by THE INLANDER STAFF & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & Y & lt;/span & eah, gas prices are a huge bummer -- but don't let that sad fact wreck your summer! You hold in your hands the key to your sunshine salvation -- The Inlander's Summer Guide, scientifically proven to inject fun into the next 12 weeks of your life. Throughout this section, you'll find thousands of things to do that are right here in your own big, beautiful backyard. In fact, some are so distinctively Northwestern, that you couldn't find them anyplace else even if you had a Hummer with a magically refilling gas tank. But if get away you must, we've picked some choice close-by places -- and even calculated your gas bill for you. Inside these pages, you'll also meet our "summer people." Go ahead and be inspired to do what they're doing and plan a great summer!

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& lt;li & & lt;a href="#water" & WATER & lt;/a & & lt;/li &

& lt;li & & lt;a href="#music" & MUSIC & lt;/a & & lt;/li &

& lt;li & & lt;a href="#kids" & KIDS & lt;/a & & lt;/li &

& lt;li & & lt;a href="#outdoors" & OUTDOORS & lt;/a & & lt;/li &

& lt;li & & lt;a href="#urban" & URBAN & lt;/a & & lt;/li &

& lt;li & & lt;a href="#theater" & THEATER & lt;/a & & lt;/li &

& lt;li & & lt;a href="#sports" & SPORTS & lt;/a & & lt;/li &

& lt;li & & lt;a href="#food" & FOOD & lt;/a & & lt;/li &

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& lt;a name="water" & 2008 SUMMER GUIDE TO WATER & lt;/a &

stories by KEVIN TAYLOR

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Distinctively NW - St. Joe River

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & e missed, by a mere five days, Free Fishing Day in Idaho -- but it appears that, even so, yanking trout out of the St. Joe River won't take a cleaver to your paycheck.

In fact, the experience may well be priceless.

Tim Egan, Spokane native and National Book Award-winning author who spent years chronicling the Northwest for the New York Times, waxed especially poetic about the St. Joe in a NYT essay last summer.

In what he called "the Big Empty" of north-central Idaho, Egan wrote:

"I drove once until there was no more road, and then hiked, with two of my brothers, until there was no more trail. Like leprechauns at rainbow's end, we found a deep pool at the base of a waterfall, hard by a grove of ancient cedars. We caught fish until our arms were tired, and then watched the night sky theatrics. There was river music, white noise for sleep. And I promised never to tell the exact location. This was in the upper reaches of the St. Joe River -- that's all I'm able to say."

Well, that's saying plenty. There's no need to find the Egans' exact spot to have a magical moment on the St. Joe. Taking off from the river's mouth at St. Maries until the end of the winding road beyond Avery at Spruce Tree Campground, the St. Joe lures an astonishingly thin sprinkling of anglers, rafters and paddlers to commingle with its abundance of fat trout.

The St. Joe is lined with eight Forest Service campgrounds and plenty of undeveloped spots available for camping.

Paddlers gather to run rapids and play in the currents at Marble Creek and many spots in the Upper St. Joe, describing a river so diverse that some members of a group can play in Class II rapids while, nearby, others more daring can sport in Class III-verging-on-IV rapids.

The twisting fast water is also a siren call for rafting. Last winter's heavy snow pack and slow release in a cold spring still have the St. Joe running at high levels.

"We've delayed our start on the St. Joe to June 14. Normally we start May 17," says Peter Grubb of ROW Adventures in Coeur d'Alene. Grubb, a commercial rafting pioneer on the St. Joe, says the exciting tradeoff will be riding the sort of wild water typical of cold springtime in the great midsummer temperatures of June and July.

Summer People - Whitewater Kayaker - Liberty Hoffer

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & iberty Hoffer is a Spokane Valley kid-become-physician's assistant with a big, frequent laugh as bracing and delightful as a plunge into an ice-cold river. Which is not surprising since she takes great delight in what is known as play boating on the Spokane River. "There are days when I think, 'Hmmm, what am I going to do today? I'll just go down to the river and see who shows up!" Hoffer says, once again launching her delightful laugh.

What does this year's high runoff mean for you?

It means it's going to be a fun summer! Normally on the Spokane River we get a month of no water. This year I suspect we will have water all the way through summer, and we won't have to leave here in order to continue paddling.

How do you characterize the river?

Our river is really an undiscovered mecca because we have play spots at almost every (flow) level.

So I should destroy these notes?

(big laugh) I know! It's tough ... but I always encourage people to enjoy and get out on the river.

The river is actually many rivers, changing with flow levels?

Absolutely. Right now, the river is at 35,000 cubic feet per second and we are playing at Dead Dog Hole (at the state line bridge). From about 22,000 cfs we will go to Corbin Park (near Post Falls) where there is a big standing wave.

Name some other play spots... and tricks.

There is the Trailer Park Wave below Post Falls Dam, the Mini-Climax Wave, the Zoo Wave near the old Walk in the Wild Zoo. And there can be funny names for tricks like Phonics Monkey and Tricky Woo.

Who can help a novice?

EWU's program is called Epic Adventures, there is Flow Adventures, Peak 7. The Northwest Whitewater Association and the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club are great resources as well.


Swim and Splash

A wonderful annual tradition -- as much circus as contest -- is the LONG BRIDGE SWIM (Aug. 2), which covers nearly two miles of chilly Lake Pend Oreille alongside the bridge that spans Dover Bay connecting Sagle to Sandpoint. MUNICIPAL POOLS are temples to stress-busting cannonballs and the din of happy summer children. Pools in Spokane Valley open June 14, and Spokane's on June 18. In Spokane, new splash pads are expected to debut midsummer at five parks -- Thornton Murphy, Audubon, Chief Garry, Coeur d'Alene and Friendship.

Feel Like a Voyageur

The days of a long river expedition aren't over. There's an opportunity next month to paddle or raft the 120-mile length of the Spokane River -- from Lake Coeur d'Alene to the Upper Columbia -- and then journal about it just like Lewis. Or Clark. Only with better speleing. The SPOKANE RIVER FORUM RAFT AND PADDLE TRIP, designed to be an eye-opener in many ways, launches at Coeur d'Alene July 11-13 and concludes July 18-21 (register at The trip is intended to expose participants to the river in all its range -- from the industrial and urban to the pastoral and beautiful. Paddlers are expected to record and share their observations, which will become part of a community dialogue on the river's future.

