Welcome to my small corner of the world: northern Idaho! Currently I’m based out of the small city of Moscow. While around 23,000 people permanently call Moscow home, that number increases by over 11,000 at the end of August when students from the University of Idaho return to town to begin another school year. Serving as the county seat for Latah County, Moscow is an eclectic mixture of individuals and community groups. Eight miles to the west sits the city of Pullman, WA and Washington State University. Trying to describe the vibrant yet relaxed culture of the Moscow-Pullman area can be difficult, and I’m not going to attempt it in detail here. In order to truly get a feel for the city and the entire region, one must get a broad perspective of the area. In order to do this, climbing to the peak of Moscow Mountain is a must!
About eight miles northeast of Moscow is the trailhead for the climb up to the top of Moscow Mountain. This trailhead is one of many markers for hiking/mountain-biking trails the criss-cross the entire Moscow Mountain recreation area. The Moscow Area Mountain Bike Association (MAMBA) is a group of local community members, volunteers and land owners the works to create and maintain all of the trails running across the mountain and surrounding area. MAMBA maintains about 35 trails covering miles upon miles of pristine mountain terrain. The best place on the mountain to see the surrounding area is known as East Moscow Mountain Lookout. Years ago, an old wooden lookout sat at the top, surveying the Tamarack Ski Hill. Unfortunately, the ski hill was closed, the lookout was dismantled and the slopes are now overgrown with thick vegetation. However, don’t let the lack of a lookout station discourage you from making this short trip to the top. Starting from the Moscow Mountain parking area, continue through the blue gate and uphill. The trail follows an old logging road up the side of the mountain, looking out over the surrounding timber and farmland. After 45 minutes or so of uphill climbing, the road stops at a large outcrop of rocks, close to where the lookout station used to reside. While the ascent can be tiring, the final destination is well worth the effort.
From the vantage point at East Moscow Mountain Lookout, one can gaze out over miles over farmland and forests. This agricultural-based region, comprising a large section of north central Idaho and southeastern Washington, is known as the Palouse. Lying directly west of the Bitterroot Mountains, a subset of the Rocky Mountain Range, the Palouse is an ideal place to receive plentiful rainfall as clouds gather and release their moisture before heading over the nearby mountains. Contributing the excellent farming conditions is the rich, nutrient-laden soil known as Palouse loess. In prehistoric times, flooding of the Columbia River in western and central Washington left large deposits of silt and sand on the river banks to combine with sediments left behind by retreating glaciers. Prevailing winds from the west swept up the soil, carrying it over central Washington and depositing it in dune-like formations across the Palouse area. It is not uncommon to hear locals refer to the dunes as “the rolling hills of the Palouse.” The productive loess topsoil, which can be up to a hundred feet deep in some areas, allows for abundant wheat and legume crops to be produced every year. Standing at the lookout on the top of Moscow Mountain, fields stretch out to touch the horizon in every direction. Tucked within the rolling hills are the tiny agricultural communities like of Troy, Potlatch, Genesee and Deary. To the south lies the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, Hells Canyon and the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. To the north, Freezeout Ridge and its popular snowmobiling trails can be seen. From the top of Moscow Mountain, possibilities for outdoor recreation and activities seem endless. After taking in the beauty of the views from the lookout, don’t feel guilty for wanting to rush back down the mountain to start off on a journey to explore more of this incredible area!