Family Rafting on the Spokane River Terry Bain IF YOU’RE ANYTHING like me, you look at Spokane River downtown and think, “Oh, nice river.” You take out-of-town visitors to Riverfront or Riverside State Park, and they take pictures. How often do you actually interact with the river? Most of us probably spend a scant few minutes even thinking about the river, much less actively seeking out its waters. And I admit to being the worst offender in this category.
I tend to see the Spokane River as inaccessible, RAFTING WITH KIDS ON THE UPPER SPOKANE RIVER. // PHOTO BY TERRY BAIN loaded with traps and warning signs and dams. If I made a map of Spokane, I might tag the boundaries of the river with the line “here there be monsters,” hoping nobody would ever ask me what was really to be found there. I adhere to the Avista “Stay Out, Stay Alive” warning signs a little too severely, stretching the warning from the river’s beginnings at Lake Coeur d’Alene to its endings at Lake Roosevelt.
But a better question than “how often do I interact with the river” might be “How often does the river interact with me?” Do I drink water? Do I use electricity? Do I read the newspaper? Does the river not then interact with me almost every moment of every day? Should I not then be paying just a little more attention to that very important body of water? Furthermore, shouldn’t I teach my kids not to carry around the same disinformation (fear) that I do?
Luckily, not everybody is ignoring the river as much as I am. Spokane Parks and Recreation, for instance, runs a series of recreational activities on the Spokane River (and on other area rivers as well) all summer long, some of them available to both kids and adults. Which is how my eight-year-old son and I ended up climbing into a wet raft on a wet day at Harvard Park on the wet Spokane River.
We parked at Plante’s Ferry Park, and the Parks Department drove us upstream about five miles to Harvard Park, to put-in and float back to our cars. The trip takes about an hour and a half, appropriately called a “leisurely float,” most of it drifting near the center of the very high river. A few mild rapids (level 2, which means you get a little wet) kept it interesting, and we got to feel important every time our guide (Zach) asked us to all “row forward” (which is river guide language for “row forward”). Mostly we were rowing to gain a little speed into the rapids, to make them a little more interesting.
After we put-in (and after a few awkward moments of “how do I sit properly in this thing,” and “am I really going to get as wet as I already am?”), I surprised myself. Because I am a chicken. When it comes to water, I’m generally certain that I will drown. Shallow creek with slippery banks? I will drown. Calm lake in a three-man boat? I will drown.
Kitchen sink just full enough to wash the dishes? I will easily drown. So as far as rivers go, the upper Spokane is just about my speed, though even now, after I’ve been out and I’m sitting at home, writing about it, my heart beats a little faster, and I have to remind myself that I’m miles from anything deeper than a puddle, and the bathtub is already drained and squeegeed. I imagined that I would spend most of my time on the river gripping the rope and praying not to be thrown into the brink. But I didn’t do that. Once afloat, the experience was more reflective. Even in the midst of a downpour, I found myself wondering what else happens in and around the river. People live on the river. They do actually participate in activities on the river. They float or kayak or swim or fish.What hidden pockets of activity exist that I know nothing about? Should I worry about chemicals in the water? Is there arsenic in my teeth, or naphthalene in my hair? If humans were to disappear from the earth today, how long before the river would be wild again? How long before the fish would be edible?
Of course the trip isn’t long enough to spend much time on thoughts like these. But it is long enough to get them bubbling. And long enough to admire the wildlife (Canadian Geese, mostly, and cyclists on the Centennial Trail). Fellow travelers are busy asking questions and learning river guide terms like “strainer” and “eddie.” The greatest value of a trip like this might just be what happens after landing.You’ve seen where the wildlife and the people are along the river. Where they interact. You’ve seen what might cause a river to be contaminated. A stranded shopping cart on the river bank. A derelict structure of unknown use that comes right down and enters the river. You. You are on the river. How does your experience with the river change it? Your experience may just change how, and how often, you interact with the river in the future. To keep our river alive, we might all just have to jump in once in awhile.
Look for Terry Bain’s new book, We Are the Cat: Life through the Eyes of the Royal Feline in bookstores at the end of August.