Stomping Loch Monsters

All famous lakes have legendary monsters. Sadly, Hauser is so shallow that its only chance at a legendary monster would be something in the guise of a flounder, which (even a legendary one) tends not to rile up much adrenaline. Ah, but all that will change July 12 when entrants in the DUKES OF HAUSER wakeboarding contest will be bouncing some monster tricks in the first of the summer's Inland Empire Wakeboard Series. Three Fine Fellows, a nonprofit group looking to create some grassroots fun, is setting up a three-event wakeboard series -- with cash prizes -- in categories from beginner to expert. The second summer event is the BUTTER STOMP July 26 during Down River Days at Ione.

Cool Water Tricks

PLAY BOATING combines the tricks of wakeboarding with the self-propulsion of a stubby whitewater kayak. All comers are welcome to surf standing waves or cartwheel through holes in the Spokane River during WEDNESDAY NIGHT PADDLES. Meet-up is usually at 5:30 in Mirabeau Park. Or check into THURSDAY NIGHT PADDLES for flat-water kayakers. See the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club ( for details.


(From Spokane: 200 miles/four hours | Round-Trip Cost: 20mpg, $4/gallon, $80)

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & K & lt;/span & ootenay Lake, long, narrow and glacially formed, resembles a fjord as it runs for 90 miles between the Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges just a few hours north of Spokane.

The mountains flanking the lake - especially the snow-capped peaks at its northern reaches -- can rise to 9,000 feet and make for a spectacular setting. The glacial carving has left an intricate shoreline with numerous feeder creeks, tiny bays and beaches.

The lake offers good fishing for kokanee, bull trout (often called Dolly Vardens by locals) and rainbows -- including the world's largest species of rainbow trout. This "genetically gargantuan strain," according to a Canadian wildlife Website, can be bigger than your kids at 4 feet to 5 feet long. The biggest of these fish, however, are usually hooked in winter.

There is a string of small towns running up the more remote east side of the lake where a traveler can find fishing excursions and camping as well as other accommodations.

Aside from the cold depths of the lake itself, there are plenty of hot springs in the area -- most famously Ainsworth Hot Springs on the western side of Kootenay Lake.

No roads circumnavigate the lake, but a free car ferry offers an excellent way to kick back and cross from one side of Kootenay to the other. Run year-round by the British Columbia Ministry of Highways, the ferry is billed as the longest and most scenic free ferry crossing in the world.

The provincial Website touting it says, "The trip between Balfour, on the lake's West Arm, to Kootenay Bay, on the eastern shore, offers million-dollar views of the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains that frame the waterway."

Ferries leave every 50 minutes in summer, 20 hours a day. Foot passengers are welcome, so it's a great opportunity for a scenic cruise.

Visitors can also pitch in to charter a vessel and guided history tour of the lake from Kootenay Lake Heritage Boat Tours. Exploring the lake by kayak and canoe is also popular.

For atypical lodging there is the Tara Shanti Lodge, which is near a renowned yoga retreat and study center, Yasodhara Ashram. Also, there is a tipi camp with boat-only access on the unroaded Pilot Peninsula.

And Kaslo has a big jazz festival every summer, this year Aug. 1-3 -- the music stage actually floats on Kootenay Lake.

It's a good idea to travel with passports, even though they won't officially be needed to cross back into the U.S. until next summer. Travelers will need birth certificates and photo ID. It helps to have custody papers or a note from the other parent if you are a divorced parent traveling with kids.

& lt;a name="music" & 2008 SUMMER GUIDE TO MUSIC & lt;/a &


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Distinctively NW - The Gorge

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t's become one of the great clich & eacute;s of summer. As soon as the weather warms and summer concert season hits, you start seeing the stories. In the arts sections of local papers, in the getaway sections of regional papers, in the travel sections of national papers, in a select few glossy music magazines.

"Holy shit, Boiseans (or New Yorkers or Waukeganians)," declare these stories, "did you know there's this totally awesome amphitheater in Middle of Nowhere, Washington State?" They're right to point it out, of course. The Gorge is a great mega-venue set on one of the more breathtaking promontories in America. It's the kind of place that, because of the strangeness and violence of the region's geologic formation, is truly distinctive to the Inland Northwest.

It's such a big deal, though, that Eastern Washingtonians hardly need be reminded of its existence. We'll never forget it's there, so why mention it here? Well, after two straight summers of sparse, lackluster shows, the more discerning among us will probably need to be reconvinced of its relevance.

Especially given the distance. And the heat. And the booze prices. And the no-re-entry nonsense forcing goers to pay those booze prices. And the accommodations, always host to loud, orgiastic break-of-dawn parties. (Granted, that last bit is probably as much a draw for some as a drawback for others.)

If you need reconvincing, this summer might do it. The Gorge is in fine form. After the massive success of the Sasquatch! indie rock festival to kick off the season, the slate remains solid through Labor Day and a little beyond, offering a nice mix of 30-band festival action and big-name, big-ticket-price draws.

In the latter category, it's going to be hard to justify not seeing the Police and Elvis Costello on July 12 or Tom Petty August 15 and 16. Steve Miller and Joe Cocker on August 2 and Jack Johnson on August 22 will be well-attended shows as well. Dave Matthews' three-day Labor Day stand (Aug. 29-31) sells out in hours.

But the best date of the year in our humble opinions, though, is the Rock the Bells hip-hop festival just after summer on Sept. 6, featuring A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Mos Def, Wale, the Cool Kids and Spank Rock, among others.

The Great Nearby - Anacortes

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & h, Anacortes. The crown of Skagit County. Gateway to the San Juans. Possessor of a quaint working waterfront. Home to an extensive park system and one of the West Coast's richest beds of eelgrass. Just down the road from Mount Vernon and its beloved Tulip Festival. It's such a pleasant little seaside town that absurdly close-by towns like Sidney, B.C. (47 miles as the ferry floats) want to become sister cities with it. Anacortes -- being the welcoming place it is -- lets them.

Seriously though, Anacortes is a nice little seabreeze-swept town. Salty and sleepy. Because of its locale, Anacortes is a good home base for a summer vacation day tripping around northern Puget Sound. It's an almost unbelievably awesome place for live music. Especially if you have a particular fondness for quirky folk and critically adored indie rock.

Phil Elverum, front man of Mt. Eerie and the Microphones, makes the town his year-round home. Tons of other well-known indie artists -- especially his label-mates on K Records -- make frequent trips.

