Clearwater Crossing, new Bridge Sun. Oct 17th, 2021

Participants Steve Schombel, Peter Rice, Christann Schmid & Dog, Cooper, David & Julie Kahl

It was another incredible autumn day! The five of us met at the Snowbowl Parking Lot on Reserve St. and drove in two vehicles to the site, up the West Fork Of Fish Cr. of the Clearwater Crossing Ranger Station. It’s called Clearwater Crossing because this is the location of several trails that cross over the MT-ID state line into the 1910 Great Burn areas in Idaho’s Clearwater drainage. The route up the North Fork Of Fish Cr. is the shortest and most used. Some of the area burned a few years ago, taking out the ranger station and the old swinging bridge. The ranger station as well as the bridge have now been replaced. In 1999 I backpacked, with a friend, up to Indian Cr. the easiest place to see the very large cedar trees that dot the area. The most easily accessible trees are about 5 miles/8.05k back on the West Fork Of Fish Cr. trail, where the Indian Cr. trail comes in. Or goal, in 1999, was to see the trees and camp over night but we ended up going another 4 miles/6.44k up Indian Cr. before we found a place to camp. Today, we wanted to hike at least 3 miles/4.83k to a pack bridge where the Schley Mt. trail comes in. There once were trails up Cedar Log Cr. as well, both, a popular loop hike with the Indian Cr. trail, the State Line Trail joins them all. For the first roughly 2 miles/3.22k we were walking in the burn where it was more like a fireweed forest, the profuse fireweed was easily 6 feet tall. The larger pine trees that burned and then “buck skinned” had intricate whorls of blackened bark strips at their bases. In one section 3 to 4 ft tall (0.915m-1.22m) lodgepole pines indicated an even older burn from this more recent one. There were several stream crossings of small side streams, in this section. We stopped to each lunch, then shortly were out of the burn by places that would have been much nicer to eat lunch. It was starting to be quiet, damp cedar forest and the trail was close on the steep side of the creek, where we passed a water fall, but couldn’t see much of it because of the dense timber and brush. We met a lady coming out, who said she had tried to go up the other trail at the bridge but it was badly obliterated by the fire. We found the same conditions, later, by the trail junction with the trail to Cedar and Straight Peaks, the sign was still there but there was no trail through downed timber. At the bridge Cooper swam in a deep spot in the creek, and we continued on, now it would be go as far as we wanted and turn back. Here the trail was still close into the stream side and climbing steadily, and was wet in places, but just a few feet away, up hill, was the burn. Hiking up it, I was reminded of why it was we had hiked another 4 miles to find a place camp, there was just no level places anywhere burn or no burn. We started looking for the large cedars, only saw some smaller ones, most that had burned and left empty bark shells. From the 1999 trip I remembered we had come over a ridge, before we got to Indian Cr. and there had been some smaller large trees there, scattered through the forest. I started looking for them in particular, but everything off on the ridge side was burned. On this part of the trail we encountered several other hikers and six trail runners. We saw some clover and pearly everlasting, and one small white flower growing in the trail, that, I think I later identified as a Pacific dogwood and a bit further on from that a member of the pink family or a grass pink. Though it’s unusual to see those flowers this time of year, not so with fungi, from colorfully striated shelf funguses, to large upright mushroom like ones. No critters other than squirrels or chipmunks. A little past 4 miles/6.44k it was getting on to 3:PM and we decided to turn back. The Indian Cr. really big cedars would have to wait for another trip. Cooper swam in the deep pool by the pack bridge again, as we took a short break. The 2 miles/3.22k of burn were in the shade of the hills as we retraced them. We were back to the trail  head by 5:PM. We decided to go and have dinner in Alberton but found the restaurant closed, so we just went home, all more than satisfied with the day.

Julie Kahl

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