When the weather report called for 90% precipitation, I knew I was going to be hiking alone the weekend of December 4th. Normally, I’ll hike in inclement weather because my hiking opportunities have to work around my schedule rather than the weather, but this weather report was so dismal even I was considering canceling.
Then my new tent came in the mail.
I had been pining after the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 since my wilderness guiding days back in 2019. I write that as if it was 10 years ago. It certainly feels that way. The opportunity to make the purchase came up when I sold a couple of boxes of old Magic: The Gathering cards just in time for Black Friday sales. My patience paid off when I managed to score the Tiger Wall for $100 off from Sportsman’s Warehouse online.
When that packaged arrived on my doorstep, my rainy day plans turned into a prime opportunity to test the Tiger Wall out in the elements right out of the box, or bag as it were.
Saturday dawned cold and cloudy. I even made room for the pups inside the cab of the truck because I didn’t want them to have to ride in the rain. But the rains held off as we made our way down to Orofino. We swung by the Orofino City Park just in case anyone was there, but only stayed for a minute before moving on to the gas station to fill up. From there, we turned up Riverside Avenue, then took a quick right onto Dent Bridge Rd.
Dent Bridge Rd takes a sharp right where it meets Lakeside Rd. There’s a sign, but it can all happen kind of fast if you’re not familiar with it. From there, it’s about another 20 minutes to Cold Springs Trailhead. Just before the trailhead, there is a viewpoint pullout that overlooks the Dent Bridge and the North Fork of the Clearwater as it piles up in the Dworshak Reservoir.
Gray clouds hung low, obscuring the hilltops but only teasing the rain. The pups and I made our way down to the trailhead then took a walk to Dent Bridge for a couple of quick photos. Soon enough, though, we were on our way under a light drizzle of rain.
Cold Springs Trail #128 starts off by the Dent Bridge and follows the reservoir shoreline for 5 miles out to the Cold Springs Group Camp. There is some old trail that extends beyond the group camp, but it did not looked maintained or even obvious as a trail when we got there. There are plenty of Pointless Ups and Downs (PUDs) all along the trail as it follows the contour of the hillside. There are also a few wooden bridges along the way. Two of which have been upgraded into one bridge with high railings since last time I was on this trail.
The woods were dark and brooding as we made our way along, pausing to check out the various campsites along the trail. We didn’t know it going in, but the last major water source is near the 2.5 mile mark at the double bridge. We did fill up there, but only one liter since we expected another runoff source ahead. As it was, we ended up filling up again from the reservoir once we got to the group camp.
Even brooding, I enjoy Cold Springs Trail. She has character. I don’t think my iPhone camera did justice to her beauty in the low light, veiled as she was in the soggy barrenness of oncoming winter. Parts of her are shrouded in moisture and shade where there is space between the trees and the ferns grow. In other places, the trail wanders out from the trees to gaze at the lake. Near campsite 14.5, the trail skirts a wide open field that runs clear down to the shoreline. And always, the trail draws us on.
A light drizzle had become a steady rain by the time we reached Cold Springs Group Camp, so I wasted no time in getting my new tent set up and storing my gear away. I didn’t have any trouble getting the Tiger Wall set up with the rain fly on, but it will take a little practice to be efficient at it, especially in the rain. I didn’t quite have the tent floor fully stretched out, but everything was adequately covered and the rainfly kept the rain out all night.
I did, however, manage to saturate the inside of the tent with condensation throughout the night. That probably had a lot to do with the fact that it was cold and rainy and I was in the tent warming myself up from about 4 PM on. That’s a lot of time to build up body heat against a cold, wet rainfly. The dogs hanging out in the vestibules for the first part of the evening helped out, too. Fortunately, I stayed warm and dry and slept quite blissfully through the night.
The rain was gone by morning and the sun lit up a clear, blue sky. Cold Springs Trail lies fully in the shadow of the mountain, so our hike back out was rather frigid. We set off before breakfast and held the cold at bay with a brisk pace. When we reached camp 14.5, we stopped to brew up some coffee and warm up some oats. If I bring the kids out here in the summer, we’ll set up camp here and day hike the rest of the trail. Camp 14.5 is only 3 miles in from the trailhead, it’s much cleaner, and it has a far better view of the lake. Access to water, however, is down a decidedly steeper hillside. Still, I think it would be much more fun to set up camp here and go exploring to the end of the trail with only day packs on.
Cold Springs Trail has much to offer with its terrain, its views, and its ease of access. I’m grateful I got to spend some time with her trying out new gear, and I look forward to seeing her again in warmer days.