Wednesday, December 14, 2011



Places are best defined by the places nearby.

Our place, in a wild corner of the desert southwest, is more a conglomeration of all the places that we visit throughout our local adventures.

Oracle is a quiet cluster of homes nestled in a high oak-laden canyon at the foot of a mighty granite ridge. Oracle, to us, is also Cochise Stronghold, The Homestead, Peppersauce Canyon, Mt. Lemmon, the Ironwood Desert and all the other places that are just a days drive away.

Our place is a wild collection of towering granite walls, endless catus gardens, limitless sunsets, mystical native forests, remote crags, and desert vistas. Its just a small slice of a very big space . With each adventure we cut off a bigger slice of our place – and in this place its hard not to have another spoonful.

We've placed ourselves in this desert. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bonnie Lake and Fairytale Island

Why Be Inside

With nearly all the Northwest rivers nearing flood stage it's a good time to get out and explore some lakes. For our last adventure we headed out to Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, a wild section of lakes, sloughs, and puddles that get lost on the map. Overshadowed by the mountains and dense forest to the north this slightly random area southwest of Spokane really surprised us with its rugged terrain and one-of-a-kind island camping. Thanks to Paddle Routes of the Inland Northwest we found our way into Bonnie Lake for the night and were happy we did.

The route to Bonnie is unconventional. The gravel roads that lead you their wind aimlessly through miles of plowed fields. It feels more like your on your way to the Corn Maze rather than a cliff-lined lake. The boat launch is in a place called hole in the ground. It is a slough. Boats coming down from the lake look they are paddling through a dry meadow. The parking is limited, the access rough, and a small handful of unlucky fisherman were the only one we shared it with.

We paddled against the very slight current, through handfuls of songbirds and cattails as the basalt canyon narrowed to meet the lake's outlet. We passed a fascinating and seemingly very rare basalt rock arch. Tucked into a defile cross canyon was a wild waterfall cascading from the plateau. All around us were rims of basalt capped with stately pines. The scenery went from meadow to cliffs in maybe a mile of paddling.

All the while the birds singing loudly and the greening grass beneath the wide-spaced pines contributed to the park-like atmosphere. We paddle into the lake and reach a small spit. The lake opened up to us and further north we could see an island, looking out of place and stuck in its location clogging the lake channel between high cliffs. The sun was setting and we hugged the east shore to take it the last warmth of the day.

Reaching the fairy-tale island we discovered some well used camps. We lit a fire using old fence parts I gathered at the put-in. We drank, ate, and were merry. Osprey and bald eagles visited our island home. The stars were bright, it was a warm night, the fisherman had long gone back down the slough to their trucks. It was easy to forget were maybe an hour from home. With the wildness of the place it was easy to forgot that Spokane was just an hour over the hills. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The oil baron

The oil baron never gives up. He's always out there looking for black gold.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mountain biking Spokane

It's been about a month since the mountain biking season began here in Spokane. With the ski resorts closed for weeks and the spring rain keeping the dust down the miles and miles of Spokane singletrack has been in prime condition. Yet, on any weekday ride I'm likely to see less than a handful of other riders and more likely to be rewarded to riverside trail, old-growth groves, and fantastic views.

While far from a local source on the trail system here, I have been riding tons lately in Spokane, I wanted to share a couple fantastic mountain biking areas. For you locals, and those spring road-trippers I wanna run down some areas I've been loving getting lost in. Spokane's most surprising recreation resource in the massive trail system along the Spokane River. The riding is fast and smooth, intricate, and endless.

Current conditions for Spokane single track mountain bike trails: May 7th, 2011.

Riverside State Park

The mighty maze of well ridden single-track at Riverside is nothing short of perfect right now. These soils are well drained and I've yet to find any trail with substantial amounts of mud. Most trails are just fantastic packed surface or otherwise lightly coated with pine needle mulch. Many downed trees have been cleared in the last two weeks. Flowers are out and the forest is alive and colorful. Deep Creek is running strong and the trail in the creek corridor in gonna get you wet. Ticks are out as well, as the last couple of rides came back with these nasty little beasts. Favorite trail heads: 7-mile junction, Sontag Park.

