Friday, September 7, 2012

Lake Pend Oreille, Scotchman Peak 7009'

After last month's stellar week long trip to Seaside I went back to work for all of 3 days before heading out on another family adventure. One of my closest friends had bought an auction item to stay in a lakeside home on Lake Pend Oreille. I was stoked when he asked if we would like to join them for 5 nights. I didn't know a thing about the lake including how to pronounce it. I did some research and found that it is a massive lake that provides trophy fishing for 11 species of fish. While I had a great time at the beach, I am much more at home at a mountain lake. After getting off very late on Friday night I wasn't able to sleep, so I was concerned with the long 5+ hour drive to the house.  We met in North Bend and topped off with coffee. I drove my friend and my wife and kids drove with his wife and kids. The time passed very quickly with some great converstaton to help us get caught up. I had no idea where we were headed so I just followed behind without a care in the world.

    I was excited when we reached the long bridge that leads to Sand Point, we must be close? The sheer size of this lake is amazing since it took another 30 minutes before we reached or house. When we pulled in I was in awe. The house was huge and it exceeded my expectations in every way. I think we could have added another 10 people and still been comfortable.  Instead of unpacking we all toured the house with sheer awe. I had to laugh when we made our way downstairs to find the "man cave" There were stuffed deer heads everywhere. The capper was a full size elk that was stuffed and was standing in an area that was made to look like a forest scene. While this certainly isn't my style it gave us all a great laugh and made us all feel like this was going to be a great trip. There was also a 50 foot dock that floated over some very promising looking water. After unpacking and settling in Joe and I made our way out to throw some flies. As good as the water looked nothing of note was hooked.

   Joe and I went into town to get supplies. I was shocked at the amount of stuffed fish I saw. This lake produces the biggest trout I have ever seen. Everywhere we went there are trophy fish on display. We had an immense amount of fun shopping, enjoying each person we met along the way. I think we both had a sense that this was going to be a memorable trip. After returning we had a wonderful dinner and family time.

  The next day was spent fishing, no luck for Joe and I. My youngest daughter was the only one who could manage to hook anything. Tears welled in my eyes when I say such joy in her eyes when she was able to land some small pikeminnows in her "honey spot". The wives left later that day to explore Sandpoint. I was overwhelmed with joy when my oldest was doing laps swimming from shore to the end of the dock and then would run back to do it again. After 8 laps I asked her is she wanted me to time her. She was so happy to push the pace and after posting a great time she wanted to do it again to see if she could do it faster. We both were beaming when her 10th lap was indeed the fastest. Evidently my daughter is more like me that either of us was aware.

   Luckily we found out that Silverwood last day was Labor Day. I had already purchased passes and we had intended on using them on Tuesday.  I am not a big water park fan so I decided to pursue something more pleasing to me. I had done some research and found Scotchman Peak was only 30 minutes away. It was a stout 3700' climb and boasted being the county highpoint as well as more than 4000' of prominence. This was a perfect target for me. After the family left for Silverwood I left with the detraction that I would be climbing alone. We couldn't take the family dog on this trip despite how well behaved he is. While I travel solo most often, I can think of only a few times where I haven't had the company of a dog.  After topping off of supplies in Clark Fork I headed up Lightning Creek Road and then took the Mosquito Creek road and followed the signs for Trail 65. There was one fork with no sign and I headed right. This of course was not the right way and after 4 miles I turned around. The trailhead was packed. I got out of the car and immediately stepped in a pile of crap. Not sure who or what had left it but it wasn't the start I had hoped for.  After doing my best to clean my shoes I geared up.

  The weather was ideal as I made it up the good trail. The trail is not overly steep but it does cover the 3700' of gain in less than 4 miles. Soon I was able to see portions of Lake Pend Oreille. I tried to keep the pace as high as I could. My brother introduced me to an app on my phone called Strava that enable you to time your climb and rank yourselves against others. While there was only one other who had done the climb, I really wanted to better their time. Soon the summit block comes into view and it is quite impressive. Once reaching the upper slopes I was stymied by a group of mountain goats who were intent on not letting my pass. I was very wary when one approached me and had malice in his eyes. This goat continued around behind me adding to my uneasiness since I was now surrounded.  I decide to climb above the trail and then go around and drop back to the trail. Thankfully the goats only followed me for a short ways before losing interest. While I will never be sure if I was indeed in peril, I will say that it was the scariest animal encounter I have ever had. I really pushed the pace wanting put some distance between myself and the goats. Soon I reached the summit where the wind had picked up. There was a solo on the summit but I wanted to eat my lunch lower on slopes out of the wind. I found a nice windbreak at 6800' and ate a well deserved lunch. I was also happy that I had beaten the posted time by 8 minutes. The descent went very quickly and I passed many of the people who I had crossed paths with on the ascent. If in the area I really recommend this one it is well worth the effort.

   The next day we had slated a rental of a pontoon boat for the day. Joe and I went out for a couple of hours eager to try our hands against the trophies we were sure to hook. I wasn't even dismayed when the boat renter told us that Summer is the worst time for big fish. After throwing out my rig I hooked into a nice 14' rainbow. I was set for a memorable day. Too bad that was the only fish we were to land on this day.   We trolled back to the house and marvelled at all the monster homes along the way. Evidently there are many with much more means than either Joe or I. We picked up the rest of the family and headed out for a 5 hour tour of the lake. The ladies were even more thrilled with the houses we saw. We all enjoyed swimming and generally catching the sights. Even though I tried hard I wasn't able to land anything. The sting of the disappointment was tempered by the great time we all had. After returning the the family we made one last stab at catching some fish and were only able to land a few small ones.

  The next day we decide to take a walk from the house to a trailhead near an area park. I was able to find the trailhead despite having very little to go on. We took the trail until we reached a junction where the trail splits with one going to a grave. Unable to throttle our curiosity we headed to the grave site. The grave was for a couple who had  donated the land in which the park was located.  I googled the names and was able to read the group the particulars. I was happy to show my kids why it is important to give back when you are abundantly blessed. After returning to the trailhead we continued on to the park and enjoyed some quality time skipping rocks and enjoying the beach.   When we returned the girls headed into town while Joe and I continued our assault on the fish. I grew weary of catching small ones and let Joe have free reign of the dock. I had a feeling that he would hook into something worthwhile. Joe let out a shout when he saw a big fish. I tried to make my way to the end of the dock as quietly as possible so not to spook the fish. Joe pointed in the water directly in line with his fly line. I shouted "strip your line" and Joe was rewarded with a strike. He landed the 20+ inch Pikeminnow. It was a great way to end the day. I couldn't have scripted it any better.

   We met the rest of family for a mostly disappointing meal in Sandpoint. I was excited when I asked the hostess how she was when we arrived and she stated that she was excited for the evening's impending storm. As we ate our dinner the wind and clouds steadily increased in force. By the time we made it home it was blowing 30 miles and hour with higher gusts.  This steadily increased as the night wore on. In fact the ladies wouldn't sit front of the bay windows because they were flexing so much. The power briefly went out but thankfully returned after a short time. To me this was a fitting end for our last night. I love storms and I couldn't have asked for a better one.

   With heavy hearts we packed up and cleaned the house. I think everyone was very sad to have to leave. We went into Sandpoint to have lunch together before the long drive home. I decided to head home on HY 2 instead of the way we had come. Initially this was great because it is a beautiful drive. However the last 8 miles to reach I-90 are all traffic lights adding considerable amount of time. This didn't have a bit of effect on the home arrival time because we were stuck in the I-90 closure for blasting before Snoqualmie Pass. I was not aware that they are doing closures on Thursday's. This waiting really sapped me and I struggled with the balance of the driving.

   As was the case with our Seaside trip we all hope to return next year.

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