The Dog Days of Summer


Jamie-the-sea-dog takes a break from exploring one of Priest Lake’s ubiquitous sandy beaches.

Other than the little thing of a forest fire just one mountain range over; a bunch of us went to Priest Lake.  And we had a ball!  It’s become a bit of a tradition to start these ventures out with a breakfast gathering at AJ’s Café.  The main drag and town parking lot in Priest River gets festooned with interesting boats.  We meet the curious, and then shove off to adventure.  What’s not to love?

(l-r) Michael Scott, Chris Curtis, and Rod Stafford compare notes on the way to breakfast.

(l-r) Desdemona, Old Salt, Nevermore III, and Miss Kathleen que up, while the humans convene for breakfast.

Let’s see, now.  We had three power boats.  We had five sail boats.  We had a kayak, and an inflatable.  And, we had sixteen people – counting Jamie-the-sea-dog.

(l-r) Phil Ennis helps with the launching chores at Granite Creek, while Jade assumes a more supervisory position.

Ever ready to help, Jan Quick is first mate aboard Magic Bus.

Bob Quick is the master of stowing large quantities of gear in a very small boat.  Magic Bus is a veritable floating “circus clown car.”

Grandniece, Mary Morse, and Jamie-the-sea-dog are off on an adventure of their own.  Give a kid a boat and a paddle – the world is theirs for the taking.

(l-r) Mary, Jamie, Jan, Phil, Jade, and his grandfather, Jim Young line up for swim call.  The first of many.

The whole gang works Magic Bus up onto the beach for a stable night’ sleep.  “Ballast water?  Oh yeah, that ballast water…”

(l-r)  Bob, Jade, Jim, Jan, Michael Scott, and Chris, during a lunch stop.

Well, that’s not everybody.  But, you get the idea.  We had a big group.  We went lots of places.  It was four days of sun, sand, boats, water, and wood smoke.  In fact, when the visibility wasn’t bad, it was borderline atrocious.

This shot is in the middle of the day, with water bombers making a several times an hour circuit of scoop, crawl for altitude, drop, return.  But, I’m getting ahead of the story.  Like I was saying; we had a ball!

Another Priest Lake tradition, is launching at Granite Creek Marina.  Folks are friendly.  Crowds, non-existent.  You park your truck and trailer someplace out between the tree trunks.  And, it’s just about in the middle of this 30-mile long puddle.  Which, makes planning easier.  Actually, it makes not having a plan, easier.  One-by-one our fleet headed out for an initial destination to the north.

(l-r)  Chris and his Paradox leads Jim and Jade aboard the Mikesboat, Desdemona, in the search for wind.

Michael built his Oughtred-designed Nevermore III, and brought her to Priest Lake for one of the first under-sail outings.  A beautiful boat, in a gorgeous setting.

Easily driven, stable, and lovely.  Life is just too short to waste time on an ugly boat.

And, within a half hour, the normal moderate southerly morphed into a blow from the other way.  Those weather genius folks at NOAA insisted that we were in for days of increasing nastiness from that quadrant.  So.  About face.  South to Reeder Bay.  For lunch, and maybe a swim.

Chris’ Paradox, Phil’s Potter, Miss Kathleen, and Desdemona greet a smoky dawn.

Another bit of tradition is that the first “brief stop,” becomes the first overnight stop.  Not quite sure how that happens.  But, it sure seems to.  So, here we are at sunrise, the second day.  Still, tucked in to our not-exactly-authorized overnight moorage.

Mary jumps aboard Miss Kathleen, at anchor.

Jim and Jade get Desdemona ready for bunkhouse duty.  With overnight temps in the 70s and humidity near zero, rain was not even considered.

Mary emerges from one of dozens of short and extended swims.  Sandy beaches, clear water, warm temps.  I don’t get any better.

Michael contemplates things of  great consequence, and Jade selects the perfect skipping stone.

Jan takes a quiet moment to read.

Jim checks out for a mid-afternoon nap.

Jade considers trajectory and range for his next stone-skip.

Mary and Phil discuss the relative merits of single and double paddles.

Andy Linn got Mary to using a single paddle last year at Toledo.  Some habits will take time to alter.

What, with paddling, and swimming, and skipping rocks, and reading, and napping, and more swimming, and even a bit more napping – it’s not like we didn’t have lots of things to do.  And, before you knew it, it was time to set up camp, and lights out.

