The Midnight Century (MC) is a legendary Spokane bike ride that begins, as one might expect, at the stroke of midnight at The Elk in Brown’s Addition on the first Saturday night in August. It travels to Central Food in Kendall Yards by way of a colossal 100 miles of road, trail, and gravel.
On the patio at The Elk you’ll find all manner of riders gobbling down burgers and tossing back pints an hour or two before the start. Other patrons might wonder—“Why all the helmets?”— which is part of the mystique of this ride; there are no promotions, no sponsors, no entry fee, no insurance, and no support aside from the camaraderie of your fellow riders. This thing just happens. There’s an arcane little website with a cue sheet for the route and some helpful tidbits about endurance riding—most of it from an Out There article from 2009.
The 2018 MC saw a good turnout, with roughly 40 riders in all, standing about gabbing when, all of a sudden and with no fanfare, the whole mob took off like a pack of psychotic bike messengers. The route hops on the Centennial Trail where it makes a mad dash east for State Line. And it truly is a mad dash because the sensible thing to do on an endurance ride like this is pace yourself. But only the most seasoned rider can resist the temptation of the sprinting mob. It’s late on a warm Saturday night and you’re turning pedals with your friends; how do you NOT go a little too hard?
Lynn Stryker & Timmothy Dunn prepare for the Jennings treatment // Photo by Justin Short
From State Line the ride dips into Idaho before it swings back around the north shore of Liberty Lake. Then riders begin the grueling ascent up and over Quinimose. It is here that the mysticism of the Midnight Century takes hold. It delivers a vague sense that, somewhere in the inky black darkness, the ghostly presence of Mica Peak is looming. Lights from various farms and homesteads dot the valley below, offering a heart-rending vista indeed.
As the route meanders eastward on the northern edge of the Palouse, riders get their much-longed-for-and-later-regretted gravel roads. Food and water options are almost non-existent on the course, but the MC has its own Dust Angel. A dude named Glen sets up a respectable feed station out of the back of his car somewhere around the 50-mile mark. He also stocks a feed table at the end of his driveway a few miles from Spangle. Mic Woodruff was also out there dust angel-ing mid-course somewhere last year. You can’t hope to find two friendlier faces in the dark!
Faster riders come blazing through Spangle under a veil of darkness. At my pace the faint pink wisps of dawn are beginning to light the horizon, and others mosey through when the sun is up. Then comes Jennings Road, a 6.7-mile meandering ribbon of deep loose gravel and inescapable washboards that will rattle your fillings out. You may think you see a smooth line through the rough patches. There isn’t one. It’s a psychological test of sorts. If the Midnight Century is still fun after Jennings, then you have an extraordinary spirit of adventure.
After Cheney, the route returns on the Fish Lake Trail, a godsend as home stretches go, gently whisking between the pines all the way back to civilization. I teamed up with local cyclocross legends Lynn Stryker and John Osterbach for a pace line to the finish. Lynn and John, like so many other riders you’ll meet, exude a love of the ride, and to join with them in that experience is nothing short of transcendent. At least it transcends the pee stops, exhaustion, and bone-rattling washboards.For a finish line there’s an unassuming little sheet taped to a window at Central Food in Kendall yards for riders to sign before they stumble in for breakfast. The restaurant, owned by Midnight Century’s inventor David Blaine, doesn’t open till 8, but if you don’t think it’s a better idea to go home and fall face down in a bowl of cereal, you may just find yourself sitting around the back patio sharing war stories over a meal with the likes of Tim Dunn and Josh Hess. And later arrivals will be slumped over their plates at Central Food while you’re at home sawing logs and dreaming about your night of mayhem on The Midnight Century.
Justin M. Short is a local rider who you might meet commuting at some obscene hour, tearing up the jumps at Beacon, or grinding gravel in the middle of nowhere. Though not a stranger to its pages, this is his first article for Out There.
Twenty-some years ago, a small cohort of crazed cyclists skidded their way down the white silt cliffs outside Kamloops, in the Thompson-Okanagan region of south-central British Columbia. Mountain biking had just entered the Olympics; racing was ascendant. But this was something altogether different.
Not since Marin County hippies bombed cruiser bikes down dirt roads some twenty years before that had the sport of mountain biking changed so fundamentally. Together with similar enclaves in the Kootenays and the North Shore of Vancouver, free riding was born.
Today the Thompson-Okanagan region remains at the forefront of gravity-based biking. Brett Rheeder, this year’s winner of the Redbull Rampage, the Super Bowl of freeriding, calls SilverStar Bike Park, near Vernon, his home hill; several of his competitors in the invite-only competition hail from the Okanagan. It’s likely little coincidence that the sport’s marquee event, although based in Utah, is held on a landscape remarkably similar to that Kamloops dirt.
Visit the region’s lift-served bike parks and it’s not hard to see why it produces world-class riders. Here is the future of bike park design. Gone is hand-hacked singletrack; in is machine-built trails with big, bike-dwarfing berms and manicured, precisely sculpted jumps.