For more information on Spokane area water recreation, contact the following: Spokane Parks & Recreation at (509) 625-6200 or www.spokaneparks.org
RiverCity River Runners at (509) 844-5934 or www.rivercityrunners.com
Kayak CdA at (208) 676-1533 or www.kayakcda.com
Flow Adventures at 509-242-8699 or www.flow-adventures.com
Magazine Article |
Family Fun Guide to Riverside Statw Park Juliet Sinisterra & Amy Silbernagel McCaffree MOST OF US KNOW IT SIMPLY as the “Bowl and Pitcher,” but Riverside State Park covers nearly 10,000 acres of land and 60 miles of trails. The Park offers an amazing array of outdoor activities for all ages throughout the entire year. Everything from mountain biking to camping, to canoeing and dogsled racing takes place in the Park. Summer, in particular is a great time to take the kids hiking in Deep Creek, attend evening events at the Park’s new outdoor amphitheater or relax and float down the Little Spokane River. The Park is a great place to simply enjoy the wildlife and quiet beauty of our own bioregion-and all just minutes from downtown. Annually, the Park is host to a variety of events: Spokane’s River Run, Winter Dog-Sled Racing, Round & Round’s 24-Hour Races and the Sunset XC Mountain Bike Race Series. During the school year, the Park leads educational tours to school groups and Park Rangers teach environmental conservation and the history of the Spokane area.
Park Manager, Rene Wiley, who loves to explore the Park year-round with her children, highly recommends the spring season as well. “May is a beautiful time. The trails are just gorgeous and the river is pristine. You can feel like you are totally alone in the wilderness. The songbirds are just fantastic.”
Founded in 1933, the Park was built through the gifts of a few individuals and Washington Water Power (Avista). President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps built the roads into the area and the popular Swinging Bridge at the Bowl and Pitcher. Over the succeeding years the Park has gradually acquired more land through gifts and grants. Most recently, the Spokane County Conservation Futures program purchased land to protect a resource habitat area above the Little Spokane River. Currently the Park is working with Avista for a more formalized take-out next to the Nine Mile Ranger station. The Park is also trying to find another concession for horseback riding at the Trail Town Stables.
Following is a compilation of all the fantastic places to visit at Riverside State Park.
THE BOWL AND PITCHER: Named after the incredible rock formations that resemble its title, is the most popular area in the Park with over 2 million visitors annually. The Swinging Bridge carries pedestrians to the west side of the river where miles of trails and a small kitchen shelter can be found. Approaching the river from the east, picnic tables scattered alongside the river are a great place to relax and enjoy a meal before or after a hike. Park campgrounds are located further upstream, and a new outdoor amphitheater located near the campgrounds hosts Friday and Saturday evening events all summer (see side bar for information). The campgrounds are divided into a lower group of sites that sit closer to the river and an upper group about 100 yards from the river. Reserve early in the season, sites fill up fast. To reserve a campsite or the kitchen shelter call (888) 226-7688. Riverside State Park can accommodate 15 RV sites and 33 campsites total. Cost is $16 for a standard-tent and $22 for a RV hookup. You can also reserve single campsites on the internet at www.parks.wa.gov.
> HOW TO GET THERE: From Interstate 90, take the Maple Street Bridge exit, Exit 280. Go north across the Maple Street Bridge, and about one mile further north to the second signal light (Maxwell Street) after crossing the bridge. Turn left on Maxwell, and follow it as it winds westward and then northward. This road changes names twice, but within three miles you will come to the entrance of Riverside State Park. The Bowl and Pitcher is about two miles north of the park entrance along North Aubrey L.White Parkway.
DEEP CREEK CANYON & SEVEN MILE: For some of the most dramatic hikes in the Park look no further than the area around Deep Creek. “Deep Creek is just gorgeous. Eagle’s are a common sight during the winter months.You can hike up into Deep Creek Canyon and see old growth forest, lots of wildlife, and great views of the Spokane and the Little Spokane Valley,” says Park Manager Wiley. The best thing about Deep Creek, however, is the geology. Hiking the canyon, you are surrounded with basalt outcroppings up to 16 million years old. A picnic area is located near the parking lot. To the south and east of Deep Creek is Seven Mile. The Seven Mile area is host to a number of special events throughout the year. This area is loaded with mountain bike opportunities. Most rides originate on the west side of the Spokane River after crossing the Seven Mile Bridge. (Trailheads include turn-offs of Pine Bluff Road, Wilbur Road, Carlson Road and many others.) There are varying degrees of difficulty, and some trails are definitely not kid-friendly (unless they don’t mind having to hike-a-bike for certain portions). An excellent resource for detailed mountain bike trail information is Martin Potucek’s guidebook Mountain Biking Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, or the Spokane Outdoors web site, www.spokaneoutdoors. com. (Note: The 2nd edition of Potucek’s book was published in 2003. Since then a more detailed map of the trails within Riverside State Park has been created and can be purchased from the ranger office. The Trail map was created by Riverside State Park and the Back Country Horsemen. Trails are now numbered and wooden signposts were erected along trails.)
> HOW TO GET THERE: Take Francis heading west which then becomes Nine Mile Road (Hwy. 291) north from Spokane, at Seven Mile Road turn left. Just after you cross the Seven Mile Bridge, turn right onto Riverside Park Drive and continue until you come to the parking area overlooking the Spokane River. For Deep Creek, you will need to hike into the area of the Centennial Trail. After crossing a small bridge, you can walk into the canyon, take a trail just above the canyon or catch another trailhead further down along the Centennial Trail. You can also access Deep Creek from the Nine Mile area at the Carlson trailhead.
