Roads Less Traveled

The Plan B Honeymoon

A photographer and his bride celebrate their nuptials with hot spring soaks and a journey into Idaho’s remote backcountry.

Photography by
Elliot Ross
As told to
Nino Padova

When photographer Elliot Ross and his partner, Genevieve Allison, sat down to plan their wedding last year, they pictured nearly 200 people eating, drinking, and dancing beneath the endless Colorado sky. After the festivities, the newlyweds would take off on a six-month jaunt around the globe, a fitting honeymoon for a relationship steeped in travel and discovery.

But a pandemic is nothing if not the perfect party killer. Once summer rolled around, the couple settled on a small ceremony in their backyard attended by immediate family and a few close friends. “It was actually awesome,” says Ross. “I can’t imagine doing it any other way now. And the best thing is, no one got sick.”

As for the globe-trotting honeymoon: It would have to wait. Instead, the two charted a course across the Mountain West that began in their home state of Colorado and stretched into the Basin and Range region of Idaho and, eventually, the Sawtooth Range. Along the way, they’d soak in natural hot springs, accidentally trespass on a nuclear disposal site, and laze away long afternoons reading by the river. Ross shares some of the highlights of their road trip.

1. The Salmon River runs through Stanley, Idaho. 2. Allison nearly loses her hat at Craters of the Moon National Monument.

“We were calling this our mini-moon! Idaho is the state in the West we knew the least about. It’s sparsely populated, which was attractive to us, but it also has so many outdoor opportunities. We’re big water people. A lot of our trips are designed around rivers and hot springs, and Idaho has some of the best in the region. Plus, we have a nice camper van so a road trip just made sense. Genevieve and I wrote a book together about the U.S.-Mexico border that had us sleeping in our car in WalMart parking lots for five months. We have a lot of experience spending time in close quarters. I’d say that’s been the crucible of our relationship.”

We have a lot of experience spending time in close quarters. I’d say that’s been the crucible of our relationship.
A pair of sandals on a red floor.

Snapshots from day one in which the newlyweds drive 600 miles through three states.

“Day one was all about covering ground. We were determined to see Big Southern Butte, one of the largest volcanic domes in the world. It sits in the southeastern corner of Idaho’s Basin and Range region, which is just a stunning landscape. But getting there proved to be difficult. Google sent us down a strange road with all of these signs: ‘Restricted Access: Radioactive Disposal Site.’ We’d been driving nearly 11 hours at this point and needed to sleep, so I decided to ignore them. Then we started seeing razor-wire fences and huge hangar-like buildings with stacks of barrels emblazoned with the radioactive symbol. We were definitely not supposed to be here! Eventually, we found a dirt road with a pull-off. It was dark. We killed the engine and cooked up a quick supper under the gleaming band of the Milky Way. The next morning we woke up in the shadow of the Butte and I felt a peacefulness set in for the first time since the wedding.”
It was just us, the sound of the water dripping, the crisp mountain air.

“I always keep a journal when I travel,” says Ross. “The photos are bookmarks of my journey.”

“As a kid, I’d seen photos of scientists exploring the lava tubes at Craters of the Moon National Monument, and ever since I’ve had the urge to wander the long, dark tunnels. Of course they were closed due to the pandemic. We walked around the higher elevations where wind gusts reached 50mph and the pulverized lava rock sandblasted our legs. Genevieve almost lost her hat! Once you’re up there, though, you can see how truly incredible the landscape is. The lava flows swallow the rugged plains that surround them. I fell in love with the topography in this region. It doesn’t have the same gestures as the Grand Canyon or Rocky Mountains, but there are subtle details in the colors and textures that just suck you in.”

“Idaho has such a diverse landscape,” says Ross. “Yet people overlook it.”

“We needed a break from the road and a place to reset. We found an Airbnb in Salmon, Idaho, on a beautiful spot along the Lemhi River. Historically it was a free place to stay for river rafters. Our host, Lynn, was so gracious and knowledgeable, and we appreciated the precautions she took due to COVID. She runs a small farm on the property where she gets most of her vegetables. Genevieve would sit on the porch reading while I worked on my journal. It’s something I’ve done for a very long time; it allows me a quiet moment of introspection after a long, busy travel day. I feel like it’s an important form of personal therapy.

After a short but arduous hike, we came to the crown jewel of the trip. Locals call it Elk Bend Hot Springs, but it’s also known as Goldbug. This place is truly special! There’s a multitude of mineral pools that cascade down a near-vertical gully with small waterfalls connecting each one. Depending on which pool you’re in, the water can be as hot as 103 degrees: nice and toasty, which is what you want when it’s 45 degrees at sunrise.

Because there are so many pools, you’re never really sharing one with anyone else. We set up camp under a nearby cliff with extraordinary views, and made casual trips to the pools. At dawn we hiked down for a soak and found that we were all alone. It was just us, the sound of the water dripping, the crisp mountain air. I can’t think of a better way to spend time with someone you love. It’s an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.”

Editor’s Note: We recommend that you wear a mask, practice social distancing, and follow local and CDC guidelines at all times when traveling. You can refer to more tips in our guide to safely navigating road travel in the age of COVID-19.

Elliot Ross
Elliot Ross is an internationally exhibited photographer based in Colorado with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design. His work has been widely published, with notable appearances in National GeographicTIMEThe GuardianThe New York Times, and The Atlantic.
Nino Padova

Nino Padova lives in the Bay Area and writes about food, drink, travel and entertainment. His work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, Food Network Magazine, San Francisco Magazine, and Sunset, where he was senior travel editor for six years.

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