A Search, for the Perfect Beach


A search, for the perfect beach.

Just call me lucky, if you must.  But, I managed to save the best for last!

Sometimes, when there is so much good stuff, deciding which is best can be almost impossible.  Probably unnecessary.  Anyhow, the last beach we visited was, in fact, very nice.  And, for certain, the three of us had different lists of criteria.

Mary, my grandniece, was looking for clear water, clean sand, good wading, and fresh water clams.  Actually, I don’t know if they are clams or not.  But, this place – 200 miles from salt water – has some interesting mollusks.

As far as wading, Miss Kathleen is anchored in six feet of water, here.   A long ways out.

Jamie was looking for a good place to run, and sniff, and generally run amok, without getting yelled at.

We had about a mile-long stretch, all to ourselves.  Backed up to geologic features such as Steamboat Rock.

This is where, and how we wound up a three day sojourn.  It was quite a trip.  Two different lakes, a near-total solar eclipse, six or eight separate anchorages, a dozen or more swim calls, to name just a few things.  We visited the Dry Falls museum, and then traced some of the adjacent scablands (by water) literally formed at the same time by floods from pre-historic Lake Missoula.  Mary is the only girl participating in a “vintage harvest” evolution, next week, out in the Washington wheat country.  She’s assigned the responsibility of driving a tractor that will tow an antique threshing machine – that actually harvests and discharges a saleable product just as it was done four generations ago.

A behemoth like this one.  Towed, with a tractor, like one of these.

And, while we were on our way to Lake Roosevelt; we stopped off to visit Mick and his collection of just about every type of tractor ever built.  Mary actually could tell me something about every one of these dinosaurs.  Better than I could do.  Pretty awesome for a sixteen year old girl, for sure.

It’s pretty safe to say that Mick’s collection is really only for the hard core enthusiast.  Next stop was to visit up with Will, the camp host at Hunters.  I’ve known Will for several years.  Hunters is always a great place to launch and head out.  Wilderness is just around the corner.

Our choices were left, right, and straight ahead.

Straight ahead was Nez Perce Creek.  I winds back quite a way from the main lake.  Our first swim call location.


The water was warm enough.  Not real clear.  And, the beaches were a harbinger of falling Mud Quality Index (MQI) numbers.  But, nobody expects perfection on the first try.

More suitable for an extended dinghy exploration.  One of dozens Mary embarked on during our expedition.

Jamie and I stayed aboard and rustled up grub for afternoon chow.  As Mary points out – regularly – EVERY meal on the boat, is an experiment.  Probably so.

Nez Perce Creek is OK.  But, with so many places to sample, and only three days to do it in; we were off to someplace else.

Alder Creek got the nod.  Good holding.  Good shelter.  Abysmal mud!

After a trip ashore with Jamie, I had to soak my shoes overnight.  It still took persistence with a scraper to get them more or less clean.  Shades of Texas, there.  After dinner, lights out came early.

After a swim, or two.  And, some sketching practice.

Mary prefers the “guest room” we tow along behind.  And, during low humidity and zero chance of rain, who could blame her?

At that age, I would have been thrilled to do the same.  You too, I’ll bet.

Day two of our outing was that once-in-a-hundred-years eclipse everybody has been talking about.  We had both the direct and indirect methods of viewing available to us.  The glasses were way more effective.

My oatmeal box viewer was a technical success.  Probably not worth saving for the next ecliptic event.  But, what can you expect from a pin hole, index card “viewing screen,” and viewing window cut in the side of the carton.  Fortunately, we had the glasses, too.

We were also off on a couple other projects that morning.  So, we watched the eclipse, as it progressed, from a number of different “venues.”  One of them was a ginormous church parking lot that if it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, you can sure see it from there.

I have absolutely no idea where the congregation comes from.  But, it served for a viewing stop.  Then, off to the next place.

Our stop at the Dry Falls visitor center at the foot of Banks Lake was a central part of Uncle Dan’s ad hoc geology lesson.  You just can’t get a better classroom, than the real thing.

These swimming holes are pretty inviting.  But, for this acrophobic, the jump is about 400 feet too far down.  That’s the famous Dry Falls in the background.  This is just about what the Grand Coulee looked like to J Harlan Bretz almost a hundred years ago, as he was doing his field studies and theoretical work that led to so much tumult in the world of geology.  Mary, Jamie, and I got to be-right-there.  But, it was hot, and we were towing a boat.

Time to move on to the next lake, and continue the search for an acceptable MQI.  Next target was the state park ramp at Steamboat Rock.  About 30 miles off to the north.

The first and fourth anchorage at Banks Lake was pretty close to the launch ramp.  Nice beach.  Good swimming.  Too many people.  So, we ran about 10 miles on up the lake, in search of a hidey hole for dinner.

Some of the island-studded, and boulder-strewn channels are downright picturesque.  The spot we finally stopped was borderline swampy.  We went swimming anyway.  On the way back from taking Jamie ashore, Mary said, “…did you see the squatter’s shack above the beach?”

As a matter of fact, I hadn’t seen it.  This isn’t much of a well-traveled area.  We’re the visitors.  No need to upset anybody.  We moved on out toward the main lake, cooked dinner, and then headed back to our original anchorage, for the night.

We went swimming to celebrate the sunset.  We swam to greet the dusk.  We just kept jumping from Miss K’s foredeck, for the sheer joy of it.  Mary paddled ashore to search for mollusks.  Jamie and I stayed aboard to study the celestial dome.  This far from civilization, those stars come out very distinctly.  Another night in the guest room, for Mary.

We moved to a different anchorage for breakfast.  And, the inevitable swim.  The inevitable dinghy exploration, of course.

Mary pronounced this particular morning’s concoction (similar to French toast) to be “…pretty good…”

Jamie volunteered to deal with the plates and utensils.  He’s such a big help.

The chart calls the island we were anchored off of, “Eagle Rock.”  We watched this pair deal with a snake for half hour or so.  It would have been an excellent time to have a decent telephoto.  The birds stayed in the same place the whole time.

Those eagles, and several more we sighted farther up the hill, kept us entertained for quite a while.

It was an OK spot, but we were running out of time.  The search for the Best Beach still needed a winner.

Up anchor, and underway again.  This, is what the main lake looks like, as it disappears over the curve of the earth, on to the south.

And, at last, a crescent of sand that runs for nearly a mile.  Nobody to share it with.  Just us.

Room to run, sniff, bark, and twirl.

Time to walk, explore, and simply sit and do absolutely nothing.  We had a fabulous time.

We would have gladly taken you along.  But, you probably had other stuff to do.  Another time, maybe?  Bring your swim suit.

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