Hello, Table Rock in Boise, Idaho

For my first hike in Boise, Idaho, I selected Table Rock. The trailhead was right next to the Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site that I had just visited, so I headed back over there to the East End neighborhood.

There are multiple paths leading up to Table Rock, so I decided to hike in a figure-8 so I could hit as many of the trails as possible. On the route up, I started at the Old Penitentiary Trailhead and worked my way up Old Penitentiary Trail. It was pretty muddy, but still manageable.

As I ascended in elevation and got closer to the Y-intersection with Table Rock Trail, there were some nice views towards the northwest and southwest.

After passing the intersection of Table Rock Loop and continuing on Table Rock Trail, I made it up to the summit. At the top, there was a cross, as well as a placard explaining the story behind the fixture.

Apparently, it had originally been a source of controversy due to it being a religious symbol displayed on government land. Because the claims of the separation of church and state were valid, the Idaho State Land Board decided to auction off the land housing the symbol to a private party.

That wasn’t enough for some activists, as they perceived this to simply be a loophole solution, so they litigated. First they tried to block the auction, and then later tried to nullify the sale, but both attempts were not successful. Furthermore, around the same time, there was overwhelming public support for keeping the cross. Eventually, the activists gave up, because they realized this would just be an uphill battle.

From the summit, there was a nice view of downtown Boise…

… as well as of the less-populated suburban areas.

As I’ve come to see relatively frequently from hikes like this, Table Rock also had some radio towers at the top. I’m not an expert on communications equipment, but I think those towers with the white semi-cylinders might be 5G transmitters.

Also at the top, there was quite a bit of graffiti on the structures surrounding the radio towers. A lot of the graffiti were just markings and symbols, but there were also some nice mural art pieces as well.

I kept walking past everything and made my way to a clearing that showed a nice view of the scattered homes and mountains towards the northeast.

After taking in all the sights, I started walking southeast on East Table Rock Road, which seemed like it was a road that had originally been designed for motor vehicle traffic but has since been blocked off. At first, I didn’t see where the road connected back onto Table Rock Loop, so I walked over a barrier and kept proceeding on the road… until I saw signs stating that I was entering a federally-regulated mine and that trespassing was prohibited.

After retracing my steps, I found the proper walking trail and continued through the most treacherous part of my hike. Because this side of the mountain was shaded from the sun, there was still a lot of snow and ice obscuring and covering the trail. That, mixed with a lot of elevation change in a short dis­tance and cliffs with sharp drops, and I had to tread carefully as to not go plummeting to my death.

After managing to complete that portion alive, I connected onto Table Rock Quarry Trail, which was my favorite part of the hike. As you’d expect from the word “quarry” in the name of the trail, this area was very rocky and terraneous. There were huge rock formations engulfing the northern side of the path, making for a very interesting experience.

On this path, I also came across a small structure nestled inside the ground. I’m not sure what it is or how it got there, but I decided it was interesting enough to snap a photo.

On the south side, there were unobstructed views of Warm Springs Mesa, which appeared to be an affluent neighborhood off East Warm Springs Av­e­nue.

On my way down, I continued descending on Table Rock Trail instead of going on Old Penitentiary Trail at the Y-intersection like when I came up.

Overall, my hike was 4.26 miles (6.86 kilometers) and had an elevation gain of about 880 feet (268 meters).

While I was ascending, the weather was in an awkward spot where I was sweating under my winter coat, but it was still too cold and windy to take it off (though this problem went away after I had reached the summit and while I was descending). If you’re in Boise and are fit enough for this hike, I definitely recommend it—I found it to be very refreshing, and because of the shape of Table Rock, it allows for sweeping, panoramic views in all di­rec­tions if you walk around in a circle.

 

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Hello, Sacajawea Historical State Park in Pasco, Washington

I’m not really much of a holiday person, so I didn’t really have much of an interest in doing anything special for Halloween, but when I was browsing Google Maps, I noticed a place called “Haunted Forest at Sacajawea State Park.” I figured that, even if I don’t want to go out of my way to celebrate Halloween, this is still a good spot to stop by. It’s in a state park so I can go hiking there, and I already have a Discover Pass for Washington State Parks so I can go for free and get more value out of my purchase prior to departing Washington.

