I hadn’t seen my friends Ivy and Jenna in years. We were close throughout high school and even went to the same college, but when our professional lives started, we went our separate ways. We kept in touch over the years, but we were long overdue for a reunion, and north Idaho was on our bucketlist. We used to spend our summers going on long trips to places we had never been, and we couldn’t wait to have our next adventure in the Gem State.
The three of us arrived in Bonners Ferry on Wednesday evening where we had made reservations to stay for the night at the Northside School Bed & Breakfast. We’d been driving for most of the day, so it was nice to relax and wind down. The Northside School has nine themed rooms. There were twin beds in The School Room, so Ivy and Jenna had that room while I stayed in the Idaho Outdoors Room. It was perfect for me and our trip, as I’m an avid hiker and enjoyed the outdoors theme.
The next morning, we had a wonderful breakfast prepared by our hosts, Jerri and Frank, the owners of the bed and breakfast. Our stomachs full, we couldn’t wait to get started with the day ahead.
The great outdoors was a big part of the reason we’d chosen north Idaho, so we were excited to traverse a trail or two in the sprawling 2,774 acre refuge.
Hiking through nature
We drove 10 minutes west to the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. The great outdoors was a big part of the reason we’d chosen north Idaho, so we were excited to traverse a trail or two in the sprawling 2,774 acre refuge. The refuge itself is situated beside the Selkirk Mountains and contains diverse habitats for a variety of wildlife. Ivy and Jenna brought cameras to photograph the area’s wildlife and beautiful scenery. There were four public trails available at the refuge, and we opted for the Deep Creek Trail. The trail was set beside the creek, and the sounds of the birds and cool breeze put our minds in a state of tranquility. We chatted about how our lives had changed, old memories and hiking trails from our past.
Once we reached the end of the trail, Jenna suggested checking out Snow Creek Falls trail, which was outside of the refuge and nearby. We had taken a guide map from the Bonners Ferry Visitor Center and after a quick drive got started on this moderate trail. The trail has two viewing points, upper and lower, and natural surroundings that were calming just to look at. We took the upper trail and soon heard the sounds of a waterfall. It was a good thing we’d dressed in layers, as the closer we were to the falls, the cooler it was. I loved to get close to them, though, and to feel the mist on my face. We lingered by the falls for a bit, taking out our sack lunches and snapping a few selfies.
After checking out from the bed and breakfast and packing up the car, we made our way south to Sandpoint. Within an hour, we arrived in town, checked into our hotel, and decided to wind down after our day of hiking with some relaxation at Pend d’Oreille Winery.
Located in the downtown area, Pend d’Oreille Winery features a robust menu of wines. We ordered a cheese and meat platter to accompany their 2018 Chardonnay. The menu stated it had flavors of lemon grass, honey dew melon and crisp green apple. We sipped our wine and clinked glasses to the remainder of our trip and to our friendship.
On Friday morning, we made our way to Connie’s Cafe for breakfast, a quaint diner that we had noticed the night before since it’s near Pend d’Orielle Winery. I ordered the French Toast combo which came with a choice of sausage, bacon, or patty sausage with two eggs. I got them poached and I ate every last bite of it. I certainly didn’t realize how hungry I was! That day, we were planning to venture into the heart of the Selkirk Mountains, so fueling up was imperative.
We drove part of the 280-mile scenic International Selkirk Loop that weaved its way toward our destination at Priest Lake State Park. We stopped a few times on our journey to take photographs of the natural beauty surrounding us. The dense forest seemed to close in; the smell of cedar wood permeated on the breeze. We finally arrived at the north end of Priest Lake, called Nell Shipman Point. We learned it was named after Nell Shipman, a famous silent film actress, writer and producer. During the winter months of 1921-1922, she built a camp called Lionhead Lodge. It was here that she spent four years making silent pictures with her wild animals and crew.
Near the end of the day, we decided to check in at the Cavanaugh’s Resort on the south end of the lake. I was glad we weren’t quite leaving the area, as I couldn’t get enough of the forest around us and the sounds of wood critters that were sure to follow at night. Ivy booked us a three-bedroom lakefront cabin complete with a deck with lake views and a cozy fireplace. We ate at the resort’s restaurant, and I felt a true sense of serenity in our environment. After our dinner, we went back to the room for bed, but I decided to step out onto the deck and take in the night sky. I’d never seen stars like that before. We were nearing the end of our trip, but with two days left, I knew we would make the most of it.
After our dinner, we went back to the room for bed, but I decided to step out onto the deck and take in the night sky. I’d never seen stars like that before.
Biking the Empire Trails
We hopped back in the car on Saturday morning and headed south to Spirit Lake. I’d read about the Empire Trails and couldn’t wait to check them out for myself. We got a day pass with a non-motorized permit since we were going to bike the trails with an e-bike from Fresh Air E-Bikes.
We started on the East Lake Trails and took the Chatauqua Trail. It was singletrack and was a good trail to start on. The wind whipped past me as I pedaled in front of Ivy and Jenna. We went along at a leisurely pace, enjoying the surrounding nature of the lake and the trees. We continued to the end of the Silver Beach Trail and stopped to relax and take in the scenic view. The e-bikes made pedaling the trails much easier than a traditional bike and we found ourselves less out of breath than we would have been.
Feeling satisfied with our adventures that day, we drove east and checked into the Cedar Mountain Farm Bed and Breakfast. This charming 440-acre farm has three hand-crafted cabins on the property. We had booked our stay in the Main Cabin in the Red Barn and Cedar rooms. Our hosts, Al and Daryl Ann, were a lovely couple and very welcoming to us.
We enjoyed a full breakfast provided to Main Cabin guests on our last morning, which included homemade sourdough pancakes, fresh fruit platters and country bacon and sausages. I almost forgot we were staying at a bed and breakfast as it felt like we were staying overnight with family.
We said our goodbyes to Al and Daryl Ann and made our way to Farragut State Park for one last adventure.
I almost forgot we were staying at a bed and breakfast as it felt like we were staying overnight with family.
Hiking through Farragut State Park
The three of us weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to north Idaho just yet, despite it being our last day of the trip. We decided to head up to Farragut State Park and do a little hiking before heading back. Situated at the southern end of Lake Pend Oreille, Farragut State Park has a variety of activities besides hiking, including kayaking, biking and disc-golf.
The girls and I decided that next time, we would kayak through the park and extend our trip to a few more days. As we hiked one last time together, we reflected on our trip and the amazing memories we had made. There was certainly no place on Earth quite like north Idaho, and we couldn’t wait to come back.