The town is also home to the Department of Safety (DoS), a-fire-station-turned-art-space that houses, among other things, a kickass all ages venue and a 'zine library. There are living spaces for a few people, which lends a collectivist vibe. Begun in 2002, the compound functions like a non-profit but, in true rock fashion, has never bothered to codify its existence with anything as cloying (or tax burden-reducing) as 501(c)(3) status. It plays host to a staggering amount of good music throughout the year.

For maximum joi de rock, hit town July 18-20 to catch What The Heck Fest, a three-day, 26-band event at the DoS. Mt. Eerie, Calvin Johnson, Karl Blau, the Oregon Donor, Lucky Dragons and Kimya Dawson will all appear.

Given her music's prominence in a certain ubiquitous 2007 indie film, you probably know Kimya Dawson's work even if you don't know her name. Remember every cutesy little twee-pop song you loved on the Juno soundtrack -- the one with the line "I never met a Toby that I didn't like," the one about the roller coaster, even the one sung at the end by lead actors Ellen Page and Michael Cera? Those were all written by Dawson. She's pretty rad.

SUMMER PEOPLE - Singer, Songwriter, Pianist - Hannah Reader

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & o you just moved here from L.A. What are you excited about doing this summer?

I want to go camping! I've never been camping before. I was in the Girl Scouts for a second ... and kinda got kicked out. We went to Yosemite, but that wasn't camping. That was terrible. I want to sleep in a tent and go fishing and go swimming.

Have you ever been fishing?

My dad would take me, mostly up to Pyramid Lake [a reservoir in L.A. County]. River fishing is my favorite, though. It's much more exciting.

What are some places you're going to go?

I don't know, my brother does. [Drummer and collaborator] Robby Hattenburg knows a lot of trails. I'm probably just going to follow someone into the woods.

So sleeping in a tent, fishing and, what, swimming?

Yeah! Swimming. But everyone's saying the lake is so cold.

You know that when a Spokanite talks about "the lake," they aren't necessarily talking about a particular lake. It's like saying "on vacation."

Ha! I guess when people say "the lake" I just picture a generic lake in my head and think, "yeah, that lake in my head is probably still really cold."

Any lake in particular you're excited about?

I went to Priest Lake when it was all frozen and snowy and it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. People say it's just as beautiful in the summer.

Anything else you're excited for?

Oh, I hear there's some sort of pygmy goat farm*? That's right there with swimming on my list.

Is it above swimming or below?

Well, maybe I can go swimming with a pygmy goat, then I wouldn't have to choose.

*We found a couple places with pygmy goats, the closest being Scabrock Critters in Valleyford.


Pre-Hoopfest Pop

The Knitting Factory (formerly the Big Easy) has a pretty solid slate of pop and rock coming to town in its inaugural summer. The week preceeding Hoopfest is especially good. SNOOP DOGG (and, no doubt, his spiritual advisor) returns June 21, the REVEREND HORTON HEAT and NASHVILLE PUSSY come June 25, and the DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS hit town a day later.

A Musical Summer at Maryhill

After a year off, Maryhill's concert series resumes and, as might be expected from a winery located 120 miles from anywhere, is aimed at aging, mobile oenophiles. Boomers, basically. The best show of their season, Crosby, Stills & amp; Nash (which happened last week) certainly fits the bill, as does Blues legend B.B. KING (who also plays at Northern Quest Casino on the Fourth of July). Don't be surprised, though, if there's a mini-invasion of hipsters in attendance for MICHAEL MCDONALD, one of the anchors of the Yacht Rock movement of the late '70s and '80s -- a genre coined in hindsight that has developed an odd following amongst certain 20-somethings.

Variety at the Festival at Sandpoint

It ain't as big as last year, no, but then the 26th anniversary ain't nearly as big as the 25th. There's still a lot to like at the event, like SMOKEY ROBINSON on opening night, for example, and BRETT DENNEN the night after. ZIGGY MARLEY plays Friday, Aug. 15 to please the town's sizeable reggae contingent. WYNONNA will play one night later, satisfying the town's pop country fans (a group we couldn't even guess the size of). As always, the festival is trucking in Maestro Gary Sheldon to anchor the final night with the SPOKANE SYMPHONY.

Rock Out at Pig Out

There's usually one big national act anchoring the five dozen or so other acts (mostly local) -- as well as the gluttony -- of Pig Out. This year it's the incomparable balladeer of busted dirt road dreams, LUCINDA WILLIAMS. "America's best songwriter" (at least in the eyes of Time magazine), Williams' voice bears the gravel of hard living. Her songs bear its profound insights. Her most recent album, 2007's West, chronicles what the songwriter called, "the most prolific time in my life as a writer." The album garnered a ton of critical praise and also landed Williams her highest Billboard charting, debuting at No. 14.

& lt;a name="kids" & 2008 SUMMER GUIDE TO KIDS & lt;/a &

stories by TED S. McGREGOR JR.

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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & alt Disney dreamed up some great theme parks -- parks that have expanded to include elaborate waterslides, cuddly characters and a continually changing set of thrill rides. The only trouble is he didn't build one near us. So you can hop a flight, rent a hotel and buy your little one a $56 day pass to Disneyland -- or you can just make the short drive up to Silverwood and get a real day at a theme park for $20 per kid (ages 3-7). Garfield will even be there to greet you.

And now, starting its third decade, the Victorian mining town theme park has approached Disney status. It's already the biggest theme park in the Northwest -- and the top tourist attraction in all of Idaho, beating out even Sun Valley. It's also already home to not one but two world-class roller coasters -- the Timber Terror and Tremors, the first to take you underground. But that's not enough -- sometime in July, the brand-new Aftershock coaster is set to open. And last year, Silverwood doubled the size of Boulder Beach, its water park that has become a major draw during those searing summer days.

Maybe Silverwood has been such a success because it's the brainchild of another grown-up kid in the Walt Disney mold. Founder and owner Gary Norton started out as a collector of vintage airplanes. When he bought a 1915 steam engine at an auction, he did what any self-respecting Imagineer would do -- he built a theme park around it. He surrounded his railroad track with a small-scale Victorian Main Street, mimicking nearby Wallace. Then, piece by piece over 20 years, he built the 65 rides and attractions that have drawn more than 6 million visitors since 1988. If somebody sidles up to you and asks what you think of the park, it could be Norton -- still seeking to make it better.

