Last fall Craig Romano, a reporter from Seattle working for Northwest Runner Magazine, contacted us and wanted to get the low down on running here in the valley.We had a great time and he kept his promise to write a whiz-bang article about Lewiston.And here it is in itís entirety....

 

 

 

 

It's been nearly two hundred years since Meriwether Lewis and William Clark passed through the Pacific Northwest. They spent a cold, wet and miserable winter at Fort Clatsop near present day Astoria. Too bad they didn't layover at the spot that now sports twin cities named in their honor, for the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers boasts quite an agreeable climate.Average rainfall in the Lewis and Clark Valley in January is only 1.3 inches. Not a bad place to be in the wet Northwest. Not a bad place to go for a run either.

In fact, Lewiston and Clarkston are great places to run. And it's not just the weather mind you; it's the parks, trails and races that make this valley so attractive to runners. These two little cities (Lewiston pop. 31,000, Clarkston (pop. 18,000) host at least one race a month, and there are group runs too.Between the local college cross-country team boosters and the Seaport Striders Running Club, there's always an organized run going on. And these runners have plenty of great, uncrowded places to indulge in their sport. Nearly 20 miles of paved trails and hundreds of acres of greenbelt parks grace the twin cities. Surrounding the valley are thousands of acres of state park, state wildlife lands and national forest lands with hundreds of miles of beautiful trails for more adventurous running.

 

So how come you never knew this about Lewiston and Clarkston?Because, chances are, you've never ventured to this remote corner of the Northwest.Straddling Washington's empty southeastern corner and Idaho's equally empty north central corner are these two little gems. Remote, yes; an outpost, no. Thanks to the dams on the Snake River, they are both port cities, with seagulls yet. Lots of commerce passes through here; you'll find manufacturing, agriculture and tourism. Yes, tourism: hordes of boaters and rafters heading to Hell's Canyon come this way. Additionally, Lewiston is home to a four-year college, and Washington and Idaho's state universities are only 30 minutes away.

Lewiston and Clarkston sit at an elevation of 738 feet, the lowest point in Idaho. Dramatic, barren hills rise 2,000 feet above these communities.Because of the low elevation, the weather is warmer and drier here than in Pullman or Moscow, making it a great place to run in both November and March. Now, in preparation for your upcoming visit, I'll clue you in on the best routes.

The absolute jewel of the area is the Clearwater and Snake River National Recreation Trail. Developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this trail is actually two connecting trails that tie Lewiston, Clarkston and tiny Asotin together. The trails also link seven major parks, creating a lovely greenbelt along the two mighty rivers.

 

 

The system is well cared for. On my recent runs here, I was taken aback by the total absence of litter. No graffiti either. The trails are lit at night; restrooms along the way are heated in the winter and surprisingly clean; and there are always plenty of runners, walkers and cyclists out and about. The greenbelt parks and trails are safe, clean and a source of pride for these cities.

 

Clarkston first

Where to start? In Clarkston, on the Washington side, begin your explorations from the Granite Lake Park just north of where WA 129 meets US 12. It is here at the direct confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers where some of the trail's nicest scenery resides. Golden hills rise to the north, Lewiston's historic downtown can be seen to the east, and the Interstate Bridge spans the south. The Greenbelt Trail heads south, ducking under the bridge and continuing alongside the Snake River. The riverfront is quite serene, bordered by deciduous trees (beautiful autumn foliage) and grassy lawns.

You'll run past Chestnut Beach - a great place for a summer plunge when the temperatures hit 100 (as they frequently do). The trail continues south underneath the Southway Bridge before emerging in the sprawling Swallow's Park. Granite Lake Park to Swallow's Park is four miles roundtrip. Want more? If so, stay on the Greenbelt Trail. Beyond the beaches, playfields and stately trees of Swallow's Park the trail opens out, hugging the river shore.

It is here that southward views of the mouth of Hell's Canyon begin to emerge. The trail skirts under Swallow's Nest - a huge basaltic outcropping and prominent local landmark. Four miles from Swallow's Park the trail ends at Chief Looking Glass Park in the quaint hamlet of Asotin (pop. 1,100). Water and restrooms are available here. Before heading back, make a short run through Asotin. This little city - the county seat - has a handful of historic structures worth admiring. For starters, right at the trail's terminus is the Full Gospel Church, built in 1889; it's on the National Historic Register. Be sure to run by the county courthouse, then head down Second Street to the city park on Asotin Creek. En route, you'll cross an old bridge that doubles as a World War I memorial.††††††††

 

Now for Lewiston

Lewiston also has its share of historic places to run past. The neighborhoods around Lewis-Clark State College on Normal Hill offer plenty of quiet roads lined with century old homes and equally old, stately trees. Nearby Pioneer Park sits on a bluff with great views of downtown. But the best views in Lewiston's historic zone are along Prospect Avenue on a bluff above the Snake River. Here you'll find a road lined with parks and graced with elegant old homes, making for a splendid run.

