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Outdoors blog

Archive for June 2011

Another rafter dies on Lochsa River

RIVER RUNNING — The Idaho County sheriff's office says a Missoula man died Wednesday in a rafting accident on the Lochsa River in north-central Idaho, according to the Lewiston Tribune.

Keegan Seth Ginther, 29, died after three or four people had been thrown from a raft around 2:30 p.m. CPR was performed on the river.

The accident reportedly happened in Lochsa Falls Rapid near milepost 112.5 off U.S. Highway 12.

The investigation revealed that Ginther was rafting with four friends from Missoula when the raft flipped in the Lochsa Falls Rapids and spilled all the occupants into the water.  Ginther was unable to get to shore and was swept downriver.  One of the rafters,  Bradley Applegate, 30, was able to get to shore and flagged down a passing vehicle to transport him down river where he pulled Ginther from the water. An EMT started CPR, the report said. 

All parties in the raft were wearing life jackets. 

This is the second drowning in the Lochsa this season and the third drowning in Idaho County in the past seven weeks. 

In addition to Wednesday's drowning, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, resident Randy Eroen drowned while kayaking on the Lochsa River May 28, and on May 11, Jerry Nelson of Kamiah drowned in Lolo Creek while trying to save his dog.

The river was running at about 15,000 cubic feet per second on Wednesday - high for this time of year, but not an unusual flow for the early rafting season.

The Lochsa is well-known for its continuous string of class III and IV rapids.

Read on for the reaction of a Lochsa rafting outfitter as quoted in a Missoulian online report.

Long-distance lady finds life lessons on trail

BACKPACKING — Women (especially) looking for hiking inspiration can score big with a book by an iron-woman who worked her way up the hiking status ranks before setting the supported Appalachian Trail women's record of 57 days to cover 2,175 miles.

That's a brisk average pace of 38 miles per day every day for two months from Georgia to Maine.

Jennifer Pharr (now Pharr-Davis) has captured that epic and the trail leading to it in her book “Becoming Odyssa-Epic Adventures On the Appalachian Trail.”  Blisters and body odor were among the least of her foes.

She'd already hiked the AT plus 9,000 miles on trails across six continents before she worked up to the record-setting effort. All the way she was hiking toward her dreams and goals from “over-confident college graduate” to the owner and operator of Blue Ridge Hiking Company in Asheville, North Carolina.

She makes the case for the long-distance hiker's mantra: Living with less, on the trail and in everyday life, is living free.

And her story reaffirms that wilderness can hold many unexpected life lessons, whether it's at the hand of shocking electric storms or in the tight quarters of a trail shelter with disagreeable companions.

  

Lame birdwatching joke of the day

CRITTER WATCHING — I take no responsibility for this:

Two robins were sitting in a tree. “I'm really hungry,” the first one said.

“Me, too,” said the second. “Let's fly down and find some lunch.”

They swooped to the ground and found a plot of plowed ground full of worms. They ate and ate and ate and ate until they could eat no more.

“I'm so full I don't think I can fly back up to the tree,” the first robin said.

“Me either. Let's just lie here and bask in the warm sun,” said the second.

“OK,” said the first.

They plopped down, relaxed and soaked in the rays.

But as they dozed, a big fat tom cat sneaked in and gobbled them up.

As he sat satisfied and licking his lips, he thought, “I love baskin' robins.”

Infected steelhead killed at Dworshak Hatchery

FISHERIES — Managers at Dworshak National Fish Hatchery say they have destroyed 332,000 juvenile summer steelhead since April to protect the rest of the hatchery’s fish from a deadly virus.

In April, 240,000 steelhead were destroyed after IHNV was confirmed in some rearing tanks by the Idaho Fish Health Center.

Officials say they still expect to have enough fish to meet their requirements for mitigating the impacts of Dworshak Dam on wild fisheries.

Read on for details.

Tagged salmon must be released on upper Columbia

FISHING — Starting Friday, all chinook and sockeye salmon with external floy (anchor) tags attached must be immediatly released if caught by anglers in the upper Columbia River system, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department announced Wednessday.

The rule will be in effect through Oct. 15 on the mainstem Columbia River from Priest Rapids Dam upstream to the Highway17 Bridge in Bridgeport, including the Similkameen and Okanogan Rivers.

Read on for details.

Fish scientists cite Snake River dams as threat to fisheries

 FISHERIES — The Western Division of American Fisheries Society says four lower Snake River dams and reservoirs present a significant threat to existence of wild fish.
 
The group approved a resolution making that point Wednesday during its meeting in Portland.
 
Read the full text of the resolution.
 
The group says that based on the best available science, the dams threatened fish populations including wild salmon and steelhead, as well as Pacific lamprey and white sturgeon.
 
Saving and restoring these imperiled species will require returning a significant portion of the lower Snake River to a free-flowing condition by breaching the four lower Snake River dams, the resolution says.
 
A federal judge is expected to issue a verdict on the Obama Administration's salmon plan any day.  
 
Read on for more details.

Does salmonfly signal Spokane River’s revival?

FLY FISHING — Okay, so I made a little fun in my column last week of a colleague's excitement over finding a single salmonfly in downtown Spokane.

The discovery pales to the days when clouds of salmonflies fed a Spokane River teeming with trout.

But here's an encouragng response from Mike LaScuola of the Spokane Regional Health District's
Environmental Resources Program:

I had to respond to your column today about Jim Kershner finding a salmon fly. I just thought I would let you know that on the roof of the Health District building I routinely check an air monitor and I have found two salmon flies on recent occasions…
 
Maybe the river is cleaning up a bit.
 
So there you go, anglers. Soon we'll be tying on a big one.

Eye is on sport crabbers and new larger share of harvest

SHELLFISHING — After a five-year struggle lost by commercial harvesters, recreational crab fishers in Puget Sound have been offered a much-desired fixed season from July 1 until Labor Day, with no quotas for total take.

Commercial crab harvesters must now take a back seat to the recreational crabbers, harvesting from the remainder of the nontribal quota in the fall, according to a story by Christopher Dunagan of the Kitsap Sun.

The new season, approved in October by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, could increase the recreational harvest of Dungeness crabs by 40 percent, according to state estimates. Commercial harvesters could see their share drop from 67 percent to about half the nontribal quota.

Read on for the rest of the story from the Associated Press.

Unbelievable wildlife spectacle bruin at Yellowstone

NATIONAL PARKS — Yellowstone National Park still delivers for wildlife watchers. 

A Spokane family just back from several days in the great Montana-Wyoming park said that among all the wildlife they saw, they were blessed with 24 bears sightings, half of them grizzlies.

To top it off, they also witnessed the sobering drama of wolves taking down an elk calf.

This is better than reality TV.

Avalanches rock and roll on Rainier

NATIONAL PARKS — Some of the biggest rock avalanches in years have been roaring off Mount Rainier the past several days, kicking up billowing clouds of dust and propelling rivers of muddy debris nearly two miles down the volcano’s flanks, according to an Associated Press report.

No one's been hurt, but climbers have had to flee certain areas.

Check out this video of a major slide this week.

Read on for details.

Two-seater bikes stoke rally in Spokane

BICYCLING — More than 600 tandem cycling enthusiasts are freewheeling to Spokane Friday through Sunday to celebrate the holiday weekend in the 26th annual Northwest Tandem Rally.

The Spokane Regional Sports Commission is helping organize the event. Based out of Mukogawa Ft. Wright Institute, the rally includes organized rides of up to 94 miles through the West Plains and through the small towns of the Palouse before they loop back to social events in Spokane.

The “it takes two to tandem” pedalers will head west out of Fort Wright in a mass start for their first ride starting at t 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.

 Read on for more details.

Idaho seeks comment on proposed fishing rules

FISHING — Idaho Fish and Game Department officials are taking public comments through July 8 on proposed changes to fishing rules.

All proposed rules are available on the Fish and Game website .  Comments may be submitted at the links on the web page.

Highlights of Fish and Game’s recommendations include:

  • Allowing filleting of hatchery salmon and steelhead harvested and recorded on a salmon or steelhead permit when certain conditions are met.
  • Allowing use of a gaff hook while archery fishing for nongame fish.
  • Modifying the definition of a “steelhead” in the Salmon, Snake and Clearwater River drainages.
  • A new definition for when a fishing contest permit is needed.
  • New definitions used in the 2011-2012 fishing rules booklet.
  • Making it illegal to mark and release fish.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will act on these proposed rules at the July 28 meeting in Salmon. Adopted rules would not take effect until April 2012.

Some national forests can’t keep up with runoff road damage

PUBLIC LANDS — Reports are coming in this week from national forests in central Montana and northcentral Washington, where officials say they have staggering road damage from spring runoff this year. 

Word to the wise outdoorsman:  Call ahead to for forest road conditions.

The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest says that more than $3.75 million in damages to its 8,000-mile road system aren't likely to be fully repaired this summer.

Read on for details.

One bad egg fowls nest for birdwatchers near Colville

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While it might seem to harbor a different sort of foul to the uninitiated, the Colville Sewage Treatment Plant has been a hot spot for birders looking for passing waterfowl and shorebirds.

But some birders who recently violated the no-driving rule at the plant apparently have made the plant operators reluctant to allow ANY further birdwatching at the site.

“Recently, a group of birders asked to be let in the gate and were told to walk in,” reports Tim Durnell, a serious birder from Rice, Wash. “A short while later they were seen driving inside the gate around the ponds, a huge liability issue with the folks who manage the STP.

“Apparently these birders were probably not from this area because they asked for directions to the mouth of the Colville River. Still, according to the guy in the STP office, because of the actions of a few, the rest of us could lose our privilege of birding inside the gate.”

The Colville STP is a shorebird treasure and it would be a travesty to lose access to this resource, he said.

If birders can regain the confidence of plant officials, he requests that other birders be sure to park outside the gate, walk in and stay near the gate while birding.

By the way, the ponds were showing no mud yet and there were the usual geese, ring-billed gulls, ruddy ducks, and coots, Durnell said Thursday.

Beware of marijuana sites in the woods

PUBLIC LANDS — Outdoor recreationists have stumbled into illegal backwoods marijuana growing sites on several occasions already this year.

That's prompted a warning from Forest Service officials: 

Marijuana operations pose significant threats to forest visitors, so it is very important for all national forest users to be aware of their surroundings and any suspicious activities that may be occurring.

Read on for what to look out for and what to do should you encounter a growing site on your next hiking, camping, fishing or hunting trip.

Montana FWP offers Internet fishng guide

FISHING — Anglers planning to fish Montana waters can get useful information  from the revised  Montana Fishing Guide organized online by  the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Department.

Althought he site lacks some of the immediacy and detail of some fishing shop sites, it has info about far more waters, including family-oriented lakes and streams and high-mountain lakes.

Search by location or by fish species, show all the records or only those that offer favorite fish species. The site also offers reports and maps.

Fly fishers put muscle into reviving Sherman Creek

CONSERVATION — Here's a tip o' the hat to a volunteer crew of 14 members of the Spokane Fly Fishers who idled their fishing rods Saturday.

Instead, they took up shovels to boost the future of fish in a northeastern Washington trout stream.

The club's conservation committee, headed by Mike Keegan, worked with Colville National Forest fisheries biologist Karen Honeycutt in an ongoing restoration project on Sherman Creek, about 14 miles west of Kettle Falls.

The group reports planting more than 1,000 trees and shrubs that eventually will curb erosion and provide streamside fish habitat.

Honeycutt said that forest crews and volunteers that also include the Colville Tribe and Kettle Falls third graders will plant a total of 7,800 trees and cuttings along the stream this year.

Sign up for watersports demo at Newman Lake

WATER SPORTS — Wintersport Ski Bike & Board is organizing a huge water sports demo day at Newman Lake Resort on Friday.

Liquid Force pros Arron Reed & Bob Soven will be on hand as well as Liberty Lake Mastercraft.

Visitors can try new 2011 products from HO, Hyperlite, and Liquid force.

To liven it up,  there'll be a DJ, live music, raffle shwag and free pizza.

 Space is limited; pre-registration required. Call for more details 509-328-2030

Dam advocates oppose Interior nominee

PUBLIC LANDS — The Obama administration's nomination of former American Rivers CEO Rebecca Wodder for assistant Interior secretary of fish, wildlife and parks is being opposed by a coalition of industry and agricultural groups, as well as the Idaho Water Users Association.

American Rivers has been a leading proponent of removing dams, such as those on the Snake River, to restore free-flowing rivers for the benefit of wild salmon and steelhead.

Read the details in this column by Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman.
  

Look who got the Best (outdoor) Internship on Earth

OUTDOOR JOBS — A few months ago, I wrote a story for college-age students who might be interested in what the Sierra Club calls The Best Intership on Earth.

The key: You had to make a video application. 

Check out the vide above to see how Kokei Otosi responded and landed the job.

Click here to see the intern's website and follow her job in words and videos as she participats in an annual summer program uniting young adults with a passion for the environment with community outreach programs that focus on outdoor experiences.  

Kokei will travel around the country, documenting these experiences in video blogs for the Sierra Club and www.PlanetExplore.com.

Kokei will also march in the Puerto Rican Day Parade, mobilize youth at Outdoor Nation, camp with Military Family Outdoors and rock climb on the Great Lawn at the White House.

Applications for 2012 internshiip will open in the winter. Check here for info.

Washington abandons all state tourism marketing

OUTDOORS — Spokane is Near Nature, Near Perfect, and the Evergreen state has some of the most diverse outdoor recreation opportunities in the nation — the foundation for a vital outdoor tourism industry.

Yet state officials are shuttering the official tourism agency that unifies its marketing message and abandoning all public support for one of its largest industries, according to a Seattle PI online story.

By the end of next week, Washington will be the only state in the nation without any money to spend on self-promotion.

Says the PI:

The transition is the most extreme example of the widely varying strategies among states trying to balance budget cuts with ways to spur economic growth. Some are pouring millions of dollars into fresh marketing, while others like New York and Arizona are slashing their promotional spending to help shore up state budgets.

Steelhead run building in lower Columbia, headed this way

STEELHEAD FISHING — It's not even a trickle yet coming up over Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River — just a couple a day — but this year's steelhead run continues to pick up steam into the Columbia.

Late for sure, but they're coming.

Montana will not extend Rock Creek float-fishing season

FISHING — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has decided against extending the float-fishing season on Rock Creek east of Missoula.

Rock Creek closes to fishing from boats beginning July 1, but this year FWP considered a three-week float fishing extension because unusually high river flows have prevented most spring floating opportunities.

However, after a seven-day public comment period that yielded more than 150 comments, FWP decided not to move forward with the extension.
 
Patt Saffel, regional fisheries manager in Missoula, said  public sentiment on the issue was diverse.  There was a lot of appreciation for considering the extension but also a lot of concern. 
 
FWP decided that changing an established regulation was not warranted.

Montana works out wolf hunt in polarized atmosphere

HUNTING — Public opinion on gray wolves remains sharply split as Montana and Idaho prepare to resume hunts for the predators after Congress removed their endangered species protections.

Montana wildlife commissioners meet July 14 to adopt a quota of 220 wolves to be killed during fall rifle and archery hunts.

Final details still are being worked out on Idaho’s wolf season.

More than 450 comments were submitted on the Montana proposal, the Asociated Press reports. They ranged from calls to sharply increase the quota, to pleas for a less-aggressive approach that would allow the wolf population to further expand.

There were an estimated 566 wolves in Montana at the end of 2010. Once this year’s pups are factored in, wildlife officials say the proposed hunt would reduce that number 25 percent to about 425 wolves.
  

