I filled my lungs with some of the freshest air I have breathed in a while. The kind of air you just can’t find in the city. And surprisingly, this air was not deep in the woodland after hours of hiking. It was there the moment I climbed out of my car.
I threw on my pack and headed down the trail, smiling at some cyclists as they rode by in the opposite direction. It was one of those wonderful Idaho spring days where it started out at that perfect temperature for hiking, not too hot and not too cold. Soon enough though, I found myself taking cover under a tree to avoid the downpour of rain. Within a half hour I was sweating from the sun beating down on me. And at the end I barely missed another rain storm. As I said, a perfect spring day in North Idaho.
I walked for a few miles along the trail spotting heron, geese, and ducks before coming across a moose. Deciding to let the pretty lady have the trail to herself, I backed up and returned the direction I came. I passed my car in the lot and continued on the trail in the opposite direction. To this side there were more heron and turtles sunbathing on logs.
The Bull Run Lake Trailhead is part of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene’s and offers a nice place to have a picnic and to see a variety of wildlife without having to go deep into the forest. The trail is easily accessible. After a short drive from Hwy 3, that includes a one-lane bridge, you arrive at the trailhead. The trail is used by walkers and bikers alike. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail, which adds to the peaceful quality of the area.
The trailhead has limited parking but does have a nice picnic area and a bathroom. So take your bike or grab your pack and enjoy a wonderful day breathing in the clean air, spotting wildlife, and soaking up the beauty of nature.
Kootenai Falls, MT. (In-between Troy and Libby)
Recently I decided to take the kids out to Kootenai Falls as we had never been there. We grabbed my mom for the trip and headed out. It’s just over a two-hour drive to get there from CDA and thankfully my kids are old enough that we can handle trips like that without too much problem.
The parking for the Falls is right off the highway. It seems more like a rest stop than a place to go to see a waterfall, but it was quite convenient. There is a picnic area and small concessions stand and a couple of bathrooms.
You begin the trail winding through some pretty forest and then crossing a bridge that takes you over some train tracks. Continuing down a couple flights of stairs you walk a short distance until you reach a sign saying Kootenai Falls to the right and Swinging Bridge to the left.
We decided to hit the Falls first and walked the short distance to the falls. And man! What a view! Across the river you could see animal trails on the mountains but the falls took my breath away. Because of the layered rock under the water there are many little mini falls which then fall into several large falls where the river divides and flows around other islands in the water. My kids found a tree to climb and we snapped a ton of photos of the water. With the varying levels of rock, it is a place that would be worth seeing at different times of the year.
We walked down a small trail near the water, the small trail is doable but filled with loose shards of rock so you want to watch your step and be careful with little ones. Climbing up a bit we found ourselves at the top of the falls and got to play in the water a bit. Mostly we dipped our feet in. There are some nice shallows but also some swift moving water so it’s important to watch where you are playing.
After playing at the falls we headed for the swinging bridge. This was about a third of a mile from the sign and was a lot of fun. You have to be patient as only five people are allowed on the bridge at one time and is really only wide enough for one. Each side must take turns crossing. But eventually we made our way across the river and found a nice small beach to rest at. It was so relaxing there. We played in the water a bit and listened to the river flowing past. We found some cool rocks and again played in the water. After we were done messing around we went back to the trail. You can continue on the trail to meet up with some other hikes but we headed back to the car. Of course, on the way we climbed more rocks, ledges and trees.
Once back at the rest site we stopped to eat the picnic lunch we had packed. There are some nice picnic tables to eat at and we picked the one that had a carved wooden bear sitting at it. All because my daughter loves bears. :) The concession stand has water and snacks but most of the snacks are sugary and would be considered junk food. After eating hopped back in the car an headed back to CDA. If you haven’t been out to Kootenai Falls, it is well worth the drive.
Overall, we had a fabulous time in the Snoqualmie area and would love to go back someday. There were so many recommended trails we didn’t get a chance to try. And we got to bring out our dorky side a bit. All over there were safety signs for slippery surfaces, falling off mountains, climbing dangerous areas, etc. So the kids and I stood in front of the signs and made the same body shapes as the signs while my hubby snapped a photo. It takes a little bit of time and work to coordinate all of us to look as if we are falling off a mountain, slipping on ice, or getting squished in an automatic gate, but it is doable as long as you are willing to ignore the askance looks directed your way. :)
If you are curious about the hikes we did check out my blogs from the last several months or click on the Washington link on the side.
Twin Falls Hike
We loved doing this hike. Right off the parking area there is a great place to put your feet in the river and play around a bit. You walk along the river for quite a while and it beautiful. Because the area is often wet, there were many muddy spots to walk through but nothing too terrible. Eventually the trail begins to ascend and when you reach the top of a hill there is a nice spot to sit and view the falls. We continued on with some more uphills and downhills and stopped along the way to take pics of the kids in a hollowed out dead tree.
Eventually, you come to a set of stairs that take you to two viewing platforms where you can get some great shots of the falls. It was nice and quiet while we were there. If you continue past the stairs you will come to a bridge that brings you in-between the falls. The trails continue on, connecting to all sorts of other trailheads, but we turned back at this point.
This hike is definitely worth doing if you are in the area
We wanted to start the day off with an easy hike and picked Tiger Mountain. We were expecting a hike but it turns out Tiger Mountain is more like nature trails. It is right off the freeway. We parked in the free parking area which means we were bombarded with freeway sounds. A short hike on a nice nature trail led us up to the actual parking area for Tiger Mountain. There is a restroom there but the bathrooms were filled with flies. We have a picture of my son trying to brave the bathroom. Hoody up and zipped, hands in sleeves waving in the air as a swarm of flies flew out the bathroom door when he opened it.
There is a nice picnic area and many walking trails of varying lengths to do. It was a very pretty area and the trails are very easy. We saw a ton of slugs which was cool. I have never seen so many slugs in my life. Also, it was great to see a different type of forest than what we have here in the CDA area.
Overall, this place is a nice location if you are looking for some well maintained, easy trails. Anybody could go here and have a good time.
Yet one more exciting tale in the Snoqualmie area in the next blog. :)
I honestly don’t know if I can say enough about how gorgeous Rattlesnake Ledge is. When we found the correct side of the mountain for the trail we were seeking we were surprised to find a lake there: Rattlesnake Lake. When we arrived, it was very tranquil. Parking is close to the lake but separate enough you don’t notice the cars and you feel you are out in nature. There were some old dead tree stumps in the water and a couple of boats. If we had time we would have gone back to play in the water. I would love to return one day and just spend a whole day at the lake.
The hike is easy to get to from the lake and in the brochures it is labeled as a moderate hike. You gain over 1100 feet in elevation in two miles. It is tough but doable. If you have ever done Multnomah Falls, in Oregon, you can do Rattlesnake Ledge. The hike up is pretty and you are surrounded by old trees. You quickly lose sight of the lake and we found ourselves noticing the completely natural area. The temperatures that day were pretty good for a hike like this. We were warm but not too hot. It was easy enough to peel off layers and continue on. Of course, most of us had built up a sweat by the time we made it to the top, except my son. He is crazy fit and hadn’t worked up a sweat. In fact, he was the only one that had a chill. Rotten kid!
We hit the top and the first thing my oldest did was say “Worth it!” The views are spectacular. You literally hike up to a ledge that is open on three sides. There were many people picnicking up there but it did not feel crowded. Although, I did have a minor panic moment when I watched a young girl balancing on the balls of her feet on the edge of the ledge to pack up her food. I kept eyeballing her to make sure she didn’t go over.
If you looked down, you could see the lake below and towns off in the distance. The view was panoramic and miles out. The cliff ledge itself had different levels to it so you could move around to see the lake more or the mountains more. Tons of birds were around because, of course, there is a ton of food on the ground from picnickers and we were also so high up.
After hanging out for a bit we headed back down, which was much easier than the up, and got caught in a downpour. We were soaked and cold by the time we made it back down to the lake but I can’t really complain about it too much. It was well worth it and since we weren’t camping out it was easy enough to get in the warm car and head back to the hotel.
I would do this hike over and over again in all seasons and be happy. And would love to return to the lake to hang out.
But wait, there's more...
Snoqualmie Point Park
On the way to look for our next hike, we had a happy accident. We had heard great things about Rattlesnake Ledge and so we put it into our phones and took off. We arrived at the destination and were a bit confused. Things didn’t seem quite right. We finally decided to ask someone and found out our phone had taken us to the wrong side of the mountain. We would have needed to hike 10 miles inland before getting to the area we were looking for. However, we did find Snoqualmie Point Park right next to us, on the wrong side of the mountain.
This area was gorgeous. A nice picnic area covered in elaborately carved wood, bathrooms close by and some walking paths near a variety of flowers. While sitting and eating you can watch all sorts of birds of prey soaring through the air and hunting. We saw wild bunnies too. And thankfully, in our viewing we never saw a bird and bunny meet. I would not have enjoyed the bloodshed on our family picnic.
