Behind the Stories

Bear Lake, Caribbean of the Rockies

By Kris Millgate
April 28, 2016

Sunrise in Winter. Photo by Kris Millgate


Kid wading in Bear Lake. | credit: Kris Millgate
Credit: Kris Millgate
Produce a show about Bear Lake. Pretty straight forward request from Outdoor Idaho executive producer Bruce Reichert. So straight forward that it should be simple, yet I squirm.

I squirm not because Bear Lake is an unknown for me, but rather, a well known.

As you’ll see in our new Outdoor Idaho show Caribbean of the Rockies, Bear Lake is about family and that includes mine. Multiple generations of mine. We go to Bear Lake every summer. I always have and my own kids always will. Our clan meets for a week to camp on the Idaho side of Bear Lake. Right where we beached our boat in a storm one year and right where my favorite dog Caddis is buried. My family and I know Bear Lake all too well.

“Bear Lake is that rock for so many families,” says Claudia Cottle, Bear Lake Watch executive director. “It’s a place that people just come to for that peace.”

I spend so much time at Bear Lake that I wonder if I even really see the lake anymore. That is why I squirm. I worry I can’t wade through what I already know about big blue to find new glory in a place I take for granted.

Then I meet Cottle. I only visit Bear Lake, but Cottle lives at the lake. I’m walking the beach with her one morning and I notice she stops a lot as we’re strolling. I realize she’s staring at the water like she’s seeing it for the first time.

Raspberries. | credit: Kris Millgate
Credit: Kris Millgate
“I remember as a child coming into this valley and thinking the lake was painted in like color by the number,” she says. “I’ve been fascinated with the color ever since.”

Roger Earley shows me the lake in a new way too and I’m delighted. He’s one of the few raspberry growers left in the valley. We’re driving along his rows of raspberries and I see pride in his smile as we survey is sweet crop. The famous Bear Lake raspberry shakes are one of our family’s funnest camping traditions, but I’ve never seen where the berry patches are or how the berries are delicately picked by hand when they’re sold whole.

“They’re a sweet, nice berry,” says Roger Earley, Earley Raspberry Farms. “They come on just the right time when Oregon and Washington berries slow up and they fill in the gap.”

Kid wading in Bear Lake. | credit: Kris Millgate
Credit: Kris Millgate
Another great grower at the lake: fish. Beefy Bonneville cutthroat trout use tiny tributaries around the lake to spawn. Wait until you see that underwater sight in this new show. It’s eye popping. And cisco fishing in the winter is intriguing. Did you know Bear Lake is the only place in the world where you can fish for Bonneville cisco? I didn’t, but I do now.

I also know now that winter sunrises at Bear Lake beat its remarkable summer sunsets hands down. So much so that I shoot sunrise lighting up the snow covered landscape and send the photo to everyone in my family with a caption stating: ‘What our summer vacation looks like in the winter.’

While shooting the lake from above, around and in, I investigate tales of the Bear Lake monster. I discover some of the monster’s sightings are actually documented, but Uncle John’s annual campfire fright about the scary white dog is not.

Another new discovery, I can work out of a wagon. Outdoor Idaho videographer Jay Krajic and I did that for a few days while researching Bear River’s relationship with Bear Lake. Similar names, but no connection. At least not naturally. The connect is manmade on purpose for irrigation water storage. The scientific details are in the show. So is the real reason why Bear Lake is gem blue, thus the nickname, Caribbean of the Rockies.

Covered Wagon. | credit: Kris Millgate
Credit: Kris Millgate
Turns out, I had no reason to squirm after all. There actually is flare in familiarity. You just have to challenge yourself to find it. I found it through the dedication of those who live at the lake I visit every summer. Bear Lake is still the same old place to me, but now I have a new way of looking at it.


My Excellent Adventure

By Sauni Symonds
March 9, 2016

Ghost Town of Boulder City. Photo by Bruce Reichert


Backpacking into Spangle Lakes. | credit: Bruce Reichert
Credit: Bruce Reichert
All of us have some kind of bucket list – things we've always wanted to do, and hopefully get to do before we kick the proverbial bucket. But, what about a bucket list “adventure?” Now, that could be a fun show! I was not completely on board with using the term “bucket list,” since that tends to mean end of life lists. So, I played off the name of an 80's film, “Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure” which evolved into “My Excellent Adventure.”

We thought it would be fun to involve some fans, so we asked our Facebook friends to send us an adventure they had always wanted to do. We received a lot of great ideas, but had to narrow it down to eight stories in the end to fill an hour program. The stories were divided between four different producers who started making plans to help make these adventures happen within a reasonable time period. Over the course of almost a year, we followed our subjects as they climbed mountains, rafted rivers, biked trails, explored ghost towns, backpacked into wilderness, and traveled by snowcat to carve up fresh powder miles away from any ski resort.

Climbing Borah. | credit: Jay Krajic
Credit: Jay Krajic
We helped a few of the participants with planning, and even involved outfitters to help make some adventures happen. But for the most part, we simply followed with our cameras as these adventurous souls found the motivation to finally carry out their dream. Each story has a unique twist, but they all have one thing in common; an excellent adventure!

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