When I arrived and drove deeper into the state park to the parking lot, I went through a lot of autumn foliage. Having spent most of my autumns from the past few years in areas that don’t have trees that undergo the autumn leaf color phenomenon (yes, I just looked it up, and that is apparently literally the scientific name for it), it was nostalgic seeing so many orange leaves everywhere like I did when I used to live in Illinois and Wisconsin.

From the parking lot, I walked east towards a structure I saw in the distance. It ended up just being a sheltered picnic area.

I followed a path behind the picnic area and walked alongside the shoreline. Far in the distance, I saw a bridge over the Columbia River with train tracks that connected Finley to Burbank.

Farther down south, I saw an opening that let me get very close to the Snake River, so I climbed all the way down to snap a photo from a different angle.

After making my way back up, I saw another building, which I found out was the Sacajawea State Park Interpretive Center. It was a fairly traditional mu­se­um with some relics on display and a lot of text accompanying them. There was no extra fee for admission—it was included in my Discover Pass.

It was now time to find the Haunted Forest. After leaving the Interpretive Center, I kept walking north past the parking lot and found a trail that led first to a smaller pond that connected into the Snake River…

… and then a couple of tipis that were untented and just had the wooden sticks.

From here, the path continued further north, but the Haunted Forest was to the west. I looked around trying to find out how to get to the Haunted For­est, but all I could see was sparse vegetation and an empty field. At this point, I realized that I had probably made a mistake—there wasn’t an actual haunt­ed forest there, but rather, it was just a special event. Upon taking a second look at the Google Maps reviews, I realized that it might have been an annual seasonal event that has since been canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and hasn’t returned yet.

I probably would’ve been disappointed if I had come here just for the haunted forest, but luckily, I was enjoying my walk, so I continued on the trail. In the northeastern part of the path prior to the loop back around to the west, there was a clearing where I again was able to climb very close to the Snake River and take a nice photo of another train track bridge, this time connecting Pasco to Burbank.

As I looped around the bend and made my way across the northern side of the trail, there was a point where I originally snapped a photo and didn’t think much of it at first, but after I saw it again on my computer, I liked its aesthetic. It is a row of power lines extending into the distance with a faint row of windmills dotting the horizon.

This northern stretch of the trail was a lot more rugged and started to get a little bit overgrown. It was also an amusing sight to see when I came across what appeared to be mounds upon mounds of tumbleweed that I imagine had somehow rolled their way onto the side of this foot path and gotten lodged among the trees.

Eventually, the hiking trail ended and connected back onto Sacajawea Park Road, the auto road leading from U.S. Route 12 all the way to the parking lot. I walked the final semi-circle on the rocky shoulder of the road, and at one point near an intersection with a bike path, I was able to get somewhat of a view of Indian Island.

Eventually, I made my way back to the parking lot.

In total, my GPS tracker said my walk was 2.68 miles (4.31 kilometers), though I am guessing that it might be marginally higher than that because I left it going while I was walking around the museum and it tends not to capture movement as accurately when I am inside a building.

I wouldn’t say this state park is anywhere near impressive, especially if you’re not going for boating or picnicking, but if you already have a Discover Pass and don’t have to pay the $10 admission fee, then it’s still a nice place to go for a walk. Even though I went on a Sunday, it was still pretty empty, and most of the few other people who I saw around were also just going for leisurely walks with their families and/or pets.

 

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Hello, Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve in Richland, Washington

After digging around on Google Maps and All Trails, I noticed that Tri-Cities doesn’t really seem like the best place to go hiking, as the area appears to be relatively flat. However, I did come across Badger Mountain, part of the Yakima Fold Belt that was created through tectonic compression.

I decided to start my hike at the Westgate Trailhead, located on 210 Private Road off of Dallas Road, and right near the intersection of Interstates 82 and 182. I got on Skyline Trail and started zig-zagging my way up the mountain.

Once I got past the point where Skyline Trail crosses over 210 Private Road, I already started seeing some pretty nice views of South Richland.

As I kept climbing, I saw a rock labeled “Lake Lewis.” I looked around but there was clearly no lake, so I snapped a photo of the marker to do some re­search later.

