I don’t get out hiking or geocaching often these days. With geocaching, it makes sense. I’ve found nearly all of the geocaches in a close distance to home and town, forcing me to travel farther distances just to make a find. But when it comes to hiking, I have less of an excuse. I don’t live in Moscow. I live near Deary, 25 miles east, which puts me 25 miles closer to the mountains. It puts me at the edge of the mountains, the foothills if you prefer. There are hiking trails all around. The closest is spud hill, from which there is an amazing view from the top. Then there’s the Potlatch River loop with great opportunities for flora and fauna sightings. There are more trails yet back in the Vassar Meadows area and up near Palouse Divide. I don’t have to go very far to get a nature fix. And yet, what keeps me from going out is more of a psychological barrier than a physical or economic one.
Barrier 1: I’ve hiked the trails before. The excuse is rubbish. But deep down, I desire to explore something new. And so I end up passing an opportunity just to get out because I’m hiking the same trails I’ve hiked in the past.
Barrier 2: The trails aren’t that good, or are shared with motorsports. Again, not a good excuse. Yes, many of the trails in the national forest are designed with single track or ATV use in mind. But that doesn’t mean they are terrible for hiking. The White Pine trail is fantastic, even though many people ride it rather than walk it. And yes, many trails don’t lead to a scenic destination – there are no mountain views, no lakes, no waterfalls. But I also enjoy a walk in the woods for its own merit. Yet sometimes these destinations are what bring me to a trail and I forget to just amble for the sake of ambling.
But once in a while, I’ll discover one of these trails through geocaching, and I’ll be quite impressed. Such is the case with the Sand Mountain trail. This trail traverses the ridge of Sand and Mica Mountains, and recently, someone put a geocache along the Sypah Creek. I knew the this trail existed, but ignored it this whole time because it had never shown up on the list of great hikes in the area. But someone recently placed a geocache along this trail, and so I had to find it.
I only hiked a small portion of the trail as it meanders along Sypah Creek for about two and a quarter miles. This section traverses through a lush cedar forest with a carpet of ferns and mosses near the creek. It’s very reminiscent of an inland rainforest, or at least a wet forest. The trail was in good condition, and the climb was gradual – it was 1000 feet up to where I stopped, but I didn’t think we had climbed that high until I looked at the GPS. The trail crosses the creek on a bridge, where we stopped, and then continues up to the ridge and toward the summit of Sand Mountain. I’m not sure if there’s much of a view up there, and I’ll have to return to explore it. But the section I hiked was a beautiful walk in the woods, with a first to find on a geocache as icing on the cake. Watch the video of my hike: