Just north of Spokane and west of highway 395 lies the Little Spokane River Natural Area. This protected half-pipe of pine forest and cattail marsh is home to moose and deer, osprey and eagle, cougar and bear. Every oxbow is a potential haven for beavers and muskrats. In the heart of the valley is a heron rookery and the Painted Rocks, ancient pictographs left by early Native Americans.
I was able to hike the river trail without encountering snow or mud, an anomaly during winter in Northeast Washington. Whether you believe in global climate change or not, climate weirdness is undeniable. Last year at this time, this same stretch of terrain was under two feet of hard ice, the base remnant of 100 inches of snowfall between Thanksgiving and Fat Tuesday. Today, the trail was clear and lonely. I encountered more raptors than people. Not the worst way to spend a morning.
Here are some more frames from the trail.