Despite the rowdy nature of the trails, the Okanagan bike parks give off a laid-back, low-key vibe. Absent is the agro attitude that has occasionally plagued the downhill scene. Here there’s a home-hill bonhomie where all are welcome—the patrollers, the park rats, the first-timers, and the old-timers.
Photo by Aaron Theisen
BIG WHITE BIKE PARK
Despite its proximity to the birthplace of freeriding, Big White Ski Resort, near Kelowna, didn’t have a bike park until the summer of 2017. But Big White Bike Park has made up for lost time, applying decades of dirt-moving knowledge to the construction of its trails. The crew from LOFT Pike Parks, a build crew on the cutting edge of trail design, has shown what’s possible with a blank slate.
“We are incredibly lucky to be entering the bike park game at this point,” says Luc Gaudet. Gaudet, a member of the Bike Patrol team since the park’s inception, is also involved with trail construction and maintenance, including the slopestyle course in Happy Valley.
“Sustainable building practices have been the biggest lesson in bike park construction over the last decade or so,” says Gaudet. “The changes in geometry and most importantly wheel sizes have changed the physics of how we need to approach building a modern park, particularly with jump and turn radius shapes and sizes.”
But the work the build crew, in conjunction with LOFT, has put in shows: even green runs such as Pry Bar boast big, beginner-friendly berms and low-consequence doubles.
What started off as a handful of trails in the abbreviated season of 2017 continues to grow, with black flow trail Dark Roast, whipping riders down the lower half of the mountain on a series of massive step-up and tabletop jumps. Meanwhile, Bermslang coils big turns one on top of the other.
Gaudet’s enthusiasm for the bike park is infectious; his favorite trail is always the one he’s just about to ride. “Rock Hammer into Dark Roast is the current owner of my heart,” says Gaudet. “It has everything: above-tree-line alpine with stellar rock formations, then spitting you onto a brown highway all the way the bottom.”
Gaudet also gushes about the full unveiling of The Joker, the massive, gasp-inducing jump line featured in the Red Bull film “Rhythm.” Designed by local freeride pro Bas van Steenbergen before the bike park even opened its gates, The Joker opens to the public for the 2019 season.
Big White Bike Park is unique in the region in that it extends into true alpine. From the 7,057-foot top of the Bullet Express, double blacks Rock Hammer and Catapult Ranch lead with granite slabs into immaculate dirt with sight lines all the way to the base area and to the Monashee Mountains in the east—should you take your eyes off the trail.
“The quality of our rocks is also something to be spoken of,” says Gaudet. “It has an incredible amount of grip that allows it to be ridden with some confidence in even wetter conditions.”
Down below, in Happy Valley, the LOFT crew has carved out a pro-level slopestyle park of monolithic jumps. Mere mortals can test their skills on a slimmed-down version of the pro line, which is only open for competitions. Make no mistake: even the “amateur” line is intense.
Says Gaudet, “More than anything, we are aiming for a world-class experience from the first-day rider up to the professional.”
SILVERSTAR BIKE PARK
If you’ve watched a mountain bike film in the last ten years, you’ve seen SilverStar Bike Park. This park, near Vernon, about ninety minutes north of Big White, goes big. The resort’s Comet Six Pack Express—Canada’s longest mountain bike chairlift—climbs 1,600 vertical feet and accesses over 600 berms and more than 300 jumps on 30 miles of downhill trails. The cross-country crowd needn’t feel left out since the park features roughly the same mileage in pedal-friendly trails. Oh, and the wildflowers are legendary—not that you’ll notice.
Gently rounded as opposed to Big White’s slabby summit, SilverStar makes the most of its elevation and the “magic dirt” of its open meadows and loamy forest. Their terrain allows SilverStar’s builders to finesse the trails rather than simply fighting the fall line.
“We don’t have a lot of rock features at SilverStar, but what the trail crew has done is use the rock that is there to its best ability,” says SilverStar team rider Jesse McClintock, who winters at Mike Weigele Heli Skiing as a guide.
“If you are looking for some technical bike-punishing trails, then my favorite would be Dag’s Downhill,” adds McClintock. “It’s the race for the BC Cup Downhill series. Lots of rock, rock drops, and fast tree sections on this trail. It really keeps your heart rate maxed out!”
Crystal Townsend, a SilverStar team downhill rider and bike instructor here, says that SilverStar is the best place she’s coached at because there’s a natural progression of trail difficulty. It culminates in Walk the Line and its wall rides with 15-foot gaps and mandatory doubles.
Adds McClintock, “I love the intermediate trail called Super Star because it is pretty mellow, but you can really dial in your skills before heading to the bigger jump/flow runs like Walk the Line or Pipe Dream, both of which are rowdy.”
Here as at its neighbors, though, the mountain offers instruction ranging from half-day sessions to weeklong skills camps, so flatlanders and freeriding first-timers need not be intimidated. That’s a feeling that extends beyond the confines of the skills camps too. “The community here [includes] some of the most friendly people I’ve ever met,” says McClintock. “They make you feel at home and will gladly show you around or help you out if they can. I’ve met some life long friends up here.”
