Friday, September 6, 2013

Exploring the Northern Idaho Panhandle

Tuesday Aug 27th  – Friday Aug 30 – We had wanted to spend some time just exploring this section of Idaho. There are three major lakes in the Idaho panhandle – Lake Coeur D’Alene, Lake Pend Oreille, and Priest Lake, making this area a sort of resort/vacation spot.

Our days took on a kind of relaxed feel……with a slow morning, maybe going for a walk around the campground, or having a good breakfast…..then about 10 am or so we would head out to go exploring. Each of our destinations was within an hour and a half drive. Our plan was to enjoy the drive, look around the cute downtown areas of the nearby towns, have lunch out, then maybe drive a back road or two……

We explored Coeur D’Alene on Tuesday, about 40 minutes from Heyburn State Park.


What first impressed us were the flowers! Everywhere….in planters and hanging baskets all around the downtown.


Coeur D’Alene also had a really nice waterfront with this awesome 3/4 of a mile of floating boardwalk…..and lots of people enjoying the beach. We had lunch at Hudson’s Hamburgers, a downtown diner that has been serving hamburgers (or cheeseburgers- no fries, no chips- just burgers, drinks and the best homemade pies) for 100 years.


Bayview, a small town just adjacent to Farragut State Park, had a whole ‘neighborhood’ of floating homes in the bay. I don’t know if this is a house…or what?  I just thought that it looked really neat! I would have loved to see inside……


On Thursday, we drove up to Sandpoint, a cute, ‘artsy’ little town on Lake Pend Oreille. this is the inside of their ‘Market Building’ which s a long, narrow collection of shops which create a bridge over the river. We indulged ourselves and had a wonderful ‘Blackforest Mocha’ and a carrot cupcake here.

On Wednesday, we went exploring in the morning, driving north from Farragut SP, through the town of Bonners Ferry. We were following our “Backcountry Roads” book, again, this time with a bit better luck.


Our first stop was the Moyie River bridge and dam. There was supposed to be a waterfall upriver of the dam, but we followed the gravel road quite a ways and never came to an overlook.

We drove on northwards……following the Wild Horse Scenic Byway on US 95.


This stretch of road followed an ancient route of the Kootenai natives and continues on into Canada. We turned off just 1 mile from the Canadian border.


We were looking for Copper Falls….again following the “Backcountry Roads”. This time, the mileage seemed correct, and we found the trail head without difficulty. An easy 1/2 mile walk on a nice trail (though the sign warned about grizzly bears in the area) and we were at Copper Falls.


The falls were stunning, not a large volume of water, but 225 feet tall. The trail looped around….very well maintained and with benches here and there by the creek side.

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We were the only ones on the trail or at the falls. It was quiet and lovely…….

After ‘discovering’ Copper Falls, we turned back south on US95, stopping in Bonners Ferry for lunch.


This just seemed TOO cute and quirky……

Our days spent ‘exploring’ had a good feel……We hiked a hike or two, enjoyed the nice weather and the outdoors, shopped a bit and appreciated the local artwork, and soaked up the local flavor. We would make it back to our camper by late afternoon, giving us time to fix a simple dinner and enjoy the evening. It is really satisfying to follow a guide book or a map and to discover those hidden gems - whether dining spots or waterfalls. And, it keeps the ‘spirit of adventure’ alive……….


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