The love bridge of Spokane Valley

Imitation is the most acceptable part of Worship.

Three hundred years ago, Jeremy Collier and André Dacier wrote those words in a biography of Marcus Aurelius.

More than 100 years later, Charles Caleb Colton penned the idiom that’s far more common:

Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.

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Autumn in the Okanogan

This is my favourite time of year for shooting.

I’m always excited by the bright reds, yellows and oranges against a brilliant blue sky.

Since I moved back to B.C. temporarily, I’ve passed by this lake countless times, en route to Spokane or Omak to visit My American. We spent last weekend in Omak with Bella, our seven-month-old Maremma sheepdog.

The lake again caught my eye on a day trip to Oroville. It was surrounded by trees losing their leafy green colour and the water was so calm, it could have been mistaken for a mirror.

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Cold weather camping in Idaho


I’m rarely envious of my Canadian friends who brave the typical wintry blast of weather we get on Victoria Day weekend. But it’s the official opening of camping season and thus they are steadfast in their defiance of Mother Nature.

So it seemed kind of crazy that CAMPING was my answer when Our American said ‘what do you want to do for Memorial Day weekend?’

And yes, I very much screeched my answer in all caps.

We survived our first night of roughing it as a couple at Farragut State Park in 2011 but we missed any chance to camp last year. (Fair’s fair, we spent three weeks on the road, travelling to Nova Scotia and back.)

We found a spot at Chatcolet Campground, Heyburn State Park, and started to plan what we’d need for supplies. I thought, ‘Heh heh, sucker friends camping on Victoria Day, I’m waiting a whole extra week before I go. It’ll be fine.’

Karma bit me right on the ass. My cold, rained-on ass.

Yep, we didn’t have any better weather by waiting a week, but the clouds, wind and rain didn’t deter us from two nights in the wilderness.

The clouds were foreboding as we rolled along the highway from Spokane Valley to Idaho.

Our American took control, setting up the campsite. At Chatcolet, the sites are about as rustic as you can get camping in a state park. It takes time to find a flat-enough spot for the tent and there are no showers, like at Banff National Park.


Heyburn is the oldest park in the Pacific Northwest. Created in 1908, it’s named for a U.S. senator who hated the idea of the federal government being involved in Indian affairs. The city of Heyburn in southern Idaho is named for good old Weldon, too.

Inspired by an upcoming allotment of land to the Coeur d’Alene tribe, he sponsored a bill in which he proposed that Chatcolet Lake be named a national park. He felt that state parks were “always a source of embarrassment.” While he was away from Washington, the bill came to a vote and was modified to allow the state of Idaho to purchase the land, turning it into exactly what he fear most. ~ Clark, B. (1998). A Falcon Guide: Scenic Driving Idaho. Morris Publishing.

So there.

Not many ventured out on the Friday, leaving us with a peaceful first evening. We huddled around the campfire, protected from the wind and occasional bursts of rain by giant ponderosa pines.

tall pine trees

On Saturday, we found a boardwalk to walk Shep and burn off some of his energy. The interpretive walk hosts signs that describe the wildlife and waterfowl you might see on your stroll.

We spied a trio of pelicans and a great blue heron in the distance but damned if my kit 75-200 lens is just too crappy to capture such an incredible moment. If you’re lucky (we weren’t), you might also spy bear, elk, moose, osprey, bald eagles and wild turkeys.

The best I can show you is some darned nice scenery.

marshy lake

Heyburn boasts 5,744 acres of land and 2,332 acres of water and Chatcolet campground is home to a trailhead for the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.

The trail is one of the most popular biking trails in the western U.S. and starts at a gorgeous park just west of Plummer, Idaho. The park is a memorial for fallen warriors and veterans of the Coeur d’Alene Indian tribe.

Memorial park with statue

The trail winds its way from Plummer to Mullan.

It’s 71 miles (114 km) of paved path that takes cyclists over the lake:

cycling, pedestrian bridge over a lake

Once over the lake, you’ll cycle along the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene, head into the Chain Lakes region, visit the historic Silver Valley of Idaho and finish in Mullan, just west of the Idaho-Montana border.

My one-day cycling record is 26 miles (42 km). I’ve taken my mountain bike from my old house in Calgary and almost all the way out to Chestermere. I’ve pedaled from my house in Kamloops around the North Shore and out to Westsyde and back. I’ve done a route from the house in Spokane Valley to Post Falls, Idaho, and back home again.

But 71 miles?

Maybe that’s something to consider when I invest in a road bike that’s lighter than my mountain bike. And I can go faster and farther.

In the meantime, though, I have another camping trip to plan.

Camping is a lot of work … from the preparation to Sunday’s takedown of the site and unpacking the truck once back home. But it all feels so worth it when I’m staring up at the stars with the two great loves of my life sitting on either side of me.

There’s nowhere I’d rather be.


A walk along the river

It was time to get out of the house.

Entrepreneurship can bring with it a serious case of cabin fever. Sure, I got out of the house on Wednesday for coffee with a friend.

But nothing compares to a walk in the fresh air with my best pal, Shep.

We jumped in the truck and made a beeline for the river. There’s a little parking spot along Schubert Drive, with a gazebo and a dedication plaque to Catherine O’Hare Schubert, the only woman among the Overlanders of 1862. The Overlanders were 150 Ontario settlers who trekked across Western Canada for new homes and the lure of gold.

