After stopping at the Visitor Center and the Forest Ranger Station for information on the trails in Idaho and Western Montana, I went to Mineral Ridge, a 2.5 mile, 700-foot loop in the Coeur D’Alene National Forest at one of the ‘ends’ of Lake Coeur D’Alene. I tacked on the 400-foot long trail constructed by scouts to a mine dug into hard-rock, and the one-mile uphill climb to the Elk Road and viewpoints, stopping to enjoy the many flowers lining the trail, counting the different kinds flowers, never less than seven once I was out of the lower heavily shaded part of the trail, in total 20 different flowers. My certainty regarding their identities lessens, the more I investigate. For example, several different flowers resemble the daisy. Am I underestimating the variety which I am encountering?
My interests have evolved as I have hiked. Initially I hiked for the exhilaration of the climb, the rush upon reaching the summit, and the sense of accomplishment. To this, vistas added wonderment at the valleys, mountains, ridges, forests, deserts, lakes, and rivers against the sky always transforming from blue sky, grey sky, rolling ridges of clouds, storms approaching, never still, never finished, never completed. Then, the movement of animals and birds, so many birds, drew my eye, but the flowers have captured me in this extended spring from Southern California north to Bellingham, Washington, and now East into Idaho and Montana. From the extraordinary bloom of, for once, well-watered Southern California, not only the once in 25-year desert bloom of Anza Borrego, but the equally uncommon flowering of all Southern California, through middle California up to the coast and the Redwood Forest, over to Grants Pass, Silverton, Tillamook, the Olympic Peninsula, to Bellingham, spring traveled with me. The flowers have taken me with their variety, each perfect in form, such simple, little beauty, reproduced in great numbers across the land. I am awed, humbled, and grateful.
A shout-out to Zach, the sophomore college student and football player who hiked down Mineral Ridge with me. Among other things, we shared injuries, his condensed into a few years of playing football; mine, drawn out over a life time. Also, to Brian the bartender at Selkirk Abbey, completing his PhD. Good luck to both, and thanks for the engaging conversation!
The routine to my stay in an area has evolved into sampling three offerings: sample from the must-do day hikes, the must-do local restaurants, and the local breweries. I’m an occasional beer drinker, preferring mixed drinks especially a gin and tonic or whiskey on ice, but have been developing a better appreciation for a well-crafted beer. My taste in beers is for those with a lighter, refreshing touch, those with a lower IBU that go down smoothly after a sweaty hike, such as the Belgian white beers and similar, as opposed to the stronger heavier ales, IPAs and so forth.
Eastern Washington and the Panhandle of Idaho has a large collection of breweries. The Selkirk brewery caught my eye as a Belgian brewery, atypical among the omnipresent IPA focused breweries that seem to dominate the craft brewery industry. Selkirk has a varied and changing selection of beers on tap, but most of their production is distributed out-of-house. I sampled several before purchasing a glass of their Chapel, a withier, Belgian. Afterwards, I sampled the Saint Augustine, a rye saison ale, which wow, a bit stronger, more complex, richer flavor than the whites, and in my opinion, more balanced taste than the IPAs. I purchased a couple bottles to validate this assessment. There are two other breweries that I plan to visit.