Summer is slipping away from me, I lament, as I realize August is nearly over and I've not taken one hike on a new trail yet. Between illness, recovering from illness, baby quilt deadlines, wet weather, too hot weather - well there have been lots of reasons I've not been out. But I've been feeling perkier and I noted that the temps would be in the 70's several days this week (my idea of perfect for hiking), so shut my ears to the voice of shoulds and priorities I pay too much heed to. I didn't get over to Priest Lake last summer (another real gem in north Idaho a little over an hour away) so I chose that as my destination, poring over the pamphlets in my file. I set my sights on the west side of the lake and the rated easy Beach Trail.
I started at the northernmost point where the trail drops down into deep woods from the parking lot near a boat launch. Many trails in the area are open to mountain bikes and even horses as well as hikers, but as you can see from the sign, this one is exclusively for foot traffic - my preference. I don't care how skilled, a mountain biker tearing down a trail is more likely to bowl you over than be able to swerve around you and if coming from behind, you might not even hear him or her until they streak by - ask me how I know.
Only a few yards in and I am rewarded with this view of tri-colored water...
...and views of mountains with great swaths of exposed granite.
I'd brought along my better camera with an excellent zoom which pulled in these faraway shots. It was a bit hazy and I struggled a bit with settings but if you click any of the photos, I think you can see this is definitely not snow. I think this particular outcropping is called The Lion's Head.
From this end of the trail, you can see several islands. That long dark land on the horizon is one of the larger ones and has a trail around its 2-1/2 mile circumference. Only hitch - it's accessible only by boat.
You can camp over there and as you can see from this zoomed in photo, there's a nice beach for swimming and pulling up your boat. Why the trees look dead in this photo I can't explain - an ill-chosen setting on the camera no doubt. Truly, they are green green green!
And then there's this tiny little island with a view. I'd be curious about the topography under the surface of the water as there must be more of these little "peaks" not tall enough to break through. The lake is up to 300 feet deep and there is actually a separate upper lake that can be accessed by boat along a narrow bit of water that joins the two.
I never really know just from looking at maps and reading descriptions what the terrain might be like and was happy that this trail wound through tall pines.
And never more than a stone's throw from where the lake lapped gently along the shore. It reminded me a lot of the Pend Oreille Bay Trail closer to home.
It differs, though, in that there are private homes along here, even though this is part of a National Forest. I believe people leased property to build on but that structure has recently changed see this link.
At any rate, all come with some sort of shore access be it a small beach or a private boat dock or both. The trail gently undulates up and down and some owners have a longer drop to the water than others.
I wouldn't call any of the homes I saw "cabins", although some were more modest than others. Many had cute names attached, play on words similar to the way some boats are named. This one proclaimed itself a cottage, but to my mind, it's anything but the classic idea of one.
But this behemoth didn't bother with pretense and labeled itself not at all although I'd be quite comfortable labeling it a lodge.
And in your classic idea of what comprises a cabin at the lake, that getaway on the weekend, would you include a satellite dish? Oh, we cannot be without our creature comforts even with a glorious lake and rugged mountains filling our view out the window. Yeah, that was a bit snarky but seeing so many of these did make me chuckle.
I was quite surprised and delighted to spot this very large rock hogging part of the trail.
To someone's credit, it was not deemed "in the way" but worthy of working around. I love that.
There was only one spot along the two miles that I hiked where the forest opened up a grassy area. The full length of the trail is 6 miles and can be accessed at several points from a road that parallels it on the backside of the private houses and campgrounds.
This is a land of tall tall trees.
Mingling with the private homes are a few campgrounds and day use areas with access to public beach and swimming areas. Several more large rocks share space with the beach.
One of these day use areas at the 2 mile mark where I planned to turn around has a museum housed in a log cabin originally built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corp as living quarters for forest service personnel. I didn't take time to go inside but did look at some of the old mining and logging equipment they had outside like this boiler used at a nearby mine.
There's also this information about our state tree, the White Pine, and the fight to save it.
And some mighty tall and thick examples nearby. No way to get the entire tree in the picture.
There's also a very nice area of native plants helpfully identified. This is the state flower, the Syringa, which bears white blooms in spring. Some of it grows behind my house in a wooded buffer zone.
By the time I got back to the car, it was getting late, but I'd brought along a brochure on a stand of old growth cedar in the area which upon closer inspection showed this stand was about 2 miles on up the road. As long as I'd come this far . . . that report in an upcoming post!
I see future trips to this area, maybe even booking a several days' stay in one of the resorts/motels as I've just scratched the surface of what there is to explore. Besides the rest of the beach trail and several other trails nearby, there's a whole 11 miles of the east side of the lake that includes a state park and more trails.