This summer we’re reviving a popular feature from 2008: road trips around the Inland Northwest. Every week we’ll feature a new destination. Some will be tried and true favorites, and some will be a quirky and different. The destinations will be within a day’s drive, out and back, and featured attractions will be either free or very low cost. E-mail Pia Hallenberg with your ideas for future stories.
If there’s one problem with Sandpoint, it’s that there is too much to do. Between Schweitzer Mountain and City Beach, the Festival at Sandpoint and the Panida Theater, there is always something going on somewhere. In other words, if you are just spending one day, plan ahead and choose something for everyone in your family.
Say “Lake Coeur d’Alene” in Spokane and most people think of boating or maybe swimming off the beaches at Coeur d’Alene City Park and taking a walk on the floating docks. Yet there are many other destinations around this gorgeous lake regardless if you come by boat, car or bicycle. If you’ve never been down the east side of Lake Coeur d’Alene, now is the time to go. From Spokane, take I-90 east through Coeur d’Alene and take Exit 22 at Wolf Lodge Bay, then go south on Highway 97 and prepare to be dazzled.
When the temperatures around here creep toward the 90s and the air turns dry and dusty, people go “to the lake” and that’s exactly what this road trip is doing: It’s going to Lake Roosevelt. Leave Spokane by taking U.S. Highway 2 west through Reardan and on to Davenport, Wash. Instead of immediately heading north on state Highway 25 to Lake Roosevelt and Fort Spokane – the ultimate destination of the trip – make a stop in Davenport and visit the historical museum.
This road trip to Wallace, Idaho, began on a sunny Saturday morning – the first really sunny morning in a long time. Locals say Wallace is “the center of the universe,” within a short distance of skiing and hiking, climbing and biking, all in the mountains that line the Silver Valley. The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places and it has survived no less than two huge fires: The first in 1890 almost destroyed the town; the second fire in 1910 only took out parts of town as many of the buildings destroyed in the 1890 fire had been rebuilt in brick.
Sleeping Dog Wines. Kiona Vineyards Winery. Fidelitas Winery. Terra Blanca Winery. Most Washington wine nerds have heard of at least one of these places, but may not be aware that they are all conveniently located within short distances on Red Mountain, just west of the Tri-Cities. Yes, that’s correct, the Tri-Cities. Located at the far eastern end of the Columbia Valley wine region this relatively small and fairly new AVA – American Viticultural Area – is easy to find and access and produces a great variety of wine among the more than 20 vineries located there.
There is a place in the middle of Washington where sandhill cranes stop for a rest and a snack in the spring, before they continue their migration. They congregate in the fields and wetlands around Othello, Wash., where they stand around in flocks, omit throaty whoops, and suddenly take off in a flutter of giant wings and dangly legs, as if on a secret signal. Toward the end of March is prime crane watching time, but that doesn’t mean Seep Lakes and Potholes Reservoir Wildlife Areas aren’t worth a visit at a different time of the year.
Summer vacation is over and it’s time for students across the Inland Northwest to write their “what I did this summer” essays. So, what did you do this summer? I know what I did: writing for this spot in the Monday paper I’ve driven close to 2,000 miles around the Inland Northwest, looking for road trip destinations. During that time, I watched the wheat ripen and I saw fresh hay bales the color of Granny Smith apples being stacked. I’ve assessed rumps of yearlings and squinted at a blue sky for a rain cloud that was never there. It seems like the sun was shining all summer – except for that brief hailstorm in Missoula. I’ve hiked through sagebrush for miles and miles, the sand and the rock so hot the scent of warm sage made me sneeze and think of beef stew.
The crowds will be withdrawing from the mountains today, leaving a colorful and solitary experience for a hiker heading into autumn on forest trails. Wise hikers wear bright clothing in fall, including cheap fluorescent orange caps or vests. But hunting seasons that opened this week shouldn’t deter hikers from the blazes of color – scarlet huckleberry bushes, yellowing larch – that peak around early October.