Heavy clouds carpeted the sky as the pups and I made our way down to Grangeville, ID. Uncharacteristically, I was on time to meet up with one of our Clearwater Trekkers and her friends who usually go hiking together up at Fish Creek on Sundays. Of course, they weren’t planning on being there this particular Sunday, so there’s no one to corroborate my story, but I pulled into The Gym on Mt Idaho Rd just before 10:00 AM to see if anyone happened to show up after all.
I guess everyone stayed home to do a little patriotic bird watching.
We headed south on Mt Idaho Rd, but where it turned left to go around the Sunset Drive-In Theatre, we continued straight onto Grangeville Salmon Rd, following signs toward the Snowhaven Ski Area. About 8 miles and 15 minutes later, we turned right into the Fish Creek Pavilion and trails area.
As you enter the Fish Creek area, there are two parking lots, one to the right and one to the left. If you have an Idaho State Park and Ski Pass, you can take a left and park next to the pavilion where the groomed snowshoe and ski trails start; otherwise, you can take a right and park in the free parking area where the snowmobiles unload.
The Idaho State Park and Ski Pass is only $10 a year, and you can purchase them when you renew your vehicle registration. You get a couple of extra stickers to place on your windshield which grant you free parking to all of the Idaho State Parks. Totally worth it.
We nosed up to the massive snow berm scraped to the side of the parking lot by the plows and waisted no time getting our gear together and shoes on. I had my map and compass with me but went ahead and took a copy of the printed map of the trails available on the notice board. It proved to be helpful later on.
The snow gauge told me my new snowshoes were successfully carrying me across about three feet of snow as we made our way across the day use area and through the camping sites. At last, we were underway!
This was my first time snowshoeing, so I don’t really know what good snow is like, but I’ll wager that packed powder is much nicer to move through than wet, icy snow. Still, ignorance is bliss, so I just set a pace and kept moving, enjoying the energy and nordic motion.
Sassy and Sheba were in winter heaven. They love to roll around in the snow. Normally, they’re content with any old patch of ice, but here they had a whole forest to play in.
The trails hadn’t been groomed in a while, and various debris from the trees littered the ground. But each intersection was well marked with signs and maps showing me where I currently was. I especially liked the fact that the signs provided trail distances so I could anticipate my return trip.
The cold wind turned into a drizzle and finally into a steady rain the higher we went, but my gear kept me dry and my efforts kept me warm. So on we went. The trail looped through the forest pleasantly, opening up on small meadows here and there. Eventually, we made our way to a small warming cabin about two and half miles in.
Sassy rustled up a rabbit from under the cabin while I was taking a few photos of the area. She gave chase, but not for long.
Although there was dry wood and a stove available inside the cabin, the pups and I opted not to light a fire. Still, it was nice to get out of the wind and rain and sit down on a dry bench for lunch. We listened to the wind and rain playing on the tin roof.
The cold seeping into my limbs told me it was time to go, so we bundled up against the weather and set off once more.
After you leave the cabin and round the corner on Debbie’s Cutoff, the trail heads downhill. It was the perfect way to find my rhythm and get the blood flowing again. Now that I was a veteran snowshoer, I could tell a difference between the quality of snow up by the cabin and the slush down by the parking lot. Not only was I getting more tired, but the snow was getting harder to walk through, which, you know, made me more tired…
It was a well earned delight to step out of the trees and make our way back to the pavilion. I loaded the dogs in the back of the pick up with some food and water and then went to change in the public restroom across the way. Dry clothes were going to be much more comfortable for the drive home.
I’m sure fresh snow and clear skies will make for a more enjoyable experience at Fish Creek, but the misty quiet of the grey woods had a magic of its own.
Check out these links for more information if you’re looking to explore the area on your own.
You may also consider joining up with The Clearwater Trekkers. We’re planning to explore Fish Creek together on Saturday, February 17th. You can sign up for our newsletter below to be notified of upcoming events, and join us on Facebook at The Clearwater Trekkers. You’ll find a calendar of events on our home page, and we put up events on the Facebook group page as well. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me through the contact form below.
Thanks for reading. See you on the trail!