After a 2 hour flight, a two hour drive and a quick food shop, we arrive at Hill’s Resort on Priest Lake in Northern Idaho to find smokey skies surrounding a beautiful lake. Our 5 bedroom, lakefront cabin is at the Southern edge of the resort. Beyond our back deck is pretty much a private beach on Luby Bay. The cabin is the perfect blend of spartan with just the right amount of updating throughout. This will do nicely!
The boys are happy to be here and spend the afternoon frolicking in the sand at the waters edge. Greg brought along a small remote control boat that Noah can operate quite well. The two stand side by side enthralled with their twin engine watercraft. For an opening feast, I prepare gnocchi in a brown butter sage sauce and serve it with grilled Italian sausage.
At 1AM, Jamie wakes me up. “I hear Eli making noise!” I dismiss it and tell her to go back to sleep. The bed is a full, and she’s laying remarkably close to me for such a late hour. A moment later, “I hear a mouse in the wall. What are we going to do?!” Again, I dismiss it and tell her to go back to sleep.
I wake at 4:45, notice the first hints of light in the sky and throw on all the layers I packed and hiking sneakers. The day greets me with temps in the lower 50’s and a jaw dropping smokey sunrise of pinks and oranges. I walk the lakefront trail beyond the resort covering most of the Bay. I encounter a pack of four whitetail does, and get close enough to photograph them with my ultra wide, the only lens with me this morning.
Joan ‘fixes’ pancakes for breakfast and we spend the day lolling in the sand and playing with the boys. Greg brought along a small rowboat and kayak. We each take the boys for rides near the shore. Eli seems to enjoy it more then Noah. I throw a couple racks of ribs on the grill early and we have ourselves a tasty, if not exactly kosher, lunch.
Joan packed a toolbox for each boy, filled with vintage Hot Wheels cars. Noah takes a handful of them and forms a ‘dirt track’ by the side of our house. Cars + Dirt = Noah Heaven
After dinner, I walk to the docks and sit on a bench at the furthest corner. It’s 8PM and there is a lot more day remaining then back home. Jamie joins me after putting the boys to bed and we watch sun set together. I feel light, content.
I make a baked French toast for breakfast. The boys love it so much that Eli tries putting it on top of his head. In his ear. And then finally, he feeds it to his belly button. Can’t blame him, it was good.
I throw Eli in the Ergo for a morning walk and he chats amiably the whole time. We setup on the beach with our eclipse glasses to watch the once in a lifetime event. We are outside the path of totality, and with our special eclipse glasses we can see the sun get to about 85% eclipsed, with just a small crescent showing through the top. Greg watches while floating in his kayak offshore.
Jamie’s lifelong friend Kelly arrives with her three children, Hannah, Carter and Andrew and the boys are enthralled with their larger, older companions. Hannah is great with Eli, while Carter and Andrew are the perfect match for Noah to look up to. The play in the sand, row the boats and build a huge fort in the sand. The 10 of us filled the massive dining table in our cabin for a spaghetti dinner, then take our brownie sundaes out on the back deck for dessert.
Monday night is movie night at Hill’s Resort and they were showing The Sandlot on the beach. I have fond memories that movie, but time hasn’t been kind. In the first half they depict sexual assault and childhood tobacco use as punchlines! Not exactly proper fare for my youngling. Plus, Noah was terrified of that dog beast. While it was really fun to watch a movie under the stars, I’m just glad Noah didn’t have any nightmares.
Boat day! We rented a beautiful Bryant Speranza 21 from the local marina and it was super sweet. The boat is fast, new and smooth on the water. In the morning, we took Kelly’s and our family out for a cruise and all three of her children went tubing. It was fun to zip them around the lake, and I was impressed how long they held on for!
I grew up boating in the Great South Bay of Long Island and the moment I get out on the water, I felt an instant connection to my Grandfather. It’s like I can feel him standing by my side helping me drive the boat, exactly as when I was a child. It’s a special moment and my eyes tear up.
We spent the afternoon playing in the sand while the Williams went out on the boat, then said goodbye to Kelly & family. After they left Noah cried a bit.
For dinner that night, we had Hamburgers and Hotdogs with the Williams, who were staying next door. Joan’s brother Bob Williams was in cabin 108, as per family tradition, with his wife Brenda, their two daughters Kate & Krystie, Krystie’s boyfriend Peter, and Lady, Kate’s rescue dog. For dessert, we had Joan’s “worlds best peach cobbler.” It did not disappoint!
