HIKING -- My dog, Ranger, and I followed Idaho Panhandle National Forest Trail 563 on Saturday with a group led by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness up to the abandoned lookout site of East Fork Peak.
The route up the East Fork of Lightning Creek is little used, but the uphill hike is well worth the effort. Knowing that a fire lookout is or was on a mountain is usually a good tip that the views will be superb.
Phil Hough and Deb Hunsicker led the trek to show hikers some of the values and niches in and near the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. It's just one in a series of treks the friends group offers year around to answer questions the public has about the wilderness.
Some people worry that wilderness designation would close the popular main Lightning Creek Road to motorized use, Hough said. "That's not true," he said.
Although the area has a history of logging, the steep terrain also has a history of torrential periodic flooding. "It's too expensive to build and maintain roads (up the side drainages) in much of this area," he said. That's one of the reason the Forest Service has recommended it for wilderness designation, he said.
On this hike, we got a close look deer as well as a black bear and a sweeping panorama of peaks such as Savage, Scotchman 2, Round Top, Bee Top, Lightning, Twin and more.
About 11 miles round-trip.