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Congress finally gives wilderness a nod

PUBLIC LANDS — Congress shook its inability to work across the aisle this week and passed public lands legislation that's been years in the making. 

The U.S. House on Thursday passed a defense spending bill containing a broad public lands package for the West.

In Montana, it provides new wilderness on the Rocky Mountain Front, a ban on mining near Glacier National Park and changes supporting oil exploration and grazing on federal land.

The bill adds 67,000 acres to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and designating 208,000 acres along the Front as a conservation management area.

In Washington, the bill expands the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area by 22,000 acres.

It also creates a Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which includes the B Reactor at Hanford.

It's not all perfect from anyone's point of view.  But many experts say it's better than stalemate.

The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration, where a vote is expected next week.

Value of getting together

The Missoulian has a story — Report tracks successes of conservation collaboration in Montana — indicating that collaborative groups have helped shake the shackles of a do-nothing Congress in public lands issues.

The story cites the “Collaboration at a Crossroads” report from the Wilderness Society, which examines 15 of the 37 active roundtables on land-use in Montana. Among them is the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front, which worked on the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act passed Thursday by the House.

Will Reese Witherspoon spur a backpacking boom?

HIKING — Industry insiders are wondering whether the soon-to-be-released movie “Wild” featuring Reese Witherspoon will provide the boost for backpacking that A River Runs Through It, featuring Brad Pitt, bestowed on fly fishing.

The buzz is already buzzing.

“The movie follows the book by Cheryl Strayed, a woman who traversed more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself.

Media outlets already are hyping backpacking destinations as they spin-off news about the book and movie.

Pacific Northwest writer Craig Romano, my co-author for the guidebook Day Hiking Eastern Washington, is quoted in a Fox News piece on hiking along with a list of “best hikes”  most of which I agree with, except I hate “best hikes” lists.

Here are Romano's recommendations for top North American hikes to add to your bucket list.

1. The John Muir Trail - Pacific Crest Loop
This 211 mile long section of Pacific Crest Trail features stunning cliffs, lakes, granite peaks and canyons. The trails pass through some of America's most stunning backdrops, including Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Hikers can take the trail going North or South but travel during the winter months is not advised.

2. Old Rag Mountain - Shenandoah National Park
Described as one of the most beautiful and “most dangerous” hikes in the country by the National Park Service, this nine-mile loop contains many rocky paths and a significant change in elevation. For this reason, the park discourages young children and shorter adults from attempting the seven to eight hour trek. Despite the difficult terrain, this trail can be very crowded on weekends so if you have some free time during the week, head over the Shenandoah and be the king or queen or your own mountain for the day.

3. Lincoln Woods Trail - New Hampshire

White Mountain National Forest is home to over 1,200 miles of non-motorized trails for all levels of hikers. But for novice hikers, Lincoln Woods Trail affords great views on a popular route with relatively stable terrain. Summer hikers can take bait and tackle gar along to fish in the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River. In the Fall, enjoy spectacular Northeastern leaf foliage colors, a favorite time of year for Romano.

4.Devils Garden Primitive Loop - Arches National Park

This difficult trek traverses over seven miles of rocky terrain but hikers are sure to witness some of the most breathtaking views Arches has to offer. The National Park Service estimates this hike will take between three to five hours to bring plenty of water. Not recommended when rock is wet or snowy.

5. Florida National Scenic Trail
While hiking usually brings to mind mountainous terrain, Romano says there are great hikes to be find anywhere nature exists. “The Florida Trail is almost 1,400 miles and it has great sections for long distance hikers.” If you're just starting, it might be better to stay out of the Everglades unless you're with an experienced hiker. Whether you're looking for wildlife, interesting marine species or a better understanding of the Florida ecosystem, the Florida Trail has something for everyone.

6. Forest Park - Portland
“People living in urban area have great hiking networks right in their backyards. Especially Portland,” says Romano. He recommends Forest Park with its more than 80 miles of scenic Northwest wildlife. For hikers young and old, Forest Park Conservancy even has its own app with maps of hiking trails, weather updates and other details.

7. Mount Rainier National Park - Washington

“I've hiked all over the U.S. but some of my all time favorite trails are in Washington— I just love the diversity of mountains, wildlife, forested scenery and even wildflowers,” says Romano. Among his favorites in the Pacific Northwest: Mount Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades. All National Parks are popular tourist destinations. Rainier is the smallest of three making it a great destination for new hikers; Olympic is the largest and features more diverse terrain.

