Ever-Changing amid the Unchanged Mountains
Pocatello was IDAHO magazine’s Spotlight City in our December 2001 issue. Almost two decades later, it’s time to revisit.
By Elise Barker
I immediately loved the sound of the word “Pocatello” the first time I heard it back in 2007. Pocatello. It comforted me in its similarity to “Topeka,” my hometown in Kansas, and another city purported to be named after a local tribal chief. My husband Chris and I were preparing to move wherever he got a job, and even though I didn’t want to leave my home and family, I couldn’t resist the allure of living in a town called Pocatello. I remember slowly and awkwardly typing “Pocatello” into a search engine that first time. I saw photos of hikers. I found maps for mountain bikers. I read about the First Friday Art Walk and Saturday morning Portneuf Valley Farmer’s Market. I scoured the Idaho State University (ISU) website, and found the perfect program for me. I discovered a real estate listing of a house with a view of nearby Scout Mountain. I went to bed that night imagining we already lived here.
On our first day in Pocatello, we snaked up Lincoln Avenue and discovered the City Creek Trail System completely by accident. Heaving ourselves up a trail to the water tower above, our flatlander lungs burned as we turned to survey the city we were to call home, with its cozy bowl of surrounding mountains, its railroad, its colorful downtown, its river, and its university. Looking at that skyline, with its blend of old and new, rural and urban, I knew we had discovered the place to plant our roots.
Thirteen years later, Chris pulled our five-year-old daughter Naomi behind him in her “half-wheeler” bike trailer on the Shadyside portion of the Portneuf Greenway Trail System. “Burgers or sandwiches?” I shouted to my husband, whose bike precariously wobbled in front of me as he turned his ear to hear me better. The sway of their bodies made me flinch at the thought that if we wanted lunch, we were going to have to hit the streets.