Playing in the Panhandle Diary

[Image: north idaho scenic photo with sunset]

Sunset in north Idaho

When we here at IdahoPTV were deciding where to go on all our getaways, I claimed North Idaho. I'm originally from Idaho Falls, but I have always been attracted by the beauty of the mountains and lakes in this part of the state.

And, as I am the only producer with school-age children, I thought it was important to show everyone that Idaho has some great family getaways. This was also a chance to show my kids what I do for a living. As they learned, the viewers of the finished piece see only a fraction of all the work. The piece features only two days' activities. We actually spent four days in the field shooting this production.

[Image: girl and boy in front of lake]

Samantha and Harrison

Day One: This is mostly a travel day. My husband, Jim, is working, so he can't join us. That's too bad because it should be a lot of fun. It takes about nine hours to go from our office in Boise to Coeur d' Alene. While we are traveling we learn that the weather isn't right for the hot air balloon ride we have scheduled for tomorrow. We keep our fingers crossed that it will improve and put it off for a day. That means I need to rearrange the entire getaway's shooting schedule. So I work the cell phone while Chuck drives. Thank goodness for cell service!

[Image: a long dock with businesses on lake]

Our first night there

Everyone is very accommodating and we get all the events moved around. We get into Coeur d' Alene just before sunset. We need to get some shots of the dinner cruise boat leaving, so we head right to the docks and start filming. We need these shore shots to match the ones we'll take from the boat tomorrow night. While Chuck Cathcart, our videographer, shoots and I carry the gear, the kids get a chance to play along the edge of the lake. It is a beautiful evening. We shoot until the sun sets and then get some dinner.

After some great Chinese food, we drive to the Clark House on Hayden Lake. It is almost midnight by the time we check in and get settled. Harrison sleeps on the floor while Samantha and I share the bed in the F.Lewis Clark suite. Chuck sleeps in the sewing room. The choice of sleeping arrangements is no comment on Chuck's status. Both rooms are lovely, and it was more a question of availability and where we needed to shoot.

[Image: young boy sleeping on floor of hotel]

Harrison sleeps on the floor

Day Two: Both Chuck and I are up with the sun, before 5:00 a.m., to get pictures of this beautiful house and the surrounding lake. What a pretty spot! The Clark House is lovely. Check out the history of the place. The kids are up and ready to go by about 7:00 a.m., and we grab a quick breakfast. The owner has left us some juice and coffee because we are leaving before their regular gourmet breakfast is served.

Our first stop is the Coeur d' Alene Golf Resort. This exclusive resort's most famous feature is its floating green, and I am going to get my first golf lesson. The kids help Chuck with the gear, and we meet up with the golf pro, Andy MacKimmie. He is a very kind and generous fellow to take on this task. I have never really golfed before, and this is pretty intimidating.

[Image: exterior of large house]

The exterior of Clark House

Only one in four golfers actually makes it onto the floating green on the first try; I am not one of them. After several tries, my closest shot hits off the edge of the green and sinks into the water. And what do they do with all the golf balls that go into the lake? A professional diver collects about 30,000 balls in a season. Each of the kids takes a try at hitting a ball to the green but neither makes it. So, who was the one in four in our party to successfully make a shot? Chuck! He made a beautiful shot, landing just a few feet from the hole. If you want to see it, you'll have to purchase the DVD. You'll find the clip of Chuck's shot in the Bonus Material.

[Image: marble statue of a woman]

The interior of Clark House

We grab lunch on the run because we are late for our next location. We are heading for Silverwood. Silverwood is the Northwest's largest theme park, located about 15 minutes north of Coeur d' Alene in Athol, Idaho. It covers 212 acres, and we have just the afternoon to shoot and more than 60 rides and attractions from which to chose. Nancy Di Giammarco is our guide; she is delightful. We start with the park's signature ride, the Tremors. This roller coaster features a 103-foot drop and goes 60 m.p.h. In order to get all the various angles of this ride, the kids and I take seven spins. Riding this roller coaster is a blast, but by our seventh ride, my stomach is regretting the lunch I ate earlier. We also take several drops on the Panic Plunge. This ride takes you up 104 feet and then drops you at almost 50 m.p.h. The screaming you hear in the video is definitely real.

[Image: golf green floating on a lake]

Floating golf green

After filming a few more rides, Chuck and I split up. I take the smaller camera (the one we used on the roller coaster) and the kids and I film the park's train ride while Chuck films other attractions in Silverwood's water park. In all, it was a fun afternoon. Throughout our time there, several of the park's assistants helped us, and deserve to be thanked: Joann, Sandra, Shelia and Jessica.

By 5:00 p.m., we’ve run out of time at Silverwood and need to move on to our next location. We are going to take a boat cruise around Lake Coeur d' Alene. We get there just in time to board and have to get on and off the boat several times just to get the right shot. Captain Jim Sollars gives us a quick interview and we head upstairs to claim our table.

