I must have forgotten to post about this trip. This was last week, January 5, 2013. This was Idaho Parks and Recreation’s free day in which no parking pass was required to use the Park n’ Ski areas or any of the state parks. There are two Park n’ Ski areas near Moscow: Elk River and Palouse Divide. The Park n’ Ski areas are generally groomed nordic ski trails, but some of them are good for snowshoeing as well. Since the hike to Elk River falls would have been more than 2 miles one-way, I suggested we head up to Palouse Divide where a short trail would take us to a view over the St. Maries River valley. It would only be a mile to the view with the option to continue snowshoeing if we felt the trip was too short.
When we got to the snow park, I noticed that the first part of our trail was cleared for logging traffic. About .1 miles in, we found what looked like a nice trail that left the road and headed up, but that trail soon disappeared and after consulting the GPS, I decided that our real trail was up the road a bit. Of course, when we got there, we found that the entire trail to the Emida View was in fact plowed for the logging trucks. So, we had a nice walk along the road, but the snowshoes were unnecessary.
The views along this road are quite nice, and we had some special weather effects to make the experience a bit more magical. The first thing we notice are some snow-capped peaks in the distance, part of the St. Joe mountains behind St. Maries. A little further down the road, the view opened up to the east exposing the rounded hills of the Palouse Divide. In the distance, we could make out the high peaks of the Freezeout Saddle area, but more immediately, Bald Mountain rose up as the highest point in the range. But here’s the cool part: In the valley, the mist had concentrated into a nice cloud below us. It’s a condition I have been waiting forever to photograph.
We ended up hiking well beyond the view, thinking that there would be an even clearer view up ahead, but eventually, we stopped for lunch and turned back. Since we didn’t get to use our snowshoes, I led a few people on a “short cut” off trail back to the parking area. While we had fun tromping through the 2-feet of powder, it turned out to be harder than we expected. Shadow figured it out with no problem. Greta kept getting stuck in some deep spots, though she eventually made it. Once we intercepted the old logging road, the rest of the hike was a breeze.
Palouse Divide seems like a nice place to explore the winter mountains of north-central Idaho, but either we’ll have to explore the other side which is not open to logging trucks, or cross-country ski it. This one seems like a better place to ski.