I know, I said never travel with cats. Unfortunately, finding cat sitters would limit our travels so we have decided our cats need to learn how to camp. In April, we traded in our toy-hauler for a smaller, more comfortable fifth wheel. We’ve taken three short camping trips to local lakes since then, and the cats have accompanied us each time. Unlike the hellish 16-hour journey from California to Idaho, we no longer drug or confine the beasts. They ride in the backseat of the truck (mostly), but are free to roam and look out the windows. They seem to calm down after the first 15 minutes, and the remainder of the trip is much more enjoyable.
Trip # 1 – Heyburn State Park
Can you really call it a trip if the destination is 25 minutes from your house? Our maiden voyage in the new RV was to Heyburn State Park. We stayed at the Hawley’s Landing Campground on Lake Chatcolet. Heyburn State Park is the oldest state park in the Pacific Northwest, created by an act of Congress in 1908. Heyburn includes approximately 5,800 acres of land and 2,300 acres of water. Much of the early construction was performed by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s.
The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes runs through the park. The Trail of the Coeur d’ Alenes is a 72-mile paved trail spanning the Idaho panhandle between Mullan and Plummer. It was created through a unique partnership between the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Union Pacific Railroad, the U. S. Government, and the State of Idaho. The trail begins in the historic Silver Valley, continues along the Coeur d’Alene River past scenic Lake Coeur d’Alene and through rolling farmlands to Plummer. We have hiked one mile of the trail…only 71 more to go.
Trip #2 – Priest Lake State Park
Sure we live 15 minutes from the world renowned Lake Coeur d’Alene, but we chose to drive two hours north to Priest Lake for our next camping adventure. The cats were definitely more comfortable on this trip and were feeling pretty at-home in the RV.
Just 30 miles from the Canadian Border, nestled deep below the crest of the Selkirk Mountains lies Priest Lake State Park. Surrounded by the natural beauty of Northern Idaho and mile-high mountains, Priest Lake State Park sits along the eastern shores of Priest Lake, a 19-mile, 300+ foot deep lake. Noted for its extremely clear water, fed by streams cascading from the high Selkirk peaks, the main body of Priest Lake extends north-south 19 miles and is connected by a 2 mile thoroughfare to the remote Upper Priest Lake, accessible only by foot or boat.
We hiked the View Point trail above the campground and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the lake. So far, I have been impressed with the Idaho campgrounds and the quality of their trails. There was also an interpretive trail that continued our tree identification education.
Painted on the pavement entering the park is the phrase “Don’t be a Guberif.” We were stumped by that so Shawn asked the park attendant what it meant. He had no idea and said no one had ever asked him before. We Googled it. In 1946, Idaho launched the “Keep Idaho Green” campaign and looking for a way to help differentiate their forest fire prevention campaign from that of other states, Keep Idaho Green invented a new character. First introduced in 1950, the “Guberif” was defined as a creature that starts fires in Idaho’s forests through acts of carelessness. Guberif is fire bug spelled backwards. Read more about the Guberif.
Trip #3 – Farragut State Park
When someone told me that Farragut State Park was a former Naval training base, I was skeptical. Submarines in Idaho? The park adjoins the deepwater Lake Pend Oreille, where the Navy maintains a submarine research center at Bayview, the Acoustic Research Detachment. The land was transferred to the state of Idaho in 1949 and became a state park in 1965. Ground was broken in March 1942, and by September the base had a population of 55,000, making it the largest city in Idaho. Liberty trains to Spokane ran three times daily. At the time Farragut was the second-largest naval training center in the world. During the 30 months the base was open, 293,381 sailors received basic training at Farragut. The last recruit graduated in March 1945 and the facility was decommissioned in June 1946. It was also used as a prisoner of war camp; nearly 900 Germans worked as gardeners and maintenance men.
Now, it’s just a beautiful park with miles of trails, 4 disc-golf courses and a museum. The Priest Lake campground also had a disc golf course, so we decided to get some discs and give it a try. It turns out you need special discs (driver, mid-range and putter), not your old Frisbee. We met a fellow with a backpack full of discs. He was playing numerous disc golf courses on his travels with his dog.
We hiked 4 miles on the well maintained trails that took us down along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced ponder-ay). The wildflowers were in full bloom.
We’ve visited three of Idaho’s state parks, and they have all been beautiful and well maintained (and they have super nice bathrooms and showers if you need that sort of thing). The camp hosts and volunteers have been friendly and helpful and we’ve met many fellow campers. I’m looking forward to exploring more of Idaho’s treasures, even if I have to take my cats.