"Pend Oreille Country" can be seen online at https://www.pbs.org/video/pend-oreille-country-ierduv/
I live in a cool town in a beautiful part of Idaho. We’ve got a spectacular lake, great ski area, and gorgeous mountains. In fact, Sandpoint has been listed among the top 10 best small towns in the country more than once. While secretly proud, many of us cringe at such rankings for a simple reason: more newcomers.
Tom and I on the porch of our little cabin, summer of 1973
Of course, my husband and I were newcomers at one time, too. The population of Bonner County had remained approximately 15,500 from 1940 to 1970. Ten years later, however, it jumped to over 24,000 in 1980. A large part of that increase came from the back-to-the-land movement.
Little cabin and logs for the larger house, 1973
If we occasionally cringe at newcomers now, I can only imagine what local folks thought of us hippies. We had long hair and beards, wore overalls, patched blue jeans, and colorful flowing dresses, drove battered pickups, and lived off the grid way up in the mountains. We were mostly urban kids who were fed up with the war and political turmoil. Inspired by the Mother Earth News, we dreamed of living the simple life.
Tom and I arrived in June 1972, driving across the Long Bridge in our 1959 GMC pickup, the camper shell filled to the brim with all of our worldly possessions. We headed into the mountains to our remote 40 acres of second growth forest that we had purchased the year before. We were all set for our grand adventure.
Tom, Nancy, Grandma Sallie, and baby Naomi, 1973
We soon discovered that the simple life was far from simple. In fact, it was a lot of hard work. We cleared land, dug stumps, prepared a garden, built a small log cabin and then a larger one, and learned to live with the local wildlife. We added kids and careers, eventually moving closer to town to accommodate both, but we’ve kept our original home and land which we affectionately call the Old Place.
Throughout the ups and downs of our grand adventure, we have reveled in the beauty of North Idaho. From the sparkling water of Lake Pend Oreille to the peaceful quiet of our mountain home, we are still filled with awe. It’s easy to understand why new folks keep coming.
Tom, Naomi and Becca munching peanuts on the porch, 1978
But the glossy tourist promotions can’t capture what I see as the most important asset of North Idaho: the people. This is a vibrant area filled with creative, generous, and kind people who look out for each other. They have sustained and inspired us over these many years. I cannot imagine living anywhere else. This is my home.