OFF ROAD VEHICLE (ORV) AREA: Riverside State Park’s ORV area is the only one in the State Park system. “We sacrificed these 500 acres to protect the remaining park,” says Park Manager,Wiley. The area offers hill climbs, sand areas and trails. However, keep in mind that there are no designated trails. Riders need an ORV tab for motorcycles or four-wheelers, or a licensed (off-road) vehicle. The ORV area is free to use and is open year-round. Restrooms, parking, two picnic shelters, a loading/ unloading ramp and a training area are also located at the site. > HOW TO GET THERE: Take Nine Mile Road (Hwy. 291) north from Spokane, turn left onto Seven Mile Road. Follow to Inland Road, take a left and follow to parking area.
CENTENNIAL TRAIL: Riding through Riverside State Park along the Centennial Trail offers you with great views of the Spokane River and Valley and birds-eye views of the river including the Bowl and Pitcher. In contrast with the open terrain of the rest of the trail, this western portion has climbs and descents.
All 37 miles of the Centennial Trail are managed by Riverside State Park. The Trail is jointly maintained by Riverside State Park, the City of Spokane, Spokane Valley, and Spokane County. The Friends of the Centennial Trail is the community liaison for the Trail. Two Park Rangers patrol the Centennial Trail from Sontag Park to T.J.Meenach Bridge. Following are access points to the near around Riverside State Park:
- Military Cemetery (off Government Way at the 28-mile mark)
- Bowl and Pitcher overlook (30-mile mark)
- Seven Mile Road (34-mile mark)
- Sontag Park (37-mile mark)
- Foot travelers may also access the trail via the footbridge from the campground at Bowl & Pitcher, across the river from the trail.
- Maps of the trail are published by The Friends of the Centennial Trail and are available for a $3 donation at the Riverside State Park office.
LITTLE SPOKANE RIVER NATURAL AREA: This leave-no-trace sanctuary-and that includes swimming ripples-contains 7.3 miles of meandering river and nearly 2,000 acres of mostly freshwater marshes. The seeming isolation of this area makes it one of the easiest ways to escape the urban pulse of Spokane for total immersion in the outdoors. Although it’s best enjoyed while paddling a canoe or kayak down the river, there are also six miles of trails for exploring the diverse landscape which also includes pine forests and grass meadows.
The Nine Mile Ranger office provides canoe and kayak rental packages, which include the watercraft, paddles, personal flotation devices (PFD’s), and tie downs. Price is $25 for the first day, and $15 each day after that. Paddlers should check conditions before heading out and know how to navigate bushy banks and sharp turns. It is advised you stay in the middle of the river to enjoy the slow and steady current, but be aware of any changing river conditions. Throughout most of the lower stretches, the river is about 40-60 feet wide. The park foundation’s web site, offers a “Paddler’s Page” which provides information about current river conditions-including sweeper warnings-and upto- date information can be obtained through the ranger office by phone or through a personal visit. Guided tours of the river, for a fee, are also available. Solitude is the key word, as this section of Riverside State Park is more for appreciating the scenery and absorbing the beauty rather than for recreation. As a designated Natural Area, it’s considered a water trail. This means visitors are not allowed out of their self-propelled watercraft, and this includes hanging your feet or arms into the cool water. There is no swimming, floating on inner tubes or air mattresses allowed. Pets, bikes, camping, and exploring off the designated trails are also prohibited. Although rules are more stringent in this area, it’s for good reason, and humans who remain quiet, respectful, and observant can be rewarded with abundant bird watching opportunities and other wildlife sightings-including moose, even an occasional bear or cougar. “With development pushing in all around it, we want to keep it as natural as possible,” says Park Manager, Rene Wiley.
> HOW TO GET THERE: The three major parking lots near access points to the Natural Area, in downriver order, are: St.George’s – a parking lot and boat launch off of Waikiki Road near St. George’s School. Indian Painted Rocks – trailhead and parking lot off Rutter Parkway, half-way point for a float trip; can put-in or take-out here, however, there is a short walk to the parking lot (remember this before deciding to carry your canoe or kayak here: it’s “short” as in about 75 yards). Take-out site on the boat launch road off Highway 291, north of Nine Mile Falls.
INDIAN PAINTED ROCKS: In addition to a canoe/kayak put-in and/or take-out, the Little Spokane River Natural Area midway point includes a unique highlight: Two sets of ancient pictographs (rock paintings) on granite rock formations. Although no local tribes claim them, their creation is attributed to Native American inhabits of the Little Spokane River valley. The “paint” is actually a mixture of ochre, saliva, and animal grease or fish oil, and interpretations of what they depict include hunting, religious, or rites of passage. (Hint: A float trip can be broken up with a stopover here to explore the rocks and use the facilities before continuing downriver.)
