Welcome to North Idaho

To live in a place other people dream of visiting is incredible. Through the lens of my camera OnLocation North Idaho will bring you a slice of life as we know it in the Idaho panhandle. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dangerous Days

For all of the joys of living and playing in a forested paradise, a fact of life is the threat of fire as the heat and dry summer days progress. On I-90, just outside Missoula which is home to a Smokejumper base, a wildfire broke out next to the freeway and quickly roared up and over the mountainside. The chopper shown here was barely visible through the smoke as it dropped retardant chemicals on the fire. It was a rare up-close look at the challenges faced in fighting forest fires and protecting lives and property. While here in North Idaho we don't have to endure hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes and the like, wildfires can prove just as devastating. Red flag alerts and burn bans are in effect in many recreational areas so obey the law and be careful.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wild Horses

Once summer arrives in North Idaho, wild horses can't drag me away from the lake and the river. But alas, a family reunion in North Dakota did just that last week. Our travels took us to historic Medora and the stunning badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park where I did indeed see herds of wild horses. It was 60 years ago that the park was established and these horses are descendants of the original band that were there when future president and roughrider Teddy Roosevelt called the badlands home.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Center of the Universe

The historic mining town of Wallace, with a population of 960, is a great day trip from the Coeur d'Alene area. On I-90, just west of the Idaho / Montana border at Lookout Pass, Wallace is known as the Silver Capital of the World - having produced 1.2 billion ounces of silver in the county since 1884. In recent years the mayor proclaimed it to be the Center of the Universe and so far no one has challenged his claim. Wallace has the distinction of being the location of the very last stoplight on the entire Interstate 90 system from Seattle to Boston, although the interstate was diverted over the town instead of through it back in the 1990s. There's even a bordello museum which recognizes the early entrepreneurs of the city. Every downtown building is on the register of National Historic Places and the visitor center is located in the historic railway depot, which is shown here.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


On the banks of the Spokane River, in the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's ancestral homeland, each July thousands of Native American dancers from all across the country gather to celebrate. It's a multi-generational encampment where history is honored and the future can be seen in the eyes of the young children who are learning the dances of their people.
The gathering provides a public window through which we can come to know the beauty and spirituality of the native people of North Idaho. Dancing, drumming, artist's displays... this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Greyhound Park Events Center in Post Falls.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Beer Can Cuisine

Everyone has their barbecue grills fired up for the summer. "Beer Can Chicken" is a great way to roast a chicken that's fall-of-the-bone tender and moist. In North Idaho, even the 5-Star Coeur d'Alene Resort chefs are on the barbecue bandwagon. If you prefer to leave the cooking to the experts, there's a link on the right for great summer dining in the Coeur d'Alene area.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Way to San Jose?

The Flamingo Motel in downtown Coeur d'Alene is a kitschy relic of the Lake City's long standing history as a tourist mecca. For most of the motor hotel's half century it was Pepto pink but now is painted a more modern neutral. The U-shaped configuration of the 13 rooms allows for guest parking at each door. I recently noticed the addition of this fun mileage sign near the Flamingo's sidewalk on Sherman Avenue.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wally World

Considering RVs are not the most economical way to travel down the highway (3-10 mpg) and with gas prices in the $3 per gallon range, the popularity of overnighting for free in Walmart parking lots can more than make up for any lack of scenic cache`. At the Walmart Super Center in Post Falls on any given summer night the north end of the parking lot is filled with RVs of all sizes. Travelers often set their lawn chairs out on the blacktop as the sun sets. Floridians Bonnie and Jerry are on the road nine months out of the year in their older motor home. They tow a jeep with a canoe on top to take advantage of back roads and rivers all over the country. They also overnight in Walmarts regularly. An hour after arriving in Post Falls, Jerry joked that it's free but it cost him $200 the last time they stayed at Walmart, and listed the things they bought in the store before heading out. With over 3,500 Walmarts and Sam's Clubs across the country, most of which allow RV parking lot overnighting, it's a win/win for the store and the RVers. After 23 years and a million miles across the USA, Bonnie and Jerry agree that the friendliest state is Utah, especially the SE part of the state. But having traveled from South to North in Idaho they also agree that our forests and lakes and rivers are the cleanest and most well-kept of any state. And our Walmarts are pretty good, too.

