Friends new and old in and around Boise all say the same thing: Oh, Stanley. It’s beautiful there.
And it is.
Here is what we knew about Stanley, Idaho, and why we went:
It is nestled in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and is home to the headwaters of the Salmon River.
It is a designated Dark Sky community.
There are remnant glacial lakes, moraines, and more.
Elk and eagle roam freely.
High mountain peaks soar — 7,000, 9,000, and 11,000 feet.
Recreating activities are in abundance, but the steady population of 63 residents means that people are not — at least outside of summer.
Stanley is utterly serene. Solitude is the norm. Connecting with nature The Thing To Do.
And so, we took Luna to Stanley. We climbed the mountains via the 17 and 21 in the 4Runner alongside the Payette and Salmon Rivers, as well as various creeks, trailheads, and parked vehicles whose drivers were en route to backcountry on snow machines and skis. We packed for below-freezing temperatures, and for being snowed-in and slightly off-grid, adding a hint of Christmas with our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Hot cocoa, delicious homecooked baked goods, and some instant noodles kept us fueled and feeling good. Cold air made for steaming rivers and visible breath clouds. And this midweek, pre-holiday, pre-winter recreating getaway meant that we had Stanley to ourselves.
And, oh, what a gem of a time, what a sparkle of light on the Earth the Sawtooth National Recreation Area creates for those of us who can observe it, be in it, touch it. Our friends were correct: Stanley, Idaho, pulls at you from your heartstrings, yanking you to it and tethering you forever in its splendor. It allows you to connect with nature, as well as with yourself. You are forced to be in it by default. It is a poem, a sonnet, a love letter. It asks of you what you want, while reminding that all you need is already here. It’s the kind of place — this vast basin full of mountains and rivers and creeks and trees and big sky — that whispers, Stay with me. Be here, for a while at least. Get to know me without the chaos of busyness, noise, distraction. I am you. Be here, be present. Stay.
We have been charmed, for sure.
There are just over 60 fulltime residents in Stanley, a small population to handle the influx of visitors in summer, but perfect for the rest of the year, these folks who call Stanley home and can bask in it all year round. Everyone who lives there is guide, concierge, host, familiar with the landscape and each other. They ask how the roads were en route, and they tell you, wherever you are going, that so-and-so sent you. It’s a place of grounding, that is grounded. It’s like a home in my heart.
So we are planning the next adventure up there. Stanley, like McCall, is not too far away from our homebase, which is why we chose it as the pivot point for recreating in the Pacific Northwest.
We are lucky as humans to be able to consciously observe, be witness to, and participate in and with the rest of creation and all of its manifestation, what the stars and gases made. We are here, we are part of it. And it is awesome.
Go to Stanley, if you get the chance. Perhaps we’ll see you there.