The St. Joe Riverfront B&B is a premier accommodation on the St. Joe River one mile west of St. Maries, Idaho. I had the pleasure of a tour and getting to know the owner, Val, yesterday. She, and husband, Cary, built the place 10 years ago. Learning more about them reinforced my notion that the true gems of Idaho are not garnets but the people who live here.
We talked non-stop the whole time while touring and taking pictures, so let me toss out some snapshot impressions of things that stick in my mind about this place. First of all, I am putting together the 2013 Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes Unofficial Guidebook, which includes a section on the Bitteroot Loop, so my focus right now is accommodations for cyclists riding the loop.
Obvious Stop on the Last Leg of the Bitteroot Loop
This place is an easy two-mile trip from downtown St. Maries, and to me it looks like the ideal spot to rejuvenate and reward yourself after cycling some 175 miles on the Bitterroot Loop. I’m thinking it is a perfect match with the new water shuttle service being launched by Rusty and Teri Riberich of HI Water Adventures this summer. (The service is so new it has not made it to their website of this writing).
You see, after cycling most of the loop on a network of non-motorized rail trails linked by back country multi-use roads, the rider emerges a bit dusty and tired in St. Maries. From here the cycle tourist is faced with a winding 12-mile stretch of highway and narrow to non-existent shoulders on the way back to Heyburn State Park. The road is used by commuters and commercial vehicles, trucks pulling campers, and rural drivers who are not used to seeing cycles on the road or accustomed to sharing it with anybody going slower than them. To my knowledge, seasoned riders take this road back to Heyburn State Park without incident, but a number of local lodgings offer courtesy shuttles to accommodate people who don’t want to chance ruining an otherwise serene cycle trip with a road mishap.
Charter a Boat to the Rail Trail from the Back Door
Now, there is the option of resting up in a beautiful B&B, feasting on a delicious breakfast, then stepping onto a boat from HI Water Adventures and enjoying the rest of the Bitterroot Loop in style from the water. What a wonderful way to cap off an already memorable vacation. After riding along the lakes and rivers of the Bitterroot Loop for most of the journey, it’s an extra treat to enjoy a bit of relaxing sight seeing from the water. Back on Lake Coeur d’Alene, your captain can take you to Chatcolet Trailhead, or up to Harrison, even to Coeur d’Alene if that is your desired destination.
Let the River Renew Your Spirit
I suspect it will be hard to leave the St. Joe Riverfront B&B after just one night. The ambiance falls into what I think of as Northwest rustic chic. The space is expansive yet comfortable, classy and homey, and being right on the river, incredibly scenic. If you stay here, your focus is bound to be the river — whether watching it through the floor to ceiling windows, from one of the decks, lounging on the grassy lawn that goes down to the riverbank, or experiencing it up close by getting in the water and playing in it. Yes, your hosts will arrange to have watercraft on hand if you’d like to spend some time roving the river on a jet ski or boat.
Fresh Food from the Garden
The other thing bound to impress you here is the breakfast part of B&B. Think about French toast stuffed with strawberries from the garden and huckleberries Val and Cary pick in the hills south of their place. The veggies in the frittatas are also fresh from the garden and blueberries come from the neighbor next door. Stay in fall and you can feast on pumpkin-nut muffins made from pumpkins harvested right outside. But wait, it gets better. Cary smokes the cheese that goes into the hollandaise sauce on the eggs Benedict.
Val and Cary started a successful travel agency in Spokane and ran it for 25 years. When they built the B&B ten years ago, they brought the business with them to Idaho. As lifelong travel agents, they are world travelers who love to learn about the foods of various areas they visit. They have taken cooking classes in a variety of countries and enjoy sharing what they gleaned from those experiences. I suspect they have an assemblage of intriguing travel stories to share as well.
To share their love of food, they offer interactive culinary weekends around a theme, such as Thai, Italian, Chinese or Cajun. Small groups of fellow foodies converge for a weekend of cooking and feasting. For example, coming up:
-Soused Shrimp with Italian Herbs
-Vietnamese Shrimp Salad
Solve a Murder Mystery
They also put on Murder Mystery Nights at this B&B, which can turn an overnight getaway into a daring interactive experience. The package includes four-course dinner, lively murder mystery game, and breakfast the following morning.
The cooking classes and mystery nights are ordinarily scheduled during the slower seasons of fall through late winter, when the B&B is not already full of guests. That said, these events can also be part of a corporate or group retreat, and your hosts will be happy to discuss your needs and accommodate them when possible.
Val is committed to exploring the Greater South Lake Coeur d’Alene area and experiencing what the Bitterroot Loop offers, in order to enrich the experience of her guests who travel to this beautiful region of the North Idaho Panhandle.