Kayaker seriously injured in plunge of Bridal Veil Falls

EXTREME KAYAKING — Oregon's Multnomah County sheriff’s office says it took 14 emergency responders more than an hour to rescue a kayaker injured Sunday at the base of Bridal Veil Falls, according to an Associated Press report.

Robert McKenzie,19, of Eugene suffered a back injury and was taken to Oregon Health and Science University Hospital in Portland.

He was with a group of kayakers who took turns running the falls as they recorded video in the state park in the Columbia River Gorge. Two other kayakers from Eugene apparently suffered broken noses navigating the 120-foot, two-step drop.

All wore helmets and life vests. 

City headed wrong direction on bike route

BICYCLING — City of Spokane, keeping bicyclist safe one poorly executed step at a time…

Salmon fishing excellent as ocean seasons open

SALMON FISHING — Washington's coastal hatchery chinook salmon season kicked into high gear last week with good fishing reports coming in from Puget Sound to Ilwaco.

Read on for the update by Mark Yuasa of the Seattle Times.

Local paddlers offer canoe-kayak clinics

Sea kayaking, July 13 evening indoor class followed by July 16-17 session at Medical Lake, for beginners as well as seasoned paddlers.

Whitewater kayaking, July 16-17 on Spokane River.

• Cost for all clinics: $55 per person per class, plus $20 club membership.

• Preregistration required: Diane Adams, 448-9214 or email dianecadams@asisna.com

Trail building clinic offered by expert tonight on South Hill

SOUT HILL BLUFF TRAILS — Hikers and bikers can learn the theory and application of effective trail building and trail maintenance in a free clinic TONIGHT on the South Hill.

Mike Brixey, who's trained with the International Mountain Bike Association, will make the presentation starting at 6 p.m. at Polly Judd Park, 1732 W. 14th Ave.

The South Hill bluff trail system also will be discussed, and a volunteer trail maintenance group may be organized.

Bring a folding chair and, if you wish, a picnic dinner.

Small children and dogs are discouraged.

A follow-up practical trail building session will be scheduled next week on the bluff trails below High Drive.

Info: Diana Roberts, WSU Spokane County Extension, (509) 477-2167, email robertsd@wsu.edu.

Spring: the season to recall fawn-dly

WILDLIFE WATCHINGPeek-a-boo in the dew. Spring is full of discoveries for people who roam wide-eyed outdoors. Watch your step!

And no, I didn't pick the youngster up even though its mother was nowhere in site. This is nature's way.

For details, here' my blog post on the plea from experts asking the public to leave young wildlife be.

And a local veterinarian gave mega-dittoes to that request in this S-R story. His quote:  “People have got to learn to just leave the dang things alone.” 

A cold-Hearted greeting for hikers in the Bitterroots

HIKING — The snow clogging the high country isn't stopping hikers wearing boots and gaiters from trekking into some “cool” places.

Bob Clark of Missoula joined friends on Saturday for a hike into Heart Lake, a backcountry destination in the Great Burn area.

The popular hike-in lake is south of I-90 from Superior, Mont. The trailhead is off the Trout Creek Road just before the road heads up the steep section to Hoodoo Pass.

The photo at left shows the snow still covering the pack bridge.

At top is the view up Heart Lake with the Idaho-Montana border above.

Clark is a Sierra Club advocate for the proposed Great Burn Wilderness.  He's a knowlegeable source.

Gillnet alternatives tested on Columbia River salmon

FISHERIES —  Purse and beach seines are being deployed in the lower Columbia River in the first test of alternative commercial fishing gear on summer chinook salmon, the Columbia Basin Bulletin reports.

Oregon and Washington fisheries researchers are evaluating the effectiveness of alternatives to the gillnets used in commercial fisheries on the Columbia.

While gillnets kill the fish trapped in their mesh, purse seines theoretically can be used to capture fish alive so that marked, hatchery salmon and steelhead can be harvested while unmarked, potentially wild salmon and steelhead can be released unharmed.

Grazing doesn’t quickly improve wildlife forage, WSU researchers say

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — Researchers say a cattle grazing project on the Asotin Wildlife Area has reduced overall forage without making significant immediate improvements in the nutritional value of the remainig forage for wildlife.

The study results and information from ongoing research is set to be released next week by Washington State University.

The research is central to an ongoing debate over the appropriateness of grazing on state land managed for wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing, according to a story by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Some conservation groups have opposed the research worked out in agreements with cattle ranchers and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Concern for allowing grazing on state-managed wildlife lands is understandable. But one must be wary of the contempt for the attempt to research the theory that controlled livestock grazing might stimulate better forage for wildlife.

Read on for details from the Lewiston Tribune report.

Washington hunting access focus of federal grant

HUNTING — Washington has qualified for a $1.5 million federal grant designed to encourage more private landowners  to open their lands to hunting and other forms of outdoor recreation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking public comments through July 21 on its decision to give the state the money for designated projects. The federal findings are posted at http://bit.ly/mpufNQ.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was one of 17 agencies nationwide to qualify for a three-year grant under the new Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program administered by the USDA under the 2008 federal Farm Bill.

Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, said the state agency has already raised $400,000 to expand hunter access to private lands through additional fees paid by hunters who apply for new permit-only hunts.

“Hunters consistently rank access to suitable hunting areas as one of their top concerns,” Ware said. “With the additional federal funding, we’ll be able to build on current state efforts to expand hunting opportunities for years to come.”

 Read on for details and a list of the specific programs that will affect Eastern Washington sportsmen and landowners, as well as an urban project and one oriented to the West Side.

 


  

Washington opens halibut fishing one day, June 30

OCEAN FISHING — Washington anglers will get another day of halibut fishing, as the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced a June 30 fishery in marine areas 3 and 4 (La Push and Neah Bay).  

Rafters enjoy spring whitewater in summer warmth on Lochsa

RIVER RUNNING — Spring runoff on Idaho's Lochsa River attracts whitewater rafting enthusiasts from around the region regardless of the weather.

But this year's big snowpack and late runoff has created a rare and wonderful condition: Exhilarating spring whitewater flows in summer weather conditions.

No frost on the wetsuit!

The water is currently flowing at fast and fun levels like guests typically see in late May and early June and will continue to be great for another month,” says Peter Grubb at ROW Adventures based in Coeur d'Alene.

“Normally the Lochsa gets low by early July, but not this year.”

Grubb says this year is providing the best whitewater conditions in decades.

While it continues normal operations on many of the region's other rivers, ROW has extended its Lochsa River trips through July 17.

Boaters must stop at Washington’s ‘pop-up’ invasive species check stations

BOATING — Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) check stations will be set up this weekend in several locations in Eastern Washington, the state Fish and Wildlife Department announced this afternoon.

These are mandatory stops for anyone on the road with watercraft of any kind.

Officers will be looking for zebra and Quagga mussels and other plant and animal invasive species that can be extremely hazardous, both to native fish and wildlife and to water systems, if introduced to Washington waters.

The Check Stations will run from 8 a.m. through at least 3 p.m., and will be highly visible with signs, as follows:

  • Saturday, on Highway 2 just north of Spokane (near Chattaroy transfer station).
  • Saturday, on Lake Roosevelt, at National Park Service boat launch sites, including Kettle Falls.
  • Sunday, on Snake River boat launch sites, including Clarkston.

For more info on AIS, see the Fish and Wildlife Department's webpage at  http://wdfw.wa.gov/ais/.

Boaters must stop at Idaho’s summer-season invasive species check stations

BOATING — North Idaho has five invasive species boat inspection sites open through Sept. 9 to check boats for zebra and Quagga mussels that could infest the state's waters. 

The state Agriculture Department's Invasive Species Program is operating the sites 7 a.m.-7 p.m. as follows:

  • Cedars, on westbound Interstate 90 at Fourth of July Pass.
  • Huetter Rest Stop, on westbound I-90 between Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene.
  • Garwood, moved this year to Highway 53 (Trent) near the state line.
  • Old Town on Highway 2 east of Newport.
  • Samuels on Highway 95 north of Sandpoint.

Oregon votes to pay proactive ranchers for wolf-related livestock losses

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Even though only about a dozen wolves roam in the state, the Oregon Senate gave unanimous approval today for a bill authorizing a comprehensive livestock compensation and wolf coexistence program.

Gov. Kitzhaber is expected to sign the legislation, which passed the House earlier this week 60-0.

Key feature of the legislation:

  • Ranchers who proactively use nonlethal deterrents and best management practices to protect their livestock will be eligible to receive compensation payments for subsequent losses to wolves.

“Oregon’s Livestock Compensation and Wolf Coexistence bill will create one of the most innovative livestock loss compensation and prevention programs in the country,” said Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative for Defenders of Wildlife. Stone helped lead the effort for wolf advocates involved in the negotiations.

“Ranchers who take proactive steps to minimize potential conflicts between wolves and their livestock will remain eligible to receive compensation for losses. The bill also dedicates at least a third of allocated funds to implementing effective nonlethal deterrents to help ranchers prevent losses to wolves. This ensures that livestock producers are doing their part to protect their animals while giving Oregon’s wolves a real chance of survival.”

Roosevelt levels rising; keep tents up from shore

COLUMBIA RIVER — Miles of inviting sandy beaches are beckoning campers at Lake Roosevelt, but rapidly rising lake levels warrant caution when pitching tents.

Lake Roosevelt's level is at elevation 1,268 feet today, and it's expected to be up to about 1,280 feet on July 1, the Bureau of Reclamation says. 

Holiday campers note: The lake will continue to rise more than a foot a day through the 4th of July to around 1,285 on the 5th.

Shoreline campers should make camp away from the water’s edge.  Boats should be securely anchored or tied securely to the shoreline to avoid having them drift out into the lake.

The rising lake levels have opened boat launching at 15 of Roosevelt's 22 public boat launches.

See the Lake Roosevelt minimum levels for boat launching chart, and keep watching the current water elevation

For a daily forecast by phone, call (800) 824-4916. 

FISHING REPORT

  • Anglers are catching mostly smaller walleyes, but sizes are getting bigger, said Ray Bailey of RC Guide Service.
  • Spokane Arm water temp was 57 degrees on Thursday.
  • Roosevelt's rising water levels are floating up debris from the shoreline. Beware.

Steelhead run lagging up Columbia, Snake

STEELHEAD FISHING — The steelhead are running, but very slowly compared with last year.  

Maybe the fish are waiting for this spring's enormous flows to subside a bit.

Stay tuned.

Yakima River spring chinook fishing extended

SALMON FISHING —  Fish managers are extending the fishing season for hatchery spring chinook heading up the Yakima River, since high, turbid flows have been thwarting the regular season action.

The season will extend through July.

Read on for details from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department release issued Thursday.

Sportsmen condemn Congress attempt to weaken Clean Water Act

ENVIRONMENT — A coalition of sportmens groups this week strongly criticized the House Transportation Committee for passing legislation that would dramatically weaken the Clean Water Act and undercut four decades of progress in restoring the nation’s waters and wetlands and conserving valuable fish and wildlife habitat.

This is not rocket science:  Clean water is better for fish than polluted water.   Ditto for humans.

The Clean Water Act dates back to 1972 and the Nixon Administration.

“The Clean Water Act has led to immense progress nationwide in cleaning up our waters, restoring fish habitat, protecting drinking water sources, reducing wetlands loss and developing water-based recreational economies,” said Steve Kline, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Agricultural and Private Lands. “While states play a lead role in implementing some CWA protections, the law does not function without a federal backstop that ensures its goals are met.

Read a letter from sportsmen to House decision makers opposing H.R. 2018.

Waters and wetlands in the United States sustain the activities of 40 million anglers, who spend about $45 billion annually, and 2.3 million waterfowl hunters, who spend $1.3 billion annually.

GOP plan would open more public land to off-road vehicles

PUBLIC LANDS — Congressman Doc Hastings, R-WA, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, is promoting a Republican plan that would remove restrictions on motorized access to 43 million acres of public land nationwide.

A tip of the hat to the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers organization for trekking to Washington, D.C., to let Congress know that's a lame idea.

Read the story from McClatchy Newspapers.

Colville to release national forest plan revision for comment

PUBLIC LANDS - The Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests will release proposals for revising their forest plans Thursday, triggering a 60-day public comment period.

The joint project encompasses nearly 5 million acres in northcentral and northeast Washington.

National forests update their land management plans every 15 years.

Comments on the proposals will be accepted through Aug. 29.

Alternatives for a draft environmental impact statement should be released around June 2012, forest officials said.

Public meetings on the proposals are being scheduled in the next few weeks.

Hard copies of the document will be available for viewing at forest service offices and public libraries. 

The proposals and a list of meetings will be will be posted on the project web page.

Volunteers giving TLC to popular trails

PUBLIC LANDS - More volunteers are needed for upcoming outings that combine learning traditional skills and the camaraderie of group camping with maintaining popular northeastern Washington trails.

Three projects organized by the Washington Trails Association and Conservation Northwest include:

  • Bead Lake Trail, June 25-27.
  • Salmo-Priest Wilderness volunteer vacation, July 9-16.
  • Red Bluff Trail near Sullivan Lake, July 16-17;
  • Shedroof Divide Trail near Little Snowy Top, July 23-25.
  • Hall Mountain Trail near Sullivan Lake, Aug. 4-7.
  • Red Bluff Trail near the Sullivan Lake, Sept. 9-10.
      

Sign up:  Email derrick@conservationnw.org  or call (509) 389-5514.

  

Anglers find elbow room at Lake Roosevelt

COLUMBIA RIVER — The level of Lake Roosevelt continues to rise significantly every day and a few anglers — very few at this point — are finding more boat launches open — and the fishing isn't bad, either.

The water temperature in the Spokane Arm was 57 degrees today.  We caught walleye and smallmouth bass.

Thanks to my fishing partners, Jim Kujala and Dave Ross, I know that there are some pretty good size walleye and smallmouth bass in the water.

And if it weren't for them seeding my fish bag a little, I wouldn't be able to tell you that there's roughly twice as much meat on a 14-inch walleye as there is on a 12-incher.

See the Lake Roosevelt minimum levels for boat launching chart, and keep watching the current water elevation

Spokane whitewater park loses $500K state grant

PADDLING — A state board in charge of money for recreational projects rejected a plea from supporters of a whitewater park in the Spokane River and refused to extend a $500,000 grant. The project will probably take longer than supporters say, and the city should return when more prep work has been done, the board said, according to a report by S-R Capital Bureau reporter Jim Camden in Olympia.

In a 6-1 vote, the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board refused the extension but said the project should complete an environmental impact statement and obtain needed permits, then return to the board to ask for the grant to be awarded a second time.

“We at Friends of the Falls are disappointed,” said Steve Faust, leader of the Spokane group that's advocated the park. “But (we're) also encouraged that each RCO board member expressed support for the project and encouraged the city to apply for a new grant. We will be meeting with City Parks what happens next. We thank the City Parks Department for their efforts.”

Read on for more of Camden's report from the Olympia meeting.

Researchers mark 894 Canada geese, 30 from GU

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — Volunteers helped Washington Fish and Wildlife Department researchers round up and band 894 Canada geese in Eastern Washington during the past two weeks.  More than 80 of the geese were captured in the Spokane and Liberty Lake area, includind 30 at Gonzaga University.

The roundup was timed for the molt, when the adults couldn't fly, making it easy to herd them and their broods into enclosures.

Read on for the tally of birds captured at 14 sites during this ongoing study headed by waterfowl expert Mikal Moore. 

Would you dare prey on something with ‘eyes’ like this?

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Northeast Washington forest firefighter Jon Foster Fanning captured this wildlife moment this week:

“A Polyphemus moth I discovered in the large pines along the Kettle River. This is a North American member of the giant silk moths.

