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Orienteers invite families to navigate through Manito Park

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ORIENTEERING — The Eastern Washington Orienteering Club will celebrate haunting season in the sixth annual Vampire O event Saturday (Oct. 26) at Manito Park.

Participants will search for control points by headlamp or flashlight, but they must be constantly on the lookout for “vampires” who can rob them of points and cause them to turn to the dark side themselves.

  • Register starting at 6 p.m.  Mass start at 6:30 p.m.
  • Meet near the parking lot off Grand Avenue at 18th Street.

Bring the family and dress for Halloween fun. 

More Than a Century of Winter Fun at Manito Park

   The morning after the season’s first snowfall, as I worked at my computer I could look out the window and see a steady parade of people heading down my street toward Manito Park.
Parents towed toddlers on sleds and teenagers laughed and pushed and punched one another as they trudged to the traditional sledding hill at the edge of the park. I couldn’t help myself. I had to smile. Welcome to winter in the heart of Spokane.

   I stopped typing and watched another family as they walked past my window and, not for the first time, I appreciated the direct link to the past this park provides. Each winter, for more than 100 years, the view has been essentially the same. Snow falls and people come out to play.

   I moved to Spokane in 1999 and for several years we lived outside of the city, north toward Green Bluff and near the shallow, curving Little Spokane River. But in 2006, when I realized we were spending a big part of each day driving to and from the city, we sold the big house with the big yard and moved into a little cottage around the corner from Duncan Gardens. My surroundings changed from sprawling suburbia to the intimacy of an old neighborhood with a big park next door.

   We’d visited Manito Park from time to time, but after the move the 90-acre oasis became more than a place to visit. It became a seasonal marker for my days. In the spring we watch the tender green buds unfurl and dress the gardens. In the heat of summer I walk through the rose garden at the end of the day and the air is sweet with the scent of a million blooms. In the fall, the park glows with golden leaves.

    Every day, in every season, people come to the park. But there is a subtle shift in winter. This time of year Manito is a more solitary place. Icy mornings bring out only the most diehard walkers. And night comes too fast.

    But after a fresh snowfall, it’s as if the park sends an invitation to a party. Just as it has been since 1903, the sledding hill is crowded with people and laughter fills the air.

    Several years ago, after recording my weekly public radio program in the studio upstairs, I stopped by Vintage Rabbit Antiques on Monroe.  One of the dealers had a box filled with vintage postcards and I pulled out one that showed a crowd ice skating on the pond at Manito Park. I loved the slice of life captured in the photograph, with men, women and children celebrating the simple pleasure of  skimming over a frozen pond, cold air biting at faces, the wind stinging hands and ears.

   I bought the postcard, scanned the card and keep it on my computer; a wintery moment frozen in time, linking me to both the past and the present in a place I’ve grown to love.


Note: This column was featured in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Nostalgia Magazine

Cheryl-Anne Millsap blogs about antiques and collectibles at The Spokesman-Review. Her audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Tallying the seasons

Saw some action on the Manito Park hill near Grand this afternoon.

Reminded me of the classic description of Vermont's (or sometimes New England's) climate — nine months of winter followed by three months of poor sledding.

The sledding looked pretty poor today here in Spokane. But it's early.

Orienteers invite families to navigate through Manito Park

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ORIENTEERING — The Eastern Washington Orienteering Club will celebrate haunting season in the fifth annual Vampire O event Saturday (Oct. 20) at Manito Park.

Participants will search for control points by headlamp or flashlight, but they must be constantly on the lookout for “vampires” who can rob them of points and cause them to turn to the dark side themselves.

  • Register starting at 6 p.m.  Mass start at 6:30 p.m.
  • Meet near the parking lot off Grand Avenue at 18th Street.

Bring the family and dress for Halloween fun. 

