Anyplace makes a good getaway if you’re with the right people. A good place with the right people is even better. And, having a friend in a great getaway location is the best yet. So, my friend, Lori, and I reserved a time to visit our friend, Lu, who lives in Spokane, Washington, and has a cabin in the panhandle of Idaho close to the Canada border.
After an evening flight and a night in Spokane, we headed out to our first stop in Spokane, the Arbor Crest Winery. This lovely venue, located atop a 450 foot cliff, is open for events of all kinds but we were there for wine tasting. Washington State wines are actually very tasty and they certainly rival California wines. In fact, Washington is second only to California in premium wine production in the United States with over 800 wineries (http://www.washingtonwine.org/wine-101/state-facts/). The wines we tasted were very good so we bought several.
We were soon back on the road to Priest Lake, called Idaho’s Crown Jewel, where Lu and her husband have their cabin. Unfortunately, some of the incredible views of Priest Lake were somewhat obscured by smoke. We later learned that wildfires caused by lightning in central Washington destroyed 100 homes and there were some 50 separate fires burning in Washington causing the acrid smell and hazy conditions we experienced. In spite of the smoke that drifted in, northern Idaho is incredibly beautiful and Lu’s cabin is as welcoming and comfortable as she is. We enjoyed seeing wildlife –rabbits, deer, and hummingbirds, and we were just as happy not to have encountered any bears, coyotes, or wolves on our walks. I would have liked to see a moose, however.
Priest Lake has about 500 year round residents but in summer the population swells to around 2500. Development on the lake is controlled and very limited which helps to maintain a remote, uninhabited flavor. There are several resorts on the lake with great views and amenities, good restaurants, and a scenic golf course is nearby. We ate at Elkin’s Resort one day and Hill’s Resort the next, enjoying local huckleberry drinks at both. We observed the popular game of pickle ball, a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong without learning the rules; walked the #48 Beach Trail; and visited the Priest Lake Museum and Visitor Center. The log cabin that houses the museum with exhibits of local historical significance, was a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project built in 1935.
I would be remiss not to mention a little more about huckleberries, the official state fruit of Idaho. This luscious berry grows wild around these parts and they are truly delicious. They look like a smallish blueberry but the taste is sweeter. My research tells me that domesticated growing and mechanized picking haven’t been very successful (www.huckleberry.xenite.org) which of course keeps the cost high (currently $42 per gallon) but if you’re in the area, you must try them.
Leaving Priest Lake, we headed south to Sandpoint, an attractive small city on Lake Pend Oreille, in time for the local farmer’s market. For a town with a population barely over 7,000, it was quite an impressive event with produce, local handicrafts, and music. We sampled and bought some jalapeno goat cheese for later consumption and considering I normally don’t care for goat cheese, when I say it was excellent, you can believe me.
The town of Sandpoint is separated from the lake by a narrow isthmus occupied by Interstate 95 and Amtrak. A well camouflaged walking trail below the road and railroad gives walkers access to the beach by way of an underpass. This trail is part of the larger trail system of Lake Pend Oreille Walks and Trails that surrounds the lake and offers many opportunities to explore the pristine shoreline.
After our stop in Sandpoint, we had just an hour’s drive to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, arguably the best known summer lake resort area in Idaho. Because it’s better known, it’s also bigger and busier. Or maybe because it’s bigger, it’s better known. Without a doubt, however, its proximity to Spokane, Washington, has certainly stimulated growth. The population is around 40,000 but located just 34 miles from Spokane, it’s essentially part of the Spokane metro area corridor.
The longest floating boardwalk in the world at 12 feet wide and 3300 feet long was a brand new experience for me and quite an impressive one at that. The views were outstanding in spite of a little lingering smoke. After a light lunch, we dipped our feet into the lake, tried not to stare at a guy sunbathing in a thong Speedo (major fashion mistake) and then headed back to Spokane where Darrell cooked a delicious, healthy dinner for us.
Spokane, a Native American word for Children of the Sun, was first inhabited by the Spokane Indians. It became the first white settlement in what is now the state of Washington when a trading post was established in 1810 (www.spokanecity.org). Today, it is the second largest city in Washington and the largest city between Seattle and Minneapolis. The city’s motto is, “Near nature, near perfect.” I like the motto although I heard it’s been the object of some ridicule.
The Spokane River Centennial Trail is a 37 mile long paved recreational trail that starts at Sontag Park in Nine Mile Falls and runs all the way to the Idaho border. We walked just a mile of it but it was time well spent.
The Centennial Trail also passes through Riverfront Park in the heart of downtown Spokane. Riverfront Park was built around the Spokane Falls on the river for Expo ’74 (the World’s Fair) by cleaning up the river area and tearing down the old rail yards and depot. It comprises 100 acres of green space, walking trails, views of the river and falls, flowers, sculptures, and wildlife. The Expo ’74 Pavillion, the 1902 Clocktower from the old train depot, the 1909 Looff Carrousel, the Rotary Fountain, and an IMAX theater are also on the grounds. Among the sculptures, the Garbage Eating Goat is not to be missed.
The thing about a getaway is it’s temporary so, of course, you have to go home until the next time. It’s always good to get together with friends and old friends are best. This was a great girls getaway that I would call near nature, near perfect.
Washington State Wine. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonstatewine.org
Huckleberry Wild, Where to Find Huckleberry Products. Retrieved from http://huckleberry.xenite.org
City of Spokane. Retrieved from http://www.spokanecity.org