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Outdoors blog

Archive for November 2010

Panhandle nordic areas ready to groom

NORDIC SKIING — Fourth of July Pass cross-country ski trails should be in shape for skiing by the end of this week, according to Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Club.

Forest Service crews were out clearing blowdowns off the trails Monday and a groomer should be out on Wednesday and Friday, he said.

Farragut State Park grooming is likely to begin in time for this weekend.

By the way, the club will meet on Dec. 7 at the Forest Service Fernan Ranger Station for a meeting, including a film on skiing tips.

Most important, they’ll have a cookie exchange. It’s a fun way to exchange of your favorite cookies for another type, but some of the treats are skimmed off to give to the road plowing crews as a thank you for the time they devote to clearing the parking area for skiers at Fourth of July Pass.

Winter fishing opens with a whimper

FISHING — The Spokane area’s two winter fishing trout lakes open on Wednesday. The fish are there, but the conditions are iffy.

The waters are Fourth of July Lake just south of Sprague and Hog Canyon Lake off I-90’s Fishtrap exit.

Fourth of July’s east end has about two iches of ice with a lot of snowy insulation coming down on top of it today. The west end of the lake still had open water as of Monday.

Chris Donley, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist said some anglers will probably try out the ice, but he wouldn’t.

I have no firm report on Hog Canyon, but it will take a few heroes in chained up four-wheel drives to break trail in to find out.

Lake Roosevelt, a year-round fishery that’s particularly hot for large trout in November and December, is the clear favorite for catching fish, but beware that the boat ramps have been very icy from the dripping of boats coming out of the water. Boaters who pull the bilge plugs and let their boats drain as the pull up the ramp contribute to the icing.

But shore fishing at Roosevelt areas such as Seven Bays is a great option.

Rammell caught dragging illegal elk

Rex Rammell, Idaho Falls, is under investigation in the illegal killing of an elk following a confrontation with an Idaho Fish and Game conservation officer. The officer was patrolling the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area east of Idaho Falls late this morning where a late season cow elk hunt is being held. The officer checked Rammell’s elk tag after he saw that Rammell was dragging a dead elk with his snowmobile. The tag was invalid because it was issued for a hunt that closed in October in the Middle Fork elk hunting zone/

Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Snow closes North Cascades Highway, brings out Methow nordic groomers

WINTER SPORTS — The cross-country ski trails in the Methow Valley near Winthrop are finally getting a good coating of snow, and new trails are opening to skiers.

The Washington Transportation Department has closed the North Cascades Highway because of heavy snow expected from this new storm, which could drop as much as 2 feet of new snow in the higher areas.

The highway closed Monday afternoon. DOT said it would assess the situation after the storm to determine if the highway will remain closed for the winter.

The North Cascades Highway is the term given to the 22 miles portion of Highway 20 between Newhalem and Mazama. This stretch — which includes 4,855-foot Rainy Pass and 5,477-foot Washington Pass — is usually closed by winter snow and avalanches.

Birders asked to help track Turnbull trumpeters

WATERFOWL — Ice-up has ushered the trumpeter swans out of Turnbull National Wildlife refuge to where ever they go during winter.

Solo, the geriatric patriarch of his growing trumpeter family, departed the refuge with his mate and this year’s crop of five cygnets during Thanksgiving week, said Mike Rule, refuge biologist. Three yearling swans from last-year’s crop — the first brood at Turnbull in 22 years — also have left.

This morning, only a small 20-yard diameter opening remained in the ice on Cheever Lake, one of the swans’ favorite hang-outs, Rule said. The trumpeters require around 50 yards or more of open water for a “runway” in order to take off and get their heavy bodies airborne.

“I believe all wetlands on the refuge are now frozen over,” Rule said.

Rule said he plans to capture some of the younger swans next year and fix them with colored collars that would encourage birders to report swan sightings. This would help end the mystery of where Solo has been wintering undetected for the 33-46 years that he’s been on the refuge, Rule said.

Report swan sightings: “If your readers can be prompted to be on the look out, I would love to get notification of any sightings of swans this winter,” Rule said.

Email Mike Rule. Include your contact information, a good location description that includes the name of body of water and nearest road intersection, the number of swans in the group and the presence and number of any juveniles (gray with pink bills).

Walk into winter with clinics: snowshoeing and nordic skiing

WINTER SPORTS — Spokane Parks and Recreation is beginning an extensive slate of winter recreation clinics and outings starting this week, usually in the winter wonderland at Mount Spokane State Park.

Snowshoeing classes and nordic skiing classes are offered in different distinctions, such as “women’s only” and “family” groups.

The costs are minimal:  Usually $29 for instruction and equipment rentals, with cheaper rates for families. 

Sign up:  625-6200 or online at Spokane County Parks.

