Sunday, December 20, 2009

Palouse Falls

Two hours southwest of Spokane lies Palouse Falls State Park. There are some excellent viewpoints of the falls near the parking area, but we decided to meander down to the trails in the canyon that travel much closer to the edge of the falls.

Above is the rapids above the falls. Just out of sight down in the gorge, the river turns right and then drops over the main falls. There is a rough trail along this entire gorge above and below the falls.

Below is the trail wrapping along the steep canyon wall, downstream of the falls but looking upstream.

It is a fairly easy hike despite the sketchy appearance, but having a dog leashed around one's waist does add a degree of excitement, given the sharp slope down to the sheer dropoff.

Libby will have to return with her kayak if she wants to go over the falls... Maybe when the thick slabs of ice are melted.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mt. Spokane Summit

We finally hiked to the summit of 5900-foot Mt. Spokane. We took the 130 trail from the first large parking lot to Bald Knob Picnic Area, and then turned straight up to the summit.

It was about 15 degrees, and felt warm where we started at the 4500-foot level, but cold on top with the stiff wind. We brought snow shoes, but as expected the two feet of week-old snow was quite crusty. As we trekked up the steep slope in light boots, we occasionally broke through the crust, but it was much easier than wearing snow shoes the entire way.

Mika had fun, and got a little frosty around the edges...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lake Roosevelt Hike

With snow at higher elevations, we decided to do a short hike out near Roosevelt Lake, near Hawk Creek Campground 30 miles upstream from Grand Coulee Dam. The trail leaving the day use area disappeared quickly, but we were able to continue along the sandy shore and then over land for several miles. There was a dark cave up above the lake, but we did not venture inside.

Mika enjoyed running free in the desolate open space, but when she started limping we found a prickly pear cactus in her paw. After pulling it out, she was as good as new.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lower Stevens Lake - Almost

On Sunday we drove about 90 minutes to the Idaho/Montana border near Lookout Pass. Our goal was to hike five miles round trip to Lower and Upper Stevens Lake, just below 6900-foot Stevens Peak. Turns out there was more snow than expected - about eight inches at the 4200-foot trailhead, and 18 inches when we turned around just below the first lake. It was fairly easy hiking in our snow boots, but Mika started having trouble with the deeper snow, and snow balls kept forming on her long coat. Next summer we will make it all the way!

Lots of old spooky silver mine shafts in these mountains:

Near where we turned around, there was an expansive rock field 1/4 mile wide. The darkest "rock" is Mika following Libby:

Monday, September 28, 2009

SPD (Stolen Picture of the Day)

I love this. So many people spend way too large a percentage of their income on private automobiles. And we all in the US spend way too large a percentage of general fund tax revenue on automobile infrastructure. Courtesy of Dalcio Machado - Brazil.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Priest Lake and Lookout Mountain

After the 9/15 tax deadline, Libby and I took several days to relax - me from work, and Libby before she returns to school next week. The original plan was to camp two nights at Priest Lake, but that changed when a wet storm was predicted to pummel through the Inland Northwest on the second day. To cement the change in plans, I tweaked my neck and figured camping would be less than ideal therapy.

Instead, we headed up for a day trip, and maximized our time by barbecuing lunch at the lake, and then hiking up Lookout Mountain, adjacent to the northeast. Priest Lake is nineteen miles long and located in the Idaho Panhandle, barely below the Canadian border about two hours from Spokane.

To get to the upper trail head and limit the hike to about six miles, we drove several thousand feet up a long, steep rocky road. The Subaru handled the rough road nicely, but she is less than pleased about the fresh scratches down her side, caused by overhanging branches. Oh well, a new looking car is so... boring.

The lake meanders almost to the horizon from the 6000-foot level of Lookout Mountain, about 800 feet below the summit.

Libby and Mika resting near the summit, at the top of a sharply dropping ridge.

The historic lookout building no longer in use, alongside the more modern elevated structure.

The edge of the 500-foot cliff adjacent to the summit. Can you see Libby and Mika? Double-click to expand.

