By Susan Drumheller
It’s time for a little spring cleaning on local trails, and National Trails Day, June 1, is the ideal time. This June 1 the Idaho Trails Association will have volunteers do maintenance work on the Mickinnick Trail, located on the outskirts of Sandpoint in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.
Volunteers will clean out water bars and diversion ditches, remove logs that are in the trail, cut back brush off the entire trail, and other general chores.
The Mickinnick Trail is the focus every year on National Trails Day to commemorate that event and the trail itself, according to Tom Dabrowski, president of the state-wide trail association.
“The Mickinnick is a beautiful trail right on the edge of town and is very popular,” Dabrowski said. “I’ve been on it during every month of the year and have never been alone. ITA will be doing the maintenance work on June 1 to help make this very popular trail more enjoyable for the hikers who come here.”
Nicky and Mick Pleass donated 160 acres at the top of Greenhorn Mountain to the USFS in 1993. They specified it was to be used for a hiking trail. In 2003, Nicky Pleass recruited her hiking partner Jan Griffitts to help make it a reality. Griffitts tirelessly advocated for an agreement with the city of Sandpoint, Bonner County, the Idaho Panhandle National Forest and Bureau of Land Management to build a trail.
In the meantime, the two women hiked the mountain numerous times and designed a trail to the top of Greenhorn Mountain west of Sandpoint above the Bonner County Fairgrounds, Griffitts said.
Funding for the trail came from a grant from the Resource Advisory Council for North Idaho. A local trail builder, Elmo Warren, constructed the trail. The only trees that were removed were those considered dangerous. The Mickinnick Trail, named for the previous landowners and the kinnikinnick native plant which is abundant on the mountain, was dedicated in 2005.
The trail, which has several benches along its near-vertical four miles, is enjoyed by all ages.
“One winter, I was snowshoeing with others and we came across a cougar relaxing on the rock outcropping (probably enjoying the view, too),” Griffitts said. “We now call that Cougar Rock. He took off and of course we didn’t follow.”
The first 1.5 miles of the trail is the steepest and rockiest. After that it becomes easier and meanders through the open forest, rock outcroppings, grassy and mossy meadows, wildflowers, native plants, old growth trees, huckleberry patch and several small seasonal streams. The trek to the 4,300-foot top is well worth the effort, with commanding views of Lake Pend Oreille, the Cabinet Mountains, Monarch Mountains, Pend Oreille River, Sandpoint and the Long Bridge.
The trail, which climbs 2,150 feet in elevation, was designed so that hikers have a view every few minutes. Hikers could also see some wildlife that frequents the area, including bears (black and grizzly), moose, elk, deer, cougar, bobcat, coyote, rabbit, grouse, chipmunks, eagles, hawks, osprey and numerous other birds throughout the year.
The trailhead, which has parking and a vault toilet, is located off Woodland Drive on city of Sandpoint property, less than a mile south of Schweitzer Mountain Road. The city maintains the trailhead, while volunteers maintain the trail itself.
Dabrowski pointed out that ITA welcomes volunteers of all ages and abilities.
“There is something for everyone to do,” he said. “We need folks to sign up and come out and help maintain our hiking trails. Like all of our public lands and facilities, the Mickinnick Trail belongs to all of us and we need to help keep it in good shape.”
Volunteers will use hand tools provided by the ITA to do light work. Everyone should bring work gloves, sturdy shoes, lunch, and water. ITA asks that volunteers sign up ahead of time on the ITA website at www.IdahoTrailsAssociation.org.
Other National Trails Day events:
June 1: The Basin Trail Festival – kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Schweitzer Mountain Road roundabout. It is the trailhead for the Lower Basin Trails, beloved by both downhill and cross-country mountain bikers. Bring your bike, ideas for trail improvements, gloves and closed-toe shoes so you can help enhance and maintain the trails – and ride them. Enjoy a barbecue courtesy of Pend Oreille Pedalers. Check out the Pedalers’ Facebook page for more information.
June 9: Seventh Annual Bay Trail Fun Run benefiting the Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail features a 10K and 5K races beginning at 9 a.m. Sunday, June 9. Registration information is on the Friends’ website at www.pobtrail.org. All participants are entered into a drawing for Festival at Sandpoint season passes.
Tom Dabrowski and Jan Griffitts contributed to this column. They represent ITA and the Mickinnick Trail respectively on Trail Mix, a local collaborative of government and non-government organizations working together to expand the trail system in Bonner County. Susan Drumheller is secretary of Trail Mix.
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