Giving Idaho a go

AMELIA ROMANOS
Last updated 16:08 20/07/2012

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Travelling across the United States, there are certain musts on most travellers' to-do lists.

Los Angeles, New York City, Las Vegas and Washington DC are among the more obvious points of interest, while places like Denver, Miami, San Francisco and Boston also hog a great deal of the limelight.

Wherever a tourist is headed, it's a safe bet that Idaho is not their intended destination. It wasn't mine.

However, a road trip from Colorado to Washington led me through to the potato state and now I wouldn't hesitate to go back.

My entrance was via Yellowstone National Park - an appropriate introduction to a state that offers outdoor adventure to challenge some of the best in the world.

Driving towards Idaho's capital, Boise, I got an idea of the adrenaline-pumping activities people travelled to the state for.

In Twin Falls, I stopped to see the Perrine Bridge over Snake River Canyon, which people from all over the world travel to base-jump from.

The bridge is actually the site of the world base-jumping record, after one man jumped 201 times in 21 hours to raise money for charity in 2006.

Idaho's adventure theme turned up a notch when I headed into Boise, a gateway to river-based activities in the summer, and skifields in the winter.

My arrival coincided with the end of spring, and the high-level, fast-flowing rivers were an undeniable invitation for some time on the water.

Ready to get our feet wet, a travelling buddy and I jumped at a chance for a tour with Cascade Rafting, joining a family of five from California, and two men from the east coast to raft down the Payette River.

The paddle more than satisfied my desire for a safe adrenaline hit, but for anyone looking for a bigger dose, the river offers a number of more extreme white water options.

Cascade Rafting also offers a range of other trips, including a full-day adventure through continuous grade four rapids.

The Payette also draws international kayakers in spring, with snow melt providing a consistent stream of grade five rapids through part of the river to test the skills of the best.

Down the road from Cascade's headquarters, I had a chance to really embrace the water, taking a crack at the Idaho-invented sport of bungee surfing.

The sport, created by local man Robert Geier, involves a rider clinging to a surfboard as the river's current stretches them back on an attached bungee cord. At the moment of release, the bungee springs the board back at speeds of up to 35mph, giving the rider the chance to stand up on the board and surf the river.

The thrill of bouncing back with the bungee was enough to get me into the chilly water, albeit in a wetsuit!

Four hours drive from Boise is an opportunity for more water activities in one of the country's greatest land marks - Hell's Canyon.

The canyon, the deepest in North America, is shared by Oregon and Idaho, but with Idaho boasting the tallest side at 2300 metres, it seems fair to give it to them.

I hit the river for a half-day jet boat tour with Hell's Canyon Adventures, and packed wildlife, grade four rapids and a hike into the morning - all without getting wet.

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One of the first stops the boat made was only about 50 metres from the launch site, when we found a bear fishing. Despite us being just metres away, the bear continued to jump between rocks and look for food, giving us plenty of opportunity to snap photos.

Further down the river, we parked up and hiked up the canyon to a mountain hut where early generations had lived, and is now preserved as a historic site.

For the land dwellers who head to Idaho, there is no shortage of activity, and mountain biking is without a doubt one of the most popular - with more than 30,000km of trails

Along with the activities for adventure addicts, the state has a number of other must-see attractions - a personal favourite: The Idaho Potato Museum.

Who would have thought that the world's biggest potato crisp, and a collection of more than 120 potato mashers would provide such entertainment?

The museum's sense of fun was reflected throughout the state and by the people, and was perhaps one of the most inviting aspects to the area.

Boise offered several examples of that attitude, including the public library, amusingly titled "Library!" following a request from a local pizza chain.

Dining opportunities maintain the humour, in particular the Boise Fries Co, which offers a new twist to "Do you want fries with that?"

In keeping with Idaho's potato claim to fame, the restaurant devotes its focus to the potato fries, giving customers a choice of potato type and cut, and listing its burgers as sides.

During my travels across the United States another tourist remarked to me that Idaho was one of about four states you never hear anything about.

Perhaps it's a well kept secret.

FAST FACTS

For more information about what I did check these out.

Cascade Rafting - cascaderaft.com
Hell's Canyon Adventures - hellscanyonadventures.com
Even Surf Co for bungee surfing - evensurf.com

Read Amelia's blog here.

- Fairfax Media

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