29 May 2006

Exploring the Inland Pacific Northwest

It’s been awhile since I have experienced the anticipation of the unknown. That feeling you have when you close the door of the rental car--with only a basic map in hand--and wonder not only how you’re going to find your hotel, but how you’ll get out of the parking lot. That moment of excitement when you turn the corner and catch your first glimpse of a vista that is new and unexplored expanding before you. That is what travel does for me, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s Sicily – or in this case Spokane – that is the featured destination.

I am frequently queried by friends, “You’re going where? Why?” Suffice it to say they just don’t share the same sense of adventure about some of my more obscure trips.

Spokane has been on my list for a while. I don’t know anyone there. I don’t have relatives or former college roommates to visit. But I have been hearing good things about this area of the inland Pacific Northwest. So with a long weekend ahead of me and with the aid of some online budget hunting, I landed in Spokane for three days of discovery.

My first impression of the landscape is that it’s a perfect hybrid of the foliage and green you’re accustomed to associating with a place like Oregon, crossed with the sometimes rocky and barren landscape of southeastern Idaho. One distinctive feature of the region is the Spokane River around which the downtown area encircles. The city has capitalized on this feature by expanding on the riverside park created for the 1974 World’s Fair. You can walk from one end of downtown to the other, and across the river, via several footpaths that offer stunning views of the Spokane Falls.

Much of downtown is a designated historical district, so many of the buildings are rich with architectural details. The South Hill area is home to the ornate Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist and the expansive Manito Park. The 90-acre park has manicured rose and lilac gardens, greenhouses, a Japanese garden, tennis courts, playgrounds, and a duck pond. In good weather, one could easily spend and afternoon here.

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