Coeur d'Alene is the largest city in the Idaho panhandle; a mix of remote nature, urban ease and ostentatious wealth. It's well-known in the Pacific Northwest as a resort destination, with a prime location on the lovely lake which shares its name. We had been eagerly anticipating our short, two-day stay there, and found it to be just as memorable as advertised.
I'm from Ohio; not a fact I usually brag about, but it does come with some perks. For example, Ohio is home to the world's greatest amusement park. Oh, shut your cheese-hole, Mickey. Disney World doesn't hold a candle to Cedar Point, and you know it.
It's a little hard to feel that thrill of discovery, the joy of unearthing another hidden travel gem, when the gem in question is as popular as the Enaville Resort. But we couldn't resist patting ourselves on the back after entering this Silver Valley establishment. Even if it's no secret among the locals, to whom it's known as the Snakepit, it was an exciting find.
The longest single-stage gondola in the world isn't found in the Alps or Asia, and doesn't belong to a famous resort like Vail or St. Moritz. Nope, this record goes to the Silver Mountain Ski Resort, in humble little Kellogg, Idaho.
Although it's not as well-known as nearby Wallace, Kellogg is the Silver Valley's largest town, and was our base during our four-day stay in the region. It's a nice village stretched out along the Coeur d'Alene Mountains, with a population around 2000; less historic and picturesque than Wallace, perhaps, but with a burgeoning tourism industry of its own, thanks largely to the Silver Mountain Ski Resort.
Not much is required for a good Zip Line course. A few high-altitude hills or trees. Some poles stuck into the ground. Wire. Harnesses and helmets. That's about it. Nice views are a plus, but optional. After all, when you're flying through the air at 45mph, looking around isn't a priority. But the mountain vistas on display during our run through Silver Streak's course were too beautiful to completely ignore. Most of my zips went like this: terror ("WAGHHHHHHH!"), admiring nature's beauty ("AHHHHHHHH!"), and back to terror ("AAYYYYGGGHGHGHHG!").
The history of Wallace is synonymous with that of silver mining in the Coeur d'Alene Mountains. The town was founded when silver was discovered, thrived as long as the mineral was abundant, and faded once the mines closed up shop. The Sierra Silver Mine Tour confidently describes itself as "the most popular, interesting, and instructive tour in the Northwest", and offers an excellent primer to both Wallace and the industry which defined it.
Word had spread around Wallace that the Feds were on their way in, and the town's bordellos had to close up fast. Under the vigilant eyes of Madame Ginger, the working girls of The Oasis grabbed what they could carry and left everything else behind. Their departure marked a sudden and unexpected end to prostitution in Wallace. The year was 1988.
Across 82 miles of old pine trees, historic towns and sparkling lakes, the White Pines Scenic Byway brought us northeast from Potlatch to the old mission at Cataldo. It was a peaceful stretch of driving, with few other cars and increasingly beautiful nature.
The month that we arrived in Idaho was a month of fire: August 2012 saw the state's worst wildfires in more than a decade. Thankfully, we were never directly affected by the flames, but their smoke was a constant companion, obscuring the normally clear blue skies of the Northwest behind a heavy screen of haze.