> HOW TO GET THERE: From Francis, turn north onto Indian Trail Road, which eventually intersects with Rutter Parkway. Follow the curves; you will head down a hill along a rock wall and about 0.2 miles from the bottom of the hill will be the parking lot on your left. (Note: Rutter Parkway is undergoing construction this summer and is closed all the way from Highway 291 to Indian Trail Road.)
SPOKANE HOUSE INTERPRETIVE CENTER: This is the site of the first fur-trading post in what would eventually become Washington State. Originally built in 1810, the Spokane House was abandoned in 1826 for a better trading post location near the Columbia River. Today’s interpretive center was built near the original site, thanks to archaeological excavations in the 1950s and 60s that helped determine the location and layout of the destroyed building. Budget cuts now prevent rangers from staffing the center, but volunteers keep it open on the Saturdays from 10 AM to 4 PM. Call the ranger office to find out the exact times. (School groups still visit regularly in the spring.) In addition to touring the center, enjoy hiking the area trails and a picnic at any of the secluded river view tables. This would make for a great day trip with young children. > HOW TO GET THERE: From Highway 291, also called Nine Mile Road, go one half mile north of Charles Road (the Nine Mile Falls Dam bridge), and the entrance will be in the woods on the left.
NINE MILE & LAKE SPOKANE PROPERTY: Along Nine Mile Road (Highway 291) Avista’s dam and Nine Mile Falls are the main attractions. This is also where the Riverside State Park headquarters is located, across the bridge off West Charles Road. This main office offers an abundant supply of various brochures and guides to help you understand the park’s recreation options.
The Lake Spokane Property is a recently acquired property of 540 acres. It is located further downstream on Long Lake and, at the time, is undeveloped and being held for state park purposes. The area is becoming popular with Nine Mile residents and boaters. Boaters use the bay as a resting/picnic spot and enjoy the quiet wildlife and scenery. And, although the Park does not endorse it, the site has also become popular with mountain bikers, hikers and climbers wanting to cliff jump into lake. Cliff jumping is a dangerous sport and participants are responsible for their own safety.
There are no restrooms currently available, and alcohol and campfires are prohibited. The Park is working towards providing facilities for day users, such as restrooms.
> HOW TO GET TO THE LAKE SPOKANE PROPERTY: Heading north on Nine Mile Road (Hwy 291), you go through the town of Nine Mile Falls; take a left across dam (Charles Road). Go about 7 miles to South Bank Road, take a right there. Stay on South Bank Road until the pavement ends. Follow dirt road for about 1 1/2 miles. You will see a park boundary & rules sign. Keep right. Park in parking lot. Walk down road to day use area.
The Riverside State Park Foundation includes committees responsible for fundraising, membership, resource preservation and building and maintaining the trail system. Individual or Family General Membership is either $10/year or 10 hours of documented volunteer service. Supporting Membership is $50/year. For more information please visit www.riversidestatepark.org/foundation.htm.
For more information please visit www.riversidestatepark.org/foundation.htm.
For more detailed Park information visit www.parks.wa.gov or www.riversidestatepark.org. or call (509) 465-5065.
Magazine Article |
I HEAR A LOUD WAIL FROM MY SON. I spin around to see he’s rammed his bike into a No Parking sign. He’s got minor road rash, a little bleeding. He was looking at the ground instead of where he was going. Is it a great learning experience or I am pushing him too hard?
I notice our two-year old has a mouthful of … what? Thankfully it’s just a fistful of unripened strawberries. After replanting the yard have we given our youngest the impression she can stick any plant in her mouth?
Introducing the “sustainability victims”-otherwise known as “our children.”
This year, with no fanfare, we decided to open ourselves up for bigger lifestyle changes in service of “greenness,” a nebulous concept that we interpret as contributing to the creation of a better world. The kids weren’t consulted. They’re still strapped into the family car-seat, so-to-speak.
For my partner the big change has been permaculture gardening. We are re-doing the entire yard with complimentary, low water, mostly native, edible plants. I go along with this not just to do good, but also because it appeals to my innate laziness-less mowing, less watering, and maybe fewer trips to the store if we eat what’s in our backyard.
For me, the big change is cycling. I love trying to replace car trips with bike trips. It’s good exercise and saves gas. I’m not sure why she’s gone along with my new zeal for biking. Maybe it’s because she knows how much I love her legs. Biking can just make them better.
