of it anyway. Mostly to remind myself that I’d like to go back when the weather is nicer.
We ran into a bit of weather and I was a little concerned because the car has some ridiculous “high performance” street tires. (I think this is a fancy way of saying that they cost a small fortune but have almost literally no tread design.) I’m not sure why anyone living up in this country would want these tires, but they were new on the car when we bought it and winter was almost over. We’ll be investing in new tires before next winter. We got about 4-5 inches of snow our last day in Sun Valley and had to take the long way around to get home to avoid Galena Summit.
If you make this trip when there’s still potential for snow, I recommend decent all season tires at the very least. Four-wheel drive is optimal. We contemplated taking the gas guzzling Yukon, but just couldn’t stand the thought of burning twice the gas.
If you visit Sun Valley, I personally, would forego most of the restaurants there and in Ketchum. There are 2 that we would recommend, but many more that we would not. The Sawtooth Club and the Smokey Mountain Pizza Co. are both quite good. The Sawtooth was totally slammed when we were there. The atmosphere was cramped and noisy and the service was mediocre, but the food was quite good. The pizza place had a decent, casual atmosphere and good food to boot. If you want a really good meal with excellent service, I recommend driving the 11 miles to Hailey and checking out the Red Elephant Saloon. We loved it.
I DON’T, however, recommend staying at the Best Western Tyrolean Lodge. What a total dumpola! It’s old, they have no in room fridge or microwave and they lock the “breakfast area” after breakfast so you have no access to a microwave. We stayed on the 2nd floor and they were doing refurbishing on the first floor (which was long overdue throughout the entire hotel) so we were greeted each day by saws, drills, hammers, barking dogs…… Yeah, that’s right DOGS! The construction guys had a dog that they brought into the hotel and it was in the hall outside the rooms where they were working. The walls at this place were paper-thin so a good night’s sleep was out of the question. Oh, and one day they slid notes under all of our doors to tell us that they were shutting off the water to the hotel for 4 hours. Needless to say, we won’t be returning. This place was unreal. All in all, when we return to the area in the summer we’ll probably seek lodging in Hailey or head up to the mountains to camp. Hailey is less expensive and much less crowded. It’s worth a trip down into this area. The Sawtooth range really is beautiful and we’re looking forward to returning when we can access the back roads.

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