Near the Washington/Idaho border, off the Barker Road from I-90 lies the Saltese Uplands Conservation Area trail system. Used by hikers, runners, and mountain bikers, this system offers some great views, and challenging trails.
So far, I have only taken the time to run a 3.1 mile loop. There are alternate lines that should make quite a run. Once spring hits, I hope to get out there and explore some more.
My route was always heading from the parking lot, up the trail from the middle of the lot, which is on the north side of the conservation area. When I say “up” the trail, I mean UP. With my history of road running, the first mile has a very intense climb. Also, the total 3.1 miles offers over 680 feet of elevation gain.
As with most races, I attack the initial climb of this trail system. Which leads me to have a very high heart rate, along with difficulty breathing, and heavy legs before I make it too far. Just means the next time, I will make it a little farther before needing to slow down!
The first time I ran this trail system, huffing, and puffing my way up to the first pseudo-peak, the above single-track trail was what I was running on. I was happy to have trail beneath my feet, but a little disappointed in the views. Running alongside a barbed wire fence, in chest tall weeds (at some stretches) had me a little disenchanted with this trail system.
Then, I turned around, to see where I had just ran. A view across the valley behind me, complete with fields, and tree-covered mountains. This is what trail running is all about. While tree lined trails are not what this system is about, the views still shaped up to be impressive.
After reaching the “summit” halfway up the climb, there are some nice views, with small rolling hills, before making it to the main peak. Caught at the right time of year, a ton of wild flower blooms will catch your attention. This small batch of yellow flowers does not do the view justice.
From the top of the trail system, I was greeted by a view of Liberty Lake in the distance. From here, the descent was fun to blast down. It starts gradual, then sweeps into some switchbacks, with banked corners, and tall, tall vegetation to run through. I feel so free, and alive when bombing down trails.
Reaching the bottom of the hill, I was glad for the switchbacks, as they add distance, as well as fun, to what would otherwise be a very fast & steep way down to the bottom.
To date, I have only taken the right trail. Turned out the first time I ran it, to be a perfect 5k (3.1 miles) – so I repeated that each visit. I do want to give the left trail, along with other trails throughout the conservation area a go, and see what views, and challenges they present to me.
After the last slight climb, there is a plethora of options to make it to the very bottom to choose between. This is where I eschewed switchbacks, and took the straight-down-the-mountain line. Reaching the bottom like a shot, I went with it, and kept the momentum going as long as possible.
Running alongside Henry Road, the trail started to get rocky, with some outcroppings that caught my eye. Dropping down beneath the trees, I was getting back into a nice groove, when I turned the last corner, right into the far end of the parking lot.
Overall, the Saltese Uplands trail system is a great place to run. May hit it up this winter, and see how it feels while covered in snow. Some of the descents may be a bit tricky however. What’s a run that doesn’t challenge you?