Known as the Crown Jewel of Idaho, Priest Lake had yet to be visited by me or my wife. Feeling the need for new scenery, we sprang for a quick weekend trip. This was new territory for both of us; we were looking forward to the new adventure.
We arrived Friday evening with the intention of exploring all day Saturday. We began with a drive along the east side of the lake. I was looking for any sign to trailheads but saw none. Upon reaching the north end of the lake we retrieved a guide book, courtesy of the hotel, in an attempt to find a scenic spot. Once choices were reviewed (most on the west side of the lake) we settled on Hunt Lake trailhead. The forest service roads progressively showed their lack of travel. The final mile was a very slow up-and-down across deep ditches carved across the road. Once atop, we had good views of the lake and surrounding forests with the larch adding to the view.
The trail was very rocky and we were both concerned about bears. (I know this fear isn’t well founded, but bears are more prevalent the further north one travels.) After enjoying the views for many minutes, we descended to the lake. Following a brief lunch break, we commenced our exploration of the lake’s west side. Our first stop was the Hanna Flats Cedar grove. Clear skies aren’t the ideal weather for forest photos but the dense canopy and low angle of sunlight helped mitigate the streaming rays. I decided to have fun with the 24 TSE and capture bark detail.
Kalispell and Reeder bays were visited next. The afternoon light, though harsh, cast nice light on the clear mountain lake. We both felt like hiking but didn’t know if we had the time. Consulting the guide led me to realize the hiking trail I though wasn’t too short was actually four miles one way. Unfortunately, time was against us, so we continued the driving tour.
While driving along the north west edge of the lake, I felt compelled to take Forest Service 638. The map showed it met up with the highway again; it would provide a circuitous route through the forest back towards the road. At first, the solitude was nice but the views were stultified by the thick forest. I kept hoping there would be an opening to view the lake and the Selkirks beyond. This never occurred, but a nice view of the forest lay along the descent of this road. The low-angle afternoon light helped add drama to the scene.
The remainder of the drive was simply on the highway back to the hotel. Earlier in the day I had opted out of capturing sunrise. I reasoned I didn’t really know were to go. That was the great thing about this trip for me (photographically): I didn’t have a rigid plan of where to shoot sunrise and sunset and my knowledge of the area was nil. Nevertheless, good views and interesting subjects were found through aimless travel of forest service roads.
The next morning I knew where I wanted to go. I got up well before sunrise and went to the dock next to Leonard Paul’s store. I bundled up for the cold temps and watched as fog rolled along the surface of the lake. The sunrise wasn’t a spectacular explosion of color, but the hint of warmth amidst the overwhelming cool of the morning light created a beautiful atmosphere.