SUN PEAKS BIKE PARK
British Columbia’s second-largest ski resort, Sun Peaks Resort, hosts the province’s second-oldest, lift-served bike park, just behind Whistler—this year marks its 20th anniversary. In many ways this bike park just north of Kamloops retains the feel of an elder statesman, with steep, rowdy, and rocky hand-hewn singletrack reminiscent of downhill’s late-90s arms race.
But the builders at Sun Peaks have begun adding some machine-built trail for modern riding. The showpiece Steam Shovel speeds off the Sunburst chair into a corkscrewing progression of berms and jumps. With no mandatory drops or big gaps, intermediate riders can safely roll through any features. An as-yet unnamed green trail provides a solid thirty minutes of smooth, sinuous descending of machine-built tread from Sunburst down to the lodge.
Sun Peaks-sponsored rider Gabe Neron is younger than the bike park, and even though he only crossed over to mountain biking from the moto world four years ago, he embodies the old-school bike park riding mentality.
“[The park] has still got the rocks, roots and free-ride background to it,” says Neron. “We’re working toward building more of the machine-built, flowy stuff, but we’re definitely interested in keeping the raw, old-school flavor that Sun Peaks is all about.”
For a rider with eyes set on qualifying for the World Cup, Sun Peaks is an ideal training ground. “If I go to another resort where the course is a little easier, I’ve got the background where I can go down the steepest, gnarliest stuff,” says Neron. “I always know I’m going to be able to ride it.”Just as at SilverStar, the subalpine wildflowers deserve special mention; they are popular enough that they have their own festival at the end of July. It’s worth the short hike from the Sunburst Express to the top of Tod Mountain after a day of riding. On a clear day—of which there are many—scissor-shaped Shuswap Lake is visible to the east. And to the south, so is the birthplace of freeriding.
Rivers are complex systems, and conservation efforts can be as complex as river systems themselves. Collaborative efforts involving multiple stakeholders have the best chance to be successful. Here are two regional conservation efforts where multiple stakeholders are working together to improve our waterways.
Invasive northern pike have been making inroads into the Columbia River from illegal introductions in Montana and Idaho. These large carnivorous creatures will eat anything they can get into their mouths, such as ducks, bass, to other pike. Northern pike have the potential to impact steelhead and salmon populations—especially if they make their way to spawning grounds past Grand Coulee Dam and into the Okanagan. Pike are already feeding heavily on native redband trout and burbot and are affecting hatchery rainbow trout populations.
N. Pike in Colville River with hatchery Red Band Trout // Photo by Holly McLellan
A collaborative effort has been under way for several years to suppress the population of these invasive pike within the Columbia River system. The co-managers of Lake Roosevelt—the Spokane Tribe, Colville Confederated Tribes, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)—are working with agencies both up and down stream, such as Canada’s first nations and Ministry of Environment; the Kalispel and Coeur d’Alene tribes; and Douglas, Grant and Chelan Public Utility Districts.
According to Holly McLellan, a Colville Fish Biologist, northern pike are gill netted in spring when they spawn in shallow waters. The co-managers of Lake Roosevelt held weeklong “All Hands On” suppression effort in April using 450 nets and 10 boats with a goal of catching over 1,000 spawning pike.
The Colville Confederated Tribes also has a reward for anglers catching pike, $10 per pike head. The tribe has established several drop off stations and paid out $4,500 to anglers. McLellan states, “We need their help to keep the pike population in check.”
Since 2015 the Colville Tribe, Spokane Tribe, and WDFW have removed over 8,761 pike.
Colville Tribe staff with a 27.78-lb 47-inch long Pike // Photo by Holly Mclellan
Hangman Creek is the most polluted waterway in the state. The waterway suffers from low oxygen, high nutrients, high temperature, and too much sediment suspended in the water. Just walk down to the confluence of Hangman and the Spokane River right after a rainstorm and notice the brown, cloudy Hangman versus the greenish-clear Spokane.
The primary cause of these issues is the lack of connectivity of the creek to its floodplain. An intact floodplain with complex habitat of riparian trees, down woody debris, and over bank flooding traps sediments, slows floodwaters, and reduces pollutant entering the waterway. Currently there are several collaborative projects addressing these water quality issues.
In the Idaho headwaters the Coeur d’Alene Tribe is restoring tributary creeks with a goal of enhancing native redband trout habitat. They are removing creeks from straight ditches along railroad track and allowing them to run through historic meanders. By adding wood debris, planting trees to produce shade, and curves to the creeks flow, water will slow down, settle out sediments and make more complex habitat features, all benefitting redband trout.
In the lower basin of the Hangman, many organizations have been working to increase the amount of historic cottonwood and willow forests that once lined the creek. Organizations such as the Spokane Conservation District, The Lands Council, and Department of Ecology frequently have volunteer plantings. They are also working with local landowners to fence off portions of the creek to remove cows, which trample vegetation, erode the stream banks, and can add pollutants.