8. Porcupine Mountain State Park - Michigan

While most hikers tend to gravitate to the East or West Coasts, great trails can be found everywhere. On Michigan's Upper Peninsula, take a walk along Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountain State Park. This scenic trail has high peaks, sparkling rivers, waterfalls and more. Campers will also find a fully loaded RV amenities area for over night adventures.

9. Appalachian Trail - Fitzgerald Falls near Greenwood Lake, NY

This scenic section of the Appalachian Trail is a perfect spot for city-dwellers. Just an hour and a half from New York City, Greenwood Lake is known for its pristine waters and summer aquatic activities. This 4.6 mile loop involves moderate climbing ability to reach the summit of Mombasha High Point. History buffs will enjoy exploring an abandoned settlement along the trail and on a clear day, views of New York City can be seen on the Southern horizon.

Read more of the buzz about the movie Wild:
 
—“Wild” stars Reese Witherspoon as a woman who takes on an arduous solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail
—Reese Witherspoon Sounds Like A Feminist In 'Wild' Because She Is One

—'Wild' writer says actress Reese Witherspoon 'honored' her story

—Behind the scenes of Wild

Mining in the Cabinets: It’s a question of wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS — I'm getting mixed reviews in comments and emails about my Sunday Outdoors story: Not-so-wild wilderness: Mining proposals threaten Cabinet Mountains streams, lakes and grizzlies.

Some people say I featured only wilderness activists and that there's really nothing to worry about regarding the mining proposals surrounding the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness in northwestern Montana.

Besides, we all need the metals miners extract, they point out.

Roger.

But the point of the story, and the sidebar focused on the impacts of the mining on grizzly bears, is that while state and federal agencies are poring over mounds of documents on the impacts of each mine proposal, no agency appears to be sizing up the CUMULATIVE IMPACTS of both new mine proposals plus the re-starting of the existing Troy Mine plus the proposals for more motorized vehicle access in the Kootenai National Forest management plan.

The sum of these threats warrants public attention, hence the story.

The Forest Service declined to answer my prepared questions that focused on cumulative impacts.

The process seems to overlook the wilderness as a whole.

“There’s no advocacy group for the wilderness in Sanders County. It wouldn’t be a popular position. But when I’m hiking in there, I also see lots of people form Coeur d’Alene, Spokane and Missoula, and none of them seems to know about the mines.

“A lot of people in Sanders County don’t think people from other areas don’t have a voice in the issue because they don’t live here. But the wilderness belongs to everyone.

     — Jim Costello, SaveOurCabinets.org

It’s wilderness: Either you’re for or against it.”

     —Mary Crowe Costello, Rock Creek Alliance

International Selkirk Loop motor route detailed in new book

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — A photographic journey encircling the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho, eastern Washington and southeastern British Columbia has been compiled into a new book.

“Selkirks Spectacular” (Keokee Books) highlights the International Selkirk Loop, a 280-mile scenic route named by Rand McNally as one of five “Best of the Roads.”

The book features more than 300 images by photographers Jerry Pavia and Tim Cady along with chapters written by Canadian Ross Klatte on the history, geology, communities, natural features, attractions, and the flora and fauna showcase this beautiful corner of the earth.

A book publication party with the authors and photographers is set for 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 21, at The Pearl Theater, 7160 Ash St. in Bonners Ferry.

The book captures highlights from Lake Pend Oreille to Kootenay Lake to endangered woodland caribou and ruffed grouse as well as the region's mining and logging legacies.

The book has two front covers, one for the U.S. side and one for the Canada side. Halfway through, readers flip the book over and start again from the other side.

Beware of Zombies: Riverside Park trail to get scary on Oct. 25

PARKS — The third annual Return of the Zombies hike is set for Oct. 25 on what's billed as “the scariest half-mile hike ever” in Riverside State Park.

Hikers of all ages are invited to hike the haunted trail between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. as a fundraiser for the Riverside State Park Foundation.

The route begins at the park's Seven-Mile Airstrip, 7903 W. Missoula Road, in Nine Mile Falls. See directions.

Admission is $10 for adults; $5 for youths age 3 – 12 and free for children under 3.

  • The Washington Discover Pass is not needed on vehicles for this event.

Adults are issued a flashlight, and kids ages 3 to 12 receive a glow-in-the-dark bracelet. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Pets are not allowed. 