We’re by no means anyone’s best example of an environmentally friendly family. We eat way more fast food than food from our own victory garden. I don’t log a fraction of the miles most real cyclists ride. If the kids are to have any hope of absorbing lessons from cycling and permaculture it won’t be because we show them how to make a better world-a concept they’re too young to understand. It will be because these pursuits nurture internal needs for personal growth and a connection to nature. If we can be happier and healthier maybe our children can be too. If we don’t maim or poison them first.
Editorial, Magazine Article |
Northwest Bestsellers at Local Record Stores
- Built To Spill You In Reverse (Warner Bros.)
- To No Avail self-titled (self-released)
- Free Range Robots Instant Wisdom (self-released)
- Melfuent Leap Before You Look (self-released)
- Band Of Horses Everything All The Time (Sub-Pop)
- Nate Schierman Fine Print Upfront (self-released)
- 10 Minutes Down Of Cabbages And Kings (Sub-Pop)
- Seaweed Jack The Captain (self-released)
- Beth Pederson Everything Must Change (self-released
- Mark Pickerel & His Praying Hands Snake In The Radio (Bloodshot)
This list of Northwest artists and Artists on Northwest labels is compiled from sales reports from 4000 Holes, Boo Radley’s, The Long Ear, and Unified Groove Merchants.
Magazine Article |
Girls are great and everything, but if I’m supposed to like their music it has to really be something. Female singer/songwriters make me want to gag. There are exceptions-Stevie Nicks, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, Regina Spektor (see below). But this-this is no exception and holy crap is it unbearable.
Bang Bang Rock and Roll
Hype has lead me to not give a sh*t about this band. That, and the unibrow. Nothing against furry friends, but aside from the hype, that brow is about the only thing I’ve noticed about Art Brut. And that critical praise. But oh well. If you can get past the Andy Warhol-rip off art on the outside, and the yelled vocals of one Eddie Argos on the inside, you’ll find lyrics like “We’re going to write a song, as universal as ‘Happy Birthday’”-uh get over yourself. It’s not funny, it’s obnoxious. File this under “B” for boring, either before or after “Arctic Monkeys,” depending upon your alphabetizing neuroses.
Little Whispers EP
The Little Whispers EP isn’t new. But, released late last year, it’s a tried and true fave of the Seattle scenester. If this is news to you, and there seems no reason it wouldn’t be, then listen up. The Blakes are the most promising act in Seattle right now (teamed with Tacoma’s the Elephants). They are also the best. Theirs is a perfect combination of the “the” bands of our past few years, teamed with the urgency and craze of the best dance party you’ve ever attended (or, how you might imagine the best dance party you’ve never attended being). It’s Kings of Leon-y and Libertines-y and even a little Stones-y, but ultimately is totally Blakes-y, which makes it the winner that it is. Plus, the frickin’ live shows are a can’t-miss if you’re planning a trip to Seattle anytime soon. The debut full length arrives soon. Keep an ear out.
“Morning Light is a color of the day when the truth of the universe is faded into a veil of blue sky. It’s a time when spirits are allowed access. It’s a humble time that affects all Life. It’s a time to recognize and accept change, without the limitations of your own surroundings. That time offers a free ritual that needs no shrine.” STOP READING PRESS RELEASE. PUSH STOP. PULL OUT CD. RETURN TO PILE.
San Francisco is offering so many great things musically on the high-profile side these days (Two Gallants, Film School, Rogue Wave), that it’s easy to forget there are a few indies to watch out for too. One of my favorite San Fran indies, Scissors for Lefty, just landed a deal with Rough Trade, so it was perfect that this disc made its way to me when it did, in a time when I’m ripe for the new-favorite picking. A lot of nobody bands send their discs my way and usually the “nobody” part of the description is one hundred percent justifiable by the crap that emanates from the stereo. Then sometimes, it’s not. Dame Satan’s disc came out in late 2005, but chances are you’ve not heard them. The guitars are strumming, the vocals are lilting and the folk influences are firmly in place. The result is quiet, unassuming, and completely lovely.
Out There All Night
I’m pretty sure I saw Damone open for onelinedrawing at Chain Reaction in LA a few years ago. All I remember about the band I think was them is that their guitarist flung his long, blonde hair around way too much. Unimpressed wouldn’t quite cover it. I remember loud and boring. Which is funny, because that’s not what Damone is now. This is poppy! This is a little girly! And it’s actually not boring, just a little too typical to be good. I’d say it sounds like the Donnas, but I’d feel bad comparing a female-fronted-completely-male-backed band to that girly train wreck. So, it’s sort of like if Donna X, Y or Z or whatever the singer’s appropriate letter is were singing for a flash-in-the-pan band like American Hi-Fi or something. Collective sigh. Yes, again.
Creeps and Lovers
I’ve heard this album way too many times by way too many less-than-proficient bands. I kept skipping ahead to find a promising song but none was to be found. Pity, because the brown and white artwork on the cover with the cute couple holding hands with muddy shoes and bruised knees had me.