The Spokane Falls chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Spokane Riverkeeper have started a citizen science initiative to monitor water clarity. Participants sample the water clarity as well as take photo points to document the state of our river.
The Spokane River Keeper recently won a court case that stated the Department of Ecology and Environmental Protection Agency needs to do more to lower pollutants in the Hangman Creek drainage. This includes a full assessment of riparian vegetation, greater enforcement of current laws, cattle removal, and strengthening collaborative efforts.Waters in our river basins are a shared resource; anything done up stream will eventually make its way down stream. Collaboration from all user groups, mangers, and the public will make these waters healthier for all users and just more fun to play in.
When Adam Gebauer is not unintentionally chasing or being chased by an 800-pound moose down the forest roads of Eastern Washington, he is chasing his 6-pound cat around the house. Adam most recently wrote about the importance of a slowly melting mountain snow pack in March.
Memorial Day weekend is the ceremonial start to camping, and it’s not too late to book a trip at any of the hundreds of campgrounds throughout the Northwest.
If you’re new to camping, how should you decide where to go? One of my favorite aspects of camping is that the actual campground serves as an opportune base camp for further exploration—a means to access a broad range of nearby adventuring possibilities. While it’s relaxing to hang-out at a campsite all day, it’s also possible for a week-long trip or even a three-day weekend to become a multi-sport adventure. Rather than just “go camping,” plan a trip itinerary more like an expedition—an opportunity to explore with your kids and try a new activity or devote time to a favorite sport, such as fishing, paddling, biking, or hiking.
Here are some regional campground destination ideas, organized according to activities. Not meant to be a comprehensive list, all the suggestions below include campgrounds located on public lands, such as state parks and national forests. Many of these places provide access to multiple activities—it all depends on how much time you have and how much gear you’re willing (and able) to pack.
Best campground destinations for dock fishing and paddling:
North Idaho’s Chain Lakes, connected to the Coeur d’Alene River via narrow channels, provides scenic paddling through a designated wildlife management area. Blue Lake is one of the largest, along with Lake Killarney, which has a dock, boat launch, and campsites—including a site and picnic area on Popcorn Island—all managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Hawley’s Landing Campgroundat Heyburn State Park, at Lake Chatcolet, has a dock and small beach boat launch area, only accessible by a short, downhill hike. A short drive away is Rocky Point, which has a larger dock, swimming beach, and boat launch.
Round Lake State Park, near Sagle, Idaho, has two long docks and a boat launch for paddlers and boats (electric motors only). This small lake is popular with local anglers; Idaho Fish & Wildlife annually stocks it with thousands of hatchery-raised rainbow trout.
Beaver Creek Campground at Priest Lakeprovides the closest access for paddling the thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake. Though there isn’t a dock, you can fish from the shoreline, boat, or other watercraft.
Brush LakeCampgroundnear Bonners Ferry has a dock and boat launch (electric motors only). Last year, the lake was stocked with over 5,000 hatchery-raised trout.
Sullivan Lakein the Colville National Forest has three campgrounds. West Sullivan and East Sullivan both have docks and boat launches.
Liberty Lake County Parkhas campsites, trails, and a swimming beach, but a Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife boat launch and dock are located on the other end of the lake (Discover Pass required). This past March, the lake was stocked with over 5,000 hatchery-raised rainbow trout.
Steamboat Rock State Parkat Banks Lakehas three campgrounds within the park, a dock, and seven boat launches. The 27-mile acre reservoir lake, popular for catching whitefish, stretches between Coulee City and the towns of Electric City and Grand Coulee.
Best campgrounds with trails for hiking or mountain biking:
National Parks provide interpretative nature, hiking trails, and detailed maps to guide you to alpine lakes or other scenic viewpoints. Stay in Glacier National Park at Apgar Campground, near Apgar Village and Lake MacDonald. Ride the park’s free shuttle or drive farther into the park to access additional trailheads and lakes. Note: Mountain biking is not typically allowed on trails within national parks.
In North Cascades National Park, Goodell Creek and Newhalem Creek Campgrounds are two of the largest ones. Backcountry hiking includes access to the Pacific Crest Trail. Or stay at Lakeview Campground in Stehekan, which is located at the headwaters of Lake Chelan and only accessible by ferry, private boat, or on foot.
Riverside State Park, Mt. Spokane State Park, and Farragut State Park all offer extensive trail networks for hiking and mountain biking.
Best Campground for Biking on Paved Trails:
Riverside State Park’s Bowl & Pitcher campground provides close access to the Centennial Trail. For the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, stay at Heyburn State Park’s Chatcolet Campground, situated on a hill above the trailhead at the Lake Chatcolet day-use area.
Camping Resources:“Camping Washington” by Ron C. Judd, published by The Mountaineers Books (2009) is a comprehensive guidebook to campgrounds throughout the state. Find updated information at Parks.wa.gov and Recreation.gov. For more information about camping in Idaho or Montana, visit their state park websites or OutThereOutdoors.com and use the search tool for accessing archived articles.