I found out that Lake Lewis was a temporary lake that people suspect existed around 13,000 to 15,000 years ago which was caused by the cat­a­clys­mic Missoula floods. Based on evidence found in the Pacific Northwest, it is believed that the lake reached elevations of 1,250 feet. That means, during the floods, this entire area was engulfed in water as high as this marker rock.

Badger Mountain didn’t seem quite lively or colorful, but I did see this lone plant with purple flowers on my way up, so I snapped a photo.

Continuing higher, Skyline Trail crossed back over 210 Private Road and went on the southern side of the mountain, opening up views to the un­de­vel­oped land and some of the new homes built on either sides of Ava Way and Trowbridge Boulevard off Dallas Road.

As I approached the summit, I saw a cluster of radio towers.

When I did a loop around the radio towers and approached the intersection of Skyline Trail and Canyon Trail, I was able to see sweeping views of Richland, Kennewick, Pasco, and even as far as the edge of Burbank on the other side of the Columbia River.

As I circled around and prepared for my descent, there were a couple other radio towers away from the original cluster that I had seen.

While I was at the summit, it began drizzling rain, so I decided to take a quicker route back down—instead of retracing my steps on the winding Skyline Trail, I just took 210 Private Road straight down the middle. As I got closer to the bottom, I was able to get some nice views of what I believe is the Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard and Winery (though I may be disoriented and it might actually be one of the neighboring plots of land instead).

Eventually, I made it back down to the parking lot without getting too wet and avoided getting hit by lightning.

Overall, my hike was a little bit over 3½ miles (or just a little under 5¾ kilometers) in distance and approximately 700 feet (or about 212 meters) in el­e­va­tion gain.

 

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Hello, Columbia River Park in Kennewick, Washington

After my short stop in Yakima, I made my way over to Tri-Cities, Washington, a metropolitan area consisting of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland. Behind Seattle and Spokane, Tri-Cities is the third-largest metropolitan area in the state of Washington.

Upon arriving, I nearly immediately noticed a difference from my previous destination. I expressed my dissatisfaction with Yakima’s poor street plan­ning, but I haven’t run into any issues of the sort in Tri-Cities.

In fact, I’d say that Tri-Cities is nearly the opposite—they are very future-accommodating, and even in areas where there isn’t much around right now, the roads are robustly built and organized in a way that it can accommodate large spikes of population and traffic through appropriate insertions of turn lanes, one-way lanes, and stop light intervals.

For my first activity in Tri-Cities, I decided to keep it simple and go for a walk at Columbia River Park. The weather looked like it was going to rain, but something I learned from visiting the Seattle Metropolitan Area is that I can’t sit around and wait forever for the weather to be nice, because that’s not exactly a feasible thing to do in Washington without just running out of time.

After taking exit 42 off Washington State Route 240 and turning right onto Columbia Park Trail, I parked in the central lot just west of the Playground of Dreams then walked west to the Regional Veterans Memorial.

Just to the north was the Sacajawea Heritage Trail, so I took that east along the Columbia River.

There weren’t too many wild animals because this part is fairly inland in the center of Tri-Cities, but I did see quite a few geese, seagulls, and ducks.

After heading as far east as I could on the trail, I made it to the hydro pits and the Bernie Little Memorial Tree. There was a small pedestrian bridge that led me over to the boat launch, from which I had a nice view of Washington State Route 395, better known as Pioneer Memorial Bridge.

Continuing southeast, I made my way over to the Columbia Park Pond. There was a little peninsula and another pedestrian bridge, so I was able to see a few different angles of the various sections of the pond.

Nearly completing a full loop, my final stop was at the Old Veterans Memorial.

I haven’t posted a photo of my truck for a while, but I’m still driving the same vehicle—my 2018 GMC Canyon.

I’ve put nearly 20,000 additional miles on it since I started my road trip in June 2021 (which is pretty substantial, considering that, before my road trip, I would only average about 6,000 or so miles of driving per year). It’s suffered a little bit of cosmetic damage from harsh weather and a few bumps from neighboring parkers who seem like they weren’t very careful with their doors, but from a mechanical sense, it’s still going strong.

