Posted on July 29, 2014 at 6:00 am
Other than the trail being uphill and I being a bit out-of-shape, I had stepped into a screen saver, surrounded by a lush green forest and the spring run-off rushing down the stream providing the perfect soundtrack for the splendid setting. My legs were beginning to ache as it seemed like I had been hiking on an incline forever when the cathedral ceiling of pines gave way and opened to a view. Across a treed valley was my first sight of the Big Rock. Off the trail and up an old fire road, I climbed an enormous rock to take in the patchwork greens of the Palouse and a view of Eastern Washington as far as I could see…breathtaking, literally.
It was the introduction of a puppy into our home that brought me here. She isn’t a mellow breed like our pets before her. If her energy could be bottled, she could light up a small town! Daily dog walks are required to burn off a little of her get-up-and-go. After exploring every street and path, in various patterns and directions through the neighborhood on said walks, we graduated to the Centennial Trail, from the Stateline dog park to Riverfront Park, we covered it all—did I mention energy enough for all the lights in a small town?
This spring, during a cleaning spree, I dusted off a book I had purchased years ago, Best Hikes with Dogs in the Inland Northwest by Craig Romano and Alan Bauer. Flipping through it, I found a section on the Mt. Spokane area with a trail map. The next weekend, we were off on our hike, the first of many.
Even though I have spent most of my life in the area, I had only been to Mt. Spokane in the winter. Spring had wakened the meadows of wildflowers and walking gave me time to really absorb the beautiful views. The summit road was still closed so we didn’t park or hike the path I had read about in the book, but we did discover the Civilian Conservation Corps cabin and found the experience completely enjoyable with a vow to return.
We were hooked.
Our next hike started in the south Valley, as we climbed up along Iller Creek. Still early in the season, the creek was rushing and ran along a good part of the trail. The area was simply gorgeous which made up for the two-and-a-half mile climb up. I kept chugging along and before long was rewarded with a sweeping view of the Palouse. On the Rock of Sharon were groups of climbers atop the massive stones, and I was a little excited to see the radio towers that stand watch over Spokane up close. Of course, the hike down was easier, but just as beautiful, as the 5-mile long trail looped around to provide a peek of the Spokane Valley.
Another local hike we discovered is the Liberty Lake Loop. We felt a little late to the party in exploring this area as it is the busiest trail we’ve experienced. Bridges cross over Liberty Creek several times as the trail leads to a surreal cedar grove, where we stopped for a snack before heading up the steep switchbacks to the waterfall. Hats off to the couple we saw carrying full packs, each including a young child!
To make good on our vow, we later returned to Mt. Spokane and found the summit road open. Parking at Cook’s Cabin, we hiked the short hike to Mt. Kit Carson, the next highest peak to Mt. Spokane. Here we found the most spectacular view of, well, everything…Spokane Valley, Rathdrum Prairie, Newman Lake, the Selkirks. Since this was a shorter hike, we decided to drive up to the summit of Mt. Spokane and the Vista House. Why hadn’t I driven up here before? Hello Canada!
So, I’m now a hiker. A word that used to stir up images of big packs laden with survival equipment strapped to hearty individuals who eat peanuts, raisins, and M&Ms -that is where we get trail mix from, right? Okay, so I’m a day hiker, one who snuggles into her own bed after a day on the trail. But that doesn’t mean I don’t pack a few items necessary for a safe day hike. Craig Romano has co-authored another book on hiking, this time with Rich Landers, who does hiking programs at the library from time to time. Day Hiking Eastern Washington covers the basics of what needs to be in your backpack, and also includes trail maps and descriptions. Another great resource is the Washington Trails Association website.
Soapbox: If the sign says dogs must be leashed, please do. Pack the doggy-doo bags and extra water, as well. Some people even get doggie backpacks, so pooches can carry their own stuff!
My workdays are spent staring at a computer screen, but now on weekends I step into a living screen saver. I’m fortunate to live in a part of the world that is only a short drive from such natural beauty. If you’re looking for something healthy, inexpensive, close-by and fun for the whole family—including the dog, then check out some of our local trails and let me know your favorite.