The 73.2-mile paved Trail of the Coeur d’Alenesis the connecting thread between a network of outdoor recreation activities and events across the Idaho Panhandle. The friendly towns along this world-class biking and walking trail boast many historic buildings and sites and incredible scenery and outdoor activities. The lakeside community of Harrison, Kellogg in the Silver Valley, and the historic mining town of Wallace all have in-town access to the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes and plenty of lodging, dining, and entertainment options that make for a comfortable base-camp for exploring the trail.
Biking and birding near Harrison.
A great way to experience the natural beauty along the trail and the unique culture and personality of the trail-side communities is to plan one or more days of riding the trail around one of these events planned throughout the summer and early fall. Whether you choose to ride the trail in several sections or one long epic ride, you’ll find uncrowded recreation in a beautiful setting; friendly people; and fun, authentic events that will be one of the highlights of your summer. Shuttles are available from the major trail gateway communities by contacting the chambers of commerce in Harrison, Kellogg, or Wallace.
Mountain Man encampment at Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park Historic Skills Fair
MAY & JUNE
Acoustic Sundays (all summer long): Catch acoustic live music and play cornhole on Sunday’s in Harrison.
Saturday Music in the Park (Saturdays May 25-August 31): Relax in Harrison’s City Park overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene and listen to a wide range of music, from country and Americana to rock and blues, all season long from 2-5 p.m. Different musicians each week with something for everyone.
79thAnnual Gyro Days and Lead Creek Derby (June 12-15): BBQ, a three-day carnival with Midway rides, and the Lead Creek Derby from Mullan to Wallace on Saturday afternoon. Win a cash prize if you correctly guess how long it takes a giant, multi-colored leather ball to float seven miles down the river.
18thAnnual Silver Valley Jeep Jamboree (June 20-22): Set in the heart of the world’s largest silver-mining region, this Jamboree starts off at Wallace, an old mining camp on the National Historic register. Travel up old military wagon trails that wind their way through the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. There’s lunch on a mountain top with unparalleled views of Idaho and Montana as the backdrop. Weather permitting, you will enjoy an evening cookout in the scenic setting of Shoshone Park. Mine tours and one-day fishing licenses are available.
Ride the Wall Bike Ride (June 21): A 13-mile bike course that follows the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene’s from Enaville to Cataldo then along the historic CCC-Wall Ridge route with beautiful views of the Coeur d’Alene River and the Silver Valley, ending back in Enaville.
Historic Wallace Blues Festival (July 12-15):The 8th-annual Wallace Blues Festival is sure to be a hit. It’s been voted best blues event three years running in the Inland Northwest, and was selected as best blues festival of 2018 by the Inland Empire Blues Society.
Annual Historic Skills Fair in Kellogg (July 13-14):Participants dress in period clothing and demonstrate historic skills such as spinning and flint knapping with the backdrop of Idaho’s oldest standing building, the Cataldo Mission. A large cannon will be fired on the hour all day Sunday, and you can visit with the Frontier Regulars Army Corps re-enactors or the Mountain Men re-enactors as they do their thing. Food and handmade crafts will be available for purchase, with free live music.
Wallace ATV Jamboree (July 23-27): ATV and UTV enthusiasts band together in Wallace for a week’s worth of riding in the 1,000-plus miles of trails and roads in North Idaho’s Bitterroot Mountains.
Old Time Picnic (July 26-28):A traditional community celebration in Harrison complete with a parade and family-friendly games such as sack race, baby crawling contest, and the greased pole climb. There is also a ladies’ nail driving contest and a men’s obstacle contest.
Coeur d’ Alene District Mining Contest (August 3): Miners come from around the West to compete in the events starting at 8 a.m. in Gene Day Park in Osburn: Jack Leg Drilling, Team Jack Leg, Hand Mucking, 12-B Mucking, and Spike Driving for men and Hand Mucking and Spike Driving for women and children.
Wallace Accordian Jubilee (Aug 9-11):Accordian players from around the world will come together at Wallace’s iconic Red Light Garage and Fainting Goat Restaurant for concerts, parades, live music and dancing.
Under the Freeway Flea Market (Aug 30-Sept 2): Hundreds of vendors will display their treasures in the protected open-air space under I-90 in downtown Wallace. There will also be live music, kids’ games, street drinks & eats, and more. As you stroll along the booths you can enjoy views of the river, historic town, and mountain landscape.
Gamblers’ 500 Road Rally (Sept 14-15):A 500-mile road rally for auto enthusiasts. The local car club trolls the internet, auctions, and estate sales for vehicles less than $500, then sets out on a 500-miles road trip with an overnight stay at the midpoint in Wallace.
Re-dedication of the Center of the Universe (Sept 21):Wallace is a town that likes to celebrate whimsy, as with this event, that marks the anniversary weekend of the night in 2004 that a manhole cover at the junction of Sixth and Bank Streets was named the probably center of the universe.
