All work and no play just doesn’t work, even when living and building on 30 acres on a forested hilltop… so we purposely tried to take breaks about once a week to explore nearby adventures, which means mainly hiking and seeking out fresh fruit!
Being out in nature was also a wonderful relief from the mask-mandate that forces us to wear masks in any retail establishment in the state. Nature does NOT require a mask!
We started with a wonderful hike recommended by some new friends we met who are actually the parents of one of Ran’s former students! They live in Diamond Lake, which like Loon Lake, has a lot of homes scattered around the lake. They told of us of a great hike at Bead Lake, in the Colville National Forest — just across the state line from Newport in Idaho. The 9-mile out-and-back trail hugs the lake for the majority of the hike, and offers both amazing views of the lake as well as wonderful views into the forest of Ponderosa Pines, White Pines, and Cedars. Along the way, several camping and picnicking spots exist for extending the hike.
The best (free) access for hikers is via the dirt access road to a trailhead and parking lot above the lake; this spot requires a short and steep hike to the boat launch area. Hiker access from the boat launch itself requires a day-use fee, which is where we parked — but there are warning signs that the lot is ONLY for boaters, not hikers… so you have been warned.
The following week, we decided to venture over to Mount Spokane State Park, where we discovered one of the most amazing hikes in quite some time — mainly because of all the wildflowers along the trail.
Mount Spokane State Park is a public recreation area (requiring a Discovery Pass, available for purchase at the park) located in the Selkirk Mountains, 23 miles northeast of Spokane. The 12,293-acre state park — the largest in the state — surrounds the 5,883-foot Mount Spokane and other peaks including Mount Kit Carson, Beauty Mountain, and Quartz Mountain. The park features numerous trails for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders — totaling about 100 miles and ranging from easy to extremely difficult. In the winter, the park offers downhill skiing and snowboarding, as well as 37 miles of Nordic ski trails.
The park officially opened in 1927 — and three years later, workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) planted grass, constructed picnic and parking areas, constructed trails and shelter, and improved roads. Because of our love of the CCC — as a program that helped so many young men during the Great Depression and which did SO much for enhancing state and national parks across the country — we decided to hike to the CCC Cabin, which can be hiked to via Trail 130 at Bald Knob. (Note: Trail 130 is about 12 miles, so make sure you travel all the way to the Bald Knob picnic area, which includes a nice parking lot and restrooms.) The hike to the CCC Cabin, which was sadly closed because of the coronavirus, is about 2 miles out and back, but which offers wonderful vistas and an abundance of wildflowers. The CCC Cabin area is beautifully terraced, which is where the tents were pitched when this was a working camp.
After our surprisingly wonderful hike, we headed down off the mountain to the foothills of the Green Bluff area to pick fresh cherries. Gleen Bluff is an agri-tourism association of growers located about 15 miles north of Spokane… It is divided into two loops of farms, the East and the West. The farms offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables either picked or U-Pick, as well as other unique items. Besides the farms, there are also wineries, hand-crafted breweries, and a meadery and hard cider works. There are also several restaurants/cafes and a number of Christmas tree farms.
We chose to stop at Abundance Farm (#55, which is a funny coincidence since our lucky number is 5) because they were one of the few orchards that were open for cherry-picking — and who actually responded to my email requesting information. We also loved that the owners are fairly new (moving up to the farm in 2015) and very friendly… and Christian. The name of the farm comes from a bible verse: “Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.” Jude 1:2.
We had a blast picking cherries right from the trees, as can be seen on Jen’s face in the photo collage! We picked a bucketful of Lambert cherries and enjoyed fresh fruit for several days. Ran even made some cherry muffins.
Our next adventure was tied to a return visit to Green Bluff and Abundance Farm — though this time for blueberries, not cherries. We decided to visit McKenzie Conservation Area, which includes a nice hike to the west shore of Newman Lake — and some beautiful scenery.
The 462-acre conservation area contains upland evergreen forests full of western red cedar, fir, and pine trees as well as wetlands with cottonwood and aspen groves. There are also 2 streams and springs that feed the wetlands from the north and west. The park also includes some interesting geological formations and rock outcroppings.
Three main trails have been developed in the conservation area and taking any two of them will provide a loop back to the main parking area. We chose to hike in a counterclockwise direction (which was the smart choice given some of the crazy, steep hills), starting on the Bedrock Ridge Trail. This trail is a bit wilder and we found some wonderful thimbleberries along the trail (along with, sadly, knapweed). If you wanted a short hike, you could take the Cross Draw Trail, but would miss seeing the lake. Instead, we continued down to the lake and to Turtle Rock (thought to have been used by early Native Americans). We then returned to the parking area via the Turtle Rock Trail, which is more of an old two-track road than trail. All the trails are open to hikers and horseback riders — as well as cross-country skiers in the winter.
After the hike, we worked our way back to Green Bluff and Abundance Farm for a little blueberry picking.
On our first visit to Abundance Farm, we saw the blueberry field — and in fact, decided to purchase two blueberry plants they had for sale in case we did not make it back to pick… but, as you can see, we made it back and picked a small bucket of them — which we used for waffles and more muffins, freezing the rest. (In case you are wondering, the blueberry plants we purchased and planted are doing well so far — and even provided us with about 20 blueberries this season. We had to seriously amend our soil with peat moss to increase the acidity that blueberry plants want to thrive.)
Even though we expect to have more fruits in our garden next spring, we definitely plan to return to Green Bluff — for cherries and blueberries, and perhaps even strawberries. We’ll see!
Our most recent hike was one we found suggested on a local Facebook page… and while we successfully reached the gate off of Buck Creek Road — where the hike starts — we were kind of unsure where to go from there… so we hiked a closed dirt road and observed the views — including those of several hilltop logging operations.
In reviewing the topographical maps of the area, it looks like we hiked near Blue Grouse Mountain, east of Deer Lake. Other mountains in the area include Deer Lake Mountain and Loon Lake Mountain.
We absolutely love exploring the area around us… learning more about the lakes and mountains, as well as farms and ranches that supply such nutritious food.
Next up… more progress (we hope) with building the house!