Feature July 17, 2020

A Gem of a State

Finding Solace in Idaho’s Land of Plenty

Over the past few months, the entire globe has experienced a collective pause and, at times, a shocked speechlessness during the ongoing crisis that hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. We hunkered down, connected as best we could while keeping our distance, felt gratitude for our front line responders, and found joy in what access was available, be it a walk with a pet or a simple bike ride.

And while the world stayed in, the environment also took a collective breath. In many ways, this “great pause” resulted in an environmental reset; a silver lining and show of hope amidst the uncertainty. In India, people saw the Himalayan peaks from New Delhi for the first time in decades as the stay-at-home order stifled air pollution. In March alone, large metropolitans from Paris to New York City experienced large carbon emissions decreases. On a global scale, carbon emissions decreased by 17 percent during the quarantine. Over the coming months, scientists will no doubt continue to learn more and more about how this time affected the environment.

Fields of lupine herald springtime in central Idaho.

Slowed highway traffic and less crowds made the world just a bit quieter—so much so that seismologists observed less ambient seismic noise from cars, traffic, and daily movement, which caused the earth to shake a bit less. Reports of dolphins swimming within the Venice canals, wildlife wandering through vacant city streets, and other signs of a healing planet were a spot of welcomed joy and a reminder of the value of Mother Nature and time spent outdoors. For Idahoans, this reminder only doubled down our love and appreciation for life
out West.

Now more than ever, the world is craving connection with the natural world and its wide open spaces, fresh air, sweeping fields, towering mountain peaks, and scenic vistas. We are searching for room to roam. In the Gem State, you don’t have to search far, and the Wood River Valley is no exception.

Canoe camping along the Pend O’reille River, which originates at Lake Pend O’reille near Sandpoint, Idaho.

Our access to the outdoors is our identity and intrinsically interwoven into our life here in the mountains of Idaho. It’s what helped us cope, stay healthy and active, and look forward to things to come. It’s what makes Idaho, Idaho. Steep snow-capped peaks stretching to the edge of the Sawtooth National Forest beckon for a hike to get away from it all. Anchoring the landscape of town, Bald Mountain invites seasoned mountaineers and novice hikers to ascend and explore. Nearby diverse waterways attract anglers looking to cast a line, hoping for that perfect cutthroat catch. Hundreds of miles of single-track trails cut through the hills and valleys surrounding Sun Valley, perfect for hiking, biking, and exploring. It’s the ideal backdrop for the solitude seeker in us all.


horseback riding in the Boulder Mountains, where “Pale Rider” was filmed.

Take a look at what makes Sun Valley and Idaho so very special and what calls so many to our rivers, mountains, and landscapes year after year—whether you live here, love it here, or are looking forward to exploring for yourself. Some search for their own private Idaho. Others vie for that next adrenaline-packed adventure skiing deep powder or ascending steep peaks.


We get it. It’s why we are here, too, and it’s worthy of celebrating. It’s a gem of a state.

This article appears in the Summer 2020 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.