It’s not uncommon to hear of people being transported from distress to tranquility by hiking, running or biking trails that led to calypso orchids, huckleberries or other simple pleasures. Following a trail can be a moving experience.
Years ago while I was hunting elk, finding a man-made trail at dusk after hours of being lost in a freezing fog was a bona fide religious moment.
I was saved.
I’d previously reflected on how perfectly anyone’s version of God fits into the scene at the end of a trail leading to a lonesome high-mountain lake, especially when large trout are dimpling the surface. A trail that transforms a survival epic into a confident slog to safety, however, offers an earthly glimpse of salvation.
Trails are a blessing even if they’re not always related to faith and fate. Even when they’re not a matter of life and death, trails are always linked to better living.
I grew up in a wonderful smallish Montana town. It was surrounded by open spaces and endless webs of deer and cow trails, but few nearby routes were officially open to recreation. I noticed the difference immediately when I relocated to Spokane in the 1970s. People who live here may not be in “Big Sky Country,” but they are never far from a public trail.
The variety of available paths is inspiring to the growing number of us who need to stretch our legs and clear our senses on a whim or a regular basis.
Spokane ranks high on national lists that value quality of life, lists such as best places to live and best places to retire. It’s also been named among the top 50 cities for outdoor access, top 50 cities for outdoor adventure, and Outside magazine’s list of 18 “Best Towns” for outdoor enthusiasts. Our community commitment to trails, including the world-class Centennial Trail, plays a big role in the city’s outdoor accolades.
We have destination trails and neighborhood trails. Some trailheads are near city bus stops. Fabulous trails along the Spokane River range from rugged single tracks in Riverside State Park to paved promenades downtown in Riverfront Park.
Within a few hours from town, we can be making tracks next to the prints of grizzly bears and wolves in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness or following the course of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the Bitterroot Mountains. Or we can hit a trail close to home where an amazing number of local paths lead to wild escapes for savoring the sunset where bald eagles perch, moose roam, and coyotes yip.
In researching three local and regional trail guidebooks over four decades, I’ve learned that open spaces are not preserved in an around cities by accident. Many dedicated people are involved in marathon efforts that often span years to fruition.
There are public land patriots behind every park and conservation area: too many people to name, but they all deserve our awareness and thanks when we hit the trail.
Nonprofit conservation groups help secure special places like the Little Spokane River Natural Area for people to enjoy and wildlife to roam.
Dedicated conservationists secure the space for the volunteers who provide the muscle to build miles of trails.
Thanks to the grant writers and the lawmakers who help fund the projects.
Thanks to the city, county and state parks staffs for answering the call for good practices and the gift of trails.
The legions of trail users would be lost without you.
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