“The most notable feature of the moth is its large, purplish eyespots on its two hindwings. The eye spots are where it gets its name – from the Greek myth of the Cyclops Polyphemus.”

Kahlotus Ridge named national landmark

PUBLIC LANDSKahlotus Ridgetop, in Washington's Franklin County is among six of the newest national natural landmarks designated by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Kahlotus Ridgetop, known for its remnant Palouse prairie, was nominated by the Washington Department of Natural Resources for the National Parks Service status.

The others designated last week are Hanging Lake in western Colorado, Barfoot Park in southern Arizona, Round Top Butte near Medford, Ore., and the Island in Oregon.

Each site was identified through a process that included a scientific evaluation and public-comment period to acknowledge each site's unique biological or geological features. No new land-use restrictions will be imposed.

There are 591 national natural landmarks.

Chinook fishing closes Sunday on Clearwater River

SALMON FISHING — Harvest of adult chinook salmon in the North Fork Clearwater River and mainstem Clearwater River downstream of the Orofino Bridge will close at the end of fishing hours on Sunday. 

Adult chinook salmon are defined as 24 inches or greater in total length.  Anglers can continue to keep 6 hatchery fish less than 24 inches total length until further notice.

Fishery managers for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game estimate anglers harvested approximately 60 percent of the State’s harvest share of salmon returning to the Clearwater River drainage as of June 19. 

By June 27, anglers likely will have harvested 80 percent of the non-tribal harvest share.

Read on for more details.

Schweitzer opening summer season with free lift rides — and snow

MOUNTAIN RESORTSSchweitzer Mountain Resort will open its summer season on Saturday with food, outdoor games and activities, food, live music and FREE chair lift rides.

Normally, hikers and mountain bikers would take advantage of this summer-opening special in conditions you might expect in the top photo.

But this year the resort's upper slopes are still covered with snow patches and the biking trails are snow-clogged or muddy, as you can see from the photo at left, snapped Tuesday by Sean Briggs, showing the resort's outdoor climbing wall, patchy snow on the slopes and a waterfall draining the mountain.

Read on for details about the weekend — and a look at what the resort's summer season slopes will look like when summer catches up with the late spring.

Getting down and dirty for goeducks

SHELLFISHING — Seattle Times outdoor writer Mark Yuasa dove head-first into the sport of goeduck harvesting last week.

Read for insight on the technique his friends have developed for gathering the heavyweight of Pacific Northwest clams.

New hatchery to help restore post-dam Elwha fisheries

FISHING — Another step has been taken toward restoring the fabled steelhead and salmon runs once the dams are removed from the Elwha River near Port Angeles.

The Lower Elwha Klallam tribe’s new fish hatchery was completed May 13 and has received its first batch of steelhead fry to help replenish the river's fisheries.

The hatchery, part of the Elwha River restoration project, has 160,000 juvenile fish swimming in two of the new hatchery ponds. Many more — including pink, chum and coho salmon — are soon expected.

Following removal of the river’s two dams, which will begin in September, the tribe will release as many as 3 million fish a year throughout the 65-mile-long waterway in areas off limits to spawning salmon for nearly a century.

The tribe and National Park Service, which is heading the $327 million river restoration project, are hoping enough will return to restore the once fabled salmon runs. It’s no small task, and the tribe realizes it has few examples from which to learn.

Read on for details from the Associated Press

Elk bulls hanging out, growing antlers like weeds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bull elk are hanging out with the boys concentrating on being well fed and ready for the fall mating season.

Their antlers are in full-growth mode as the annual crop of velvet-covered boney material sprouts from their heads.

The remote trail cam photo above is one of several pictures made last month in northeastern Washington and recently retrieved by Kevin Scheib of Colville.  In some cases, as many as three branch-antlered bulls show up in one photo.

Rare event: No locals among national outdoor writing finalists

OUTDOOR WRITING – The Outdoor Writers Association of America has just awarded 12 Norm Strung Youth Writing prizes totaling $1,700 to young, talented writers who tackled outdoor themes in prose and poetry.

What's particularly notable to me is that this may be the first time in a quarter century that no Inland Northwest teenager has been among the outdoor writing winners.

We had some good entries and I was proud to publish the S-R's area winners on Dec. 26.  But the pool of entries has dwindled in recent  years.

I started The Spokesman-Review's annual Youth Outdoor Writing Contest for high school students in 1986 to give local students a shot at qualifying for the national OWAA youth writing contest, which requires stories to be published before they can be entered.

Inland Northwest students — perhaps because of their teachers and close relationship to the outdoors — have dominated the national winners circle, sweeping the top spots in prose and poetry occasionally.

But in recent years, participation from Spokane's Public Schools has virtually dried up. School principals tell me their teachers and students are preoccupied with mandated curricula and testing, leaving little time for 'extra” writing.

That's more than just sad.

The S-R's 2011 Outdoor Writing Contest will be announced in September, with rules much the same as they were in this announcement for 2010. 

Read on to see the OWAA  winners announcement released this week.

Mt. Bachelor opening for summer skiing

 SKIINGMt. Bachelor ski area near Bend, Ore., will open for summer skiing and snowboarding on July 1 with expanded holiday opportunities July 2-July 4 including intermediate and advanced skiing from the summit, snow and weather conditions permitting.

Mt. Bachelor will be open for skiing 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets: $30 for all ages.

The first 250 skiers and snowboarders purchasing tickets each day will receive a commemorative t-shirt celebrating skiing and snowboarding over the July 4th Holiday.

Hikers make the most of the longest day of the year

HIKING — Several groups of hikers celebrated the summer solstice by trekking to the top of Antoine Peak after work and hiking down into the sunset.

Antoine is a Spokane County Conservation Futures acquisition that forms the green mountain backdrop north of East Valley High School.

An 8.5-mile round trip from the new Lincoln Road parking lot-trailhead put us on the top of the peak for great views of Mount Spokane to the north and the Spokane Valley and Mica Peak to the south.

Some Forest Service offices closed Wednesday for staff training

NATIONAL FORESTS — Some Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ offices will be closed Wednesday to allow Forest Service employees to attend classroom training prior to the summer field season.

 Offices closed on June 22 (one day) include:

·        Bonners Ferry Ranger District (Bonners Ferry)
·        Sandpoint Ranger District (Sandpoint)
·        Priest Lake Ranger District (Priest River)
·        Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District (Silver Valley Office in Smelterville)
·        Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District (Fernan office)
·        Coeur d’Alene Nursery (Coeur d’Alene)
·        St. Joe Ranger District (St. Maries, Avery and Clarkia).

The above-listed offices will reopen on Thursday, June 23.

Remaining open are the Coeur d’Alene Interagency Dispatch Center and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ Supervisor’s Office in Coeur d’Alene.

Salmon fly fans angler’s fantasies

ALMOST FISHING — S-R colleague Jim Kershner couldn't have been more excited if he'd just landed a whopper brown trout.

He came into the office gushing about the salmonfly he found fluttering on the sidewalk on his way to work.

Vaguely reminiscent of the legendary Spokane River emergences that supposedly greased the trolley tracks around the old Natatorium Park,this was the only big trout-teasing bug in sight this morning. But it was enough for hope.

We had a brief scare when the huge hunk of protein disappeared briefly during the pizza break to which the editorial staff was treated at noon. No one would put it past Doug Clark to slip an invertebrate under Rebecca Nappi's pepperoni.

But Jim finally found the adult salmonfly and every fly fisher in the room began fantasizing about rivers, rising trout — and why the office manager bought so much cheese pizza and so few combo-sausage pies.

Kershner finished his lunch hour by taking the still-kicking bug to Riverfront Park, where he offered his Pteronarcys californica to the trout.

Unfortunately, Spokane River trout apparently have forgotten that a salmonfly is a feast.

Instead of a noble ending as calories for a whopper fish, the salmonfly drifted down the current unnoticed and into the Monroe Street Dam intake.

“It became a kilowatt,” Kershner said.

Lingering snow slows recreation at Mount Spokane

STATE PARKS — With snow still clogging the summit road and portions of the nordic trail system, Mount Spokane State Park managers are behind on their schedule to open spring-summer trails and facilities.

“We booked reservations for the Quartz Mountain fire lookout rental starting in mid June but we've had to cancel them because we still can't get out to service it,” said Steven Christensen, park manager.

“It's going to be sometime in July before we'll be able to open in for overnighters.”

Fourth of July weekend visitors likely will not be able to drive to the summit of Mount Spokane for the first time in years.

“Right now we can only get to Big Springs,” Christensen said. “We haven't reached the campground yet. I think we're looking at 2-3 weeks before we'll get the road open to the summit. The problem is the snow that packs into the last corner in the timber.”

Trail hikers will find snow on portions of trails above the Kit Carson Loop Road, he said.

However, Washington Trails Association volunteers will be doing trail work on Thursday to help re-route Trail 100.

King County follows Spokane: votes to require life jackets

BOATING — A divided King County Council has passed a measure to require all swimmers, floaters and boaters on the county’s rivers to wear life vests.

Spokane County already has a similar law that reads:

All persons regardless of age shall wear a personal flotation device while on moving water.

King County's new law will take effect 10 days after the county executive signs it.

Council opponents called it an intrusive move by “big government.” In the words of Councilwoman Kathy Lambert — who voted ‘no’ — “This council sometimes thinks it’s everybody’s Mom.”

Supporters say it will help save lives.

First-time offenders will get a warning; a second violation will mean an $86 fine.

Olympic Park rangers kill aggressive cow elk

NATIONAL PARKS — Olympic National Park rangers killed an elk Friday after it had charged three vehicles and damaged a tent at the Hoh Rain Forest campground.

This event comes a year after a mountain goat was killed after it gored and killed a backpacker, and two weeks after another mountain goat menaced a hiker for more than a mile on a backcountry trail.

The Peninsula Daily News reports rangers started monitoring the female Roosevelt elk on Friday after it damaged a tent and charged a park vehicle. They used loud noises to scare off the elk over the weekend when it approached campers or hikers.

After it charged two more vehicles on Monday, rangers decided to kill it. A section of its brain was taken for lab tests for a possible explanation of its behavior. 

Plenty of interest for Montana special big-game permits

HUNTING — Montana has announced drawing results for 2011 fall moose, sheep and mountain goat hunting permits.  Idaho and Washington put drawing results online last week.

FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim says 22,707 people applied for 387 moose tags; 13,140 applied for 358 mountain goat tags and 23,330 people applied for 127 bighorn ram permits.

Drawings for special elk, deer and antelope tags will take place July 18.

When a coyote follows your cat into the house…

WILDLIFE — A couple in Battle Ground, Wash., had a rude awakening this week when the family cat lured an uninvited guest through the “kitty door” into their house.  

Read on for the entertaining story from The (Vancouver) Columbian.

Bucks already shaping up their antlers

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While nature seems to be wrapped up with producing this year's new crop of fawns, bucks are in the background quietly getting ready for the next mating season.

Daniel Haththorne's trail cam recorded this nice whitetail buck and its blooming rack of antlers.   Hawhthorne has been watching the buck for two years and has photos of the buck with his mature rack from last fall.

In comparing notes with other hunters with trail cams, he notes that whitetail bucks in the low Spokane Valley seem to be a little more advanced in their anter growth than the bucks in velvet at higher elevations. 

Bamboo fly rod builder to speak in Hayden

FLY FISHING — Scott Noble, master bamboo fly rod craftsman and fly-fishing expert, will offer a show-and-tell on building handmade bamboo fly fishing rods during the noon lunch on June 28 at the Hayden Senior Center, 9428 N. Government Way, in Hayden, Idaho.

 RSVP:  (208) 762-7052.  See map

EWU outdoor classes focus on leadership, survival

OUTDOOR SKILLS– Whether you’re a church group leader or a solo adventurer, you can benefit from short summer outdoor courses in skills such as rafting and kayaking offered by Eastern Washington University.

Veteran outdoor recreation professor Paul Green is offering two special courses:

Outdoor Leadership, July 30-31:  Covers trip planning, leadership techniques, judgment and decision-making. Students practice skills, such as GPS and searching for missing members during a field trip.

Legal aspects of outdoor leadership also are covered. “The session on 'How to prevent a lawsuit' and the outdoor leader’s four main defenses to a lawsuit are very important elements of this class,” Green said.

Primitive Survival, Aug. 6-7:  Classroom and in-field instruction in practical survival techniques for navigation, shelters, fires and much more.

“A lot of survival is making the right decisions and holding it together,” Green said. “We work on that as much as the skills, like making a water filter from sand and make a fire with a knife and a rock, not a flint, a rock.”

Register by July 6: Call EWU Summer Session, 359-4222  or register online.

Time to join the group for the Dishman Hills

CONSERVATION — Thousands of people have enjoyed the Dishman Hills Natural Area and other conservation lands in this Spokane Valley paradise, but the association that's worked to protect and preserve the area has only about 200 members. 

Sounds like area residents are letting others do the heavy lifting.

With the Dream Trail Project, mapped above, and the need to build a parking area for public access to the more recent Rocks of Sharon acquisition, this is a good time to show  your support.

Join the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association.  And then consider an extra donation.

Questions: Contact DHNAA president Michael Hamilton (509) 747-8147.

Pedaling Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes a wild-life experience

BICYCLING — Weekend reports from cyclists indicate that wildlife is alive and well along the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, especially in the Bull Run-to-Cataldo stretch.

And you might want to figure in a little wildlife waiting time into your next trail itinerary.  And perhaps a little FISHING time.

Read on for the moose-infested report from one group:

Idaho Fish and Game ponders new funding sources

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Sales of hunting and fishing licenses are down in Idaho and other states.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has lost more than $2 million in sales of non-resident elk tags since lawmakers raised the price for the tags by $44.25 over the objections of the department.

Virgil Moore, the new director of the Idaho Fish and Game Department, isn't worried about a lack of funding in the short term, but he says his agency needs to explore new ways to raise funds for wildlife management.

Read more in this story from the Idaho Statesman.

“Washington Backpacking” author to speak in Spokane

HIKING — “Washington Backpacking,” a new guide to 70 multi-day backpacking trips across the  state, has just been published by The Mountaineers-Books, and the author will be in Spokane on Monday to provide a slide-show peek at the ground he covered.

Craig Romano will present the program on the overnight and multi-day routes Monday, 7 p.m., at Mountain Gear's Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield.

Romano is a well-known author who's published a series of guidebooks and writes for numerous publications.

Directions: Near Felts Field, Go north on Fancher from Trent and take a right just before the rail road tracks. See map.

Spokane rafters off the Grand Canyon trip of a lifetime

RIVER RUNNING — We're just getting the first reports from a Spokane group that bagged their Grand Canyon rafter permit after 15 years on the waiting list.   Sounds like it was a great reward for years of anticipation.

“Off the river and all is well!” reports Penny Stauffer Schwyn, known to Spokane outdoors enthusiasts for her Specialty Outdoors gear repair business.

“Temps did exceed 115 at times,” she said. “Great runs through Crystal, Hermit, and Lava.”

Great runs and no carnage through the biggies is whopper good news.

Commission meeting hints at wolf plan disagreements

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The audio recording of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission's Wednesday teleconference is available online, giving us insight to the panels take on the Washington Wolf Working Group's recent effort to hash out a revised Wolf Management Plan.

Check it out.

Or, you might want to read on to see the notes on the commission conference call taken by Jasmine Minbashian, Special Projects director for Conservation Northwest.

Meantime, public input on the wolf plan will be heard at the August Commission meeting. Public meetings likely will be scheduled around the state this fall.

