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Outdoors 2008 highlights

Upper Clark Fork free at last

Breaching of Milltown Dam in March, part of a $120 million Superfund project, allowed the upper Clark Fork River near Missoula to flow freely for the first time in 100 years.

Pedal power shows potential

Bicyclists came out of the closet in Spokane, starting with about 1,000 who pledged to commute by bicycle for Bike to Work Week in May. They began with a free breakfast in Riverfront Park and ended the week with t-shirts, beer tasting and dancing. Way to roll!

2009’s Bike to Work Week is set for May 11-15.

•Meetings, surveys and other groundwork steered toward developing a Master Bike Plan for Spokane.

•Mountain bikers secured grants and launched efforts to develop trails on Beacon Hill.

•About 1,200 cyclists pedaled out of Riverfront Park on Sept. 7 in the first SpokeFest tour.

Wild Sky Wilderness protected

Nearly six years after it was first introduced, a bill to create the Wild Sky Wilderness northeast of Seattle became law this year. It’s the first new wilderness area in Washington in 24 years.

The area includes 106,000 acres in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest on the west slope of the Cascades.

Hunter bags record bull elk

Dan Agnew of Vancouver bagged Washington’s record bull elk in the Dayton Unit of the Blue Mountains on Sept. 2. Agnew spent a record $65,000 for the state Governor’s tag, which gave him the right to use a modern rifle from Sept. 1-Dec. 1 in any open elk unit. The bull had a gross green score of 449.

Big game on the rocks

The first tough winter in 10 years dealt a death blow to deer, elk and moose in the Inland Northwest.

Deer and elk in particular suffered from the deep lingering snow. Hardest hit were whitetails in Pend Oreille County and North Idaho as well as elk throughout much of the Panhandle, where sportsmen rallied as early as February to support shorter fall elk hunting seasons.

Moose took a different kind of beating. One moose required a gallant rescue from men who slid out in boats and used chain saws to cut a path to safety after the bull broke through the ice at Loon Lake.

Tragedy rode the tracks of North Idaho’s railways, where at least 75 moose seeking relief from the deep snow were killed in collisions with trains.

Speed climbers slip up

Mount Rainier speed ascent records were claimed by two professional mountain guides this summer. Both are accomplished climbers, but even in the age of Internet gospel, some people in the climbing community doubt the claims for one obvious reason: Neither climber had credible witnesses.

Meantime, Justin Merle, 29, who’s climbed Rainier more than 100 times since he began guiding in 1999, said in July that he hustled from Paradise to the 14,411-foot summit —and back — in 4 hours, 49 minutes, 35 seconds.

A month later, fellow Ashland guide Liam O’Sullivan claimed to beat that record by three minutes.

Climbers on guided ascents typically take 17-18 hours for the climb, not including a break at Camp Muir.