It’s been a bit smokey around here lately. Like for the last couple of weeks. BC is ablaze and the smoke from their wildfires has settled onto Washington State like an unwelcome wool coat in summer. We were hopeful, when we headed to Idaho last week to visit the husband’s family, that we would get away from the smoke. Nope. North Idaho is dealing with a mix of smoke from both BC and Montana fires. Tough times.
Did I also mention that it’s been hot as hades around here? 90+ day after day. Helllll-ooooo…what happened to my Western Washington summer 70’s? It was actually cooler in N Idaho than it’s been here at home.
We arrived in town last Friday, met a friend for lunch, wandered around town and arrived at the in-laws that evening. Saturday morning we got up and around and headed to Sandpoint for the 23rd annual Long Bridge Swim. There is a bridge that spans Lake Pend Oreille just before arriving in SandPoint. Every year the city hosts a 1.76 mile open water swim from one end of the bridge to the other. Last year 700 people accepted the challenge. Holy cow. That’s a lot of people.
This year our 13-year-old niece, a super-star swimmer (not kidding, she is an amazing swimmer) signed up for the swim. So, we went to cheer her on. And….for the first time in 23 years the swim was cancelled. The wind was blowing and the lake was churning so much that the kayakers that were supposed to be in the water to provide support/assistance were overturning. White caps. Serious stuff when the skill set of the swimmers runs the gamut from competitive to those in floaties out for a good time.
Swim cancelled, we headed up the hill to Schweitzer mountain. Back in the day, the husband spent most of his winters here chucking himself down the hills of Schweitzer on a snowboard. Our plan was to take the ski lift to the very top of the hill and find wildflowers for me to photograph. Because who loves wildflowers? I love wildflowers.
Unfortunately, we arrived at 10 and the lift didn’t open until 11. We wandered around at a bit of a loss. Obviously, we looked lost because a nice gentleman asked if we were looking for a place to hike. Affirmative. He also asked if we were interested in picking huckleberries. Double affirmative. He provided instructions to a trail and a primo berry picking spot and we set off.
On a clear day you can see all of Lake Pend Oreille from atop Schweitzer. The smoke prevented that, though it was less smokey than it had been on the shores of the lake. We headed down a lovely little trail with a smattering of flowers here and there. It was obvious that had we been there a few weeks earlier that it would have been gorgeous. Stalks of bare bear grass lined parts of the trail…the ghosts of bear grass past. And then the huckleberries started.
We have huckleberries here in Western Washington. And on the Oregon Coast. But, they’re different than the Idaho huckleberries. First, they’re salmon color. Second, they’re super-sour. Like, not really edible sour. The Idaho huckleberries are a wonderfully rich dark purple. And while not super-sweet, they’re definitely a pleasant berry to eat. I made a pie with those we brought home and found the cooked flavor to be reminiscent of blueberry.
Our hike was relatively short because we kept pausing to pick berries. And they’re small, so it takes a lot of berries to feel like you’ve got enough to do anything with. Hats off to the guy who recommended both the hike and the berry patch. It was a beautiful couple of hours.
We dropped off the hill for a visit with the husband’s aunt and uncle, who live in the Sagle area. From there we moseyed back to Post Falls to clean up for dinner. We joined the husband’s parents, siblings, their wives and kids in a local restaurant to celebrate my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversary. For real. 50 years. My parents will follow next year.
On Sunday morning we packed a picnic and headed to Prichard, ID. Ever hear of Prichard? I don’t know that it’s actually a town. There’s a post office. And a bar. And a handful of houses. That’s it. But, that’s not why we went to Prichard. We went for the river.
Oh, wait. Let me back up. Guess what we saw on our way to Prichard? This:
Yup! That’s a moose!!! He was crossing the river when we went whizzing by. We turned around and came back and he was over in the bushes grazing. A fly fisherman stood not too far away, but neither seemed particularly bothered by the other.
Anywho, our destination was a small park just north of Prichard. We had talked about the possibility of hiking. But, it was ridiculously hot the entire time we were there and I was desperate for some water. A river, a lake, a puddle. Anything to cool off in.
We arrived at the park around 10:30. “Park” might be a little fancy. There was a port-a-potty. 10 parking spaces. A smattering of picnic tables under large shade trees. And a small rocky beach right on the Coeur d’ Alene river. We spread our blankets over the rocks and proceeded to tandem-inflate the floatie I bought just for the occasion. Of course, floaties are rather hard to come by in Idaho in August, but we found a half price 47″ swim tube the day we came into town after visiting three stores. Not shabby.
I stepped into the crystal clear waters of the river. And gasped. I may have squeaked, too. Why are rivers so much colder at 40+ than they were at 10? But, I was committed. After a few moments I was floating. And giggling. So many water memories from my childhood. The river below my grandparent’s house, rivers and lakes and streams from too many camping trips to count. Hours and hours spent in water.
I lay on my stomach, collecting river rocks that were so colorful when wet (they all got chucked back in the river after drying to dullness). I turned over rocks, looking for crawdads…just as I did as a kid in the river below Grandpa and Grandma’s.
I flipped to my back and stared up at the sky, allowing the current to pull me down stream before paddling furiously back upstream. I spun in lazy circles. It was fantastic.
We finally packed it in (stopping for a brief Coors Light at The Snakepit. For real.) and headed back to town for a final family gathering. Another fun weekend in the ID.