May 10, 2009 in Outdoors

Hikers don’t need to travel far for trails dazzling with wildflowers

By The Spokesman-Review
 
File photo

The trail around Tubbs Hill and along Lake Coeur d’Alene is well-worn and suitable for running.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Head off ticks

 Ticks are the most notable vermin for hikers this time of year. Take defensive measures such as wearing long-sleeve shirts and pants and tucking shirt tails into pants and pant legs into socks. Nerdy, but effective.

 Our family uses permethrin sprays on clothing before going hiking to treat pant legs, wrist cuffs and bandanas we wear around our necks.

 Unlike insect repellents that are applied to skin, permethrin is an insecticide used only on clothing. It’s effective.

 The most common permethrin products in Spokane area stores are made by Sawyer.

Hikers are in the same boat with gardeners this spring. We’ve all had to be patient a little longer than normal for the bloom to begin, but the wait is over.

While snow still hides plants in the high country, the lowlands are bursting with color along trails ripe for spring hiking.

This is boogie time for hikers who’d sooner chance the odds of iffy weather than face the certainty of summer crowds. Lakeshore trails, such as those at Sullivan, Priest and Chelan, are opening for walkers who want to be there when the buds begin to burst open.

However, the best displays this week are right around Spokane, and west or south from town.

Head out to the South Hill Bluffs today – just before sunset is prime time – and drop onto the trails off High Drive between 23rd Avenue and Bernard Street overlooking Hangman Creek. Feast on the arrowleaf balsamroot and the blooming service berry bushes. Delicious.

Dry-land areas as close as Fishtrap Lake and Riverside State Park and beyond to the Columbia Basin and Hells Canyon, for example, are exploding with ablaze with showy yellow flowers: first the glacier lilies and yellow bells, then the balsamroot followed shortly by arnica.

Following are other notable early-season hiking highlights:

LOCAL DAY HIKES

Dishman Hills Natural Area: Trails loop through more than 500 acres of pine forest, ravines, ponds and overlooks in this Spokane Valley gem. First-timers should start at the Camp Caro trailhead at the south end of the Hills off Sargent Road.

Info: Spokane County Parks, (509) 477-4730.

Riverside State Park: Few people have discovered all of the 55 miles of trails in this park along the Spokane River. A trail map is sold at outdoor stores and Northwest Map and Travel Book Center. For introductions, start from the suspension bridge at the Bowl and Pitcher, where the river roars under your feet. Or begin from the Centennial Trail parking lot near Nine Mile Dam and branch out onto the dirt trails and Deep Creek Canyon south of the river.

Info: (509) 456-3964.

Tubbs Hill in Coeur d’Alene is circumnavigated by a gem of a trail with two-thirds of the 3-mile route overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene. The trail provides access to a few beaches. Access is from the city boat launch parking area just east of the Coeur d’Alene Resort or at a parking area near 10th Street and Mountain Avenue.

Info: None needed.

Q’emiln Riverside Park: Pronounced Kih-MEE-lin, this Post Falls park has more than three miles of trails rambling along basalt rock cliffs popular with climbers and through native vegetation along the Spokane River. From Interstate 90 at Post Falls, take Exit No. 5 and head south on Spokane Street, across the Spokane River and right on Parkway to the trailhead at the end of the road.

Info: None needed.

ROAD-TRIP DAY HIKES

Kamiak Butte, east of Colfax: In spring, the butte stands like an island in a green sea of Palouse wheat fields 12 miles north of Pullman. From the picnic area and trailhead, hikers can make a 3.5-mile loop hike to the 3,641-foot summit of a timbered ridge that’s rich with wild plants and songbirds. Gate is open 7 a.m. to dusk.

Info: Whitman County Parks in Colfax, (509) 397-6238.

Palouse Falls State Park, near Washtucna: More than three miles of informal hiking, with spectacular views of 198-foot Palouse Falls, begin from the falls overlook.

Info: No phone contact.

Sullivan Lake, near Metaline Falls: Running the length of the lake, the popular 4-mile lakeshore trail is as peaceful as it gets, and the 2-mile Elk Creek Trail beginning at the nearby Mill Pond recreation site is choice well into May while the waterfall is still gushing.

Info: Sullivan Lake Ranger Station, (509) 446-7500.

Fishtrap Lake, west of Spokane: Good “wandering” trails head out on BLM land along the west shoreline of Fishtrap Lake, just 25 minutes west of Spokane off I-90. Get maps and hike north from Fishtrap area to Hog Canyon where a springtime waterfall waits to be discovered.

Info: Spokane BLM office, (509) 536-1200.

Odessa-Pacific Lake Trail: Hike any or all of a 13-mile trail through BLM-managed scablands and sagebrush from Odessa to Pacific Lake. Stop anywhere in Odessa and people will point you to the trailhead just a few hundred yards out of downtown above the Odessa Grange Supply. Through hikers can shuttle a vehicle to the Pacific Lake Trailhead.

Info: Spokane BLM office, (509) 536-1200.

Steamboat Rock State Park, north of Coulee City: A nifty 5-mile desert trail that will be blooming with bitterroots bursting from the trailside gravel in early May leads up from the campground and around the top of Steamboat Rock. The views of Banks Lake are excellent, offering a rare opportunity to look down into an eagle’s nest. Double your hiking pleasure by driving east across Highway 155 from the Steamboat Rock campground to hike up Northrup Canyon.

Info: Park office, (509) 633-1304.


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