[Image: woman with golf club looking at camera]

Joan taking her first golf lesson

It is another lovely evening, and the smell of dinner is tantalizing. We all help with the filming as we pull out and start our tour of the lake. With all the work, we are almost the last in line for food. Chuck doesn't even get to do that, as he has to film us getting our dinner. Everyone on the boat is in a party mood, so they are patient with us. Finally, as it gets too dark to shoot, Chuck gets to eat, and we all enjoy a few minutes looking out over the water. It has been a long, but fun, day. By the time we get back to the Clark House and get the gear put away, it is about midnight.

Day Three: We are all up again very early. We have to be at the take-off spot for the hot air balloon just as the sun gets up. We gratefully find the juice and coffee left by the Clark House staff and all munch on the last of the cereal I brought. Over the years, I have learned to bring food on these summer shoots because we never seem to have time to go to a restaurant and eat a normal breakfast. Anyway, we are off to North Idaho College where Valerie Favicchio of Adventures Aloft meets us. She has a dedicated crew that starts unfurling and blowing up the balloon. The wind on the ground is a little stronger than Valerie would like, and we all debate whether or not to go up. We have already put this off a day and can't do it tomorrow. After a few minutes, Valerie decides it is safe enough and we hop into the basket and take off.

[Image: two kids and an adult on a roller coaster]

Tremors roller coaster

Chuck shoots from the ground and follows us with the chase car. I shoot from the balloon, and the views are stunning. You can really get a feel for the beauty of the area. You can see down through the clear water in the Spokane River and Lake Coeur d' Alene. The wind carries us out over the valley, and we learn that hot air balloons really frightens horses. Valerie makes an effort not to spook any stock, but you only have so much control hovering so far in the air. All too soon it is time to land, and the ground winds have picked up again. She warns us to brace for a high wind landing. We hit the ground and then bounce back up. When we hit the ground again, Valerie opens the vents to rapidly deflate the balloon. The basket tips sideways and Valerie and I fall on top of Samantha who has fallen on top of Harrison. Poor guy! We are dragged and bounced for several more feet. The kids are really scared until we finally stop. Valerie did a masterful job getting us down, and none of us were hurt, just shaken. She was amazing, and we all agreed we would ride again with her in a heartbeat.

[Image: mother, daughter and son posing for camera]

Joan, Sam and Harrison

So we spend the next few minutes rolling up the balloon, stuffing it back into its bag and loading it onto the chase car. I made sure the camera I took is working okay and we all pile into our car and head back to Coeur d Alene for an early lunch and the ceremonial toast. It is a tradition that first-time hot air balloon passengers toast their safe ride. You'll have to see the video to learn how that toast is done, but here is what Valerie said: "Tradition has held for over 200 years now that we toast each successful flight with a little champagne. Now the way we’re going to do this the Irish handed down to us. So what we’re going to do is we’ve got a little cup over here, a couple of cups. We’re going to go over to this kneeling blanket, we’re going to put the cups down on the ground, okay? We’re going to kneel in front of it. Come on over here and pick it up and drink it all without spilling any. Now if you do this you’ll have many years of fun, free ballooning as free in flight. However, if you spill any it’s really bad luck. So be very, very careful. All right.

[Image: boy leaning over to watch hot air balloon being filled up]

Harrison watches them fill the balloon

The prayer goes like this: The wind has welcomed you with softness. The sun has blessed you with his warm hands. You have flown so high and so well that god has joined you in laughter and set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth."

You'll have to watch the program to see if we have good or bad luck.

After our toast and a nice snack, we head back to the Clark House to shoot more exteriors of the building and to shoot the sequence of us checking in. I decided to re-stage the check-in because we actually checked in fairly late in the evening and everything was dark. We also needed to do this when the house staff wasn't otherwise needed. Monte is a good actor and we go through several takes.

[Image: hot air balloon landing in distance]

The balloon as it lands

With that done, it's lunchtime and we have about an hour before we need to be off again. We grab some food and come back to the Clark House. The kids are exhausted by the pace and fall asleep. Chuck and I take advantage of the Clark House's beautiful back yard and take a few minutes to sit in the sun and review what things still need to be shot. Next time I come back here, I want to sit in the same comfortable chairs under the same cooling shade and not think about work!

Rest time is over and we are off to our next location, the Spa at the Coeur d' Alene Resort. A spa isn't the typical thing you'd expect to see on an Outdoor Idaho program, but when I first researched the fun things to do in the area, almost every woman I talked to suggested visiting the spa. Everything else we were going to do was outside, and the locals I talked with suggested we show off one of the city's best indoor offerings on this getaway. Samantha and I start with the spa's newest attraction, the Silver TAG shower. This shower has 18 different heads programmed to spray hot or cold water at preset times for a "personalized hydrotherapy" session. It is quite the experience. It certainly helped with the bumps and sore muscles from this morning. It is located in the middle of the women's locker room, an unexpected complication. I can't bring Chuck and Harrison into the locker room to film the shower. We tossed around some alternatives, but were rapidly running out of time and needed to move on to the next appointment. We decide to stay on schedule and go back in and pick up pictures of the showers later in the day if we still had time and there were no other clients to interrupt.

