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by Inlander Staff & r & Christmas to the Gills & r & The coolest thing one Binster found under a tree on Christmas Day was a fish head.


A rotting, shiny kokanee fish head, to be precise. And it wasn't alone; there were many of its kind underneath the conifers on the little outcrop of land to the east of Higgens Point on Lake Coeur d'Alene. And they all had the stunned/angry eye and clenched jaw of a fish that wants to argue about what just happened.


Eagles, that's what just happened. We wanted to get out of the Bin and stretch on Christmas, so we drove over to Coeur d'Alene with the simple plan of eagle watching. The day was fabulous -- woolly wet clouds in a range of grays, mild temperature, a drizzle so fine it left diamond-bright beads on your hair and shirtsleeves without your even noticing. It was Irish or Danish or Alaskan weather, depending on where you're from or where you want to go.


The annual visit by bald eagles to Lake Coeur d'Alene has become so entrenched in the tourist brochures that the reality gets lost in the color photos. You begin to believe they're some yearly attraction - like a white sale - that just happens to fly.


That all changed when we took the trail down to the shore. Before we had even cleared the tree line, kokanee heads, fins, guts, roe and whole, rotting carcasses were ankle-deep. Don't even ask about what the picnic tables looked like.


We sat among trees, timeless and still, watching the eagles wheel and soar. We came for the brochure version, but we got so much more.





Christmas to the Gills, Part 2 & r & "I want a martini!"


And who wouldn't, being dragged out of your comfy home on Christmas Day by well-intentioned family members who force you to get all dressed up so you can all go to the Coeur d'Alene Resort for a drink. "It'll be fun," they chirp.


"I want a martini!" you say. The only way to get through such a gathering is with the hardest of Christmas spirits.


But the poor servers at Whispers Lounge had to tell party after party: "We can't give you the (martini, Irish coffee, triple Scotch) that you ordered. It's the law."


No hard liquor on Election Day or Christmas Day in Idaho, they said.


Good news was, you could make like the eagles and have all the Kokanee you wanted.





4.9 Inches at 49 Degrees & r & Well, 5 inches, actually. As the Bin buzzed into print, we got word of that much fresh powder at Chewelah's summit. Only six weeks left for living out your Walter Mitty giant slalom fantasies before NBC broadcasts proof that you will never, ever win an Alpine gold medal!

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