Part 1: Riding the Waves and More
We headed out for our adventure early one rainy day. As we left the Seattle area, we agreed that it was a fine time to be going east to the sunny side of the state. Sure enough, after we crested the Pass – the sun burst through the clouds. Funny, this is a common theme when we drive the four hours to Spokane.
One of the stunning features of Spokane is the Spokane River, which runs right through downtown. The downtown highlight is Spokane Falls. Be sure to take a walk across the bridge to get the best views! But – for the very best view of the river, get in touch with Wiley E. Waters Whitewater Rafting. The company was started in 1994 by Kyle Brock. What’s behind the name? Before beginning the rafting company, Kyle played baseball with the Tri-Cities Triplets, a minor league team in nearby Richland, WA. He became known and feared for his base-stealing, so his teammates nicknamed him Wiley after everyone’s favorite roadrunner-chasing coyote.
Our rafting trip started in a neighborhood in Spokane called Peaceful Valley. Before we got into the raft, we had a thorough (and entertaining) safety instruction. We were also showed the ropes about how to paddle – this was not a sit-and-watch trip! Once in the boat, we started on a peaceful stretch of the river but soon came upon the first of our Class III rapids – Bowl and Pitcher. This is where things got exciting!
The boat rears up, then plunges down into the bowl, and everyone gets wet! After another peaceful stretch, we hit the next big rapid – Devil’s Toenails. This one is named after one of the fascinating basalt rock formations that looks like someone’s foot sticking out of the water. Luckily, Dutch (our guide) easily steered us away from a rapid known as the Room of Doom!
About 11 miles downstream of where we put in we landed at Riverside State Park where we were met by Josh Flanagan, the current owner of Wiley E. Waters. We loaded the rafts up onto the trailer and headed back into town. A future trip to Spokane will include a bit more exploring the park. Riverside State Park offers about 55 miles of hiking, biking, and horse trails. In the winter, the park boasts some of the best snowshoeing and cross-country skiing around.
For biking, the granddaddy trail of them all is the Spokane River Centennial Trail. Nearly 40 miles of paved trail for pedestrians and bikes, the trail stretches from Sontag Park in Nine Mile Falls, Washington to the Washington/Idaho state line. You can then continue another 24 miles into Idaho (as the North Idaho Centennial Trail) through Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene. Michael biked a shorter section of the trail, starting at Riverfront Spokane. The Riverfront offers a plethora of activities including public art, a merry-go-round, and a Skyride over the falls. Michael biked east to the gorgeous campus of Gonzaga University.
For our too-short trip to Spokane, we stayed at the Davenport Grand, one of 5 hotels owned by Walt Worthy. Our beautiful room had a lovely view of the park and downtown Spokane. We also had a tour of another of Worthy’s hotels – The Historic Davenport. The Historic Davenport had originally opened in 1914 and was a destination for travelers from all over the world. The first hotel offered air conditioning, a pipe organ, a central vacuum system, and housekeeping carts. It operated until 1985, then slowly crumbled into disrepair. In 2000 the property was bought by Worthy and lovingly restored to its original splendor – right down to the gold leaf around the lobby hearth. If you aren’t lucky enough to stay at the Historic Davenport, at least stop in for a cocktail at the Peacock Room Lounge. The décor, which includes a 5,000 piece stained glass ceiling, transports you to the Jazz Age. And my Old Fashioned was exemplary!
Our 47-hour stay in Spokane was finished. Serendipitously, Spokane is on the 47th latitude, so it has long summer days – which gave us time to pack a lot into those hours!