Is Lake Coeur d’Alene the best damn thing about Idaho? Heck no. It’s not even the best lake in Idaho.
A New York website picked the North Idaho lake, which is home to a luxury resort and golf course, as “the best damn thing” about our state. In their 93-word Thrillist review, authors Matt Lynch and Andy Kryza call it “one of the most breathtaking mountain lakes in the U.S.”
Sorry, guys. You need to get out more.
It certainly is beautiful, especially if you’re driving through on Interstate 90, or hiking up Tubb’s Hill next to Duane Hagadone’s luxurious Coeur d’Alene Resort.
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For my money, it’s not even the most breathtaking mountain lake in North Idaho.
Lynn and Kryza should trade their handheld devices for flotation devices and spend an afternoon canoeing the two-mile Thorofare to Upper Priest Lake.
That crown would go to Priest Lake, 90 miles northwest of Coeur d’Alene. The 7,600-foot peaks of the Selkirk Mountains offer a spectacular backdrop to the lake. It’s surrounded by some of Idaho’s most scenic forests, such as the 800-year old cedars in the Roosevelt Grove, and gorgeous Granite Falls. I’d recommend that Messrs Lynn and Kryza trade their handheld devices for flotation devices and spend an afternoon canoeing the two-mile Thorofare to Upper Priest Lake, a lake paddle unlike any in the state.
Then there is Lake Pend Oreille. Sixty miles north of Coeur d’Alene, with 143 square miles it is the largest lake in Idaho and gives Priest Lake a run for its money for scenery. The Selkirks, Bitteroot and the Cabinet mountain ranges rise above its 1,150-feet-deep waters.
The Thrillist list didn’t even mention Lake Coeur d’Alene’s best-known feature, the floating green at the resort’s golf course. They also failed to mention the tons of lead and other metal contamination in the lake’s sediments from more than a century of mining up the Coeur d’Alene River. But, hey, I’m not a fan of heavy metal either.
My pick for best lake view in Idaho? Redfish Lake, seated with a cold one on the front porch at Redfish Lake Lodge with the craggy Sawtooth peaks rising from the forest and the lake beyond. Now that’s a thrill to list, Thrillist.
Sorry, Boise will never be Idaho’s biggest big thing.
So much for my lake take. What about the truly best thing about our state?
Here in Boise, we are used to a parade of national magazines and click-bait, er, informational websites picking us as a great place to bike, retire, start a business or raise a family. We make lists like the West’s Best Kept Secret or, as Thrillist choose in February, “Under-Appreciated American Cities You Should Totally Move To.”
To many outsiders, Boise is the first thing that comes to mind when they think about our state’s hot spots.
But, sorry, Boise will never be Idaho’s biggest big thing, no matter how many times ESPN and the Idaho Potato Commission sponsor the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on the Smurf Turf. Not even with Boise’s Big Potato Drop or its Treefort Music Fest, which has definitely boosted Boise’s cool quotient.
Skiers might make the case for Idaho’s best thing as Sun Valley, where Mount Baldy towers over glitter gulch, with memorable runs like Gretchen’s Gold, Christen’s Silver and Picabo’s Street named after local Olympic heroes.
But rubbing elbows with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks or Justin Timberlake seems so Santa Monica Boulevard compared with a day trip on the South Fork of the Payette River near Lowman or five days down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
To see the real stars of Idaho, I’d rather camp out alongside Chamberlain Lake in the shadow of Castle Peak in the White Clouds Wilderness. Or maybe I’ll camp out in the dark sky reserve to see the total solar eclipse next summer.
In my book, one of the best things in Idaho is casting a fly into the pool where Running Creek flows into the Selway River in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, pulling in one cutthroat trout after another.
But truly, the best thing about Idaho? It’s not a thing. It’s a state of mind. It’s the freedom to explore all the wild country we have here. Start at the thin strip of Yellowstone National Park on our eastern edge, follow the grizzly bears south on the west side of the Tetons down to the Palisades. Row a driftboat into the South Fork of the Snake River Canyon. Then move on to the City of Rocks, Craters of the Moon, the Owyhee Canyonlands, Hells Canyon, Gospel Hump, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the big one, the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.
Had Thrillist’s Lynch and Kryza gotten farther than Hudson’s Hamburgers on Sherman Street in the North Idaho capital of Hagedonia, they might have found that Idaho’s wild heart is our best thing.
What’s your best thing?
What do you think about my list? Email to tell me your best thing — or why I’m wrong. I’ll collect the best of your best things in a future column.