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.
8 thoughts on “A good place to call home”
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 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! ❤
Thankyou my Cousin for this healing vision of your trip- it is so beautiful there.
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.
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!!
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.
Crystal, these photos are beautiful. I think the panhandle deserves park status. Just one more piece of unbelievable to add to the roster.
Nice blog post.
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.