Right below Prospect Avenue is Kiwanis Park, a staging area for many a local race. Why? Because this riverfront greenbelt offers access to the Levee Trail - a flat, paved and highly scenic trail alongside both the Snake and Clearwater rivers. A northward run on the Levee Trail takes you past the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Locomotive Park, and a slew of wildlife-rich wetlands. The trail continues across Memorial Bridge into North Lewiston and ends in Lower Goose Pasture, seven miles from Kiwanis Park.

Heading south from Kiwanis Park on the Levee Trail takes you five miles to what is perhaps the best spot in the entire valley for running, Hell's Gate State Park. This 960-acre preserve sits at the entrance to Hell's Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America. Miles of great trails traverse the basaltic hills and golden fields of this natural jewel. Hell's Gate is a favorite running spot for members of the local running club, the Seaport Striders (www.seaportstriders.com).

Club President Bill Chandler invited me out for a fun run with the group. On a crisp, sunny morning, I met up with Bill, George Topping, Charlie Bursell and Jynelle Mellen. Off we went, trail running in this absolutely wild place just five miles from downtown Lewiston. Bill led us with his "whoop-dee stick" in hand. "Is it for rattlesnakes?" I asked. To my surprise, I learned the venomous varmints aren't much of a problem here; Bill's whoop-dee stick is actually for clearing the trail of wayward tumbleweeds. These suckers can scratch, as many a Seaport Strider's calves will attest.

 

The highlight of our morning run was taking a breather at "Charlie's Peak," a small basalt ledge that overlooks Asotin and the Snake River. Custom dictates that we each place a rock atop the cairn on the peak, our passing now literally recorded in stone.

The Lewiston area is surrounded by other great trail-running destinations as well.There's Fields Spring State Park and the Umatilla National Forest on the Washington side of the Snake and the Craig Mountain Wildlife Area on the Idaho side.

You can camp at Hell's Gate and run right from your site (http://www. idahoparks.org/parks/

hellsgate.html). If you prefer more luxury, at the other end of the scale is the Howard Johnson Express (208-743-9526), two blocks from the Levee Trail.

 

Races-starting with the Hangover Run

There's no shortage of places to run here and likewise no shortage of races.The Striders host some of the more interesting events in the valley. On January 1 there's the Hangover Run. There's a trail run at Hell's Gate in February and a 5 and 10K St Patrick's Day race in March. Mid-May is the Strider's Run for the Hill of It. This challenging race, now in its 16th year, includes a 2,000-foot elevation gain on an 8-mile course. It's a race to the top of Lewiston Hill via the winding and twisting, historic Spiral Highway. You can run it solo or as part of a team of three.

 

 

And speaking of relays, the Mount Misery Relay is in June. This challenging 57-mile run takes teams from tiny Asotin to the even tinier Troy, Oregon via the rugged Blue Mountains. Great cooking and a cozy place to stay await you at the finish.

The Striders also sponsor some great races in the fall. September is time for the Three Bridges Run (1, 5 or 10 miles), now in its 22nd year. The Lewis and Clark Half Marathon takes place in early October on the Greenbelt Trail in Clarkston and Asotin.

The Striders aren't the only ones in town Organizing races. The Lewis-Clark State College Cross-Country Team under Coach Mike Collins (208-792-2308) hosts some great events for the running public as well. Their Fall Classic 5K and 5 Mile in early November is a big hit. In March the team sponsors the Tri-State Outfitters Spring Sprint Duathlon. This 2-mile run (with a 12-mile bike) is held at Hell's Gate State Park.

The team schedules several other races throughout the year as well. A few area churches also sponsor runs. Clarkston's Our Savior Lutheran Church has held the 4-mile Sweetheart Run in February for over 20 years now.

The biggest race in the valley, however, is sponsored by the Lewiston Park Department. Every April, as part of the city's annual River Fest, over 1,000 runners descend upon Swallow's Park for the Seaport River Run (208-746-2313). Runners choose between a 2.9mile and a 10K. The dogwoods are in blossom and a beer garden is in bloom at the finish of this fun and festive event. This year's race, the 26th annual, is scheduled for April 24.

With great races, great places to run, a friendly running club and an agreeable climate, it's time you discover Lewiston and Clarkston.

 

NORTHWEST RUNNER JAN 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.seaportstriders.com