39 Shoving off from shore, my kayak glides almost effortlessly on still calm water through pockets of early morning mist, rising with the dawn. I take a long slow breath, inhaling the tranquility, listening to the rhythm of the lake. Silently moving through the forest-mirrored water, I spy a bald eagle soaring high above the emerald fir trees…and then a screech or two…wondering if he feels the same peacefulness in the air that has engulfed me on the water. I turn my gaze as I am surprised and even a little startled to see the silver remnants of a jumping fish. Without thought, I dip and pull my paddle a little harder to catch up to the remaining rings on the surface. Soon the sun begins its ascent with a star-shaped burst of light above Sundance Mountain that gives glimpse to yet another extraordinary day…how grateful to be part of this corner of the world! In this picturesque place, it is easy to understand how paddle sports have become a popular pastime at Priest Lake. “The Lake” (actually two lakes) is situated at the base of the rugged and stunning Selkirk Mountain range. This makes for breathtaking scenery from almost every angle and location. What better way to enjoy the vistas than from your kayak, canoe, rowboat or paddleboard. With more than eighty miles of pristine shoreline, the possibilities for rowing adventures are seemingly endless! ThelowerPriestLake,approximatelynineteenmileslong,andtheremoteuninhabited upper lake are connected by the Thorofare, a tree-lined winding waterway with velvety green moss banks. Taking a trip to the upper lake is a must-do and locals will tell you one of the best ways to enjoy the trip is by paddling through this remarkable and unique wilderness. To begin your adventure, you can launch from either the west side of the lake at the Beaver Creek Campground (operated by the US Forest Service) or from the eastside white sandy beaches of the Lionhead Unit of Priest Lake State Park. A couple options include packing a picnic lunch for a splendid day-outing or taking enough provisions to camp at one of the many beaches of the upper lake. Designated in 1986 as the Upper Priest Lake Scenic Area, city life is quickly left behind among the towering white pines and the sweet scents of cedar and hemlock. You may also spot wildlife such as moose, deer, waterfowl, bald eagles and even bears. Take note that typically mornings afford calmer waters with less wind and fewer boats. Just as with any other sporting activity, a little preplanning is helpful before getting on the water. Many resorts have various types of watercraft available for rental. However, if you bring your own “vessel,” be aware that even non-motorized boats operating in Idaho are required to display an Invasive Species Fund (ISF) sticker, available on- line, by mail or at any Idaho State Park. The right kind of personal floatation device must be worn by children fourteen and under and must also be on board the paddle craft within quick reach for adults. In addition, the minimum safety equipment for non- powered boats includes a sounding device, such as a whistle. Many boats are bright- colored but it is always a good idea to wear clothing that is easily seen by others who are enjoying the same water space. Finally it isn’t called “ka-YAK-ing” for no reason! It is always fun to paddle with one or more buddies. Many problems of the universe have been solved as well as hearty jokes, recipes, and fishing stories are shared while rowing the brilliant blue and green waters of the lake. If you do end up going out solo, be sure to take a mobile device and/ or let others know where you are headed and when to expect your return. So, grab your paddle, open your senses and prepare to be delighted! Come away and you will never be the same… “The world turns softly Not to spill its lakes and rivers. The water is held in its arms And the sky is held in the water. What is water, that pours silver, And can hold the sky?” Hilda Conkling, Poems for a Little Girl, 1920 Kayaking Priest Lake by Carol Sayles Rydbom