There was hardly anybody there and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It felt out in nature even though there was a parking area nearby. We enjoyed a picnic lunch watching the birds and rabbits. The sun was shining; the wind was blowing. It was a picturesque area to sit and relax.
If you want a relaxing area to pack a lunch and hang out at I would recommend Snoqualmie Point Park.
Keep trekking to the next blog to find more hikes from the trip.
Snoqualmie Falls Trail
The first hike we did was the Snoqualmie Falls Trail. This begins at the top of the falls viewing area. You can literally park up next to the viewing areas and trail head. My husband got a souvenir shirt from the gift shop that says “I hiked (out of my car and took a picture of) Snoqualmie Falls”. So, once you make it through the gift shop, you can find beginning of the hike behind it. You will go .7 miles and find yourself at the bottom falls viewpoint. The trail is well maintained and heavily used so expect to see a lot of traffic. We were told that there have been people who made it down and could not make it back up the trail. We found it to be an easy trail but because of the grade could see how some might have difficulty getting back to the top. If this is the case, there is a parking lot at the lower area as well as restrooms. Someone could easily drive down to get someone and take them back to the upper parking section.
There were beautiful trees and flowers on the walk and of course the falls are gorgeous to look at from either level. The lower level has a small boardwalk and viewing platform. However, when we were there it was difficult to get a view and picture because it was so crowded, but as long as you are patient you will be able to get a nice shot. Plan on being waiting to get photos.
Overall, the walk is definitely worth doing if you are visiting the falls, but expect it to be crowded with visitors.
More hikes coming up. :)
A few months back, I excitedly booked a stay at a lodge I have been wanting to visit for years. I saw they were having a good rate and hesitated. Whoops! Talked to my husband about it and a few days later decided to book it. Rate had gone up (that’s the way it goes), but I booked it anyways because now I had it in my head we were going to go and I was excited.
The first time I saw pictures of Salish Lodge I knew that one day I wanted to visit. Being the nature lover that I am, the idea of a hotel right at the top of a waterfall appealed. I had grand visions in my head of what it would look like. Of course, my brain made up all sorts of things which were inaccurate, but the lodge was fun, the waterfall was beautiful, and we had an amazing vacation. One of the best things about our stay there was the amazing hikes in the area. So, while not right in the CDA area, the hikes are still a worthwhile thing to do if you happen to be near Snoqualmie, WA.
We loaded up the car for our stay and sang the travelling hours away. Hit a bit of construction but nothing too terrible and finally hit the Snoqualmie area. The views were breathtaking. It’s always sucky being the driver since you aren’t able to fully take in the views. In general it is considered dangerous to look to long away from the road, :) but I saw enough to love it. We eventually arrived at the lodge to discover valet parking. Valet parking weirds me out. :) I realize it is a nice service that can be beneficial in many ways but there is an independent streak in me that feels like “I am perfectly capable of parking my car since I drove it all the way here and I know how to carry luggage. But thanks.” We embraced it though and pulled our car up to the valets. Chatted them all up and found them to be extremely nice and helpful. Some had visited CDA before and others told us their favorite hikes to do.
We had a nice room that had a small balcony. Not a very good view of the falls but there were some flowers and trees planted below us. You could also see the power station that is at the beginning of the falls. Not very pretty station, but it serves a function.
The lodge had a spa on the top floor which we did not partake of. They also have a dining area that has amazing views of the falls and fantastic room service. A bit pricey, but we knew what we were getting into when we went. They also have a second fine dining restaurant we did not go to since we didn’t feel like spending $50 a plate. There is a gift shop with a variety of souvenirs including their private honey and bath supplies. Being the fancy place that it is, Salish Lodge has their own hives they use to gather the honey they sell.
Wandering outside is beautiful. To the side of the Lodge is the viewing areas for the waterfall. Along with this spectacular view there are sculptures, trees and flowers, and metal words stuck into the pavement randomly around.
The Snoqualmie Falls giftshop is a short distance away along with the Snoqualmie Hike trail head. It is all very easy to get to.
