Abide Culture Road Trip Chronicles: 7B

46 miles north of Coeur d'Alene, lies Sandpoint, located in Bonner County. Bonner County is the seventh county in the state of Idaho that begins with the letter 'B', hence the abbreviation name of 7B. The population sign proclaims that 7835 individuals call Sandpoint home. Another 16 miles northwest is a place we call a home away from home. There is history here; my wife's dad was raised here, on a private beach on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl marry. They have a child, a girl. More children. There is even a concrete slab of the Berlin Wall here. History.

Packed and ready, we pull out from the driveway and make a left—opposite of right—and drive towards 95. “Dad, can we listen to that road trip playlist I made?” asks our oldest. “Sure.” She grabs the device filled with digital licorice and presses PLAY. The traffic is typical for an early afternoon summer day in North Idaho. Red lights turn green. We take a right and head north. When we first get to the cabin, we unload and unpack; quickly changing from clothes to swim wear, complete with towels. An arrow that says BEACH, adorned with wasp traps, points our way. A grassy slope, where pine trees grow tall and scrape the sky, drops down to a sandy beach heavily littered with a plethora of colorful rocks: hues of whites, oranges, and grays. Driftwood has washed ashore and is scattered upon the rocks. A dock juts across the water in an upside-down L shape where a four step ladder dangles on the short side of the dock.
Four generations have been coming here; I've been coming with Erin for the past 20 years with our family and wakeboard in tow: dawn patrols, dusk sessions, night rides. A stretch of glass outlined with NO WAKE ZONES viewed from the beach overlooking the bay. Gone are those days: wakeboarding from morning to evening. Instead, we swim. We have taught each of our kids how to swim here. How to dive. Deadman's float. Walking across the sand and rocks to the dock, we unload, dropping towels. Toes on the edge. Leaping forward and down into the cyan water. The jolt of cold hits hard, then subsides as we tread the deep water. Up the ladder and back on the dock. Cannonballs. Dives. Flips. Pencil jumps. Lake Pend Oreille is the largest lake in Idaho. The US Navy has tested submarines here. It's deep. Cold. Clean.

Afternoon quickly turns to evening. Hunger attacks our stomachs. Drying off to make dinner. Light the BBQ for a quick hamburger dinner, with chips and watermelon. Cleanup and back in the water. We get cold and change. Back down to the beach and listen to four bald eagles serenade us as seagulls fly overhead. “DAD! Come look at this!” our youngest yells, calling for me to come to him as he is situated on the opposite side of the dock, squatting. “LOOK!” He points to five cat-faced spiders weaving their webs. We watch as one drops down, then spins around, ejecting her thread and constructs her elaborate home. The sun glints off the white web of silk.

The sun quickly drops, casting tones of yellows and oranges across the lake as we gather wood and fuel for the evening's fire. A bed of dry pine needles lay on the remnants of a previous night's fire. Pinecones peppered upon the needles as a timber teepee is built to a point. Lighting the needles, the fire quickly spreads across the fuel. Rocks line the firepit, containing the ring of fire. Erin skips smooth rocks as the youngest joins her.

As a driftwood bonfire burns upon the dry rocks on the beach, the last rays of the day's sun slowly disappear behind the Selkirks. While tongues of flame lick the driftwood, a solitary summer star breaks though the gradual gradient sky, its pinhole of light shines downward as we gaze upon it. The cloud cover is thick. The bats have begun their ballet, dancing upon the water's surface; a mosquito smorgasbord awaits their hungry stomachs. The arrival of the bats creates a topic to discuss: creation — "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters." [Genesis 1:1-2] We talk and laugh while the bats and fish fight over their evening's meal of the winged insects.

Time ticks away as we stare into the dying embers. Beds and pillows call our names. The night is done. The next morning, we fill our townies with cold brew coffee and eat breakfast, then a drive back to Sandpoint. We order six lemonades then walk to the Saturday Farmers' Market.

We make our way to the Corner Book Store. I lag behind with our oldest and our four-legged child. As we walk in, the bell, placed above the door, ding-a-lings and announces our entrance. The owner, an older gentleman, sits behind the counter while working on a crossword puzzle. He welcomes us and goes back to his puzzle. We wander the store, looking for those rare books that we have to have. Another bell ring greets another traveler. Another ring. And another. The owner puts down his puzzle and begins answering questions and showing books to would-be customers.