Mother Nature's Light Show

After weeks of hot weather, Mother Nature decided to cool things off and shake things up in the North Idaho skies. Some much needed rain was joined by spectacular displays of lightning in the midnight hours. I've always loved thunder and lightning storms but capturing the beauty of it all with a camera requires patience. Over 400 shots produced just a handful of images before I declared Mother Nature the winner.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Smokey Gets Serious

A few days ago Smokey Bear's sign at the Coeur d'Alene Ranger Station in Fernan declared fire danger at "high" levels. But by Tuesday, Smokey's sign at the Mica-Kidd Island fire station was alerting passersby to extreme danger. Thousands of people are enjoying the forests of North Idaho this summer and thousands more live in homes on mountainsides in Kootenai County and surrounding areas. Take care and take caution and those forests will be around for many summers to come.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Tacos Alfresco

Max & Janyne parked their converted 1970 Chinook motorhome on the corner of 4th Ave. and Spokane St. in Post Falls on Saturday. After two years of converting the motorhome to a brightly-colored taco stand they officially opened TacoMax for business. By Monday evening their two teenage sons, Nick and Kaden were keeping up with the steady stream of customers. The menu is simple but exceptional ... tacos, enchiladas, chili, taco salad and nachos. Customers can sit at the counter or at corner tables under umbrellas, all on an attached dining platform. For locals who are familiar with the century-old Hudson's Hamburgers phenom, this has the same lunch counter feel. Tacos alfresco, what a treat.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Walking on Water?

On Sunday afternoon at the North Idaho College beach on Lake Coeur d'Alene, a young woman in a white swimsuit appeared to walk on water. Hopefully she won't try that on Hauser Lake. (see June 26 post titled "Say What?) In reality it was a momentary optical illusion. She was actually standing on a submerged piling and dived into the cool water just after the photo was taken.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Rocky Road

By chance we passed an interesting sight during a recent "OnLocation" day trip to Bayview. About one mile north of the visitor center entrance to Farragut State Park on Highway 54, if you look alongside the highway to the west, there's a number of rock piles in various heights and configurations. Up close they're fascinating, a balancing act of roadside rocks in varying formations. Just as interesting are the explanations for the rock stacks...created by extraterrestrials? Maybe Native American in symbolism and structure? A local with abundant artistry and an abundance of time on their hands? But what everyone has noted with the Farragut rock stacks is that when one tumbles, it's replaced seemingly overnight. It's a fun little mystery, and definitely one I'd love to learn more about. If you know the history of these unique North Idaho roadside works of art, please comment below.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Simple Solution

Sometimes the simple solution to a problem is right in our own backyard. As temperatures simmer in the 100+ range and continue to heat up North Idaho, a garden hose can be a kid's best friend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sail Away

This week the largest pleasure vessel to sail the waters of Lake Coeur d'Alene will make its maiden voyage. The 60 ft. long, 14 ft. wide custom-designed sail boat belongs to Duane Hagadone, of Coeur d'Alene Resort fame. Duane is a life-long resident of the City by the Lake and known for doing things on a grand scale in his home town.The beautiful cobalt blue sailboat was created at Resort Boat Shop in Post Falls, Idaho, a work in progress since November 2005. The retractable keel alone weighs 17,000 pounds which is important to a sailboat with an 86-foot-tall mast and a total weight of 42,000 pounds. While also sea worthy, the sailboat is a "day sailer" only, no cuddy or sleeping quarters in the design. For all its size the boat is sleek and stunning. This summer it should become a real traffic-stopper on Lake Coeur d'Alene. I can't wait to see it in full sail on the crystal blue waters of the lake I love.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

An Athol State of Mind

Athol, Idaho has a population of 676, give or take an old hound dog or two. It lies 18.2 miles north of Coeur d'Alene and 38 miles northeast of Spokane. Athol's been on the map due to the proximity of Silverwood Theme Park and being near the southern entrance to Farragut State Park. Described as being "in the path of growth" with a longitude of 116.71 W and a latitude of 47.95 N, I'm of the opinion it's more attitude than latitude that distinguishes Athol from the pack. Locals pronounce the name, Ath-all but one enterprising insider has banked on the common outsider Ath-ole pronunciation with a line of souvenirs that take a play on words to new levels. Lynne takes her wares on the road, anywhere there's a festival or community celebration. Refrigerator magnets, coffee mugs, can coolers, baseball caps and t-shirts cleverly promote this rural North Idaho town. You likely won't see the old guys at the Athol American Legion Hall sporting the shirts and caps but tourists are jumping on the Athol bandwagon. In North Idaho we can all be "Athols." www.atholgear.com