Side Story – One morning we had ordered room service. The lighting in the rooms is pretty dim and on top of my daughter’s oatmeal was a round, yellow object. She asked what it was and I honestly thought it was a slice of banana. So, that’s what I told her. My other daughter said she thought it was butter and I said “No, it’s a banana, it looks like banana.” So, daughter one scooped it up and bit into it. Then got a hilarious look on her face. She kind of mumbled around her food that it was not a banana. Apparently, it was a round of butter. So, lessons learned: Mom is not always right and eating butter straight is not nearly as tasty as eating banana. (By the way, my daughter says she can attest to the fact that I am not always right).
If you want to read more about the hikes we did read on in the next blog.
Written by Jennifer Haler
November 19, 2013
Last year my husband and I decided that we didn't like getting all of our nieces and nephews more items to clutter up their rooms and houses. It is something we had thought about for a long time but didn't do anything about until last year. We have a large family and by the time the kids opened up new toys from everyone for each holiday/birthday and added it to all the hand-me-downs they already had it felt like we could open up our own toy store. These are all kids that have plenty of the necessities such as food, clothing, a home, etc. And have plenty of the unnecessary too.
So we decided to make a change. Instead of giving out more toys we would give out experiences. We had a ton of fun planning it and thinking of new ideas. We did a lot of research on activities to do in the area, and after checking with all the brothers and sisters in-law, we got the go ahead for the activity we chose.
Which brings us to the Rider Ranch. Rider Ranch is a local, family owned and operated ranch. They are now on the third generation working on the same land. They offer a variety of activities like weddings, birthday parties, horseback riding, dinner rides, etc. The prices were affordable and I felt well worth the money spent.
Steve and I did much preparing for the holiday. We got my mother and father in-law to go with us. So, on the day we opened presents each child was given an age appropriate puzzle to solve. Some were riddles, some mathematical, etc. Once they solved the clue it would lead them to a location where we had hidden an envelope with a puzzle piece in it. This puzzle was a picture we had printed on our home computer with our activity written on it and what their present was. Once the kids had gathered all of the puzzle pieces they assembled the puzzle and got to see their gift.
There was so much joy in watching them excitedly run around the house and helping each other out. They worked together to solve everything and, in the end, had a great time. The gift was a horse-drawn sleigh ride around Rider Ranch with hot cocoa and marshmallows served afterwards around a campfire. Later, all the kids would come home with us for a sleepover party. (This was the gift for the brothers and sisters in-law. A night without the kids.)
We had coordinated a day with all the families and the Rider Ranch and headed off. We managed to squeeze everyone into my Durango and my mother-in-law’s Forester. It took all the seats but we managed.
Rider Ranch is not very far away and the drive is easy. There were signs guiding the way so we found it right away. My mother-in-law had expressed some concern about needing 4-wheel drive to get there in the snow as she did not know where it was located. However, we found no need for it. There were not any areas where we had to use it on the day we went last year.
As we pulled up we were greeted by dogs, horses and the family that owns the ranch. They were very kind and patient with us as we unloaded eight kids and four adults and took time to make sure we had all of our snow gear on. The kids had a great time playing with the dogs and they were given time to pet the horses and learn their names. And, bonus, they have a port-a-potty for anyone to use. Because there is nothing worse than having a bunch kids in tow and discovering that there is no place they can use a bathroom.
After the meet and greet we hopped on the flat wagon and settled in. We were then pulled around by the horses and given information on the ranch by our guide. Rider Ranch is beautiful and it was neat to see a family operated place.
It seemed like the ride ended too soon. I think everyone wanted to stay with the horses a bit more. But next we were taken up to a fire pit and served hot cocoa and marshmallows. And, they provided marshmallow roasting sticks.
Side Note: I had talked to the owners beforehand about bringing our own marshmallows for those of us that are vegetarian. I purchased vegetarian marshmallows at Pilgrim’s Market and we were allowed to bring these with us. I appreciated that they were accommodating for those of us with food preferences.
It was so beautiful to sit around a warm fire, surrounded by snow, sipping cocoa and listening to how excited the kids were about the whole thing. Some of the kids finished faster than others and got up to play with the dogs.
When our time was up we headed back to the car. We took all the kiddos to our house and had a slumber party.
We had unknowingly left one of my nephew’s blankets at the ranch. They contacted us right away and held it for us so I could drive back out and get it. I appreciated this since no little kid wants to lose their favorite blanket.
In the end, we had a great time and got to experience something wonderful with our nieces and nephews, the kids got to have an experience they wouldn't normally be able to do, and everyone got a wonderful Christmas gift without the extra clutter.
We already have planned out what we are doing this year and I will let you know next month. Don’t want to ruin the surprise.
I love spending time with my family doing all the wonderful activities in the Inland Northwest.