by Susan Hamilton & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & D & lt;/span & o you want to get close to nature this summer but keep your trip as "green" and inexpensive as possible? Have I got the Northwest getaways for you!
Most everyone is familiar with the north end of Lake Coeur d'Alene, but have you experienced the beauty of the southern end of the lake? Just 40 miles south of the Lake City on U.S. Highway 95, Heyburn State Park encompasses two of the three lakes adjoining the southernmost tip of Lake Coeur d'Alene. Heyburn, the oldest state park in the Pacific Northwest, offers plenty of space -- 5,500 acres of land and 2,300 acres of water -- for rejuvenation.
Try your luck at fishing for trout, bass or pike in the lakes. If you're a hiker, Heyburn has a variety of trails -- from a self-guided water trail around the marsh areas of southern Benewah Lake to trails into the timbered slopes above Chatcolet Lake. Even if you're not a birdwatcher, you'll be amazed at the profusion of osprey, since this area is home to one of the largest nesting populations of these big birds of prey in North America.
My favorite activity at Heyburn is biking the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. The 72-mile paved bike trail goes right through the park, with a 3,100-foot bridge/trestle spanning the St. Joe River. Bike rentals are available at park headquarters if you didn't bring your own.
Boating takes many forms at Heyburn. Rowboats, kayaks, canoes and paddleboats are available for rent at Rocky Point or Chat Marinas. The cruise boat Idaho affords a leisurely way to see the lakes of Heyburn with interpretive, themed, brunch and sunset dinner cruises.
On your way back home, take the White Pine and/or Coeur d'Alene Scenic Byways along the eastern shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene. Hike through a grove of ancient, giant cedar trees or dig for garnets outside St. Maries. Kick back on the beach at Harrison and dream of what once was at this 20th-century steamboat stop.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & f you're a Lewis and Clark buff or just want to experience Big Sky country, travel to Three Forks, Mont. This little burg 30 miles west of Bozeman on I-90 buzzes with activity every year during the fourth weekend of July when the town and surrounding communities celebrate the Corps of Discovery's stay in the area 200 years ago.
This year's Festival of Discovery begins Friday, July 28, at Willow Creek, just south of Three Forks, with an art walk, music, food, dramatic and literary presentations. On Saturday, the festivities move to Three Forks for a parade, car show, arts-and-crafts show, Lewis and Clark Honor Guard reenactors and their encampment in the park. Sunday's events include afternoon tea at the Headwaters Heritage Museum and more arts and crafts.
The nearby Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park offers unique geologic features. Two-hour guided tours of the caverns reveal a two-million-year-old growing environment that is one of the few vertical caves in existence. In the Cathedral Room, stalactites hang like huge icicles and stalagmites form columns resembling overgrown ice cream sundaes.
But it's not all roughing it around Three Forks. The historic, restored Sacajawea Hotel is the town's stately cornerstone. Laze awhile in the row of rocking chairs on the hotel's long covered porch, enjoy a glass of wine at the 100-year-old reclaimed trestle-wood bar or treat yourself to an elegant meal in the steak house. Rooms in the hotel feature lace curtains, claw-foot bathtubs and antique furniture.
If your lodging tastes run a little less refined, try Fort Three Forks Motel and RV park or the 500-acre Missouri Headwaters State Park where campers can retrace Meriwether Lewis' steps up Lewis Rock and see the ruins of Gallatin City.
You can really go "green" and discover a bit of nostalgic traveling this summer by taking the train to Glacier National Park on the border of Montana and Canada. Amtrak's Empire Builder has a daily route from Spokane to popular West Glacier and lesser-traveled East Glacier.
I prefer St. Mary on the park's east side as a base for exploring the one-million-acre park because it's close to St. Mary Lake and Many Glacier. If you take the Sun Point Nature Trail to the windblown slopes above St. Mary Lake, you'll see spectacular views of the sparkling lake below. Many Glacier's main lodge looks like it's straight out of the Swiss Alps, sitting at the edge of Lake Sherburne. Of the many ways to explore the area, you can take horseback rides through the forest to Grinnel Glacier, hiking trails to sub-alpine Iceberg or Cracker Lakes and scenic boat tours. Kayaking or canoeing Lake Sherburne is my choice for a peaceful way to see the magnificent scenery while avoiding the ever-present bears.
The 50-mile-long Going to the Sun Road is a must-see. Take the historic red "jammer" buses for a "top-down" view of spectacular scenery enroute to the Continental Divide. Once at the top of the divide at Logan Pass, I like to hike to Hidden Lakes, admiring the alpine meadows, glaciers and mountain goats along the way.
Of the park's four historic lodges, East Glacier is my favorite. The wide path leading from the train station to the timbered lodge is bordered by hundreds of flowers. The lobby is comfortable yet impressive, with its massive Douglas fir pillars and immense stone fireplace. Thirteen campgrounds throughout the park offer hookup to primitive sites. Just across the border, Waterton Lakes National Park features a glittering chain of azure lakes.
If you think Montana has the only claim to glaciers in the Northwest, let me introduce you to Mount Rainier National Park. With 26 major glaciers encompassing 35 square miles, as well as being an active volcano that's the highest in the Cascades, Rainier is a geologist's dream. But if you're a hiker or mountain climber, it's paradise.
From trails that are one-third of a mile to climbing the summit, Rainier has all kinds of hiking opportunities. Here are three of my favorites: From Paradise, the Skyline Trail climbs through wildflower meadows and across snowfields and scree slopes to Panorama Point. At Sunrise, the Burroughs Mountain Trail climbs from sub-alpine meadows to rocky ridges into an alpine world. The Grove of the Patriarchs Trail, in the southeast corner of the park, takes you to dense old-growth forests.
For those who like more of a challenge, there's Columbia Crest, Rainier's highest peak. Ascents begin at Paradise, scrambling across rocky slopes and up steep snowfields to Camp Muir. From there, you have to mount the spires of Cathedral Rocks, cross the upper crevasses of Ingraham Glacier and climb the summit snowfields to the peak. If you're not a pro, guide services provide climbing instruction and multiple-day climbs.
Or you can just take in the beauty of Rainier while driving from the Nisqually entrance at the park's southwest corner through thick fir forests to Longmire, where the rustic National Park Inn's north porch offers a stunning view of Mount Rainier, especially at sunset. Continue on past volcanic outcrops and thundering glacier steams to the Paradise Inn, an enormous stone and log lodge.
And if you want to leave the driving to someone else, there are bus tours into the park from Seattle.
DON'T MISS & r & On the northern edge of Olympic National Park, after hiking through old-growth forests to Marymere Falls, I happened upon a turn-of-the-century lodge at the edge of LAKE CRESCENT. Guests sipped cocktails as they sat in wicker chairs in the sunroom and took in the superb sunset across the lake. Native American artifacts accented the dark wood lobby. Time doesn't exist at the Lake Crescent Lodge.
From the artist colony of Langley on WHIDBEY ISLAND's southern end to the dramatic beaches of Deception Pass at the northern tip, time easily slips by on this little-traveled island. South Whidbey State Park offers beaches and old-growth forests. Paddle a kayak around Grasser's Lagoon at Penn Cove, sip local fruit wines at Greenbank Farm or walk on the shore at Fort Casey.
It's one of those towns that invites meandering -- whether along PORT ANGELES' waterfront, where ferry boats depart for Victoria and you can look for seashells at the bay, or downtown's art galleries, shops and restaurants. The twice-weekly farmers market near the harbor is a gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. Bike or walk the Olympic Discovery Trail between Port Angeles and Sequim.