The early morning sunlight glinting off the crystal waters of Lake Pend Oreille (roughly pronounced “pond-o-ray”) and reflecting back off our Husky’s bright-yellow wing is too much for even my military-spec sunglasses to handle. The sky up here in Sandpoint, Idaho, is like a magnifying glass, and the sun is diffused by nothing but unpolluted air. It beams into my eyes like a laser. The vast shag carpet of tall pines below casts long shadows against the lake, and with nothing but unbroken forest around, the thought occurs to me that I have nowhere to go in an emergency. But then I remember the smiling dog painted on my tail and realize I’m in a Husky— the Willys Jeep of the backcountry.
Along with this Husky A-1C and its “new plane smell” (this one has just seven hours on the tach), the other star here is the land itself. Sandpoint, Idaho, is a jewel in the backcountry. A city of less than 8,000 people, it was voted the nation’s most beautiful small town by USA Today. This quaint village of walkable streets, excellent local restaurants and lack of commercialism sits on the shoulders of Lake Pend Oreille, a vast expanse of some of the deepest, bluest lake water in the country. People here are friendly, and like the rest of Idaho, embrace general aviation for its utility and because it’s the perfect aerie from which to see this breathtaking country.