She always talked about it. The smell of what she called “mountain air,” the post office and dry goods shop and she’d always end with… “Don’t bury me in this damn Michigan!”
My grandma in her twenties, somewhere in Idaho
I never really got it. I never understood what she was trying to explain to me. What was so bad about Michigan? How could an old town in Idaho be so great? How many people live there, like 5?
Earlier this month, my mom and I took her back to Salmon to lay her to rest… so she didn’t have to be buried in “damn Michigan.”
Honestly, I never thought we’d get there. I never saw myself traveling to Idaho. Life is busy, tickets were expensive.. I just never saw it coming together. Somehow though, we made it happen. It must have been destine.
Not more than an hour after we arrived in town, a huge rainbow shown end to end over the entire town. I nearly lost my breath. I’m not big on religion, ghosts, magic, astrology, or overall symbolism. But this… this was something! The gravity of the entire situation really hit me. She was there. In whatever form, my grandma was there with us. The rainbow stayed in the sky for over an hour.
Backing up a bit… we stayed with my cousins who still live in Boise. Since Salmon is six hours north, we decided to make a road trip out of it. I honestly really didn’t get the whole Idaho thing until I landed in Boise. Then, I fell in love with mountains. I’d seen them on TV and online but in real life this mid-western girl was in awe.
How had I never seen these before?! I’d been to the East coast but never West, I was missing out!
We set out to hit a few places along the six hour drive. I’m all about visuals, so here was our route. Personally, I think looking at a map really helps explain the locations.
The red was our route on the way there is in red, and black was the route back. (All locations are approximate. Please ignore my horrible drawing skills. I’m not a cartographer)
First stop on the way there (red route) was Craters of the Moon. I really didn’t know what to expect. I had seen pictures online but nothing did it justice. I hoped I could.
Just a photo side note… I haven’t shot smaller than f/4 in years. I find landscape photography challenging. I’m not a landscape photographer. I had to channel my college classes with the view camera to remember how to shoot at f/22. Needless to say, it was hard for me. I shoot people! These were the images I liked the best. I hope they don’t suck.
Moving on… Arco, ID. I am so in love with this sign. We ate at this cafe for lunch and I loved it’s cute diner appeal.
As we approached Salmon, I was still in mountain awe.
This photo doesn’t look like much but it meant a lot to my mom and cousin, Ann. This is the old mine where my great grandfather used to work in Gibbonsville, ID.
So glad they finally got to make the journey back.
This little place is the house where my grandma was born. Its off a dirt road in the middle of nowhere down the hill from a coal mine. Its simple and small to look at but it means the world to me. She talked about this house at great length. The way it smelled, the baby deer she adopted there (yes, my grandma had a pet deer) and all the memories she had just seemed like something I would never understand.
I finally got it. The air smelled cleaner, fresher than anything I’ve ever smelled. The sound of the river flowing and the unspeakable mountain views bowled me over with emotion. Everyone in town knew her and her father Ralph. Mention their names and it was an open door and welcome smile. I’ve never been welcomed with such open arms. It was a once in a lifetime experience!
On the left is the old school house, now historical museum. The right is a view of the front porch.
School house window. Vintage love.
My mom has some special history with this moose. My great grandfather shot it and she had to sleep under it as a child. She was afraid it was going to come alive and attack her in her sleep. Now it sits on the wall at the museum.
We ended the night with at Bertram’s Brewery, where I had the best stout of my life! Sacajawea stout, best way to end a long day.
Before we left my grandma’s hometown in Salmon, we spread her ashes into the river, her favorite place to fish. It was perfect.
Our last stop was in Idaho Falls and I managed to take this night image that really seemed to shine. Even though it was almost dark out.
The way back included a lot of time in the cemetery as we buried my grandmas ashes in a plant at her father’s grave. For me, it was extremely cathartic and I’m so glad we made the time to take this trip. This was probably the most important trip I’ve ever taken. I am so grateful and my heart is full!