My step-father is the one who lives there, but I think Jim would like us to think of it as home. The setting -mountains and valleys about 20 miles south of the Canada border- is hard to resist, and my memories peek out at me from all over this region, making me feel connected to the place.
North Idaho used to be my home. When I was itty bitty, I lived in Bonners Ferry, and when I was in Junior High (it wasn’t called “middle school” back then) I lived outside of Sandpoint. The important point is that once my mother saw this remarkable, remote, evergreen wilderness paradise, she wouldn’t be budged. Her choice meant it would remain in my life too, every time I visited her there.
The country here is so beautiful it’s park-like. The only reason the whole Panhandle of Idaho isn’t a national park is because it’s bound east and west by Mt. Rainier NP and Glacier NP/Waterton Lakes NP and to the south by Yellowstone NP. Someone in Washington, D.C. waved a hand and said, “Alright, already. We get your point. It’s gorgeous over there. No more parks, though.”
Jim took us to Myrtle Creek Falls, out past the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. There could not have been a better day for a hike. The falls contained two dramatic cascades, wedged between high cliff walls at just such angles that I was unable to capture both in one photo. Resting invitingly between the two falls was a lovely pool that seemed completely unreachable without a helicopter and a rope ladder.
Then Tara got to see her grandfather’s Model A pickup that he’s been so excited about lately. Jim collects and repairs old cars. He took us for a ride in it, crossing Highway 2 and staying on the back roads till we could cruise downtown Moyie Springs (population around 700). I loved the front panel, or “dashboard” of the Ford. More like: the lack thereof. It is refreshing to see how few knobs and dials are really necessary to operate a vehicle. It’s light years different than the touchscreen in my Jeep. There had been a rain earlier in the day. Along the dirt road from the garage, the skinny Ford tracks really stood out in contrast to the standard tire tracks.
Tara and I shared the spare room of the spacious yet still cozy cabin. It has my mother’s fingerprints everywhere: the light fixtures, the collection of antique toys, the paintings on the walls, the kitchen spice cabinet, and even the witch hazel in the bathroom. We both had a difficult time sleeping the first night, since being in the cabin makes it impossible not to remember she’s gone. Nearly three years later, and I am still struggling to rebuild the cabin in my mind as Jim’s place, rather than Mom’s place. Before bed Tara and I each felt the need at different times to take a walk on the mountain. We wandered out into the dark, amid trees and deer and elk and bear, squirrels and mice and woodpeckers. As always, breathing deeply from the air of paradise is quite restorative.