Upper CdA River restoration removes roads, boosts fish

WATERSHEDS — A proposed watershed improvement project in what's been dubbed the Moose Drool Restoration Area of in the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District will be explained Tuesday in an open house at the district's Fernan Office,  2502 E. Sherman Ave. in Coeur d’Alene.

District personnel will be available 4 p.m.-7 p.m. to answer questions. They'll make a short presentation beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The area covers about 22,000 acres and includes the headwaters of the Litle North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River. 

In addition to improving westslope cutthroat trout habitat along the streams, some roads will be decommissioned, mostly roads that are not open to motorized travel. However, approximately seven miles of road currently open for public motorized use is proposed for decommissioning.

Read on for more details.

Photographer captures full moon on Upper Palouse Falls

RIVERS — Spokane photographer Wes Hedrick was at Palouse Falls State Park last week to take advantage of the full moon, snapping photos until midnight.

The photo above of the upper falls — just upstream from the iconic 185-foot Palouse Falls — was among several he made between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. using his Canon SLR digital camera.

Clearwater Forest construction will challenge summer visitors

NATIONAL FORESTS — Federal stimulus funding will continue to be a big boost for the Clearwater National Forest infrastructure this year, but contruction could cause some headaches for camper and anglers headed to Kelly Creek and other areas in the North Fork District.

 “This is going to be a challenging summer to get around on the North Fork, for the public as well as the Forest Service,” said Heather Berg, North Fork District ranger in Orofino. “I would hate for someone to drive a long distance to find their way blocked by one of these projects. I want to get the word out now, and I encourage folks to plan ahead. Be sure to call Forest offices for current information.”

Read on for details and scheduled construction.
  

Dworshak camping 50 percent off in August

To reserve a campsite go online to www.recreation.gov. Non-reservable sites are first-come, first-served.   — Make camping reservations during August weekdays — Monday through Thursday — and get 50 percent off at facilities near Dworshak Dam managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Dent Acres Campground, with 42 reservable campsites and eight first-come first served, is a good example of a top-quality experience. Open April 7- November 30 (weather permitting),  facilities include restrooms, showers, camping, group shelter, playground, day-use, picnicking, fishing, boat ramp and hiking trail. The campground is 20 miles north of Orofino, Idaho.

Info: Dworshak Natural Resources Management. Telephone:(208) 476-1261.    

Email: DworshakRecreation-NaturalResources@usace.army.mil

Other Corps recreational opportunities in the Walla Walla District:  www.nww.usace.army.mil/corpsoutdoors

Video: Kayakers run upper Pack River whitewater

RIVER RUNNING — Spokane Whitewater enthusiast Brian Jamieson wore a helmet cam to document his recent run with other kayakers down the big runoff whitewater in Upper Pack River's “slide section.” 

If the run at this point seems to be unusually clean of woody debris, it's no accident, Jamieson said.  Sandpoint-area paddlers had cleared out all but one of the logjams in this section when he ran the river.

Of course, conditions can change any time.

This is NOT amateur water… but they make it look easy.

Fathers Day treat: Dad-daughter highlight on Mount Whitney

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OUTDOOR FAMILIES — A few years ago, as he sensed the inevitable changes ahead, Edwyn Hill of Spokane planned a challenging outdoor adventure with his oldest daughter, Whitney.

He wanted to end the teenage chapter in her upbringing with an exclamation point before she moved on to college.

I had the pleasure of tagging along with them to California as the Hills climbed Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states.  The trek was a high point in Wyn's and Whitney's relationship.

Turn up the sound on your computer and check out the video slide show as I document how the Great Outdoors prepared Wyn for an even bigger transition that transpired five years later.

Montana considers extending Rock Creek float season

FISHING — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is accepting public comment through June 24 on a proposal to extend the float fishing season on Rock Creek, east of Missoula, because of the unusually high river flows that have prevented most spring floating opportunities this year.

Typically, Rock Creek closes to fishing from boats beginning July 1, but FWP Region 2 Supervisor, Mack Long, says that this year, without an extension, anglers may get little or no time to fish from a boat due to extraordinarily high early season flows.
 
If approved, all anglers, including members of the public and outfitters and their clients, would be allowed to fish from a boat on Rock Creek through Friday, July 22, 2011.
 
To comment, email Sharon Rose at shrose@mt.gov or call (406) 542-5540.

Bird doggers compare breeds in Fun Hunt

GUN DOGS — A black Lab won the battle of the breeds today at the Spokane Bird Dog Association's 2011 Fun Hunt.

Among the breeds were German shorthair pointers, springer spaniels, yellow Labs, English setters and German wirehairs.

They went head to head in braces during the  timed event at Espanola to see how fast they could bag a pair of chukars.

I'm still checking out the rumor that the Labs and springers are sponsored by PETA. The handlers generally  didn't have to fire a shot as their dogs moved in quickly to nail the pen-raised birds.

It's not clear whether the flushing-dog owners can't shoot — or whether they really don't want to.

Stay tuned.

Eagle cams: Eaglets branch out from nest, eager to fledge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The three rapidly maturing bald eagle youngsters in a 4-foot-wide tree-top nest are testing their wings, clearly eager for the upcoming first flight, as the world can see under the excellent Decorah Fish Hatchery web-cam in Iowa.

As of this morning, people have logged on to view the spectacle more than 154 million times since the adult bald eagles nested in March and the eaglets hatched in early April!

Camera operators are able to pan the lens to show eaglets off the nest and using their wings to “branch out” from the nests.  It's literally any minute or any day now before they take their first flights.

Leaving the webcam running on the computer while doing other tasks has been educational during the growth period.  For instance, my wife and I witnessed how the nest stays relatively clean despite the three diaperless chicks.

Starting from soon after they hatched, the eaglets have the muscle tone to eliminate their waste in a powerful stream they instinctly direct up and out of the nest.  Amazing to watch from the webcam.  But look out below!

Meantime, closer to home, at least two eaglets hatched around Earth Day at a Lake Washington bald eagle nest (near Seattle).  They are a little more than two weeks  younger than the Iowa eaglets.The camera placement doesn't offer  the intimate view of the Decorah eagle cam, but it's an interesting perspective.

Fawn indicates its approval for conservation measure

WILDLIFE —This young fawn was photographed on the tailing piles at Holden Village above Lake Chelan, Wash. The pine tree was planted to stop chemicals from leaching out of the piles. The Holden Mine was once profitable copper, gold and zinc mine located 10 miles up Railroad Creek on the south shore of Lake Chelan, Wash.

Idaho, Washington big-game hunting permit drawing results online

HUNTING — Results from Idaho's 2011 special big-game controlled hunt drawings are available today as follows:


Washington's 2011 special big-game hunting permit drawings have been available online since Wednesday.

If you drew a tag for deer, elk, moose  — whatever — please keep the celebration to a dull roar out of respect for those of us who didn't.

Snowpack delays plowing of Glacier’s Sun Road

NATIONAL PARKS — Crews plowing Glacier National Park’s historic Going-to-the-Sun Road say heavy snowpack this winter has put them almost a month behind schedule.

Stan Stahr says he hasn’t seen the snowpack this bad in the 20 years he has worked for the park, and it is making it dangerous for crews that are experiencing avalanches, mud slides and rocks breaking off cliffs.

With another round of cool, wet weather in the forecast, Stahr says park officials can’t say for sure when the road will be completely open over Logan Pass. It generally opens between now and the beginning of July.

Lake Roosevelt levels to increase significantly

COLUMBIA RIVER — The level of Lake Roosevelt was elev. 1255.82 feet this morning — up 15 feet from last week — and the Bureau of Reclamation this afternoon predicted the elevation will continue to rise through the coming week.

Bureau officials expect the level to reach 1,265 by the end of next week, opening more boat ramps.

See the Lake Roosvelt minimum levels for boat lauching chart, and keep watching the current water elevation.

Free day coming at National Parks

PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees on June 21 to celebrate the first day of summer and provide an incentive for families to enjoy the outdoors and national heritage.

The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2011, including National Public Lands Day (Sept. 24) and the weekend of Veterans Day (Nov. 11-13).

Fee-free days have been offered the past two years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump

Leave young wildlife alone, officials say

YOUNG WILDLIFE — Does have been dropping fawns throughout the region. Unfortunately, people are picking some of them up.

The Inland Northwest Wildlife Council reports that several people already  have called the office asking what they should do with the fawns they found alone in the wild.

The answer in almost all cases: “Leave them in the wild. Don't touch them.”

An exception might be when you see fawns with a doe that's been killed in a vehicle collision, said Idaho Fish and Game Department spokesman Phil Cooper.

“In nearly all other cases, the adult female is nearby, watching and waiting to move her offspring to a more secluded place once she is aware the newborn has been found,” he said. “With very few exceptions, wild animal mothers do not aggressively defend their young from being picked up by people.”  

Volunteer wildlife rehabilitators can attempt to raise the animal and place it back in the wild, but this option often fails.

“If you come across a young fawn lying in tall grass, take a wide berth,” Cooper said.  “Stopping for a moment to take a few photos is fine, but do not pick up the fawn. The doe that produced the fawn left it in the tall grass alone as a strategy to protect it from predators.  If the doe stayed with the fawn, her visibility and scent would quickly let predators know where the fawn is.  If the doe is spotted and chased by predators, the young fawn would not be able to keep up and would likely become food for the predator.

“Fawns that are picked up and taken from the wild can be returned to the wild provided the return takes place within a few hours.  If this is done and the doe is still in the area, she will return to the fawn and move it to a safer place.  She will not abandon the fawn due to human scent, something that is a common misperception.”

Body of long-missing skier found in Crystal Mountain tree well

SKIING — The ski patrol director at Washington's Crystal Mountain ski area says the body of an expert skier who vanished three months ago has been found in a tree well, according to the Associated Press.

Paul Baughner tells The News Tribune that an employee cut through some trees Wednesday and found the remains of 40-year-old Paul Melby of Lakewood, Wash. He was reported missing March 1.

He was found about 100 yards from a ski run at the 5,600-foot level.

The area was previously searched, but snow has melted since then.

Skiers can fall into an air pocket formed around the base of a tree in deep snow and then be unable to free themselves, quickly losing consciousness.

Researchers round up geese around Spokane

WILDLIFE RESEARCH– Biologists and a team of volunteers are herding Canada geese into pens and clamping leg bands on about 1,000 young birds in Eastern Washington for a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife study of goose population trends.

The teams were herding geese at Qualchan Golf Course this morning starting at 4:30 a.m.

They planned to trap and release geese later in the day at Gonzaga University and Liberty Lake.

In its fourth year, the study seeks to understand nesting declines, hunter harvest patterns and the birds’ use of urban and rural habitat, said Mikal Moore, state waterfowl specialist.

Since the study began, biologists have banded 2,523 geese from eight areas in Eastern Washington, Moore said. Of that number, 406 were observed with neck collars and 359 marked geese were taken by hunters.

The roundup is timed during the molt. Since the adults can't fly, the volunteers can herd the families into pens.  After the goslings are inspected and banded, they're released.

Read on for details about the banding, the study and what birdwatchers and hunters can do to help the research. 

Colville Forest biologist leads hike at Elk Creek Falls

HIKING —  A two-mile loop hike to Elk Creek Falls led by Mike Borysewicz, Colville National Forest wildlife biologist, will be a great opportunity to stretch your legs and increase your knowledge of natural landscapes and wildlife.  

The free annual activity is set for June 25.

Where:   Meet,  10 a.m., at the Elk Creek Trailhead at the Mill Pond Historic Site, a little more than 4 miles east of Metaline Falls on County Road 9345 (road to Sullivan Lake).

Attractions: Old prescribed burn heavily used by elk, cascading waterfall, wildflower meadow and interpretation by a veteran biologist.

Details: Bring a lunch, a hat, and sturdy walking shoes.

Info: Sullivan Lake Ranger Station, (509) 446-7500.

Killdeer nest between rock and a hard place

BIRDWATCHING — The delightful killdeer we see making short sprints ahead of us as as walk along streams, fields and open farm and ranch country are programmed to build their nest in the uncommon comfort of gravel.

So it's no surprise that graveled driveways or parking lots seem like prime locations for them to hatch a brood. They are technically shorebirds, but are not totally linked to water.

The photo above was snapped Tuesday by S-R reporter Mike Prager after he nearly stepped on the eggs while interviewing a homeowner near Davis Creek and the Pend Oreille River.  The photo shows how well a batch of killdeer eggs blends in with the granite gravel used in the driveway.

The giveaway that a family's in the making is the noisy broken-wing act the adult performs when an intruder comes near the nest. The bird gets its name from one of its calls:  kill-deeah, kill-deeah.   Sometimes it just blurts a rising dee-dee-dee.

Unlike robins, which hatch helpless,  killdeer chicks are almost instantly ready to go. They hatch with their eyes open, and as soon as their downy feathers dry, they start scurrying about, following their parents toward cover where they quickly begin searching the ground for something to eat.

A killdeer chick has one black line across its throat and chest.  An adult has two.

Washington Wildlife Commision to discuss wolf plan

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has scheduled a conference call this morning at 8:30 to discuss the lack of harmony beaming from the state's Wolf Working Group meeting last week.

Basically, the citizen group that's been working for years to help craft the state's wolf management plan is polarized on several issues, mainly on the number of wolf breeding pairs would be allowed before the state would begin “managing” their population.

To get a sense for the difficulty the commission will have in voting on the plan as scheduled in December, read on for a Yakima Herald-Republic report on the Working Group's June 8-9 meeting in Ellensburg.

Feds fund Northwest national forest colaborative groups

PUBLIC LANDS — Colaborative groups from nine states — including Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon —  garnered $22 million for national forest projects last week.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the funding for Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration projects that promote healthier, safer and more productive public lands through partnership efforts which will reduce wildfire risk, enhance fish and wildlife habitats and maintain and improve water quality across all lands.

Wilderness efforts also factor into the mix.

Read on for details about the funded projects, including the Clearwater Colaborative.

Washington’s state-lands Discover Pass goes on sale today

PUBLIC LANDS — The new vehicle access pass approved by the Washington Legislature went on sale today, and 17 were purchased in the first hour, officals report — although it appears it was mostly state officials doing the purchasing to make sure the web system worked.

The Discover Pass costs $30 per vehicle per year or $10 a day.

Starting in July, it will be required for vehicle access to nearly 7 million acres of Washington state-managed recreation lands – including campgrounds, parks, wildlife areas, trails, natural areas, wilderness areas and water access points.

I'll have a detailed story on this next week — no sooner because the state is still working out the details. 

State Parks managers are meeting Thursday to work out some kinks — such as whether the pass will be required for users of Mount Spokane State park's alpine ski area.

It's a work in progress, state parks officials told me today.  Information and purchasing options will evolve on the special website dedicated to the pass.

Meantime, the pass — the sole source of income for Washington State Parks and a key income source for DNR and Fish and Wildlife lands — can be purchased online through the Discover Pass website or anywhere hunting or fishing licenses are sold.

Experienced Olympia climber assumed dead after fall on Rainier

MOUNTAINEERING — A search for an ailing climber left high on Washington’s Mount Rainier was suspended late Tuesday due to strong winds and evidence that he likely fell 2,000 feet, the Associated Press reports. 

National Park spokeswoman Lisa Lombard told The News Tribune of Tacoma that Rob Plankers, 50, of Olympia, would not have been able to survive such a fall.

An aerial search showed a 2,000-foot slide path leading down a steep ice-and-snow-covered slope from the point where Plankers was last seen, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said. The aerial search found no sign of the man, although ground searchers found some of his equipment where his companions left him, at 13,600 feet on the 14,411-foot mountain. 

