North Idaho panorama

I am standing on top of Clifty Mountain in north Idaho on a lovely Labor Day.
I am standing on top of Clifty Mountain in north Idaho on a lovely Labor Day.

Despite their infrequency, the trips Tara and I always enjoy are the periodic visits to see my stepfather Jim at his remarkable mountaintop cabin.

Tara has known that mountain all their life, and confessed to spiritually “needing” to be there sometimes, to go for a walk alone, and to reconnect to childhood and peace and the memory of Gramy, my mother, who died in 2011. Tara and Jim have a special relationship, since he has known my kid since birth, sending love and birthday cards in just the right kind of Grandpa way. Tara has loved him back and counted on him in their life.

We traveled there over the long Labor Day weekend, and caught some perfect late season weather. He lives outside of Moyie Springs, Idaho, and closer to British Columbia than any town in the U.S. that you’ve heard of. Our first ritual is to walk around the property, and usually we end up at ‘the pit,’ which is the family name for Jim’s quarry on the side of his mountain. I am always surprized at how pretty it is at the rock pit, and how the big equipment seems to suit the landscape, even adding charm rather than detracting from it.

Autumn colours brighten the forest.
Autumn colours decorate the forest.
Tara leads the way to the pit.
Tara leads the way to the pit.
A view of the breathtaking Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, stretching down into Montana.
A view of the breathtaking Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, stretching down into Montana.
Beasts at rest in the evening. What a child's playground, eh? (Perhaps even children in their 40s and 60s)
Beasts at rest in the evening. What a child’s playground, eh? (Perhaps even children in their 40s and 60s) That is Clifty Mountain in the background.
This image really appeals to me. The three of us standing in the setting sun, gazing across the rock face of the quarry.
This image really appeals to me. The three of us standing in the setting sun, gazing across the rock face of the quarry.

We unpacked the Jeep and settled in for a couple of cozy nights in the most cabin-y cabin I have ever seen. Chalk it up to Mom’s design sense; this place is beautifully done. We stayed in the master bedroom, still filled with things that are unquestionably Mom: the tiny trading post, the pine cones, the canned goods that she cannned and no one had the heart to consume, lest they disappear. It’s not as heartbreaking anymore, and maybe after 5 years, I’m able to start thinking about her again without falling apart.

Many things are Mom's but the map on the wall is Jim's!
Many things are Mom’s but the map on the wall is Jim’s!
Isn't this room marvelous?
Isn’t this room marvelous?

Jim usually plans an outing for us when we come, and this time he suggested a hike to Clifty Mountain, the peak we could see directly across the valley from our perch above the pit.

The next morning we went to pick up Jim’s friend J, and the four of us headed up the hill in his pickup. The trailhead for Clifty is near a lookout, so we went there first. The lookout is not in use officially, and can apparently be rented by campers. Now wouldn’t that be a fun night? Tara and I eagerly climbed the stairs in the wind, only to be stopped halfway up by six missing steps that had been pulled out of their slots to keep prying eyes and fingers out of there.

The views are outstanding whether one climbs the stairs or not. And to Tara’s astonishment, the lookout is a PokeStop! (If you don’t know what I’m talking about….It’s a Pokemon Go thing. Pokemon Go is sort of a big deal these days. Maybe it would be best to look it up.) We stayed there for some time, lazily wandering from one side to the other, gazing at the 360-degree views. South to Lake Pend Orielle and Sandpoint, west to the Selkirk Mountains, north to the Canada border, east to Montana.

A view of the lookout from the road to reach it. The towers are communications relays.
A view of the lookout from the road to reach it. The towers are communications relays.
J at the base of the lookout. Tara and I climbed two flights and stopped when the steps did.
J at the base of the lookout. Tara and I climbed two flights and stopped when the steps did. If you look carefully, you can see where they are removed from the third flight.
View from the base of the lookout, looking north.
View from the base of the lookout, looking north.
Quaint little Bonners Ferry, Idaho. I lived there as a toddler, and one of my brothers was born there.
Quaint little Bonners Ferry, Idaho. I lived there as a toddler, and one of my brothers was born there.

We finally hit the trail and began the climb. The weather was perfect – a little cool at first, and then a smidge too warm as we heated from our climb. The peak is at 6,705 feet, so we were also getting a bit winded. I think of this part of Idaho as remote – and come on, it is – so I was not expecting the many hikers that joined us. Ok, “many” is relative, but there were plenty of people to chat with along the way. We were the only vehicle at the trailhead when we started, and when we left, there were 6 other vehicles parked.

