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.