At this outdoor version of a haunted house, participants hike a half mile through the woods at the park, while volunteer “zombies” provide the scary atmosphere. Participants should be prepared to walk over uneven terrain and wear comfortable shoes and warm clothing. Organizers will be selling hot chocolate and coffee. A DJ will be entertaining at a warming fire.

Info: Cherie’ Gwinn, 465-5066 or cherie.gwinn@parks.wa.gov.

Nature hikes make us happy, study confirms

HIKING — British and American scientists have published new research showing that group nature walks help us combat stress while boosting mental well-being.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Edge Hill University in England evaluated 1,991 participants in England’s Walking for Health program, which organizes nearly 3,000 walks per week for more than 70,000 regular participants. They found that the nature walks were associated with significantly less depression in addition to mitigating the negative effects of stressful life events and perceived stress.

“Stress isn’t ever going to go away, so it is important to have a way to cope with it,” said Sara Warber, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and senior author of the study. “Walking in nature is a coping mechanism—the benefits aren’t just physical.”

The findings were published in the September issue of Ecopsychology.

Long-distance hikers gathering at Stampede Pass

HIKING — Backpackers who've walked the walk are giving programs of enduring value this weekend during the 21st annual gathering of the American Long-Distance Hiking Association-West at Stampede Pass, Wash.

Openings are still available for the Saturday programs by hikers who've accomplished incredible “feets”  and possibly for the full Friday-Sunday event to be held at The Mountaineers Meany Lodge

The site is a unique ski lodge on a private ski mountain. Camping is available as well as a main lodge that sleeps 90 people, a great room that can fit 130 people for the presentations, forums, meals and awards. 

The is the group that presents the Triple Crown Awards to hikers who have completed the Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest Trails.

 

It’s winter high in Glacier Park; Sun Road closed

NATIONAL PARKS — Glacier National Park's Going to the Sun Road continues to be closed today after winter-like conditions shrouded the high country earlier this week.

Be ready for anything when heading to the mountains.

Wilderness panel discussion, hikes based out of Sandpoint

PUBLIC LANDS — A great combination of thought and exercise to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act is planned for Friday and Saturday based out of Sandpoint sponsored by the Idaho Conservation League, the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, and Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education.

The Wild Weekend for Wilderness includes a panel discussion about the historical and cultural significance of wilderness in America, the history of wilderness politics in North Idaho, the Forest Service's role in identifying lands suitable for wilderness and the management of proposed and designated wilderness areas including the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

North Idaho backcountry experts, including a wilderness ranger, will lead hikes on Saturday to North Idaho areas that qualify for wilderness designation.

The celebration concludes Saturday night with a party including live music, libations, food, giveaways and anniversary cake.

Here's the schedule:

  • Friday evening panel discussion, Why Wilderness, 5:30 p.m. at Panhandle State Bank, 414 Church St.
  • Saturday guided hike to Chimney Rock.  Sign up here or call (208) 265-9565.
  • Saturday guided hike to Scotchman Peak. Sign up here.
  • Saturday guided hike to Harrison Lake. Sign up here.
  • Saturday “Wild Night,” 6 p.m.-10:30 p.m., includes food, music by The Yaaktastics at Evans Brothers Coffee, 524 Church St.

By the way, Congress signed the historic document called The 1964 Wilderness Act 50 years ago today.

The act initially protected 54 areas in 13 states totaling 9.1 million acres of backcountry in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Since President Lyndon Johnson signed the act, the system has expanded to 757 wilderness areas in 44 states totaling more than 109 million acres.

Hiking trail record breaker speaks at library tonight

HIKING — A world-class hiker who's put her pen where her feet were is giving a program about her latest book TONIGHT, 7:30 p.m. at the Moran Prairie Library.

Jennifer Pharr Davis first hiked the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail as a 21-year-old college graduate, all on her own.

Her most recent book, Called Again, tells the story of setting the 46-day record for the trail and growing closer to her husband (her support crew), in the process.

The program she'll be presenting speaks to inspiration, love and endurance in tales from the trail.

Dogs protecting sheep from predators testy toward hikers

HIKING — The large guard dogs such as great Pyrenees and Akbash that pro-wolf groups recommend for guarding livestock from predators such as cougars, bears and wolves don't necessarily distinguish between 4-legged and 2-legged critters passing through public lands:

Guard dogs for sheep herds continue to be a problem for hikers in Colorado
Hikers are reporting more conflicts with the large, white Akbash dogs that guard sheep herds in San Juan County, and one hiker recently asked the Colorado county's commission to work with the multiple federal and state land agencies and the ranchers with grazing allotments to develop new policies to help keep the hikers and the dogs apart.

