Saturday, September 7, 2013

Off on another ‘Adventure’–Driving Around Priest Lake

Saturday August 31st, 2013 – After having had a bit of success with the “Backcountry Roads”, we let the spirit of adventure overtake us once again. This time we were driving up towards Priest Lake State Park, in search of Lion’s Head Falls. Fred’s commentary on this drive started with “Well….it depends on how adventurous you want to be.” NEVER a good sign……The book’s description included about 6 – 7 miles of a gravel road and the directions “Next you ford two small tributaries of the creek.”  I knew we were in for quite a day…….

From Farragut SP we headed west on Hwy 54, to Spirit Lake, then north to Priest River. Just before Priest River we stopped at the Albeni Falls Dam. The informational sign there spent a great deal of time describing the falls……how beautiful they were and how some settler built his cabin just there, so that he could see the falls.


Then, the next sign went on to say that the need for hydroelectric power gave rise to the dam, and isn’t that great……but the falls were no longer there! I hoped that that was not the way the rest of our adventure would go!

From Priest River we continued north on Hwy 57 until we hit East Shore Road – very aptly named as this road ran along the east shore of Priest Lake. After reading a somewhat confusing road description, I looked on our GPS to see if I could find the intended turn – Lion Creek Road, a gravel road at whose end we were to find Lion’s Head Falls. I found it and marked it……

The drive along East Shore Rd was beautiful! Priest Lake is really a beautiful, pristine lake, with little development, save for a few picturesque lake houses. Priest Lake is also big……we drove for miles (and miles) on East Shore Rd.

Finally, we came to Lion Creek Rd……a dirt road (not graveled or graded) that, at first glance seemed better than the crazy first drive that we had taken. It was, at least wide enough for our truck to pass without scraping the sides! Very shortly, we wondered just what we had gotten ourselves into…….

The road was rutted and rocky……and our truck has a very stiff suspension! We bumped and joggled,  and bumped, and climbed in and out of the ruts. It was teeth jarring….not frightening, no really big drop offs…..I was not worried about sliding off the road, just hitting a rut and breaking an axle, or getting a flat from the sharp edged rocks. This was, BY FAR, the worst surface that we had ever had the truck on……


I took a picture of one of the ruts……It looks a bit like a mountain!  Fred, however was bound and determined to get to the end of this road.

I have to say, the other crazy thing was that there were other cars and trucks heading down this road, too. Lots of them,…..a whole parade…..and several coming back. Evidently, the road  was passable. Curiosity drove us on…..

About 5.2 miles down this road, we came to this…..


The end of the road….and cars……at least a dozen parked all along the road side. Whole families were getting out of these cars with swim towels and flip flops, ice chests and cold drinks, with small children and babies in backpacks. They were all headed down the trail at the end of the road. We overheard some talking about Granite Falls and sliding on the rocks.  Our guide book had not said ANYTHING about this! We had just come expecting to be the only ones there looking at some pretty cool waterfalls, actually, a series of small falls over the rock into lovely pools of water.

We gathered up our little daypack with our picnic lunch, and followed the group. Someone had mentioned something about 1.5 miles……Our guide book had talked about the trail to the falls, and noted that there was a nice viewpoint just 1/4 mile down the path, but that the trail to it was unmarked. When we found what we thought was the ‘unmarked’ trail to that viewpoint, we walked down to the falls…..


And were delighted to find this perfect spot. As described….streams of water flowing over the granite and into crystal clear pools. We were the only ones to stop at this point. A perfect place to have our lunch.


We explored a bit further up the waterfalls…..


Coming to several more pools and falls upstream.

We had not seen where the crowds of people had gone, other than up the trail, following the creek upstream.


We decided to continue on the trail, curiosity driving us more than anything. Our guidebook had been off, once again, on a few details as well as mileages, so we were not 100 percent certain that we had seen what we had come to see. Besides, we could just picture some amazing slide rock…..and we kept seeing people coming back, wet, though not particularly ‘over the top’ excited.

As we walked along, we remembered the time we took the kids to Slide Rock State park in Arizona…..a fun time, but oooh – the butt burn! We saw kids carrying big plastic bags along with their towels….. maybe to slide on? A good idea, I think.

We hiked on (and on) another 1.8 miles, enjoying the scenery along the way….


Amazing granite cliffs rising up the sides of this little valley.

We finally came to the end for us….a creek crossing that would require wading up to our knees.


We had not come prepared for this and did not really want to get our shoes wet. Our guide book had noted this point, mentioning that the best views were well before this. We turned around and headed back. Glad for the walk, but without our curiosity having been satisfied. We never did see where all the kids had gone rock sliding.

Back to our truck, we drove back down that dirt road…..bumping and rattling all 5.2 miles, taking 30 minutes.  Once back on East Shore Road, we were just across from Lion’s Head Campground…..


And a beautiful, relaxing beach.


We settled at a picnic table in the shade and enjoyed a snack and a cool drink of water, while we people watched….


And just enjoyed the peacefulness.

The real curiosity of the day was that there were lots of people - it WAS the Labor Day weekend, but still. Lion’s Head Campground was completely full, the beach had a lot of activity, and this was almost at the very end of the road. East Shore Road was not a road that one might just casually drive….and if you were camped at this campground, there were no other services around for miles!

And, I really could not get over how many people drove that horrible dirt road 5 + miles, then hike close to 2 miles, waded a creek up to their knees, carrying toddlers and ice chests, just to slide on some rocks.  Amazing….

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