Noah and Ginny pushed off in our kayaks, while Laura and I pedaled past the put-in and up a hill on the lake's east side. The lake is long and narrow and seems to be crammed into a narrow valley just enough for the water and our trail. Floating grass islands dot some corners of the lake, and a sign at the put-in tells you not to try and walk on them. Noah, a helicopter pilot, seconds that. It's the tail end of summer -- what's left of it is hanging by a thread, which really means that winter is just a few weeks away. A chill breeze cuts a few remaining leaves off the dogwood and aspen, and the water is already almost too cold to touch. They paddle off for an hour then come back tired and happy.
Cabin Lake is one of those improbable spots that seems to hang on to the planet for no reason. The lake sits at the edge of a high bowl and seems like a stiff breeze could blow the water over the rim and into the valley below. It also seems like this lake should have a lot more visitors, but the Cabinet Mountains are full of lakes and empty of people so perhaps that fact should not be all too surprising. We made the hike as a family in just under two hours and spent a silent 15 minutes at lakeside while the sun lowered and we though about how far we had to drive to get home. In all, the hike is 2.3 miles each way (although the trailhead sign declares it to be just 2) and pretty steep, especially in the middle. The trahilhead is signed from the main Thompson River Road as "Four Lakes", and the trail to Cabin Lake passes a handful of others before looping back.