Sandpoint teems with lake, land activities
Everyone knows that skiers flock to Schweitzer Mountain Resort every winter to enjoy world-class skiing just a short drive from downtown Sandpoint. But for those not so comfortable on the slopes, summer may be a better time to visit.
Skiers sure will be jealous that for just $15 you can get a daylong lift ticket.
“The Great Escape Quad is open Thursday through Monday from 10 in the morning until five in the evening,” said Jennifer Ekstrom, communications manager at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. “On top of the mountain there’s a disc golf course, and there’s also a short scenic hike called the Summit Loop Trail. It’s easy – it’s great to do for families.”
Feel free to bring a mountain bike on the chairlift.
“It’s a pretty advanced ride down, though,” Ekstrom said, “but it’s popular with bikers who have some experience.”
In the absence of snow, Schweitzer visitors can go horseback riding and play a few sets at the free tennis courts. All kinds of equipment are available at the mountain activity center in the Selkirk Lodge.
“And now we have fly fishing available in Colburn Lake,” said Ekstrom. “It is catch-and-release, but you don’t need an Idaho fishing license to do it – all you need is a $3 permit from our activity center.”
A special deal on quad-occupancy rooms lets you and three friends spend the night for $59 each.
“That includes $30 in ‘adventure bucks’ per person, which you can spend on activities up here,” Ekstrom said. “That’s pretty affordable – and we see people come from all over the region.”
When in Sandpoint, don’t miss the Statue of Liberty. Of course, she’s quite a bit shorter than her big sister in New York City, but standing there, at the end of a little pier off City Beach with her back to Lake Pend Oreille and the stunning mountains, she looks right at home.
The statue originally belonged to and is dedicated in the memory of Louise “Lee” Turner, who owned the Cowgirl Corral in Ponderay and the Captain’s Table in Bayview. Turner died in 2003, and that’s when her children gave the statue to the city of Sandpoint, where it became the focal point of City Beach.
You’ll also find basketball courts, horseshoe pits, picnic tables and barbecues, a playground and, of course, the sandy beach. Lake Pend Oreille Cruises leaves from City Beach to take you eagle watching or on a Clark Fork Delta Cruise – just call ahead.
With a picnic basket, it’s easy to spend the entire day at City Beach – and that makes for an inexpensive outing.
Downtown Sandpoint is a short stroll away (you can leave your car at the City Beach parking lot), and there’s a lot to do there as well. Restaurants and shops line First Avenue and Cedar Street – it’s a walkable town once you’ve gotten used to the traffic.
Melissa Wiley, who manages Full Spectrum Tours on Second Avenue, said traffic does get a little hectic, but she has a cure for that.
“Rent a kayak and go on a lake paddle,” Wiley said, laughing. “Anyone can do it, really. I’d say 80 percent of the people who rent kayaks from us are beginners and about a third are first-timers.”
The paddle tours are popular, so Wiley recommends making reservations in advance.
“If you can sit down on the floor and stand back up, you can kayak,” Wiley said.
On the way
Heading north from Coeur d’Alene, make sure you have time to stop a few places along Highway 95. There is usually a roadside booth of some sort every few miles. Local produce, honey, beef jerky or those big beach towels are a few of the wares you’ll come across. The flea market in Sagle is worth a visit, especially during the weekend.
Off Highway 95, just south of Cocolalla, is where you’ll find Wolf People.There are 20 wolves at Wolf People’s facility, which is located just a few miles from the store. The wolves live in separate pens, but they clearly belong to the same pack.
“When we take two of them down to the big play field, we can hear the other ones up here howling,” said Mark Marzio, a handler at Wolf People. “The two down in the field answer back. It’s their way of letting everyone know that they are all OK.”Two wolves usually spend the day in a pen behind the Wolf People store, where visitors can meet them.
“Most of them really want to go,” said Marzio. “They can’t wait to get their collars on and get in the truck. But it’s their decision. If they don’t come over when I back the truck up, then we don’t make them go.”
When Marzio walks up to Kasper, the alpha male, the wolf makes quite a spectacle. Growling, turning his side so he looks bigger, bristling and showing his teeth, Kasper nevertheless rubs against the chain link fence to get his back scratched.
“He’s just talking to me,” Marzio said, over the growls. “He’s telling me he’s in charge.” Nancy Taylor founded Wolf People in 1993.
“It started when I lost a dog while I was living in Arizona,” she said. “I first had a hybrid, and when I moved up here I had one pure wolf. People told me that once you live with a wolf you’ll never go back to a dog. I guess they are right.”
Wolf People is not a nonprofit or a rescue organization, it’s an educational facility, Taylor said. Wolf Ambassadors – wolves with an approachable disposition who can handle having a lot of people or kids around them – often visit local schools and other groups.
“Some of the wolves are regular local celebrities,” Taylor said. “We just want for people to come here and meet them.”
Reach Pia Hallenberg Christensen at (509) 459-5427 or firstname.lastname@example.org