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Posts Tagged ‘Lake Pend Oreille’

Schweitzer Summit

Schweitzer Summit

I hadn’t been hiking on Schweitzer since 1979.  Not much has changed.  That’s how it is with the physical world.  It outlasts all of us.  We’re just a blip in time.  Sure we think we’re forever, but despite all the hosannas, even Michael Jackson’s music will soon be forgotten.  It’s not human nature…we’re talking Mother Nature!

Last August in route to the Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary celebration I posted about the posse travels and stop in Sandpoint, Idaho which is home to Schweitzer.   And again over this past July 4th holiday weekend I found myself disconnected from everything deemed important and traveling the “long-bridge” across Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced: ‘pond –oh– ray’)… the largest natural lake in Idaho.  The lake is 65 miles long and over 1100 feet deep in some areas which explains why the Navy continues to perform underwater acoustic testing at an old WWII base.

LibertySchweitzer mountain is an amusement park of the mind.  Rather than going on rides, being turned upside down by some mechanical contraption, you look at the Selkirk Mountain landscape and your mind does somersaults.  How did this happen?  It’s hard to imagine a glacier which was part of the continental ice sheet forming a lake over 800 feet deep as far away as Missoula, Montana.   Now it’s only a “small” remnant of all that glacial action.

One evening relaxing from a mountain hike I happen onto HBO and watched the Nicholas Stoller movie, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” starring Jason Segel and Kristen Bell.  It’s a comic look at one guy’s herculean task to deal with and get over a recent break-up.  Overall the movie was better than I first thought and afterward’s I caught the local news who were in an uproar over Sarah Palin’s resignation.  Palin was born in Sandpoint, and her father, Charles R. Heath, was a science teacher and track coach. I attended school where Charles taught after my father pulled orders for a tour in Vietnam and we relocated closer to relatives. Even though the Palin family moved to Alaska when she was an infant many in the area have a source of pride in her connection to the city.

Lake Pend Oreille

Lake Pend Oreille

I couldn’t help but connect the dots between the movie and how the resignation were seemingly intertwined.  Palin was like the ex-girlfriend they’re SO over, never want to see again, have already forgotten about – really it’s OVER – but they can’t stop talking about her.  Whatever you think of Palin, her argument for resigning seemed logical and the only “incoherent rambling” was coming from the obsessively focused media who couldn’t stop talking about her resignation and her potential TV show…yep, they are SO over her!  I half expect to see Keith Obermann (MSNBC) crying because he has no one to help drive up his viewer numbers.

Instead most folks that I visited were asking: Have you seen all the Michael Jackson coverage on TV?  Or speaking of resignations, how’s work going?  And what’s going on with all the IED troop casualties in Afghanistan?  It was a hysteria filled July 4th news cycle, but I’m thinking everyone needs to take a moment of pause, get some wind in the face, hike a mountain summit and enjoy becoming placed in natural perspective.

Photos taken at Sandpoint and Schweitzer Summit.

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It was a sunny and brisk 46 degrees for our early morning departure out of Sandpoint.  We planned to head out the Pend Oreille scenic byway which spends its entire length next to water, whether the massive Lake Pend Oreille or one of the rivers that feed it.  This lake in the northern Idaho Panhandle, is 65 miles long, and 1,150 feet deep in some places, making it the fifth deepest in the U.S.  Only locals know that the lake is still used by the Navy’s Acoustic Research Detachment to test large-scale submarine prototypes.  View the Navy dock HERE.

We grabbed a drive-thru breakfast in Ponderay, a small community north of Sandpoint then headed eastward.  Highway 200 passes through the towns of Kootenai, Hope, and Clark Fork prior to hitting the westernmost portion of “Highway 200” which extends east through Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota.

About 30 minutes into the ride if you blink you’ll pass by the Cabinet Gorge Dam.  It’s located about 10 minutes prior to hitting the Montana border.  Located on a cliff directly over the dam there is a road which looks like a forest road to the right, but it’s just worn out pavement.  My grandfather worked at this Dam which was built in the early ‘50s.  It took only 21 months to complete with 1700 men working 24 hours a day.  Avista Utilities operates the dam which is one of several on the Clark Fork River which has caused issues with Bull Trout migrating to Lake Pend Oreille for years.

