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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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The Beauty & Power of Palouse Falls

If you are thinking of travel in the Pacific Northwest or in Washington specifically, then Palouse Falls has got to be on your bucket list.  This powerhouse of a waterfall is incredible when the water levels are high, although it is quite majestic throughout the entire year.  The tremendous landscapes draw in large numbers of people, and on March 18, 2014 it was officially made Washington’s state waterfall according to the Washington State Parks website.

Photographers and artists alike make every effort to capture vibrant sunrises and captivating sunsets.  Palouse Falls does have a specific area with designated paths for walking, however there are a plethora of paths that lead to a multitude of incredible viewpoints, including the very edge of the waterfall looking down.

 

Warning signs are in place, because there is a pretty good risk of falling if hikers are not careful.  I went on several of the trails outside of the state park area, and found it to be quite an adventure although I recommend staying in the designated area unless well prepared.  One of the trails off by the railroad tracks had an old rope tied around a large bush and I was able to utilize that rope to rappel down the incline and reach the trails below.  That rope would serve as my only way back up the hill as well, making this trip more of an adventure than I had initially thought it would be.  This point is where I had my first interaction with some local wildlife, as I happened to spot a solitary yellow bellied marmot at the top of the hill, and another dozen or so down tucked into the rocky hillside below.  Other animals that visitors can possibly encounter are different birds of prey such as Peregrine Falcons, Golden Eagles, and Swainson’s Hawks.  These birds of course can occasionally be seen perched along the basalt cliffs or flying around scouting an area for possible food.  In the springtime, tourists to the area can expect to see some nice wildflowers growing as well.

 

The waterfall has quite an extensive history, both geologically and culturally.  According to many sources there is a tale once told by people of the Palouse Tribe, the Palouse river and waterfall were the scene of an epic battle between 4 giant brothers and a mythical creature called “Big Beaver.”  Story has it the brothers chased and attacked the creature 5 times, and each time they struck “Big Beaver” with a spear it caused a bend in the river.  The creature fought fiercely and valiantly during the fifth attack from the brothers.  The struggle tore out an enormous canyon, and this is where the river fell over the ledge and became Palouse Falls.  The canyon walls are said to show the jagged edges from “Big Beaver’s” claw marks.  Also, as mentioned on www.stateparks.com the waterfall was once called “Aputapat” meaning “falling water” or something close to that, but was later changed to honor the Palouse culture.

Geologically the canyon’s creation goes back around 13,000 years to a time of Ice Age Flooding and glacial movement, leaving Palouse Falls as one of the few remaining active waterfalls along this ancient glacial flood path.  The floods of that time were said to be extremely violent and catastrophic.  The park has plenty of information signs and a kiosk available for people to learn a bit about the floods.  These Ice Age floods left a destructive path as the ice, water, and mud ripped tons of rock and earth away to carve the canyons in parts of eastern Washington and the Columbia River Gorge on the way to the ocean at speeds possibly reaching close to 60 mph.  The state park here is also one of the more active camping areas in the region, so some pre-planning is almost essential if you want to make it in during low traffic times.

 

Campsites are available, and a lot of good information can be found by once again going to www.stateparks.com for price listings and regulations specific to Palouse Falls State Park.  A quick rundown shows that standard sites run $15, while utility sites are a bit more at $21.  Visitors can also expect to pay dump fees when using the dump station.  Campsites allow up to 8 people per site, and second vehicles can remain parked for an additional $10 per night.  Campers are allowed up to 10 consecutive days during the busy season, and they stay is extended to 20 days between October 1st and the end of March.  A Washington State Discover Pass is also required, or visitors will have to pay the park entrance fee of $10 for the day also.  Anyone visiting the park and waterfall will certainly be in awe of the massively majestic landscapes, and the crushing current that cascades nearly 200 feet into the canyon below.  Just remember to stay happy and stay safe when visiting!

Here are a few clips from my hike through the area:

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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.

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Frozen Falls, and That’s not All

Adventuring in the Pacific Northwest is pretty easy with all of the incredible landscapes in the region.  Sometimes it can be overwhelming trying to choose where to go or what to do, simply because there are so many options when considering the great outdoors.  Well, one area I would highly recommend would be the area surrounding Banks Lake and Steamboat Rock State Park, but you will probably need to visit more than one time in order to see all of the wonders this place has to offer.  The time of year in which you visit is also a major factor, because this place has several waterfalls that are only active from February into early and mid Spring.  My daughter and I visited the area on February 25, 2018 and we had an amazing time exploring, learning, and viewing the sites.

The two obvious natural settings that people should take in are of course the lake itself, which stretches 27 miles, and is home to a variety of fish.  Species include, but are not limited to, smallmouth and largemouth bass, rainbow trout, yellow perch, kokanee, walleye, and more.  This makes it an ideal spot for birds of prey to hunt for fish, and then return to the towering cliffs that run along the lake.

 

The  Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife  describes Banks Lake as being “ringed with basalt cliffs and talus slopes” which are colossal as you stand beneath them to watch the waterfalls.  When the falls are frozen and ice chunks break off, the thundering sound of ice smashing against ice is deafening as it echoes off of the cliffs.

We can’t forget about Steamboat Rock when we are talking about the cliffs either, as it sits atop the largest peninsula that juts out into Banks Lake.  It rises an incredible 800 feet above the lake and is roughly 600 acres on the surface.  It also has an incredible amount of things to offer any park visitors and campers.

 

According to www.stateparks.com “Steamboat Rock is a long-established area landmark, first used by nomadic Native American tribes and then by early settlers. The military currently uses the area for aircraft flying training missions.”  The area history before people were there simply points to a lot of glacial activity and ice age floods that helped to create the landscape we see today.  During the warmer months, the camping amenities are top notch and sites are scattered throughout a handful of areas.  Washington State Parks is another great resource for anyone interested in learning about what the park has to offer, any camping fees and regulations, etc.  As with other state parks in Washington, the Discover Pass is required for vehicle day use, or you can pay the required daily fee at the park station.  Next, we can learn a bit more about the area waterfalls.

Here is a brief narrative of the area:

Most of the areas waterfalls are unofficially named, except for Martin Falls, which was frozen solid at the time of my most recent visit.  I was able to find Paynes Gulch Falls, Rusho Creek Falls, and several others during my short day trip there.  Here is a short narrated clip featuring a few bits of what the area has to offer, but keep in mind I went a bit early in the season and the waterfalls were pretty much frozen solid.

Although my daughter and I didn’t see it when we visited, Martin Falls is the only officially named waterfall in the area according to the World Waterfall Database.  We didn’t get to see it, because we may have been early in the season, as nearly all of the waterfalls were frozen or barely flowing.  In either regard, they were all still very majestic and can all be found by browsing through the database mentioned above.  Most of these waterfalls are dropping from a very high distance, varying from just over 100 feet to an enormous 504 feet.  All of these points being made, this area is a spectacular place to visit and I certainly hope to visit again in the near future.