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Lake Lenore Caves

Located in central Washington, the Lake Lenore Caves are a nice place to relax and catch some awesome views.  Hiking up the path from the parking lot, the trails are well defined and easy to follow.  Concrete stairs lead to the top of a section of basalt, and the trails splits at that point.  The easier terrain to navigate leads to the right, while also offering a more direct route to the caves.  The caves are very easy to find, as the trail leads right to them.  They are not extremely expansive by any means, but the caves are large enough for a group to sit and eat lunch or find a cool spot to rest for a bit.  Some more challenging landscapes are off to the left, and hikers should lead with caution when walking that path.  From what I understand, there are signs posted at points to show some dangerous areas that are not recommended for hiking.  Another thing hikers should keep in mind is to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, as pointed out by the Washington Trails Association.

 

Geologically this area was formed during the last ice age, during a time of immense flooding.  Torrential waters raced through the area, and ripped away chunks of basalt creating many of the ravines that can be found in Washington state.  Since then, the natural process of water getting into crevices in the basalt then repeatedly freezing and warming have hollowed out the caves.  The caves also bear a bit of a social history also, as natives were known to utilize them close to 5,000 years ago.  It is thought the caves were seasonal shelters, in which some of the natives would live and work there gathering plants, fish, and other supplies.  Spring and Summer would have been the most active, but as the seasons changed the natives would return to the permanent villages.  As mentioned on the website Only in Your State, some of the native petroglyphs can still be found along the walls.

 

Standing on the ridgeline, visitors can catch great views of Lake Lenore below which has a bit of an interesting story as well.  As explained by Heather Carr on Insteading.com the lake was once thought to be uninhabitable.  It was thought the geology of the area created an alkaline ph in the water that wouldn’t support life, so the military actually used it for a dumping ground at one point in time.  In 1947 the War Assets Administration had to dispose of 10 tons of metallic sodium, and they couldn’t find anyone willing to risk transporting it.  So the decision was made to drop the stuff into Lake Lenore, because the reaction would destroy the sodium.  Once the metallic sodium reacted with water, it would explode and release sodium hydroxide, hydrogen gas, and a lot of heat.

Here is a link to a YouTube video showing the disposal:  The Disposal of Sodium, 1947

 

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Truly Terrific Turnbull

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge has become one of my favorite places to visit, hike, explore, and photograph.  Having visited many times, I still find something new and interesting about the area every time I go.  The refuge spans a little over 18,000 acres between wetlands, prairies, and forested woodlands.  Throughout the acreage, an abundance of diverse wildlife can be found.  Everything from birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and numerous mammal species can be seen at Turnbull.

The number of birds that utilize the refuge is quite high at around 200 different species.  Some of the more sought out birds to be found are the Trumpeter Swans, Great Horned Owls, Blue Herons, American Goldfinch, and the American White Pelican.  Many of the birds are migratory and can be seen seasonally as they come and go, but there are also a large number of birds (over 120 species) that nest in the refuge.  The best seasons to see the majority of birds are the warmer months, while hiking through the refuge under beautiful blue skies and Spring and Summer sunsets.

A nicely detailed map of the refuge can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service website.  This map shows the hiking trails and driving route with accurate descriptions and points out various areas of interest.  A large variety of mammals wander though the refuge also, and can be spotted quite often.  Obviously the chances of spotting certain animals depends on the season and time of day.  Most recommendations, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife point to going in the early morning and evening, as the larger animals are out and about more during those hours.

I have been fortunate enough to capture photos of many of the animal species that leave tracks through Turnbull.  Tiny chipmunks, graceful coyotes wandering through the snow, massive moose that simply stop and gaze at exploring hikers.  Those are some of the experiences I have had, and there is also a herd of close to 400 elk as some sources say.   I have seen some of that herd off in the distance, grazing upon the grass growing along the treeline of the pine forest.  Warmer weather will have the frogs and snakes and other small reptiles and amphibians out in the rocky outcroppings as well.

So how was Turnbull formed, and how did it become such a rich habitat for the animals we can see there today?  As with many other regions in Washington, forces of nature from a very long time ago all played a part in the development of the area as we know it.  According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website a combination of ancient volcanic activity, glacial movements, and incredibly powerful floods helped to form the area known as the channeled scablands.  Established in 1937, the refuge has a lasting beauty that is enhanced by the trees, shrubs, and wildflowers you can enjoy while hiking along the many trails that dissect the landscape.  Just a short drive from Spokane, this is certainly a place to take day trips and enjoy a plethora of wild flora and fauna.

 

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Hiking Around Hawk Creek Falls

The area around and including Hawk Creek Campground is an interesting area, and that is because of the geological landmarks, the history of the land, and because of the recreation activities available to visitors.  The water level will vary depending on when a person visits, but the waterfall itself was flowing strong during both of my visits.  Mid January of 2018 provided a nice serene snow covered landscape, which was complimented by the sound of Hawk Creek cascading over the ledge and plunging to the rocks below.  Hiking the area at that time proved pretty difficult, but the campground was easy enough to navigate.  Navigating to the campground is easy enough with good directions, and the most accurate coordinates I could find are 47.816 N, 118.325 W according to Google Maps.

The wildlife in the area is probably what most folks would expect to see.  Deer, beavers, and probably the occasional elk or moose can be found wandering across the hills.  Waterfowl are typically floating around while birds of prey such as eagles dominate the skies.  Along with watching wildlife people can find quite a few activities to pass the time, such as biking, hiking, boating, kayaking, fishing, and swimming in the designated areas.

A couple things to consider when planning a visit are road conditions and the water level.  Most hikers seem to agree that the area is best to hike when the water is low, because you can follow a fisherman’s trail through the pines, around a couple bends, and down to the beach for a nice stroll.  As the water level increases through the year, beach access decreases.  If you happen to hike during the later part of the year, there are always some trails that lead up the hills to the rocky ridge line.  Along that ridge is where some caves can be found, although I am not sure exactly how many are up there.  Some great information about the 4.5-5 mile hike and the geology of the area can be found on this Washington Trails Association info page.

I happened to spot a massive cave from the parking area near the boat ramp, but visitors need to turn and look up the hillside through some trees.  The hike from there is not a super long hike, and there are a few game trails to follow.  However, the trek is a relatively steep grade, and there are some loose rocks along the path.  Once hikers reach the cave the view is pretty spectacular.

People can keep trekking along the ridge for an amazing view, and at certain times folks might be able to even make it out to the Columbia.  About 5 to 6 miles north is the confluence of the Spokane and Columbia Rivers, which is an area people may be able to visit in the same day if planned accordingly.  Planning also means packing appropriately, and this Outbound Collective report by Rose Freeman reminds people to pack all of the essentials with some extra food and water.  Plus the hiking needs will include comfortable and sturdy boots or shoes, some trekking poles, and of course a camera to capture some of the marvelous landscapes around.  It is also a good idea to take some camping gear if using one of the 21 provided camping spots.  Just remember to pay the small fee at the station.  All of those things considered, it should make for a great day trip for anyone wanting to visit the area.