East into the West

We got back Sunday night from a four-day marathon road trip into northern Idaho, dipping very slightly into Montana just to say we did. Our trip was purposeful; full of driving, driving, driving, seeing what we could see of the panhandle of the easternmost state of the Pacific Northwest.

I only took a few photos, sadly. But then again, what we saw was largely seen from the road, and when we did stop to wander about a bit the wind was tearing things up, and snow was falling, and we kind of just skittered about soaking in what we could, placing the sights and biting breezes and towering pine trees into mental suitcases to unpack later.

We were tourists briefly at the Cataldo Mission just north of Coeur d'Alene. We walked around Tubbs Hill, also in Coeur d'Alene, for an after pub dinner stroll. We let ourselves out of the car in northwestern Montana so that I could stand on that soil once again after too many years. We wandered the shore of a Montana reservoir and found a winter preserved deer carcass. And it was nearly a requirement to stop at the vintage car graveyard at the Idaho/Montana border.

The first time I ever drove into northern Idaho I had barely turned 18. It was my first multi-state road trip and I was headed to Montana's Helena National Forest for a summer job. I was alone, and free, and felt like the west and all it had to offer was my birthright, that it all belonged to me.

I remember feeling as an Oregonian that I was from the most *west* of the western states. But once I entered Idaho, once I saw Kellogg, and Wallace, and the towering pine forested hills I realized that Oregon was really only west by virtue of geography, that the real west lay east of my home town.

Now that we're home the gentle weather and colorful blooms all around town feel balmy and decadent. Our town which is quiet and empty for much of the winter sprouts legs in shorts and sandals over these first warm days of spring, and I move about within it thinking about my west, and how much of it belongs to me.