Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2001 Sandpoint Magazine summer 2001
Sandpoint Magazine

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2001

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Hiking to a lake landmark, Maiden Rock

By Dennis Nicholls

The story goes something like this: An Indian maiden is distraught because she has been scorned by her lover, and in a fit of despair, she steps to the edge of a cliff and throws herself into the tumultuous waves crashing on the rocks far below. To this day, you can still see the form of the maiden framed in the pitted rock from out on Pend Oreille's roiling surface, so they say.

Thus was the name given to one of the lake's most prominent geologic features by the early lakemen plying the waters from Bayview to the Clark Fork delta: Maiden Rock.

(Photo by Will Hawkins)

From the beach, it didn't look so far to the top, so while everyone else lounged by the lakeshore or searched the cobble for colorful nuggets, I ascended the imposing stone massif looming over Lake Pend Oreille's murky depths. Etched against a gray sky, Maiden Rock looked like a sentinel standing guard over a treasure trove.

I was there with the "Take a Hike" crowd for an excursion last spring. Maiden Rock is the last step on a long flight of rocky ledges tumbling crazily from the summit of Blacktail Mountain; and the last step is a doozy.

It's not straight down into the water from Maiden Rock's sharp pinnacle, but I figured that if I fell, I'd bounce only three or four times before anyone on the beach would hear the splash. The thought caused me to pause and take stock of the terrain in which I found myself clinging to bare rock.

If I focused on the views out across the lake, the vertigo welling up inside me subsided. From below a notch in the ridge on Maiden Rock, I could see features I recognized on Pend Oreille's horizon. To the south were the Three Sisters and Cape Horn Peak. Across the lake was Whiskey Rock. Behind it towered Packsaddle, the highest mountain around Lake Pend Oreille.

The beauty framing the south half of Idaho's most prized lake creased my face with a smile, and I thought, If I do slip and plunge to those nasty looking rocks at the lake's edge, at least I will have enjoyed this view for a few brief moments.

Unlike the Indian maiden in the legend, I safely descended its dizzying heights. One more time I studied the spots of color generously decorating Maiden Rock. The flowers seemed to be a fitting testimonial to the maiden who, for love's sake, had chosen this as her final resting place. Maiden Rock's legend would live on as the headstone, and the lavish display of yellow monkey flowers, purple penstemons and white phlox would be witnesses.

Maiden Rock and more lake-view trails

The hikes below all afford beautiful views of Lake Pend Oreille. For directions and complete hike descriptions, pick up a Forest Service guide and map at the Sandpoint Ranger District office in the Federal Building on Highway 2, or call (208) 263-5111.

Maiden Rock -- Trail No. 321: From Sandpoint, take Highway 95 south approximately 10 miles. Turn onto Blacktail Road and go 1.5 miles to Butler Creek Road. Go left and travel three miles to the trailhead. The trail is a 3-mile roundtrip and descends 1,000 feet to the lake. The beach is suitable for boats as well as hikers.

Evans Landing -- Trail No. 64: Located east of Careywood, the trailhead is on Little Blacktail Mountain Road. Length: 4 miles roundtrip.

Mineral Point -- Trail No. 82: Located at Garfield Bay, the trailhead is on Forest Road No. 532. Length: 2.1 miles one way.

Gold Hill -- Trail No. 3: Located above Bottle Bay Road, the trailhead is just three miles from Highway 95. Length: 3.7 miles one way.

Schafer Peak/Green Monarchs -- Trails No. 68 and 69: Located 10 miles south of Clark Fork, the trailhead for No. 69 is on Forest Road No. 278. Length: 10 miles roundtrip to Schafer Peak.

Dennis Nicholls is an inveterate hiker and the publisher of The River Journal.

Summer 2001

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