Tag Archives: Nature and Outdoors

McCroskey State Park/Skyline Drive (Idaho)

On a recent Sunday we decided to go on an exploratory drive.  We chose the 18 mile Skyline Drive of the Mary Minerva McCrosky State Park in Idaho.

Skyline Drive offers beautiful views of the Palouse, even on a slightly rainy day like the one we had. It is very interesting in that it takes you through a typically western forest to a typically eastern one.

From the website:

“This 5300-acre ridgeline park is dedicated to pioneer women. McCroskey State Park’s highlight is an 18-mile skyline drive through the park on unimproved roads provides spectacular views of the rolling Palouse country and access to 32 miles of multi-purpose trails. Facilities include a group day use shelter, primitive camping areas and picnic areas along the road. The road is not recommended for large RVs and may be too rough for your family car.”

We did the road in our light SUV, and it was fine.  Here is a photo of the typical road condition:

It is free.  It has campsites, parking, restrooms, and vault toilets (whatever that is!). I think I saw hiking trails, but we did not do any hiking around.  It is open all year.

Info:

http://www.visitidaho.org/thingstodo/parks/mccroskey-state-park.aspx

http://www.wildernet.com/pages/area.cfm?areaID=IDSPMC&CU_ID=1

We bookended our drive with some snacks, of course.  On the way there we went to Potlatch, Idaho and visited the Wagon Wheel Bar & Grille and Laundromat.

Yes, laundromat.  Meaning there are two washers and dryers in the front part of the establishment, next to the pool table and video games (you eat in the rear part).  Kind of kooky, but fun, friendly, good burgers, open on Sunday, and they allowed kids.

Wagon Wheel Bar & Grille
220 6th St

Potlatch, ID 83855

Phone:  (208) 875-1067

At the end of our journey we went to Garfield and had ice cream and beer at Smokin’ Papas BBQ Cafe.  I have been told the BBQ is very good, and I hope to get back to try it.  They also have pizza. We were really thankful to find another place open on Sunday.

Smokin’ Papas

(509) 635-1290

216 W California St, Garfield, WA

It was a nice way to spend a rainy Sunday, and we got to see some nooks and crannies, and sweeping vistas, of the lovely Palouse.

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R.B. Tukey Orchard: Fruit Picking

The boys with their cherry haul, July 2009, Tukey Orchard

One of the best summer things to do here is to go fruit picking at Washington State University’s organic orchard, the R.B. Tukey Horticultural Orchard.  Today was the first day of the year it was open for picking (strawberries) so I know summer is finally here!

Cherry picking

Look around campus for signs that say “WSU Fruit Sale” and you will know the orchard is allowing people to pick.  You can also get on an e-mail list that will inform you of additional opportunities to pick – I think there are some times when there is not a lot of fruit, so they only send out an e-mail  and do not post a sign.

My favorite time of year is cherry season (these photos are from cherry season last year).  Any of the tree fruit picking days are excellent for kids, too. (Not so much with the berries, which are delicate.)

The fruit is amazing! It is organic, fresh, and really flavorful.  It is generally priced at about the same or slightly less than you would pay for conventional fruit at Safeway.

The orchard is located by the Moscow-Pullman airport and Palouse Ridge golf course.

http://hortla.wsu.edu/orchard/index.html

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Living in the Garden (Pullman, WA)

We made our first trip to a wonderful Pullman spot today: Living in the Garden.  It is a nursery, garden center, gift shop, art space… just all-around cool place.

The plants and baskets are amazingly beautiful.  Truly inspiring (even for a person like me who doesn’t have a garden!)

The gift shop/art space was full of lovely and unique items.

I am glad we made it today, because their season ends on June 27! They only stay open for a few months a year (March through June).  There are a number of special events, such as live music, still yet to come this year, though.

As far as kid-friendliness, it is not a place for running around, as you can imagine.  However, I think it would be a magical place for a slightly older kid to come and choose plants for the garden.  (Note the bathrooms are limited to a port-o-potty.) We made it through our visit without any mishaps, though it took some close monitoring!