An Irish lass by birth, Catherine took her three children with her and gave birth to her fourth, a baby girl, only hours after arriving in Kamloops.

Cedar totems at park in Kamloops

The little park is also home to the above cedar poles. A work from Great Britain’s Giles Kent, they’re “Carved Cedar Poles” and they come from the Okanagan Thompson Sculpture Symposium of 2008.

We walked along the Rivers Trail, soaking in the view of Mount Paul and Moutn Peter on the other side of the South Thompson River.

And the Dome Hills:

Bench overlooking South Thompson River

I wanted to get the train tracks next to the Halston Bridge near Batchelor Heights. I’ve ridden through there on my bike several times and thought, “Man, I bet that would look good on my DSLR.” But it seemed a little far for old man Shep to walk, so we hopped back in the truck and went a little farther down the road.

The river was calm on the surface, a perfect opportunity to capture the bridge with a reflection in the water. I would have only been happier if a train had gone through.

Train bridge over South Thompson River

And just when I thought it was time to go home, I saw just up ahead the surest sign of spring you can get in Kamloops. In Calgary, it’s the Prairie crocus. In these parts, it’s the cherry blossom:

Cherry blossoms

At least, I’m pretty sure it’s a cherry tree. I’m no botanist. If I’m wrong, let me know!

Until our next escape …


Etched in my memory

There’s a spot on the road I’ve never forgotten.

I didn’t give scenery much time when I lived in Kamloops from 1996 to 2003. I had grown up in what I thought was the most beautiful place in the world.

And I missed it.

Who wouldn’t?

You get to see stuff like this:

fishing boats on the water

lobster traps piled up on a wharf

Those were taken last summer when my two beloveds and I drove across the continent so Shep and My American could meet my family in Nova Scotia.

Four months later, I learned I was moving back to Kamloops, after almost 10 years in Calgary.

I thought of that one spot.

I had been in Savona or Cache Creek or somewhere on assignment. Just south of Savona, the Trans-Canada Highway winds its way up a hill over looking Kamloops Lake.

While I was speeding along in my gutsy little Ford Mustang, I noted how beautiful that one piece of scenery was.

Maybe it was the blue of the water, channelling thoughts of my Atlantic Ocean.

Or maybe it was the wide-open freedom I felt that day.

But I remembered that spot clear as the water and I pledged to go back and take a picture that I thought did it justice.

Kamloops Lake at Six Mile HIll near Savona

On Saturday, I learned it’s a spot called Six Mile Hill. The grasslands below and on the other side of the highway are protected by BC Parks.

A sign tells a story of steamboats: “stately paddlewheelers, helping exploration and settlement of the Interior.”

The boats carried gold-seekers for the Big Bend rush of 1865-65 as well as grain from the Okanagan.

“They were vital in building the CPR and doomed by the railway they helped to build.”

I stood with Shep’s leash and a mapbook in one hand, my camera in the other. I took in as much as I could, soaking in the sight and knowing I would remember this day as well as the time I sped past.

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Hog’s not for the dogs

I thought I did my research well enough.

I thought I’d read everything there was to read about Hog Lake and Hog Canyon Falls on the old Google tubes.

It turned out a more difficult hike than I expected.

It turned out the falls weren’t quite as big as I expected.

It turned out there wasn’t as much access to clean water as I expected.

None of that means it wasn’t a fantastic day.

I have a passion for waterfalls. There’s something so majestic about them. Once I whet my appetite (get it? whet? wet? ha!) with Palouse Falls, I became insatiable.

I looked for more in the area and found Hog Canyon Falls.

The sun was blistering and we brought a jug of water for Shep and a couple of Gatorades for us. I figured we’d be lakeside for much of our trek and we’d relax by the falls while Shep laid in the water.

I was wrong.

The hike, about five miles (see that? I’m becoming American already) round trip, took us to the top of rocky scablands where I found carpets and carpets of wildflowers. We trekked through clarkia, blanket flowers, Indian hyacinth, rusty lupine and more.

The colours were as striking as the uphills were steep and quad-numbing.

With Shep at the ripe old age of nine (80-some in his dog years), neither one of us is in prime hiking shape any longer. Was it only two summers ago we climbed to the top of Barrier Lookout?

The falls, water cascading down a staircase of stones, were gorgeous, albeit a little smaller than I thought.

We took several breaks and were looking forward to cooling off in the water at the base of the falls. But the water pooling around the edges of the large rocks was murky and rife with algae.

Navigating the area is equally as difficult. One site described it as ‘scree’ but that’s different than any Rocky Mountain scree we’ve previously encountered.

And then there are the snakes. My American saw one slither past and yelled ‘snake!’ and, yes, I screamed. Was it a little garter or was it one of the rattlers that are supposed to populate the area?

Never mind, I don’t really want to know.

We ascended the hill to the top of the falls and found more murky water. We had no choice but to let Shep dip into the muddy pools, while we snacked on berries, almonds and sunflower seeds.

The trek back was no less rough at times, my spirits lifting when I could spot the wee truck in the distance. Then it was back to the city to get Shep a bath and learn about ticks (yep, we pulled five or six of the little buggers off him).

Lessons learned?

  • Bring more water than you think you’ll need
  • Take someone else’s degree-of-difficulty rating with a grain of salt
  • Forgo the big camera backpack with three cameras for the sake of water
  • Cotton socks suck for hiking, go for wool
  • Get better hiking boots
  • Water, water, water, water, water
Oh … and bring more water.