Thursday, August 16, 2012

Go north to Idaho's lakes country to get out of the smoke & go boating, hiking or biking

Priest Lake under a full moon
Hi all,

I think it's safe to say that people are getting really tired of the smoke-filled Boise Valley, and this weekend, they'll be looking for ways to find some clean air. In my mind, this is a perfect excuse to head north to the Idaho Panhandle, where there are a bounty of recreation opportunities to enjoy, and the air is clear, so I've heard from locals in Coeur d'Alene.

You might groan and think, gawd, that's just too far to go! And I'd come back and say, hey, it's not that far, and you've got only a week or so before the kids have to head back to school. Why not take a few days and go somewhere like Priest Lake, where you can hang out on the beach, even camp by the beach,  and go boating on the lake, canoeing in Upper Priest Lake, mountain biking through giant cedar groves or hiking in the Selkirk Mountains. Or, pick up a Panhandle National Forests map and go on a waterfall tour.

Here's one of my previous blogs that details all of the great camping, mountain biking and canoeing opportunities in the Priest Lake area. Wendy and I went mountain biking on the Lakeshore Trail along main Priest Lake, and rode the Navigation Trail to Upper Priest Lake and cruised along the shoreline. We also canoed from our beach campsite at Beaver Creek Campground, paddled up the channel between main Priest and Upper Priest, and toured the upper lake for the day. Pete Zimowsky from the Statesman wrote a very thorough report about that paddling trip in today's paper.

Another more challenging mountain biking ride near Priest Lake is the Upper Priest River Trail. It's 20.4 miles out and back, all singletrack, and you'll end up at a waterfall and swimming hole at the Idaho-British Columbia border, a perfect place to cool off. This one is featured in my book Mountain Biking Idaho. It's one of my all-time favorite rides. The cedar trees are gigantic.  

Several other possibilities in the Idaho Panhandle:
The Taft Tunnel (courtesy Spokesman Review)

  • Ride the Route of the Hiawatha, a cool, gravel rail-trail that can be accessed from Wallace if you're taking the I-90 or from St. Maries, if you're driving up through Idaho. There are a whole series of dark tunnels and railroad trestles on the trail. Distance is 14 miles up, 14 miles back. There's a shuttle available if you don't want to ride uphill. Be sure to bring a bright light! (Camping headlamps are worthless). This ride is written up in Mountain Biking Idaho. Here's an informative video about the whole experience. 
  • Ride the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes anywhere between Wallace and Heyburn State Park. If you're driving up through Idaho, access the trail from the west side at Heyburn, and cruise on the paved trail to Harrison for ice cream and continue along Lake Coeur d'Alene and then the Coeur d'Alene River, enjoy the scenery and all of the bird life along the way. 
  • The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes 
  • Pick up a copy of  Mountain Biking Idaho and check out some outstanding rides in the Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint areas. Canfield Butte next to Coeur d'Alene has a ton of singletrack trails to explore, and Farragut State Park also has some great trails, one of them right next to Lake Pend Oreille. In the Sandpoint area, you can ride a twisty singletrack (more than 40 switchbacks!) to the top of Gold Hill, cruise around Schweitzer Mountain Ski Area, or try a long expert ride like the Bernard Peak Loop (18.5 miles, 2,650 feet of vertical gain/loss.) 
If you go up north, I recommend taking I-84 to Tri-Cities, Wash., Highway 395 to I-90, and then you're home free, in Ritzville, Wash., just an hour from Spokane, and 1.5 hours from Coeur d'Alene. This route is at least an hour faster than driving through Idaho (I've done it in 6+ hours). Save time by driving part of the way in the evening, and the rest in the morning, and then you'll have for an outing the first afternoon. 

If you'd rather stay closer to home, head up to McCall and go beaching, camping, hiking, biking and boating. Here's a blog I wrote recently with 10 reasons to go to McCall. The morel picking season is long over, but you can probably still find some huckleberries.  

If you're stuck in town, don't forget the Tour de Fat event on Saturday in Ann Morrison Park ... The parade starts at 10 a.m. (be sure to dress up in some kind of wacky costume), and then the beer begins to flow ... buy beer and your proceeds go toward the Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA), the Boise Bicycle Project and other great charities.

Have fun!
- SS

No comments: