After a brief drive through and pit stop in Coeur d’alene , we pushed on to the next town.
To be fair, we saw CDA through the lens of a rainy dusk and a long day, but nothing compelled us to stop and stay a while. My impression was that it’s a high-end resort town with lots of restaurants and shops, not unlike what we have in California. Granted we don’t have that lake and the mountains as a backdrop, but CDA was a little too polished / manicured for what I was seeking on this first timer’s exploration of Idaho and Montana.
The next “big town”, Sandpoint, wasn’t even on our radar, but oh, my – what a charming little gem. Even in the dark, I could tell there was something special about this community.
We grabbed a bite at a local brewery where the locals were having a “snow making” party – cutting snowflakes and drinking the local IPA. Passed a wine shop filled with Halloween costumed oenophiles raising their glasses to toast each other.
In the morning, we strolled the town and the beach along the scenic shore of Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest lake (148 square miles surface area and 43 miles long) and the nation’s 5th deepest (1,150 feet ) and 38th largest in the country.
Sandpoint was mostly a ghost town in the “early” morning. It’s the shoulder season -shops don’t open until 10:30 and the locals sleep in. Stopped at a coffee shop and spoke with the owners, a couple who moved here in 2001 after living around the country. They love Sandpoint and say that the weather is nice and temperate from about May until October, when Indian Summer usually hits. Apparently, the current cold front (30-40 degrees) was an anomaly.
Rand McNally must have a crush on Sandpoint as they named it the most beautiful small town in America in 2011 and #1 ski town in 2012. It’s easy to see why this town has earned so many accolades as an outdoor paradise. Summer sports galore – swimming, SUP, hiking, biking – and it’s also on the famous road biking International Selkirk Loop. (Sounds like I need to add that to my “to do” list too.)
Apparently, the ski season invigorates the town as Schweitzer Mountain Resort (downhill & cross-country) is just a stones throw away. On our stroll, we ran into an avid skier from New York on a quest for coffee. He scouted this place for his ski club and liked it so much he came back to try it out for a month. Hmm, sounds like a good idea to me. I think I feel a crush coming for my Idaho 1 night stand charmer, Sandpoint…Definitely deserves a repeat.