Outdoors

A roadside workout can brighten up long road to Pullman, football season

This morning, for the first of six times this year, many Washington State University football fans are waking up in or near Pullman and preparing for a 300-mile drive home to Western Washington.

Many of WSU’s alumni live in the Puget Sound area, meaning even home games are road games as far as they’re concerned. Even more challenging, for a decade now they’ve had to make those weekend road trips disappointed.

The Cougars haven’t had a winning season since 2003 and after already losing two games they were favored to win, this season doesn’t look very promising either.

But lucky for WSU fans, the cure for dealing with the stress of another tough season isn’t so different than that of making a road trip safe and little more entertaining.

Find a peaceful place and squeeze in a little exercise. (Well, that and a win in the Apple Cup.)

While the road to Pullman has a reputation for having little to offer, that’s not really the case.

Here are a few places you can stop for a little peace and quiet and a quick stress-busting workout:

BOYER PARK

Scenery: You’ll avoid Colfax’s notorious speed trap if you tack on the extra 15 miles to drive back to Western Washington via Boyer Park. The view of the Snake River is quite pleasant as you descend state Route 194 to the Port of Almota. The park offers a quiet place to play on land or in the water.

Workout: A 3.5-mile trail runs through the park linking Almota Creek to Lower Granite Dam. It is good place for a walk or a jog. But the park has a protected area ideal for a swim. Or, if you want to spend some time, put in a kayak and head out for a paddle in an area where Lewis and Clark once traveled.

Fees: $25 to reserve moorage or an RV spot.

More info: bpark.biz.

STEPTOE BUTTE

Scenery: Unless you have a gluten allergy, the view from the top of Steptoe Butte is quite peaceful.

On top of the quartzite formation, a sea of wheat and a patchwork quilt of other crops spread out beneath you. It might seem as if you can see forever from this perch 3,612-feet above sea level, but Washington State Parks says your view only reaches about 200 miles.

Workout: A great place to burn some calories if you bring a bike. It’s a short, but sweet workout that was included in Mike McQuaide’s 2012 book "75 Classic Rides: Washington" (The Mountaineers Books, $24.95).

But beware of a few things before you take on this ride. The chip-sealed roads approaching the butte were brutal when I rode Steptoe in July. So bad, in fact, a woman I met at the top was pondering calling for a ride back home to Moscow, Idaho. I was happy to have a ride waiting. And the narrow road to the top isn’t great either. It looks like it’s about a decade overdue for resurfacing. Not a problem on the ride up, but stay alert on the way down.

Fees: Discover Pass, $10 per day, $30 per year.

More info: parks.wa.gov.

PALOUSE FALLS

Scenery: I’m constantly surprised by the number of people I meet who make their annual fall football pilgrimages to Pullman without taking the 35-mile side trip to Palouse Falls. The falls drop nearly 200 feet, creating one of the most dramatic scenes in Eastern Washington.

Workout: Palouse Falls State Park offers about 3 miles of hiking trails. A Montana man once successfully kayaked over the falls. We recommend you stick to hiking.

Fees: Discover Pass, $10 per day, $30 per year.

More info: “Best Desert Hikes: Washington” by Alan L. Bauer and Dan. A. Nelson (The Mountaineers Books, 2004, $16.95).

POTHOLES RESERVOIR

Scenery: The desert and freshwater marshes of Potholes State Park attracts visitors to play and admire the wildlife. A good spot for bird watching, the reservoir is also renowned for its fishing.

Workout: There are plenty of ways to get in some exercise during a stop at this popular state park. Swim or paddle in the lake (at least before temperatures get too cold) or take a hike or jog on the 3 miles of flat trails.

Fees: Discover Pass, $10 per day, $30 per year.

More info: parks.wa.gov.

FRENCHMAN COULEE

Scenery: Take this quick side trip off Interstate 5, and you’ll feel as if you’re hundreds miles away. Carved by Ice Age floods, basalt rock columns and a large waterfall create a scenic place to stop and watch rock climbers do their thing.

Workout: This is one of the most popular rock climbing areas in Washington. While most of the routes shouldn’t be attempted for those without appropriate skills and equipment, there are areas where visitors can safely scramble up the rocks. There are also opportunities for hiking.

Fees: Discover Pass, $10 per day, $30 per year.

More info: “Weekend Rock” by David Whitelaw (The Mountaineers Books, 2005, $19.95).

THE PONIES

Scenery: A classic stop on Interstate 90 near Vantage, just east of the Columbia River. Look up and you’ll see 15 horses galloping on the hill above the road. But take Exit 139 and pull into the parking lot, and you’ll notice the horses are actually steel sculptures, the work of Chewelah artist David Govedare.

Workout: Get a closer look at Govedare’s "Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies" by pulling on a pair of sturdy shoes and scrambling up the steep hill to stand among the ponies. From here you can look down over the Columbia River. Just watch your step on the way down.

Fees: None.

More info: vantagewa.com.

GINGKO PETRIFIED FOREST

Scenery: Gingko Petrified Forest was turned into a park when petrified wood was discovered in the area. On its website, Washington State Parks claims Gingko has "one of the most diverse petrified wood collections in North America" and "is regarded as one of the most unusual fossil forests in the world."

Workout: Explore the area with a 3-mile hike that will not only take you to see samples of the petrified wood but also give you some dramatic views of the Columbia River. Nearby Wanapum State Park is closed.

Fees: Donation.

More info: parks.wa.gov.

SNOQUALMIE TUNNEL

Scenery: For all the beauty there is on Snoqualmie Pass, there’s not much to see under it, even if you bring a headlamp. Still, the 2.3-mile retired railroad tunnel is a memorable trip.

Workout: Grab your mountain bike or simply hike the John Wayne Pioneer Trail from the Hyak Trailhead in Iron Horse State Park. The 100-year-old tunnel was recently renovated, but expect it to be chilly inside even on a warm day. Bring a backup light source. If a roughly 5-mile round-trip journey through the tunnel isn’t enough, the trail has much more to offer. In Washington, it stretches from near North Bend to the Idaho state line. The section west of the Columbia River is maintained as a state park.

Fees: Discover Pass, $10 per day, $30 per year.

More info: parks.wa.gov.

MAILBOX PEAK

Scenery: Standing next to the mailboxes atop 4,822-foot Mailbox Peak offers a bird’s eye view of the Interstate 90 corridor and its many peaks.

Workout: Long relegated to those who don’t mind scrabbling up a steep, sparsely maintained hillside, this 4,000-foot climb in about 3 miles definitely isn’t for everybody. That’s changing, however. The state Department of Natural Resources and volunteers built a more meandering route to the top.

It’s still a workout, but it’s a workout that’s accessible to more people and more forgiving (both on the knees and those with sketchy route finding skills) on the way down. A grand opening ceremony for the trail is scheduled for 9 a.m., Sept. 27.

Fees: Northwest Forest Pass, $5 per day, $30 per year

More info: mtsgreenway.org.

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