News & Tributes
The success of the ‘Heads couldn’t have happened to any nicer gents. And, really, the gents are much nicer than the level of success they’ve achieved thus far. More is coming though, inevitably, because their sophomore disc rises to all expectations. The charm of the Futureheads has always been their harmonizing vocals, back in full effect on this effort, their perfect little English accents, back and cuter than ever, and their amazing personalities, surely on display at their list of shows. I’m kicking myself for missing their Seattle date with French Kicks, because beyond the discs, the Futureheads are one of the most energetic and entertaining bands touring these days. Do what you can to support them by buying the albums.
MISSION OF BURMA
It’s always fun when the oldies come back to show the kids how it’s done. Gang of Four sort of tried but only kind of succeeded because they ended up finding out that the kids, the competent ones anyway, were already outdoing them (read: The Futureheads, Bloc Party). Mission of Burma disbanded in something like 1983. That’s the year I was born, it was awhile ago. It’s hard to matter after that much time. Burma came back in 2004 and released an album. This is their second post-reunion album. Ferociously delivered with an immediacy that, while not matching that of the kids, is more than most oldies can still manage, it’s still relevant and, most importantly, it’s still interesting.
Puzzles Like You
“Poppier” Mojave 3. Yes. So says front man Neil Halstead. A strong group of veterans reinventing, but not too much, and moving forward, while still retaining the goods of yesterday. Yes.
Begin to Hope
Words cannot quite capture how in love with this new album I am. I love it more than the new Walkmen album (YIKES!). I love it more than the new Futureheads album (CRAP!). And I love it just slightly less than I love the songs off of Adam Gnade’s forthcoming EP (WOAH!). This says a lot. Spektor has a way with her words and beats that makes the music feel intimate, despite its oft-too-quirky subject matter. On her ballads, she continues to be about the most beautiful thing you’ll ever hear-but that’s nothing new. What is new is that on her more upbeat songs, she’s now much more polished than on past efforts-she’s aceing in a surprisingly perfect way. Regina Spektor doesn’t get much better than “Fidelity,” “Better” (Stroke Nick Valensi on guitar scores big points), and “That Time.” Actually, Spektor doesn’t get much better than “That Time.” (And in all fairness, Adam Gnade is just too stiff of competition).
Magazine Article, Music Reviews |
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Penguin Press HC, April 2006, 464 pages.
The omnivore’s dilemma is this: When you can eat just about anything, what you should eat becomes a central question. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, author Michael Pollan follows four very different meals from beginning to end.
The first meal starts in an Iowa cornfield and ends at McDonald’s, and between these endpoints the sins of modern industrial agriculture are laid bare: livestock treated with almost unimaginable cruelty, farming practices that destroy soil fertility in the name of “efficiency”, and political machinations that impoverish farmers.
Antibiotics, artificial hormones, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, and literally tons of fossil fuels: This is a system so dysfunctional and unsustainable that only its corporate beneficiaries can defend it.
For the second meal, Pollan explores the growth of “industrial organic” agriculture- small-scale organic farms morphing into gigantic growing operations that are painfully close to the kind of farming they were supposed to replace. He details the (often jaw-dropping) compromises to the National Organic Program (NOP) that make “industrial organic” possible. “Permissible synthetics,”anyone?
Pollan’s third meal is made of food having “bar code virginity”-non-industrial food produced by local farmers using practices at least as good as “organic” (and usually better). This is what most people think of when they think “organic”-thoughtful, sustainable use of land to produce healthy, high quality food.
For the last meal of the book, Pollan kills a wild boar and harvests wild cherries and mushrooms. Instead of industrial, energy-intensive food of unknown origin, he shows us a food chain of a single link, where the eater knows exactly what is being eaten.
Pollan does an excellent job of looking at our food situation from all angles (his discussion of the ethics of eating animals is alone worth the book’s purchase price). He makes it clear that there are no easy answers-six billion people are not going to return to a hunter-gatherer existence-and that the simple act of eating is tremendously political.
Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington and the Cascades
Mountaineers Books, May 2006, 480 pages.
As someone who has returned to the Inland Northwest from points yonder, including the Seattle area as my initial launching pad, there is still a part of me that yearns for time by the sea and the dense green foliage that only Western Washington can offer. I fulfill this need annually by taking my young daughter camping on the other side of the mountains, each year to a different waterfront destination, and last year we even took time to hike and camp our way west through the North Cascades. Therefore, when I set out to review Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington and the Cascades, I did not so much as read the book, but rather used it to navigate my upcoming journeys west. What I found was a valuable resource that will replace hours of internet research.