Looking over the cliff, at one half of the bowl-shaped alpine valley.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


The sunflowers came up well near the front porch. Right now it is the brightest spot on the block.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rock Climbing

Libby got a full weekend of rock climbing with UClimb and the local Mountain Gear outfitter. She spent the weekend at Q'melin Park in Post Falls, Idaho, just 30 minutes from home. This is one of the prime climbing areas in the Spokane area.

She did well, and was one of the stars of the class.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Glacier National Park

Libby and I, with our friends Joe and Jane, left Sunday for Glacier National Park. Six hours later we arrived at the Lake McDonald Lodge on the western edge of the lush park. The lodge is about 80 years old and built right on the lake. We enjoyed a great dinner of trout and such, and then had some drinks out by the lake. The weather was perfect - sunny and about 70.

After waking up on Monday, we first had to stock up on supplies and find a campsite. Most camps in the park are unreservable and fill up every night. It worked out well with us already being in the park, and able to find the perfect campsite early in the morning - the site popped up at the back of a loop at Avalanche Creek, surrounded by thick dark forest on three sides.

The remainder of the day we grabbed a shuttle to Logan Pass (the summit of the twisty, sole road intersecting the park), and hiked on the adjacent Hidden Lake and Highline trails. Hidden Lake was short and very busy, but ended in a fantastic overlook above the blue lake and steep thousand-foot cliffs and snowfields. Several times, we came within 20 feet of fuzzy mountain goats, grazing away as if we ambling humans were all part of their herd.

Highline is a long trail, so we simply went out and back for a quick three miles. It meanders along, only four feet wide, with a steep cliff above and below. We came along another goat on this trail, walking with her baby. At one point the mother was feeling a little confined by multiple groups of people, and she ran up through the brush and then popped out ten feet away, before scrambling away directly past us. The baby soon followed, after we squished over to the side and made ourselves as small and unthreatening as possible.

Tuesday, we drove over two hours to the far southeast side of the park, near Two Medicine. Scenic Point was the toughest hike on our agenda, seven miles and 2400 feet - okay, so we aren't super aggressive hikers. The day was sunny and very windy, but the wind did not really take away from the hike, it just added to it. Several times we had to hunker down and hold on as the gusts pummeled us on the steep rock.

This was the best hike I have ever completed - beautiful vistas, steep drop-offs, everything I like in a hike. No goats here, but vast mountain valleys, giant peaks to the west, and rolling prairie to the east.

Both nights camping we had perfect weather - dry and mild. On Wednesday I woke up to a spurt of raindrops, but then it remained dry while we ate breakfast and broke camp. Several hours later it started coming down, and remained wet for our last 24 hours in the park.

Fortunately, we had plans to stay the night at Many Glacier Lodge, on the northeast side of the park. Continued sun would have been pleasant, but the historic, shadowy lodge was the perfect place to spend a blustery summer evening. We also got out for a damp hike in a long, green valley adjacent to the lodge, heading up towards Iceberg Lake. Supposedly, many bear frequent this trail, but we were not lucky enough to be confronted. For our last night in Glacier we enjoyed another tasty dinner and drinks in the lodge, and then caught up on sleep while the wind howled around the eaves outside our top-floor room.

Monday, July 6, 2009


I am in Seattle for the week - a couple days of relaxation, followed by three days of tax training, and then the Coldplay concert on Saturday at the Gorge Amphitheater.

Prior to the training, I am staying at the College Inn just off UW's campus, at 40th and University. It is European style, with shared bathrooms. Not a bad deal at $70, given the location, breakfast, basement pub, etc.

This morning I rode about 50 miles through Fremont, around Lake Union to downtown, back to UW and then up the Burke-Gilman Trail to the north end of Lake Washington and out along the Sammamish River Trail. A pleasant 65 degrees, but very windy and gusty. Nevertheless, a good way to spend a morning.

In the afternoon I stopped by Gasworks Park, hid from the wind behind a barrier, and found some time to read.

Don't eat the dirt...

