Potlatch River, originally uploaded by Matthew Singer.

There is a Forest Service hiking trail about 3 miles due north of our house, though it’s about 7 miles to drive there. Still, it’s close for those after-work getaways. The trail is a ~5mi. loop along the Potlatch River that takes you along the river and then up to the “rim” of the canyon. The first half mile or so is paved, but it then becomes a regular old trail through the woods. There are interpretive markers along the entire length.

I have been down on the trail several times, but yesterday was the first time I decided to do the entire loop. It turns out that while we have no snow left at the house, there is still plenty on the ground out there and what should have taken 2 hours to complete ended up taking a good chunk of my day (and energy!). I actually hiked the loop backward going up to the top first and coming back along the river. Had I gone the other direction, I may not have hiked the loop at all. The snow along the river was still 2+ feet deep and not packed down very well. Every other step or so, I’d sink down to my knees, and the dogs weren’t having an easier time.

Still, despite the difficulty with the snow, this trail seems promising. It traverses through a diversity of habitats and promises to offer good wildlife. I came across the scat of deer, elk, and moose, but did not see any. It could be the combination of my timing (mid-day) and the fact that I had the dogs with me. I saw and heard tons of birds, but without binoculars, I couldn’t identify all of them. I heard Pileated woodpeckers and came across another unidentified woodpecker. There were chickadees galore, and a wren that flew across the trail. We spooked several grouse and saw a turkey in the big meadow by the river. And on the river, I caught a pair of Common merganser.

The trail takes you through a variety of habitats including new forest, thinned/open forest, mature forest, river, meadow, upland, lowland. The best surprise was a clearing with a scenic overlook on top of the canyon (pictured above). The view looks down upon the river, across a swatch of forest and out to some higher peaks off in the distance. Despite being so close to farm and logging lands, the trail feels like it’s secluded in its own patch of wilderness.

I think when the snow melts, the trail will be a bit more fun to explore and revisit. It’s nice to have something like this so close to home.