Moose highlight Iller Creek hike

WILDLIFEEarly Sunday morning, Ken Mondal of Spokane took advantage of the fresh powder and for a snowshoe hikeup the East Ridge of Iller Creek to Big Rocks, an excellent public natural area west of the Dishman-Mica Road.

Coming around a switchback on the new trail constructed by local volunteers under the guidanc of the Washington Trails Associaion, Mondal said he was astonished and delighted to be staring directly into the eyes of three bull moose.

“Two of them had fairly large racks,” he said. “Remembering that moose kill more people in Alaska than brown bears I decided to keep a safe distance. They didn’t seem much bothered by my presence and went about their business of feeding and doing some nonchalant head butting. I watched them for about 30 minutes and then proceeded up the ridge.”

The bulls were still hanging around the old burn area when Mondal came back down the route an hour or more later.

“Winter is a time for wildlife to enjoy some peace and quiet,” said Mondal, who’s involved with WTA and other local conservation groups that have made the Iller Creek-Big Rock-Dishman Hills natural areas a place for all to enjoy.

“I hope hikers can respect that and keep their dogs on a leash.”

Buck loses head-butt battle with lawn ornament

WILDLIFE — Wisconsin whitetails apparently are willing to challenge any bull elk that come wandering into their turf during the rut.

In an early November battle, a whitetail buck fought to the death with a 640-pound concrete elk lawn ornament. Both critters suffered serious damage.

The La Crosse Tribune reported that Mark Brye looked out the window of his home in Viroqua , Wis., and saw the lawn ornament his kids had given him knocked over. Its concrete antlers were broken.

About 20 yards away, he found the carcass of a seven-point whitetail buck with a shattered skull.
 
The buck’s meat wasn’t wasted.  Under Wisconsin law, the Vernon County conservation officer was able to give Brye a special salvage deer tag.  The warden made a note on the tag: “lawn ornament fight & lost.”

Woman confronted by wolves “friend” to Idaho For Wildlife

WILDLIFE — Karen Calisterio, 52, the North Idaho woman involved in a wolf encounter near her Tensed home and featured in my column today has posted on the Facebook page of Idaho For Wildlife, a group that’s been critical of wolf management in Idaho. 

This should have been included in the printed version of the column.

However, Calisterio says she’s not a member of the group, which also is involved in hunter education and wildlife conservation projects.

Some readers are rightfully skeptical. Some are charging that the incident was fabricated to fuel anti-wolf hysteria. That’s only a hunch on their part.

Still others are saying this,and Pam Secord’s similar barnyard wolf encounter, indicate that wolves are becoming more comfortable roaming into inhabited areas.  There’s some substance to that, based on other sightings.

Wolf experts I have interviewed from Alaska to Yellowstone Park to Italy all have agreed that limited wolf hunting should be in the recipe for the species survival. Wolves are visual learners. To advance toward a human and size up the situation is normal wolf behavior, according to the experts. But once wolves have learned that a human might be dangerous, they are more likely to flee and avoid human contact.

 

Have we lost our sense of smelt?

FISHING — Washington and Oregon on Tuesday closed the final remnants of commercial smelt season in the Columbia River, ending a century-long fishery that once tallied its harvest in the millions of pounds, according to Al Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian.

The National Marine Fisheries Service listed smelt as endangered in May. Without Tuesday’s action, commercial smelt netting in the Columbia would have opened Dec. 1, Thomas reported.

“This day is not unexpected, but it’s still kind of a sad day,” said Harry Barber of Washougal, a fishery activist and leader in the Coastal Conservation Association.

Rutting deer not for prudish blog viewers

WILDLIFE — I’m posting this anonymously received photo showing a ménage à trois of white-tailed deer purely in the interest of natural science.

Perhaps it demonstrates the natural intensity of the rut, or it’s just two bucks with an unnatural tendency to make love rather than war.

Remember, I’m just the messanger.

Wolves confront North Idaho woman in driveway

WILDLIFE — A North Idaho woman said she was confronted by at least four wolves as she walked alone up her rural driveway between Tensed and Plummer at dusk on Saturday.

Karen Calisterio, 52, was trudging up the snow-plugged lane when she saw two dogs about 200 yards ahead near her house. At first she thought they were her two cow dogs coming to greet her.

“Then I saw two more of them, and all four were walking toward me,” she said.

“That’s when I said, ‘Oh shit, I’m alone and I’m in trouble.’”

Read on to get her full account of the next 20 minutes of terror.

Ski season starts with a POW

SKIING — “Wasted” is the most common term I’m hearing from downhill skiers as they wind down their holiday weekend begining to the 2010-2011 ski season.

The powder was knee deep and light as instant mashed potatoes before adding water at most resort in the region. Skiers who practiced pre-season fitness training reaped the results as the season launched from the starting blocks.  Everybody else is aching, but it hurts good.