Washington website devoted to high lakes fishing

FISHING — A new “High Lakes” section of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's interactive “Fish Washington” web site has is online with details to help anglers find fish off the beaten path.

High lakes fishing has deteriorated in Washington over the past few decades as national parks have scaled back fish stocking where trout were not native — which means most high lakes in the Olympics, Mount Rainier and North Cascades national parks.

Don't expect a lot of state staff time to go into keeping this site up to day or full of details — that would take a lot of field time the agency doesn't have.

Perhaps the biggest value of this new site is easy access to stocking figures to help anglers channel their high-country efforts to the right waters.

Record number of visitors to Glacier park in July

PUBLIC LANDS — National Park Service officials say July 2014 was the busiest that Glacier National Park has ever seen.

The park service’s statistics office says nearly 700,000 people visited the northwestern Montana park last month.

The previous record for July was just shy of 690,000, in 1983.

The statistics office keeps monthly visitation records going back to 1979.

The park’s year-to-date visitor count is 1.2 million, which is nearly 5 percent higher than this time a year ago.

However, the number of people staying overnight declined 5.3 percent, and overnight stays in the backcountry dropped 15 percent.

Group leading hikes into choice North Idaho destinations

TRAILS —  A North Idaho conservation organization has been leading group trips to acquaint the public with special backcountry areas this summer.  Some choice Inland Northwest destinations remain on the schedule in August and September.

Experienced leaders with the Idaho Conservation League have stepped up to organize the treks — mostly hikes but also some kayak paddles. The treks have ranged from easy to strenuous.

Visit the website, www.idahoconservation.org, or call (208) 265-9565, for contacting leaders prior to the trip. Assess your abilities accordingly as you check out these offerings. 

Sunday, Aug. 17,  West Fork Lake and Peak – A moderate 6- to 7-mile hike in the Selkirk Mountains, Bonner Ferry Ranger District.

Aug. 31, Snow Lake - A moderately strenuous hike of nearly 10 miles roundtrip in the Selkirk Mountains, Bonners Ferry Ranger District. Option to scramble to West Fork Peak for fantastic views of the Selkirk Crest.

Sept. 6, Chimney Rock – A moderately strenuous 11-mile roundtrip hike from the Pack River to the iconic granite spire of the Selkirk Crest.

Sept. 7, Upper Priest Lake kayak – Paddle up the “Thorofare” to Upper Priest Lake from Beaver Creek Campground area, at least six miles round trip.

Sept. 12, Trout-Big Fisher Lakes – A moderately strenuous 12-mile roundtrip hike to a pair of nifty mountain lakes.

Sept 14, Beehive Lakes scramble – A strenuous 12-mile hike involving trail walking and cross-country scrambling over granite talus slopes between Harrison and Beehive lakes at the head of the Pack River drainage.

Sept. 19-21, Lion’s Head Backpack – Six hardy backpackers will be allowed on this difficult, double overnight involving off-trail bushwhacking and boulder hopping to Lion’s Head Peak, an often seen but rarely visited Selkirk Crest granite icon beyond Priest Lake.

Little Spokane River spot fire chars Knothead trail

HIKING — Knothead has become a blackhead this month.

The popular trail destination above the Little Spokane River and overlooking the Spokane River was charred by a July 8 spot fire that occurred the day before the larger fires ignited and ran through the Lake Spokane area.

But the timber had been thinned and firefighters did a good job to build fire lines and keep fire from raising hell with the Little Spokane River Natural Area.

Check it out. While you're there, hike the entire 6.5-mile loop through the Van Horn, Edburg and Bass Conservation Area starting from the Indian Painted Rocks. (Discover Pass required).

Check out the two nifty new single track segments that have been completed in 2014 to help keep visitors of adjoining private land.  The most recent single track completed the first week of June is especially cool, with nifty rock work.

Device helps women stand up when nature calls

CAMPING — The females in my family have never had a problem squatting in the woods to relieve themselves — this video seems to suggest it's a problem for some outdoorswomen.

But the Pee Pocket device the video promotes has real value in outdoor applications.

For instance, by being able to stand a pee like a man, a woman can urinate more easily into a bottle in a tent, for instance, so the urine can be disposed of in an outhouse or away from camp the next morning.  This would be a big advantage in a storm or when in grizzly country  — or for simply keeping pesky deer away from camp that are otherwise lured by the salt.