After dinner, Grandparents took on bedtime duty while Jamie and I went out on a sunset boat-date. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way she sparkled in the light of the setting sun that evening. It was so special to have this time to relax and enjoy the lake this way together.
I awake at 445AM, put on a pot of coffee and make ham, egg & cheese biscuits to go. Greg joins me at 5 and we are soon pulling out of the dock as the day makes it first appearance, bundled in all our layers. The lake is flat like glass and except for a few fishing boats, we have it to ourselves. We explore coves and lakefront houses, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. It’s a spectacular morning, and I can think of no better way to take it all in. Greg seems particularly happy.
When we return, I take over with the boys while Jamie takes a “floating yoga” class on the dock. Actually, the grandparents watched Noah, while Elijah and I ventured into the town of Priest River [30 miles south] in search of groceries and a legit huckleberry pie. I’ve dismissed the families enthusiasm for these small berries, but was curious.
In town, I discovered the small sole proprietorship Thick and Thin, mainly a shop specializing in meats and game. But, he also had homemade pies, made with 100% real, local huckleberry. It was AMAZING! Like, wow. And if you get to enjoy it hot out of the oven, hold on to your socks. For years, I’ve heard Jamies family rave about Huckleberry and bring home all variety of huckleberry souvenir from Priest Lake, but the hot pie is a gem to savor.
My other need was some fried chicken to eat on the boat. Katoff’s and boating go hand in hand with fried chicken and napping. Around noon we headed back out onto the water. Jamie and I did some tubing, and I had a brief, but ever so slightly successful foray on waterskies. I also had a nice fall and realized that I didn’t want to hurt myself.
We spent time swimming and cruising the lake. At one point, Noah begged a refined chocolate treat which he began eating before falling asleep. He awoke with a melted ho-ho firmly in his grip, took a few bites, then fell back to sleep.
The coming end to our trip brought with it cooler temperatures and a vague sense of boredom. At this point I haven’t checked Facebook or any social media since Saturday morning—a new personal record! I had originally planned to just toss my phone in the drawer for a couple of days, but between a desire to have a camera handy and a heavy focus on step count, I just couldn’t put it down. At this point, all I wanted to do was talk to the world, but it was nice to stay tuned out. I didn’t worry about politics or the details of others peoples lives. I didn’t pine for ‘likes.’ I read paper books. It was a healthy reprieve.
But, I was getting bored. I took the boys on a hike up the beach. I played in the water. I cleaned. Ok, I didn’t do that much cleaning, usually just after I cooked.
Highlight of the day for Noah was making Huckleberry Cobbler [while wearing sunglasses] with Greg using his dutch oven. Noah likes baking cakes and the like, especially with Grandparents. Eli wanted to get in on the fun, too!
The highlight for me was date night with Jamie, in the Hills Resort dining room. The food was on par with the resort, the views of the lake even better, but the company was divine. I’ve said it before, but it’s really nice to enjoy a slow, relaxing meal with my best friend. Big thanks to Greg & Joan for the babysitting.
Before we left for dinner, I bathed Eli and prepped him for bed while Jamie and Joan were enjoying girl time next door. When I left, I walk over to Eli and give him a big hug and tell him I love him. I turn away, and the boy who at most utters two words together says “I love you Daddy.” My heart melted.
We return home to find Joan ready with the dominos, Greg off to bed. We play Mexican Train, her favorite domino game, but only 7 rounds. It’s nice to play bored games in a quiet cabin.
For our last morning, Jamie agreed to join me on my early walk. Departing at 5AM, the skies were a bit overcast and didn’t offer the same glowing sunrise as on days past. She enjoyed the quiet time and made excellent company. The day mainly passed as we had the week; lolling by the water, playing in the rowboats and the sand. Eli and Noah took turns throwing rocks in the lake.
We did all hike together to the Priest Lake museum and Noah rode the whole way there on Poppa’s shoulders. I spent much of the day packing. For our closing banquet, Greg made Halibut that he and Joan caught in Alaska and I paired that with my famous Corn Cobbler. For dessert, I made a s’mores bread pudding.
We went to sleep early, and woke at 230AM, to drive to Spokane for a 620AM flight. We were back in Marin by 10AM.
Great trip. It was the perfect counterpoint to our France trip in May. I’m glad I finally got to visit a place that means to much to our family. Very grateful to Greg & Joan for hosting us. The boys obviously loved it. I’d like to do another Lake vacation in the future, maybe Tahoe, another California lake, or perhaps return to the Idaho Panhandle.