"To me, it's the quality of the experience," Norton says. "You need to walk in the gates and make it feel like you're in a different space and time."

Silverwood is open daily all summer, with late-night hours throughout July and August (9 pm on weeknights and 10 pm on weekends; Boulder Beach closes at 7 pm). Day passes are $37 (age 8 and older). Parking: $4.

SUMMER PEOPLE - Actual Kids - Alex (9), Jay (5) and Carson (7)

So are you guys, like, brothers or something?

Alex: Of course we are.

Do your parents let you have any fun in the summer?

Alex: Yep, a lot of fun.

Carson: Sometimes they don't -- they make us do chores.

So other than chores, what's it like being a kid these days -- pretty fun, huh?

All: Uh-huh!

You know, I was a kid once, but back in my day we didn't have all these fancy video games -- we had Pong!

Carson: What's Pong?

Next question: What's the first word that pops into your head when I say "summer"?

Alex: Friends.

Carson: Friends.

That's what he said...

Carson: OK, do it again.

Fine. What's the first word that pops into your head when I say "summer"?

Carson: Vacation!

Jay: Puppet!

Puppet? That doesn't even mean anything...

Jay: It did! It just popped in my head!

What's your favorite thing to do in the summer?

Carson: I know! I know! What's the question again?

Jay: Play squirt guns.

Plan on playing any sports this summer?

Jay: Soccer -- 'cause I can kick it really hard.

What else are you going to do with all that free time?

Alex: Ride bikes. Probably go to the lake or something -- oh, and play the Wii. But I don't want to waste my summer watching too much TV. You can play outside longer in the summer.

Jay: We have a secret clubhouse -- even though the girls always find us anyway.

Are girls allowed?

Jay: No! We don't like girls.

Carson: I would like to have a sleepover -- and a lemonade stand.

Moving on ... OK, some grown-ups want to have school all year-round -- so what do you think about that?

Alex: Never!

You can say that, but you little blokes can't even vote yet, so too bad...

Jay: Aaaaaiiii!!


Patriotism by the Lake

Kids love a parade -- the clowns, the candy, the little flags. And nothing says small-town America like a genuine Fourth of July Parade. Here in the Inland Northwest, downtown Coeur d'Alene has a doozy (this year on Friday, July 4, at 11 am), with live music to follow. And if you're already at the Lake City's waterfront, you've got a front-row seat for one of the region's best fireworks displays, shot up over the lake when night falls just beyond the Coeur d'Alene Resort.


If you want to open your kids' horizons to local history, there are three different events planned to recall the region's early and pioneer years. Spokane House was one of the most important crossroads for the earliest visitors, the fur trappers, and along the Spokane River at Riverside State Park's Spokane House Interpretive Center there's a FUR TRADE ENCAMPMENT on July 12-13. Re-enactors in full costume (and character) camp out to show how those voyageurs survived on the frontier. They'll shoot their flintlocks and show off old-time crafts. And over in Cataldo, Idaho, at the Old Mission -- the state's oldest building, completed in 1853 -- there's a HISTORIC SKILLS FAIR, also on July 12-13, which spans even to the late 1800s; there'll be period music, crafts for sale and food, too. Later, also at Old Mission State Park, the MOUNTAIN MAN RENDEZVOUS is set for Aug. 15. This one focuses on the life of those rugged explorers from the early 1800s, with re-enactors bringing that era back to life.

Aahh... air conditioning

And while a day in the sun is great (especially after this winter), it can be too much of a good thing. Sometimes there's nothing like a trip to an air-conditioned theater to keep the kids occupied for an afternoon. Hollywood puts out its best kids fare in the summer, starting this year with KUNG FU PANDA, featuring the already animated vocal talents of Jack Black (pictured). As an added bonus, you can see it on the really, really big screen at IMAX. And opening June 27, it's Pixar's latest offering, Wall-E, about a little robot with big dreams.


(From Spokane: 400 miles/seven hours | Round-Trip Cost: 20mpg, $4/gallon, $160)

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n the 1950s, an odd kid shuffled the streets of little Shelby, Montana. Unlike his friends, who liked to fish and hunt, he dug holes in the ground. He liked looking at pictures in books, but the words seemed like hieroglyphics. When he flunked out of the University of Montana, he learned he was dyslexic.

Today any parent would be worried sick, but that kid kept dreaming of the distant past. Lucky for him, he lived on top of one of the world's biggest dinosaur graveyards.

Jack Horner, who found his first fossil at 8, still has a hard time reading, but he's now one of the world's top paleontologists. In 1986, still lacking that college degree, he won a MacArthur genius grant. But your kids will be impressed about the other Grant -- Alan Grant, the star of Jurassic Park. Horner was the model for Grant and technical advisor on all three films.

This summer, visit the house that Jack built -- the Museum of the Rockies' Dinosaur Complex, the best of 13 different dinosaur museums in the Big Sky State. And for the trip, grab a copy of Digging Up Dinosaurs -- a book Horner wrote for kids.

"A lot of museums treat their dinosaur collections like stamps," says the museum's Jamie Cornish. "'OK, we have triceratops -- check.' Our curator, Jack Horner, wants to know how dinosaurs really lived. He wants as many triceratops [specimens] as he can."

Along with three grand dinosaur halls, visitors can watch Horner and his students as they search for an intact T. rex for the Smithsonian; the museum will feature live Webcasts from the digs all summer.

You can spend a day among the dinosaurs, and the museum also has a working pioneer farm and an exhibit of movie costumes, featuring Star Wars gear, Indiana Jones' whip and even the Wicked Witch's hat.

Bozeman, just 90 minutes from two different entrances to Yellowstone Park, is a great vacation base -- there's river rafting on the Gallatin and Yellowstone rivers, and hiking for all ages among the waterfalls in Highlight Canyon.

Moms and dads will enjoy exploring perhaps the hippest city in Montana. It's definitely come a long way from its Wild West roots, when it was founded in the 1860s as a pit stop between Virginia City and the Oregon Trail. The food has improved, too: For a meal to remember, try the Gallatin River Lodge, where you can watch deer frolic and where bison steak is always on the menu. And everybody loves Mackenzie River Pizza, a Montana institution that started right in Bozeman.

