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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pandemic projects: Spokane resident Sue Jackson’s treks on Centennial Trail open her eyes to region’s vistas, wildlife, blooms

Sue Jackson pauses during a walk along Centennial Trail near the Islands Trailhead on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. She started walking the trail 6 miles a day from Stateline, Idaho, toward Spokane during the COVID-19 shutdown and eventually covered about 240 miles.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
Sue Jackson pauses during a walk along Centennial Trail near the Islands Trailhead on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. She started walking the trail 6 miles a day from Stateline, Idaho, toward Spokane during the COVID-19 shutdown and eventually covered about 240 miles. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

It winds from the Washington-Idaho state line to Nine Mile Falls – almost 40 miles of natural scenery and urban landscapes.

The future site of Washington’s portion of the Centennial Trail was Sue Jackson’s first memory of the area when she and her husband, Gordon, moved to Spokane in 1983 to accept teaching positions at Whitworth University.

“We drove from Indiana,” she said. “We followed the river from Idaho to Spokane.”

Eventually, she walked bits of the trail here and there, but it took the pandemic for Jackson to truly appreciate its amazing vistas and easy accessibility.

“Walking is a thing for me,” said Jackson, who was born and raised in South Africa, “My daughter and I walked the Coast to Coast in England in 2015.”

The Coast to Coast Walk is a 182-mile unofficial and mostly un-signposted footpath between the west and east coasts of Northern England.

Four years ago, when she retired from her position as director of the International Education Center at Whitworth, Jackson knew she needed some kind of scheduled routine. For her, that meant daily workouts, as well as tennis and yoga at the Wellness Center at North Park (formerly North Park Racquet Club).

When the gym temporarily closed in March 2020 due to pandemic restrictions, she laced up her walking shoes and hit the Centennial Trail.

“I read when you retire you need to do something you’ve never done before,” Jackson said.

She’d never walked the trail from start to finish, so she got a trail map and drove to Statel ine, Idaho, and began walking.

“I walked 3 miles in and then walked 3 miles back to wherever I’d parked. I did this three or four times a week, always starting where I’d left off.”

Jackson ended up traversing the entire Centennial Trail from Statel ine to Nine Mile Falls and back again, three times, roughly 240 miles.

Covering that distance wasn’t exactly her intention, but every time the gym had to close because of the pandemic, Jackson returned to the trail.

“I walked at an aerobic pace, but I’m not the kind of person that won’t stop when I see something beautiful. A casual stroll is very nice, as well,” she said.

And she discovered much to enjoy and appreciate as the miles added up.

“I’m really a person who likes to live in the moment, and I’ve always loved springtime here,” Jackson said. “The burgeoning spring after a winter here is mind-boggling. Everything is waking up and getting green. Walking the trail in the spring was an absolute gift.”

With every foray, she found new greenery, new leaves sprouting on formerly bare branches or flowers she hadn’t noticed before.

“My first big and beautiful surprise was the Islands Trailhead between Plante’s Ferry and Boulder Beach – it’s an exquisite piece of beauty.”

She often paused to take photos.

“Then the lilacs started blooming. I really did stop and smell them. The Barker Trailhead, when everything is in bloom, is amazing.”

In addition to the flora, she enjoyed spotting wildlife during her excursions.

“The days kind of had a theme,” she said. “There was snake day, osprey day, goose day – it just kind of happened.”

The Deep Creek Bridge at Nine Mile Falls also offered new vistas.

“It’s so picturesque,” said Jackson.

When winter arrived and another surge closed the gym for a time, she discovered a new season on the Centennial Trail has its own beauty.

“It was freezing, but the trail was sparkly and exquisite on a clear day.”

She chuckled.

“And I didn’t have to share it.”

Jackson is happy to be back to playing tennis and enjoying yoga classes, but she treasures the time she spent walking the Centennial Trail.

“It made me grateful that I live in such a beautiful place,” she said.

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Correspondent Cindy Hval can be reached at dchval@juno.com.

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