Living in the Garden is another of those great places in this area that you can just feel are labors of love- the kind of business you daydream about owning.  Get there soon!

To get there:

Living in the Garden is 2 miles north of Pullman off of Highway 27.  Look for the Reid Road sign and the blue truck with the Living in the Garden sign.

You cannot see Living in the Garden itself from the road, but you see this road:

http://www.livinginthegardens.com/index.html

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Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute

I am going to start doing some entries on places I want to go but haven’t gone yet due to a lack of time (a constant problem!)  This is the first one.

The Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute (PCEI) is a local organization that seeks to “increase citizen involvement in decisions that affect our region’s environment. Through community organizing and education, PCEI assists members of our communities in making environmentally sound and economically viable decisions that promote a sustainable future.”  (From their website http://www.pcei.org/mission.htm.)

Its website describes a handful of “Special Places” which I am very much looking forward to exploring this summer.  The Special Places include Rose Creek, Magpie Forest, Smoot Hill, Moscow Mountain Cedars, Idler’s Rest and PCEI’s stream restoration sites. These sites are all close to Pullman.

From the PCEI website, here is some information about each Special Place (note there is a lot more info on the PCEI website -these are just small excerpts):

ROSE CREEK:  “The Rose Creek Nature Preserve (RCNP) is a special place located only 7.5 miles northwest of Pullman, Washington, near Albion Rose Creek Preserve is the best example of the distinct quaking aspen-black hawthorn-cow parsnip community type of its kind remaining in the endangered Palouse meadow steppe ecosystem. The twelve-acre preserve is bisected by Rose Creek with a plant community of native bunchgrass species in the upland, and a lush community of species such as Fendler’s waterleaf, and purple trillium in the wet meadow.”  (http://www.pcei.org/rosecreek/)

THE MAGPIE FOREST:  “The Magpie Forest is important because it provides wildlife habitat and represents one of the last remnants of native Palouse shrub-steppe vegetation. Pullman’s Environmental Quality Commission has designated the Magpie Forest as one of city’s most important and endangered “critical areas” in anticipation of its eventually becoming part of Pullman, Washington. [P] The Magpie Forest provides an opportunity to explore native plants, wildlife habitat, invasive species and conservation issues.”  (http://www.pcei.org/magpie.htm)

SMOOT HILL:  “This 730 acre farm, located 12 miles from the Pullman campus, was purchased by the WSU in 1972 for research and educational use. Over 300 acres of this property are in the Conservation Reserve Program because it one of the largest intact remnants of the native Palouse plant community. Smoot Hill’s natural diversity and beauty make it popular for ecology and botany field trips.”  (http://www.pcei.org/smoot_hill.htm)

MOSCOW MOUNTAIN CEDARS:  “Largely spared from disturbance by its location on top of a steep 4700’ ridge, this 269-acre parcel of state school trust land is home to an ancient grove of western red cedars estimated to be 1000 years old. Nurtured by the headwater springs of Felton Creek and Hatter Creek, this stand of trees was nominated in 1974 to be a National Natural Landmark as the best extant example of western red cedar/larch habitat.”  (http://www.pcei.org/mm_cedars.htm)

IDLER’S REST:  “Idler’s Rest in managed by the Palouse Land Trust. The site has several trails, one easy along the creek with towering fir and cedar, one middle that goes through a grassland, and one longer and harder that climbs out of the valley floor.”  (http://www.pcei.org/idlers_rest.htm)

The PCEI website http://www.pcei.org/ has a lot more information about its activities, which include all sorts of things regarding environmental education, restoration and preservation.  Of course, it encourages donations and membership and provides volunteer opportunities.

As I visit the Special Places, I will do complete entries.  Another reason to look forward to summer!

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Conservation Park (Pullman, WA)

Path, Conservation park

I love to get the boys outside, especially when it is close and easy.  Today we went to Conservation Park, and it was both.

