On July 23rd, 2019, we traveled from Lindbergh Lake in Montana to Luby Bay Campground near Priest Lake in the Idaho panhandle. We only stayed at Luby Bay for three nights, but we would have loved to stay at least a week. It was a beautiful place with a lot of fun things to do. Unfortunately, our site was reserved by others for the weekend, and we had to move on. We will return to Luby Bay Campground and Priest Lake.
Rather than taking the direct route to Priest Lake, we traveled west on Highway 2 between Kila, Montana and the junction of Highway 2 and Highway 56. Along this path, we stopped at Kootenai Falls. The falls were spectacular, and the two short hikes are worth taking. One hike takes you across a swinging bridge, those are always fun, while the other takes you to the upper falls. The water is a spectacular glacier sort of color. The entire drive down Highway 2 and then south on Highway 56 were well worth the additional time it took.
We reserved our site at Luby Bay when we planned the remainder of our trip during our stay at West Mountain Campground. With such short notice, the only reservable sites were way in the back of the upper loop of Luby Bay Campground. We were disappointed not being right on the lake, but after arriving, we were thrilled.
Our site, campsite number 40, was terrific. It was well away from other campers, densely wooded, lots of flat terrain around our campsite, and the most beautiful light that trickled through the trees. In contrast, the sites in the lower loop are placed close together and not nearly as private. When we return, we will definitely choose a site in the upper loop.
That first night began routinely, we ate dinner, hung out at the campsite, and simply enjoyed soaking up the place. At about 11 pm we were sitting out under our trailer awning, probably the only people awake in the entire campground, watching another lightning storm blow in.
This one literally blew in. The wind whistled through the trees, the lightning flashed, and the thunder boomed. While watching, we heard a loud crack and a deep thud as a massive 30” diameter tree came crashing to earth just one campsite away from where we were sitting. Well, it didn’t quite make it to the ground because someone’s car attempted to stop its descent. The vehicle lost the brief battle. The trunk of the tree smashed through the car to the floorboards.
We ran over to their campsite to ensure that no one was injured. It’s a weird feeling being a first responder. You’re not sure what to expect. We yelled into the tent and received no response. Being afraid that they took refuge in their car, we peered through what was left of the vehicle in the hope that no one was there. Fortunately, the tent owner had temporarily returned to Spokane, and the car owner was camped across the road at another site. While no one was hurt, a few people were traumatized enough to leave camp. This experience certainly made for more sincere family and individual prayers that night.
The next morning, we inspected the damage and found that the wind had blown the top 40 feet off of a 90-foot tall tree, blew the top portion over a tent and canopy, and deposited it on top of that poor little car. Two other trees toppled during the night, and fortunately, no one was hurt.
After looking around the area and taking in the devastation, we left for Hill’s Marina to meet Rich Lindsey who we booked to take us fishing on Priest Lake. We had hoped to have our son catch some big lake trout or other large fish. However, the storm the night before messed up more than the trees. The lake was rough, the weather was unsettled, and Rich gave us little hope of catching fish. We tried for two hours and gave up. The lake is beautiful, and we’ll come back and give it another try. That evening, we licked our wounds from the fishing experience and ate dinner at Elkins Lodge. The food was fine, but frankly, I prefer the meals my wife and I make while camping.
On July 25th, 2019, we arose late and had brunch at Hill’s Lodge. Afterward, we rented a third kayak from Hill’s Lodge and headed north to Beaver Creek Campground where my wife, son, Leo, and I launched our kayaks and headed towards what is known as the Thoroughfare. We paddled across the northern shore of Priest Lake and then turned north up the Thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake.
It was about 2.5 miles up the Thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake. The two main ways to get to Upper Priest Lake are by boat or hiking. There are numerous campsites scattered around the upper lake for those willing to haul in their gear. The scenery is breathtaking. The color and clarity of the water in places is impressive.
Along the way, we saw many birds, some fish, and plenty of beautiful sights. The roundtrip was about 5 miles and took us about 4 hours with plenty of stops and easy paddling.
After our paddling experience, we chose to have dinner at Hill’s Lodge, yes we were getting lazy and finished the evening streaming a little TV. What a fantastic day!
The next day was a moving day. While pulling out of Luby Bay Campground, we dumped the trailer for an additional $8 and headed to Indian Tree Campground in Montana.
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