At some point in the middle of last year I managed to cross a line in personal records, having now visited more foreign countries than states in the USA. I’ve got every state with a coast save one (Delaware) and a whole bunch in the interior, too, but I’m also missing a number in the middle of the country.Idaho was one of those, until this week. In my planning for the triple run to Spokane, Washington I did a bit of research and was egged on by Mike to consider visiting Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Had I done even more research prior to arrival I would have known that Montana is only another hour beyond and I probably would have gone for that, too, but there is enough worth seeing in Montana that I’m willing to make another trip back later to get that one. Still, it was time to cross Idaho off my list. So I booked a 26 hour layover in Spokane and got my Idaho on.
First surprise of the visit? No potatoes. Not a single potato farm to be seen, at least not that I recognized. Plenty of them sliced up, fried and served along with the sandwiches I ordered, but no farms. I’m guessing I was either in the wrong part of the state or just ignorant as to what a potato farm looks like.
Second surprise of the visit? Coeur d’Alene was stunningly beautiful. I was expecting it to be pretty nice. My expectations were WAY exceeded. I made it into town around 3pm, checked into the hotel and then set out to explore. The downtown is tiny – maybe 10 blocks long and two wide – but full of bars, restaurants, shops and mostly nice folks. I had no idea what to do or see so I did something that I believe I only have done once before. I walked into the tourist information center and asked for help. The wonderful woman there gave me a ton of information and a ton of grief for only having 24 hours in town. But she absolutely pointed me in the right direction for something to do that afternoon. I was going to hike Tubbs Hill.
Tubbs Hill is a peninsula that sticks off the edge of downtown Coeur d’Alene. It is about 120 acres and is public land, purchased by a trust a while back and developed with trails and beaches that are accessible without too much effort. The main trail is a mostly flat two mile loop that is generally well marked and a pretty easy hike. There’s also a trail that goes up over the top of the hill, adding about 400 feet of elevation to the trip. In addition to a couple random tourists walking around on the trail I was passed by a number of locals who use it as a jogging path. Branching off of the main trail are a number of smaller paths that head either up into the hill or down to the waterfront and small sandy beaches. The beaches ranged from tiny to small. They aren’t going to pack in huge crowds – and no crowds out on the day I hiked due to the weather most likely – but I can see them as being a relatively private escape from the main town beach area crowds in the summer. Plus, they’re stunningly beautiful.
Speaking of beautiful, I made a point of booking a round of golf at the Coeur d’Alene resort during my layover. The course is most definitely one of the most beautiful I’ve ever played and it is the only one where I’ve had a caddy assigned to help with the round. Among other things, the course is known for its 14th hole, a truly floating green. In my case the other two golfers who I was paired up with no-showed due to the misty weather. That left just me and the caddy. I was given a choice of having him play as well or just caddy. I chose to have him play and it was great to have someone else at about my skill level on the course with me.
The course is most famous for its 14th hole, a par three to a green that is actually floating out in the middle of the lake. It is attached to a track underwater so that it can be repositioned but it also floats naturally in the lake with tethers to the track keeping it in relatively the same place on any given day. Alas, it was beyond my skill to actually land a ball on the green 175 yards away, but I did have fun trying (and on the boat ride to and from).
Coeur d’Alene is mostly a seasonal town, swelling up with visitors in the summer. I was a bit early for the 2010 season which was good and bad. The golf was a bit less expensive but the weather was also a bit cold and wet, plus not so many folks in town. Dinner-time downtown was like a ghost-town except for one place, the Coeur d’Alene Brewery Pub. It was packed. The beer definitely was better than the food, though the latter was passable. But the beer was delicious. Sadly, I was driving so I only got to taste a couple of them.
So I was there off season and the weather wasn’t the best. Still, Coeur d’Alene has a ton going for it and is definitely a place I’ll have on the list of worth returning too, likely for more than 24 hours next time.
More pictures here.
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