Getting some air in Idaho

Are you a cool parent, or would your kids say you are totally lame? I’ve done a few crazy things to keep up with my teenagers, but as I stood perched near the top of Schweitzer Mountain on a mountain scooter known as a Diggler,

Digglers are a kind of mountain scooter that combines BMX wheels

Digglers are a kind of mountain scooter that combines BMX wheels



Are you a cool parent, or would your kids say you are totally lame?

I’ve done a few crazy things to keep up with my teenagers, but as I stood perched near the top of Schweitzer Mountain on a mountain scooter known as a Diggler, I wondered if I had gone a little too far. I had never even biked down a mountain before and I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to manoeuvre a giant skateboard with a handle, but at that moment my kids thought I was pretty cool — and brave.

Riding the chairlift up to that point had been a virtually effortless way to access the high mountain trails and we took a few moments to check out the spectacular view.

From the top of Schweitzer you can see the town Sandpoint, Idaho, and Lake Pend Oreille, the largest inland lake in the state and one of the deepest lakes in the United States. The lake and the mountain are two of the biggest tourist draws in this region of Idaho.

As we were travelling in late July, we were just in time for huckleberry season and there were wild huckleberries growing all over the mountain. After grabbing a handful of the sweet berries, we proceeded down the trail that was identified on the trail map as one of the easiest on the mountain.

The boys looked longingly at the steeper trail that went almost straight down, before heading out with the rest of us on the more winding family-friendly trail.

It didn’t take many turns of the trail to realize that there was an irony to this experience. Although the Bear Ridge trail was one of the easiest on the mountain, it wasn’t easy for me.

While my teenagers purposefully gathered speed to enable them to “get air” when they hit the bumps and jumps, I rode the brakes hard — missing the entire point of the experience according to my second child.

Getting air on the jumps and skidding around the corners were the best parts of the diggler experience, or so I’m being told. For my part, the stunning mountain scenery, the exercise and the fresh air were the highlights.

About halfway down the trail, the boys grew tired of waiting for me and proposed a race to the finish. As I rolled across the finish line in last place and put Band-Aids on my blistered hands, I knew that I wasn’t as cool as I had seemed at the top of the mountain — but I wasn’t totally lame either.

I guess I am somewhere in between — and that’s probably not a bad place for a parent to be.

North Idaho — huckleberry heaven

There is no better time to visit northern Idaho than during huckleberry season. The huckleberry is the state fruit of Idaho and the berry season lasts from late July until late August — when the berries ripen. Huckleberries are found in mid-alpine regions on the lower slopes of mountains (like Schweitzer Mountain) and they are a relative of the blueberry. But unlike the blueberry, huckleberries are difficult to cultivate. If you want to enjoy them, you need to pick them in the wild.

The berries are small, dark and shiny and taste tarter, sweeter and juicier than blueberries.

During huckleberry season, you can buy them pre-picked from vendors on the sides of the road.

The huckleberry is the king of fruits in Idaho and as such has found its way into pop culture and slang dialect.

“I’m your huckleberry” is a way of saying that one is just the right person for a given job. According to wikipedia, this saying was used by the character Doc Holliday in the movie Tombstone.

The huckleberry has also found its way into pop culture via Mark Twain’s famous character Huckleberry Finn and the 1950s cartoon dog known as Huckleberry Hound.

In the classic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn sings a song to her “huckleberry friend.”

Schweitzer’s annual huckleberry festival honours all things huckleberry and takes place on Aug. 1 this year.

The day starts with a huckleberry pancake breakfast followed by a huckleberry hike. There are crafts, activities and live music by the Huckleberry Jam Band.

If you go:

l Schweitzer Mountain is located just outside Sandpoint, Idaho. It is a busy ski resort during the winter months, but there are still plenty of activities to enjoy during the summer season, which begins on June 25 this year.

Digglers and mountain bikes can be rented onsite at the bike shop for $15 per hour or $40 per day and you can ride the chairlift up the mountain and ride a Diggler or a mountain bike down. There are also kids’ activities, tennis, disc golf, hiking trails, a rock climbing wall, a bungee trampoline, a swimming pool and onsite stables offering trail rides. There are several dining venues onsite and more in the nearby town of Sandpoint.

l There are a wide range of lodging options right on Schweitzer Mountain from RV sites and standard hotel rooms to luxury condominiums that hold up to eight guests. This season, Schweitzer is offering a Great Escape Package that includes overnight accommodations and US$30 per person per day in adventure bucks that can be spent on a wide variety of attractions and activities. Rates start at US$59 per person per night. For reservations or information on lodging or summer activities, visit http://summer.schweitzer.com/ or call 1-877-ITS-IN-ID

l Schweitzer Mountain is located 18 km from Sandpoint, Idaho, and about 100 km south of the Canadian border crossing near Creston, B.C. The mountain is part of the Selkirk Mountain Range in North Idaho’s Panhandle region.

Sandpoint is a thriving art community of about 6,000 residents that is located on the northern shore of Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced Pon-da-ray), one of the largest inland lakes in the United States. The lake has several nice beaches on its 175 km of shoreline and is a popular spot for swimmers and boaters. There are plenty of nice restaurants and shops to explore in Sandpoint and Silverwood Theme Park is about a 30-minute drive from Sandpoint.

l For more information on what’s happening in this region of northern Idaho, visit Sandpoint’s tourism website at: www.sandpointonline.com

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.

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