A good place to call home

The Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge west of Bonners Ferry, Idaho
The Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge west of Bonners Ferry, Idaho

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.

Sunrise on an early season dusting of snow.
Sunrise on an early season dusting of snow. Fog blankets Moyie Springs, in the Kootenai River Valley, below the cabin.

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.

The upper falls, above the pool
The upper falls, above the pool
Myrtle Creek Falls. This is the lower cascade dropping from the pool.
Myrtle Creek Falls. This is the lower cascade dropping from the pool.
Don't adjust your set. Tara's hair was teal that day.
Don’t adjust your set. Tara’s hair was actually that colour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love this portrait. Trust me, that is a face built of decades of squinting into the sun, and has not a trace of grumpiness in it.
I love this portrait. Trust me, that is a face built of decades of squinting into the sun, and has not a trace of grumpiness in it.
It was warm enough to take off my jacket. Don't you love a day that starts off crisp and turns warm?
It was warm enough to take off my jacket. Don’t you love a day that starts off crisp and turns warm?
Aside from some Whitetail deer bounding into the forest before I could get the shot, this is the only other non-winged creature we saw.
Aside from some Whitetail deer bounding into the forest before I could get the shot, this is the only other non-winged creature we saw.
We passed the wildlife refuge again on our way back home.
We passed the wildlife refuge again on our way back home.
If I was a bird, I could see myself living in the marshes in this valley.
If I was a bird, I could see myself living in the marshes in this valley. Just not during hunting season.

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 her grandpa in the Ford
Tara and her grandpa in the Ford
Here you see what is needed in a truck, and nothing else.
Here you see what is needed in a truck, and nothing else.
See the skinny Model A tracks over the fat F150 tracks? Generations of Fords.
See the skinny Model A tracks over the fat F150 tracks? Generations of Fords.

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.

Sunset from the front of the cabin. You can see the lights of Moyie Springs.
Sunset from the front of the cabin. You can see the valley without fog in this shot!
Tara took this one, and I love it! This is what we call "the pit." It's a rock quarry down the mountain from the cabin.
Tara took this one, and I love it! This is what we call “the pit.” It’s a rock quarry down the mountain from the cabin.

8 thoughts on “A good place to call home

  1. This brings back a flood of conflicting emotional memories. The gentle, wholesome man named Jim. The cabin filled with warmth, love, and simplicity. Most of all tranquility, tears, beauty, laughter, sorrow, and the desire to return for closure and renewal.

    Your trip back has helped immensely. Thank you.

    I love you dearly my sweet cousin,
    Debbie

    1. Debbie I know what you’re saying about wanting closure, and I can relate to all those feelings. I did not know how powerful this post would be for you and I am so glad that it filled a need. Big Hugs and I love you back! ❤

    1. Anna, it looks like my post is having additional benefits for a few of you than just telling a story, since Debbie said the same thing. It is an honor that my words and photos are helping in such a profound way. Hugs to you. And yes, it is remarkably beautiful there, in all seasons.

  2. My heart will always be in Idaho, even though I don’t have it’s long history that you do. (The comments reveal just how much history!) Just 3 seasons in the Nez Perce NF, but I fell in love from the first moment I crossed into the state. Back East everyone always talks about Montana and Wyoming (both states that I love) but there is just something about Northern Idaho.
    I’m so glad you shared your time with family, and your wonderful photos. That one of you is really great, Crystal!!

    1. Thank you, Laurie! I know that you have a special place in your heart for Idaho. How neat that is to have Idaho in common with you. I’m also grateful that you were serving the public then and now. It’s too bad that for most people, their only experience with the state is across the south, through Pocatello and Boise, but it’s a whole different state up where you and I were.

    1. Thank you for the compliments, Bruce! One of the nice things about North Idaho is that it’s mostly empty of people. It’s an example of that conflict where the local people want to brag about their place, but they also don’t want anyone to know about it, or they will move in.

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