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Priest Lake could convince even the most cynical soul that there is a version of heaven on earth. "God's country," the natives around here call it. The mystical, undiscovered west endures with dignity and solace in northern Idaho. Rugged mountains rise like distant mirages from the lake's shores, the changing sunlight lending them the ethereal quality of an impressionist painting.
Tucked away at the tip of Idaho's panhandle in the Selkirk Mountains, 30 miles south of Canada and 85 miles north of Spokane, the Priest Lake area is home to about 650 permanent residents. In the summer months the lake region hosts several thousand more vacationers who fill the 1,500 cabins, eight public campgrounds and four major lakeside resorts. Yet even then, people are outnumbered by the area's other inhabitants: white-tailed deer, black bears, blue heron, prize-winning mackinaw trout, a few moose, and woodland caribou and an occasional grizzly.