by Carey Guhlke-Falk
We live in an area abundant with recreation, restaurants, events, entertainment, and shopping. For some, these things occur in the same town and for others it takes a bit of a drive to access them. We at the Huckleberry Press want to highlight the resources in our region that are the hidden gems – the things and places that make a delightful day-trip for those mornings you wake up and say, “I feel like an adventure today!” Or, you might discover something new in your own backyard! Nonetheless, we hope you enjoy reading about the people and things that make our region beautiful and multi-dimensional.
One of the areas in our region that can easily be overlooked is the naturally beautiful south Stevens County. Often times, the southern part of Stevens County gets driven through on Highways 395, 231 or 25 on the way north to lakes and mountains or on the way south to the city. However, this regional step-child has much to offer anyone looking for breathtaking scenery as well as quaint shops, restaurants, and activities. We asked our faithful Facebook followers who live in this area what they love about it and the responses ran the gamut from nature to restaurants to solitude.
“I live on the east bank of the Spokane Indian Reservation,” said Wendy Samuels Peone in her reply. “There are many beautiful places to visit on my rez… Taking a Sunday drive on a Tuesday and seeing the countryside in our neck of the woods expands over the entire county and then some. We live in God’s Country here in Washington State. My reservation is beautiful and I love living here and proud to say I am [a] Spokane Tribal member and this is my country.”
This is the heart of what makes south Stevens County truly beautiful. People who live in this area feel it in their souls and the beauty surrounding them is an integral part of who they are. Things are created from the heart here. You will have an easier time finding a meal made from scratch, handmade textiles, and things from the earth. One can’t help but feel connected to nature just by driving through. And the people who work and live here do so because they have chosen the area’s lifestyle – slower, more connected, seasonal, and, in a lot of ways, harder by society’s standards.
“Money is not the prize at the end of the race,” said Lora Storgion, owner of Lora’s Kitchen in Hunters, Wash., “I often say I’m the richest poor person I know. This is a wonderful place to live.” Storgion and her husband, Marcus, also own and operate Hunters’ Farm and Hardware and have done so since 1999. The two businesses are housed in the old Hunters Catholic church and they are making efforts to rebuild and restore it.
If you are heading into South Stevens County via Highway 25 you owe yourself a stop at Lora’s Kitchen for her infamous espresso milkshake. “People come out of their way to get one of my shakes,” she said. Storgion’s focus is on whole, American food with an extensive menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner items. The menu itself is seemingly larger than the space the restaurant is set up in, which, can easily be missed if you aren’t looking for it at the back of the big, Catholic church building, but the atmosphere is perfect for a roadside stop for great food and to make a connection. “I do this because I like people and like talking to them.” Lora’s Kitchen is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. except on Tuesdays at 4952 Highway 25 South, Hunters, Wash.
Heading north from the cantilever truss bridge at Fort Spokane (located at the conflux of the Spokane and Columbia Rivers), or south from Kettle Falls, Highway 25 molds itself to the great Columbia River and offers breathtaking views of the water and landscape. Many turn-outs along the way allow for photo opportunities; although, we all know pictures never do nature’s beauty any justice. Wildlife is often seen from the road and a free ferry is available at the Gifford- Inchelium Ferry. You can plan to stop at one of the many fruit stands north of Rice- the peaches are on right now and they are delicious! Don’t forget to stop by Lora’s Kitchen for that espresso shake and you will have yourself a pleasant afternoon drive! If getting out and doing is more your style, there are plenty of campgrounds, boating and swimming areas as well as hiking trails along Highway 25. If you day-travel anything like I do, you will drive until you see something that peaks your interest, stop, explore, and always be glad you did. There are many, many opportunities for this along Highway 25 in South Stevens County.
On the opposite side of the county, Highway 395 acts as a funnel into Spokane or an escape to the wilderness heading north. Many are familiar with the Loon Lake area and its many recreational opportunities. The Shore Acres Resort provides lodging if you’re looking for a serene and relaxing overnight-er or quick family getaway, but they also offer day-trip activities like canoeing, kayaking and paddle boat rentals, motor boat and pontoon rentals, day-use of the resort beaches, and dining experiences. At $30 per person, the resort also offers a reasonable 2-hour dinner cruise around Loon Lake. However, this activity is so popular they are booked for the 2015 season and encourage those interested to make reservations now for 2016. More information can be found on their website at www.shoreacresresort.com.
Just south of Loon Lake is Clayton, Wash. This rural town of about 1,500 people boasts a community fair and car show August 21-23. They are also home to the Clayton Drive-In. This greasy spoon is sure to fulfill your desire for an all-American burger and fries. The family-owned business is famous for their “Clayton Burger” – a heart-stopping “double with the works, including bacon and a hot-dog.” After a meal like that, you might need to take a hike around Loon Lake, or on one of the many trailheads nearby!
Heading toward the middle-south of Stevens County is where you’ll find some true gems for a day-trip adventure. Highways 231 (from Reardan) and 291(from Spokane) take you into the heart of this region where you’ll find majestic scenery along a winding road through contrasting scenery. Turtle Lake holds a special place in the hearts of area residents and is known for its deep history and also for its role in local author, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Located in the Spokane Indian Reservation, the lake is situated about 5 miles outside of Wellpinit along Wellpinit-Westend Road. While off the beaten path a little (west of Highway 231), the beautiful lake is worth the drive. If you’d like to stick to the highways, Long Lake Dam to Little Falls Dam offers gorgeous scenery, wildlife viewing and a unique serenity as this part of the Spokane River is lesser-known due to its restrictions on motor boats.
On Highway 231, a unique experience is offered at Win-Tur Bison Farm. This farm, which was recently threatened, but spared by a wildfire, provides hands-on experiences with their friendly bison herd. Tourists can enjoy learning about the history of the farm and the area bison as well as meet and feed the herd. All the animals have names and very unique personalities! This would be a great destination for a day-trip with the kids. They do ask that you leave your pets at home. More information on the Win-Tur Bison Farm can be found at www.winturbisonfarm.com.
Lastly, you can polish off your trip with “the best pizza in town, and perhaps, the world” at Hotza Motza Pizza in Springdale, Wash. This establishment, by far, received the most recommendations from readers when we asked where they would recommend visiting in south Stevens County. I’ve never been, but I don’t see how one can go wrong with such strong recommendations, an extensive craft beer selection, and good old-fashioned greasy pizza. They also offer gelato. Enough said.
This list falls short of the many opportunities for dining and recreation in south Stevens County, but our hope is that you will be spurred to explore this often overlooked area whenever you’re feeling a little bit of wanderlust, but only have a day or so to travel. It’s truly beautiful and you won’t regret a minute of it.