Conservation Park Entrance

Pullman’s website gives the story of Conservation Park:

“The City’s ‘old nursery’ site having outgrown it’s initial purpose made it’s transformation into the Conservation Park as a result of WSU student Angie Kenney’s Master Thesis; Environmental and Societal Benefits of Conserving Open Space: An in Depth Analysis and formal Park Proposal for Pullman, Washington. The Boy Scouts have improved trails and made the initial improvements to the entrance site at the western terminus of Darrow Street, Park staff added a pergola and volunteers from Windermere Realty installed the landscape. Cub Scouts have added plantings and a bench site overlooking the Palouse River. The future vision includes pedestrian connections to Cooper  Basin, Military Hill and Grand Avenue Greenway.”

A new friend

The park is basically just open space with a rough trail.  The trail is probably about a half mile, winding downhill to the road where the water treatment plant is(!)  It took us about 45 minutes to go all the way down and back – and that included breaks for finding sticks, throwing rocks, and a bit of arguing (naturally).

This was a mini nature experience- not the wilderness by any means, but a good chance to run around and enjoy the sunshine.  In the summer it should be beautiful.

And you get to see the water treatment plant!

The City’s “old nursery” site having outgrown it’s initial purpose made it’s transformation into the Conservation Park as a result of WSU student Angie Kenney’s Master Thesis; Environmental and Societal Benefits of Conserving Open Space: An in Depth Analysis and formal Park Proposal for Pullman, Washington. The Boy Scouts have improved trails and made the initial improvements to the entrance site at the western terminus of Darrow Street, Park staff added a pergola and volunteers from Windermere Realty installed the landscape. Cub Scouts have added plantings and a bench site overlooking the Palouse River. The future vision includes pedestrian connections to Cooper Basin, Military Hill and Grand Avenue Greenway.

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Locomotive Park Holiday Lights (Lewiston, ID)

The Locomotive that gives Locomotive Park its name

Last night we drove to Lewiston to see the holiday light display at Locomotive park.  The kids loved it.

Locomotive Park Arches

The park is 17 acres in size, and every part of it has a light display and Christmas music.  There is a pathway with lighted arches that runs through most of it, which is nice for strolling.

The Musical Tree

A few of the displays have coordinated music, including the huge Musical Tree.  There is also a cute penguin display coordinated to “Lucy & Linus” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio (the “Charlie Brown” Christmas music) that the boys loved (my pictures were too blurry!).

Winter Spirit Outdoor Fireplace

Locomotive Park has a large outdoor gas fireplace by which you can warm up.  It was a bit crowded, but had a nice community feel.

To see all of the lights could take as little as 15 minutes with kids, though they probably would have run around for an hour if we let them (it was cold, so we hurried them along).  This outing would probably be best paired with something else in Lewiston if you are driving the 45 minutes from Pullman.

When you get into Lewiston from Pullman or Moscow, you will see the park on the right – there is no missing it!  The park has plenty of free parking and has port-o-lets.  The light display runs from the Saturday before Thanksgiving through the first Saturday after New Year’s Eve.

Here is the City’s website:

http://www.cityoflewiston.org/index.aspx?NID=515

Happy holidays!

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University of Idaho Arboretum & Botanical Garden

View of the Arboretum from Nez Perce Drive

View of the Arboretum from Nez Perce Drive

Ah, the UI Arboretum. This is one of my favorite places to go.  Yesterday we made a trip there to catch some fall leaves before they are gone.

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The UI Arboretum and Botanical Garden is a 63 acre “living museum of documented plants.”  45 of the acres are planted and the other 18 will be developed in the future (they are currently in wheat, so they are pretty as well).

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The Arboretum has two large ponds, a smaller pond, and a small creek.  The ponds are the main attraction for my boys – of course, because playing in the water maximizes messiness!

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There is a 1.5 mile gravel path that encircles the whole Arboretum.  There are some cut-across paths so that you do not have to do the entire circle (which is helpful with little ones who can’t make the whole loop), and there are numerous bark paths off the main gravel path.

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The gravel path is excellent for jogging, and a jogging stroller can handle it easily.  You can also bike on the gravel path.  Dogs are not allowed.