Back on the street, we walk back to our parking spot. Everyone climbs in and we make another stop for some groceries. The weather is warming as we make our way back to the cabin. Unload. Back to the dock. Erin pulls inflatables from the shed as I plug in the compressor. Saving my lungs, I plunge the needle into the valve and pull the trigger, allowing air to freely flow. Soon, the orca triplets are floating happily on the water. A turtle and a flamingo are next in line. Erin has me fill a reclining raft for her. “OK,” I tell the kids, “we're gonna have a race.” The three oldest each grab one of the triplets while our youngest chooses the turtle. I grab the other recliner. “Where are we racing?” asks our oldest. “From this line off the dock, to the shore, and back.” I reply. “Are you racing?” I ask Erin. “No, I'll watch.”

“Line up your demolition inflatables!” I yell. We float in the wavy water, as rollers from boats passing by push us back and forth. “GO!” Laying face-down, I paddle hard and see that our oldest is gaining distance from me. Our second oldest is in second place. I paddle harder and try to catch up. They each hit the beach and turn right when I touch sand. I turn and paddle hard, our oldest right in front of me. She loses balance and flips into the water as her orca smiles. Our second oldest is in first place as she pulls ahead. She wins, as I come in second. The boys are off to our left and I look behind me, only to come face-to-face with Erin, grinning, laughing, and soaked. She had grabbed a hold on my recliner at the start of the race and hadn't let go, anchoring me back.

We spend the day in the water and on the dock. Tread water in the deep. Hunger strikes again. Dry off and make dinner. Back in the water for another evening swim. The sun begins it descent across the sky. We get out of the water and get warm. Another change, another fire begins. Countless bats silently fly between us, as the night's fire burns. The darkening sky allows summer stars to shine, white lights sewn into a sea of black cloth — "Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of His might and because He is strong in power, not one is missing." [Isaiah 40:26]

The next morning, the lake is chop. I pull the paddle-boat out and spray it down. We eat breakfast and play some UNO as we wait for the temperature to rise and the lake to calm. Soon, we are back in the water. The kids take Abby on the paddle-boat and around the bay. Erin reads. I snorkel.

I join Erin on the dock and dry off by the sun's warmth. The fragrance of coconut sunblock mingles with the scent of our driftwood beach bonfires and the cold lake water; a summer aroma sticks upon my tanning skin. Dragonflies delicately dart from place to place, skin to dock; on Erin's naked toes. The day gets long. Another evening, another dinner. Cleanup. Back in the water. The kids race me as they are in the paddle-boat and I freestyle swim.

More rocks skipped. In the failing light, our oldest daughter and budding astronomer, dials in the telescope we packed. Schweitzer's snowless slopes are her constant. She waits for the dark skies to fall. As we wait, I light another fire; while Erin and I sit by another driftwood bonfire, the kids take Abby on a moonlit cruise on the paddle-boat as the bats dance upon the water's surface. Erin remarks, “This is like the start of a horror movie: our kids on a paddle-boat in the lake at night.”

I call them back to shore where s'mores are being constructed. The boat is beached and chairs taken around the fire. Graham, chocolate, and marshmallows consumed. Alkaid and Polaris are viewed through the telescope's lidless eye. Shooting stars streak across the sky and etch the cyclops' glass — "He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth; Jehovah is His name." [Amos 5:8] Our youngest has curled up and fallen asleep while using Abby as a pillow, her fur still wet from this evening's continuous jumps from the paddle-boat and swim; he is warmed by the intense fire's heat. The sky has changed from gradient to dark; stars pin-prick the black sky; constellations drawn onto a paper sky. The Big Dipper comes into view. Sunlight ricochets brightly off a waxing gibbous moon; Jupiter and Saturn sit behind, drowned by the sheer light.


The following morning I am awakened by the unmistakable sound of eagles talking. I walk down to the lake's lapping edge as Abby walks along with me; the cry of eagles echo in the morning air. The lake is white-capping. There is a chill in the air. I am joined by our two boys and we walk back to the cabin where breakfast is waiting. We eat and find ourselves at the shoreline again.

I take a trip in the paddle-boat with our oldest, and head back to the beach. Our youngest is the bravest and does a single pencil jump. “Nope,” he says, “that's cold.” Wrapped in his towel, he watches as the other three paddle-boat with Abby. She jumps in the water, swims to shore, runs on the dock, back in the boat and jumps into the waiting water again. She continues to do this. Shivering, she looks at me as I wrap a towel around her, doing my best to dry her off. Rain begins to fall. We clean the cabin and pack our belongings.

The scent of summer still sticks to our skin.


  • Fantastically written piece!!! You can follow along in the day to day travels, hearing the sounds and feeling the chilly colds and comfortable warmth included here.

    Jimmy Ljungstrom
  • I love the artistic flow between the pictures and the poetic recapturing of your adventure. Wonderfully done!!! I see your passion for photography and writing synchronized together in one piece. Love it!

    Jennifer Shivel

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