If this is the pattern for the rest of the season, maybe there’s a bright side to unemployment.

See a video of Bill Jennings, ski columnist, getting Thanks giving day first tracks on a slope before the chairlifts opened. The best snow was still to come.

 

 

What nature lovers do after a snow storm?

WILDLIFE — Fresh snow. Critters on the move. This is a perfect day for tracking.

The porcupine in the ravine behind the house is no longer moving in the dark undetected.

Spokane has new fly fishing shop

FISHING — Jesse Clark and his son, John Clark, just opened a new fly fishing shop in the Riverwalk building at1003 E. Trent.  Westslope Fly Shop is located next to Northern Lights Brewery.

“We are pretty proud of the store we designed and built all of the store fixtures and displays,” Jesse said.

Lead tackle restrictions to be considered

FISHING – Restrictions on use of lead fishing tackle at 13 lakes with nesting loons will be considered by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission when it meets Dec. 2-4 in Olympia.

The lead issue is on the agenda for Dec. 4.

Studies have shown that loons can die of lead poisoning by ingesting lead sinkers as they forage for fish.

The 13 lakes where loons breed in Washington include Ferry, Long and Swan lakes in Ferry County; Calligan and Hancock lakes in King County; Bonaparte, Blue and Lost lakes in Okanogan County; Big Meadow, South Skookum and Yocum lakes in Pend Oreille County; Pierre Lake in Stevens County; and Hozomeen Lake in Whatcom County.

Click here for more information on lead and loons:

New route groomed for nordic skiers at Mount Spokane

NORDIC SKIING — The snowmobiler’s loss has been a gain for cross-country skiers at Mount Spokane.

Earlier this month, Inland Empire Paper Co. announced it was banning snowmobilers from its 116,000 acres in northeastern Washington and North Idaho, including the previously groomed snowmobile routes starting from Mount Spokane State Park.

However, on Wednesday the state park groomer packed a route leading from the nordic trails at Junction  1 and out on Linder Road, which had been groomed as a snowmobile route for years.

Having Linder Road groomed as a skating lane is a boon to nordic skiers looking for the rare opportunity on Mount Spokane for extended skiing on relatively flat terrain.

IEP said it had to close Linder Road and other areas to snowmobiling because rogue snowmobilers would leave the groomed trails to play in clearcuts where they would break the tops of small trees and reduce their commercial timber value.

Mountain lion sighted near Mukogawa-Fort Wright

WILDLIFE — A cougar was seen around 9 p.m. Wednesday night chasing a deer across Government Way near Mukogawa-Fort Wright Institute in Spokane.

The large, healthy looking cougar was in hot pursuit of the deer when a vehicle interrupted the chase. The cougar leaped about 20 feet in the air off the side of the road.

Be aware that the week’s snowfall will concentrate deer, and deer are a cougar’s primary prey.

The Spokane River area is a beautiful escape in the winter, but this sighting reminds us that solo hikes are risky especially for people of small stature that are more likely to be targeted by cougars. Stay in groups and keep the kids close by.

Bald eagles gathering at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The annual gathering of bald eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d’Alene is underway.  S-R staffers saw four at Higgens Point as they drove by on I-90 today.   Dozens more probably went unnoticed.  The numbers will build, usually peaking in mid December.  The eagles come to feed on spawning kokanee. 

Skiers making tracks at nordic areas

NORDIC SKIING — Cross-country skiers aren’t being left out in the cold as early snowfall covers trails and allows downhill ski resorts to open.  Here’s the latest report:


Mount Spokane: The temperature was minus 10 degrees this morning when the state park rangers show up at Selkirk Lodge. They found drifted snow and blow-down trees on the trails.  They planned to be cutting out trees today, then grooming with the snowmobile to provide skiing for Thanksgiving day.  The snowcat groomer isn’t scheduled to be out until Dec. 1.  Sno-Park permits are required. Remember, you can get them online this year if you wish.


49 Degrees North:  Nordic trails will be groomed for Thanksgiving day but the Nordic yurt and services will not be open for customers until Friday.


Schweitzer: At least two trails are scheduled to be groomed for the resorts season opener starting Friday.


Methow Valley: The big snow dump largely missed the Methow, although the groomers were out packing the half a foot or so that’s on the ground to be ready for the next storm, said Don Portman at Sun Mountain Lodge. Meantime, skiers have been traveling up the North Cascades Highway to find plenty of snow near Cutthroat and Rainy Pass.


Echo Ridge: This nordic area above Lake Chelan has 10 inches of snow that will be flat-pack groomed on about half of the trail system for Thanksgiving day.

Angler shares salmon with orca

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FISHING — When a pod of killer whales zeroes in on the same school of fish as the British Columbia sportfishing fleet, it’s a head-to-head competition to see who’s the best fisherman.

This video  has been going around for a while, but it’s cool to watch.

