Only 20 minutes from downtown Coeur d’Alene, RIDER RANCH could be a nice
day outing for a group of friends or a family on vacation. Choose from a
short ride into exquisite mountain scenery, or an evening ride with
dinner included. Visit www.riderranch.com. (BT)
I'm on a Boat
It ain’t Twain’s Mississippi, but the three eight-day PADDLE-WHEELER CRUISES offered along the Snake and Columbia Rivers this summer will show off angles of Washington and Oregon that you never see from the freeways. Of course, the trip from Clarkston to Portland, offered by Adventure Cruises, will set you back over $4,000 (no stowaways or cub pilots here), but what finer Northwest summer experience than to sit topside and sip a glass of Yakima red while the sun sets on the mighty Columbia? (We’ve seen Twain’s Mississippi — it pales in comparison.) (JS)
This breathtaking ride across a scenic stretch of well-maintained bike route winds through 10 tunnels and seven high trestles across the Bitterroot Mountains. It’s inarguably one of North Idaho’s top outdoor-siest things to do. Visit www.skilookout.com/hiawatha. (BT)
Just a two-hour drive south from Spokane in Washtucna, Wash., is the stunning PALOUSE FALLS. The cascades drop 200 feet and are surrounded by a 105-acre state park and natural area. The park offers camping amenities, observation shelters and interpretive displays. An easy half-mile trail overlooks the falls, and there are plenty of opportunities off the beaten path. Vertigo sufferers, beware: Many of the trails are narrow and wind around steep rock cliffs. Despite the heavy foot traffic, there isn’t a safe route to the bottom of the falls. Towering basalt cliffs, canyons and plateaus highlight the geography of the surrounding scablands. (JB)
Gone to the Dogs
Before summer goes to the dogs, bring your dog to YAPPY HOUR, benefiting Panhandle Animal Shelter (free, but donations accepted). On June 24, bring Rover to Dover Bay Marina. On July 29, it’s Trinity at City Beach. No caffeine for canines, but get your own buzz on at Evans Brothers Coffee Aug. 26. And laugh your tail off when you and Fido make a play-date with the lovable Labradors at Laughing Dog Brewing Sept. 30. Visit the shelter's Website. (CS)
Add a Pair of Legs
Sandpoint and surrounding areas is perfect for navigation of the horse-y kind. The rugged terrain and narrow pathways in some areas are hardly accessible by vehicle and, should you want to extend your travels all day or even overnight, what better way than to share the load with your equine friend? We found several ranches that included riding tours and accommodations. Check out WESTERN PLEASURE GUEST RANCH (we like the name of this place!), with tours like the $1,550 weekly Ranch, Raft and Rest Tour pairing up with RIVERS ODYSSEY WEST and the more affordable two-day Spring Lodging trip (two days in a log cabin, with breakfast served and a scenic trail ride, for $345/couple). Visit westernpleasureranch.com.
Also on the map is MOUNTAIN HORSE ADVENTURES, with trail rides starting at $55 and with an emphasis on wildlife viewing — red hawk, eagles, bear, moose, deer — along with a leisurely gait that’s butt-friendly. If you’re feeling slightly more adventurous, check out the full moon ride ($75), which takes you down Schweitzer Mountain by moonlight over the lake.
Does it get any better than that? Side note: While researching this story, we discovered FROM THE HEART RANCH, which is an alpaca Mecca — although you can’t ride these terminally cute, furry critters, you can stay at From the Heart for $105/night and up. And if you’re in the region of Hellroaring Road, call PACK RIVER YAKS and politely ask them if you can visit the yaks — which, we discovered, do not moo. (Yaks actually grunt. Now you know.) Visit mountainhorseadventures.com, fromtheheartranch.com and packriveryaks.com. (CS)
Or Better Yet, Fly
The grandeur of where we live is unmistakable when viewed from on high. That feeling you get when landing at Spokane Airport and know you’re almost home? Multiply that times 60, which is the cost for a 20-minute tour over the splendor of North Idaho (Garfield and Bottle Bay, Clark Fork and the Pack River Delta) with SANDPOINT SEAPLANE. For a few bucks more, you can extend your tour to 45 minutes and check out the rarified air and scenery of Scotchman Peak, Maiden Rock and Char Falls. Visit sandpoint.com/seaplane. (CS)
Walk the Boundary
We’ve all walked in Spokane. But how many of us have actually tried walking around the city, step by step along the CITY’S PERIMETER, one foot in front of the other on the city limits? From the wooded neighborhoods of Indian Trail to the rail yards in Hillyard, from the rocky terrain of Rimrock to the tranquil east bank of the Spokane River, this city is everything but uniform. Sure, it sounds crazy. It’s a 63-mile hike, for chrissakes. And, yeah, that one stretch along Francis may not be the most beautiful or calming. But there’s no better way to get a true, visceral feel for Spokane’s limits. Where does it begin? Where does it end? What have we become? (ND)
Going with the Current
Michael Bowen, holding on for dear life. [Photo: Young Kwak]
It’s like a giant Disneyland log ride in our own backyard. On a “Friday Night Float” on the Spokane River with the NORTHWEST WHITEWATER ASSOCIATION (six guys, four rafts) — after floating downstream from the Meenach Bridge — it soon looked and felt as if we were out in the backcountry.