While floating the Grand Canyon this winter, several gals on the trip were envious of my “pee bottle,”  which I used at camp rather than having to hike to the river from the tents — sometimes a long way — every time the urge struck, day or night.

I'll let you outdoor women size this up for yourselves, but I'll bet you'll be able to find a few good uses for it.

Glacier Park warns hikers of hazardous high country travel

HIKING — While I'm writing an upcoming Sunday Outdoors story on a similar topic, Glacier National Park is warning hikes to be prepared for dealing with hazardous snowfields at high elevations even in lake July after a week of very warm weather.

Here's a lot of good information to review, especially if you're headed to one of the most stunning parks on the continent:

Several of Glacier National Park’s high elevation hikes are open to the public, but snow and snow hazards remain in many areas. 

Hikers should be wary of snowfields and steep areas in the higher elevations. Snow bridges may exist, and hard to identify.  A snow bridge may completely cover an opening, such as a creek, and present a danger.  It may create an illusion of unbroken surface while hiding an opening under a layer of snow, creating an unstable surface.  

It is important to know the terrain you are about to hike or climb, and carry the appropriate equipment.  When hiking may include snowfield travel, visitors should know how to travel in such challenging conditions, including knowing how to use crampons and an ice axe.  It is recommended to have layers of clothing available, appropriate footwear, including boots with lug soles, a map, first-aid kit, water and food.  Always communicate to someone your planned route of travel and your expected time of return. 

  • There are over 700 miles of trails in Glacier National Park providing a variety of hiking opportunities.  During July and August many of the more popular trails can be crowded.  Visitors are encouraged to consider a lesser used trail or more remote trail during this time.  See more information about hiking options and trail status.

Caution should be used near rivers and streams, as water may be extremely cold, and running swift and high. Avoid wading or fording in swift moving water, as well as walking, playing and climbing on slippery rocks and logs. 

The Highline Trail is open, but snow remains past Haystack Butte. Strong hiking skills and snow travel skills, as well as the appropriate equipment, are recommended.  

The Ptarmigan Tunnel is open.  Stock access to Iceberg/Ptarmigan Trail is prohibited due to a temporary bridge that allows foot traffic, but it is not suitable for stock. 

The park’s shuttle system is serving hikers on the east side of the park.  It is free, and the shuttle has stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Due to road rehabilitation activities on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, parking to access the St. Mary, Virginia and Barring Falls areas is very challenging and the shuttle system may be a convenient alternative.   

Black bears and grizzly bears are common in Glacier Park.  Hikers are encouraged to hike in groups, carry bear spray that is easily accessible, and make noise at regular intervals along the trail.  Bears spend a lot of time eating, so hikers should be extra alert while in or near feeding areas such as berry patches, cow parsnip thickets, or fields of glacier lilies.  Hiking early in the morning, late in the day, or after dark is not encouraged.  Trail running is not recommended as it has led to surprise bear encounters. 

See more information about recreating in bear country.   

Landers back in the saddle

OUT & ABOUT — I've been out in the field, getting my Canadian Rocky Mountain high.

I see some important news briefs need to be filed to catch up.  Coming shortly….

Hanging around at a backcountry camp

HIKING — This may be the ultimate low impact campsite. Comfy, too.

Three-day festival near Libby celebrates wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS — A Blackfeet Tribe troubadour and a former chief of the U.S. Forest Service are coming to the Inland Northwest to be part of a three-day event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

An impressive mix of wilderness and wildlife experts plus entertainment and educational programs are scheduled Friday through Sunday, July 11-13, at the Bull River Rod and Gun Club at Bull Lake on State Highway 56 south of Troy and Libby, Montana.

The setting couldn’t be more symbolic. Bull Lake is in a valley between the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness and the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness:

The Cabinet Wilderness was among the original 54 wilderness areas designated when Congress enacted the Wilderness Act of 1964.

The Scotchman Peaks wilderness proposal, which straddles the Idaho-Montana border, is the region’s most likely candidate for wilderness designation should the next Congress consider a wilderness bill.

Friday’s program includes a 3 p.m. talk on Grizzlies in the Cabinets by Wayne Kasworm, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly research expert for the region. A program on wilderness advocates will be followed by “Classical Music for the Wild by the Glacier Orchestra.

Capping Friday’s events will be a wilderness movie and performance by Jack Gladstone of the Blackfeet, who illustrates Western Americana through an entertaining fusion of lyric poetry, music and narrative.  

