In central Idaho sits a magical land that goes by the name of the Sawtooth National Forest. We spent about two weeks in the area and easily could have spent two months more. We split our time between Sun Valley and Redfish Lake, but were able to get out and explore thanks to some amazing friends in the area who let us borrow a car while we were there! Little known fact: You can get the Best Maps Ever from our friends that live there on their website: bestmapsever.com
Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley is very nice ski resort that could be called the Aspen of Idaho. While technically not in the Sawtooth National Forest, it is surrounded by it on three sides. When we first got to town we made our way straight to the first dispersed area that we hoped to find a spot in right outside of town on Trail Creek Rd. There aren’t a ton of spots, considering the popularity of the place, but the gods of finding a place to stay in your bus continue to smile upon us, and we found an excellent spot right away. We were flanked by 2,000 foot mountains on each side with the Trail Creek running briskly by down a 30 foot hill just behind the bus. Our closest neighbor was at least a couple hundred yards away.
Our boondocking spot on Trail Creek just outside of Sun Valley.
We setup the bus and called the place home for the next five nights. The next morning our pals, Derek, Danielle, and Remi and their dog Sky drove out to meet us and to drop of Jeep Grand Cherokee for us to borrow while we were in the area. We added a hitch to the back of the bus just in case we ever decided to add a tow vehicle, but so far have fared fine without one. So, this was our first time with an extra vehicle since hitting the road and it was glorious. If we wanted to run into town for say, a cup of coffee, or a scoop of ice cream, without worrying about packing up or losing our tremendous spot, we could, and did. If we wanted to go 15 miles up the pass to look for firewood or go back into town to our friend’s house for some cocktails and conversation, we could, and did. Having an extra vehicle really changed the dynamic of how we spent our days, and may have spoiled us a bit. We will have to see how we fare over the next couple weeks without one to see if there are any long-lasting effects.
Speaking of changing how we operate, knowing some fantastic folks in the town we were staying in also made a huge difference. Instead of relying upon hours of research (by Heather) to figure out everything about an area and then narrow down the best stuff to squeeze in during our stay, we were able to rely on the lifetime of experience, suggestions and hospitality of our friends. We also got to hang out a lot. The first day we actually went back to their house so I could do a two hour conference call somewhere with good internet, and then later Derek and I got to do a couple of downhill-only mountain bike rides as Heather and Miles acted as our shuttle getting us back to the top of the hill in the Jeep. Later that night they came back out to the bus with a brother and friend in tow to hang out around the campfire for a while. On the second day we joined them for a 8 mile, 2500 foot round trip hike up to pioneer cabin. Talk about scenic – and tough on ol’ Nick.
Pioneer cabin and the Pioneer Mountains.
The whole gang at the top of the hike.
On the third day we went back to their house for showers, laundry and cocktails. And on the fourth day I rode some downhill at the Sun Valley resort and was met by Derek for the last run.
Sun Valley mountain biking.
For all of the Sun Valley photos, just click right here.
Redfish Lake, Stanley, Idaho
We left our excellent spot in Sun Valley on our fifth day and made our way an hour and a half north into the heart of the Sawtooth National Forest, landing at Redfish Lake. Redfish Lake is an idyllic crystal clear lake at the foot of the Sawtooth Mountains. There are several campgrounds on the lake and a popular lodge with cabins, a couple restaurants, a bar and a marina with all sorts of watersports activities. When the place is in full swing in the summer, the area around the lodge reminds me of summer camp, just with lots of adults hanging around too.
I drove the bus up, while Heather and Miles went ahead in the Jeep to see if they could score a campsite at the fiercely contested Redfish Lake campgrounds. There’s no cell service at the lake, so we had a plan in place where I would check a couple of the campgrounds when I got there in the bus to see if Heather was able to find anything, and if I didn’t see them I would meet them at the lodge. Remember those gods of finding a place to stay in your bus? They love us. To my surprise, Heather was able to snag an excellent spot at the first campground on our list. We originally had considered doing some boondocking while in the area to save some more money, but decided that the lake was just too good and went ahead and paid for five nights.
Out spot at Sockeye Campground at Redfish Lake, and our loaner Jeep.
This may sound counterintuitive, but the next day we packed up the Jeep with our camping gear and headed another hundred miles into the wilderness to camp at Goldbug Hot Springs for the night. More about that later. After we got back from the hot springs the next day we just crashed in the bus, and then spent a lazy day hanging out around the lake and lodge on the following day. On our fourth day at the lake we took the boat shuttle across the lake in the morning to do the 11.6 mile, 1,800 foot roundtrip hike up to Alpine Lake. This was our longest and most beautiful hike to date. Along the way were endless views of the formidable Sawtooth Mountains, and at the top was the crystal clear and insanely beautiful Alpine Lake.
The hike up to Alpine Lake.
When we got back to the lodge six hours later, the mid-summer Saturday afternoon crowd was in full effect. We braved the crowds and got ourselves some celebratory ice cream and tacos, before heading back to the bus to crash. On our last day in the area we met Derek and the gang for lunch since they had come up for the day, and then headed back to their place to drop off the Jeep and then started making our way Boise, which is where we are now.
On the way back through the Sun Valley area we also finally got to meet up with some fellow DIY fulltime traveler Instagram friends of ours, Matt and Amanda and their doodle puppy Royal, from Van Project. They were awesome, and hopefully next time we cross paths we’ll get to hang out a little longer. They’ve been doing this a lot longer than us had some great tips and advice for life on the road. You should also check out their Instagram.
For all of the Redfish Lake photos, this is where you click.
Goldbug Hot Springs, Salmon, Idaho
I am not personally the biggest hot springs fan (Heather is), but it turns out I am a huge ridiculously scenic, attached to a waterfall, multi-level, able to overnight camp at, hot springs fan. We had been told to visit this spring weeks before by the owner of the RV park we stayed at outside of Capitol Reef in Utah, and had this suggestion reaffirmed by several others along the way. It was about a two mile hike up into the mountains to get to the spring, which we decided to do during the heat of the day with our big ol’ camping backpacks loaded down with supplies. Needless to say we weren’t super in need of a hot spring once we go to the top, but by the time we figured out where the actual camp spots were, finished our photo shoot with the Gopher Snakes slithering around and setup camp, we had cooled down, the few people who were there had cleared out, and we had the place to ourselves for a while. It is truly a special place. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.
The main pools at Goldbug Hot Springs.
The waterfall next to the springs.
Sunset at Goldbug Hot Springs.
Ol’ crazy eyes.
There are so many good pictures, just go look at them.
In other news, since our last update we had a nice feature on Inhabitat. In case you missed it, here is the link: https://inhabitat.com/couple-convert-a-20-year-old-bus-into-a-solar-powered-tiny-home-on-wheels/
We were also featured on several other sites and have a couple more in the works now. Our tour video is also performing well, with almost 10k views at the time of writing this. Viral internet stardom here we come! Gotta get that 15 megabytes of fame.
And finally, here are our latest stats: