This week’s snowshoeing adventure takes us on the Potlatch Canyon loop trail (Clearwater NF #765). If the view above looks familiar, it’s because I have hiked this loop many times in the summer, and first posted about it two years ago. This time, armed with snowshoes, we had a very successful winter hike through the woods.
Despite the rising temperatures this past week, the Potlatch Canyon was still a veritable winter wonderland. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the temperatures down by the water never rose above freeziing all day. That’s because we have been having some inversions the past week in which the cold air settles in the valleys leaving the high mountain elevations warmer than the lower elevations. Most nights, the low at the house gets down to less than 5º F while the daytime highs have reached almost 40º. In a place like the Potlatch Canyon, the inversion may stick around all day. That’s certainly what it felt like during our hike. It was quite cool along the river, and the entire time we were down there, the snow was fluffy and encrusted with the previous night’s hoar frost. When we left the river and ascended to the ridge, the temperatures rose and the snow turned into the wet and heavy kind that you usually encounter with temperatures above freezing.
When we arrived at the trailhead, there was another truck parked in the lot, but we never saw another person while we were on the trail. This left us with the feeling that we were in the middle of an isolated wilderness. The only wildlife we saw was a grouse, but we saw tracks belonging to deer, elk, moose, coyotes, snowshoe hare, and mice.
This trail makes for a relatively easy snowshoe. There’s not much elevation change, but be aware that walking five miles in the snow still takes more energy than hiking in the summer. The only obstacles to navigate are “downed” trees that are bent over due to the weight of the snow on them.