View from Potato Hill, originally uploaded by Matthew Singer.
I’ve now been in Idaho for almost three weeks and I’m starting to get settled into my new home. Later I will post about the property and the abundant wildlife that make our place so special.
But today, I write about a local hiking opportunity just over a mile down the road in the town of Deary. I have a theory that all cities and towns have an overlook, a spot from which you can stand and look down upon the population center. Sometimes these overlooks are only a few feet above the town itself. Sometimes they are man-made structures. But in mountainous and hilly regions, the overlook is most certainly a natural feature seen from the town itself. Of course there are many exceptions to this rule, but I find in most of the places I’ve been that the rule stands strong. In some cases, you can simply drive up to the overlook. In others, you can hike. And in rare circumstances, you have to bushwhack or even tresspass on private property to get there.
Deary is no exception to the rule. Just behind the town to the north stands a hill a thousand feet above with a break in the trees and some cliffs on the summit. When I first drove through Deary in February, I wondered if the land was public property and if there was a way to the top. I now revel in the fact that the answer to both questions is “yes.”
The trail up Potato Hill is designated a restricted use road available for all modes of transportation except automobile. So I was expecting to pass a few people on ATV’s or even horseback, but during my hike today, I passed only one person, and he was hiking with his dog just like I was.
It’s two miles and about 1200 vertical feet from the town center in Deary. About half way up, the road ends at a communication tower and the trail becomes, well, more trail-like. In fact, there was hardly any signs of recent ATV use, so I suppose most people hike to the summit if many people go up there at all. The trail winds through an mix of open forest and grassy meadow and has a great prospect for wildlife sightings. As you increase in elevation, the slope becomes steeper and the forest becomes denser, when suddenly the forest breaks altogether and a series of cliffs open up a view over the Palouse. The hike is pretty mellow until the last jaunt to the summit where the trail turns straight up and becomes populated with loose rock.
Nevertheless, the view from the summit is exquisite. The town of Deary, population 500-something, lies just below to the South. Beyond is the mix of forest and field of the eastern Palouse. To the West, you gaze upon Moscow Mountain and watch as the Palouse suddenly ends with a series of canyons off in the distance. Below, but out of sight, is the Clearwater River and the city of Lewiston. To the east, mountains rise and get bigger with each layer.
This is a short hike, easily achieved in less than half a day, but nice to have so close to home. And yes, there are bigger mountains with taller views, those will be explored in due time. But this looks to be my go-to hike when I’m too busy to go farther afield.