Like pitch on the pine, Priest Lake stuck with me, seeped in my soul and lingered in my heart – even after 25 years of absence.
Scratched in the Idaho Panhandle, carved by energy and force, Priest Lake is shouldered by the mighty Selkirk Mountains. Shawled in pines, adorned with sandy shores, islands and bays – the deep emerald water sparkles in sun and moonlight.
Some say this area is a crown jewel. I say it’s the tiara that tops North America.
I fell in love with this place as a child. An affordable destination where blue-collar families could make lifetime memories, Mom and dad would save all year to treat us to our annual two-week summer vacation.
We’d count the days throughout the year till once again we could enjoy lazy lake days playing in the water, picking wild huckleberries, waterskiing, lying on the warm sand, making beach fires, roasting weenies and marshmallows and spending countless hours watching shooting stars in the darkness of the Northern sky.
So, in our quest to find a new home, we decide to put on the brakes and stop for a few months to see if this could be it.
A call to a childhood lake friend who made Priest Lake her home, we find a place to live and summer jobs. We spend the summer relaxing in this unspoiled place, spending time with new friends, meeting the locals, making a little money and enjoying this place of silence and solitude. Scrapers my cat is relieved to be out of the cramped quarters of the camper for a while too.
Void of society’s distractions, you become aware of your surroundings here. The natural beauty lifts your eyes up, out, and around.
The songs and ceremony of the forest are constantly playing if you listen and hear, if you watch and see: the thump of falling pinecones thrown down by scurrying chipmunks; the caw of the raven soaring above the trees; the tapping of woodpecker; the fluttering of moth wings near the lights; the swoosh of tree branches in the wind; the vibration of hummingbird wings as they stop to sip on flower nectar; the buzz of bumbel bees; the cries of coyotes chasing moonlight shadows; the purr from baby wild turkeys foraging with their mama on the forest floor.
What’s out there hiding in these trees – a deer, an elk, a wolf, a bear? This is truly the land of great beasts that outnumber humans.
This Northern exposure is a polar opposite from where I’ve spent the last 25 years. On Maui, predators swim in the water and natural disasters come in the form of wind or surging seas. Here, predators roam the land not in the water and natural disaster comes in the form of flame and fires.
But like Maui, the people here are warm and welcoming and full of tenacity. The challenges of staying here fulltime are great, but so are the rewards. Those who call it their home are here because the love it.
As best they can, these gatekeepers try to preserve and protect it from the exploiters who take and never giving back. But like all desirable places, they are creeping in. I pray this special place remains wild and accessible to all and not overtaken by millionaire’s mansions and unwanted development, like Maui has.
Autumn settles in this Northern exposure and Mother Nature bejewels her coronet with ruby, amber and garnet tones. As the wild baby turkeys have plumped over the last three months, so has my spirit.
Could this be our new home? We’re not sure, but we depart knowing it’s a top contender.
We feel the itch to get back on the road so we pack up our stagecoach and decide to keep moving to destinations unknown, knowing we’ll be back again. Like pitch on a pine, Priest Lake will forever stay on my mind.