High Drive

High Drive is exposed and faces south, so I'm sure this place was rideable before I starting riding it in mid-April. This place is warm when the suns out, dress for the summer and not the cool of spring. There are a few muddy trails, but they are mostly confined to the low areas down by the golf course, and the fantastic traverse trails are in great shape. There has clearly been  a lot of work put into this built-on-the-side-of-a-cliff area and any rider will hold these outstanding trail builders in high regard. I have a feeling its important to get to these sun-beaten trails before they loosen up as the summer goes on. There are people here, so weekends are not a good bet for faster riders.

Liberty Lake

Liberty Lake's Mica Peak trail system is awesome right now as all the creeks are in full pour and the marshes and backwaters are full of water and thus wildlife. The steep trail connecting the old-growth cedar grove and the BoyScout cabin is washed out in places but goes if your descending and don't mind a carry or three. Most of the single track in the nw corner of the park are heavily mudded and beat to shit by horses. The double-track throughout is full of muddy holes, and over-run by streams. There is meltwater coming from everywhere and thus you're gonna get wet on these trails right now. Snow was encountered just beyond the BoyScout cabin on May 5th. The waterfalls are fantastic right now.

Beacon Hill / Sekani
So many well-maintained trails. All of them so rideable. This is the place I haven't hit as much as liked. What I did ride was not muddy and just about perfect. Lots of riders in Sekani means the trails are super mountain-bike friendly, if not also real confusing. There are tons of good looking dirt jumps built at the park that I'm afraid of.

Priest Lake

We went up here at the end of May and got pretty shutdown. At the north end of the lake it is full-on snow with slednecks at the parking lots. Lower down at the river and visitor center parking the trails are still not cleared with many down trees and snow patches.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bring out the canoe

Bring out the canoe; it's time to go climbing

My car, The Subaru, will not die. So we're trying to use is as hard as we can just for sake of it. Last week we strapped a 17' Grumman to the vintage Yakima rack and drove straight into the wind for two hours. While I did smell burning oil the car seemed unaffected and happy to make the trip.

We were headed for a boat-access granite crag in the heart of Washington. With winter weather in the mountains heading to the Columbia Highlands was our only choice, and with the climbing guide swearing it was granite we just had to check this place out. The road was closed for construction when we got there so we rallied through the sand and grass and launched by carrying along an airport fence. I took a picture of the Gazetteer because we were now attemptimg a "new approach."

Three trips from the car and we were ready to launch. To who ever invented dry bags with backpack straps: I hope you own your own island by now.

Banks Lake was deserted. We saw maybe four fishing boats from afar over the three days we were there. The weather was spotty but rarely did we have a problem with the winds

After feeling are way towards this "granite pennnisula" we found our way into a narrow passage with noisy Canada geese and sandy beaches. I couldn't help think how nice the place would be when it's warm out. There appeared to be lots of climbing to be had in this unnamed corridor but we couldn't find sign of any route development. Nearing the end of the day, we choose to milk the last heat from the sun and make camp. We'd have to find said peninsula tomorrow.

We were lost in a complex mess of granite domes and spits rising unnaturally out of the water. Banks Lake was never a lake, it was filled as part of the Grand Coulee Dam project. Looking at a map you begin to understand 'they flooded the Grand Coulee!'.

We paddled the next morning into an idyllic cove littered with spring flowers and ringed with clean granite outcrops. It did exist. The clouds were swirling around, all dark and nasty. We got one pitch in and they let loose. What more can one ask for of the first climb of the season.

After cowering under a small tarp for hours in 40 degree rain we saw a little break of to the southwest. Then the sun came out in force and we headed for the summit of what the book calls a pinninsula but I am hoping to call something else. Whatever the case it was the tallest granite outcrop sitting above a long inlet called Old Devil's Lake. From there south we had great views of the basalt outcrop call Steamboat. (That's what white people call it anyways, I'm sure this magical island has a native name).

We had found the 'sandy beach camp' and the 'tall white granite face' - no thanks to the maps found within Central Washington Climbs - and also found a wide-selection of freshly bolted granite sport routes just minutes from the lakeside. With the binocs we scoped many mixed lines up the prow of what I believe is Post Modern Wall. With further route development potential and lots of good looking multi-pitch routes we will sure be back to this nice little cove camp - whatever you call it.

