There’s a new website created by locals, for locals, wanting to get back to nature. It’s an ambitious project, one that will be ongoing for quite some time.
Although InlandNWRoutes.com is still under construction, it offers hikers, enthusiasts, and newbies a way to enjoy the outdoors at any level.
Its purpose is to show people where to hike, scramble, ski, paddle and more in the Inland Northwest. The creators hope that by sharing their knowledge more folks will recreate outdoors.
They also advocate for preservation of these special places.
One of the website’s stated goals is not only to highlight the many wonderful trails in the Inland Northwest, but to show some options for folks to experience the beauty of getting off-trail.
The site describes itself as a resource, one of many, and reminds readers that if they aren’t familiar with an area to do thorough research before heading into the wilderness.
It suggests WTA.org, IdahoTrailsAssociation.org and the Spokane Mountaineers websites as further resources, as all three organizations are dedicated to preserving, building and maintaining the region’s trails.
The site’s co-creators – experienced hikers Chic Burge and David Crafton, both members of the Spokane Mountaineers – describe what one might face on each hike, options for going beyond the trail and some precautions before heading out in the field.
“It’s starting to come together and we’re just plugging away adding sites and adding features all the time,” Burge said.
It’s taken eight months to load and finish roughly 75-80 hikes on the site, with another 50 or so in the system that still need photos attached.
Viewers can tap on any of the headings and find geological and geographical info that details the lay of the lands. There’s also tabs for cool things close by, hazards and “R&Ps” – restaurants and pubs in the area.
Since no one can go everywhere and do everything, the site accepts reader contributions.
“I’m calling for any contributions people want to make in hikes or paddles or climbs, any of the writeups,” Burge said. “The whole idea is just to get all of this out and leave something so that people can get into the outdoors.”
Burge, 74, was born and raised in the area and has lived in Kellogg since 2018. He started hiking at a young age and worked in retail photography for 50 years, so the site has some terrific photos accompanying the hike descriptions.
In 1984, Burge joined the Spokane Mountaineers and has led trips throughout the region – always with camera in hand. His slide collection includes more than 17,000 images, and increases constantly.
Photography on the site is mostly Burge’s. All the older material is DSLR and 35mm slides, but from June 2019 until the most recent Burge is only shooting with his iPad.
“A lot of the pictures you won’t notice the difference,” he said.
Burge does shorter hikes two to three times per week, and still enjoys what he calls “hard day hikes” with the Mountaineers.
“I move really slow now,” he said. “It isn’t fast, but it’s still hard.”
He started skiing when he was 5 and lives “212 paces” from the gondola at Silver Mountain, where he works as a ski instructor at the bunny hill on Saturdays.
But no more backcountry skiing for him.
“I’ve worn my body out,” he said. “If I’d known I was going to last this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”
Burge always thought that one day he’d collect his stories and slides and write a coffee table photo book. But on a trail maintenance work party last June at Lone Lake he got into a conversation with Crafton.
“We were sitting on the picnic bench at the trailhead and got to talking,” Burge said. “He said he was building a (hiking) website and it was real easy. And I thought that would be really fun to do.”
One thing led to another.
“We discussed the possibility of collaborating on making the website. I said, ‘We need to put our minds together. You can build the website and I can fill it with words and pictures and we can have something here. I’m not going to be around forever. I need to get all of this out of my head.’ ”
Once Crafton had the platform built and pages designed, Burge went to work. “I explain what I want and he designs the page,” Burge said. “Then we work together to fine-tune and finish it.”
Burge has spent a lot of time sorting, scanning and loading photos of hikes, paddles and other adventures. He’s been working 8-12 hours a day since September loading stories, essays, poems and photos to the site.
“When the coronavirus came along, I thought, ‘What’s the big deal, I’ve been (sequestered) for the last five months.’ ”
Crafton grew up at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California and has hiked, climbed and skied those mountains since his late teens.
In his 20s he started guiding, with fall climbing in Yosemite, winter snow and ice travel in the Desolation Wilderness and spring trip to try to “bag” Mount Shasta.
He moved to the Pacific Northwest after college because of its proximity to many enticing hiking and climbing opportunities.
“Chic and I have been to a few places that I think a lot of others would enjoy if they knew where they were and how to get there,” Crafton said on the website. “My goal is to get as much information out of our heads and onto this website as possible in an effort to inspire others to spend time in the mountains.”
In addition to the information about hiking, the pair hope to expand the site’s sections on cross country, backcountry and downhill skiing, mountain and road biking, kayaking and canoeing and, eventually, mountain climbing.
“I’m going to keep working on some of the hikes that we have now,” Burge said of the future of the site.
“But I’m shifting most of my work time – I have 116 paddle sites within a 150-mile radius of here – and I want to get that on the paddle section.”
Burge also wants to have a section dedicated to photography of wildflowers and trees, wildlife, hot springs and waterfalls.
But foremost is providing a valuable resource guide to get people outdoors.
“You’ve got to know where you’re going and what it is you’re going in to.”
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