& lt;a name="outdoors" & 2008 SUMMER GUIDE TO OUTDOORS & lt;/a &

stories by MICK LLOYD-OWEN

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DISTINCTIVELY NW - Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & R & lt;/span & emember: Happiness is a journey, not a destination. And for those who prefer that journey on two wheels, it doesn't get any better than the Inland Northwest.

Winding across almost the entire span of the panhandle of North Idaho -- 73 miles long -- is a 10-foot-wide ribbon of asphalt for your biking and sightseeing pleasure: The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. It starts at Mullan, near the border with Montana, and snakes through the Silver Valley to Plummer, just south of Lake Coeur d'Alene. It's closed to motorized vehicles and is free to use. The trail is surrounded by lush mountain scenery, skirts several lakes and follows rivers, creeks and streams for some stretches. Wildlife in the area is abundant.

Hmmmm... North Idaho. Hills. Long bike ride. Sound intimidating? Keep in mind that the bike trail is laid on top of an old Union Pacific railroad bed, and that train tracks are engineered with very low grades. This one was used to haul silver ore out of the mountains beginning late in the 19th century.

"The trail is pretty much flat," says Lonni Johnson, a park manager with the state of Idaho who manages the portion of the trail between Mullan and Harrison. "We see little kids on bikes with training wheels all the time. It's very user friendly," he says. "We're seeing a big influx of roller bladers now, because it's a nice flat grade." He also points out that there are many access points and trailheads along the path, so no one need commit to the whole length of it. Private and public camping areas are available. (Note: An 80-foot section of the trail outside Harrison, near the Springston trail head, was washed out due to flooding and is currently closed.)

As the weather breaks in the spring, the trail is a popular training spot for contenders in Coeur d'Alene's Ironman triathlon.

"After you have ridden this trail, all others in America may be at best second rate," says one reviewer of the trail on an outdoors Website, claiming he saw moose in the hills and trout swimming in crystal clear water.

Union Pacific still actually owns the trail, but it is maintained by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation in conjunction with the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. Johnson says that the state and the tribe hope Union Pacific will sign over ownership of the trail in the near future.

THE GREAT NEARBY - Glacier National Park

(From Spokane: 275 miles/four-and-a-half hours | Round-Trip Cost: 20mpg, $4/gallon, $110)

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & G & lt;/span & laciers might be slow, but they do really good work when it comes to sculpting cool landscapes. Case in point: Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana.

The park encompasses more than a million acres of pristine wilderness with rugged mountains that the Blackfeet called "the backbone of the world." The glaciers have waned and waxed over the past 15,000 years, but they've been steadily receding for 150. They're expected to vanish altogether by the year 2030. "At last count, there were 26 glaciers [remaining]," says Melissa Wilson, park spokesperson.

But the ice rivers have done their job, slowly carving out the distinctive, dramatic U-shaped valleys, cirques and lake formations that give the park its name and character. A dozen large lakes and hundreds of smaller ones mottle the landscape. There are 200 waterfalls, and seven mountains taller than 10,000 feet -- the altitude at which aircraft require pressurized cabins. The park is also home to the massive Lewis Overthrust, the result of an ancient tectonic upheaval that displaced older rocks over newer ones.

More than 700 miles of hiking trails web the area, providing options for all ability levels. Wilson says the park gets about 90 percent of its visitors in the summer, many of whom come simply to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 50-mile scenic drive on a mountainside road described as an "engineering marvel." Wilson says that, as of last year, a shuttle services the road so visitors can relax and enjoy the scenery. It's included in the entrance fee: $25 per vehicle for seven consecutive days, or $12 per person for single entrants. Adventurers can participate in ranger-led programs such as day hikes, evening campfire talks and boat cruises, or they can get a permit to go camping in the backcountry. Permits are $30 and they help the rangers keep track of who's where in a vast wilderness with a real live population of bears and wolves. Campers will be concisely educated about the realities of bear country, Wilson says, before they are turned loose.

"We have wildlife here, and we want to keep everyone safe," she says. "Not only the visitors, but the animals as well. A fed bear is a dead bear -- it will have to be removed from our ecosystem."

CAN'T MISS - Outdoors

Buns for the Whole Family

Naked came ye into the world ... and naked shall ye jiggle about in the woods at the 24th annual BARE BUNS FUN RUN hosted by the Kaniksu Ranch Family Nudist Park, about 40 miles north of Spokane. "Clothing optional," the entry form says, sensitively. "You don't have to run nude. However, this race will have many nude participants and officials." C'mon, Mother Nature, don't judge -- shed those inhibitions along with that repressive clothing. If former Inlander intern Tim Bross could do it (and win an SPJ award for writing about it), you can, too. The timed 5K run will be held on Sunday, July 27, at 9:30 am. Back to the garden, people.

Kilts by Association

There are two types of people in this world: Those who have Celtic blood in their veins, and those who wish they did. (Sorry, it can't be tattooed on.) Regardless of which one you are, the clans welcome you to the 2008 SPOKANE HIGHLAND GAMES on Saturday, Aug. 2, at the Spokane County Fair & amp; Expo Center. There'll be piping and drumming competitions, kilted men throwing logs (that's the caber toss) along with other heavy things, a sheepdog exhibition, traditional blacksmithing, children's games, historical exhibits, Scottish dancing, Celtic music on the main stage and, of course, the obligatory archers' shooting of an English knight.

Do It by the Dozen

What's mostly flat, has 36 legs and takes you on a roller coaster ride? Why, the SPOKANE TO SANDPOINT TEAM RELAY RACE, of course. On Friday, Aug. 15, the race starts atop Mount Spokane, descends through forests and traverses 15 towns on the way to Sandpoint, Idaho. Teams consist of 12 runners (and require two vans). Each runner completes three legs of the course; distances range from three to eight miles per leg. At mile 122, the course veers wildly into Silverwood Theme Park and aboard the Tremors roller coaster. For the feistier athletes with a real sense of competition, there will also be a Wild Wig contest and awards for brightest running outfit, best light show and most awesome costume. Thirty-one of the 36 legs are supposed to be relatively flat and easy enough for novices. Register at

SUMMER PEOPLE - Backpacking Instructor, Spokane Mountaineers - Miles Breneman

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & H & lt;/span & is name says it all: Miles. He's hiked a bunch of them in his 60-something years and is still going strong. Having assisted with the Mountaineers' backpacking school for seven years, Breneman takes the co-directorship this year alongside Dianne Murray.