At the top, we sat gratefully on rocks that Mother Earth had scattered liberally for us, all placed with the best views. We picked out landmarks, like the impressive Moyie River Canyon Bridge, 424 feet above the water. Jim helped us spot the pit! Then it was time to make our way back down the hill and visit Bonners Ferry’s Kootenai River Brewery for a burger and a pint of Huckleberry Wheat.

Almost to the top!
Almost to the top!
Jim and J coming up behind us.
Jim and J coming up behind us.
What do you do on top of a mountain? Take a selfie, of course!
What do you do on top of a mountain? Take a selfie, of course!
...and then sit down and soak it all up.
…and then sit down and soak it all up.
Tara is still sporting the Cruella de Vil hair, and a lovely smile.
Tara is still sporting the Cruella de Vil hair, and a lovely smile.
A rather battered geodetic survey marker. Now that would be a fun game to play on your phone: find geodetic survey markers!
A rather battered geodetic survey marker TO0917. Now that would be a fun game to play on your phone: find geodetic survey markers!
Tara took this shot. Wow! I love it.
Tara took this shot. Wow! I love it.
J got a good shot of me too. Maybe happy people just look good, in general. ;-)
J got a good shot of me too. Maybe happy people just look good, in general. 😉

24 thoughts on “North Idaho panorama

    1. My family has been pretty nomadic, and that includes me. I don’t know if it’s in the genes or if it’s due to growing up that way and then re-creating it as adults. But I’m glad a few of them stayed in, or went back to, Idaho. I can count my actual memories of living in Bonners Ferry on one hand – I was awfully young. But Mom lived in the area for a very long time, in several of the surrounding communities, and so I’ve had reason to go back there frequently during my life. It is close to home. I’ll call my hometown New Meadows, Idaho, where I lived when I graduated from high school, but Bonners Ferry could be a happy second home.

      1. I’ve wandered through Idaho a bit, Crystal, and have always been impressed with the beauty of the state. My bike trek cut through it so I should be blogging about Idaho in a few weeks. 🙂 –Curt

    1. Oh what a nice thing to say, that Tara has my smile. We share a lot of the same jokes, so that may be part of it. 😉

      Maybe I’ll do a post one day just on the cabin. It’s beautiful from many angles, and I have old photos Mom sent me, of the cabin buried beneath feet of snow.

  1. You and Tara have the same smile. That view is to die for. The cabin is so sweet and cozy. It would be hard to leave it for good. You NEVER stop missing your mother, even if she wasn’t one. Not sure why but it’s so. Mine’s been gone since 2001. I still talk to her. It does get to be a less sharp pain. One day I’ll get there to see those wide open spaces. You have some great photos.

    1. Thank you for your insight Marlene. And for noticing, like Derrick, that Tara and I share smiles. Ha ha. That’s a lovely thought. Yes, I talk to my mother too. I make notes of things I want to remember to tell her about. Sometimes I am sad at the things I can’t show her. She appreciated being able to see and to touch things in my life, in order to know my life better. I just think of ways to describe my life, since I know she can’t come over and visit.

      A worthy road trip is any that includes a journey through British Columbia. If you cross the border in Idaho, you can turn right for Waterton Lakes Park and left for the wine country, and north I don’t know because I haven’t done that yet. YET. Ride the ferries through the mountains, visit Nelson, and say “eh.” Anyway, do put that on your someday to-do list, and I’ll put it on mine.

      1. My list is a great deal shorter than yours
        since I no longer drive distances. It sounds like a lovely thing to do with a partner. I’m glad you still talk to your mom. They do listen.

  2. I love this peek inside your Idaho life, and the sadness associated with the loss of your mother. Also, the love between Tara and J.
    I never got as far north as Moyie Springs. Coeur d’Alene was as far as I got.
    What a gorgeous place!

    1. Gorgeous is right, and Coer d’Alene is pretty close! So you have a good sense of this area from those memories. I know you’ve been a fan of Idaho for years. It gets more beautiful and more wild and appealing the closer one gets to Canada.

      I still find it hard to grasp that my mother is gone. And in that cabin on the mountain, I can literally hear her voice, fussing over something that’s important only to her. Or hollering to us from another room as she always did. Every square foot outside has felt her guiding hand. It’s a pretty powerful reminder of her.

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