Be ready for a bit of coarse language from the loser in the competition.

Court rejects killing sea lions to protect salmon

WILDLIFE — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Tuesday reversed a ruling that allowed the federal government to kill sea lions that prey on salmon below the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam.


The sea lions are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Some of the salmon they’re ambushing at the dam’s fish ladder are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Forty California sea lions have been removed since the authority was granted in March 2008, but the practice was stopped by a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States and the Wild Fish Conservancy.

The Ninth Circuit said the National Marine Fisheries Service did not give sufficient reason to overstep the protections of the Marine Mammal Act.

“Second, the agency has not adequately explained why a California sea lion predation rate of 1 percent would have a significant negative impact on the decline or recovery of these salmonid populations,” the court said.
 
The ball is back in the court of the agencies to justify lethal removal of sea lions.

“Obviously I’m disappointed after receiving what we thought was a strong opinion from the district court,” NMFS’ Garth Griffin said.

NMFS’ had concluded that sea lions must be killed to prevent them from consuming an average of 0.4 to 4.2 percent of salmon returns, even as the agency allows fishermen to take up to 17 percent of the salmon run, according to the plaintiffs.

Skiing update: Some areas open Thursday

SKIING — As ski areas scramble to respond to the sudden onslaught of winter and more than a foot of fresh powder, some are revising their previously annouced schedules.

49 Degrees North and Lookout Pass will reopen on Thursday.

Mt. Spokane and Silver Mountain will open Friday.

Schweitzer Mountain will open its downhill and nordic ski areas on Friday.

All five areas say they will be open through the weekend.

  • Mount Spokane’s cross-country ski trails received more than a foot of wind-blown snow last night, and the temperture was minus 10 degrees this morning. Park Manager Steve Christensen said he was doing the best he could to groom the trails with the snowmobile until the big groomer can be put into action on Dec. 1.

Steelhead still active in Idaho

FISHING — Anglers are still finding good steelhead action on portions of the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater rivers, especially farther upstream.

See the latest steelhead fishing report, just released by Idaho Fish and Game.

Sage grouse habitat map released

WILDLIFE — A breeding bird density map for the greater sage-grouse released today by the Department of Interior could be a step in controling development to help keep the prairie bird off the Endangered Species list.

The map identifies important areas having high density occurrences of greater sage-grouse, a ground-dwelling bird that inhabits much of the West. These areas were determined by estimating the male’s attendance on “leks,” the name biologists use to describe the communal breeding grounds of the bird.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will work with the state fish and wildlife agencies to refine the map by incorporating more specific state-level data.

Fire starter for the future?

OUTDOOR NEWS — Linsey, a student from Eastern Washington University, has been job-shadowing me today, and she’s been asking a lot of good questions about the Outdoors beat and about newspapers in general.

“Will there be newspapers around in 10 years?” she asked as we were wrapping up her day in the day in the life of an outdoor writer.

“I don’t know the answer,” I told her honestly.  “But it seems as though there will always be a need for fire starter, fish wrap and bird cage liner.”

“There’s probably an ap for that,” she said. 

Follow Black Friday with Adventure Tuesday

OUTBOUND – Two Coeur d’Alene-based outdoor adventure companies are the ticket for people prompted by this week’s snow and cold to start planning an active getaway — to someplace warm.

Read on to check out the latest from Sea Kayak Adventures and ROW Adventures:

The brighter side of the weather

WINTER SPORTS — You can’t be depressed about a big dump of snow if you’re out playing in it with a dog.

Paddlers float program for cancer kids

PADDLING — If you’re looking for inspiration tonight, check out the free First Descents program at the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club meeting.

“The River Ward” is a documentary that chronicles the experiences of four individuals as they attend a First Descents week-long kayak camp for young adults with cancer. First Descents was founded 10 years ago by professional kayaker Brad Ludden to help cure young adults of the emotional effects of cancer and empowering them to regain control of their lives by experiencing outdoor adventure therapy through kayaking, rock climbing and other outdoor adventure sports.

The program starts at 7 p.m. at the Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland.

 

Snow deluge at Fernie

SKIING — Inundated with more than 41 inches of snow in the past seven days, Fernie Alpine Resort in British Columbia plans to open this weekend for skiing and snowboarding.  An estimated 44 runs will be open and four chairlifts.

Get permit to cut Christmas tree

NATIONAL FORESTS — Ho, ho, ho! It’s time for many to honor the family tradition of heading to a national forest to cut a Christmas tree.

First stop should be to a U.S. Forest Service office to get a $5 permit. Families can purchase up to three “tags.”

In Spokane, the get the permits at the federal map and information center at the BLM office, 1103 N. Fancher Road Monday- Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

The Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District offers a “permit by mail” system. Get the order form online.