The park obviously wasn’t exactly stunning, but it was still very refreshing to go for a walk and get some crisp, cool air. Overall, my walk was a little bit over 2 miles (about 3.3 kilometers) with a mile pace of 22.5 minutes, which includes all the stops I made taking photos.

 

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Hello, Spencer Island near Everett in Snohomish County, Washington

While spending a bit more time in Everett, Washington, I decided to go for a hike on Spencer Island.

I picked Spencer Island because I enjoyed my hike on Jetty Island, but after going a bit deeper into Spencer Island, I realized that it was pretty different. It wasn’t quite as visually appealing as Jetty Island, and it was more like a swampy marsh than a pleasant hike.

I took the north-south path on the western side of the island at first, which was mostly clear. There were some tighter squeezes once in a while with some thorny bushes on either side, but I managed to make it to the end of the path relatively unscathed.

At the edge of the path was a nice view of Union Slough and the water branching in from the stream.

After retracing my steps back near the entrance, I started on the east-west path and made it to the opposite side, again overlooking the water. At the in­ter­secting point of the east-west path and the eastern north-south path, there was a bench.

On the bench, I found a rock painted in candy corn colors with a sticker that read “If found, please post on #HideTucsonRocks – Kindness Rock Project Tucson.” I found it amusing that this rock was in Snohomish County, Washington, over 1,200 miles away from Tucson, Arizona.

The east-west trail had some pretty overgrown areas, but it was worth it to see the views from the bridges.

However, beyond the bench containing the kindness rock and further south towards the southern tip, the path was completely consumed by bushes with sharp thorns, and it was not realistic to continue. Apparently the county didn’t have the resources to continue maintaining the walking trails on the island for a handful of years now, so nature ran its course and swallowed a lot of the trails. The county is still actively looking for volunteers to help prune some of the vegetation, but from the looks of it, they haven’t been having much success finding anyone.

I’m fairly adventurous and am willing to step fairly far out of my comfort zone to go exploring and experience new things, but it was just unrealistic to keep trying, and I was dealing noticeable damage to my arms and legs, so I turned around and went back.

On my way back on the eastern shore of Spencer Island, I saw a crashed ship carrying a crane truck, which was unexpected and interesting.

Overall, my hike lasted 4.3 miles (6.92 kilometers) with a 21.05-minute mile pace—fairly slow due to the tricky and overgrown areas along some of the path.

Spencer Island wasn’t that amazing, but it’s still a decent place to go for a walk if you’re in the area and want a change of scenery outside the suburban neighborhoods. Even if you want to avoid the rougher areas of the trail, you can get a decent walk in on the western north-south trail and half-way a­cross the east-west trail.

 

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Hello, Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, Washington

On the same day that I went to the Pacific Bonsai Museum, I also went to the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden right next door. The botanical gar­den was a far more open and unstructured exploration area, as opposed to how formal and curated the Pacific Bonsai Museum was.

I received a map when entering the botanical garden, and I tried to route my path so I would be able to visit as many of the areas as possible, but due to how complex the area was, how winding the paths were, and the seeming outdatedness of the map, I got incredibly lost. I ended up just wandering a­round until I saw enough interesting things, then I ended up back and the entrance and returned to the parking lot.

The first point of interest was the Rutherford Conservatory.

There were some flowers planted right outside the Rutherford Conservatory. I enjoyed the contrasting irony of there being blossoming sunflowers in one area and completely shriveled sunflowers right next to them.

Next, I visited the gazebo.

Not too far away was the Alpine Rock Garden.

From this point began my utter aimless confusion. I attempted to visit the Magnolia Grove, Stumpery, Pond, Blue Poppy Meadow, Big-Leaf Rho­do­den­dron Garden, Upper Woodland Garden, and Azalea Collection. However, I kept feeling like I was going in circles, and I wasn’t entirely sure whether I was actually at those points of interest that I saw on the map, or whether I was anywhere near them at all to begin with. Regardless, it was a very tranquil walk through the flowers, plants, and trees.

Overall, between the two tourist attractions, I walked a little under two miles (almost three kilometers), at a very leisurely pace of almost an hour per mile.

 

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