Wallace Idaho Fall for History Festival (Oct 3-6): Celebrating Wallace’s colorful history during the most colorful time of the year. You’ll find guided tours of the National Register of Historic Places homes and churches; trolley rides to Nine Mile Cemetery, where actors portray past notable townspersons; lectures; plays; dinner shows; and other special events.
Oktoberfest (Saturday, October 5):Features area micro-breweries and home brewers, vendors, food, music, games, and activities for the kids, including face painting and a bounce house in Harrison.
Since 2009 it has been legal to harvest the rainwater from your roof throughout Washington State, so long as it is collected from an existing roof and used solely to water your property (not for drinking). If you are going to grow anything in your garden, collecting rainwater is a good option because it’s free and non-chlorinated.
If you plan to water a garden solely off of rainwater, you’ll probably need a lot more than a 55-gallon rain barrel. A decent starting point, especially if you use drip irrigation and mulch your garden, is more like 500 gallons, but even that will likely run out in the dry months of an Inland Northwest summer.
I picked up a 275 gallon, food grade, “caged” IBC Tote from Eagle Peak Containers, and sourced another one from Bumble Bar. Depending on the tote’s drain valve thread style, you may have to special order a garden hose adapter instead of assembling your own from PVC pieces procured from a local store. And really, ordering all your connection components online will save you a lot of time and effort compared to tracking down each and every part in person. Another option is to search online for a rain barrel component kit.
With all this effort you’re going to want as much water storage capacity as possible. So if anything, go overboard on cistern size. When it comes to irrigation, there is really no such thing as too big of a tank, only too small. For instance, 55 gallons is about how much a single 4 by 8-foot raised bed will consume per watering session. Unless you are hand watering a small container garden, or you daisy chain a bunch together, those rain barrels are not practical in the Spokane area’s hot summers.
For the serious water harvester with the space, Home Depot stocks 2,500 gallon cisterns ($999), and many other large capacity tanks are available online, including slimmer, narrower tanks, perfect for tucking between houses.
I installed rain gutters from the hardware store, checking with a level to ensure it sloped toward the downspout. Though not strictly necessary, I also installed a “first flush diverter” ($38 from Rainwater Systems via Amazon). During a rain event, the diverter fills up with the initial burst of pollen, dust, and asphalt shingle gunk, and automatically diverts clean water to the cistern, preventing the drip emitters and in-line filters from clogging up. I also installed an overflow tube at the top of the cistern to divert excess water towards the garden.
I also wrapped a reusable mesh bag around the gutter outlet and over a mesh colander that functions as a cover for the cistern hole. This keeps mosquitos from breeding and provides a quick way to empty leaves or anything else that falls over the hole. Burlap sacks also keep light from both creating too much algae and block UV rays from breaking down the plastic. Despite being slightly uphill from the garden, there was not enough water pressure from good old gravity alone to fully pressurize the drip system. This year I plan to install a low-watt “rain barrel” pump. This should be enough to pressurize an average home garden drip system.
Tips for Harvesting Your Own Rainwater
• Source the cisterns from places like Eagle Peak Containers, Earthworks Recycling, or Craigslist (make sure to buy food grade containers). Multiple online sources can deliver specialty cisterns. If you get an IBC tote, check if the drain threads are skinny or fat. The fat thread is called a “butterfly” valve.
• Carefully secure gutters and PVC plumbing parts. Lowes has the best selection, but beware: there is a slight but very important difference between 2 inch inner diameter versus 2 inch outer diameter PVC pipe and connectors.
• Design your system so it’s easy to drain all the parts in wintertime.
• Design your outflow so you can quickly fill a watering can and/or shunt it to your drip system. It sucks standing there for 5 minutes waiting for a watering can to slowly fill up.
Nick Thomas hikes, bikes, and gardens his way through the Pacific Northwest and the wilds of new parenthood. He last wrote about downtown Spokane’s possible zipline in April.
Full of Bavarian charm, beer, and brats, Leavenworth is a dream. Nestled in the Cascade Mountains of Central Washington in the Wenatchee River Valley, many people are drawn to its breweries, festivals, and shopping. Nutcracker museums and Reindeer Farms aside, Leavenworth is a mecca for outdoor recreation, especially for climbers.
With over fifty granite crags within ten miles of town, there’s a reason people travel from all over the country to climb here. Due to its overall popularity and close proximity to Seattle, Spokane, and Wenatchee, Leavenworth gets busy, especially on weekends. Although Leavenworth has superb roadside climbing, even the most sociable climbers would probably admit that a little solace would be nice. With some extra effort and determination, it’s possible to find moderate bouldering, sport, and trad routes with less of a crowd.
There are over a thousand boulder problems to climb in Leavenworth, but many of them go unexplored as popular areas like Mad Meadows, Swiftwater, and Forest Land see all the attention. Though such areas are worth visiting, there are boulder problems strewn up and down Icicle Canyon, Tumwater Canyon, and Mountain Home Road that offer climbing just as good but with far less people.