We connected with Montana’s Highway 56 which runs in a northerly direction from an intersection between Noxon and Heron, about 10 miles east of the Idaho state line. The highway runs approximately 35 miles and meets up with U.S. Route 2 about 3 miles east of the town of Troy, MT.  This highway passes through a forested and mountainous landscape.  It travels along the eastern shore of Bull Lake; the Cabinet Mountains are to the east. The entire route is within the boundary of the Kootenai National Forest. Highway 56 is known locally as the “Bull Lake Road” and you’ll often find “deer smear” laying on the side of the road.

We fueled up in Troy and headed east for the 100+ miles to Kalispell and West Glacier Park.  Glacier National Park is known as the “Switzerland of North America” and is enhanced by the historic Swiss style lodges and chalets located throughout the Park. There are over a thousand miles of hiking trails.  When Glacier National Park opened in 1910 it was a time when preserves were opening all over the West as railroads made mountain travel easier. The Great Northern Railroad had just built Belton Chalet, where well-to-do tourists could unload their trunks and servants to experience the wonders of the West in comfort.  This is just one of many hundreds of such stories that you can find about this rich in history area.

We rolled through the park and made tracks to East Glacier.  When we arrived in Cut Bank it was 95+ degrees.  By the time we passed the Camp Disappointment sign on the Blackfeet Reservation (near Browning, MT) we were ready for a swimming pool, but we needed to make some more miles.  Camp Disappointment is the northernmost campsite of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

It was somewhere near this area out on the plain that Santiago encountered a “suicide bird” attack on the chrome Harley wheel.  Sort of a “Wild Hog” moment, but not quite as funny.  We extricated the remaining bird feathers from the fender and proceeded across the plain to overnight in Havre, MT.  We accomplished ~450 miles thru bugs, heat and Montana wind.  We truly looked forward to dinner and some cool refreshments.

Interested to know more about our “Ride Home”?  Read the road blogs for: Day 1HERE, Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE and Day 5 HERE

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I departed Saturday, August 23rd with an 8am arrival at the Flying J truck stop in Troutdale to meet up with the posse.  We decided to cut our own trail rather than follow the dealer rides and took a non-sanctioned northern route to the Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary event in Milwaukee.  This meant riding north to get near the Canadian border on Hwy 2 as quickly as possible to begin our Eastward trek.

The weather was brisk, but ideal for riding.  We headed east through the Columbia Gorge via I-84 where we watched windsurfers in Hood River and had breath taking views of the Columbia river. We saw the locks, barges of grain, and fishing boats.  The scenery is always large and impressive in the gorge.  By the time we arrived in the Richland area for lunch we had hot temperatures and moderate cross winds. 

The terrain in this area gets dull, and the road gets even duller. It’s a confusing area where 395 joins I-82 for a while crossing the Columbia River, but even after it breaks away from interstate, it remains a heavily traveled limited-access highway with lots of traffic as it runs northeast for about 150 miles to Spokane, Washington.  This route took us toward greener country near the Idaho state line. At Spokane, on I-95 east we headed to Coeur d’Alene, ID where we picked up highway 95.  It heads north before reaching the Canadian border.  There is a lot of scenic beauty through the forests of northern Idaho. The traffic gets thinner the farther north you get.

We ended the ~430 mile day crossing over the Sandpoint Long Bridge in Sandpoint, Idaho.  Sandpoint is in, Bonner County and has a little more than 7000 residents. The key industry is recreation/tourism thanks to scenic Lake Pend Oreille and the Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort. A little known bit of trivia is it’s the headquarters of Coldwater Creek which is the women’s apparel retailer.

We stayed at the Quality Inn which is located at the beginning of the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway.  We met up with some friends at the Edgewater Resort and ate dinner in the Beach House Restaurant and had a few refreshments to enjoy the sunset on the lake.

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

As a bonus we ran into Ben Stein (writer, actor, TV personality) in the restaurant bar.  Sandpoint seems to call the “rich and famous” for all types of recreational activity.  You’ll have to trust me that it’s Ben because it’s not very clear in this photo unless you have zoom capability.

Interested to know more about our “Ride Home”?  Read the road blogs for: Day 2 HERE, Day 3 HERE, Day 4 HERE and Day 5 HERE.

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