to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in. - John Muir
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t's easy to have guilt-free, jamming summer fun around here even as gasoline tops $3 a gallon and major oil companies hunt down the last pockets of hydrocarbons in wilderness areas and sea beds.
That's because there's an astounding variety of hike/bike and canoe/kayak opportunities close to home. Even so, using your car or truck to reach these areas is even better with a couple of friends buckled in. Finding that great adventure within a 150-mile radius can be better when it's shared and will also do much for the planet and your wallet.
Before we join Muir "going in" to the natural world, consider what "comes out" when we do.
Yeah, there are ugly realities: Go a thousand miles in your 10 mpg Ford Excursion and expect 2,500 pounds of CO2 to be pumped into the atmosphere; or just puttering around using 20 gallons in your Wave Runner dumps 500 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air.
So what do we do? Well, cycling to Dishman Hills or Riverside State Park's Bowl and Pitcher for a couple of cool summer urban interface hikes might do you and the planet good. Here's an optimistically green statistic -- putting an outlandish 1,000 miles on your bicycle, using the equivalent of 22 pounds of rice in the form of carbohydrates, puts a measly 32 pounds of CO2 in the air.
Carpooling and limiting your reach are two rules of thumb for adding a few more "green points" to your summertime fun.
And, man, do we have easy-to-get-to outdoor venues in our area: Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge; Dishman Hills Recreation Area; the Little Spokane Natural River area; even Noisy Creek at Sullivan Lake.
Up front, I want to make it clear that many times since locating here five years ago, I've threatened to take out my old Nikons, don my worn-down hiking boots -- with kayak or canoe at the ready -- and go out and do the real "near nature, near perfect" photo shoot for a jiffy coffee table book on Spokane's eco-fun opportunities. Plus, there's all those kooky people I've met in the great outdoors with spiked hair, mullets and piercings in unmentionable areas, people who I actually witnessed being transformed by the osprey floating just above them on the Spokane River right below SFCC. Or paddling by the moose and calf up to their knees in the Little Spokane near Indian Painted Rocks.
"Stay local and dream global" is my mantra for summertime fun in the Inland Northwest.
Turnbull Wildlife Refuge & r & Channeled scablands -- 16,000 acres of them, just west of Spokane near Cheney. There's a five-mile automobile loop that gets the wanderer into this unique wildlife area of marshes and wetlands and diverse ecosystems. It's right in our neck of the woods, and you don't have to travel to Tierra del Fuego to get that same desolate beauty.
The Columbia Plateau Trail runs through the refuge, and you can bike it, hike it or do it mounted on horseback. To amp up the feel good/feel green aura, the public is encouraged to get sweaty undertaking many community service projects. These include trail maintenance, riparian planting, site maintenance and weed control. And special Turnbull Refuge events are occasionally organized for the public, including bird walks, night hikes and tours. Visit www.fws.gov/turnbull
Columbia Plateau Trail & r & Isolation, demarcated by geographic up-thrusts on all points of the compass -- that's what the Columbia Plateau is all about. The trail was a railroad corridor built by James J. Hill in 1908 to link Spokane to Portland. With the rails gone, it's become a rails-to-trails scheme with a variegated 32 miles from Spokane to Fish Lake, Cheney, Amber Lake and Martin Road. The trailhead is just west of the intersection of Highway 195 and 16th Avenue.
It's a scrubby, basalt-laden area that requires water and food in the summer. But again, with friends, the isolation might bring you a conversation with white-tailed deer and red-tail hawks.
& lt;ul & & lt;li & Spokane to Fish Lake: 10 miles & lt;/li & & lt;li & Fish Lake to Cheney: 3.75 miles; hilly & lt;/li & & lt;li & Cheney to Amber Lake: 11.75 miles; basalt with ponds and lakes & lt;/li & & lt;li & Amber Lake to Martin Road: 7.5 miles; funky basalt and plenty of deer & lt;/li & & lt;/ul &
The Little Spokane & r & Among the great things about Spokane is that wild gems are sometimes right down the road from pizza joints, malls and cruising mini-vans. Take, for example, the Little Spokane River nature area. This is almost 2,000 acres managed by the state and the county; the river section, open for floating and paddling, covers seven meandering, rapturous miles. I've seen beaver, mink, muskrat, plenty of giant blue herons (a rookery is nestled among the hefty cottonwoods), moose, white-tailed and mule deer, raccoon and plenty of flora, fish and songbirds.
Yeah, this wildlife float risks being inundated by polluting human visitors, but the low-impact green paddler can assist in encouraging miscreants not to litter, swim or use inner tubes, and to keep booze and radios out of the scene. You can put in at Waikiki Road, near St. George's School, and, after floating the entire length, take out at Highway 291. And the motto of Washington State Parks is so apropos: "Leave no trace."
A slow, observant float takes three hours. Read up on early history to get a sense of what it was like for David Thompson and his guide Jaco Finlay more than 200 years ago when they paddled this river to kill beaver and muskrat. Visit www.riversidestatepark.org/little_spokane.htm.
John Muir, Inc. & r & One of the basic tenets of Sierra Club founder John Muir is that we should protect nature, but not without venturing out into it and becoming enraptured by it. Creating one's own land narrative is easy with the Sierra Club's Northern Rockies Chapter. Comprised of five regional groups -- Upper Columbia River, Palouse, Middle Snake, Sawtooth and East Idaho chapters -- the NRC works hard to connect those of us living in Idaho and Eastern Washington with some great outings and ways to become advocates for our region. After all, it's as varied ecologically as any part of the lower 48.
Contact Chase Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jessica Ruehrwein at email@example.com for some tips. They'll offer information about trips to wild places, but also ways to become active in preserving wildlife corridors, cleaning up campsites and riverbanks, and uprooting invasive plants like knapweed.
DON'T MISS & r & North of us in Idaho, we have 10 easy to moderate hikes hosted by the SELKIRK CONSERVATION ALLIANCE out of Sandpoint. (And they're all free.) These Saturday hikes -- June 1 through Aug. 26 -- get you to vistas of Priest Lake and into or near beaver ponds, ancient cedar groves, and waterfalls and gorges. For more information on these day hikes, contact Barbara Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There's another "wild" gem in urban Spokane County -- LIBERTY LAKE PARK's 3,000 acres, where 16 miles of trails get a hiker traipsing through some secluded and near pristine "backcountry." There are camping spots on a first-come, first-occupied basis. And it's run by our own Spokane County Parks department. For details, visit www.spokanecounty.org/parklisting
Two different guide books from the Upper Columbia River group of the Sierra Club offer printed maps, directions, and details on MORE THAN 50 HIKES. The "green" guide gives insider tips on hikes in the Spokane region, Northern Rockies, Wenaha-Tucannon and Mallard-Larkins areas. The "white" guide hooks the hiker up with the ins and outs of hikes on Mount Spokane, in the Kettle Range and in northeast Washington and North Idaho. The guides are available at Auntie's Bookstore or from the Sierra Club. Contact: email@example.com.