When you think about taking the high road, Idaho 21 has to be top of mind.
The road from Boise to Stanley is lined with forests, meadows and craggy mountains that rival the Tetons or the Alps.
Starting in the canyons of the Boise River, which authors Mary Hallock Foote and Wallace Stegner both found idyllic, Idaho 21 makes it hard to keep your eyes on the road, even when that is your intention.
The route is called Idaho's Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, and it's getting the kind of showcase recognition that the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in and around Stanley hasn't received in its 41 years.
Country Magazine selected the road that winds through such hamlets as Idaho City and Lowman as one of the most picturesque country drives in America. The list is included in the November issue of Country, which bills itself as "the magazine for readers who love the land and life of the countryside."
The road, which begins at the Gowen Road exit of Interstate 84 and ends in the mountains at the Salmon River in Stanley, is in good company. The Country Magazine list includes the Oregon Coast Highway; the Door County, Wisc., Coastal Byway; Utah's Red Rock Country; the Natchez Trace Parkway from Tennessee to Mississippi; Virginia's Blue Grass Valley Road; Glacier Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road; Maine's Mount Desert Island Loop near Bar Harbor; and Washington's Mount Rainier's Route 706.
Writer Mary Liz Austin tells Country's readers about the quaint gold rush-era roadside attraction that is Idaho City. She writes of the climb over 6,-000-foot More's Creek Summit and the roller-coaster ride up and down to Lowman in the heart of the Payette River Valley.
Then, even higher, is Banner Summit, and soon after the "eye-popping silhouette of the Sawtooth Mountain Range."
But there is no mention of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The Country Magazine writers for all of the other scenic routes through national parks tout those national shrines.
The future of the SNRA and the mountains in and around it are the focus of fairly intense in-state debate about the best way to protect, preserve and promote the area. You wouldn't know that from Country Magazine.
Then again, the SNRA is just another ranger district to the U.S. Forest Service, so you can't really fault Austin or Country Magazine for missing it.
That might be lucky for Idahoans, since we get to keep it our own little secret.
But the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway is no longer such a secret. Donna's Place in Idaho City might want to stock up on its pork-fritter sandwiches.
Rocky Barker: 377-6484