While you may be limited to the number of people you can gather with, the rules don't say anything about furry friends

Summer Guide 2020

click to enlarge Forget ESPN. Coeur d'Alene has turtle racing. - ERICK DOXEY PHOTO
Erick Doxey photo
Forget ESPN. Coeur d'Alene has turtle racing.


When every competitor is slow and steady, there's no telling who will win the race. Every Friday at 10 pm at Crafted Tap House + Kitchen in Coeur d'Alene, six turtles put it all on the line. For guts. For glory. The patrons place their bets — and with it, the chance of winning a $1 pint of the selected beer. And then, they're off, the reptilian equivalents of Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt, heroes in half-shells, cool but rude — and for 15 seconds the world fades away into a blur of testudines and testosterone. It's neck and neck! It's "M.F. Jones" by a claw! And the crowd goes wild!


It's basic science: Many facts are fun, but no facts are as fun as animal facts. The West Valley Outdoor Learning Center is a great place to introduce your kids to all sorts of neat animals, like owls and red-tailed hawks and snakes and tortoises and frogs. And while the coronavirus has shut down in-person visits for now, they've been streaming Facebook videos on awesome stuff like "Woodpeckers" and "Insects," usually on most Fridays at 11 am. They're even open to setting up individual appointments to teach your kid about their awesome animals directly over Zoom.


Prepare for the possibility of another stay-home order by bringing the animals to you. Build a bird feeder or — if it's been too long since middle school woodshop — buy one at your local hardware store. If nothing else, it will keep the cat interested.


Of all the rodents, beavers are the most badass. Rats may have changed history, but beavers change topography. So the summer is the perfect time to pick up local beaver expert Ben Goldfarb's book Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, and then walk over to Gonzaga University's Lake Arthur to try to spy one of the critters yourself.

"I've actually been meaning to organize a beaver vigil down there one of these nights," Goldfarb tells me.

If you're lucky, and it's dusk, you may see a beaver gliding gracefully through the water or waddling comically on land.

Everyone is king at Cat Tales. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Everyone is king at Cat Tales.


When Tiger King hit Netflix, it opened up the floodgates of people wondering how, exactly, they could become a Tiger King themselves. Unfortunately, the costs are quite prohibitive. A visit to Spokane County's Cat Tales — which features not only Siberian and Bengal tigers, but also bears and a lion — is the next best thing. For now, Cat Tales — like many local wildlife-viewing spots — is still officially closed in Washington state. But there's a good chance Washington will hit Phase 3 later in the summer and Cat Tales will open again. Stay turned to cattales.org.


The problem with hikes, nature walks and other wild-animal spotting behavior is a simple one. They require walking. Walking is exhausting. And thanks to three months of COVID-shutdown-related gym closures, we're staggeringly out of shape. So how can you see a bunch of animals while barely walking at all?

Two words: People's Park. Drive west down Riverside until you hit the park next to the Sandifur Bridge crossing, not far from downtown. It's less than 100 feet to a trail down to the creek by the road embankment. First, stop by the large white bushy tree, where you'll find a bunch of buzzing bees (and so far, very few murder hornets). I like to grab a few killer pics of non-killer bees with my telephoto camera lens.

And as soon as you hit the Hangman Creek, you can look to your left to see a horde of swallows flittering about underneath the Riverside bridge crossing. In the river, see the ducks gaze at the geese and — hopefully — spot an adorably little squadron of goslings.

But you aren't there for those, are you? No, you're here for the main event. I don't even have to say it. Go ahead. Cross under the bridge and find a pack of marmots scurrying about at your feet, sunning themselves on the rocks, poking their heads up from their marmot-holes, staring at you with a cocked head as if to say, "Why so glum, chum?"

Well, the pandemic, to start with. And the whole racial inequity thing. But you, marmot? There's nothing wrong with you at all.

In the Inland Northwest, you need not travel far to appreciate nature. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
Daniel Walters photo
In the Inland Northwest, you need not travel far to appreciate nature.


If you thought the name of the coffee shop on Friends, "Central Perk," was hilarious, you will double-over laughing at Central Bark, the aptly named 1.8-acre dog park on Nez Perce Road in Coeur d'Alene. And after your dog gets done running around sniffing all the dog butts he could ever dream of, you can donate $30 dollars to support Coeur d'Alene's dog parks and show off your own pet-related wordplay by getting your dog's name inscribed on an engraved brass bone, whether it be "Sir Yips-A-Lot," "Wags Benedict," "General James Mattis" or "Spaniel Walters."

Your contribution will be displayed in the park's "Paw-villion." ♦