Use the tree-cutting expedition to help forest managers. Drive or walk up little-used back roads or even gated roads and cut trees growing within the road prism – from the top of the cut bank to the bottom of the fill slope. This helps to reduce the number of trees that grow large and encroach on the road.

Schweitzer joins list of ski resorts to open

SKIING — Schweitzer Mountain Resort has joined the almost complete list of ski resorts that will be open during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Schweitzer officials said the resort will open for the season Friday at 9 a.m. and operate Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the holiday weekend. 

Top-to-bottom skiing and riding is expected, including service on the Basin Express Quad, Great Escape Quad, Musical Carpet and Musical Chairs Double.

The Nordic trail network is also planned for opening day, with several trails expected to be groomed. The resort will be closed midweek following the holiday weekend, re-opening for the first weekend in December.

Schweitzer joins Lookout Pass, 49 Degrees North and Silver Mountain in announcing plans to be open for the weekend. 

Mount Spokane is still planning a Dec. 4 opening at this time, although a Friday opener is possible if more snow falls.

However, the Mount Spokane Nordic trails are open and being groomed.  Sno-Park permits are required.

Inundated with more than 41 inches of snow in the past seven days, Fernie Alpine Resort in British Columbia plans to open this weekend for skiing and snowboarding.  An estimated 44 runs will be open and four chairlifts.

Ski resorts opening right and left

SKIING — Inland Northwest ski areas received another 4 to 5 inches of snow Sunday night and Monday morning, allowing for early openings at some of the area’s five resorts.

Silver Mountain Resort is scheduled to open on Friday. It was reporting 21 inches of snow on Kellogg Peak and 12 inches at mid-mountain as of this morning.

Silver Mountain joins Lookout Pass and 49 Degrees North in firing up their lift lines.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort will open for the season Friday through Sunday. Top-to-bottom skiing and riding are anticipated. The Nordic trail network is should see grooming on several trails by Friday. The resort will be closed midweek following the holiday weekend, re-opening for the first weekend in December.

Mount Spokane is scheduled to open on Dec. 4, although it may open Friday if more snow falls.

Inundated with more than 41 inches of snow in the past seven days, Fernie Alpine Resort in British Columbia plans to open this weekend for skiing and snowboarding.  An estimated 44 runs will be open and four chairlifts.

Banff Films leave us in the dust

ADVENTURE —Spokane movie buffs lived on the edge for the past three days.  The World Tour from the Banff Mountain Film Festival featuring sometimes death-defying feats from underground to the highest mountains ended its three-day run at The Bing Crosby Theater Sunday night.

The Spokane audience is no stranger to adventure. Locals Chris Kopcynski and Jane Shelly, for example, had some insights into what was on the screen.

Banff Film fest at hit at The Bing

ADVENTURE — The Banff Mountain Film Festival is delivering great adventure to sold-out audiences at The Bing during its three-day run that ends Sunday evening.

Tops on the list Saturday night were:

  •  The Asgard Project, which reminds us all that hand-cams are great for lightweight ready-any-time fllming, but nothing beats cameras and tripods for delivering footage that takes your breath away.  The northern lights photos behind Mount Asgard in Baffin Island was stunning.
  • Dream Result, featuring Tyler Bradt, who made a splash in this region last year with a spring kayak descent of Palouse Falls to set a world record. Local kayakers commented after the show that they were glad the film showed a lot of the accidents and injuries involved in waterfall jumping, including the scene of a paddler who brock his back in a plunge.  The risks are huge, and people should know it.

 

Mount Spokane nordic trails groomed

NORDIC SKIING — Several miles of cross-country ski trails were groomed today, complete with tracks, at Mount Spokane.  Volunteers used the snowmobile and Ginzu groomer to set a decent track all the way out to Shadow Mountain before a breakdown slowed them up.

Good start to the season.

New WA State Parks director named

STATE PARKS — After a four-month search and screening 170 applications from here to England, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission today named the head of the agency’s southwest region as the state parks director.
 
Starting Dec. 1, Don Hock, 53, will replace retiring director Rex Derr, who worked for the department for 33 years.
 
“Don knows the agency, and he’s ready to lead State Parks through the challenging times ahead,” said Commission Chair Fred Olson.
 
Before coming to Washington, Hoch was area director of one of the largest county-operated outdoor areas in the state of Georgia.
 
His recreation and park experience also includes stints with various federal agencies, including the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, in Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Utah and Nevada.
 

Mt. Spokane snowmobiling mileage questioned

STATE PARKS — Today’s story about Inland Empire Paper Co. closing its lands to snowmobiling said that leaves 40 miles of groomed trails available to snowmobilers at Mount Spokane.  The mileage figure came from Spokane County Parks, which manages the grooming.
However, Cris Currie of Friends of Mount Spokane State Park said the figure was off by more than a mile.
“The actual mileage remaining for snowmobiling in Mt. Spokane State Park is about 18.5 miles, not 40,” he said. ” And that’s if they groom the Day Road, which they have not done before.  They might also be able to do a few miles on the Blanchard Creek Road, but that hasn’t been done before either.  There will still be one loop, but it involves low elevation at Bear Creek Lodge.  All other trails will be out and back.”
 
