April 28, 2013 in Outdoors

Picking favorite hike difficult choice for author

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Day hikers follow the trail to the top of Hall Mountain above Sullivan Lake in the Colville National Forest.
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Local Trail Angel: Mark Pinch

 Mark Pinch of Liberty Lake broke the mold for real estate developers and their frequent dearth of interest in public trails.

 Not only did he orchestrate the 9-mile trail system at Saltese Uplands just east of I-90 and Barker Road, he also rolled up his sleeves and joined a 12-man crew he hired to do the sweaty work. “This is a dream come true for me,” said Pinch, a mountain biker, fly fisher and all-around outdoorsman who grew up in the area.

 The trails are well thought out with good sight lines and curves that check mountain bike speeds to make cyclists compatible with hikers and horse riders.

“I wanted this to appeal to a wide range of people,” he said, noting that he’s looking into options for easements that could allow a trail to connect the area with Liberty Lake.

 The trails helped forge the agreement for the Spokane County Conservation Futures Program to buy the 552-acre parcel held by American West Bank in a foreclosure. Pinch brokered the deal.

 Saltese Uplands is a spring treat of wildflowers for hikers overlooking the waterfowl flocking to Saltese flats and wetlands below.

 Bottom line: A scenic open area that had been platted for 107 lots and an 18-hole golf course has been permanently preserved as open space for wildlife and outdoor recreation, enhancing private property values around the area. “That’s win-win for a real estate guy who loves the outdoors,” Pinch said.

Day Hiking program May 2, Mountain Gear

A free slide program about day hiking the sunny side of Washington will be presented by S-R outdoors editor Rich Landers on Thursday(May 2) , 7 p.m., at the Mountain Gear retail store, 2002 N. Division St.

Day hikers will learn where to go and how take advantage of walking lighter, farther and more often than backpackers.

The program, based on the author’s new trail guide, Day Hiking Eastern Washington (Mountaineers-Books), will highlight some of the 125 day trips covered in the book as well as tips on dealing with challenges ranging from lightning to wolves.

Landers co-authored the guidebook with Northwest hiking authority Craig Romano.

Landers also authored 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest , the hiking Bible for the region.

“Both of us have ridden our bicycles across the United States, climbed the region’s tallest mountains and paddled extensively,” Landers writes in the book’s preface.

“We’ve done as much dirt- bagging and sleeping on the ground as some critters that live in the forest,” Landers writes in the preface.

“What’s your favorite hike?”

Being a guidebook author who’s explored Inland Northwest trails for more than three decades, I’m regularly asked that question by hikers.

The answer is as difficult as naming your favorite child. But as all parents know, some of our children are a little more appealing, depending on the day and the mood.

I prefer certain hikes when the waterfalls are at peak flows, or mosquito season is over, or huckleberries are ripe or fall colors are peaking.

My top choice for an after-work hike this week might be the Saltese Uplands, one of a dozen great treks on the various lands protected by the Spokane County Conservation Futures Program.

Travel time to the Spokane Valley would be minimal to allow maximum time for hiking a 7-mile loop. From the high points of the trek, I’d enjoy views of Spokane Valley, Mount Spokane, Liberty Lake and Mica Peak.

Wildflowers are blooming in profusion and I’d be returning to the treeless, west-side trailhead in the full glory of sunset.

If you asked me about my favorite hike for the first weekend in May, I might say Steamboat Rock State Park, where bitterroots and other wildflowers are peaking as the geese rear their broods and before the heat is daunting and summer boating crowds have arrived.

Following are a few other ways I sort my favorites among the hundreds of day hiking options in Eastern Washington.

Best place for a hiking base camp?

Sullivan Lake, where hikers can chose from a dozen trails, high and low, including jaunts into the Salmo-Priest Wilderness and Gypsy Peak, the tallest mountain in Eastern Washington.

Best local wildlife hike?

Pine Lakes Loop at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, where courtship, nesting or rearing of trumpeter swans and other birds is on display.

Best mountain circumnavigation?

Sherman Peak loop off Sherman Pass in the Colville National Forest.

Trail most likely to be void of people?

Little Grass Mountain Trail 266 starting near the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars northwest of Priest Lake.

Best spring hike to impress altitude-challenged visitors?

Palouse Falls.

Best place to freak out your in-laws with rattlesnakes?

Escure Ranch or Northrup Canyon.

Best wilderness workout loop?

Panjab Loop into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, from the Tucannon River up to high, open plateaus and back.

So there, I’ve listed some favorites. But ask me another time and the answers almost surely will be different.

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