Since Best Hikes with Kids is set up for children, the hikes highlighted are all bite-sized lengths that kids can manage. I found treks from one mile to eight miles, with most in the two to five mile range, at various degrees of elevation. The guide specifies the hikes as easy, moderate or difficult for children, and each hike features a photo of the landscape, great for us visual people. There is information on how to get there, what you will find on the trail, and a map of the trail itself.
To assist in researching my destinations, I relied heavily on the “Best Hikes” section at the front of the guide. They include such gems as best hikes to waterfalls, to see wildlife and birds, for fishing, and my favorite, for building sand castles. There is even a Best Hikes in Winter, for those who might want to take a break from our frost covered landscapes in January. The convenient list of campgrounds at the back of the book helps to identify where to set up camp near the hikes. With over 180 hikes featured, I can see that this book will help us navigate our westward journeys for years to come. Now we just need one for Eastern Washington.
On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods
Keokee Books, May 2006, 320 pages.
On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods by Bruce Bjornstad seeks to explain and explore the geological record left by the massive floods that scoured the Pacific Northwest approximately 15,000 years ago. When ice-dams on the prehistoric Columbia Lake and Missoula Lake periodically broke free, up to 500 cubic miles of water was released at a time racing across the landscape at speeds of up to 80 miles an hour.
If you are not familiar with this part of our local history, this book is a great place to start. The first section of the book begins by illustrating and explaining 19 of the common erosional and depositional landforms the floods left behind in the Mid-Columbia Basin. The book then looks at 70 specific landforms in our area. Easy to understand maps and indices make it simple to find information about a specific landform or area you may be interested in.
Through the course of these explanations Mr. Bjornstad pieces together the bigger picture of how the local landscape was dramatically reshaped at the time of the Ice Age floods. In addition to the nuts and bolts information there are also a handful of mini essays covering topics such as how the original theory of the great floods came to be and whether or not humans were living in the area at the time.
The second section of the book is a trail and tour guide to help readers get out and investigate the aftermath of the floods in person. The reader is presented with 30 trails that can be explored on foot, mountain bike or horseback, as well as sites accessible by public roadways and even tips for those with access to an aircraft or boat to aid in their explorations. Here again Mr. Bjornstad uses clear and concise tables, charts and illustrations to aid and inform the reader.
On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods is a great way to learn more about the weird landforms you come across while hiking and camping in the Mid-Columbia Basin.
Book Reveiws, Magazine Article |
DUE TO A REPORTING ERROR I recently found myself at a public hearing. The topic was Kendall Yards, KY as I affectionately call it, the 77-acre town of Sandpoint that developer Marshall Chesrown plans to gently ram into my neighborhood over the next decade.
Like a lot of West Centralites, I’m guardedly optimistic about development on the north shore of the Spokane River, for several reasons:
- I support packing the urban core, increasing density, saving gasoline, and keeping the rapacious Spokane County Commissioners from cul-de-sacking every last bit of forest.
- Kendall Yards is being built on once-polluted railroad land, what is commonly called “a brownfield.” (Coincidentally, this was my brother’s nickname in gym class, for reasons I’d rather not get into.)
- The development-condos, townhouses and plazas-has a certain urban cool factor. (Although California splits were also “cool” once.)
- Housing prices in my neighborhood are finally going up and I stand to make money on a Spokane home for the first time. (I lived in one house seven years and lost $30K; when I tell this to friends in other parts of the country, they look at me like I’m speaking Urdu.)
So while I’m hopeful, I went to the hearing because we must be diligent guardians of a section of riverfront that has largely escaped human traffic, except for those humans looking for a place to get stoned.
At the hearing I sat next to my smarter friend Ken (not his real name).While I gleefully fell for the developers’ Jetson’s vision of sophisticated urban dwellers in jetpacks with clones to do their bidding, Ken (okay, it is his real name) came armed with a list of comments. (“Your traffic study’ appears to have been done on Etch-a- Sketch.”)
The planners dismissed Ken’s traffic worries by saying the 5,500 new West Central residents (a 60 percent increase) would largely be pedestrian and light rail commuters.
Ken: “Then you’re putting in light rail tracks?”
Developer: “Uh. No.”
Ken: “Why not?”
Developer: “The city isn’t requiring it.”
Ken: “But you’re putting in an easement.”
Developer: “Uh. No.”
Ken: “Why not?”
Developer: “The city isn’t requiring it.”
Jess: “Ooh, how about an Orange Julius!”
While I left the meeting still cautiously optimistic, it’s become clear that the city and county are so horny for development they’ll give it up to anyone with a real estate license and a tassled loafer. I know they’ve been waiting eighty years for this boom, but they’re blowing a great opportunity. Just look at Seattle, where twenty years into its economic explosion, public transportation still somehow involves the monorail, a form of transit that exists only at Disneyland.