In Icicle Creek Canyon, seclusion is more likely to be found farther up the canyon. Nine miles up the road is Egg Rock, which offers classic moderates like Smoke Stack Lightnin’ V2, Weather Report V3, and Dark Hollow V6. Although it’s close to the road, it has a remote feeling and is far enough away that it typically won’t be crowded.
In Tumwater Canyon, Driftwood Boulder is off the beaten path and the perfect place to tick off Clipped Wings, Gooseneck, Driftwood, and Bubbleslab, which are rated V0, V1, V2, and V4 respectively. For more guidance on how to find less crowded bouldering options in Leavenworth, pick up a copy of “Leavenworth Bouldering” by Kelly H. Sheridan, an essential companion to bouldering in the area.
A climber goes for the Top Out in Leavenworth // Photo by Jon Jonckers
Sport and Traditional Climbing
There’s nothing quite like getting into the flow and fun of climbing a moderate multi-pitch route, and Condorphamine Addiction on the Condor Buttress offers just that. Though the approach has been known to be tricky and time consuming, the seven pitches of well-bolted 5.10b sport climbing are worth it.
Value Village is a beautiful granite crag that takes about two to three hours to hike into. It’s well worth trekking in and gaining over 2,800 feet of elevation to climb the classic routes Full Boar and Pulled Pork. A 5.11a/b splitter crack route, Full Boar can’t be missed, and just as fun is the steep and knob-studded 5.10a Pulled Pork.
One of the most popular crags in Leavenworth, Snow Creek Wall, is lined with classics. The approach is long enough (about forty five minutes) to deter some people, but the routes are likely to be favorites regardless. Snow Creek Wall has mostly trad routes ranging from 5.8-5.11. Outer Space is iconic: six pitches of 5.9 with excellent crack climbing. Orbit offers four pitches of 5.8+ climbing, is almost as loved as Outer Space, and has a superb finger crack system running through the hardest part of the route.
The Pearly Gates Crag is full of crack and slab climbing. Located in Icicle Canyon about forty minutes worth of hiking from Snow Creek Lot, this is the place for easy single pitch trad and bolted slab climbing. Whether the preferred method of climbing is bouldering, sport, or trad, Leavenworth has it all. As with any climbing endeavor, nothing substitutes for a written guidebook, so pick up a copy of “Leavenworth Rock” by Viktor Kramar for a comprehensive and more detailed list of all the climbing in the area. Forest Service passes are often required for parking, so be sure to check beforehand, and no matter where you’re coming from, don’t forget to grab a post-send beer; it wouldn’t be a proper trip to Leavenworth without one.
Jessy Humann’s outdoor pursuits are mainly focused on climbing and hiking, though lately she’s been intrigued by running. Humann loves the Inland and Pacific Northwest and is always looking for a good excuse to get outside.
For most folks, being scantily clad in sub-freezing temperatures is far from desirable. With the exception of that strange breed of year-round shorts wearers (you know who you are), low temperatures are cause to bundle and protect.
Not so for proponents of whole body cryotherapy (WBC), where users enter a futuristic, sub-zero chamber with goals including reduced inflammation and faster post-workout recovery. WBC’s popularity has increased in recent years, earning favor with professional athletes including LeBron James, Floyd Mayweather, and Usain Bolt, celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, professional sports teams, and even the cast of Dancing with the Stars.
In WBC, the user enters a chamber cooled by liquid nitrogen and remains inside for up to three minutes, with temperatures ranging from 200 to 300 degrees below zero. The thinking is this: When subjected to extremely low temperatures, the body enters a pre-hypothermic state and blood concentrates in the core and vital organs. As a brochure provided by Spokane Nutrishop and Cryotherapy on the South Hill describes it, “During the 2-3 minute session, your blood short loops through your natural filtration system (heart, kidneys and liver) and removes toxins and inflammatory properties in the blood.” When the user walks out into a normal temperature, this nutrient-rich blood travels back throughout the body, speeding recovery.
Darrin Friberg, a trainer at Orange Theory on Spokane’s South Hill, goes in for HBC once or twice a week and recommends it to clients. “In the moment you’re like, the timer’s going down, dang, get this thing done,” he says, though that hasn’t stopped him from making it a regular habit. Outweighing the temporary discomfort, Friberg has found that WBC aids recovery and reduces post-workout soreness, getting people back to being active more quickly. “If it keeps you working out, there’s something to be said for that,” he says.
One person Friberg recommended cryotherapy to is Sarah Doxey, a Spokane runner who went in for a treatment with a friend, Laura Carey, just before the two of them traveled to Hawaii to run a marathon. “Definitely it’s a weird experience,” Doxey says. “You’re standing in a tube…you have to put on really thick socks, slippers and gloves…It’s not unbearable, but you’re just freezing,” Doxey says with a laugh. If you’re wondering how it feels, the general consensus is that it’s very, very cold, but not terribly uncomfortable, especially for such a short time.