Where do you plan to go this summer?

Mostly I'm going to stay in close this year. There's a lot of stuff up in the Kettle Range, and up in the Abercrombie Mountains, the northern Selkirks ... and the Scotchman Peak area. That's a real neat area, and we support [the Friends of Scotchman Peak] for trying to get it designated as a wilderness. Lots of mountain goats up there. A lot of people don't realize how many hiking trails there are in the peripheral area around Spokane. We do a whole lot of local hiking, and there's a lot in this area that we're very fortunate to have.

What's the attraction? Why do you do it?

Three reasons, mainly: One, it's good exercise. Two, it's good socially. And probably the most important is the things you see: The scenery and all the animals. Even close in, there's some pretty spectacular stuff out there.

Do you ever go by yourself?

It's not a good idea to hike alone... Some people do, but I'm a more social person so I like to hike with other people. I have a lot of good friends and we share the same ideas and values when it comes to the wilderness.

How long have you been a Mountaineer?

About 10 years. ... I mainly did it for the exercise, because I was in a high-pressure job and I needed an outlet. It really helped -- probably kept me alive.

Sixty something? You sound like you have so much energy...

Yeah, I do. I'm kinda hyper.

& lt;a name="urban" & 2008 SUMMER GUIDE TO URBAN & lt;/a &

stories by JOEL SMITH

& lt;hr &

DISTINCTIVELY NW - Spokane River Gorge

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & "N & lt;/span & othing is so firmly impressed on the mind of the visitor to Spokane ... as the great gorge into which the river falls near the center of the city." So spoke the Olmsted Brothers when they came to Spokane in the early 1900s. In a report to the city's Parks Board, the famed landscape architects -- who'd had a hand in designing New York's Central Park, Stanford University and parks in Seattle and Portland -- gushed over the falls, arguing that the river should be made a centerpiece for the city.

Whether city government has heeded the advice is debatable, but over the last two weeks, the Spokane River has made itself a centerpiece, rushing through the region on the strength of mountain run-off and drawing daily visitors to the Monroe Street Bridge to watch the pounding falls below.

It's times like these when people throughout the Inland Northwest remember that few -- if any -- other cities can claim a river like this, from the raw beauty of the falls and the rapids downriver to the placid bends above.

Remember that this summer, as everybody else is racking up a gas bill on getaways to Bozeman, Anacortes and Leavenworth. You can stay home: The Spokane River is its own destination, offering any kind of vacation you could want -- running on the trails across from Peaceful Valley, canoeing through the Valley, kayaking below the Bowl and Pitcher, biking the Centennial Trail, hiking and camping through Riverside State Park, disc golfing at Downriver and Corbin Park, watching music at Riverfront Park or the INB Center, swimming and swinging at Boulder Beach, dining at Clinkerdagger or Shenanigans or Northern Lights. Hell, even if your idea of an ideal summer is laying in your front yard and listening to a ball game on the radio, it's the river that's providing some of the juice in your Sony.

Many of Spokane's historical raisons d'etre have come and gone. But the reason that people came here in the first place was just to fish and hang out. Make like your forebears and do the same this summer.

SUMMER PEOPLE - Tour Operator - Jerome Green

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & or more than a decade, Jerome Green has been showing off Spokane, entertaining out-of-town visitors and locals alike with stories about the Lilac City. Owner/operator of Spokane Scenic Tours, Green offers all sorts of trips. Among them: nightlife, cultural/cuisine, historic, Idahoan and "dirty laundry" tours (the last one focused on the bizarre facts and figures in Spokane's history -- of which there are many).

Besides work, what do you do in the summer?

In my free time, I explore different restaurants to check what's new in Spokane.

What do you recommend to people on your tours?

Usually I might encourage a person to go to ella's Supper Club (1017 W. First Ave.). It's got a nice setting, clean environment. Most people are professionals. They want to go to the upper echelon, but they like to live life. Ella's is one-stop dining and music. ... Also, Bluz at The Bend (2721 N. Market St.). Good food. Recreation, pool, good music. ... At Cruisers at State Line (6105 W. Seltice Way, Post Falls), you can actually ride a motorcycle into the bar. ... The Torch Lounge (216 E. Coeur d'Alene Ave, Coeur d'Alene) ... it's a bikini club. I don't hang out there, but it's a neat place.

Any other activities?

I often recommend doing a walking tour of the city. You go through downtown, walk through Riverfront Park, down into Peaceful Valley to the Sandifur Bridge.

Getaway ideas?

Hiawatha Trail in Idaho. Kellogg, Idaho. Sandpoint for music, jazz. Silverwood for the kids. Tubbs Hill or Potlatch Hill in Coeur d'Alene for great, scenic views. The dam in Post Falls.

Your favorite thing to do in the summer?

I'm a music person. ... I like to go places that have outdoor music, have some wine, appetizers and just enjoy the scene.


CAN'T MISS - Urban

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & or those who don't know someone with a lake house, who don't want to shell out for gas, or who just prefer to pass the summer with the backs of their necks getting dirty and gritty, here are some ideas for urban vacationing.


It always seems such a cruel trick of nature that the longest day of the year should come at the very beginning of summer -- when it's often still too cool to really enjoy it -- rather than at the end. Despite the waning daylight, the fine hippies, hipsters and eco-sensitive folks of Sandpoint are going to kick the summer off right, with music by Mixolydian, followed by an outdoor, wall-side, Shop-style showing of The Triplets of Belleville -- a mesmerizing and beautifully stylized animated film about a '30s-era French cyclist who is kidnapped and taken away to the States by sinister wine snobs. (The soundtrack alone makes it worth watching.) The next day will see more live music, plus a big outdoor gear swap at the Granary. Swap your skis for a sea kayak and get out there. (June 20-21)


If you prefer your summer big, loud and gas-guzzling, don't miss the hot rod run in Post Falls (July 11-12), where last year some 11,000 spectators turned out to ogle 726 chromed-out, flamed-up racers (and the contestants for Miss Hot Rod 2007). This is gearhead central, with tons of cars, booths, contests, games, etc. Also, there'll be something called a "Burn Out Contest." I'm going to enter my cousin.


