Published: April/May 2009Instant Adventures
Photo: Hiking Anza-Borrego

Pacific States

Check out the season's best weekend trips near you.

Text by Contributing Editor Robert Earle Howells
Photograph by Chad Case/Idahostockimages
A Mini Expedition: The Lost River

"You can see forever and not see anything." That’s how riverguide Pete Wallstrom describes the flat, barren start of the here-in-spring, gone-tomorrow Owyhee River in southeastern Oregon. "The river begins in one of the most desolate areas I’ve ever been to." Rafting the Lower Owyhee requires a worthwhile investment of time (five days), but on day three, when the river slides into a canyon framed by thousand-foot vertical walls of basalt and sandstone, you get an experience of grandeur and solitude as great as any in the lower 48. Rapids named Whistling Bird and Montgomery punctuate the Class III run, and the guides from Wallstrom’s Momentum River Expeditions know about all the petroglyphs, side hikes, and slot canyons ($959; momentumriverexpeditions.com).

J-tree’s Hidden Homestead

What’s a sign with the international symbol for "no swimming" doing in the middle of a bone-dry desert? It’s worth investigating between bouldering stints at Joshua Tree National Park’s Hidden Valley Campground ($10; nps.gov/jotr). Take the easy one-mile hike from the campground to a dam, hand-built in a wash by Bill Keys, the Edison of desert survival. The pond (remember, no swimming) supplied the lifeblood for Keys’s improbably located ranch, where he lived from 1917 to 1969 and raised a family of five. The remnants of that against-all-odds homestead are also nearby, and it’s truly a wonder—surrounded by orchards, gardens, and mining machinery. It’s also a great place to spot desert bighorn sheep. You can only play survivalist on weekends from October through May, when rangers lead guided tours of the ranch (760-367-5555).

The Skill: A perfect Crag

Peshastin Pinnacles State Park, 12 miles west of Wenatchee, may be the best place in the state to hone your climbing skills. The concentrated 32-acre playground of crags and spires (some 200 feet tall) sits on the dry side of the Cascades. Routes are mostly 5.8 to 5.10, one to four pitches, and satisfying beyond their ratings—on some, you top out on the slender tip of a needle. The park is day-use only, but there’s camping 15 minutes east in Wenatchee Confluence State Park, at the junction of the Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers (primitive sites, $19; parks.wa.gov).

Save the Date: May 23-25: Humboldt Gets Kinetic

Leave it to counterculture bastion Humboldt Bay to blend the beautiful and the bizarre so deftly. On Memorial Day weekend the town hosts the Kinetic Grand Championship, a three-day race that’s equal parts parade, theater, and athletic contest (kineticgrandchampionship.com). Watch the human-powered sculptures cross the finish line (our favorite: the psychedelic hippo), then ride 2,100 acres of redwoods in nearby Arcata Community Forest (rentals, $35 a day; revolutionbicycle.com).

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