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Lucky in Love

Seven is considered a lucky number so when the calendar rolled three sevens on a summer Saturday, couples all across the country planned to tie the knot on 7/7/07. The Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel in Coeur d'Alene has seen the beginnings of thousands of unions in their eight decades in business. Across the street from the Kootenai County Courthouse, where clerks work on Saturdays, the Hitching Post is the busiest wedding chapel in Coeur d'Alene, the city with a heart. Coeur d'Alene is one of the most popular wedding destinations in the Northwest, as much for the honeymoon scenic beauty as for the simplicity of getting a marriage license. In Idaho, couples 18 and over need no witnesses or blood tests and there's no waiting period.
But on July 7, 2007 there was a wait to get into the Hitching Post. One couple stood under the shade of an old oak tree on the courthouse lawn to take their vows, while other wedding parties waited across the street for their turn to get hitched. Cupid was working overtime.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Horse Power

This afternoon, on the eve of the 10th Annual River City Rod Run, horses of a different breed shared a parking lot with the hot rods and classic cars. The famous Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales arrived in style, three custom tractor/trailers carrying a team of eight horses and all of their regalia, including the big red wagon and trademark dalmation. Each of the horses weighs at least 2,000 lbs. and stands 6 feet tall at the shoulder. A team of six handlers primped and pampered the beasts from head to hoof before the bridles and harnesses were put in place. It took nearly an hour before all eight were hitched to the wagon and ready for their close-up. Over 100 spectators endured the 100-degree weather for the unique opportunity to see the famous four-legged Super Bowl commercial stars.

How hot is it?

July 5 broke all time high temperature records for that date in North Idaho, with the mercury soaring to 100+ degrees. There are worse places to be when a heat wave hits than within minutes of numerous lakes and rivers. We're a resiliant bunch, seeking relief and relaxation in crystal clear bodies of water. There's adventure and there's lazy summer days floating on all things inflatable. The North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River provides both options.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Small Town, USA

Although it's been a few years since Coeur d'Alene could be considered a small town, on the 4th of July the heart of the city becomes Small Town, USA. As thousands of locals and tourists settle into their lawn chairs along the curb on Sherman Avenue, four or five or six deep from 15th Street to the lake at 1st Street, a cast of hundreds readies for the annual Independence Day Parade. It's a tradition that's spanned at least the lifetime of centenarian grand marshal Ace Walden. His first time in the parade was as a 13-year-old Boy Scout back in the early 1920s. Today at 100 years young his delight as he rides at the front of the parade, waving to well-wishers from the back of a convertible, is evident. It's not hard to see his reflection in the faces of today's Scouts, flag-waving boys on a flatbed truck.
Tonight a spectacular display of fireworks will explode over Lake Coeur d'Alene. It's a good day to live in beautiful North Idaho and a good day to be an American ... of any age.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Eve of Independence Day

In town squares and on courthouse steps, Americans in small towns and big cities prepare to celebrate the 4th of July. In Kootenai County, Idaho over 100 people gathered at noon to witness a special flag be raised in the Ronald D. Rankin Veterans Memorial Plaza. The flag to be raised has significance to the community, as one that was carried by SFC Eric Cookman of the Hayden-based Company B, 321st Engineer Battalion on May 30 in the Al Anbar Province Ramadi, Iraq. The flag was in the 1st Platoon’s B-361 Buffalo during route clearance in support of the 2nd Marines Expeditionary Force. SFC Cookman served on the Kootenai County Local Emergency Planning Committee and the Office of Emergency Management Council before his deployment to Iraq in Sept. 2006, He sent the flag to Sandy Von Behren, director of the Kootenai County Office of Emergency Management this month. Sgt. Jacob Kammers, recently wounded in action and the recipient of a Purple Heart, was there to participate in the flag raising. It was a grand day for the grand old flag... a flag that had seen war up close at the side of a hometown boy and now on the eve of Independence Day gave those of us here safe and free another reason to be grateful.
God bless America.

Monday, July 2, 2007

A Home for Shasta

Two years ago today a miracle occurred in our community when the news of Shasta Groene being found spread like wildfire. The little girl was the sole survivor of a murderous home-invasion rampage that claimed the lives of her mother, step-father and two brothers. (second photo) She'd been kidnapped and held captive by the murderer for nearly 6 weeks before her rescue.

Our collective joy was tempered by broken hearts for all she lost and what she faced in the coming years. Two years later, that little girl is now a young woman and the love and generosity of so many people has given her something really special... a safe place, a real home to call her own and eased the financial burdens her father, Steve has faced since his struggle with cancer. I drove by the new house last week, it’s a beautiful home but more than that I could sense the love that went into building and furnishing it. It has an aura of security, a protective barrier of love emanating from every corner, every flower pot, every front porch step.
To Midge Smock and Todd Stam, what a special place in that little girl’s heart you’ve earned. May she always feel wrapped in the arms of caring by the people of Coeur d'Alene and around the country. I’m proud to call this community home. http://www.ahomeforshasta.org