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From the UI Arboretum website (http://www.uiweb.uidaho.edu/arboretum/about.html):

Organized into geographical groupings of Asian, European, Eastern, and Western North American sections, and display plantings are hundreds of species and cultivars of North Temperate trees and shrubs and a xeriscape garden. In addition to native Idaho species, there are over 120 dedicated trees and groves, trails, water features, and 27 granite benches for viewing, study, contemplation, enjoying northern Idaho’s spectacular seasonal changes. Walking trails range from easy grades through steeper climbs to the most spectacular overview sites from which the Blue Mountains of Oregon can be seen.”

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The Arboretum is beautiful year round, but if there is snow on the ground, the paths can be difficult to navigate, especially for little kids.  This year we may try snow-shoeing (though skiing is prohibited).

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There is a map on the website for locating the different areas/types of trees.  Copies of this map are also available at each end (at the Red Barn and at the kiosk).

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When I go with the boys, it takes a good hour and a half or two hours to get all the way around, due to many, many stops to find sticks and play in the water.  When I go on my own, it is about a half hour stroll.

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Educational tours are offered (check the website), and this year there was a summer concert.  There is also a plant sale in the summer, held at the fairgrounds.

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The ducks are also a favorite.  You are not allowed to feed them, but they seem pretty used to people nonetheless.

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Across Nez Perce Drive is the Charles Houston Shattuck Arboretum.  I don’t have photos of this because I have not made it over there, but a friend tells me it is beautiful.  It is a 14 acre slope that was planted with trees in 1910.  I think everyone just calls this the “old Arboretum.”

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At one end of the Arboretum is the Arboretum Red Barn, which was built in 1908.  It is not open to the public, but it makes for a good photo.

Arboretum Barn

Arboretum Barn

I don’t think there is a water fountain at the Arboretum, but there is an outhouse near the Red Barn.  Not a great place to change a baby, but better than nothing!

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The Arboretum is in a valley adjacent to the UI golf course, south of the President’s Residence and UI water tower, and north of the rolling Palouse hills across West Palouse River Drive.  The address is 1200 West Palouse River Drive.  Mapquest this and it will give you directions through Moscow to the free parking lot by the Red Barn.  (I used to park at the meters on Nez Perce Drive, which goes right through campus.  I think the meters have been removed, though.)  Note that you can also take Sand Road from Pullman, but it is partially unpaved, so can be slow and dusty.  It is pretty, though, and well worth the few extra minutes.

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View of the farm across from the Arboretum, on West Palouse River Drive

View of the farm across from the Arboretum, on West Palouse River Drive

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Klemgard County Park

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I am trying to get in every last bit of summer, so I took the boys on a mid-week picnic tonight at Klemgard County park.  This park is really beautiful – a favorite of mine after only two visits.

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Klemgard is a 59 acre park, a lot of which appears to be in native grasses.  There is a large grassy area with gazebos (above), which is reached by this small bridge:

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which crosses over this small stream:

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That side of the park has a paved path that leads to the hiking trail:

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We did not do the trail because the boys were anxious to picnic and get to the playground.  So we crossed back over the bridge to the side of the park that has the really cool picnic shelter:

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as well as more gazebos, sand volley ball courts, and horseshoe pits.  And, of course, the playground!

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The playground is quite nice. It was just installed in 2006.  It is mostly for kids who are over three, I would say, because the slides are very fast and the overall structure is pretty high.

It also has this cool tunnel:

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The boys LOVE this playground.  They also love the park in general because it has wide green spaces to run in.  It is kind of in the middle of nowhere, so I think it is unlikely you would find a crowd here (and tonight we were the only people there).

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Perhaps it is because it is kind of remote, the park has a lot of “facilities.”  It has two sets of bathrooms and three water fountains; multiple barbecue grills and picnic tables, and free parking.