The operation “is now considered a body recovery,” Wold said in a statement. 

Read on for details.

‘State of Our Trails’ program set for Thursday

TRAILS– Efforts to maintain and develop some of the region’s standout trails will be presented at the annual “state of our trails” program organized by the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition Thursday, 6 p.m., at Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield in Spokane Valley.  (See map)

Groups and agencies will share information on what’s happening at Mount Spokane and Riverside state parks, Spokane County Parks and Conservation Futures areas, Spokane city parks and the Fish Lake rail trail.

Get a summary on area bicycle trails and river trails as well as the effort to secure a “Dream Trail” through the entire Dishman Hills area to the Iller Creek and Rocks of Sharon conservation areas.

Washington Trails Association members will update on volunteer trail work to improve routes in Iller Creek, Liberty Lake and the Colville National Forest.

Read on for a detailed list of the trails to be covered.

49 Degrees North plans another expansion

SKIING — Owners of 49 Degrees North have announced plans for another major expansion, with a double chair on Angel Peak and construction of a mid-mountain lodge in time for the 2012-2013 ski and snowboard season.

Continue on to read detals from the media release issued Tuesday.

Backcountry skiers monitoring Lookout Pass ski expansion plans

SKIING — Members of the Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition are scheduled to meet in Wallace today with snowmobiling representatives.  They plan to discuss ways to prevent conflicts between motorized and  non-motorized users of the winter backcountry around the mountain and winter powder haven near the Montana-Idaho border.

If they can come together on a plan, they'll present it to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

The coalition also is monitoring proposals to expand Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area, another possible degradation to the area's backcountry experience.

The Spokesman-Review published this story in September regarding Lookout's $20 million expansion proposal.

The Shoshone News Press followed in November with  this report.

The Spokesman-Review's ski columnist Bill Jennings posted this story in November.

The Shoshone News Press reported last week that Jennings has been hired by Lookout Pass as its public relations director.   The article quotes Edholm as saying, “Planning for the first phase of a future expansion of the ski area to two additional peaks has been accepted by the U.S. Forest Service.”

The Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition disagrees: “This is a misleading statement because it implies that the Forest Service has approved the plan already,” says a post on the SPBC website. “Actually the NEPA process has not even begun.”

The group says it's working to keep the Stevens Peak backcountry including the area south of the St. Regis drainage undeveloped in order to preserve opportunities for backcountry skiing and snowboarding and for snowshoeing.

Fur Trade Encampment at Riverside State Park

LIVING HISTORY — Flint and steel firemaking, open-fire cooking, flintlock shooting and even a cannon salute  will generate smoke and cheers at Riverside State Park this weekend.

The annual Fur Trade Encampment will return the Spokane House Interpretive site to the 1810-1825 period when traders, voyageurs, trappers and Indians gathered to do business and celebrate.

The free event runs Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.,features history buffs in period clothing demonstrating period skills.

See the Friends of the Spokane House website for details.

Also this weekend:  David Thompson Brigade offers chance to ride in voyageur canoes along Columbia River.  Check it out here.

How to crate-train your hunting dog

DOGS — The portable dog crates hunters use to transport their canine companions to the field also are excellent tools for house-breaking pups and new dogs and quickly bringing them into the family — so you can get a full night's sleep!

The following training tip, courtesy of the Outdoor Wire, is by pro trainer Ethan Pippitt of Willow Creek Kennels in Little Falls, Minn. 

Some dog owners view crate training as unnecessary, too difficult or time consuming to try, or even unnatural for the dog.

But Pippitt says a look back to the origin of dogs suggests that crate training is as natural as it gets.

Read on for the details and the step-by-step process.

Biological weed control workshop offered

WILD LANDS — A workshop on controlling weeds on private lands with biological agents is set for June 23 at Mirabeau Park in Spokane Valley offered Spokane County-WSU Extension.
 
Cost is $20. Preregistration required.
 
Read on for details.

“Bears and Beers:” living with wildlife talk in Sandpoint

WILDLIFE — Bonner County logged 770 complaints about bears last year — 740 more than any other county in Idaho.

Question is: Does North Idaho have a bear problem, or a problem with human habits in bear country?

Explore the issue while sipping a brew on Thursday during a free after-work presentation starting at 5:30 p.m. at Ivano’s Wine and Martini Bar in Sandpoint. 

“Bears and Beers – Living with Wildlife,” a talk on coexisting peacefully with bears and other wildlife will be presented by Becky Haag, Idaho Department of Fish and Game environmental biologist.

Haag will discuss the current status of bears in the area and give tips on how to bear-proof homes and campsites.

This is the first in a series of Idaho Conservation League’s After Hours discussions.  Info: (208) 265-9565.

Read on for more about North Idaho bears.
  

South Hill bluff vandal makes Doo Crew do double doo-tee

TRAILS — It's bad enough that a small group of people — they call themselves the Doo Crew — must step up to deal with the proliferation of dog poop along the South Hill bluff trails.
 
But now these volunteers have to deal with the chicken sh… excuse me, the chicken pooper who's ripping down their dog-poo bags and disposal buckets and throwing them down the bluff.
 
Certainly there's room for debate on how to handle the problem of people enjoying the trails without taking the responsibility of picking up after their dogs.  If you have a concern, or if you want to help deal with the problem, contact the Crew directly by email:  Dogdooduty@yahoo.com
 
Indeed, the women who've stepped up to address the problem don't relish putting out bags and emptying the several collection buckets they've put out along the High Drive portion of the trails.
 
As my story pointed out in May, they want to clean up the place while raising awareness with the hope that users soon will doo the job themselves.   And as everyone can see and smell, it's been working. As one Doo-Crewer told me, “The baby step was to have people pick it up themselves; the next step is to have them actually carry it home.”
 
But someone who's not mature enough to step up and work out a solution is tearing down the bag holders and throwing the buckets and collected plastic doo bags down the hill.  Brilliant!
 
Read on for the this week's report from a discouraged Doo Crewer:

Dads get free ride this weekend on ROW rafting trips

RIVER RUNNING — Here's a last-minute deal dad will like better than a wet kiss.

ROW Adventures is offering a Father's Day weekend special:  bring two people at the regular rate and Dad goes free! Bring four people and  Mom or grandpa can go free, too.

Read on for the river choices — whitewater or not-so-whitewater:
  

Muckleshoot Tribe’s hunting access to DNR land investigated

PUBLIC LANDS — Internet chat rooms were buzzing today with charges that  the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe was given access to otherwise closed state lands in Western Washington in order to harvest black bears.

Officially unconfirmed reports say tribal members were hunting with hounds and/or bait — means that are illegal in Washington without the approval of the Legislature.

Department of Natural Resources spokesman Bryan Flint said the agency's Olympia headquarters was alerted to the issue just today.  At 5:10 p.m., he said he still didn't have enough details to address the controversy beyond the following statement (which doesn't confirm or deny much, but seems to indicate that somebody's headed for the wood shed):

“DNR does  not issuing permits for a bear hunt.  That's not our role or jurisdiction.

“We don’t have a policy of giving access to tribes that others don’t have. 

“It has come to our attention that the Muckleshoot Tribe was given keys by the South Puget Sound Region (officials) to gated (DNR) land in the Green River watershed for puroposes of wildlife management.   We are investigating to find out how this happened and why.

“(Headquarters staff) has no knowledge of what activities took place.”

Canoe Classic moves from Spokane River to flatwater

PADDLING — The annual Spokane River Canoe Classic, normally set on its namesake stream, has been moved to Liberty Lake this year because of the dangerously high river flows.
 
The event is set for Saturday, beginning with registration at 9 a.m. followed by the race start at 11 a.m. at Liberty Lake County Park. The race will be followed by a free post-race barbecue, said Phil Bridgers of Mountain Gear, which has sponsored the event for more than two decades.
 
Paddlers in canoe and kayaks will have a choice of paddling one or two loops on a course to be set up on the lake, Bridgers said.
 
Known for awarding plenty of ribbons in various divisions as well as for lottery prize drawings, the classic is a popular way for families to kick off their Fathers Day weekend.
 
Cost: $20 a person.
 
To preregister, download a form.
 
Info: Mountain Gear, 325-9000.
See a slide show from a few years ago when the event was held on its normal route from Corbin Park in Post Falls downstream to Plante's Ferry Park.

Sign up for Meet Me at the (Spokane) River raft trips

RIVER RUNNING — I received rave reviews from people who participated in last weekend's Meet Me at The River raft trips on the Spokane River.

These trips are being organized through the summer by the Spokane River Forum to introduce residents to the wonders of the Spokane River running through our city.

Participants last weekend got a good taste of whitewater throught he Bowl and Pitcher and Devil's Toenail, but the also were treated to a guided tour of Spokane's sewage treatment plant and were given a very cool atlas of the region's aquifer upon completion of the trip.

Best to sign up now!

Other trips scheduled through summer will involve paddling sea kayaks on calmer stretches of the river.

Trust me, the modest price is a BIG bargain and the offer is a BIG opportunity.

Read on for more details about the trips.

Dogs dogging runners near Dishman Hills

PROWLING DOGS — Two free-running dogs have been harassing hikers and runners near the Dishman Hills Natural Area.

Animal Control has had multiple reports.

One of the dogs is a pit bull or pit bull mix; the other is undetermined. Both dogs have collars and tags.

Meantime, all three of the dogs that have been killing pets and livestock in Stevens County for weeks— not to mention untold wildlife — have been dispatched.

Fat-tire riders organize trail building in North Idaho

CYCLING — the Pend Oreille Pedalers are working with the Bonners Ferry Ranger District's trail crew to build a new mountain bike trail at Brush Lake about 20 miles north of Bonners Ferry on Highway 95.
 
The new trail at Brush Lake will add a low elevation option to an area that is already rich with some of the best high elevation single-track in North Idaho, said John Monks, local organizer.
 
(Classics include the Sidehill Trail, the Danquist Trail, Rutledge Trail to Queen Lake.)
 
“Come on up for the day on Sunday and help build some trail, have a picnic, learn about a great riding area, and do some riding,” Monks said.

Details:
 
Meet June 19 in Bonners Ferry at the northwest corner of the “Big R” (formerly K-mart) parking lot at 7:45 a.m.
 
The group will carpool from there. Bring gloves, water, snacks, riding gear, bicycle (of course!) and clothing appropriate for the weather.
 
“We'll meet up with the USFS crew at Brush Lake at 9 a.m., build trail until noonish, then have a barbecue lunch with the USFS cooking up hamburgers,” Monks said.
 
Info: John Monks, (209) 290-2857.

Hostels open in Kellogg, Boise

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — Two hostels have opened in Idaho this season, including one in the Silver Valley that's convenient to the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. Hostels are ideal for bicycle tourists.

Closed for years, Kellogg's historic McKinley Inn is back open, resurrected as a hostel.  Guests can find a bed for as little as $25 a night.  The building has been spruced up to offer hostel-style bunk beds in shared rooms and private rooms, turning the historic landmark, complete with some original 1920s-era mementos, into a thrifty place to spend the night. 

In the heart of downtown Boise, Idahostel is centrally located near many fun and interesting sites and activities in the city. It is a clean, safe, and quiet facility within walking distance of restaurants, shops, attractions and services in downtown.

Obama nominates American Rivers CEO for Interior post

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Rebecca Wodder, the chief executive officer of the conservation group American Rivers since 2005, has been nominated by President Obama to replace Tom Strickland as the Interior Department's assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, according to a New York Times report.

 Strickland left the post in January for a position in the private sector.
  

Idaho Panhandle Resource Advisory Committee meets Friday

NATIONAL FORESTS — The Idaho Panhandle Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) will meet Friday, 9 a.m. in Coeur d’Alene to review and distribute approximately $690,000 in funding for natural resource projects in 2012.

The meeting will be held at the Idaho Panhandle National Forests Supervisor’s Office, 3815 Schreiber Way. The RAC will distribute approximately $690,000 in funding for natural resource projects in 2012.

A public forum is set for 11 a.m. -11:30 a.m. 

The RAC works closely with the Forest Service to recommend projects that will benefit forest health, fish, wildlife, soils, watersheds and other resources; maintain roads, trails and other infrastructure; or control noxious weeds.

Read on for details.

They should have been wearing lifejackets while reading the S-R

IN THE FIELD — Some editors like to feature photos of readers showing off their publications while vacationing in exotic places.

But here at The Spokesman-Review, we like to see people reading the paper close to home, and offering news tips at the same time.

In this photo, Kent Larson and his daughter, Ramsey, pore over the paper — or should that be pour over the news — during a Centennial Trail cruise near Avista headquarters. 

The news:   The Spokane River is still running a bit high.

The question:  Isn't it illegal to be reading the paper in the Spokane River without wearing a PFD?

Bald eagles pound Columbia terns, boost salmon

 WILDLIFE — Harassed in recent weeks by bald eagles, the world’s largest Caspian tern colony for the past decade “collapsed entirely” last week with the last of some 5,000 nests plundered, according to a report in the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

The constant hunting pressure from the eagles scared terns off their nests so much they were unable to raise their young.

The lower Columbia River island’s double crested cormorant colony, which is also believed to be the world’s largest, has also been besieged this spring by bald eagles, peregrine falcons and great horned owls.

The research updates are posted on Bird Research Northwest’s web site:

The level of “disturbance” caused by the bald eagles is unprecedented, according to researchers who have been monitoring the island since the late 1990s.

The tern colony has grown significantly since it was first documented in 1984 taking advantage of unnatural islands created by dredging.

The terns soon became a new major consumer of salmon and steelhead smolts.

The fields are pulsing with little critters

WILDLIFE — Deer were dropping their fawns in the last week of May.  The four robin chicks jumped out of their nest behind our house on Saturday and have been hopping around the house all weekend.

A couple of hikes in Lincoln County Sunday revealed more little critters.  A hen turkey flattened to the ground as though her legs had vanished when I rounded a bend on the trail at Twin Lakes.  When she realized I was still coming, she wheeled around and started trotting away. I knew she had chicks nearby, but was surprised to see about eight of them flush from behind her — the size of quail and they flew very well up into a stand of aspens.

Then the hen circled around and gave me hell from a distance of about 10 feet.

I was outta there. 

Later in the day, while hiking down Crab Creek, I spotted at least two broods of mallards and two teal broods.  Parents did a good job of broken-wing decoying (top photo) to keep me moving down the trail and away from the ducklings that quickly hid in the shoreline grass.

In the turkey photo, above left, notice the chick flying above, and the one behind the hen on the ground getting ready to flush and fly strongly.

Get update on Big Rock access, Dishman Hills Dream Trail tonight

CONSERVATION — The Dream Trail Project through the Dishman Hills as well as the public parking issue – the sheriff’s writing tickets – at the Big Rock Conservation Area north of Stevens Creek Road near Tower Mountain will be discussed by members of the Dishman Hills Alliance in a program tonight, 6:30 p.m. at REI.

Ferry Country Rail Trail gets $17K windfall from Vedder’s uke

TRAILS — Today is a grand day for trails in northeastern Washington. In fact, it's a 17 Grand day.

The final eBay bid in the auction that ended today  was $17,100 for the ukulele Eddie Vedder has donated to the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners.

The gift from the Pearl Jam star will be a huge boost for the group that's trying to develop the abandoned railway trail that runs 25-miles from Republic along the Kettle River and Curlew Lake to the Canada border.

“Developing this trail has become a priority for a community that finds itself in the midst of both an economic and a public health crisis,” said Bob Whittaker, head of the rail-trail group who made the contact with Vedder. “Without question, a completed world class rail trail facility can be a big part of the long term solution specifically for these two issues.