Spokane Hunts Mystery Table Stacker

Using a bucket lift surrounded by caution tape, Miles Cooley of the Spokane Parks Dept. clears the hazard lights lined up on a giant stack of picnic tables at Manito Park Friday. Pranksters have built and left such stacks on at least two occasions this summer, requiring city employees to bring equipment used to prune trees to the site to safely unstack the tables. (Jesse Tinsley, SR)

City workers made an unexpected find while deconstructing the latest mysterious picnic-table pyramid at Manito Park on Friday afternoon. An Urban Forestry crewman discovered a handwritten note addressed to park employees at the top of the stack of 36 tables. The note was signed “SKFS.” It made references to recently constructed table pyramids at Riverfront Park and revealed that four teens are responsible for the latest stacking in Manito. “We heard that our riverfront table pyramids cost $500 each to remove,” the note reads, “yet they only took 4 teens 25 min to assemble sans equiptment! Please stop wasting taxpayer dollars.” The pyramid is the second at Manito this summer and the fourth in Spokane. City workers discovered a larger, nine-level stack of 45 tables Tuesday morning at Riverfront Park/Justin Runquist, SR. More here. (Inset: SR photo of a note found on one of the stacks of picnic tables)

Question: Should Spokane give top priority status to finding individuals responsible for stacking the picnic tables?

Welcome to Great Spirit Woods

Suppose, through a bizarre sequence of events, a developer acquired Manito Park and announced plans to build a gated community there.

Yes, of course, there would be a sustained uproar.

There would be howls of protest and letters to the editor saying the city had sold its soul.

But once it became clear that all the lawsuits and what have you were not going to stop construction, how long would it be before people would start buying properties in this development?

I'm guessing about five minutes.

Scantily clad man flashes garbage man

A man wearing nothing but a wig and bra near Manito Park has reportedly been flashing a garbage man, “as well as leaving cards and notes for him,” according to the latest Spokane Police Department weekly report.

Police told KXLY-TV the man denied doing so, and that he can only be arrested if officers witness the act.

The news station called it a case of a man showing the trash man “the wrong kind of junk.”

A Walk in the Park

     When the signs are subtle but strong. When the wind shifts and the sun’s arc across the sky changes a bit. When the perfume in the air takes on another scent and something deep inside me responds to a silent signal, I take walk. Not another brisk walk with the dogs to get my heart rate up and burn off the calories, but a slow walk to quiet my racing heart and racing mind. To catch my breath. To see what is happening in the world around me.

      I live near a park. An old park full of acres of trees and paths and stone buildings and secret places tucked into the nooks and crannies. We go there often, to exercise the dogs or ride our bikes, but at least once at the very beginning of each season I go deliberately alone.

      I go when I want to meander, to investigate any rock or tree or bush along the way. When I need to measure time in the ancient way, by the changes in the landscape and sky. Usually, I eventually make my way to one particular spot; a wild, less manicured place tucked into the curve of one of the paths.

      There are more beautiful places in the park, to be sure. Carefully tended gardens with elaborate beds and tall topiaries. Rose gardens with a sunset view and classic white arbors and pergolas. Rows of iris and a meadow of lilacs.

     But time after time, I find myself heading to the quiet spot between the showier spaces.

       I go there to measure the movement of time. To note the subtle shift of the seasons. To see how one small corner of the world changes, dances to Mother Nature’s tune without much help

       In the winter, I stand and watch the way the snow drifts on the branches of the tall tree. In the spring I taste the fruit borne by the tree. In summer I let the leaves shade me and cool me and provide shelter from the sun.

      Each season, everything in this little corner is different. The sun comes in from a different slant. The earth smells sweeter in fall, richer in summer. Flowers bloom in spring and foliage is deep green in summer. The people I encounter are different, as well. In the softer seasons the path is filled with people who talk and laugh as they go by. In the deepest part of winter I can stand there for long stretches of time without seeing anyone at all. When someone does pass they are silent and intent, lost in their own thoughts.

      In some ways, it seems a shame to mark the seasons at the foot of a tree tucked into a city park when the world offers bigger views. Tall mountains. Deep canyons, dense and dark forests and wild water. And I do explore those places when I can.

      But the path in the park is close to home. And in that quiet spot I can, for as long as I will let myself, stop moving so fast and let the spinning planet do all the work. 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com