Idaho hot springs ease five years of disappointment

On Road Trip 2009, CNET News reporter Daniel Terdiman finally makes it to a series of incredible geothermal pools, after years of trying.

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
4 min read

This hotfall above an Idaho hot spring produces spectacular rising steam. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

RIGGINS, Idaho--For many years, I've been taking road trips around the United States. Many have been in the West, and I've covered a whole lot of ground.

In 2006, I did my first CNET Road Trip, a two-week-plus journey around the Pacific Northwest writing stories and posting photo galleries of the most interesting things I found along the way. Afterward, the project became an annual thing, and I'm now well into Road Trip 2009.

And I've finally completed a personal mission I set long ago.

In 2005, just before I joined the CNET News staff, I set out on a 10-day trip that was intended to take me through California, Nevada, Oregon and Idaho. Among the things I was doing was reporting on a rather incredible art piece, the Simnuke Project. But mainly, I was on vacation.

Some friends and I took a couple days at the beginning and visited several of the outstanding hot springs along the eastern Sierra Nevada in California. And after Simnuke, I had planned on going to visit more springs in Oregon and then Idaho. Particularly Idaho. I had heard that there were more springs there than anywhere else in the States. I didn't know if it was true, but it sounded great, and I was going.

And then my car broke down. I lost two days to that, and that cost me Idaho. I made it to some great springs in Oregon, but no gem state.

Flash forward to Road Trip 2006. I was in the Pacific Northwest. Idaho--once again on the itinerary. I would make it to those springs, and complete the circle started the year before I joined CNET. Except when I came down out of eastern Washington state and hit the intersection of Interstates 82 and 84, I was flat-out exhausted. Suck it up and turn left: hello, Idaho. Grit my teeth and turn right: back to Oregon.

Did I mention I was exhausted? I turned right. Fortunately, that return visit to Oregon was incredible.

Still, the following year, when Road Trip 2007 took me to the Southwest--California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico--I thought, if I'm ambitious, maybe I'll sneak north out of Utah and hit Idaho. And get to those darned springs. But it wasn't to be: too far north.

This went on and on, becoming this great, unfulfilled ambition in my life. In December 2007, I finally went to Idaho, to a suburb near Boise, to do a story on the research and development labs of Ugobe, the maker of the toy robot dinosaur Pleo. And, I thought as I was planning the trip, I'll just tack on a couple of days, rent a car, and drive out to some of the springs. It was foolproof.

Until you realize that I'm a city kid from Northern California, and Idaho has intense winters. Not all of it, of course. But many of the roads where the springs are were in areas that maps said, "May be closed in winter." I could have done it I suppose, but in two days, with an inexpensive rental car, in deep winter, it didn't seem prudent.

I guess a message throughout all this is that I chose prudence over risk time and again. Oh, well. Live and learn.

But then, finally, came Road Trip 2009. The map promised vindication: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota. And, yes, Idaho.

Given the past history, I told myself not to get cocky about it. I wouldn't believe I'd make it to the springs until I was there.

At a lovely Idaho hot spring, a man lays submerged in the water as a hot shower cascades from a rock far above. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

And then, finally, this weekend, I arrived. In the stunning national forests of the center of the state, on some of the most beautiful rivers I've seen, I was there. At last.

Did they survive, in my mind, the scrutiny of the build-up? You bet. They are some of the best hot springs I've seen, and I've seen more than a few.

They're tucked away along rivers, have hot waterfalls, and feature geothermal steam rising off the sides of steep hills. And they're in the midst of the most green valleys you can imagine.

And I made it.

So what's the next personal challenge I can best?

For the next two weeks, Geek Gestalt will be on Road Trip 2009. After driving more than 12,000 miles in the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and the Southeast over the last three years, I'll be writing about and photographing the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation, and more in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and Colorado. If you have a suggestion for someplace to visit, drop me a line. And in the meantime, join the Road Trip 2009 Facebook page and follow my Twitter feed.