“Eddie just called me to congratulate us, say that he was happy to be a part of it and wish Ferry County luck with its 30-mile rail trail project…  Big thank you to Eddie, Pearl Jam and the whole PJ management team for helping our community!”

The trail has it all: tunnels, a trestle across the north end of Curlew Lake, access to a state park and campgrounds, miles of tranquility along the river, a swimming beach and access to food, coffee and goodies in Curlew — and  safe way for local kids to commute to school and neighbors.  

For details, check out my story on the grass roots effort to push through the controversies and polish this gem in the rough.

Meantime, hats off to Vedder and all who made the auction possible. In the attached letter Vedder says the ukulele was used during the recording of his new solo album Ukulele Songs.


Documents:

Snakes alive! Rattlers, bull snakes on local trails

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I've had the pleasure of seeing snakes on at least a dozen of my area hikes in the last month. Most of them were large but harmless bull snakes — no rattles at the end of the tail — but three were rattlers, which also are mostly harmless unless you try to play with them.

I saw the bull snakes in Riverside State Park, the Centennial Trail, Little Spokane River, Fishtrap Lake and Hog Canyon Lake. 

I came across the rattlesnakes along the Snake River and at Steamboat Rock State Park. One rattler at Escure Ranch had been killed.   I prefer not to kill rattlesnakes.  While poisonous if provoked, they do far more good than harm.

Bull snakes, also known as gopher snakes, are among the largest and most often seen snakes in this area.  It's not unusual to see them sunning along the Centennial Trail, where I once saw a red-tailed hawk swoop down and fly away with a bull snake writhing it its talons.

An alarmed bull snake sometimes tries to take on a scary rattler persona by coiling and  vibrating its tail. It can even make a bit of a rattling sound without a rattle. And it's especially scary when it starts hissing.

Bull snakes and rattlers alike eat large numbers of rodents, although they also take a small toll on ducklings.

Festivities celebrate David Thompson’s Columbia canoe journey

NATIONAL PARKS — To celebrate the bicentennial of fur trader David Thompson’s journey down the length of the Columbia River, a series of programs is being organized this month at the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

More than 100 hardy adventurers will paddle 50 foot voyageur canoes along the route surveyed by Thompson, who penned the first complete maps of the region. The canoe voyage is organized by the David Thompson Columbia Canoe Brigade.

The stops include old fur trading settlements such as Fort Colville, Fort Okanogan, Fort Vancouver and Fort Astoria/Fort George at the mouth of the Columbia.

Events are being planned in communities along the paddlers’ route. Among them:

June 17-18, at Kettle Falls Historical Center – Presentation by author/historian Jack Nisbet, canoe races and rides, small fur trade encampment and birch bark canoe building demonstrations.

The George Sibley film “Shadows of David Thompson” will be shown.

All-you-can-eat breakfast, served by the American Legion, starts at 7 a.m. June 18 at the Historical Center. Cost: $4.

Free rides in the voyageur canoes will be offered by The Brigade at:

  • Keller Ferry Campground, 4 p.m.-6 p.m. on June 21.
  • Spring Canyon Campground, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. on June 22.

Cyclists rule on Glacier’s Going to the Sun Road

NATIONAL PARKS —  While road crews are still churning through 20-foot deep snow drifts toward Logan Pass in the upper sections of Glacier National Park's Going to the Sun Road, bicyclists are having a great time riding the motor-vehicle-free lower reaches of the fabled park road.

Park officials say they still can't predict when the road will be opened over Logan Pass for vehicles.

Meantime, cyclists rule!

Landslide strands hikers up Icicle Creek

NATIONAL FORESTS — A series of mudslides todayoccurred mid-morning have blocked the upper Icicle Road west of Leavenworth, stranding about 30 hikers and campers, Wenatchee National Forest officials report.

Slides as wide as 40 feet occurred near Fourth of July Trail and Fourth of July Creek.

Chelan County Sheriffs Office of Emergency Management and Forest Service personnel have not been able to access the area becasue of continued landslides.

“Luckily, no one is injured or in distress,” said Wenatchee River District Ranger Jeff Rivera.

Read on for details of the road closures:

Blackwell Island boat ramp reopens on Lake CdA

BOATING — The Blackwell Island public boat launch was reopened Friday as water levels on Lake Coeur d’Alene continued to drop, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced.

Based on new stream flow predicitions, the launch facility should remain open for the season, said Kurt Pindel, BLM Outdoor recreation planner.

The launch was closed on May 27 after being inundated with 2 feet of water as runoff poured into the lake.

Other Lake Coeur d'Alene facilities affected by the high water included BLM’s Windy Bay site, Mica Bay Boater Park, Killarney Boat Launch and Huckleberry Campground.  Pindel said all sites have been reopened.

Idaho plans wolf trapping in addition to hunting

PREDATORS — Plans for a wolf trapping season are being drafted in addition to the wolf hunting season scheduled to open this fall in the Idaho Panhandle.

“Two years ago, hunters took 27 wolves legally in the Panhandle Region during the hunting Sept. 1-March 31 hunting season,” said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department Panhandle Region wildlife manager. “We need to take significantly more than that this fall.”

Hunters cannot kill enough of the elusive wolves to bring the wolf population down to management goals, Hayden said.

A lawsuit canceled last year’s scheduled wolf season, allowing wolf packs to growl larger and have an even greater impact on elk herds, he said.

 “We’re only in the initial stages of putting together proposals,” Hayden said Friday.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is scheduled to set fall hunting and trapping seasons for wolves at its  July 27-29 meeting in Salmon.

Whitewater groups to meet for ‘megaloads’ update

RIVERS — Idaho Rivers United and other groups are organizing a party and meeting to address the 'megaloads' industrial trucking operations using Highway 12 and the Lochsa-Clearwater river corridor.
  

When: 5 p.m., June 18.
Where: The Syringa Cafe at the River Dance Lodge on the banks of the Clearwater River. Click here for driving directions.
Cost: Free, appetizers and a no-host beer and wine bar provided. (Dinner available at the café for an extra charge.)

  

Bicyclists meet to sort out regional projects

BICYCLING — The Bicycle Alliance is bringing its Hub & Spoke outreach tour to Spokane, and the group is inviting area cyclists to meet up at the Steam Plant Grill at 5:30 p.m. on June 23. 
 
The group plans to discuss how cyclists fared in Washington's legislative session and update cyclists on the Alliance's current projects. The group also want to hear what’s on the minds of local cyclists. 
 
Light appetizers will be provided, cash bar available. 
 
RSVP to Louise McGrody or to the event posted on the Alliance's  Facebook page by June 13 if you plan to attend. 

Chapman Lake stocked with fish but closed to public

FISHING– Public access to Chapman Lake south of Cheney continues to be blocked by a gate at the Chapman Lake Resort.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department stocked the lake with about 100,000 small kokanee fry last year plus 7,500 catchable-sized rainbow trout and 50 larger rainbows this spring in anticipation of the public being allowed to use the lake, the state hatchery plan shows.

“After the fish were stocked, family members said they were having some difficulties and said they wouldn’t be able to open the resort,” said John Whalen, WDFW regional fisheries manager. “We’ve heard that they’ve selectively let a few people in.”

If a long-term agreement for public access can’t be worked out, the state will have to discontinue stocking fish, he said.

Although there’s state land at one end of the lake, developing a public access would be years down the road, he said.

Lake Roosevelt net-pen trout freed prematurely

FISHING– This year’s late runoff and deep drawdown at Lake Roosevelt has delivered a double whammy to trout and kokanee anglers.

The prolonged increased flows and the reservoir’s low water levels likely have flushed significant numbers of carryover trout over Grand Coulee Dam, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fish managers say.

And starting in mid-May, the upcoming crop of young rainbows had to be released prematurely as they were dying in their net pens.

Normally the fish are raised in the net pens until spring runoff is under control and the reservoir has filled to within 10 feet or so of full pool, said Chris Donley, district fish biologist.

But the prolonged low water levels apparently stressed the 8-inch-long trout by reducing the room they had in the net pens, Donley said.

“The protocol is to release them if we’re losing more than 2 percent of the fish a day,” he said. “They went out a little undersized, but not sick, so at least the have a chance.”

Anglers trolling the surface have been hooking the young fish. But many have been seen dead along the shores and even more are expected to be flushed out of the system.

“Our expectation is that catch rates will be much lower for the rest of the year,” Donley said, noting that a gentle runoff last year promoted excellent trout fishing that continued through the winter and spring.

“But I’m cautiously optimistic because we’ve been surprised before. You never know for sure.”

Most state offices closed Friday for furloughs

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Friday will be another furlough day for many Washington state employees.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department employees and offices are included, except that fish and wildlife police officers  and other enforcement officers statewide are exempt.

Friday is the last of 10 unpaid days in the current budget period to cut state spending for employees.  

BLM reveals wilderness plans for Idaho’s Owyhee County

WILDERNESS — The Bureau of Land Management is taking public comment through June 29 on its Wilderness and Wild & Scenic River Management Plan being developed for the six wilderness areas and 16 wild and scenic river segments designated in Idaho's Owyhee County by the Omnibus Public Land Management Act in 2009.

See the Twin Falls Times-News story

Scotchman friends honor shutterbugs on hikes

HIKING — The annual summer series of group hikes organized by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will is giving participants something to focus on besides exploring potential wilderness areas in the Cabinet Mountains northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.
 
Each volunteer-led hike has its own photo contest. The winning photographer will receive an item of their choice from the group's merchandise selection of nifty hats, bandannas or t-shirts. Each hike's winning photo will be entered into a season ending grand prize selected by popular vote.
 
The second of 15 hikes the group is offering this summer is June 18.
 
Three cooperative trail work projects coordinated with the Forest Service are scheduled.

In addition, the friends group is offering two hiking workshops with author, naturalist and historian Jack Nisbet.

The group hikes are geared to exposing the public to the rugged and scenic 88,000-acre roadless area the group is proposing for wilderness designation. The area straddles the Idaho-Montana border northeast of Clark Fork, Idaho, and ranges into Montana.

Next hike:  June 18, 'Practice Mountain'

Distance, 4 miles round trip. Elevation gain 800 feet.

An easy-to-moderate  hike begins along closed forest roads up Fatman Mountain and transitions to off-trail near the top for an easy scramble to the peak and views of the Clark Fork river valley as well as the Star Peak/Billiard Table ridge. A gentle descent brings hikers to an incredible view of Clayton Peak, Sawtooth Mountain and the east fork of Blue Creek.

Contact: Holly Clements    hclements26@yahoo.com 208-290-3420, or sandy@scotchmanpeaks.org     208-290-1281.

Loose dogs killing livestock in Stevens County

PREDATORS — Stevens County officials have ranted about wolves and endorsed a coyote hunting contest, but free-running dogs are making the headlines for destruction to livestock and pets.

According to the Association Press, after the latest attack by a pack of wild dogs killed a 350-pound llama at Deer Park, the Stevens County sheriff's office is warning residents in the southern part of the county to protect their animals and families.

Deputy Keith Cochran told KXLY they are concerned because the dogs are cruel and bloodthirsty and killing for fun.

Since the end of March, there have been at least 15 attacks that have killed more than 100 animals. Dogs killed a number of goats last week and the llama on Tuesday night.

One resident, Temma Davis, says neighbors are worried about kids getting off school buses or riding their bikes.

The animal attacks have happened at night, but people say they are starting to see dogs in the early morning.

Washington halibut anglers get one more day: June 16

OCEAN FISHING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced it will reopen the recreational halibut fishery in Marine Areas 3 and 4 (Neah Bay and La Push) to recreational halibut fishing for one day on June 16.

Grizzly 399 parades another crop of cubs in Tetons

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Grand Teton National Park’s most famous grizzly bear — dubbed 399 by researchers — is once again roaming the roadsides around Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, and again with three new cubs at her heels.

The Jackson Hole News reports
that starting in 2006, grizzly 399 raised three cubs within sight of roads in the Oxbow Bend, Willow Flats and Jackson Lake Lodge area of the park, delighting visitors and providing numerous opportunities for photographers. Researchers say 399 is about 15 years old.

The 399 sightings last weekend come after one of those 2006 cubs, 399’s 5-year-old daughter 610, was spotted last week with two cubs of her own. She was just a few miles away from her mother near Signal Mountain and the Potholes area.

“It’s incredible,” said photographer Tom Mangelsen, who operates Mangelsen-Images of Nature Gallery in Jackson. “Especially with three cubs again. She must be really fertile and healthy. It was a nice surprise.”

That 399 and 610 are raising their cubs so close to each other is exciting but not surprising, Grand Teton National Park senior wildlife biologist Steve Cain said.

“We know during years when neither of them had cubs, their home ranges overlapped significantly,” Cain said.

Kayakers head for more HydroTherapy at Dead Dog Hole

KAYAKING — An informal group of kayakers once again plans to share playboating fun and know-how in a HydroTherapy session, tonight starting about 5:30 p.m. at Dead Dog (below the bridge construction site on the Stateline).

 
HydroTherapy sessions are free, grassroots, learning events for kayakers of all skill levels and ages, structured and judged like a competition. Prizes.
 
Another session is scheduled for June 23.

Weather forces road closures on Panhandle forests

PUBLIC LANDS — As the snow slowly recedes in the mountains, forest managers are discovering more and more roads damaged by the big snowpack and runoff.

Idaho Panhandle National Forest officials say many roads that are open have soft shoulders that can be dangerous to vehicles going too fast or getting too close to the edges.

Clearwater National Forest officials report that many main roads are still closed, including the Deception Pass portion of Road 255 and Moose City — the access many Inland Northwesters use to reach the Kelly Creek area.

Many of the access roads to the national forests have had slides and slumps. Some roads are closed and other temporary closures can be expected through much of the summer as crews respond to problems, officials said.

Information also is available from IPNF local Forest Service offices.

Read on  for a  press release on Clearwater National Forest road and trail conditions.

Don’t be creeped out by ticks; be proactive

CREEPY CRITTERS — With a local girl being diagnosied with Rocky Mountain spotted fever, it's worthwhile for outdoors enthusiasts to reup our precautions against tick bites.

Following is my Thursday column on ticks and precautions against tick bites.  However, the following blog version includes numerous links for more information about tick-borne diseases, treatments and precautions.

Read on to check it out.

Twisp family indicted for killing Methow wolves

ENDANGERED SPECIES —A federal grand jury has indicted a Twisp, Wash., man for illegally killing two wolves near his property and trying to ship one of the pelts to Canada.

After Tom D. White shot the wolves, his father told a Canadian tanner that he had “a really big coyote” skin for processing, according to the indictment.

The indictment lists Tom White; his father, William D. White; and Tom White’s wife, Erin J. White, who is accused of using a false name to try to ship the package containing the wolf pelt to Alberta in December, 2008.

Read more from today's S-R story by Becky Kramer.

The Methow Valley News broke the story about the alleged killing of the Endangered Species Act-listed animals this morning.

Here's the story from the Seattle Times.

More deails and background recently was posted by Northwest Sportsman Magazine.

Clearwater, Snake rivers flirt with flood stage

RIVERS — Gathering snow melt fueled by a handful of sunny days will push the Clearwater River into flood stage at Orofino today, according to the Northwest River Forecast Center.

The Snake River south of Asotin and the South Fork of the Clearwater River at Stites are also predicted to flirt with flood stage today as abundant snowpack gives way to warming temperatures and spring showers.

Officials in Clearwater County are preparing for flooding of low-lying areas but do not expect significant damage.

Read on for details from the Lewiston Tribune.

Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Spokane

FISHERIES — Although the group is a bit off our inland radar, the Pacific Fishery Management Council and its advisory bodies are making important decisions that affect our ocean fisheries and the returns of salmon and steelhead to our inland waters. 

And the group is deliberating and hearing presentations in public meetings right here in Spokane this week.

The council's meeting started Monday and runs through the weekend ending next Monday at the DoubleTree Hotel Spokane City Center, 322 N. Spokane Falls Ct., to address issues related to salmon, groundfish, coastal pelagic species, highly migratory species and habitat matters.

One key decision will be whether to move ahead with ecosystem management on ocean fisheries, says Erik Robinson of the Pew Environment Group.

Conserving forage fish is an emerging topic, with a California forage fish protection law that just passed out of the Assembly last week, and newly published research on forage fish is catching attention.  

Read on for more agenda items and details.

Clark Fork River a foot over flood stage

RIVERS — The Clark Fork River was a foot over flood stage in Missoula on Tuesday, the Missoulian reports.

The Montana river was predicted to rise another couple of feet by Thursday as rainfall and snowmelt increased flows.

This isn't good news for anglers with an itch to get out for traditional June hatches.

Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop fishing report:

Rock Creek is unfishable, and that's probably an understatement.  Look for it to get bigger with the rain and warm weather we are supposed to get at the end of the week.  We might just have to day dream about salmonflies this year.   

Most of Western Montana and parts of Idaho are under flood warnings.
  

Free national forest access Saturday

PUBLIC LANDS – Saturday will be a thrifty time to visit Washington and Oregon national forests that require an access pass for popular recreation sites.

In honor of “Get Outdoors Day,” the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service will waive the fees at sites that normally require a recreaction access pass.  

The passes come in various forms:  a $5 fee per vehicle or recreation pass, such as the Northwest Forest Pass, Interagency Annual Pass, Interagency Senior Pass, Interagency Access Pass, Golden Age, or Golden Access Passport.

More upcoming Free Days include:

  • National Public Lands Day – Sept. 24
  • Veterans Day – Nov. 11

Writer examines who’s taking a bead on Washington wolves

WILDLIFE — Northwest Sporsman Magazine editor Andy Walgamott has written a lengthy and informative story rounding up personalities, issues and process involved with wolves moving into Washington.

From the the notes of a man who's been monitoring the Lookout Pack in northcentral Washington to the poachers and BBC camera crews, Walgamott's story and links are worth checking out for people interested in the continuing saga of the state's wolf management plan.

Summary: A camera crew finds few wolf survivors as poaching and underrecognized habitat issues take a toll on Washington's first pack in 70 years.

Boaters asked to lead effort on zebra mussels

BOATING — Idaho has set up 15 roadside invasive species boat inspection stations, including five in the Panhandle. The goal is to prevent the state-by-state spread of exotic zebra and quagga mussels.

People transporting a watercraft near boat inspection stations are required to stop.

When going to any different water, remember to Clean, Drain, and Dry your boat.

For more info on boat inspections nationwide, click above to check out the just-released video from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

First steelhead lead 2011 run over Lower Granite Dam

FISHING — On June 5, two steelhead that had run up the Columbia River and into the Snake made their way up and over Lower Granite Dam. They are the harbingers of  a good steelhead season that anglers will start targeting this summer.

The steelhead run is beginning to spike over Bonneville Dam, about two weeks later than last year.

Route of the Hiawatha rail trail to open Saturday

BICYCLING – The Route of the Hiawatha near Lookout Pass will open Saturday for its 14th season, officials confirmed today.

 Lookout Pass Ski Area coordinates bus shuttles and bicycle rentals for the popular 15-mile rail trail that straddles the Montana-Idaho border.

The trail opened three weeks earlier last year when the mountains were not so loaded with snow.

The trail, which includes 10 tunnels and seven trestles as high as 230 feet, attracts visitors from around the world.

Crews have been working to clear snow from the trailhead at the east portal of the Taft Tunnel, which is the highest point of Route of the Hiawatha at 4,147 feet.

For details and bike rentals, call (208) 744-1301 or visit www.skilookout.com.

Read on for more details.

Mount Spokane still mostly for skiers

STATE PARKS — Bare spots are yet to show through the snow covering the nordic ski trails at Mount Spokane, says Cris Currie of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park.

“There's debris all over the snow, but you can still ski and glide, and the skiing on the downhill ski area slopes continues to be great,” he said.

Just in case you were wondering.

North Cascades hikers limited by snow

BACKPACKING — A group of Western Washington University students found plenty of snow-free landscape for backpacking and camping up the Stehekin Valley from Lake Chelan last week.

Portions of the Pacific Crest Trail in North Cascades National Park were snow-free and easy cruising, they said. 

But as the photo above shows, they didn't have to go too high to find snow still clogging the routes.

Be patient out there.

Imnaha wolf pack strikes again on livestock

PREDATORS — After the Imnaha pack in northeastern Oregon was implicated in another loss of livestock, state officials have ordered another wolf removed from the pack.

That will make three down from Oregon's first confirmed breeding pack in the past few weeks.

Two wolves from that pack were killed last month in what wildlife managers had hoped would be a deterrent to their livestock-killing ways.
  

Big Horn’s big water year drowning dry fly action

FLY FISHING — Thanks to a year's worth of rain in May and loads of snowpack remaining in the mountains, flows will be high and steady through the end of July on the Bighorn River in Montana below Yellowtail Dam.

That's frustrating news for dry-fly fishermen on the popular trout stream.

“When you get hit with a record precipitation event, things can turn around in a hurry,” Dan Jewell, BuRec's Montana area manager, told outdoor reporter Brett French of the Billings Gazette. “The precipitation events were beyond the most probable scenarios you plan for.”

All of that extra water has filled side and back channels of the river, providing more room for the rainbow and brown trout that fuel an estimated $50 million fishing industry.

“In the long run, higher water will benefit the fish,” said Ken Frazer, Fish, Wildlife and Parks fisheries manager in Billings.

Read on for more details from the Gazette story.

Idaho fish rule proposals posted; time to comment

FISHING — Idaho Fish and Game Department officials have posted proposed fishing rule changes on the Fish and Game website or by contacting regional offices. Comments may be entered on the site until July 8.

Clark Fork fish are using new passage past Thompson Falls Dam

FISHERIES —  The new upstream fish ladder at the Thompson Falls Dam and hydropower project in Thompson Falls, Mont., has opened and apparently fish such as bull trout and rainbows have started moving freely past the structure since April.

The fish ladder was completed and dedicated last fall.

The report  comes from GEI Consultants Inc., the firm selected by PPL Montana to provide ecological and engineering services for the project. The story is published today at HydroWorld.com.  

The $7.5 million project
is designed to provide endangered bull trout and other fish varieties unhindered access to hundreds of miles of the upstream Clark Fork River and its tributaries.

Read on for more details.

Learn about fish of Montana’s Fish Creek

FISHING — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks fisheries biologist, Ladd Knotek, will present a free program about the population and health of fish in the Fish Creek drainage on Saturday, 7 p.m., at Big Pine Fishing Access Site Campground.

That's right off I-90 west of Alberton. Take  Exit 66.  Head south to Fish Creek Road and drive 4.5 miles from I-90 to the Big Pine Campground. Bring a lawn chair and dress for a Montana evening.

Fly casting clinics and competition Saturday at Glacier Park

FLY FISHING — The Glacier Outdoor Center is gearing up for the debut of the Glacier Anglers Cast-Off on Saturday with events, programs and free casting clinics scheduled from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in West Glacier, Mont.

Cast-Off 2011 is open and free for all ages and ability levels, but there's a niche for competitive types want to take a shot at qualifying for the All Cast National Fly Casting championships.

Here's the speaker lineup:

  1. Beyond Bugs (Entomology and Ecology): Matt Boyer, FWP & Karsten Carlson
  2. Trout Hunting: Mark Evans, Dylan Freed  from Glacier Anglers Pro Staff
  3. From Nets to Knots: Travis Morris, product rep for Winston, Ross, Lamson and Scientific Angler

Read on for more details.

Shorline-suffocating weed declared vanquished on upper Snake

INVASIVE SPECIES — A program to prevent a noxious weed from establishing itself along the Snake River watershed in northwest Wyoming is being declared a success.

The Jackson Hole Weed Management Association began the project in 2001 after saltcedar — also known as tamarisk — was discovered along the banks of the Snake River near Hoback Junction.  Tamarisk has taken over shorelines of many rivers in Utah with 7-foot talk willow-like forests along the river bottoms.

Over the last 10 years, 125 saltcedar locations were located, mapped and treated.

The effort has kept saltcedar from establishing itself along the Snake River from Jackson Lake dam to Palisades Reservoir. During the 2009 and 2010 surveys, no new saltcedar infestations were located, and all prior infestations showed no new plants.

But program managers tell the Jackson Hole News & Guide that vigilance is needed to prevent infestations by other unwanted plants.

Methow trails group seeks executive director

TRAILS — For the first time in its 33 year history, the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association is hiring a new executive director to lead a group that's developed one of the nation's top cross-country and cycling trail systems and associated events and programs. 

The job is being vacated by Jay Lucas, who's ruddered the organization for three decades.

Based in Winthrop, the northcentral Washington group is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing and promoting environmentally sound recreation on or near the trails in the Methow Valley. The MVSTA trail system includes more than 120 miles of cross country ski trails in the winter months, and is recognized as one of the finest trail systems in North America for nordic skiing, mountain biking, trail running and hiking. 

 Compensation: $45,000 to $60,000 with benefits.  Application deadline: July 15.

Read on for details.

Idaho boosts Clearwater salmon limits

SALMON FISHING — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission today increased the bag limits on adult chinook salmon in the Clearwater River drainage to two per day and six in possession.

The commissioners also set a limited jacks-only season on another section of the upper Salmon River.

Fish and Game fishery managers estimate the numbers of adult chinook heading back to Idaho’s Clearwater drainage to be about twice the preseason estimate.

The increased bag limits are effective immediately on the Clearwater River main stem, the North Fork, South Fork and Middle Fork Clearwater rivers and the Lochsa River.

The statewide season limit remains 20 adult chinook during any 2011 salmon seasons occurring before Sept. 1. All other salmon fishing rules remain the same and are listed in the 2011 Chinook seasons and rules brochure.

The commission set a Chinook fishing season in the upper Salmon River reach near Stanley. The season opens July 9 and closes at the end of fishing on July 17. Fishing hours are from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. MDT.

Trained ears, eyes find numerous bird species at Mount Spokane

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Tim O'Brien of Cheney devoted this morning to a hiking and driving birding forayMount Spokane. While we all enjoy seeing and hearing birds when we head to the state park, it's fascinating to see the detail and diversity trained eyes and ears pick out of the forest and meadows.

Read on for Tim's report and list of species he observed.

Riverside State Park plans forest thinning

STATE PARKS — Preliminary plans to thin some forest areas in Riverside State Park to reduce fire danger and the spread of bark beetle infestations will be presented at a public meeting tonight, 6 p.m., at the Shadle Park Public Library. 

Park officials say the plans will be formalized before work would begin this fall and winter.

Free fishing derby for kids in Asotin County

KID FISHING — The Umatilla National Forest and Asotin County Sportsmen's Association are celebrating National Fishing Week with two kid fishing derbies on the Washington side of th Blue Mountains next weekend.

No fishing license will be needed, but children participating in these events will need to bring their own fishing gear and must be accompanied by an adult.

June 11: West Evans Pond - west of Clarkston on Highway 12.

June 12: Rainbow Lake - 14 miles south of Pomeroy along the Tucannon River Road (Forest Road 47).

Read on for details.

Biologists explains zebra mussel threat

INVASIVE SPECIES — Mike Wilkinson, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department’s aquatic invasive species biologist, will give a free program focusing on the threat of zebra mussels invading the region’s waters on Tuesday, 7 p.m., at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council office, 6116 N. Market St.

License fee dropped, clinics offered on Free Fishing days

FISHING — Saturday is Free Fishing Day in Idaho and Washington will double the pleasure by dropping the general fishing license requirement for both Saturday and Sunday.

While fishing license requirements will be suspended, all other rules, such as limits or tackle restrictions, remain in effect.

Montana has set its free-fishing opportunity for Father's Day weekend, June 18-19.

Idaho is inviting novices to special locations around the state where  equipment will be available to borrow and fishing experts will be on hand to help novice anglers learn fishing basics. All of the locations will be stocked with hatchery rainbow trout prior to the event.

Read on for Idaho Free Fishing Day event locations in this region:

Biologist pegs North Idaho’s top panfishing lakes

FISHING — Here are some of the best bests for catching panfish — perch, crapppie, bluegills — in the Idaho Panhandle, according to Jim Fredericks, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager.

“We have a lot of great lakes for crappies, bluegill, and perch. 

“Probably the best lake in the region for a chance to catch a good mess of all three species is Rose Lake, which consistently produces the largest bluegill (up to 10 inches) in the region. 

“Other great panfish lakes south of Sandpoint include: Twin Lakes, Kelso, Shepherd, and Avondale.

“In the northern part of the region, great panfish lakes are Brush, Dawson, Smith, and Robinson

“Many of these lakes have a two-story fishery, meaning they not only have warm-water fisheries for panfish, pike and bass, but they support good coldwater fisheries for stocked trout and kokanee as well.  Hauser, Hayden, Fernan, and Spirit are great examples.” 

Anglers can look at the Fishing Planner on the IDFG website to help determine where to go.  

Group vows to sue over sewage in Selway River

NATIONAL FORESTS — An environmental group is vowing to sue the Nez Perce National Forest over allegations the agency is allowing undertreated sewage to be discharged into the Selway River and South Fork of the Red River.

Moscow-based Friends of the Clearwater sent letters to forest officials last week alerting them of plans to take the agency to court.

Read on for details.

Stand up paddling opportunities coming this week

PADDLING — Catch the new wave of paddle sports with my Sunday Outdoors feature story about the sport than combines elements of canoeing and surfing.

Then consider signing up for one of the special presentations or classes to be offered in Spokane this week by Seattle Stand up paddling instructor Rob Casey.

Details:

Free stand up paddling presentation at REI

What: Free presentation on stand up paddle boarding, dealing with gear, launching and basic techniques.

Who: By Rob Casey, author of ‘Stand Up Paddling Flatwater to Rivers and Surf’ (pictured).

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

Where: REI, 1125 N. Monroe St.

Sign-up:rei.com/event/22959/session/28402 (space limited)

On-water lessons offered

Author Rob Casey is offering three-hour stand up paddle boarding lessons on local waters Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during his book tour through Spokane.

Class size: five or less

Costs: $80-$100 depending on level

Sign-up: (206) 465-7167, salmonbaypaddle.com

Stand up resources

Spokane: Mountain Gear, 325-9000; moutaingear.com

Coeur d’Alene:Coeur d’Alene Paddle Board Co., (208) 292-4156; cdapaddleboard.com

Missoula: Strongwater, (406) 721-2437; strongwaterkayak.com

Roosevelt level holding at 1,235; water flushing through

FISHING — Lake Roosevelt's water level was1,235 today and it's likely to remain around that level through the weekend as the big season of runoff water flushes through.

But as I went fishing there today, it still seems like you should pack a lunch and extra water for the hike down the Keller boat ramp to the dock.

According to the Lake Roosvelt minimum levels for boat lauching chart, the current water elevation of 1,235 feet meets the minimun needed for five of the lake's 22 boat lauches.

The fishing wasn't bad. Our group of three caught dozens of smallmouth bass, a few walleye and a few trout — sometimes all in the same anchor position

Many boats were headed downstream from Keller to Sawilla Basin.  RV campgrounds were filling fast. 

