Get out and enjoy the season here at home! By Abigail Thorpe
Spring is around the corner, and even though March in Sandpoint may still feel a bit cold and gray, warmer days and the first green blades of spring aren’t too far away. While it may require a bit more planning and bundling up, this is the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy all that our incredible place has to offer. While you’re out there, you’ll get to see and enjoy the transition from winter to spring firsthand, and nothing is more beautiful than watching Mother Nature go through her strides.
After several months of winter, we’re all getting a touch of cabin fever, and there are plenty of ways to combat it, even if the snow’s getting slushier and the trails are muddier. Just plan ahead, gear up and make yourself get out of the house—you won’t regret it.
In fact, simply getting outside to exercise and spend time in nature has a host of health benefits, including increased life expectancy, improved sleep quality and reduced risk of cancer.
Particularly because of the pandemic, many of us are spending even more time staring at screens than ever before (studies estimate anywhere from seven to 10 and even 17 hours a day!). What if, rather than sitting down in front of the TV, scrolling through social media, or hitting up the XBox, you took an hour or two to get outside and explore somewhere new? You’ll probably find a ton of beautiful spots you never knew existed—and get some healthy breathing in along the way.
When it comes to mental health, studies have shown that time outdoors in nature not only reduces stress and improves overall mood, it actually increases cognitive flexibility, working memory and attentional control, meaning when you get back from a walk, hike or even short break outdoors, you’ll be more equipped to tackle work, school or other tasks.
Participating in outdoor activities is also a great way to foster social connection while doing something healthy for yourself, and Sandpoint has done a fantastic job of making sure there are a multitude of opportunities to enjoy our beautiful surroundings, no matter the time of year or snow load.
When it comes to the outdoors in March in Sandpoint, your gear is key. If you don’t already have them, equip yourself with a good pair of waterproof boots and a warm, waterproof jacket or outer layer before you head out—then even the rainy days won’t keep you indoors.
Hit the Trails Lucky for us, Sandpoint is filled with large trail networks and mountain climbs just waiting to be explored. One of the best spots to get out and take in nature while getting some exercise is on public access properties made available to the public through Kaniksu Land Trust. Kaniksu’s main mission is land conservation, and they work hard to help private landowners protect and preserve their outdoor spaces for future generations to enjoy.
“Connecting people to nature is key, so a big part of what we do involves listening and collaborating with our community to understand where our mission could lend a hand in filling needs such as physical and mental health, education, food security, forest management, and housing,” explains Marcy Timblin, Kaniksu’s director of communications.
Pine Street Woods is a public access property at the northwest end of Pine Street that has an awesome collection of trails for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and hiking, so whether there’s still a solid snow pack or things are melting off, you can get out and enjoy the woods and open meadows.
Seasonally, The Sandpoint Nordic Club has a selection of adult and youth cross-country skis and snowshoes available for rent up at Pine Street Woods, so even if you don’t have your own you can still get out and try something new. While the snow holds, fat biking is another way to enjoy the amazing trail systems out at Pine Street Woods, although once the snow starts to melt, trail conditions won’t support biking.
While it’s very possible you’ll encounter some wildlife in Pine Street Woods, Kaniksu’s Cabinet View Nature Area out near Clark Fork, Idaho, offers an excellent space to wander and enjoy wildlife viewing. The 75 acres of wetlands and forest are home to moose, elk, songbirds and squirrels, and also serve as an educational area for kids to learn more about these incredible spaces and how to care for them.
“Each person who walks the land embraces a responsibility to steward its richness and diversity for the benefit of present and future generations. That is our vision—that all of us realize our stewardship role and embrace it,” says Timblin.
In addition to these public access properties, Kaniksu has worked on some private ownership land agreements that include some public access component, so the public is allowed to access private land for recreation, fishing, hunting, and hiking or biking. The Syringa Trail System is one of these spots and offers a large network of hiking trails right next to Pine Street Woods that offer a great wooded escape right close to town. You can find a listing of all of these types of properties at Kaniksu.org, along with a schedule of upcoming events and educational programs.
Kaniksu hosts a number of both in-school and out-of-school nature education programs and camps for youth, and its Kaniksu Folk School offers a variety of traditional skills and music classes for adults, which is another great way to connect with others, gain a deeper appreciation of nature and traditions, and learn some long-lost skills. Some upcoming events through Kaniksu include an Earth Day trail work day on Saturday, April 23; Birds and Burritos at Pine Street Woods Saturday, May 21; Birdwalk at Pack River property on Sunday, May 22; and Camp Kaniksu June through August. Thursday, July 7, is a Pairings in the Pines wine tasting event at Pine Street Woods.
There are a variety of other trails like Mickinnick Trail and the Bay Trail along Lake Pend Oreille downtown that are accessible this time of year; just keep in mind that trail conditions can vary daily in March as the snow starts to melt, and some trails may be restricted, require snow shoes, or even be closed. The best way to find out is to check Kaniksu’s website or visit Sandpoint Nordic Club for updates, or hop on social media for the site you’re looking to visit.
Kaniksu is a nonprofit that garners support from the communities it serves. “The very best way to support KLT's mission is to learn about conservation. That can be done by joining us for our programs, classes and events. We are a nonprofit organization supported by the communities we serve,” explains Timblin. Donations can also be made to help support Kaniksu’s ongoing mission to protect our lands and spaces for future generations.
Spring on the Slopes Another great option for getting out and enjoying Sandpoint in March and early spring is spring skiing up on Schweitzer. The snow tends to be softer, and if you hit one of those beautiful bluebird days, the view will take your breath away—not to mention temps are much warmer this time of year.
Even if you don’t have a season pass, you can head up for the day, or even ski for a half day on Sundays with Schweitzer’s Sunday Solution lift ticket (check online to make sure it’s available on your date).
And of course, there’s a host of other activities to enjoy up on the mountain, including cross-country skiing, tubing, snowshoeing and more.
So, no matter where your springtime adventures take you, bundle up, check up on trail and mountain info, and get outside to enjoy all that Sandpoint has to offer this spring season. You won’t regret it.