The pictures kind of suck because they are unedited. I only have my work laptop, and am unable to install recreational software.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Trail of The Coeur d'Alenes

The weekend highlight was a 100-mile ride out and back on the mostly glassy-smooth Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, from Plummer at the south end of the lake, to Pinehurst halfway across the Idaho Panhandle. Much of the trail meanders along various shorelines, and is quite scenic.

With the 10 mph wind at my back I averaged 21 mph all the way out. The super flat trail also made it easier to keep up a good pace. On the way back, however, the wind plus my lack of conditioning slowed me down enough so the average speed for the entire ride was 18.5 mph.

The bridge above is where the trail crosses the lake on the old railroad trestle, and then continues north towards Harrison.

These moose enjoyed the marshy areas along much of the trail.

Unfortunately, I once again apparently consumed too much water in relation to electrolytes, and was sick for 24 hours afterwards. I think I have some type of imbalance, because it does not make sense to me that I am in okay enough shape to go out and ride for six hours without being exhausted, but a sodium or potassium deficiency results from that same amount of exercise. Maybe I should get that checked out...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Camping at Bowl & Pitcher

Our first camping trip of the year was Friday night. The Bowl and Pitcher Campground at Riverside State Park is along a scenic stretch of the Spokane River only several miles from downtown. Nothing fancy or desolate, but a good easy trip.

Despite unpredicted rain all Friday morning, the skies cleared in the afternoon, so we decided to risk it. There was only a 20% chance of rain in the evening, and the atmosphere appeared to be drying out nicely.

We made camp and got in a good hike across the wooden bridge and up around the surrounding cliffs, and then made dinner. Around 10 pm, thunder approached quickly. At first it appeared to be missing us to the north, but we had no idea the expanse of the approaching storm (the entire region got soaked). We packed what we could in the car, and then took cover in the tent.

The rain started with a vengeance. Amidst the thunder and lightening the storm preceded to drop almost an inch of rain in about 30 minutes. Of course the tent leaked, but not as bad as I expected. We basically stayed dry. Mika lucked out this time and did not have to sit in one of the wet spots, like she did on our last camping trip to Olallie Lake, which also ended with a deluge.

Immediately after the rain stopped, I took a quick trip to the restroom and was not surprised at a large lake covering the campground, as well as a rushing creek twenty feet away from our tent, slowly draining the entire area.

Ripples throughout the campsite, where none existed the night before, are always a bad sign...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Garden Update

Beans and kale are coming along. We have been eating lettuce for weeks.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cirque du Cycling

The Mississippi neighborhood in Portland was full of bike activity on Saturday with a parade and criterium race. Both events followed a 0.8 mile loop with spectators lining the entire way. And of course plenty of good food and drink options nearby.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Little Rain

We finally received rain today for the first time in over a month. This place feels like a desert. Well less than eight inches of precipitation in the first five months of the year - and that is the wet season.

After today's very modest rain, everyone is whining. It has been sunny for weeks - what do these people want? A drought with dead trees and crops? Fires? Shut the hell up. The rain is refreshing - enjoy it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Whole Valley is Green

Today's highlight was a 70-mile ride including the suburban hell known as Spokane Valley. Picture endless ranch-style homes, few community gathering centers and an overall theme in which cars come first and people second. Come to think of it, I saw few parks as well. But after all this bitching and moaning, I must admit bike lanes are much more prevalent in "the Valley" than in Spokane. Not that bike lanes are necessary, or even safer, but at least they encourage new cyclists to venture out.

The ride's highlight included several loops southeast of Spokane Valley, out through the Saltese Flats area on Chapman, Linke, Saltese Lake, Henry, etc. Smooth, meandering roads with pretty farms and mountain backdrops. Hence the picture above.

The title of this post will be recognized by fans of The Farming Game. Collect $500!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Peppers are Popping

Some of the spinach was harvested, and tasted deliciously sweet. However, a white rust fungus started spreading, so I yanked out the remaining spinach before it got established in the soil and causes problems next year.

In its place is a cherry pepper plant from the local nursery. In back, the beans are going strong.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mmm - Coffee...

Hammer is a local roaster in Spokane with several local coffee houses. This sign describes me well prior to my morning coffee.