Outdoors

High-mountain trails beginning to open for backpackers


Lynn Smith of the Spokane Mountaineers cruises a campsite at Lower Stevens Lake looking for litter last Sunday. Smith was one of six club volunteers picking up litter along the 5-mile trail and around the popular lakes near the Idaho-Montana border. 
 (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
Lynn Smith of the Spokane Mountaineers cruises a campsite at Lower Stevens Lake looking for litter last Sunday. Smith was one of six club volunteers picking up litter along the 5-mile trail and around the popular lakes near the Idaho-Montana border. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

UPDATED 1:55 P.M.

HIKING — Snow still clogs some high, shaded forest road and trail sections, but generally the backcountry is opening to high places for backpackers this week.

For example, I'll post below a scouting report from Coeur d'Alene hiker Lynn Smith who's leading a group of Spokane Mountaineers to Stevens Lakes in the Bitterroot Range near Lookout Pass on Saturday.

This is one of the club's annual volunteer trail maintenance treks to the popular North Idaho hiking destination.

Except for a couple small patches, the snow is off the trail all the way to the lake.  The snow melted sooner this year than during the last couple so there're some short trail sections we haven't seen bare before, therefore haven't brushed before, so they will be one of our main goals.

There's also a couple minor drainage problems we'll address as well as the usual things; some switchback shortcut blocking, removal of the small debris of winter, campground clean-up from winter/early spring campers, and maybe a couple small blowdowns.  Other than that its just a good hike in the mountains to Lower Stevens, 5 miles RT with 1700 feet of elevation gain.  Passage to the upper lake is still pretty snowy and not on the agenda (but I could be swayed).  The falls is in dynamic form, the lower part of the trail is in full bear grass bloom, and the meadow and headwall plants newly leafing out.  

However, recent rains have caused streams to swell and trees to topple on trails in some Inland Northwest mountains.  Here's a Friday afternoon note from Glacier National Park:

Back-country visitors should be aware that most creeks and streams are already running high from snowmelt and have spiked higher with recent rains.  Extreme caution or perhaps an alternate route should be exercised for foot or stock crossing of creeks and streams.  Some creeks and streams may be impassable at this time.  




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


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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