There are few state boundaries as perfectly square as the northern tip of the Idaho Panhandle. Viewed from afar, like on a small map or pulled way back on Google’s Earth, this little peninsula of mountain wilderness skinnies between Washington and Montana, meeting Canada head-on with a the blunt impact of a sledge hammer. That doesn’t mean that this striking rhombus is without it’s cultural asymmetries. As one of the last areas in the lower 48 states to have been explored by European settlers, Idaho remained wild long after the rest of the country was mapped and parceled. This is a place for 4x4s and bow hunting, for TNT and pick axes, for cave-ins and abandoned cabins, this is a place for Robert Redford movies, a Mecca for the rugged individual.
High, dry, and isolated the Panhandle drew the restless, the wild, and the solitary. Trappers and hunters arrived to this nowhere from everywhere as they escaped the confines of some place. They fled the soot-clogged tenements of the early eastern cities and the fervent conformity of the agricultural establishments taking root in the Midwest.
As settlers manifested their own destiny, driving their woeful wagon trains east across the Rockies, they largely bypassed this hard stretch of land favoring the more inhabitable biomes of Washington, Oregon, and California. The Idaho Panhandle was left to miners and fortune hunters trading the comfort of society for the wild asceticism that is endemic to the hunting of geologic fortune. It was these lonely wild men and women who established the character of the Idaho Panhandle and the zeitgeist informs the areas current cultural character of willful independence.