It’s that time of year to start thinking about road trips and family travels for the coming spring and summer. There are few better places to find fun with your kids than North Idaho.
The northern panhandle of Idaho is my family’s stomping ground. Over the years, we’ve discovered a great number of cool and exciting places to take the kids. So, when people ask what there is to do around here, I always have a ready list of sights and activities that will make any family vacation a memorable one.
Ten Cool Things For Kids In North Idaho
1. World’s Longest Gondola Ride
In the town of Kellogg, you can board the longest gondola in the world for a 20 minute ride to the Mountain Haus terminal at the top of Silver Mountain, a climb of 3400 vertical feet. In the winter, you’ll find some of the best ski runs around, but in the summer you can hike the nature trails, go mountain biking, or ride the chair lifts for more scenic beauty even higher up the mountain. Continue reading
The Scouts said they needed another adult leader to go on their canoe trip last weekend.
My son couldn’t go, but that didn’t stop me.
Actually, it almost did stop me, but then I realized a few things.
Sunny, warm weather.
Quiet, peaceful canoe.
And, oh yeah, the campout would be canceled if I couldn’t go.
When you’re a dad, it’s a given that you have to inconvenience yourself for your kids.
Sometimes you have to do that for other people’s kids too.
Turned out to be an awesome weekend. I didn’t tip over once.
How do you get a 250-pound picnic table up a steep 1.2-mile mountain trail?
That’s what I wondered when my son found his Boy Scout Eagle Project.
After much asking and researching, and even hoping that someone might approach him with a project idea, I was quite proud when my son came up with a project on his own last spring.
We were hiking a popular local trail, the Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail, one which we’ve traversed several times a year for the past ten years. It’s a 3.3-mile loop, with the first third of it being quite a strenuous trek up to the top of the ridge.
Quite often, we’ll bring a picnic lunch or snack with us to eat when we reach the top. It’s a good place for a little rest before walking along the spine of the ridge and admiring the beautiful lake views. At the top, there is a small bench and an old wooden shelter. No place for a family or group to sit and eat.
So, my son had the idea to do something about that. The shelter was kind of useless, and a bit unsafe, while the ground underneath was uncomfortably sloped. He decided to redesign the shelter, level the ground, and place a heavy-duty picnic table there.
Sounds easy, right?
It might have been, if not for that 1.2-mile trail. My son would have to coordinate the transportation of over 500 pounds of materials, tools, and supplies to the top of the ridge.
Oh, but first he had to measure and sketch and think. Which meant, before the project even began we’d hiked that thing so many times I began to have dreams about it.
And, every time we’d go up, I couldn’t help but notice how bad the yellow jackets were around the shelter.
Late in the summer, on our last planning hike, a man suffered a heart attack and died right in front of us on the trail.
I wasn’t feeling very good about the whole thing.
But the idea behind an Eagle Project is to challenge the Scout to plan and coordinate properly, and then to lead the effort to finish the task.
I’m happy to say I shouldn’t have been worried. My son rallied enough friends and family to lug 80 pounds of concrete, 150 pounds of gravel, and 100 pounds of lumber up that trail over the course of two days.
Then came the big day of work, when a dozen of his fellow Scouts went up to dig, cut, paint, drill, and nail.
Over the course of 5 hours, I watched my son be a leader, and make it all come together.
There was just thing left to do. That 250-pound picnic table.
This was some serious table. 8 feet long, heavyweight aluminum, rubber coated, designed to last forever in the rugged outdoors.
My son brainstormed numerous ideas for getting it up to the top of the ridge, including using a horse or motorcycle to pull it. But the BLM said no motorized vehicles and no horses. It would have to be done with sheer muscle.
After building a fancy wooden rig to lift the table onto the shoulders of six older boys, he realized this would not be sustainable for the entire trail.
Finally, someone suggested a game cart. Not being hunters, we had no idea what this was. These 2-wheeled carts are built to haul heavy game across rugged mountain terrain. We borrowed one, and my son figured out the best way to strap the table, benches, and legs onto it, so it was perfectly balanced and extremely secure (duct tape is amazing).
That’s the answer to the question. You get the table up the mountain with a game cart. Oh, and 6 strong boys pushing and pulling this contraption up the trail, taking lots of breaks, rotating jobs, and only dumping the table off the narrow trail 5 or 6 times.
And then anchoring it into the ground with 80 pounds of concrete. That table is not going anywhere.
With the project completed, my son just has a report to write, and a few bits of paperwork, and then he can go up in front of the Board of Review to see if they think he deserves the rank of Eagle Scout.
If only they had climbed that trail as many times as I have, the decision would be a no-brainer.
Summer has to end some time. For me, it felt like it ended this past weekend with a Boy Scout camping trip on the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene. We also hiked 20 miles, but I’m trying to forget that part.
It was the last weekend of truly warm weather, so everybody swam and played like it was still summer.
Now we can get on with the business of fall and winter, which is all about school and indoor projects and catching up on hobbies, and dreaming of next year’s warm weather fun.
You wouldn’t know it from looking at this picture of my son napping on the beach yesterday, but our summer hasn’t been lazy at all. It seems like we’re busier now than ever.
At least for one afternoon, however, we took the time to be lazy.
The sun was out, the air was warm, the boat was ready. It didn’t take much to get the kids out onto the lake for some bouncy fun on the water tube.
Here’s hoping for more of this early summer.
My son learned a good lesson about free speech this past weekend. He and about 70 of his fellow Idaho Boy Scouts traveled into the big city to march on the council BSA office. They wanted to voice their concerns over the proposed sale of a beloved local Scout camp.
It could not have been a worse day, weather-wise. An intense winter storm hit the area just as the rally was kicking off. That didn’t stop the boys’ enthusiasm, as they paraded along the street, waving signs and shouting out protest chants. The blizzard-like conditions only steeled their resolve to be heard.
After about an hour of waving at honking cars and brushing layers of snow off of hats and coats, we climbed back into our cars and carefully made our way home.
My son wasn’t sure if a small protest march of a few Boy Scouts will make a difference to the decision makers. But I think it just might. Those boys cared enough about their camp to march around in the middle of a snowstorm. That kind of passion can’t go unnoticed.
In between rain and wind storms, we managed to squeeze in two nice days of camping on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille here in North Idaho.
My son chopped firewood, cooked hamburgers on the roaring flames, and skipped stones in the moonlit waters.
The water was too cold for my son to go swimming, so he jumped into a book instead.