[Image: a boy lays on a deflated hot air balloon]

Harrison on the deflated balloon

Samantha gets started on her treatment and meets up with Aleta, her masseuse, and with Chuck in tow to film another of the spa's specialties, a water massage. I head in for my wildflower facial and pedicure. This treatment starts with relaxing with a cup of the resort's huckleberry tea. It is delicious, but no amount of coaxing could get the recipe. If anyone out there has a copy, please send it to me! After that, Heidi begins my facial. I have never had one before, and it was quite pleasant. When Chuck finishes filming Samantha's massage, he walks across the hall to start filming me. Now, I don't think of myself as a vain person, but there is nothing like a close up of your pores on 16 x 9 digital videotape to ruin the visual image you have of yourself. Still, I can see why regular facials, done by someone as professional as Heidi, could become addictive. I would just suggest doing it without an audience. That makes it easier on the ego.

[Image: three people on their knees with plastic cups in their mouths]

Toasting our safe balloon ride

Because the spa treatments took a little longer than I had planned, we were now running late for our last location of the shoot. We were scheduled for dinner back at the Clark House. The dinners there are legendary. We called ahead, and the dinner staff kindly held everything for us. By now, the kids were getting used to dinner late, but dinner at 9 was pushing it a bit for them. We got all dressed up while Chuck set up the lighting in our private dining room. We also had to clean up our room, as Chuck needed to film in it after we ate. Once Chuck was ready, we did several takes of us walking into the room, sitting down and toasting. It took a lot of restraint not to dive into the aromatic foods waiting for us. Both Samantha and Harrison understand the concept of continuity in filming, but now associate it with starvation. Once that aspect of the filming was finished, we could officially dive in. The dinner was glorious, and the staff, which was staying well past their usual time, was very kind. If you have a chance, make the time for a dinner here.

[Image: people standing at the front desk of a hotel]

Checking in to Clark House

When we finished, it was closing in on midnight, but we needed interiors of the house and the rooms. So the kids patiently wait while Chuck and I quietly move equipment around to get a final round of pictures. It was at this point Chuck and I made a horrible discovery. There were technical problems with the "check-in" footage we had shot earlier in the day. We needed to re-do it, but when? We needed Monte to be in the shots and he wouldn't be done with the breakfast until after 11am. But Chuck needed to fly out before 10 in the morning because he needed to be back in Boise early the next day for another assignment. We have no choice but to get up at 5:00 a.m. again and re-do the sequence.

[Image: a woman lying on a table with another person massaging her face]

Joan gets a facial

Day Four: Needless to say, the kids are not thrilled about another early morning. None of us got properly to bed before 1:00 a.m., but we didn't have any choice. Monte is extremely kind and got up extra early to play his part, and we finished filming with just enough time to drive to the airport in Spokane. I leave the kids to get some more sleep and to try the famous Clark House breakfast. Chuck is a good sport and heads to the airport, hoping for a nap on the plane. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated Chuck's professionalism and his good sense of humor through all this. We shoot projects like this on a very packed schedule because of money, and it takes a lot of skill to keep on top of all the details. He deserves a lot of credit for the success of this piece.

[Image: three people sitting at a restaurant table holding up glasses to toast]

Toasting at Clark House

Once Chuck is safely on his way back to Boise, I drive back to collect the gear, our clothing and the kids to begin our drive back home. When I return, I have a pleasant surprise. The kids and the morning chef have saved some food for me. It was very nice to sit in the sun outside with a hearty breakfast. Still, I didn't linger long. We had a nine hour drive home. So, we loaded up the car and headed home. On the long ride home, we talked about all we had seen and done. We all agreed that there are some pretty amazing things to do in North Idaho and that one trip was not enough. We wanted to spend more time on the lake. We wanted to hike, to try more rides at Silverwood, to drink more huckleberry tea and hop in that shower again. Most of all, we wanted a little more sleep. Our taste of playing in the panhandle was just enough to get us wanting more and hoping all of you, too, will visit there someday.

One More Thing: The field shoot is but one event on a long list of things that have to happen to produce a program like this, and none of it can happen without a lot of people who haven't been credited yet. John Crancer is the co-producer of this program and a wonderful guy with which to work. Pat Metzler not only edited my piece, but also oversaw the technical side of the whole show. All of the producers at Idaho Public Television, Marcia Franklin, Jim Peck, and Bruce Reichert, worked very hard to pull their parts of the program together. Our great accounting staff worked out all the complicated financial details. Peter Morrill, our general manager, Ron Pisaneschi, our program director, Kim Phillips and the development staff all supported the program's concept. Lisa Sommers and Michelle Wadell contributed their talents to graphic design, and Ward Hooper put his distinctive touches to the look of the background of Idaho and the icons you see on the program, the DVD and this Web site. And last, but not least, Stephanie Dickey and Rick Penticoff did a masterful job pulling this Web site together. There are many more folks here at IdahoPTV who worked on the show and many others outside our walls who advised me on what to see and do in North Idaho, far too many to name. You know who you are, and you have my thanks. And one last round of thanks to Jim, my husband, who has had to put up with all our stories, and to my kids, Samantha and Harrison, who worked very hard for nothing but the chance to hang out with Mom and see a few of the wonders of North Idaho.

Outdoor Idaho homepage Idaho Getaways homepage idaho public television homepage