A quick drive around Saltese Flats

I watch too many episodes of Criminal Minds.

And I remember too well the creepy ones with plots centring around the Spokane, Wash., area. You know … there was the one with the brothers who played a hunting game … with people.


So, when an older fella kindly offered me the opportunity yesterday to take pictures of his root cellar, I politely declined.

Shep and I set out on a quick afternoon adventure, exploring the farmlands around Saltese Lake, just minutes away from My American’s house in the Spokane Valley.

I spied the area on a bike ride, looking for some hills to challenge myself without needing to drive anywere.

I found them both, making my first trek up East Saltese Road on the weekend.

On the loop, I passed the Saltese cemetery, established in 1892 and home to the original homesteaders of the area.

Old cemetery headstone in Saltese, Spokane Valley

And the one-room school, built in 1895 and later became the Greenacres Grange hall. It sits idle now, awaiting an architect’s interesting plan to turn it into single-family residence.

One-room school in Spokane Valley

It took only a couple days to get my hill legs back and I started to look for ways to make the route longer.

By the map, East Saltese Road turns into East 32 Avenue, which takes a hard left onto Barker, or keeps going as Saltese Lake Road. The lake road winds around to Henry, popping out into Liberty Lake. But I figured I should drive it first to check on the hills.

And, I thought, maybe Shep would like a jump in the lake.

The lake, it turns out, was drained by Peter Morrison in 1894 so he could farm the land.

He wanted to grow the finest Timothy hay west of the Mississippi, according to Spokane Valley Heritage Museum director Jayne Singleton.

So, no afternoon dip in the water for The Boss.

But that didn’t mean the day was a loss.

Once I turned the little Escape onto Henry Road, I spied jackpot. I drove past it once to hope for a parking spot but there was little shoulder to the rural road. I pulled a U, tucked the truck next to the intersection and walked back toward my goal.

Collapsed barn in Greenacres, Washington

To some, it’s just a pile of wood and rocks.

To me, it’s art.

And there’s a story there somewhere.

But what it is? The mystery was quickly solved.

As I reached my truck, a 1970s model pickup, deer grille on the front, canoe strapped to the top, pulled up alongside. An older gent leans out and says, “You’re not from around here.”

Nope. I imagine he saw my B.C. licence plates and I thought I’d strike up a conversation. If anyone knows the history of the area, it’s the folks who live around here.

After a bit of “get-to-know-you” chatter, he offered that the barn was the old stage stop for the area. It’s been there since long before he was born and it made its last standing breath a few years ago.

It sits untouched.

“If you look real close, you can see ruts in the fields where the wagons rolled through here a hundred years ago,” he said. “I tried to get people to do something about it, preserve them somehow, but nobody cared. Shame.”

I nodded in agreement.

And then …

“Well, hey, if you like taking pictures of old things, you can come on up and look at my root cellar.”

I followed with a nervous laugh and said, “Maybe not today. I have to get home and make the boyfriend dinner.”

He told me to have a great day and went off about his.

I’m sure it was a kindly, neighbourly thing to do, in that old-fashioned cowboy way.

But don’t horror movies start out like that? Or Criminal Minds episodes?

Ed’s note: In researching the Deep Creek church, I found a little bit more information about the Saltese schoolhouse. According to the Northwest College of the Bible website, church met in the schoolhouse under the leadership of Benjamin Edward Utz. The schoolhouse was built with volunteer labour in 1905 or 1906 and had a separate entrance for men and women.

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