The drive from Spokane to Metaline Falls is worth the trip on its own. Highway 20 will take you along the Pend Oreille River, between the mountains rising on both sides as the road twists and turns its way toward Canada. Along the river there are many smaller resorts, some with rooms, some open for camping and RVs.
Probably, it’s too late for your kid to become the next Shawn Johnson, the 16-year-old darling of U.S. gymnastics. She started hitting the gym at age 3.
If you’re already in Metaline Falls, there’s an underground treat waiting for you just a bit farther north. In Crawford State Park – which is so close to the Canadian border that you can walk there – you’ll find Gardner Cave. “We are kind of in the Siberia of the Washington parks system,” said Julia Mathison, interpretive assistant at the caves. “I don’t have a TV signal, I have no Internet, no cell phones work up here, I barely have radio, but I love it out here.”
It’s harvest time on the Palouse. Almost anywhere you stop amid the rolling, golden wheat fields, you can hear the hum of combines and see the white harvest dust clouds rise on the horizon. Heavy grain trucks rumble by on narrow roads, tractors scramble back and forth, coolers sit in the shade of old trees. But there are many other things going on around the Palouse besides farming. Here’s a “Palouse loop” that includes art, great food, 100-year-old newspapers, a science center and a view that will take your breath away.
In the realm of delicious activities conducted after dark with a fishing rod, one obscure sport is leaps and bounds above the rest. Bullfrogging is a fully sanctioned “green” activity, endorsed by wildlife authorities to curb a non-native bully that’s wreaking havoc on native species in Northwest lakes and ponds.
There’s a big black guinea pig named King Kong, butterflies and snakes, turtles and fish, a handful of curious rats and a bird named Steve. They’ve all found a home at the Palouse Discovery Science Center in Pullman, some from rescue and one simply by showing up. “I got home one day, and I heard this twittering up in one of my trees,” Victoria Scalise, the center’s executive director, said of the day she met Steve. “And I looked up, and there he was. My son was going to climb up and get him, but when I held out my finger he simply landed on it and that was that.”
Charmaine Gural should have a bumper sticker that reads: “Brakes for snakes.” On a morning drive inside Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney, she carefully stopped, got out of her car and encouraged a snake to leave the warm gravel on the road. “They say there aren’t any rattlesnakes out here, but I don’t know,” she said, as she climbed back into her car.
When the mercury creeps upward almost as fast as gas prices, it’s pretty miserable to be stuck in the city. Everyone eventually wants to go to “the lake” for a swim, but what’s a person to do without a cabin, a car or an extra $50 for gas? Here’s an idea: Take the bus. It’s cheap, it’s easy to figure out and Spokane-area buses have air-conditioning. The easiest lake to reach is Medical Lake. Get on Route 62 at the downtown plaza, ride west for a good half hour, and it’ll drop you off right at the entrance to Waterfront Park.
It’s often said that the Inland Northwest has four distinct seasons. Which overlooks the obvious: Huckleberry season. And it’s on right now.
There’s no mistaking the excited squeals that echo off the cement walls at the Riverfront Park Pavilion: the rides remain a summer hit. Sure, the park turned 30 years old this weekend, and from an adult’s perspective not much is new. But judging from the hordes of sunscreen-scented kids that run from ride to ride, that really doesn’t matter. Lines still form at the bumper cars, the tiny little train and the scary black Spider.