May 5-6, 2012
First hike of the season. Wendy and I drove to Coolin and then to the Lion’s Head Campground on the east side of Priest Lake, looking for the trailhead to Centennial Trail #58. The directions in our guidebook weren’t very specific so after a bit of driving around we parked by a pushed-over signpost that had FL CR TR carved into it. The nearby trail took us to the trail we wanted in less than 100 meters.
It seems that most of my early season hikes don’t go so well, but this one was different. There was a bit of snow and runoff on the trail and we needed to cross rapidly moving and “up-to-mid-thigh” Caribou Creek, but the trail was walkable and we didn’t fall into the quickly moving water. We camped at Trapper Creek, right along the lake shore. It was a cold night with a trace of snow and a bright “Super Moon.”
We slept in a bit because it was cold outside and once the sun did come out we dried our gear on some bushes growing in the sand. The guidebook talked about an old mine shaft at Trapper Creek, but we didn’t see it- maybe because there was still a good deal of snow in the area. Practically every birch tree I saw was standing dead or on the ground decomposing. This seems to be a problem in our area.
The hike out was pleasant and uneventful. We walked about four miles each day and didn’t see any wildlife during the hike, but did hear some loons in the morning and saw a black bear, while driving around the lake, on our way home. It looked healthy and was a beautiful dark color- I’d guess a two year old.
And now….. Wendy’s account
After much research, guide book reading, and big map looking, Harly and I decided to head out for the first hike (and my 2nd backpack experience ever) to the Upper Priest Lake area. We were going to hike trail #58 (approximately 5 miles) to Trail #302 (4.2 miles) turn around, and then come back.
The first sign of good things to come on our adventure was we left a little earlier than planned and between Newport and Priest River got behind an SUV with a boat strapped to the top, teetering precariously in the wind. Since I was driving I think I got a bigger laugh out of it than Harly. The drive up was uneventful- we planned on starting at the Northernmost part of Trail #302 and heading south to Trapper Creek, but a sign posted alongside the road told us Road #1013 (the road that would take us to Trail #302) was closed. So we turned around and went back to Coolin toward the other trail in hopes of hiking south to north instead.
With Harly’s keen eye and knowledge of how sketchy guidebooks can be, we found a spot that led us to the trail. First thing I noticed was snow- quite a bit actually and lots of intersecting roads- we marked our way with rock piles and rock arrows. We finally got to where the trail became trail-like, instead of road-like, and heard roaring water. I almost swallowed my tongue when I saw the creek we had to ford. After a couple minutes of maybe- maybe-nots I decided to not be a chicken and do it. Probably the scariest 30 seconds of my life clinging to Harly’s arm but we made it.
Hiked through lots of snow then the trail cleared and the lake was really close. We walked down to some sandy beach and questioned staying there but decided to continue on. We got tot Trapper Creek and set up camp. I burned/melted my shoes trying to dry them out and Harly worked very hard keeping the fire going. Went to bed when my teeth started chattering and froze my toes off all night. Probably got 3 hours sleep. Heard a loon and the moon was AMAZING! Sun was out when we got up, warmed ourselves by a fire, packed up and took off. We decided after a night of little sleep to just head back to the car instead of continuing to #302. Crossed the creek of death again with thoughts that it was the only thing standing between me and a cheeseburger.
Saw a cute black bear on the side of the road on the way out. Tried to stop in Coolin for a cheeseburger, but the only cafe was closed. So we went to Priest River and stopped for burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Then headed home to warmth, a shower, and laundry.