DON'T LET IT FADE

Summer Lake Towns 2008

Hang on to summer by retreating to an easygoing, affordable lake town, where you can embrace simple pleasures—fishing, huckleberry picking, go-karting, and old-fashioned sweets. We've picked seven to jog your memory; chances are, there's a similar one near you.

PRIEST LAKE, IDAHO
In Idaho's remote northern panhandle, evergreen trees blanket the Selkirk Mountains, extending all the way to the edge of Priest Lake. Even in summer, the abundant wildlife—elks, caribou, beavers, ravens, bald eagles, grizzly bears—outnumbers the vacationers drawn by the natural beauty and mellow vibe. The Leonard Paul Store, open since 1906, stocks fishing bait, taffy, old-fashioned toys, and groceries, along with its famous fresh huckleberry pie. Huckleberry bushes growing on north-facing slopes can ripen as late as October and are usually found in open areas along roads or trails. You can hunt them on your own, or stop by the Ranger District Visitor Center for a map marking the best spots. If fishing is your thing, seek out Captain Rich of Blue Ribbon Charters. He guarantees you'll catch something if you fish with him on Priest Lake (half-day private fishing charter for up to six people, $500). Trout here can weigh as much as 40 pounds; of course, you can always round up.
Where to refuel Millie's restaurant draws locals with its pool tables, horseshoes, sand volleyball court, and a pub-style menu that includes fish-and-chips and a burger with fresh-cut fries (208/443-2365).
Where to stay Rustic, cozy cabins at Cavanaugh Bay Resort & Marina start at $89 during the summer high season, with a minimum three-night stay. Half-day pontoon and power-boat rentals start at $150.
Easy escape from Spokane, Wash. (93 miles), or Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (94 miles).
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LAKE CHARLEVOIX AND LAKE MICHIGAN, MICH.
Shops, restaurants, and galleries with lovely picture windows and awnings line Bridge Street, the main artery (well, more like capillary) of postcard-perfect Charlevoix, located where Lake Charlevoix drains through Round Lake into Lake Michigan. A harbor-front park on one side of Bridge Street has a fountain and picnic tables, where families pause to savor treats like homemade chocolate black-walnut fudge from the original, family-run Murdick's Famous Fudge (231/547-4213) or a cone topped with a scoop of toasted coconut from Kilwin's Chocolates and Ice Cream. Nearby Fisherman's Island State Park offers hiking trails amid maple, birch, and aspen trees. Kids can scavenge for small Petoskey stones—formed from coral reefs fossilized 360 million years ago—along the shore of Lake Michigan or brave its ice-cold water. Jet Skis are a fun way to explore Lake Charlevoix, which is often warmer and calmer; half-day rentals from Summertime Rentals start at $190. On your way to Royal Farms, where you can pick your own Michigan cherries ($1.60 per pound), stop at the wacky roadside monument at 6591 South U.S. 31. It showcases the oven, pie pan, and list of ingredients of the former world's largest cherry pie—a massive pastry that was bested by a group in Oliver, British Columbia, in 1992.
Where to refuel Juilleret's Restaurant wins raves for its thick cinnamon French toast (231/547-9212).
Where to stay The three-story colonial revival Bridge Street Inn is convenient for exploring both downtown Charlevoix and the beaches of Lake Michigan. It has eight rooms with hardwood floors and antique furnishings; six of them overlook the lake (from $59 per night).
Easy escape from Traverse City, Mich. (50 miles), or Grand Rapids, Mich. (176 miles).
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LAKE CATHERINE, ARK.
Set amid southern Arkansas's Ouachita Mountain range, 11-mile-long Lake Catherine is a great source for bass and crappie fish. Fishing boats, canoes, kayaks, and party barges can be rented through the state park. Falls Branch Trail winds through two miles of the park's pine and hardwood forest, crossing Little Canyon Creek and leading to a scenic waterfall at Falls Creek. In Hot Springs, about a 15-minute drive away, Hot Springs Carriage Company's rides provide a neat introduction to the historic downtown (501/321-4779). While away the time by strolling among the azaleas and magnolias at the Garvan Woodland Gardens, browsing antiques shops and galleries, or trying your hand at pottery painting at Picasso's Cupboard. Long before Bill Clinton spent his childhood here, Hot Springs was famous for its restorative thermal waters. Of the eight bathhouses constructed in Hot Springs National Park about 100 years ago, the only one still in operation is the Buckstaff, which offers a traditional treatment for modern-day visitors wishing to experience the waters' therapeutic effects (whirlpool mineral bath $22).
Where to refuel McClard's Bar-B-Q in Hot Springs—family-owned for more than 75 years—has made a name for its ribs and sauce, which you can take home by the pint, gallon, or case.
Where to stay Lake Catherine State Park's 18 cabins, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, have fully equipped kitchens, lake views, picnic tables, grills and, in some cases, fireplaces (rates start at $75 per night).
Easy escape from Little Rock, Ark. (54 miles), Texarkana, Ark. (112 miles), or Memphis, Tenn. (188 miles).
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7 U.S. LAKE TOWNS

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