No response yet from Spokane County Parks regarding the discrepency.
Meantime you can view Mount Spokane trail maps at www.mountspokane.org 

Ski resorts opening: Now there are 3

SKIING — Lookout Pass and Crystal Mountain opened with good skiing conditions this morning.

Now 49 Degrees North has announced its lifts will open Saturday.

Banff films lineup for Spokane revealed

ADVENTURE — For the first time, I’m able to reveal the lineup of films for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, which starts its three-day run tonight, 7 p.m., at The Bing.

I just returned from the meeting as Mountain Gear staff made the difficult selections to present a balanced lineup of the best films without overdoing any night with too much whitewater or culture or too many long films while provide everything from thrills to laughs.

From what I could see, they succeeded.  Read on for the list of films, but if you don’t have tickets, you’re out of luck until Sunday.  The shows tonight and Saturday are sold out and Sunday tickets were going fast when I stopped by Mountain Gear minutes ago.

Climbers feeling the squeeze

CLIMBING — Rock climbers are feeling the pinch and the need to get involved in agency decisions.

  • Smith Rocks State Park, a prized rock climbing area near Portland, Ore., is closing camping at the area during winter. Climbers are trying to work with officials for a solution.
  • At Castle Rocks Recreation Area in southern Idaho, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has closed 400-acres including a popular rock climbing area, making it off-limits to climbers and campers. The closure is set to last two years as the agency plans how to cope with the impacts climbers have on the land.

Crystal joins Lookout in ski opener

SKIING  — Lookout Pass isn’t the only ski area with enough snow to open the season this weekend.Crystal Mountain resort near Mount Rainier opened today, but running just two chair lifts.

Mount Baker will have seven lifts in operation starting Saturday, the Seattle Times reports. Ski areas at Snoqualmie, Stevens and White passes still need more snow, as to our Inland Northwest resorts at 49 Degrees, Silver Mountain and Mount Spokane.

Cold and snowy weather is forecast into the weekend for the Cascades, with a foot or more of new snow predicted in some places.

Cheney teen excels in goose call contest

HUNTING — Andrew Graham, 15, a freshman at Cheney High School, recently returned from Easton, Md., where he attracted plenty of attention in the venerable World Goose Calling Championship.

Surrounded by and judged by such goose-calling notables as Tim Grounds and Fred Zink, Graham took second place in the junior division.

Judge rules for Wyoming in wolf case

WILDLIFE — A federal judge says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was wrong to refuse to turn management of gray wolves over to the state of Wyoming.

Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne today ordered the federal agency to consider again whether Wyoming’s wolf management plan would be adequate to meet federal recovery goals for wolves, according to an Associated Press report.

Environmental groups and others have criticized the Wyoming plan for specifying that wolves would be classified as predators that could be shot on sight in most areas. The Wyoming plan would protect wolves only in the northwestern part of the state.

Concerns over Wyoming’s plan recently prompted a federal judge in Montana to strip Idaho and Montana of their authority to manage their own wolf populations. The decision forced the two states to cancel hunting seasons established to help keep the wolf numbers in check.

IEP closes land to snowmobiling

 WINTER SPORTS — Snowmobiling will be prohibited this winter on Inland Empire Paper Company lands at Mount Spokane as well as on the rest of the 116,000 acres the company manages in northeastern Washington and North Idaho.

The decision to end the decades-old welcome comes this week after years of effort to stem damage snowmobilers have been inflicting on the commercial timber lands, said Paul Buckland, forest resource manager.

Snowmobilers will be banned from 38 miles of trails previously groomed on IEP land on Mount Spokane, said Angela Simmons of Spokane County Parks and Recreation Department, which manages the grooming.

That leaves 40 miles of trails in the State Park that will continue to be groomed starting sometime after Dec. 1, she said.

“The issue is enforcement,” Buckland said. “Snowmobilers who stay on the groomed trails are no problem. It’s the rogue snowmobilers going off-trail and running over small trees.

“They consider recent harvest harvest areas to be play areas and they don’t realize they’re running over the tops of plantation trees in the snow. That causes the tree to form a second top, which greatly reduces the economic value of the tree.”

Zebra mussel threat lingers

WATERWAYS — Inconclusive test results showing signs of invasive mussels in Flathead Lake still have downstream interests on edge.

“Part of me still stands strong and thinking positive that it’s going to be OK,” said Erin Mader of the Pend Oreille Basin Commission in Sandpoint.

