Our Adventure on Lake Pend Oreille

Our Adventure on Lake Pend Oreille

Camping at Farragut State Park

My first experience with Lake Pend Oreille in Northern Idaho happened in 2014.  My husband's birthday landed on a weekend that year, so we decided to take a short vacation and reserved a site at Farragut State Park.  We splurged on an RV site (even though we were using a tent) so we could have access to power and water, brought our Waverunner to cruise the lake, and loaded the bed of our truck with everything and anything we could possibly need.  Although I don't remember the extent of our gear, I'm fairly sure we had enough to start a small commune.

The drive, though long, was beautiful with gently rolling mountains on either side of the highway.  After passing through the small town of Athol, we pulled into the park and were immediately amazed by the beauty ... and the chaos.  You see, our once-a-year vacation happened to coincide with a wedding, so our particular area of the campground had only one vacancy - our site.  There were kids ... everywhere.  Neither of us minded kids though we didn't have any of our own at the time, so we didn't think much of it.  We planned to be out on the water most of the time anyway and wouldn't be at the site long enough to get annoyed with the crowds.

Lake Pend Oreille, mountains

Mother Nature, of course, had other plans.

Even though it was mid-June, a time when this part of the world typically enjoyed 70 if not 80 degree weather, the high for our trip barely topped 60.  We spent our time wearing hats and even occasionally gloves, not to mention coats, to protect against the chill.  And the nights?  A few degrees above freezing.  The power at the site saved our toes as we had the foresight to bring along a heated blanket though we never expected to use it.  You see, neither of us has sleeping bags rated for such weather. 

Silly us, thinking that June would be warm.

For that first night, we familiarized ourselves with the campground and were pleasantly surprised by all it had to offer: disc golf, horse trails, hiking trails, a large swimming area, a museum, playground, and an impressive picnic area.

Farragut State Park swimming area, Lake Pend Oreille

The next morning, on the day we planned to spend on the water, it poured.  Not a pretty late-spring shower.  Heavy, hard, icy droplets stung as they hit and thundered on the tent as we sat wondering what to do now.  Thankfully, the city of Coeur d'Alene wasn't far and after thirty minutes, we sat down to a lovely meal at a Mexican restaurant before enjoying an impromptu movie at the local theater.  Our ruined day on the water turned into a wonderful date that kept us busy until well after the rain stopped.

Another cold, damp night later and we were finally down to our last full day of our stay at the campground.  Our goal?  The lake.  Why else would we drive this far, endure cold and rain and noisy kids on our one vacation of the year?  We were determined.  At this point, we were spiteful.  Mother Nature wasn't going to stop us.  Not this time.  We drove down to the boat launch, removed all of our safety straps, and launched the Waverunner.  It was only 54 degrees with a hard wind from the North.

Farragut State Park boat launch, Lake Pend Oreille

But we refused to back down.  Not after missing a full day of water fun and with only one afternoon left before we had to go.  My husband drove, mostly because I wanted to use him as a windbreak, while I sat in back dressed in jeans rolled up past my ankles, two shirts, a lined coat, life-vest, gloves, a thick winter beanie ... and bare feet.  Have you ever been on a personal watercraft before?  It's almost impossible to keep anything dry but especially not your feet.  Strangely enough, my feet were the warmest part of me though they remained naked and sat in an inch of water as we drove away from the dock.

Off we went.  Freezing our butts off on a Waverunner built for speed and sharp turns, not stability and dryness.  My husband somehow kept us dry as we cut through the water, hugging the shore through the worst of the wind before venturing out to the deeper water.

And, suddenly, the misery faded away.

The rain, the cold, the fact that we were dressed for winter rather than summer - none of it mattered.  As we cruised along the dark waters, surrounded by mountains blanketed with thick evergreen forests whose peaks pierced the heavy clouds, I fell in love.

For those of you who have never been to Lake Pend Oreille, I encourage you to do so.  Not only is it one of the deepest lakes in the country, but it is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful.  Surrounded by national forests, most of its shores are untouched. 

Lake Pend Oreille shoreline

The wildness and sheer arrogance of it took my breath away.  Though we saw a mere mile or two of its 43 mile length, we were both impressed.  The mountains seemed to climb right out of the water which, at its deepest, dipped 1,150 feet below us.  The size of the lake and the surrounding mountains only seemed to emphasize our small, unimportant existence.  Out on the water, we were not the dominant species.  In the eyes of the Green Monarch Mountains, we were but a blink - there one second and gone the next.

Awed and now addicted to the sight, I secretly plotted and planned a return trip, mentally trimming the fat from our budget to make it possible.  As we pulled up to the boat launch, I spotted a few fishermen preparing for an evening of solitude on the water and wondered if they felt the same as they floated, surrounded by some of the finest artwork Mother Nature had to offer.  The fishermen, however, seemed far less concerned with the splendor all around them and far more concerned with how the two of us managed to spend an afternoon on the water, on a Waverunner, without getting wet.

I told them, "We're just lucky, I guess."

All photos were taken during our first day at the park.