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It takes 20 minutes to get here from Pullman.  Directions:

Travel 10 miles north on Highway 195 (Pullman-Colfax Highway). You will see a brown Department of Transportation sign. Turn left on Hamilton Hill Road and drive 2.5 miles to the bottom of the canyon flat. Turn west (right) on Union Flat Road (it is a gravel road) and travel 1 mile to the entrance of the park. The first time I went there I was sure I was lost!

Park website:

http://www.whitmancounty.org/ssi.aspx?ssid=82

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Itani Park

I did not have much time this morning, but I wanted to let the boys run wild a bit, so we tried the Itani Park.

Itani Park, with water tower in the background

Itani Park, with water tower in the background

Some fall foliage in the park.

Some fall foliage in the park.

This linear park was donated to the City of Pullman by developers Rafik and Mary Sue Itani.  It is essentially a small wetland surrounded by houses, some of which are still being constructed.

The dirt path

The dirt path

There is not a lot to Itani Park.  There are no paved or well marked paths, but there is a dirt footpath that cuts from the Crestview parking area to Finch Way.  At Finch Way there is a small paved portion of path into the park.

The boys running toward the paved portion of the path, at Finch Way

The boys running toward the paved portion of the path, at Finch Way

Sunlit grasses

Sunlit grasses

A cool old truck one of the property owners has parked in his rear yard on the park

A cool old truck one of the property owners has parked in his rear yard on the park

Wetland greenery

Wetland greenery

View of Itani Park from Finch Way

View of Itani Park from Finch Way

While there was not a lot to do, it gave the boys a chance to run around and find sticks and rocks, which they always enjoy.  We also saw a number of birds, including quite a few quail.  This would be a good mini nature experience for kids who are not ready to do much hiking, or for families who want to spend a half hour outdoors, but not at a playground.

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A few remaining wildflowers

A few remaining wildflowers

I think a main use of the park is as a place to cut through the neighborhood to get to Sunnyside park.  To do this, you can park at the Crestview lot, located approximately at Crestview and Campus View;

Crestview parking lot

Crestview parking lot

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Then walk the dirt path straight to Finch Way.  Turn Left, walk down to Itani, and turn Right on Itani.  Then walk straight, crossing Center, and you will see the path to Sunnyside Park.  (I did not walk this because I ran out of time!)

The entrance (located on Center) to the path to Sunnyside Park.

The entrance (located on Center) to the path to Sunnyside Park.

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Sand Dunes on Snake River (Near Lower Granite Dam)

Our visit to the dunes was wonderful.  It was an early September day, and the weather was cool but pleasant.

The Dunes on the Snake River

The Dunes on the Snake River

We had a picnic on the sand and the boys threw rocks and sticks in the water.

Our picnic blanket - grassy sand

Our picnic blanket - grassy sand

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There were no other visitors that day, which made it especially peaceful.

Seagull

Seagull

One reason there may not have been visitors was that it was hard to get to!  The dunes are more or less across the Snake River from Boyer park, just down the road a little bit from the Lower Granite Dam.  After 9/11, restrictions on crossing the dam were put in place, so we went all the way around to Clarkston then back to the river.  When we got there, we saw a sign stating the dam is open for crossing Monday through Friday.  Before I go again, I would call the US Army Corps on the number that can be found on this website to verify crossing:

http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/corpsoutdoors/siteInfo.asp?siteID=174&lakeID=104&address_id=228

The fact that few people can go there has probably been good for the dunes.  We had a friend with us who had been here long ago, and he said the dunes used to be much more trampled from the college kids going there to relax or have parties.

Grassy dunes

Grassy dunes

There is a parking area and an outhouse at the trail head.  The trail to the beach is short (maybe a quarter mile) and our kids did it on their own just fine.  There is no lifeguard on duty, and I would be leery of doing anything more than shallow wading in the water.

While you are there, I recommended a trip to the Lower Granite Dam.  There is a fish ladder with a viewing room inside the Visitor Center.  The viewing room is very cool (why did I not take any pictures?), though the presence of fish may depend on what time of year you are there (sorry, I know nothing about fish).  There are also free hard hat tours of the dam for all ages, but you must wear close toed shoes, so we did not do it on this trip (flip-flops).

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