Photos: 1)Yes, Michelle did load the canoe all by herself. 2-5) The scenes of Banks Lake
 below)The map photo we used throughout the trip.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snowmelt makes me dream rivers

Scoured by warm wind and rain the winters snows are melting fast in the mountains around Spokane. In the St. Joe to the east the roads are nothing but mud. In the Selkirks to the north the transition to rain was slow and the highest elevation sit covered in classic snowy cement. Well, this week the snowpack will begin to fill the rivers and streams with meltwater, the sun will come out, and waterways will come alive. There is definitely still snow to ski but I find my mind dreaming up adventures in warmer wild places. Choppy deep green lakes and azure wave trains are just around the seasonal corner – I can feel it.

We'll take a journey similar to that of each water molecule. Leaving the tops of the mountains for the river filled bottom lands and ending up lazyly floating around a lake, blocked by any downstream progress by dams like Albeni and Post Falls. Of course we're lucky enough to be able to easily hop around dams and over entire mountain ranges, clearly our mobility is enough to make any H2O jealous.

The historic and varied waterways that weave through this collection of inland NW ranges are now the top of the map pile. The Pend Oreille and the Coeur 'd Alene are massive drainages that sit east and northeast of Spokane and the sheer amount of water out there beckons summer exploration. Our early spring recon has begun though the drastic dreary weather has kept us scoping rivers from the shore and planning routes the old fashioned way: using maps gleaned from small town bookstores.

The most local rivers are just a start with the most beckoning terrain being further east in Montana. The Yellowstone and the Missouri traverse nearly the entirety of the state, and the sheer density of smaller navigable streams is incomparable to the drier regions we've been exploring for the past years. All in all the canoe is hoping to get a lot of use this summer.

So get on the phone, give a call, and let's plan a trip onto these wild rivers.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I don't care what anybody says. I love snow. 
I'm biased though. Horribly biased, and its getting worse. I think it would be hard for someone to convince me otherwise.
I don't care if it makes driving a nightmare, or that I have to wake up early and shovel off the car. I don't mind when powder drifts into my jacket. Or even when trees drop pillows onto my head. The inconvenience is just a reminder of how fleeting the moment is.
I've been spending a lot of time in the snow. Good snow. Hidden away in the St. Joe Mountains of Northern Idaho thePeak Adventures crew, led by guide and owner Ryan Stanley, have been skiing new lines off a many unnamed ridge. Every run is in fresh high mountain snow. We a fortunate that, by sheer luck of topography, our snow has been protected from the sun and wind. Every track laid down is marking yet another first decent. The eraser comes quick though, as the next storm is already there. 

I'll let the video tell the true tale. 


Friday, January 28, 2011

Adventures pour from the hills like cold honey. We are no longer living in the desert and we are surely no longer pedaling our way through another rice paddy. The gray skies on the Inland Northwest rarely give way to warm sun or night sky. Our Kansas has long been the wild west and the exotic continent of Asia and we are definitely no longer there.

But the adventures do come and we happily greet them, with more respect than we did before, knowing our meeting could be fleeting. When the fickle weather picks a side, we're out. Winter rain is stifling, but winter storms are welcome. So are the moments of blue ski sun, those that remind me of red rock and long Mojave days.

In the time between, we plan. Maps, guides, forgotten information buried deep in the web, our own wintery drives to scout for upcoming climbs and floats – these are the reminders of time before Netflix and baseboards and the convenient neighborhood grocers.

Sherman Pass is the highest plowed road in Washington. We go there, to 5,500 feet, to find something exotic, to be reconnected with the many foreign landscapes that pepper our memories. There is a front-end loader in the parking lot, we skin up and ski the power-line swath cut over the pass, the sunset is colorful, log trucks continuously grumble by, the Forest Service bathroom is shoveled out, and apparently it costs $21 to park. We spend the night in the Sno-park lot, huddled low around a fire melting into the snowy dirt lot. If anyone were to show up so late in the lot we would surely look primitive to them – we're getting closer.

The next morning the clear sky gives way to gray and the snow warms to goo. We skin along a well-groomed trail further into the wild land. There has been a big fire on the flanks of Sherman Peak and the logging history is not clearly evident. There are views into the Okanagon and the Selkirks. The log truck's compression brakes echo across the entire valley and the warm snow sticks to our skis and slows us to a crawl. We turn a wide open corner into a small saddle. Snow Peak looms wild and beckons to be skiied. We find an igloo, likely built not long ago, near a well-signed junction and eat lunch out of the wind. We are Eskimos in Kansas.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

These are the telemark ski  leashes I've been building. I still have materials for a bunch more so if you need leashes, get a hold of me. Friends of IanOutThere get a discount!