Results from a second round of tests to verify whether invasive quagga and zebra mussels have taken root in Flathead Lake could be revealed next week, according to officials from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“I’m optimistic because a similar thing resulted from initial tests on the Snake River last year and they later were deemed negative,” Mader said.

Lookout Pass skiing opens Friday

SKIING — Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area is opening its lifts Friday to take advantage of 8 inches of fresh snow on a base up to 20 inches deep, Phil Edholm, ski area president announced minutes ago.

“The majority of the front side of the mountain will be open with top to bottom skiing and riding off Chair 1 plus the beginner area,” he said, noting that coverage is good and snow was still falling at 11 a.m. today.

Lifts will operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday with reduced ticket rates, but full services.

Additional lifts and terrain will be opened as conditions allow, he said.

After Sunday, we will reopen on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day and continue through the weekend.”

Fred Beckey still on the rocks

CLIMBING — Northwest climbing legend Fred Beckey might be close to 80 — no one seems to know, including Fred — but he’s still globetrotting to climbing venues.

Is the pioneer of first ascents in the Cascades and Canada keeping up with the trend toward free climbing?  Maybe, maybe not.

Look closely at the publicity photo from Yosemite he released in advance of his presentations  next week in Western Washington.  Look’s like an poor amateur job of Photoshopping out the security running up along his left forearm.

Hey, you’re Fred Beckey!  You don’t have to be somebody you’re not.

Choose your hunting dog wisely

HUNTING — The cold snap forecast for the weekend has waterfowl hunters packing their gear for the duck blinds and goose pits to intercept northern flights soon to be on their way.

Meantime, if you’re in the market for a good hunting dog, be selective when choosing a breed.

Sno-Parks stay status quo

WINTER SPORTS — Disregard the previous post about Washington reconsidering Sno-Park permit reciprocity with Oregon.  In fact, disregard a lot of proposed rule changes in state government for the time being.

The Governor’s office issued an order today to suspend non-critical rule development through 2011. For details, see Jim Camden’s Spin Control item:  Gregoire: Quit making some of those rules.  

 

Could this postpone planned changes in fishing and hunting rules?  I’m not sure yet, and I’m not the only one.

 

Fish and Wildlife Department directors are in a meeting with other state agency officials in Olympia this afternoon sorting out what the directive means to their operating procedures.

 

Ironically, the rule change being considered to drop reciprocal agreements for Sno-Park permits was geared to generating more income to the impoverished State Parks and Recreation Department.

WA-OR study Sno-Park reciprocity

WINTER SPORTS — Washington state parks commissioners will consider on Friday ending the 30-year reciprocity agreement to honor Oregon sno-park permits at winter recreation spots in this state including Mount St. Helens, Wind River and Mount Adams, according to the Vancouver Columbian.

 

Wayne McLaughlin of the Washington parks agency staff said its is believed Washington could generate more money to pay for its winter program without the reciprocity agreement.

 

Indeed, at the current cost of Sno-Park permits in each state, Oregon residents spend less than Washington residents to use Washington’s Sno-Park areas.

‘Wintervention’ showing at NIC

WINTER SPORTS — If you missed the show in Spokane and the wintery weather forecast finally has you in the mood for the slopes, North Idaho College is presenting Warren Miller’s ski and snowboard film ‘Wintervention’ Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m. in Boswell Hall Schuler Performing Arts Center.

Ticket: $15 or $10 for NIC students, youths 12 and younger and senior citizens. Get then at NIC Outdoor Pursuits Office or the Ski Shack in Hayden. Info: (208) 769-7809.

Try this birding ID quiz

BIRDING — Eagle-eyed birdwatchers can test their bird identification skills with this online photo quiz.  It focuses on situations in which individual birds sometimes don’t match the descriptions depicted in field guides.

Buck rattling technique refined

 HUNTING — It’s down to the wire for Eastern Washington rifle hunters trying to put their crosshairs on a whitetail buck. The late season ends Friday. Idaho hunters have through Dec. 1 in some areas.

But while time’s waning, you have one thing on your side: The rut is in full swing and big bucks are moving, even in the daylight.

Big bucks locked on to receptive does can be vulnerable simply because their guard is down.

But some hunters elect to be pro-active, using rattling techniques to lure bucks into the open. Here are some timely tips from Texas deer hunting expert James Kroll, a.k.a Dr. Deer:

B.A.S.S. is changing guard

PRO FISHING — The Florida-based fishing tournament group founded 40 years ago as the Bass Angler Sportsman Society became known simply as as BASS purchased and reconfigured by ESPN in 2001. Last week, BASS was acquired by three businessmen who vow to make it “a friendly organization.”

For now, the first thing youll notice is that BASS has been renamed B.A.S.S.

That’s it, so far. Period.

1 year, 2 million vertical feet for skier

SKIING — Starting Jan. 1 and hitting slopes on both sides of the equator, Greg Hill of Revelstoke, British Columbia is 80 percent through his goal to climb and ski 2 million vertical feet in one year — all self-propelled.

