Summer in the Pacific Northwest is outdoors time. With longer days and bluer skies, there are dozens of outside activities that don't require you to be a hard core athlete. None of the six on my list would be considered extreme sports -- in fact I did four of them! From biking the Route of the Hiawatha in Idaho to gourmet kayaking in British Columbia, here are some fun ways to celebrate summer in our part of the world.
SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding)
One of the hottest water sports is standup paddleboarding (SUP). Alki Kayak Tours & Adventure Center gives daily tours that explore Elliott Bay, Alki and the West Seattle Peninsula. The two-hour tours are given daily at 10 AM and begin at the Seacrest Boathouse, next to the West Seattle-Downtown King County Water Taxi dock. Following an introduction and orientation, there will be beach training on how to use the gear. Depending on the route, you'll either head out to Elliott Bay and the mouth of the Duwamish River, or paddle north around Duwamish Head toward Alki.
The Route of the Hiawatha is a 15-mile trail that follows an original section of the Milwaukee Railroad. Often called one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the US, the trains traversed through 11 tunnels and over nine high trestles along the 46-mile route that crossed the Bitterroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana. Located at the Lookout Pass Ski area 12 miles east of Wallace, Idaho, the bike trail includes eight tunnels and seven high trestles. Helmets and lights are required (bring your own or rent theirs). Plans for an additional 31 miles of trail are in the works, which will connect to St. Regis, Montana. This portion will include one tunnel and two trestles, and may be used by bikers, hikers, ATVs, horses and automobiles.
The Middle Fork of Montana's Flathead River is a great spot for whitewater rafting in the summer. The scenic river borders the southern corner of Glacier National Park and features calm paths, deep runs and a good dose of rapids (Class II-III). A number of rafting companies offer guided trips, from half-day excursions to multi-day trips. They include Great Northern Guides, Glacier Raft Company, Montana Raft Company and Wild River Adventures. If you're wanting something a bit calmer, there are also scenic floats on the Middle Fork or the nearby North Fork of the Flathead.
One of my favorite places to hike is on the Olympic Peninsula, where I recently spent four days. My hiking menu included the 3/4 mile trail out to Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point in the contiguous United States; Sol Duc Falls, located near Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort; and Marymere Falls by Lake Crescent. A good guidebook for the area, written by Jeff Burlingame, is Moon Olympic Peninsula. It includes hikes, outdoor activities, restaurants, accommodations and historical information about the area. Other features include the best bed and breakfasts; a guide to local wineries; a three-day weekend travel itinerary for families; and a five-day "great outdoors adventure." Available from your local bookstore or online.
I've never had a desire to go trike flying, mainly because it was a sport unfamiliar to me. But while visiting Spokane several summers ago, I put on a brave face and went up, up and away with Back Country Aerosports. Owner Denny Read is a certified trike instructor, and started his company in 2001. Two years later, he built an airstrip atop Prosser Butte in Cheney. On a sunny evening, I rode in the back on the two-seat aircraft with Denny. We flew over the lush, green rolling hills below, with speeds of 40-60 MPH. The take-off? Exhilarating. And the landing was nice 'n easy.
One of the most fun kayaking trips I've been on was with Edible Canada of Vancouver, BC. Their Gourmet Kayaking Weekend is delish! For the 2014 season, they've partnered with Sealegs Kayaking, with three-day trips leaving Nanaimo on Vancouver Island Friday mornings and returning Sunday afternoons. Paddle through the Gulf Islands, then enjoy gourmet food prepared by a chef. The locally-sourced meals include breakfast, lunch and dinner (fine wines/spirits served in the evening). Camp out under the stars on an isolated beach and in the morning wake up to the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. There are two available dates for this summer's Gourmet Kayaking Weekend: August 15 and 29.