Doxey had WBC recommended to her by both Friberg and her physical therapist; she’d been experiencing such bad calf strain leading up to her race that she couldn’t run for the two weeks beforehand. She’s not sure if it was the cryotheraphy session that made the difference, but the day of the marathon her calf didn’t bother her at all.
John Brumbaugh, the owner of the shop Doxey and Friberg visited, says regulars include people with psoriasis and arthritis, as well as athletes both amateur and professional, like Alyssa Hawley, a member of the 2019 Spartan Pro Team who comes in regularly for cryotherapy and treatment with the shop’s NormaTec boots. (Author’s note: these specialized full leg massage boots are amazing and should not be missed.) Cost for cryo followed by 30 minutes in the NormaTecs is $37. Spokane Nutrishop and Cryotherapy is the only Spokane location that offers both treatments.
Hawley began using cryotherapy this year. “As an athlete, I don’t want to take shortcuts; I think it comes down to taking care of your body as a whole—eating right, sleeping enough, rolling and stretching,” she says. “But because I have those things pretty dialed in, the cryo really just helps speed up the recovery process. Also, drawing an ice bath takes forever, and I am all about efficiency and my favorite thing is how quick and efficient cryo is!”
Prior to returning to the Inland Northwest a few years ago, shop owner Brumbaugh spent a decade in Huntington Beach, where WBC is much more prevalent. He chose the machine in his shop (CryoSense, made by CryoUSA) because of its safety features and because it starts with a heat cycle that opens up the vascular system before shifting to the cold cycle, which he finds to be even more beneficial. He recommends that folks come in once or twice per week for treatments.
Though it’s become more mainstream, it’s important to note that WBC has not been approved or regulated by the FDA, and its benefits are supported more by personal testimonials than conclusive scientific study. Consult with your physician before giving it a try. People who are pregnant, have heart conditions, or extreme cold sensitivity are among those who should not try cryotherapy.As for the rest of us, as Friberg put it to himself before his first session, “What the heck is there to lose?”
If you’re looking for an epic trail race this summer, look no farther than northern Idaho. Schweitzer Mountain will host the new Race the Wolf event, part of Skyrunning USA’s trail running series, with 52K, 25K, and 8K distances boasting panoramic views and summer wildflowers.
Courses will include technical singletrack and fast doubletrack with steep climbs from the starting line at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. With views that sweep from Montana to the Canadian border, the tough trail will reward runners with some gorgeous scenery. Post-race highlights for the 52K and 25K will include beer and a BBQ meal. The 8K (held on July 7) will offer a faster and shorter route with some wild huckleberries along the trail.
While there have been other trail races at Schweitzer, Race the Wolf will be the first of its scale to take advantage of the network of trails. “There are a select few of our local running elite that have been pushing our 7,000-acre boundary for years, and now it’s time to celebrate their exploration and experience,” says Schweitzer events manager Andre Bircher.
Runners can stay and dine in nearby Sandpoint before and after the race, which has plenty of charm and adventure of its own. “It only takes one drive over Sandpoint’s Long Bridge to figure out there’s something special here to explore. What better way to do it than running ridgelines with massive Lake Pend Oreille views and a glimpse into the Selkirk Mountains,” says Bircher.
You can register for Race the Wolf online at Racethewolf.com. Runners can also view course elevation profiles, maps, and learn the location of aid stations ahead of time. Technical stuff aside, Race the Wolf should be a scenic summer run you won’t forget. “It’s always a treat to be in the high alpine,” says Bircher. “In summer months, as the heat waves start to roll into the valley, it’s always a bit cooler up here.” Follow Race the Wolf on Facebook or Instagram (@racethewolf), or check out the hashtag #runsky, then register and “join the pack.”
A race for the bravest of runners and lovers of lore, Slay the Dragon 50K attracts all levels of competitors from around the Inland Northwest to SilverStar Mountain Resort, in south-central British Columbia, to take on their newest stretch of singletrack named “Beowulf.”
Inspired by the literary hero, this trail winds high and low around the resort, reaching upwards of 6,400 feet, while also largely remaining tucked in the lush, B.C. foliage. With vistas all around Silver Star Provincial Park and the Monashee Mountains, and with lodging available right at the resort, this race is a destination worth traveling for.
Also, as the race is situated high enough to beat the summer heat, but not so high as to push the limits of oxygen intake, Slay the Dragon is a great opportunity for those dipping their toes in the ultra-running world or wanting to add a friendly race to their existing schedule. Put on by experienced directors and in partnership with Bush Babes & Bros Trail Running, this event, although new to the scene, is well organized and sure to be challenging in only the right ways. Additional race lengths are available as well, including “The Grendle” 13K run and “Grendle’s Mom” 25K. Enjoy the long Canada Day weekend, channel your inner prince or princess, and try your hero’s hand at Slaying the Dragon. For more information on the race, or to sign up, visit the events page at Skisilverstar.com or find Slay the Dragon on Ultrasignup.com. (Emily Erickson)