Gone deaf from all the revving engines at the rod run? Slip into the Kress Gallery at River Park Square for a spirited (and quiet) chess tournament (July 12-13), featuring some of the city's finest players (including the reigning champ). It's a Swiss-style tournament, meaning everybody plays everybody, and you're guaranteed five rounds if you register. (Just become a member of the U.S. Chess Federation first.) And even though it's a chess tournament, there could be a scandal: Three years ago, a disgruntled loser absconded with the grand prize. Chess club president David Griffin says that "We never saw him or the trophy again."


If the pomp and circumstance of big city parades is just too much, try their younger sibling: the neighborhood street fair. Both the vintage business block on Garland Avenue and the funky, homey South Perry Street community throw street f & ecirc;tes each summer. Details were sketchy as of press time, but expect music, art, food and the opportunity to meet your neighbors (or somebody's neighbors). Garland's fair takes place Aug. 17-18. South Perry's -- including the launch of the Shop's summer film series -- will happen on July 18 and 19.


This summer, JULYAMSH celebrates 20 years of bringing together tribal members from across the country for three days of singing, dancing and celebrating. In two decades, the Post Falls event (July 25-27), thrown by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, has become one of the biggest outdoor powwows in the country and the biggest in the Northwest. Right on its nimble heels is THE SPOKANE FALLS POWWOW in Riverfront Park (Aug. 22-24), which will also feature competitive dancing, countless vendors and some wicked drumming competitions.


Celebrate the many, uh, uplifting uses of cannabis -- from its health benefits in food and its tensile strength in rope, to its potential as biomass energy -- in Riverfront Park (Aug. 2-3).


Basically relaxed pub runs on bikes, the F**king Bike Club's MONTHLY FULL-MOON RIDES (June 18, July 18, Aug. 16) have been steadily gaining in popularity, with last month's prom-themed ride drawing 40-ish people out of Spokane's growing bike community. With the warm weather finally (maybe) here, we imagine the FBC is going to be bigger and better than ever this summer.


Opening July 19 and running for two solid years, the Living Legacy exhibit at the MAC in Browne's Addition will display the museum's entire original American Indian collection, bequeathed to them in 1916. One of the building blocks of the MAC's entire business, the vast trove of artwork and objects is among the premier collections from the Plateau cultural region.


The Spokane area is justly known for its beautiful golf courses. But it should receive more credit for its disc golf courses than it does. From the municipal ruins of High Bridge to the riparian beauty of Downriver and the collegiate course at NIC, the Inland Northwest has plenty for frolfers to be proud of. Check out Post Falls' 15-hole, riverside course at the Corbin Park Open (July 26). Get a putter and a driver and make those chumps with the bags full of specialized discs look like duffers.


The green-minded Lands Council hosts a traveling film festival (Aug. 15-17) with movies that treat everything from coal mining to farming to protecting river systems. Documentaries, shorts and features will be shown at the Magic Lantern in multiple two-hour blocks each day of the fest.

& lt;a name="theater" & 2008 SUMMER GUIDE TO THEATER & lt;/a &

stories by MICHAEL BOWEN

& lt;hr &

DISTINCTIVELY NW - Sixth Street Melodrama

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & F & lt;/span & or 25 years now, heroines have been pleading with villains at the little theater in downtown Wallace, Idaho. At the Sixth Street Melodrama, the good guys and bad guys are clearly distinguished, and characters have names like Will E. Stolealot, Slim Chance and Ma Chiavellian.

The Silver Valley is celebrating its theater's silver anniversary by reviving a couple of shows written in the early 1990s by Sixth Street's co-founder and longtime playwright, the late Pat Grounds.

Here's how director Carol Roberts summarizes the plot of the summer's second offering, Phantoms of the Melodrama, or, Footprints Under the Stairs (July 30-Aug. 24): "This is actually set in the theater building, which used to be a bordello -- there are some snide remarks about it being a 'boarding house.' Well, before that, Fred Kelly had opened up a hardware store in here, but it got blown up. He comes back as a ghost -- there are ghosts all the way through it -- and he tries to kill the lady who runs the boarding house."

Sixth Street's opening play this summer, Lookout Mullan (July 5-27), is also set locally -- "at Lookout Lodge in midwinter," says Roberts. "There's a shipment of silver, and they're going to get it at the train and bring it up the mountain by dogsled. Then the villains come in and think they're stealing the silver. But they aren't. They get fooled," she says, laughing.

After each performance, during the variety-show antics of "Kelly's Alley Revue," you can sing along with the actors in tunes like "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," "Meet Me Here in Wallace" and "Cigarettes, Whiskey and Wild, Wild Women."

In a world that often seems unfair, melodrama offers moral certainty: White hats are rewarded and black hats are punished. But even more, says the theater's board president, Vern Hanson, Sixth Street's appeal lies in the interaction and the setting: "People love the way they can interact" by booing and hissing, he says. "You can't do that in a regular theater. Also, we don't get taken back in time any more -- and melodramas are always set in 'the olden days.'

"And the appeal of melodrama in Wallace is the setting and personality of the town," Hanson adds. "It just feels right. We couldn't do what we do in Spokane -- it wouldn't work. There is so much wonderful history in Wallace, it just seems like a natural."

THE GREAT NEARBY - Leavenworth

(From Spokane: 200 miles/three-and-a-half hours | Round-Trip Cost: 20mpg, $4/gallon, $80)

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & very summer in Leavenworth, central Washington's Bavarian-themed tourist town, they offer three musicals at three different venues in and around the area. But you don't make the drive to apple country for just any old musical. You go to whisk yourself away to a quasi-Alpine setting where nuns climb every mountain and kids long for "crisp apple strudels" and "schnitzel with noodles." You go to Leavenworth to hear The Sound of Music.

Susan Hufman is in her first year as executive producer of Leavenworth Summer Theater, but she knows all about carrying on the tradition. "This is our 14th year of presenting The Sound of Music," she says. And they know how to capitalize on their physical surroundings: The set is kept to 10 feet in height so that playgoers lounging on the hillside of the Ski Hill Amphitheater will be able to gaze over it at the mountains, the pine trees, and the full moon hovering into view. (Hint for vacation planners: this year, on July 18 and Aug. 16.)

"Maria enters on a hillside," says Hufman, "singing 'the hills are alive' as she walks through the pine trees. You look down over the valley below and see the lights come on. The sky turns pink. It's an unmatched setting."

