Stories from the trail

Little Bear Creek River Otters

By Teresa Baker

I love to hike. It is the most enjoyable thing I do. I like hiking with others but often times really just enjoy being in nature alone. I tend to seek out places where I can feel comfortable and safe hiking alone while still enjoying a solitary outdoor adventure. I have found many places like this, relatively far from home, the Wallowa mountains in Oregon for example.  But it is a true joy to find places close to my home...Kamiak Butte, Moscow mountain to name a couple.

The Little Bear Creek portion of the Latah Trail has become a favorite. The first time I hiked this trail, I did a car shuttle to Kendrick with a friend. We drove back to the trailhead and walked to Kendrick, it was a long 11 miles, but we found that the scenery in this little canyon is splendid.

The feeling here is remote and intimate. Bear creek is a playful and flirtatious stream most of the time but as you look around you acknowledge that it must jump its banks and have a wild time every so often. I really like the columnar basalt  that lines pieces of the trail.  Great vegetation includes snowberry, wild rose and of course a variety of conifers.

My husband and I watched a family of raccoons playing in an old cottonwood snag a few years ago. My last trip on Bear creek was early November of this year. After walking in to the new " turn-around" point of around 4 ½ miles, I decided to explore the washed out area a bit. To my delight I spotted two river otters playing in a small pond. The pond was all but frozen over with a small area in the middle that the otters kept slipping into and out of. They would glide up onto the ice and watch me. I think they were just as curious about the strange biped gawking at them. Seemingly unconcerned about my presence, I was able to spend about 20 minutes just observing. They would bob their bodies up out of the water and blow air through their mouths and nostrils in a fairly loud gesture. I was able to take some pictures but didn't want to encroach on their space and risk stressing them.  I showed the pictures to many people and found that river otters may be rather elusive to the average person.

Many good guesses; beaver, packrat, seal. My favorite was wolverine, which is also a member of the weasel family , like the river otter. Seems lots of folks didn't know that we actually have them living right here with us....perhaps only a  delightful walk away!