By JERRY HITCHCOCK
When company comes to town, there is only so much you can do within the surroundings of your own property before everyone needs a little nature time.
We don’t get our adult daughter back in town very often, and when we do, we like to take full advantage of the opportunity. The day they flew in, we had a barbecue and board games at the house.
The next morning I got up early and made them waffles and bacon. To wear all that food off, we decided to hike Mineral Ridge, located 11 miles east of Coeur d’Alene.
Journey and I loaded up the truck with plenty of water, sunscreen and bug spray, and of course our daughter Jaclyn and her boyfriend Chris.
We turned off Interstate 90 onto Highway 97 for the short drive to Beauty Bay and arrived at the trailhead at mid-morning on a weekday, I was surprised to see the parking lot mostly full already. While it wasn’t a hot day per se, there was a tinge of humidity in the air, and some hikers had no doubt wanted to get in an early-morning jaunt before the crispness fell out of the air.
As always, Journey was eager to get going, offering no compassion for the humans who had to apply sunscreen and bug spray before heading out.
The trail has two-way traffic for a few minutes, before you branch off to the right at a fork and the trail narrows a bit.
With a good foundation of nutrients from two large meals sustaining us forward, we made good time on the trail to the top. Luckily there are benches here and there on the trail to remind hikers that rest periods may be required. Journey took full advantage, as we stopped long enough for him to lap up some water to propel those short legs up the trail.
With a nice canopy above, the hike is very nice, even considering the fact that you’re gaining almost 700 feet of elevation in the two miles it takes to get to the viewpoint. Along the way, we pointed out the nice wildflowers and shrubs full of blooms. Journey preferred to be out front blazing the trail for the most part.
It took us just slightly over an hour to get to the viewpoint, which looks out over Lake Coeur d’Alene to the west. You can see a long way up there, and the scenery begs you to snap a picture or 20.
We probably spent 10 minutes posing and admiring the handiwork of a higher source before deciding it was time to disembark. Following a loop, the trail back down is more direct, with some tight switchbacks to help you lose that elevation in a hurry. Journey welcomed the descending trail, and the shade was nice too.
Mineral Ridge also has another spur trail that branches off in the other direction near the summit, and that gains a few hundred more feet for those who haven’t had enough of a hike. For us, the main trail was plenty, and jagged rock outcroppings and tree roots in the trail keep you focused, even though you’d like to just admire nature full time while you’re walking.
The Mineral Ridge Trail is a 3.3-mile loop that offers outstanding views over Beauty and Wolf Lodge bays of Lake Coeur d’Alene, with excellent interpretive signage along the trail. Maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, it was built in 1962 as the BLM’s first developed recreation site in Idaho. In 1982, the trail was designated as a National Recreation Trail.
Each winter from November through February a migrating population of up to 150 bald eagles visit the area to feed on spawning kokanee salmon. An interpretive viewing program is offered annually from Christmas through New Years during peak migration.
The BLM’s Trail Guide describes the plants, animals and interrelationships of the forest at 22 marked stations along the trail.
The trailhead has paved parking, two picnic shelters with tables, drinking water, pit toilets and trash receptacles. Trailhead facilities are accessible to visitors with disabilities. The Mineral Ridge Boat Launch lies below the trail.
Details: 3.3 mile loop trail, easy to moderate
Directions: Trailhead is 11 miles east of Coeur d’Alene city center. Take I-90 east from Coeur d’Alene for eight miles to Wolf Lodge Bay Exit 22, then go south on Highway 97 for three miles.
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Jerry Hitchcock can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2017, via email at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at HitchTheWriter.