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The Hawk's Nest

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Photo by Ernie Hawks Photo by Ernie Hawks

Evan's Landing

On the south side of the trail was a small cedar grove, dark, the ground covered with duff, but little vegetation other than the giant trees whose branches expanded out and touched each other high above the floor, creating a canopy the sun could barely penetrate. As with nearly every shadowy, damp, musty valley filled with mature cedars, it had an enchanting, even mystical feeling. The shady path took us to the top of a rise; another similarly enthralling draw lay to our north. This was a temporary moment at the beginning of a new walk for us. In a short pleasant saunter, we crossed a slight ridge and a vista opened to the east.

Over twelve hundred feet below us was Pend Oreille Lake and our destination, Evans Landing; in between was a steep, probably eighty percent grade.

We had talked about this trail, just a few miles from our home, several times. Looking at maps, we knew we would be traversing the nearly vertical west wall of the lake that runs from Maiden Rock south to Cape Horn.

What we had not researched was the trail itself. We tend to go into areas with the attitude “If it gets too tough we will turn around.” Like most people with that attitude, we never have turned around. Would this be the first time?

Still we are rather philosophical about it. So as we stood at the top looking down at the water below, and across to snow-covered Pack Saddle Mountain, reaching up over 6,200 feet, more than 4,000 feet higher then the lake, we knew the day had already been a success. However, the trek from this scene to our intended destination was still an unknown, yet inviting adventure.   

Evans Landing is a narrow gravel beach on the west side of Pend Oreille. Mixed with the clean washed gravel are large, bluish-green bedrock boulders with deep, rutty glacial scars thousands of years old. For years, I had heard it was only accessible by boat, sometimes with the caveat “Well I guess there is a trail up the cliff but….”

I had boated in to the little bay a few times, a good place for boat camping with a couple fire pits and picnic tables. I always tied up at one of the mooring buoys and stayed on the boat, so had never been on shore.

Therefore, with only this limited knowledge, we started down the track leading to the beach.

As it opened to an eastern exposure, the forest changed from cedar and hemlock to mostly Douglas fir and some pine with a mix of birch. Low growing brush covered the ground, as more light reached the soil, still there was plenty of shade from the morning sun.

Most hikers will tell you a downhill is harder on the body than a climb, especially on the knees. Fortunately, for most day hikes the morning is a climb with the day ending coming back down. It allows the ailing knees to sit down for a ride home followed relaxing in a hot tub with a glass of wine in the evening. However, on this day we started with the downhill. I wondered how it would be getting back up if the knees were sore. A little time pondering that and I realized I was losing a wonderful trip down worrying about something that may not happen.

At first we followed a gentle slope crossing the top of the face. The first switchback came after a rather long grade with several openings for viewing the west end of the Green Monarchs on the opposite side of the lake. All the switchbacks were long, making the slope very bearable and several breaks in the trees allowed good picture taking of the Cabinet Mountains to the northeast.

We could have made good time but one thing kept slowing our progress; all the new spring flowers and plants. They ran the color gamut, from light pink to vivid purple and with textures ranging from white lace to brilliant yellow sunbursts all nesting in every hue of green.  When we first spotted a Western tanager sitting in an Ocean Spray bush—with red head, yellow body and black wings—he looked like another flower, until he started flitting about.

Closer to the bottom, Maiden Rock could be seen protruding into the west shoreline a mile or so to the north.

The trail was narrow but never washed out or, to our surprise, excessively steep.

That is until we were at the bottom. That is when I could understand the ominous stories I had heard of the trail “up the cliff.”  The last twenty feet or so to the beach was, basically, no trail at all. Still we scrambled down it after doing a little study of the options. Really, it was only bad by the standard that had been set by a thousand or so feet of descent getting to it.

On the beach, we ate our snacks at one of the picnic tables as weather was rolling in over Bernard Peak and around Cape Horn to the south. There was a little breeze making five- or six-inch waves lapping at the shore, giving us perfect lakeside music.

From beach level, it was almost impossible to find the trail we had just come down. We had fun exploring the best route back up that first twenty feet; once past it the ascent was pleasant even with a moderate sweat index.

One thing that added to the fun was the new pair of trekking poles gifted to me a few days before this hike. I had used ski poles adjusted for walking several times and knew how much easier it makes both ascents and descents. These new ones with cushioned handles and straps and breakaway tips are even nicer.   

I don’t know how far the hike was in miles, but it took us a little over two hours each way at our leisurely pace. 

As we reached the top, we stopped near the cedar groves we passed through earlier and sat down to meditate.

With a feeling of exhilaration, I remembered the early apprehension about the difficulty of the trail, and gave thanks for the reminder that perceptions can keep us from our goals.

I thanked the magnificent trees that shaded us, the views that pleased us, and the earth, who gave us this wonderful hill. I thanked those who came before and made the trail and finally Great Spirit for it all, and another wonderful day.

Just as we loaded into the car, that weather we had seen coming started pouring spring rain—thanks also for waiting just a few minutes.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

editorial, hiking, Pack Saddle Mountain, Evan's Landing

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