Ducks quacking in the reeds. Osprey nests high atop trees. The ospreys themselves, all beak and flapping wings, flying low overhead. River banks and trees that look so undisturbed, it was startling at one point to see a mountain biker flashing past on a hidden trail.
With the river flowing at 7,000 cubic feet per second, even the Bowl and Pitcher didn’t seem too scary. Dangerous rocks and timber loomed, but we stayed river-right. Waist-high water splashed into the boat, fogging my glasses. And the thrill level? Not scary. Invigorating. Like a Disney log ride.
Of course, I had it easy. Paul Delaney, point man of our raft expedition, was on the oars, with both of us ensconced in his $6,000 rubber boat with seating for six. And Delaney — a booming-voice guy in a “Raftafarian” T-shirt who drives a truck with “RIVRRNR” plates — is everything you want in a river guide.
He can wax eloquent about how the river changes character according to how much water Avista allows through the upriver dams. Just after the water treatment plant (with its surprising cascade of bleached water pouring into the river), there’s a sign, 15 feet overhead, warning of Dangerous Rapids Ahead. “At 40,000,” Delaney says, “you can stand up in the boat and almost touch that sign.”
Past the Bowl and Pitcher and near the triple outcropping of angled boulders known as “the Devil’s Toenail,” he pointed out dangers. “We call that one ‘Cyclops,’” Delaney said about some granite mound we were idly bypassing. “It creates a good hole at 15,000… that hole, it’s a flipper” — meaning that particular wave-trough would send you and your boat down and up and over.
Any raft float has its own fast-slow rhythms. Long quiet stretches with insects denting ripples on the surface alternate with rapids big enough that you hear them before you see them — froth over stones, drop-offs, that soothing/discomforting sloshing sound. But after bracing for one set of rapids, and the next, and the next, now it was time for those long-promised “post-Toenail beers.”
At Disneyland, you can’t lean back with a cold one while the pine trees glide by. (MB)
Bikes are made for all seasons: fenders for the rain, metal-studded tires for the snow, sleek and aerodynamic-y for the wind. But screw that. I want to ride in the glorious sunshine! And judging by the 1,700 cyclists who turned out for last year’s SPOKEFEST, so do a lot of other people. Get in on the action this year: ride the 21-mile community ride or step it up a notch for the 47-miler (or down a notch for the 9-mile course). This day of cycling is intended for everyone, so come one, come all — let’s ride bikes on Sept. 12. (ND)
Go See Woody Woodpecker
If only real life was more like cartoons, trail hikers in the cool,
forested dampness of LIBERTY LAKE REGIONAL PARK might hear this as they
climb up towards an old cedar grove:
“Ha-haha-HA-ha. Ha-haha-HA-ha. Hahahahahahahahahahahhaha!”
That is, they might hear Woody Woodpecker, who is reputed to use the forested end of the park as one of his haunts.
OK, so life isn’t really a cartoon (although — boy! — there are moments), and you can see 58-year-old episodes of the Woody Woodpecker Show on YouTube.
But the Woody Woodpecker of birds, the pileated woodpecker, is frequently seen at Liberty Lake Regional Park. And to see him, it’s healthier than YouTube: You go outside and walk around. How’s that for a novel concept?
“You should be able to see some pileated in there,” longtime local birder Gary Blevins says of woodpeckers along the Liberty Lake trail. “Of course, a bird might not be readily available every time you go.”
Drat! I can’t tell if this is better or worse than YouTube. I can
go either way.
But descriptions of the easy-to-moderate 7-1/2-mile trail at sites like trailsnw.com say the clockwise loop trail climbs to a cedar grove. This is good news.
If you don’t want to get lost in the woods, local birder Gary Blevins says plenty of birds — black-throated and ruby-throated hummingbirds, cedar waxwings and yellow warblers — can be espied along the CENTENNIAL TRAIL through Spokane Valley. Slow down and look around bushes, he says, especially early or late in the day. Osprey and red-tailed hawks can also be seen patrolling above the river. (KT)
Cinema al fresco returns to PAVILLION PARK IN LIBERTY LAKE in July, opening with the movie Jumanji scheduled for July 2, Pursuit of Happyness July 3 and Rescuers Down Under on July 9. The films continue with National Treasure July 30, Mary Poppins July 31, the fun documentary King Corn Aug. 6, Brother Bear Aug. 7, La Femme Nikita Aug. 14, Princess Bride Aug. 21, and wraps up with Spider Man Aug. 28. Visit www.pavillionpark.org. (KT)
From now until Aug. 4, there is an evening opportunity for a little WNP. Which, if you hang with members of the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club, is shorthand for WEDNESDAY NIGHT PADDLE. Summer evening paddles begin around 5 pm and boaters play in Class III and Class II rapids (they will decline as the summer advances) in the Spokane River near Sullivan Park. Visit www.sckc.ws. (KT)
Dishman Hills Birding
This is a small-group (up to 10 people) and somewhat strenuous half-day
hiking trip offered by the SPOKANE AUDUBON SOCIETY on July 11. Iller
Creek, at the south end of the Dishman Hills, has a variety of habitats
that hosts several varieties of flycatchers, vireos, warblers as well as
Swainson’s Thrush, Ruffed Grouse, accipiters, chickadees and wrens.
Much of the birding will be done by ear instead of by sight, so it’s not
recommended for beginners. Plus the group meets at the site at 6 am.
(Faint!) Call Jon Isacoff at 448-2629 by July 3. (KT)