But while Rodgers and Hammerstein reign over the ski slope, LST offers another picturesque outdoor venue as well. This summer, Sugar -- the musical version of the Jack Lemmon-Tony Curtis movie classic, Some Like It Hot -- will fling its girl band, hoodlums and cross-dressing wise guys at audiences in the confines of the Hatchery Park Amphitheater. "With the breeze coming down from Sleeping Lady Mountain, that's another great setting," Hufman says.

The casts are homegrown (60 percent from the Leavenworth area), filled out with college students and Seattle actors. A couple of the local kids who played von Trapp children in that original Leavenworth production of 1995 are all grown up now -- one as a costumer for the show, another as choreographer for Sugar. The original Louisa grew up to play Maria for four summers; now she's going to play Bianca in this summer's third show, Cole Porter's musical play within a play, Kiss Me, Kate (at the indoor and air-conditioned Festhalle).

Every weekend in August, it's possible to see all three of the Leavenworth musicals in just two days. Just visit and plan your stay.

SUMMER PEOPLE - Producing Artistic Director, Coeur d'Alene Summer Theater - Roger Welch

Favorite summertime memories?

I loved going to summer camp. My fondest memory was when we did a production of Godspell. I was hooked.

How long have you worked at CST?

My first summer with CST was as an actor in 1986. I worked many summers here -- directing and choreographing -- and toured with other shows during the rest of the year. In 1993, while working at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I was asked by the former artistic director if I would consider taking over. This is my 22nd consecutive summer season here in CdA.

Challenges this summer?

Casting is always a challenge. Figuring out the technical aspects for each show is always daunting, especially with a grand show like Les Miz ... people expect a turntable! And, as always in the arts, money is a constant challenge. Payroll, royalties, housing for our actors, costumes, musicians, scenery, lights -- it's overwhelming.

You often go to New York City to see shows. What's been good? What might eventually come to CdA?

I especially loved Curtains, the musical comedy/murder mystery. This was the last musical that John Kander and Fred Ebb (Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman) wrote together (before Ebb's death). I left the theater thinking, "I can't wait to do this at CST." It's old-fashioned, really funny, and the songs are catchy and clever. Last season, I saw The Drowsy Chaperone and remember thinking how much I'd like to do that, too.

Favorite places to eat and drink before or after a show?

I really like Tony's by the Lake -- can't beat the view, food's great and the staff is fantastic. Bardenay's in Riverstone and Moon Time on Sherman are favorites, Caf & eacute; Carambola in Harbor Plaza for lunch is a hidden treasure, and you can always find us at the Fort Ground Grill after a show for a beer.

CAN'T MISS - Theater

Northwest Renaissance Festival

Theater crops up in the most unlikely spots. Some weekend this summer, you could be driving along State Route 291 out there past Suncrest when all of a sudden, a guy in a kilt and breastplate diverts you into the woods. Next thing you know, it's 1522, and the Earl of Portsmouth is challenging you to a jousting match. And here are your can't-miss Renaissance opportunities (weekends, June 21-July 20; visit 1) Buy a pickle from the Pickle Man. 2) Dance the Wench Toss. 3) Play King of the Log (precarious water combat with "boffer weapons") or Knives and Axes (don't stand behind the target!). 4) Shout "Huzzah!" at such spectacles as the Gypsy Show, Battle Chess and the Perpetually Pleasant Peasants of Pleasance. If ye be a fair maiden, King Henry will surely have his eye on you.

Idaho Repertory Theater

The University of Idaho's summer-stock company is presenting a typical array of plays (June 26-Aug. 1): a musical (fantasy doo-wop harmonizing in FOREVER PLAID), a comedy (elaborate practical jokes and farce in THE NERD), a kids' show (ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY), and some outdoor Shakespeare (the gender-bending romantic comedy of TWELFTH NIGHT). But on July 31-Aug. 1, Moscow will be the place to catch the dramatic stylings of SpongeBob SquarePants' best buddy. Bill Fagerbakke (a UI grad best known as Dauber on Coach and, yes, as the voice of Patrick the starfish) will appear on successive nights in a couple of two-handers about love and marriage with his real-life wife, L.A. and Toronto stage actress Catherine McClenahan. (The plays? They're called LOVE LETTERS and HATE MAIL.)

Coeur d'Alene Summer Theater

It's a summer of Big Spectacular Musicals in CdA (through Aug. 23). First, a fictionalized Elvis riles up a repressed little town in ALL SHOOK UP. Then, in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (the musical forerunner of the Robin Williams-Nathan Lane movie, The Birdcage), the son of two gay men is getting married -- and the fianc & eacute;e's parents are conservative Republicans who expect to meet the mother of the bride. In ONCE UPON A MATTRESS, Queen Aggravain (the Carol Burnett role in 2005) keeps placing obstacles in the way of Princess Winnifred (the Carol Burnett role in 1959). And then, for the season finale, just a quiet, understated little show about the troubles of a few people in early 19th-century France. Oh, sure, LES MISERABLES has a big cast, big barricade, full orchestra, and that thunderous Claude-Michel Schonberg score. But it's a spectacle for the inside of your heart.

& lt;a name="sports" & 2008 SUMMER GUIDE TO SPORTS & lt;/a &

stories by JACOB H. FRIES

& lt;hr &

DISTINCTIVELY NW - Ironman Coeur d'Alene

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & ven from the sidelines, there's something awe-inspiring about watching people push themselves to their breaking points. It raises the heart rate seeing thousands of athletes plunge into the chilly waters of Lake Coeur d'Alene and swim 2.4 miles. It boggles the mind seeing those same men and women bike 112 miles and then -- as if that weren't enough -- end the day running a complete marathon.

"It's a beautiful course, and something that surprises people is how beautiful the area is," says Helen Manning, a spokeswoman for North America Sports, which puts on the June 22 event. "The swim start in Coeur d'Alene is one of the most spectacular swim starts anywhere."

This year, about 2,200 athletes will compete in the CdA Ironman, including an increasing number of local participants. Also returning this year are three of last year's top male triathletes -- Victor Zyemtsev, Tom Evans and Michael Lovato. The 2007 race came down to the very last mile before Zyemtsev won. "We've got a pretty good field again on both the women's and men's side," Manning says. A few days before the event, on Thursday, June 19, there will also be a children's fun run.

This year, the water temperature is expected to be colder than normal because of the amount of snow last winter. It should be interesting to see how the athletes handle it. Race officials have been m

The Pro-Voice Project @ Heartwood Center

Sat., Jan. 28, 3 & 7 p.m.
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