Sandpoint Coeur d'Alene is 30 minutes east of Spokane on I-90, and a turn north (Highway 95) followed by a 40-minute drive put us in the middle of the Sandpoint vacation area we'd heard so much about.

In addition to the canopy of crystal-clear air and pastel-blue skies, the powerful attractions that draw vacationers to Sandpoint are its huge body of water, Lake Pend Oreille (French for earring)--the surrounding mountain peaks, lush meadows, and the woods that carpet the landscape.

The lake is the biggest draw, offering many activities, including but not limited to boating and watercraft, fishing, dinner cruises, shore and island hiking, and wildlife watching. One evening, we treated ourselves to a true delight by boarding the Shawnodese (a classic vessel in the grand old style of watercraft). We had a lavishly catered dinner as we cruised the lake.

Schweitzer Mountain Almost 4700 feet above sea level and 2500 feet above Lake Pend Oreille is the Schweitzer Mountain Resort. In the winter, this ski resort draws thousands of winter sports enthusiasts from Canada, Spokane, and Boise in the southern end of the state. Schweitzer Mountain has 92 ski runs, nine chair lifts, and terrific accommodations and eateries.

In the summer, there are plenty of activities including mountain biking (they have rentals), bungee trampolines, technical wall climbing, horseback riding, and hikes through Alpine meadows.

We even tried our hand at picking huckleberries, since we were lucky enough to be visiting during the harvest season of this delicious wild berry. We later sampled the huckleberry pie they bake at the lodge restaurant.

The lodge includes a collection of excellent restaurants, bistros, gourmet coffee shops, boutiques, and a spa and fitness center. If you so choose, you will never have to go outside the lodge after a day of outdoor highland adventure.