Sandpoint Magazine

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2009



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1910 fire

Activity clubs for an active town
Hikers, runners, climbers, bicyclists, sailors, fishers – unite

By Cate Huisman

It’s 5 o’clock on an early summer evening. The thought of another night on the couch in front of the TV turns your bones to jelly – or at least you know it will turn your muscle to fat. Darkness won’t fall for nearly five hours, and you ought to take advantage of the long northern evening to do something outdoors, but your buddies either aren’t interested or not available.

Who you gonna call?

In Sandpoint, you’ve got plenty of options. The area’s full of completely non-exclusive outdoor activity groups, although the well-known Monday Hikers has gotten so popular, it’s verging on becoming a Monday Mob, so club leaders asked not to be featured here. And Tuesday Trekkers is too loosely organized to be accurately described as a club, say participants.

But unless you really want to go hiking with a group named after a day of the week, why not join the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness for a guided, organized hike? Members host hikes every weekend, all either in the proposed wilderness or somewhere nearby and within view of it. Although they offer plenty of easy and medium hikes, if you’re ready, you can follow leaders up the steep trails to some of the summits the proposed wilderness is named for.

They also sponsor the granddaddy of area hikes for only the fittest and bravest, the single-day traverse known as the Annual Earl Clayton Memorial Walk Up the Blue Creek Canyon. Guided by native writer and storyteller Sandy Compton, this trek retraces, more or less, his grandfather’s exploration of the area for a homestead in 1916. It takes 12 to 14 hours, follows no trails other than those provided by elk, and gains 4,000 feet of elevation, concluding, more or less, with 4,000 feet of elevation loss, “if you don’t count the ups and downs you do in between,” says Compton. He adds that his trips are generally not well-attended. “But those that do go don’t forget them.”

Look up for a schedule of hikes and information on the group.
hikers on Ojibeway
Perennial Friends of Scotchman Peaks hiker Jim Mellen accompanied these fellow trekkers on an annual trip
to Ojibway Peak last June PHOTO BY JIM MELLEN

Two other groups with summer hikes are the Idaho Conservation League ( and the Spokane Mountaineers ( The league runs numerous walks into the Selkirk Mountains; this year they plan to concentrate on trails in the Pack River drainage, north and west of Sandpoint. The Spokane Mountaineers migrate north each summer for weekend treks in the Scotchmans, the Salmo-Priest Wilderness, and elsewhere in the Selkirks. They also have Wednesday evening walks nearer to Spokane, but several have northern Idaho starting points, such as Mineral Ridge above Lake Pend Oreille or Beauty Bay on Lake Coeur d’Alene.
chimney rock
Climber on Chimney Rock,

For a somewhat mellower collection of walks with a natural history focus, the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society ( is a good choice. This group goes on field trips in spring and summer to “areas of particular botanical interest,” says programs/publicity chairman Phil Hough. Since their ramblings are more focused on flora than mileage, the walks can be suitable to people not necessarily out for the exercise, Hough says.

Similarly, the friendly and knowledgeable members of North Idaho Mycological Association ( don’t cover many miles. Instead, they comb the woods and fields in spring and fall, looking for morels, matsutakes and chanterelles, among other favorite fungi. While most mushroom foragers are reluctant to reveal their favorite hunting sites, NIMA members will reveal a certain subset of theirs, along with an amazing amount of mycological knowledge. And unlike other outdoor people, these fungal aficionados actually hope for rain (it brings out mushrooms), so you might consider checking with them for options if you (unlike them) think the weather is suboptimal.

Want to go up instead of out? Join the Friends of the Sandpoint Rock Gym, a brand-new group that has constructed a place to practice your rock climbing skills indoors and “be a springboard from which groups gather” to climb outdoors, says board member Eric Ridgway. If you can’t find them on Facebook, just stop by the gym; it’s on Church Street between 5th and 6th, in the building next to the grain elevator.

If walking is too slow and climbing is too vertical, think about joining up with the Cardio Junkies, who gather to run all year-round in the wee hours: Every Friday morning they leave the Sandpoint West Athletic Club at 5:15 a.m. for a 5.6-mile loop around town, and on Sundays they meet at ProBuild at 6:30 a.m. for a longer run. During daylight savings time, they add a third weekly evening run, leaving from SWAC at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

The group usually has some runners who are more fleet than others, says regular Vickie Repp, and these will often run out ahead and come back, dog-like, keeping the Junkies together. “There’s no pressure, no dues,” says Repp; just turn up for one of the scheduled runs, introduce yourself and take off with the herd.

Faster yet is cycling, and it’s a great option for those whose knees have not survived their years of hiking. The Pend Oreille Pedalers ( has group rides for both mountain and road bikers weekly in summer; check the website for this year’s dates and meeting places. They also have work parties on summer evenings to build and maintain biking trails, and joining one of these is a great way to meet people whose pedaling speed is comparable to your own.

Want to be out on the lake? Consider the Sandpoint Sailing Association ( If you wander down to the Windbag Marina late on a Thursday afternoon, when local racers are preparing their vessels for the weekly evening race, you just might be recruited to trim someone’s sails. Look for the skipper’s meeting on Fred’s Deck, and introduce yourself to commodore Ivan Rimar. It’s not always possible to join a crew, but they make every effort to place people on boats, says Rimar.

Sandpoint Sailing Association also organizes several weekend races and cruises, including the well-known Spud Cup series over Labor Day weekend and the midsummer Helen Gloor Moonlight Race, which brings boats home from the club’s annual barbecue at Fisherman’s Island. And they have a fleet of 14-foot sailboats for the use of qualified members at club activities.
chimney rock

Finally, for those going after waterborne quarry, the Lake Pend Oreille Idaho Club ( has been around for 70 years making sure there are fish for you to catch. Although “fishermen are pretty tight-lipped people,” as club president Dave Gillespie puts it, “Lake Pend Oreille is not an easy lake to learn how to fish.” So for people who join the club, attend at least three monthly meetings, and have something to contribute, “We take it upon ourselves to give them some fishing lessons.”

Don’t know how to contribute? No problem, says Dave, they’ll hand you a rake and put you to work on the Clark Fork Fish Hatchery and Spring Creek restoration project. You just might pick up enough information to win one of the club’s derbies for the largest Kamloops and mackinaw caught each month.

So neglect that TV. You can hook it up to your laptop next winter to view the photos you took on your outdoor adventures this summer.

For now, you’ve got other things to do and lots of people to do them with.

Summer 2010

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