This is why the city should demand that light rail easements be a part of every new development within three miles of downtown. With a little tax money, in five years we could have light rail stripping the north side of the river, dropping down into Peaceful Valley and going up into Brown’s Addition, cutting to Gonzaga, the lower South Hill, and over the river to SFCC. According to his website, Mr. Chesrown views KY as his “chance to give back to the community” (Wasn’t it the Vikings, describing their raiding and plundering, who coined this phrase, “give back to the community”?) For the record: I don’t blame Chesrown. It’d be nice if he “gave the community” a strip of light rail track, but he’s a developer who got a huge chunk of land for peanuts and stands to make eleventy kabillion dollars. Fine. If he can get Spokane people to live close together and walk four blocks to get coffee (and maybe get me a jet pack) I don’t care how much dough he makes.
The city and county, however, need to wake up. Inviting developers into your neighborhoods to do as they please is a like asking a meth addict to house-sit. When it goes badly, there’s no one to blame but yourself.
Jess Walters: The Urban Outdoors, Magazine Article |
EASTERN WASHINGTON SURE doesn’t feel like high desert country lately.
So why not set out that rain barrel you bought on sale from Real Goods last fall, under a gutter, and capture some of the recent downpours for the tomato plants? Wouldn’t saving some of the rain water for later use help to prevent the flushing of raw sewage into the Spokane River when our storm-water collection system is overwhelmed by a “gully-washer?”
People around the state do just that-many, however, in violation of decades-old water use laws. Technically, using that little barrel to irrigate your garden is illegal.According to Washington State Department of Ecology Environmental Specialist Kevin Brown, “the capture and use of water from rainfall for beneficial use requires a permit.” The 1917 water code states that the rains pouring off your roof and into your clogged gutters belong to the State of Washington. The reason: harvesting even relatively small amounts of precipitation alters aquifer and river levels, and the Department of Ecology is charged with ensuring that everyone has enough water.
For the first 60-70 years of the water rights laws, the harvesting of rain for “beneficial use” was practically a non-issue. But water availability is now critical as we face imminent shortages because of increased demand due to rapid growth and the contamination of existing sources.
Rain water harvesting is not a recent phenomenon reserved for the Northwest conservationminded. People around the globe have been collecting precipitation for thousands of years and still do, especially in arid and coastal areas. In parts of New Zealand, houses are built on stilts over rain-holding tanks that serve all of their water needs.An urban house in Portland,Oregon collected enough rain that a meter-reader assumed its water gauge was broken and charged the owners anyway, based on their past water usage. Linda Moulder of Spokane County collects and uses the rain water that falls on her roof “because it is the right thing to do,” she says. She is so committed to living as sustainable a life as possible, Moulder said, that she and her husband, Jerry White, also have a composting toilet and use their washing machine discharge to water a maple tree.
In place for about five years on her 14 acres west of Spokane, Moulder calls her collection system “crude.” Simple as it may be, it works well enough to supplement her slow-to-recharge well. Using gutters to divert rain to a large covered plastic livestock trough, and inexpensive PVC tubing to route it through a drip system, the water is then used to irrigate several aspen trees and a willow on the property.
“An above-ground swimming pool is also an excellent holding tank for saving and using rain,” added Moulder.
Rainfall measured at Spokane International Airport at press time set a new record at 2.73 inches for the first 13 days of June, looking to break the record 2.85 inches for the month, and setting us up for possibly a record year, as well.
We do still live on the arid side of the state, however, averaging just 16 inches of precipitation a year. And come August, gardens, bushes and patio containers will be thirsty for the rain we have been complaining about the past few weeks. MOULDER & WHITE: BREAKIN’ THE LAW? PHOTO: JORDAN HUOTARI.
Even so, an average of 15,623 gallons of precipitation falls annually on a 1,500-square-foot rooftop, most of it in the form of snow. Approximately 6,700 gallons of rain can be harvested off the same roof from March through September.
Several attempts have been made to pass legislation creating an exemption to the 1917 water code that would allow for rain-water harvesting, most-recently in January, 2005. Senate Bill 5113, presented to the Committee on Water, Energy & Environment, proposed an amendment that would have given the Department of Ecology the power to permit rain-water in collection in cisterns and barrels. The legislation, however, never made it out of committee.
While the State has long maintained that regulating the collection and use of precipitation ultimately helps ensure the health of Washington’s waterways and sources, some local residents, including Moulder and White, save and conserve water not only to reduce the amount of water they need to pump from aquifers, but in hope that such efforts may prevent future water shortages and reduced river flows.
“I want my grandchildren to have resources,” says Moulder.
For more info on rainwater collection and permits: WA State Department of Ecology (509)329-3400.
Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged, www.rainwatercollection.com.
Magazine Article |