Michael and his 45-year old tent.  Two well-travelled companions.

Mary slept like a baby in a cradle.

Somehow, we didn’t get kicked off the beach that wasn’t exactly authorized for overnight camping, and day two dawned hazy and hot.  The big deal was to head to a distant location that would be suitable for Jim and Nikki and Gabrielle and Jill and Sydney and maybe Rod and maybe Nielie to meet up with me and Mary and Michael and Bob and Jan and Jim and Jade and Phil and Chris and Jamie-the-sea-dog.  And that location needed to be a nice beach, with no crowds.  It needed to be reachable by sailboat with either no wind or too much wind.  And, this was all supposed to be happening by abouteleven o’clock.  Good thing we have a capable planning department.

A small contingent of a much larger “invasion fleet” arrives at “our” beach.

Somehow, between when I called everybody and said, “This place is deserted,” and when everybody got there; at least 14 kayaks, 3 loaded canoes, 3 ski boats, and a couple paddle boarders descended on “our” beach.

But it all worked out.  Room for Jim’s high speed boat to tow a few giggling girls round in circles.  Room for Jade’s flamingo.

Room for picnicking, and sitting, and of course telling lies.

Jim shows off his flamingo drink holder.  Just what every sailor needs!

And, even room enough for the world’s largest bag of Fruit Loops and the world’s most perpetually empty stomach.  Lotsa’ room.  And, since it wasn’t an authorized overnight camping spot, it wasn’t at all crowded.

Phil scans the horizon, before popping down for a bit of a snooze, himself.

Bob and Jan get ready for the move ashore.

When we bedded down for the night.  Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Jan returns the teapot heated on Miss Kathleen’s swing stove.

So, ended day two.  And, we were still headed the wrong way from our destination.  Time to get the “plan” aligned with the weather forecast.

Michael probably spent more time rowing, than sailing.  But summer in North Idaho can be a calm affair.

Little Magic Bus can move along on a sneeze and float ankle deep on a duck.

Phil and his Potter are stylish with black hull and tanbark sails.

Day three started with light winds, lousy viz, and boats headed out in several directions.  As a result, Miss Kathleen got in her share of towing jobs with both an engineless sailboat, and one that will probably be in the market for a new one.

Michael juggles several things at once, in a narrow boat.

But, he finds a perfect spot to beach.

Jim performs last rights on his veteran Evinrude 2-stroke.  RIP, Rudie.

When this bunch hears, “…let’s stop for lunch…” they come charging in with a variety of methods.

Jan performs the “pensive siren” pose on the way to Magic Bus’ itty bitty foredeck.

I do believe this shows a rather unique level of motivation.  Determination, certainly.

And, speaking of determination, our day three destination was supposed to be the real gem in the jewelry box—upper Priest Lake.  Still a long way to go.  But, much of that, a complete delight.

The Thorofare connects the two lakes.  It’s a winding, shallow, crystal clear stream of about 4 miles long.  There are no roads.  There are no houses.  There are no navigation markers.  Just a meandering stream with virgin forest on both sides and more snags and windfalls littering the margins than anyplace around.  But, well worth the challenge.

Jamie and I are “entertaining the troops,” from a comfortable vantage point.  “Now listen up, this really happened…”

Jim shows proper appreciation for one of my anecdotes.

Jan takes umbrage.

We anchored in close.  Told stories.  Gathered at a community picnic table for dinner.  And settled in for the night.  The last night out.  Always a bittersweet time.  Gotta’ head for home the next day.  Gotta keep the schedule.  But, hey.  We may never pass this way again.

Some of us will grow up, and move away.  Some of us will move on to other things.

Some of us will anchor, and take just-one-more-swim.  You never know, just how many you’re gonna’ get.

But, we, all of us, are blessed.  Thanks, for coming along for the ride.


  1. Thanks for taking the time to recount this great adventure. As you have been, we have been down this fall season with wife Carole’s broken hip and recovery. Now waiting for kids and grandkids coming for a Thanksgiving visit and my 84th birthday. Life is good, even when we are not on the water.
    Jim Brown
    Sweetwater, TN

    • Happy Birthday, Jim! Mine seems to land on the day-after-Christmas. By then, I’ll have kicked the elves out of the shop and hopefully be getting close to rolling the current boat project back out into the daylight.

      Dan Rogers
      48-08’04.23″N, 117-10’29.90″W

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