To put this in perspective, powering through 2 million vertical feet is the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest three times a month for a year. It’s like scaling each of the seven summits, then starting over again, until you’ve done it 14 times.

For the city bound, it’s like taking the stairs to the top of the Empire State Building four times a day, every day, for a year.

But Hill is making this epic in remote, high-altitude mountain ranges, in avalanche terrain, often with 50 pounds of gear strapped to his back.

Hill has just logged 1.6 million vertical feet and is on pace to accomplish his goal, according to backcountry.com.

He’s been around the world skiing this year. After skiing for months in South America’s winter, he recently returned to his hometown of Revelstoke, British Columbia, to finish his mission.

Teen skewers record-book buck

A whitetail buck bagged by an almost-teenage bowhunter from the Spokane area qualifies for the record books, according to official Pope & Young measurer Larry Carey.
LaFawn Sutton, 12, arrowed the buck near her Mount Spokane home in September when it was still in velvet.
The buck scored a whopping 170 1/8 NT (nontypical) Velvet points, Carey said.
“Pope & Young does not have an ongoing list for velvet trophies, only a listing every time they print a record book,” he said. “As of now, Northwest Big Game does not have listing for Youth, Velvet, NT. If they add it to their next record book, she probably would be No.1.”
LaFawn was hunting with her proud father, Jim Sutton.

Avista: Pool levels to fluctuate behind Nine Mile Dam

PADDLING — Reservoir levels behind Nine Mile Dam will be fluctuating in the next few weeks as dam operators test newly installed spillway gates, Avista announced today.

The gates will allow the utility to maintain the reservoir pool at a more constant level throughout the year, according to an Avista news release.

On Sunday, Nine Mile Reservoir was raised to full pool. Over the test period it will be gradually lowered and raised as much as 10 feet several times.

Avista advises the public to stay out of the section of the Spokane River above Nine Mile Dam to Plese Flats during the testing period.

The reservoir level should be back to full pool by the first part of December.

United Nations salutes falconry

HUNTING — The ancient sport of falconry received a tip of the hat and a vote of confidence from the United Nations today.

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage — pause here and inhale  — added falconry, a 4,000-year-old traditional hunting method, to its list of the Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity.

“For nearly 200 generations in an unbroken chain of intangible heritage, falconers worldwide have passed along their knowledge and skills bringing this art to us in the 21st century,” says a release from the North American Falconers’ Association.

From its ancient beginnings in the Middle East, falconry is practiced on all continents.

Falconry words are common in language. For example, the term “gentleman” is derived from falconry implying a man who could fly a female peregrine, the “falcon gentle.”

“Falconers have been instrumental in the worldwide recovery of the once endangered peregrine falcon and are involved in many conservation projects,” says Tom Cade of the Peregrine Fund in Boise.

Poachers rival hunters in total kill

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife believes poachers kill as many mule deer as legal hunters. That’s one reason the mule deer population in the state has dropped to 216,000 animals from historic peaks of more than 300,000. State biologists discovered the level of poaching during a five-year research study of deer between Bend and the California border. Poachers typically kill female deer, which are more important to reproduction.

Signs of exotic mussels found at Flathead Lake

FISHING – Signs of exotic mussels have been found in a routine plankton sample taken in July from the northern end of Flathead Lake, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department officials announced this afternoon.

Verification testing is still under way.

Test results from independent labs in the Midwest suggest that tiny organisms within the sample have characteristics consistent with zebra and quagga mussels. Results from a lab in Oregon, however, suggest the sample shows no sign of mussel contamination.

It’s prime time for deer hunters

HUNTING —This is the week many white-tailed deer hunters have been anticipating. It’s the last week of the late season and we’re nearing the peak of the rut, when even the biggest bucks lose some of their wariness to be around receptive does.

If you’re not finding whitetail bucks foolishly in the rut this week, may I suggest you check another location, perhaps just a drainage away. Whitetail hunters almost everywhere are reporting some sort of rutting activity.

Travel to Turkey tonight with Jane Schelly

 OUTDOOR TRAVEL — Outdoorswoman and world traveler Jane Schelly of Spokane will present a program tonight on her lengthy visits to Turkey. The free program starts at 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E Mansfield.

Expect to hear about hiking options as well as “Blue Cruises,” kayaking on the Mediterranean coast and much more.

Mountain Gear Headquarters is near Felts Field. Go north on Fancher Road from Trent and turn right on Mansfield just before the tracks.

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News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

Rich Landers – hunter, animal lover, hiker, paddler, angler, naturalist and conservationist – has been covering the outdoors beat for more than three decades. His versatility and field research as a trails and waterways guidebook author help him connect issues to a wide range of interests.

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Rich Landers (@SRoutside) Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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