4th of July on Priest Lake

I’d reserved site 147 in Lionhead campground for 4th of July weekend 9 months earlier. I’d heard that Priest Lake has a nice fireworks show for the 4th, so I wanted to check it out. Lionhead Unit Campground is the northernmost part of Priest Lake State Park. The east side of the lake is where you’ll find the State Park campgrounds, and the west side is where you’ll find the US Forest Service campgrounds. No showers at any of them, and they’re all crowded during summer weekends, but they have different feels. I prefer the Forest Service Campground, because they feel less congested, but Lionhead is where to go if you want to kayak to the Upper Lake.

David and I got there Thursday night. The last time we’d been here was when we took off for our first kayak camping adventure and parked at the boat launch area while camping on Upper Priest. My impression of it was not a great one. It was loud and congested. But not this time. It was so nice! Our parking spot shared a parking pad with the next campsite, but our next door campers didn’t arrive that night, so we had the area all to ourselves. We even had our own path down to our own private beach.

The very next morning, David took off on a trail run all by himself. I’m still healing from a Piriformis injury, so I haven’t run since February and wasn’t able to go with him. Quite depressing actually, but I’m coping. The run was supposed to be a relatively short one, and I was expecting him back within 40 minutes. He took off armed only with his bear spray and did not arrive back until 2 hours later. While I was annoyed with him for worrying me sick, I was the lucky one, because I wasn’t the one who’d taken the wrong trail and had to run for 2 hours. One thing I did learn from this experience, after having discussed this with David, is that the authorities won’t go looking for someone until they’re gone for 24 hours. This is information that is handy to know when dating someone like David and has come in useful to know quite a few times this summer.

Incidentally, while David was on his run, for the first hour anyway before I was driving myself crazy worrying, I spent a good half hour waiting for the guard station to open up so I could get our parking pass. It’s sort of a relaxed operation up there. The campground is maintained by students studying forestry or something like that at a community college in Spokane. It seems like a great program, but it does make for inconsistent services there. That was ok though. It was a nice place to hang out and chat with the other campers waiting.

When David finally arrived back at camp and we finished discussing his harrowing adventure at length, we proceeded to do basically nothing. It was wonderful. I’d brought the hammock, so we read, ate, napped, and waited for Ben and Kelly to arrive after work that evening. Our neighbors also arrived, but to our luck, they were hanging out at the other campsite near the very next parking pad with their friends, so we practically had the entire 2 campsites to ourselves the entire weekend. One other thing I must tell you is that the confirmation and the website to the Idaho State Parks say that only 1 travel trailer and 1 tent is allowed, but that is not true. You can have 2 tents. This year of course we only had 1 travel trailer and 1 tent, but maybe in the future it would be nice to have more people join. Just an FYI.

Ben & Kelly

Ben and Kelly arrived sometime that evening. After they got their tent set up, we made dinner on the fire then hung out for awhile by the fire before calling it a night. The next day, David and Ben took off yet again for another trail run to the Upper Lake, but at least this time, David knew which trail not to take, while Kelly and I kayaked to the Upper Lake through the thorofare. The plan was to meet at the first beach on the east side and have lunch. I really wasn’t too confident that the meetup would happen timing wise, but miraculously, it did. They’d only had to wait for 15 or 20 minutes. We determined that the thorofare must be 2 miles, because it took us 1 hour to paddle up there. It was Kelly’s first kayaking experience, so it was fun to be part of it.

Upper Priest

When we got back we had a repeat of yesterday…reading, eating, napping…it was great. So here’s the funny part. We’d come primarily for the fireworks, right? We’d timed our fire and dinner around the fireworks, knowing it would start as soon as it got dark. We barely got the fire out before it got dark and headed down to our private beach down our private path and settled on to our fireworks viewing log. It took a while until 1 of us realized that the fireworks were going on but we could barely see them. It was the tiniest dot of light across the lake. Apparently the place to see the fireworks is the south side of the lake. They’re put on by Hills Resort I think and maybe one other resort down there, so that’s where to go if you want to see the fireworks. If you want a more rustic and quiet 4th of July, go to Lionhead. People can’t do their own fireworks there, being a state park, so it was the mellowest 4th I’ve experienced. Loved it. One rather striking thing about the weekend was that when it got dark, the whole campground got quiet and went to sleep. I’ve never experienced that at a state campground before. Maybe it was a fluke, but I sure appreciated it.

The last day we were there, we decided to go for a hike to the natural waterslides we’d heard about up there. It was a very nice 2-mile hike to get there. I wasn’t paying attention to how we got there since David was driving, but there’s information all over the internet about it. I was surprised there were so few people there. Might’ve been because it was still fairly early in the day and it was a Sunday, but we saw very few people. The hike getting to the slides was very nice and took longer than I’d expected. It was very rocky at times too, so it was a little hard to follow the trail. I don’t remember seeing any cairns, but then again, I’m not the most observant hiker. Arriving at the slides, the water was fairly low and it looked like it wasn’t so slideable, But David is not one to wimp out. He went for it. Twice. At the bottom of the slide is a big wall of rocks that look pretty painful if not fatal to crash into. There’s a rope that sliders are to grab onto before getting to the rock wall, but it wasn’t needed today because the water was so low.

Natural water slide

It was a great weekend. I love north Idaho.


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