I haven't got the whole story, but apparently Lake Roosevelt netpen rainbows were released early.  A spinner trolled near the surface would catch 8-9 inchers right and left, so we quit that method.  My comanions had seen many dying young rainbows near shore earlier in the week.

Lake Rufus Woods fish kill may impact anglers

FISHING — The Colville Tribe is saying the recent loss of perhaps a million rainbow trout in commercial net pens downstream from Grand Coulee Dam might scuttle the regular release of net pen trout for anglers in Lake Rufus Woods.

A story in Northwest Sportsman Magazine quotes Colville spokeswoman Sheri Sears as saying the tribe's normal release of 4,000 3- to 4-pounders a month from fall into spring  helps ensure good fishing in some areas of the 50-mile-long reservoir.

“Typically we buy $60,000 worth of triploids from the netpens. This year we probably won’t have those available,” Sears told NSM.

She said tribal managers foresaw the high flows and released their redband rainbow broodstock from the pens.

People are catching fish in a wide range of sizes.

Mount Rainier National Park superintendent leaving

PUBLIC LANDS — The superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park is leaving to become superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park.

Dave Uberuaga (oo-buh-RAH’-guh) told park employees about the move Tuesday in an email.

The News Tribune reports Uberuaga started at Mount Rainier in 1984 and has been superintendent since 2002, except for a year-long stint in 2009 as acting superintendent at Yosemite National Park.

Mount Rainier National Park covers 235,625 arces and has a staff of about 200 people. Grand Canyon National Park covers 1.2 million acres and has 500 staffers.

Seeley Lake trying to rival Methow Valley ski trails

NORDIC SKIING — Seeley Lake, Mont., citizens are slowly sliding into the next phase of a project to transform their small, rural community into a national nordic ski destination they say will rival the Methow Valley's sport trail system, which has around 120 MILES of trails, most of them groomed during winter.

Read the full story that appeared in the Missoulian.

Although Seeley Lake currently has only 15K of groomed trails, a feasibility study conducted by Vermont-based Morton Trails has set out a $4 million path toward nordic nirvana.

Seeley Lake's elevation north of Missoula features snowpack and rolling terrain rival some of the best nordic ski destinations in the country, the consultant said.

Native Plant Society hiking to area attractions

HIKING/NATURE — The Northeast Chapter, Washington Native Plant Society  continues to offer a nifty schedule of field trips that combine hiking with nature observation.

Check them out and consider joining their group, or at least offering a $5 donation should you tag along on a guided hike.

Please confirm with field trip leaders before attending.

Read on for the hikes scheduled for June, including the Liberty Lake field trip set for Saturday.

Video: Helmet cam gets wet look at Lochsa rapids

RIVER RUNNING — Recently I posted a video of the thrills, spills and flips as rafters and catarafters crashed into Lochsa Falls on Memorial Day Weekend.  The video was shot from the roadside pull-out off U.S. Highway 12 among the gallery of people on hand to cheer at the carnage at the famous Idaho whitewater river.

For an on-the-water perspective of three major Lochsa River rapids, check out this helmet cam video by Tony McDonald of Meridian, Idaho. He shot the rapids and the footage on May 14 with the water level at 6.5 feet at Lowell Bridge. 

If you've see the Memorial Day video, you'll know why McDonald “skirted” Lochsa Falls — and why he was on hand to rescue the hapless chaps who didn't. 

St. Joe River roads slowly opening, runoff increases

PUBLIC LANDS — It's still wintery just a fiew miles up the slopes  from the upper St. Joe River valley in any direction, but crews have scraped the debris at least partially off the river road all the way up to Spruce Tree Campground.

Warm weekend weather foercast likely will spike the river flows even higher — and disrupt the fishing that's been surprisingly good recently. 

Read on to see Idaho Fish and Game Department Conservation Officer Jerry Hugo's detailed report on conditions up the Joe and Little North Fork Clearwater as of Thursday.

Yakima River spring chinook fishing opens Friday

SALMON FISHING The Yakima Reservation boundary reach of the Yakima River will open to spring chinook fishing on Friday, the Washington Fish and Wildlfie Department announced this afternoon.

The season is set to run through June 30.

Read on for details.

Free forest access Saturday for Trails Day

PUBLIC LANDS – Saturday is a thrifty time to visit Washington and Oregon national forests that require an access pass for popular recreation sites.

In honor of National Trails Day, the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service will waive the fees at sites that normally require a recreaction access pass.  

The passes come in various forms:  a $5 fee per vehicle or recreation pass, such as the Northwest Forest Pass, Interagency Annual Pass, Interagency Senior Pass, Interagency Access Pass, Golden Age, or Golden Access Passport.

More upcoming Free Days include:

  • National Get Outdoors Day - June 11
  • National Public Lands Day – Sept. 24
  • Veterans Day – Nov. 11

Another way to celebrate National Trails Day would be to join the volunteers in a work party to maintain the trail in the  Iller Creek Conservation area on Saturday. See details in this previous post.

Motorized Vehicle Use Maps out for Panhandle forests

PUBLIC LANDS — Motorized Vehicle Use Maps are available for the Bonners Ferry, Priest Lake and Sandpoint Ranger Districts. The maps can be found at Idaho Panhandle National Forests offices along with the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District’s map, which was introduced in 2010.

Free to the public, the maps display the roads and trails currently designated for motor vehicle use on the districts.

The MVUM for the forest’s northern districts is based on the current road and trail systems in place. The MVUM does not add or subtract from current legal routes, but is intended to provide a clear depiction of legal motorized vehicle routes available to the public.

Read on for more details and the importance of having this map aboard any motor vehicle heading onto the forests.

Richland man summits Mount Everest 15th time

MOUNTAINEERING —  Ang Dorjee Sherpa reached the 29,036-foot summit at 4 a.m. May 13, marking the 15th time he has completed the feat.

“This year wasn’t that great, until May 1,” Ang Dorjee said Tuesday after returning to his home in Richland, Wash. “It was very windy and snowy.”

Ang Dorjee, a world-renown mountaineering guide, was the second of three teams from the New Zealand-based Adventure Consultants to reach the summit.

The first team summited May 11, Ang Dorjee helped guide three climbers in his team to the summit Friday the 13th, and the last team reached the top May 19.

Read on for more details from a Tri-City Herald story.

Washington wolf plan calls for 15 packs in state

ENDANGERED SPECIES — There's something for everyone to dislike in Washington's revised draft Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

  • The number of breeding packs needed statewide before endangered species protections could be lifted is increased from nine to 15.
  • Landowners would have few restrictions on shooting wolves endangering their domestic animals or pets.

On Saturday, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will be hearing more details on the state's plans for wolves and other endangered species during its meeting in Olympia.

Read on for a roundup of features in the new draft plan from the Wenatchee World.

NIC’s challenging adventure race June 18

ADVENTURE RACING — The seventh annual NIChallenge adventure sprint race is coming up to challnge teams of two or four to a 3-5 hour workout that involves paddling, trail running and mountain biking, special challenges and navigation trials.

When:  9 a.m., June 18

Where:  At a yet-to-be-announced location North Idaho.

How:   Register online by June 13.  Cost: $80 a person.

Information: (208) 769-7809 or contact NIC Outdoor Pursuits

Read on for more details.

Copper River salmon like Columbia springers, only more expensive

SALMON FISHING — Copper River salmon are making their annual splash in restaurants around the region, bringing in staggering prices of $30 a pound in West Side markets.

Experts I've contacts say it's basically a successful marketing strategy.

“A Copper River chinook salmon is not different than a Columbia River spring chinook salmon,” said Tony Floor, a retired Washington Fish and Wildlife Department salmon program manager who works for the Northwest Marine Trade Association.

What the marketing seems to have done, is assure that only the best quality spring chinook —bright and properly iced and transported —  get the Copper River label. The gillnetted fish that sit in a plastic garbage can down by The Dalles wouldn't make the grade.

But Floor helps sport anglers justify buying the boat and outboard to catch their own rather than taking out a loan for whole Copper River salmon.

All spring chinook, he said, “by form of genetics, leave the saltwater and enter the freshwater of their destination at this time of year.

“Spring chinook, by design, make this annual pilgrimage as they historically have the greatest distance to travel. For Columbia River spring chinook, this means for thousands of years, they enter the river now, bound for upriver destinations such as the Okanogan and the Snake River along with its upriver tributaries.

“Once arriving to these upriver destinations, living off the rich oils in the fat within their flesh, they spawn in the early fall, earlier than the abundant fall chinook.

“Spring chinook from the Columbia River are the same oil-rich fish as the Copper River chinook but you’ll pay about half the price at a restaurant or your local fish market.”

Heed seasonal precautions for spring hikes

HIKING — In your enthusiasm to get on the trail among the blooming wildflowers, don’t forget the basics of trekking in dryland areas:

•Take plenty of water plus a means of purifying water en route.

• Use sunscreen liberally and cover as much skin as possible with clothing, not only to protect from sun, but also from ticks.

• Ticks can be active and waiting, especially in sagebrush country. Pride yourself in the nerdy look: tuck pant legs into socks and wear light-colored lightweight long-sleeve shirts. Check for ticks in hair, and other places.

• Rattlesnakes are just as eager as hikers to get out and about. Be alert for them on the trail. Watch for movement in the grass. They don’t attack unless provoked, a concept that’s often lost on the family dog.

• Poison ivy infests many dryland areas, especially along river corridors, such as the Snake. While most hikers know the “leaves of three, leave it be” adage, some might not recognize the menacing plant in spring, before the leaves have come on. Watch for long or tall woody stems festooned with clumps of white berries. Contact with them can cause rashes.

• Carry a compass and a map of the area.

• Leave your trip itinerary with a responsible person who will contact authorities should you not return on schedule.

Commercial netters to target Columbia shad

FISHERIES — The Columbia River's non-native and under-exploited American shad is finally going to face some fishing pressure this year.

When the 3-pound shad swarm in by the hundreds of thousands this summer to spawn they'll be met by Indian and non-Indian commercial fishers wielding “experimental” fishing gear such as purse and beach seines, drift nets and maybe a fish wheel.

The goal is to catch large volumes of fish to feed a hungry Asian market.

Sport anglers barely make a dent in the fisheries each year.

“There’s a high demand for fish,” said Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in Vancouver. One fish buyer has said he would take up to a million pounds of shad.

Using traditional drift net gear last year commercial fishers landed 2,500 shad (nearly 6,800 pounds) in the Columbia mainstem in the 2S area between Washougal, Wash., and Beacon Rock.

Shad along with incidentally caught walleye, yellow perch, bass, catfish, and carp may be sold commercially to offset the costs of doing the gear tests, officials said.

Salmon, steelhead or sturgeon caught would be released.

More than 1 million shad returned to the Columbia above Bonneville Dam last summer. The run reached as high as 5.4 million in 2004.

No box with pouch wine geared to outdoors

CAMPING — The people who make Clif Bars, the on-the-go energy food, have introduced a product for consumption after the climbing, backpacking and other active sports are done for the day.

The Clif Family Winery's new Climber Pouch features a Chardonnay or a Cabernet Sauvignon packaged in strong-sided and backpack-friendly containers. There is a hole on top made for clipping the pouch in with a carabiner.

The practical thing:  the pouch stands upright without a box.

Check out the review from The Gear Junkie.

Columbia chinook season extended; upper river opens June 16

SALMON FISHING — The sport fishery for hatchery-reared spring chinook salmon has been extended through June 15 on a section of the Columbia River stretching 163.5 miles above Bonneville Dam.

Previously set to close June 3, fishery managers agreed Wednesday that enough fish are still available to keep fishing until the summer chinook salmon season starts June 16.

June 16– Summer chinook season opens on the Columbia River upriver to Priest Rapids Dam.

100 blazes: Canada starts fire season with a bang

FORESTS —  While fire season seems virtually impossible in the Inland Northwest during this long, wet spring, the smoke that smudged into Central Washington over the holiday weekend was a reminder of what may be on its way.

More than 100 wildfires are burning in Canada, reports Sean Hopkins of the Washington State Department of Ecology:

Most of the smoke came from fires 150 miles north of Edmonton, Alberta.  It’s amazing the smoke traveled more than 850 miles south to impact Central WA.  

Air Quality is good now but it did get into the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups range for a few hours on Sunday afternoon.  
 
The town of Slave Lake, Alberta, was completely engulfed within an hour, destroying at least 40 percent of the town of 7,000.  Amazingly no injuries or fatalities reported yet.

Putting the season in perspective

OUTDOORS LOGIC —  Don't let the grim spring weather get you down.

Remember, it's only 3 weeks to summer solstice and then the days start to get shorter!
  

Tick update: bring extra pint of blood in your daypack

HIKING — After returning from a weekend hiking and fishing trek along the Rocky Ford stretch of Crab Creek north of the I-90 Tokio exit, Hugh Imhof emailed to say he wish he'd read my spring hiking precautions tip in the paper BEFORE he went to Lincoln County rather than afterward.

“….We were infested with dozens of them. We were all grossed out.  It was the worst I've ever experienced. You might want to print another reminder for others who may not be thinking about the little bloodsuckers.”

Also on Sunday, My wife and I ran into a Mother Lode of ticks at Spokane County's Slavin Conservation Area south of town after a hike with our dogs, as I pointed out in a blog post that evening.  We're still finding ticks on us, the dogs and the room where we stripped upon arriving home.

Here are a few tips for dealing ticks during this season, when they're active and waiting, especially in scablands or sagebrush country.

Before going hiking, consider using permethrin to treat the lower leg of your pant, the collar and sleeve cuffs of your shirt (I always wear long-sleeve shirts while hiking and fishing for bug and sun protection). A treated hat or bandana is helpful, too.  

I like permethrin better than DEET repellent because you put it on your clothing rather than on y our skin. Permethrin is the insecticide used in Bug-Off brand clothing.

Pride yourself in the nerdy look: tuck pant legs into socks and wear light-colored lightweight long-sleeve shirts.

Check for ticks in hair, and other places during your trip and when you return home.

Rafting company lets you tap the season’s whitewater

RAFTING — Snowpack in the mountains is at recordlevels and rivers will be running at great levels long into the summer. Peter Grubb at ROW Adventures in Coeur d'Alene says this will be a fantastic season to book a whitewater rafting trip

Here are some world-class rivers ROW runs in our backyard:

Lochsa - The nation's best whitewater ride, ROW will run to July 15th at least.  The water will be as high June 30 as it often is June 5 the way things are going.  ROW offers  ”Whitewater Rush” packages that include cabin accommodations at River Dance Lodge and all meals.

Moyie - Season extended through June 13 and may go even longer.  This raft-bashing wild ride of continuous whitewater through a cedar forest is a ROW favorite.

St. Joe - For a galloping cascade of fun rapids, ROW launches 80 miles upriver of St. Maries, Idaho ,(meeting you in St. Regis, Montana) and paddles through raft-tossing waves and holes at Tumbledown Falls, Endless Ecstasy and many more.

Spokane - Want a quick escape? Join ROW for Happy Hour Rafting & Wildlife trips every Thursday and Friday at 4:30 pm and enjoy the long days of June and early July on this 12-mile rafting trip. ROW also has daily departures in the morning and/or afternoon depending on the day. 

The Spokane quickly whisks boaters from downtown into it's own special wildness as we float through Riverside State Park, the Bowl & Pitcher and Devil's Toenail.

Special Offer- Raft the Lochsa, Moyie or St. Joe and add a Spokane River trip later in the season and take $22 off the trip!

Contact ROW: (208) 770-2517 or 866-836-9340, email info@rowadventures.comor book online!  
  

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About this blog

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 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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