A short drive north from Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, but far enough away to feel like you are actually on vacation, Sandpoint and the Pend Oreille area have everything during every season for the outdoor enthusiast, the casual recreationist, and the relaxed observer. My husband and I fall somewhere between the enthusiast and recreationist, and we like to get away for a day here and there to this lakeside playground. For our wedding anniversary this year, we decided to take more than a day, seek out new adventures, and savor a few of our most beloved spots.
Our first question was, where do we stay? Schweitzer Mountain was a bit out of the way, in-town seemed somewhat noisy for us quiet folk, and many of the lodges and cabins were out of our price range. We finally settled on Hotel Ruby in Ponderay, which was affordable and perfectly situated close to Schweitzer and Sandpoint and right off the biking and walking trail that runs along Highway 2. The newly remodeled hotel is simple and clean and has a ski warming and drying room alongside double hot tubs – amenities we didn’t take advantage of on this trip, but made note of for winter.
While we enjoy sipping Pend d’Oreille Winery’s award-winning wines and quaffing Laughing Dog’s Rocket Dog IPA, there’s one place in Sandpoint where you can find a wide selection of craft brews in one setting. Jon Hagadone and Vicki Reich opened the Idaho Pour Authority in May 2013 and have made this small taproom and bottle shop a solid local favorite. On this trip, we stopped by the shop three times to have a drink, pick up a couple bottles of hard-to-find beer, and snag some aged gouda and crackers for a late-night snack. We also scored a restaurant recommendation from Reich for our anniversary dinner: Shoga Sushi Bar.
Shoga Sushi, one of two eateries located inside The Lodge at Sandpoint, features “Asian-fusion cuisine.” Per Reich and Hagadone’s suggestion, we ordered in the style of “omakase,” which is a Japanese phrase that means “I’ll leave it up to you.” We gave the chef free rein. From the tuna poke to the impeccable nigiri to the umami sushi rolls and wontons, each course was ambrosial. For dessert, we chose the Okinawan Andagis, delicately battered donuts served with caramel and berry sauces. Full and content, we sipped sake and viewed a vibrant sunset from our balcony table.
Early the second day, we headed out to paddle the Clark Fork Delta. Friends had spoken to us about the beauty and intricacies of this 4-mile contiguous wetland where the Clark Fork River enters Lake Pend Oreille. The waters and shores of the delta have been the focus of a major restoration project since 2012 (visit www.clarkforkdelta.org for more information). We launched our inflatable paddleboards just off the main watercourse where the water was incredibly clear, the sky sunny, and the air balmy. A short paddle down the river, we took a shallow stream off the main course and into a series of glassy pools inhabited by lily pads, cattails, and a raccoon, which stared at the humans encroaching on its solitude. We paddled the stillness of these pools for a while, then cracked open our water bottles, nibbled on some snacks, and lay back on our boards reveling in the quiet, monotonous sounds flying and flowing around us. After a full day of paddling, we returned to Hotel Ruby, snacked on cheese and crackers, drank beer, and slept like river rocks.
Such outdoor delights pair well with a great cup of coffee, so our first stop the next morning was the café at Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters, which garnered third place in America’s Best Coffeehouse competition at Coffee Fest Portland 2015. Two steaming cups of pourover coffee in hand, we soaked in more sunshine before heading home satisfied. //
S. Michal Bennett is a freelance writer based in Coeur d’Alene. She wrote about U-pick farms in August. Read more of Michal’s writing at www.shortandtasty.blogspot.com.