OUTDOG – Snowmobiler Bob Jones, 72, of Kettle Falls is in Alaska today for the start of the annual Iditarod sled dog race and to bag several personal milestones:
• His 100th Alaska visit.
• A total of more than 20,000 miles following the 950- to 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome.
Jones is a familiar face in the remote villages along the race’s two routes since he began following the event by snowmobile in 1995.
“The first year, eight snowmobiles followed the route, and my Washington group had four,” he said. “One year, I was the only one doing the whole thing.”
He tows a trailer with gear for camping in bitter cold. Sometimes he stays in roadhouses.
“The villagers all know me and like me because I only stay a day, have a good time and leave,” he said.
Watch for reports on his journey at spokesman.com/
Nordic nirvana on area ski trails
OUTSKI – Put away that garden seed catalog. Cross-country ski areas are enjoying the season’s best snow conditions.
Mount Spokane: New snow has accumulated every day this week with temperatures largely in the teens and 20s. XCers in most of the world would die for these conditions.
Tauber Angus Ranch: “We had 14 inches of new snow earlier this week and I’m wondering how to get word out to people that the skiing is fantastic,” said Cassie Tauber, operations manager of the working cattle ranch. Family members who love to ski groom miles of trails about 12 miles north of Sandpoint.
“Our trails are more gentle than a lot of areas, great for families, and we have a yurt,” she said.
Info: (208) 263-6400.
4th of July Pass: Enough snow has accumulated for gates to be closed, barring vehicles, and for groomers to pack miles of trails.
“I welcome a good late winter and early spring ski season, if only to make up for the deficit we suffered in December and most of January,” said Geoff Harvey, Panhandle Nordic Club.
Methow Valley: “So much snow, so much fun,” says the email from the Methow Valley Sports Trail Association.
Montana wolves up despite hunting
OUTRUT – Even after five months of open hunting in a season that killed 166 wolves, Montana’s grey wolf population increased by about 15 percent in 2011.
A Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks report says the state has at least 653 wolves, 130 verified packs and 39 breeding pairs, well above wolf plan objectives of at least 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves.
A lion of a problem
OUTFLAP – California’s Fish and Game Commission president is being scorned for killing a cougar in Idaho.
Forty legislators signed a letter asking Daniel Richards to resign for his insensitivity to constituents in California, where cougar hunting is outlawed.
“While I respect our Fish and Game rules and regulations, my 100 percent legal activity outside of California … is none of your business,” he retorted.
WILDFIRES -- We're not alone! Officials say 177 wildfires are burning in British Columbia. See interactive map.