Waking refreshed in the morning, we refuelled on both strong gas and strong coffee, whilst managing to resist the temptation of a 99c 32oz cola (that’s a litre…for only 99c…) and a cheap gas station breakfast burger (breakfast burger, seriously?). Instead we opted to relish in having the van back by cooking our own fry up in the back before we got moving westward to northern Idaho.
Getting the low down from a few of the Missoula locals (The Missoula Massive) and hankering for a soaking we arrived dressed in suitable swimming attire and made the walk across the suspension bridge and on to the first of three springs that make up the Jerry Johnson Springs.
Be sure if you do come here that you arrive early, especially on weekends, as the first, and best, pool packs out quickly, and is much more enjoyable to soak in when it’s in the morning shade. As an added bonus you can use the chilled waters of the adjacent river as a plunge pool to revitalise. This was by far our favourite pool. Moving on to the second pool we were disappointed to find beer cans strewn around it and made our way to the third one. Passing under the canopy of massive pine trees the path arrives to an opening with the Hot spring perched on top of a gradual slop. This one is in the best surroundings though lacks the plunge pool of the first. Hanging out here with another couple on vacation from their farm, time passed without a care in the naturally serenity of the landscape.
Onwards and upwards along the number 12 whilst hugging the Clearwater River we searched for our own ‘Private Idaho’. Between mile markers 131 and 132 there it a pull out on the riverside, and a short walk along the road brings you to a calm part of the river that’s deep enough for swimming, with numerous rocks to sun bake upon. With not much else to do for the afternoon we lazily basked in the sun whilst fishing and drinking Rose.
If you’re not able to find our spot then you’ll see that there are many other options to choose from. You can even choose from some spots further west with sandy beaches, albeit small ones. Passing through wildfires as the setting sun tickled the rippling waters of the Columbia River, we deviated off the idyllic road and into a rest area just outside of Louisville. But not before hitting up the town’s totally retro McDonalds to much back a couple of jalapeno doubles (trust us the best yet).
What an impressively gorgeous drive through surprisingly gorgeous Southern Idaho, and a perfect day to remind us that it was days like this that made the whole trip worthwhile (yes, mechanics and all).