Archive for Washington State

Unique Hiking Experiences Near Spokane, Washington

Iller Creek Conservation Trail Credit Roy A Barnes

With a drought plaguing much of the U.S., it was comforting to be able to go back to the Spokane area and see lush and lively greenery plus more of Mother Nature’s offerings.  I hiked three areas easily accessible from Spokane, being challenged on one, getting quite a nature lesson during another, and acting on my love of railroads in yet another.

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Exploring Spokane’s Historic Spots, Part II – 3 Memorable Neighborhoods

Manito Park Bridge Credit Roy A Barnes

In Part I of this series, I discussed the city’s historical downtown must-sees.  But there’s more to a city than its centrally-located tourist attractions.   To really get intimate with a city means exploring some of the neighborhoods that have helped shaped its history.  I can picture the late Fred Rogers (“Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”) educating the kids in any one of these locales.

South Hill — Spokane’s haven of tranquility

Just south of downtown, a cluster of neighborhoods known as South Hill beckons.  It’s like going into another world from hustle and bustle of the city, where tall evergreens dominate the skyline rather than brick and mortar edifices.  Our drive offered me a view of the stately-looking homes, including Craftsman-style bungalows and beautifully-put-together brick domiciles.   This was especially evident as we got closer to South Hill’s “jewel in the crown,” in the Manito neighborhood, for it contains a 90-acre green space called Manito Park.

The park, designed by the famous Olmstead brothers of Central Park fame, combines both the best of man’s landscaping ideas with Mother Nature’s unspoiled beauty.  The area is prefaced by basalt rock formations jutting out everywhere.   In the midst of the unspoiled habitat, my eyes were captivated by a stone bridge built in the 1930s.   Even on a warm, sunny afternoon with the public out hiking, biking, or admiring one of the six gardens (including for lilacs and roses), I felt a real sense of calmness and peace in a place that once was a zoo, until the hard times of the Great Depression caused its closure.   At the north central end of the park, one can still see remnants of the bear’s habitat, as just behind the Park Bench Café resides a basalt rock formation that has iron bars sticking out of it.

Of the six gardens, a must-see is the Duncan Garden, which was created in the spirit of European formal gardens in France and Italy centuries ago for royalty.   Each year, some 70,000 annuals are planted there to make for a colorful scene of begonias, geraniums, marigolds, etc., that serve up those special backdrops for senior pictures and weddings.

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Exploring Spokane’s Historic Spots, Part I – Downtown Heritage

Spokane Clock Tower and River

As a mining, agriculture, and forestry hub, beginning in the late 19th century, Spokane has played an important role in shaping the Pacific Northwest, despite being overshadowed by other cities in the region like Seattle and Portland.   But I found that the city offers so much colorful history and character via its downtown and three of its residential neighborhoods.  In this first part, I’ll share with you what I found exploring the vibrant downtown, where history comes alive at the turn of many corners.

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Doing the “Mancation” In and Around Spokane, Washington

When one thinks of the word “Mancation”, it’s associated with thrilling outdoors activities with the guys. In Spokane, Washington, I got to experience a few thrilling activities that helped me “man up” as a traveler, so to speak. Thanks to Spokane’s location, outdoor enthusiasts in general have a feast of activities that will connect them to Mother Nature.

A Bird’s Eye View

When Denny Reed of Backcountry Aerosports was first introduced to a trike, his reaction was quite negative.  He refused to set foot in what he deemed a “flying weedeater.”  As time passed, Reed became one of the trike’s best human friends, taking willing flyers like myself up – way up – in his $60,000 motorized and natural flying machine. A machine, by the way, that has a 7:1 glide ratio.  It reaches speeds of 40-60 mph, a 34 foot wingspan, a 10 foot fuselage and a range of 270 miles. The experimental aircraft can be transported in a pick up and put together in 40 minutes.

I’ve flown many times in airplanes, including classic biplanes, but this trike experience was quite unique for me. I felt quite vulnerable at the thought of flying in such a contraption. I began my triking from a spot roughly 25 minutes drive from downtown Spokane, on a beautiful northeast Washington evening. After watching an orientation video, I was fitted inside the passenger seat. A helmet and microphone were put on me so I could communicate with the pilot of nine-plus years, who’s logged thousands of miles.

The take off was right beside his home, where a flat airstrip is situated.  Trikes, like his Air Creation Tanarg, need 250 feet to take off and winds of 20 mph or less for passenger comfort. As the machine sped up, I closed my eyes. I’m still a fraidy cat about heights, but once air bound – wind blowing in my face – I opened my eyes and got views of deer grazing on the rolling hills. There were tree havens and farmland as far as the eye could see. We flew anywhere from six feet to 120 feet above the ground – at times so low that you could literally smell the flowers!  The feeling I had was one of amazement and wonder.          Read More→

Northwest Fall Road Trip: Hiking Naches Peak Loop, Cruising Chinook Scenic Byway

Mt. Rainier National ParkBy Jill Irwin
originally published in
Pacific Northwest Seasons and reposted with the author’s permission

If you time it just right between storms and the first big snows, late October is a spectacular time to hike and explore the Cascades and east of the mountains. This is the first of several posts on my fall road trip to southeast Washington, northeast Oregon, and a teeny bit of Idaho. And just two days after I did this hike, the first big snowstorm hit the Cascades. Close, huh?

As we’re driving east on Highway 410 (Chinook Scenic Byway) on the northern edge of Mount Rainier National Park, the two-lane road climbs and switchbacks up and up to increasingly magnificent views of surrounding peaks and autumn colors. “Ohmygosh, can you believe that big patch of red?” I yelp, pointing to a brilliant slash of scarlet foliage on the slopes above.

Just before we arrive at Chinook Pass, the sun comes out. I can tell this is the beginning of a great autumn road trip.

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