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Hiking Hog Lake

This nice little landscape will take you through various scenes along the trail.  The main looping trail here is a pretty easy hike, as the main loop is under 2 miles.  There are other pathways that explorers can use to extend this hike a bit, and some of them skirt right along the lake’s edge.  The terrain is easily manageable in most areas, but can become muddy in spots.  As hikers progress along the trail, there will be notices of private property and trail users should respect those notices.  The best time to hike through the area is early to mid Spring, as the wildflowers will be coloring the hillsides.  The Washington Trails Association points out that Arrowleaf Balsamroot will be plentiful in the Spring, and that is also the best time to see the other wildflower varieties. The waterfall will also be at it’s strongest flow during this time of year.

The lake is open in the Winter for fishing as well, as it opens the Friday after Thanksgiving as stated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  It is a relatively popular trail, and can be used by people of any skill level as suggested by AllTrails.com.  The trails out there are great for dogs but keep them on a leash and keep them away from the edge of the higher cliffs.  Hikers will also be able to potentially see a variety of songbirds and larger wildlife.  Deer have been seen in the area, and once in a while a coyote is spotted.  Smaller mammals such as squirrels, chipmunks, and other animals can be spotted along the trails as well.  Visitors should also be aware that insects and spiders will also be found as the weather warms up.  Hikers may also encounter some smaller snakes on the rocks overlooking the lake, and the vast beauty continues throughout the entire hike.

There are no fees or passes required to visit the area, which is another great reason to visit Hog Lake.  The trails are all pretty easy to identify and follow, although as mentioned on The Washington Trails Association it is possible to become confused with some of the cattle trails that scatter the hillside.  As I mentioned above however there are property boundary signs, which are private property markers for the farms surrounding the area.  That is also the reasoning for some of the gates people may encounter along their journey at Hog Lake.  A trip report on theoutbound.com mentions those same gates, but goes on to mention the incredible views to be encountered along the trails.  Also claiming that some of the best landscape photos can be taken on the ridge-lines that carry the trail along the cliff’s edge.  It is truly an experience to make time for, and one that will be sure to create a great hiking adventure.

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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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Fort Spokane: Pieces of History Still Stand

Fort Spokane is an incredibly interesting place, and the grounds hold a lot of history as well.  Most of the buildings that once stood as part of the fort have fallen and little remains.  The main reason being that the area was abandoned for many years before restorative efforts were made on the buildings that were still standing.  Factors that probably influenced the creation of Fort Spokane can probably be traced back 20 years or so prior to the actual construction.  At the time, the U.S. Government was pretty well set on appropriating land through means of forcibly moving the native populations onto reservations.  The story up here in the state of Washington was pretty much the same according to Spokane Historical, and it molded a tense relationship between natives and settlers at times.

 

This tension increased with the introduction of the railroad to the area, and more natives were forced off of the lands they thought of as “communal.”  They didn’t want to see the land basically privatized and given to settlers, because the tribes depended on the ability to freely hunt, fish, camp, and travel.  In 1880, near the confluence of the Spokane and Columbia Rivers the United States introduced Camp Spokane as a means to keep peace between natives and settlers.  Within a couple of years barracks, storage facilities, and other structures were added, and it was upgraded to the status of a military fort.  For the following several years life was probably pretty average around Fort Spokane, without much hostility between settlers and tribes.  Actually, as stated on Washington, Our Home, “one of the most interesting facts about Fort Spokane is that there was never a shot fired in anger from either the soldiers stationed at the fort or the Indians. And since there didn’t seem to be any expectation of conflict, the Army finally left the post just 18 years after its creation.”

 

At sometime during 1898-1899 the Colville Indian Agency became responsible for overseeing the grounds and facilities.  They went with the idea of utilizing it as a boarding school for natives, as to teach them the ways of the settlers.  Essentially the native children were forced to learn certain western teachings, so they could more easily acclimate into the culture brought by the settlers.  Much of the native culture was squashed, restricted, or swept under the rug, as was the case across much of the United States.  The National Park Service calls the native experience at Fort Spokane as a “microcosm” of what they endured all over the nation.  After things quieted down for the boarding school, the structures then served as a tuberculosis hospital until 1929 or so when it was disregarded and abandoned.

 

Now, we can visit the place to learn about the history and see the displays.  For families visiting, they participate in a Junior Ranger program that allows kids to learn through completing tasks around the park.  Activities involve, but are not limited to hiking the Sentinel Trail, spotting and documenting wildlife, watching one of the available demonstrations, etc.  There are numerous displays to see, and they help to describe what life was like.  One of the most interesting buildings as I experienced it is the Quartermaster Stables, as it houses a numerous amount of artifacts.  This is one of the few surviving buildings, and it is open during the spring and summer months along with the museum and visitor center.  Not to mention the fact that Fort Spokane is very close to other great areas of interest such as Hawk Creek Falls, and is part of the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.  An adventure to the area can lead to a pretty unforgettable day trip that should be experienced if at all possible.