Dale Bosworth, former chief of the Forest Service, will headline’s Saturday’s events with a 7 p.m. presentation on wilderness advocates.

Bosworth crafted the 2005 Travel Management Rule in response to the growth of off-highway vehicle use, which had more than doubled between 1982 and 2000. The rule allows OHVs to travel in national forests only on roads or routes specifically designated for their use.

Also on the Saturday schedule are programs on Wild Yoga, Critter Crafts, Backcountry Horses, Skulls and Skins, Native Americans in the Cabinets, Early Pioneers, Birds of the Wild, Kid in the Wild puppet show and more capped with evening music by two groups, Naples and Huckleberry Jam.

All three days include food vendors, a beer tent, horseshoe tossing, kayak rentals and a group campfire at the lake’s edge.

The lineup is worth camping on site or looking into a motel room at Libby or one of several national Forest campgrounds in the area.

 Sunday’s programs cover compass skills, fly tying, a wilderness ranger reunion and primitive skills demonstrations.

  •  Another wilderness celebration with programs on wildlife photography, grizzly bears, changing directions in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness and more is scheduled for Aug. 23, noon-9 p.m. in Libby Riverfront Park. The Libby event will features a 7 p.m. family concert by the popular Wylie and the Wild West Show.

Forest Service seeks Pacific Northwest Trail advisers

TRAILS — The U.S. Forest Service is seeking volunteers to serve on the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Advisory Council to help plan future upgrades — much work and many decisions will have to be made — for the 1,200-mile route from the Olympic Peninsula east through Glacier National Park.

The trail traverses through three national parks and seven national forests, including about 125 miles through the Colville National Forest.

The route is not a continuous trail. It links existing trails, roads and cross-country routes from the Pacific Ocean to the Continental Divide area.

The Council, established under the National Trails System Act, will provide recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture about matters relating to the administration and management of the Pacific Northwest Trail, specifically advising on trail uses, establishing a trail corridor, and prioritizing future projects.

The trail was first mapped and promoted 30 years ago by the founding members of the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

Designated by Congress as a National Scenic Trail in 2009, the PNT connects people and communities  in Montana, Idaho and Washington. “Interested candidates should have a desire to perpetuate and protect the characteristics and values of the Trail while taking into consideration other public interests along the Trail corridor,” the Forest Service says. “Members will serve a two year term and may serve consecutive terms.”

The first Council meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 2015, and will meet approximately twice a year for three years.

Applications are due by Sept. 30.

Contact Matt McGrath, Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Program Manager, (425) 783-6199; email: mtmcgrath@fs.fed.us.

Finally, Glacier Park’s “Sun” road set to open

NATIONAL PARKS – Postponed by a late storm and flooding, the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is expected to be open to vehicle travel by this weekend, allowing access to Logan Pass.

While most snow removal efforts are being completed and snow above the road is being monitored and removed, road crews continue to sweep debris from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, install removable guard rails and road signage, and prepare the Logan Pass Visitor Center and area for opening. 

The park’s free, optional shuttle system that provides shuttle services along the Going-to-the-Sun Road will continue limited operations to The Loop on the west side, until the entire length of the road opens.

The west-side vehicle closure remains at Avalanche and the east-side closure remains at Jackson Glacier Overlook. Closures will continue at their respective locations until the entire length of the road is open to vehicle travel.

Hiker-biker access on the west side of the park is currently available from Avalanche to Bird Woman Overlook. There is no hiker-biker access on the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road due to road rehabilitation work.   

  • Get information on the shuttle system,visit . 
  • Click here for current information on park roads, weather conditions, and visitor services.

Graham Mountain hike overlooks Silver Valley

HIKING — It's called Coal Creek Trail No. 41, leading up, steeply up in some places, roughly 6 miles from the North Fork Coeur d'Alene River road to Graham Mountain, elev. 5727 feet, overlooking the Silver Valley.

Great views from a former fire lookout sight, looking across to Silver Mountain, up the I-90 corridor to lookout Pass and Stevens Peak.

Trailhead is 12.5 miles up the paved North Fork road from the Kingston Exit off I-90.

Hike is 11 miles round trip with 3,420 feet of elevation gain.

Hiking up to a fire lookout side is almost always worth the effort.

 

Lightning: flashy way to die outdoors

OUTDOOR SAFETY — Name the safest place to seek refuge if you are outdoors and a lighting storm moves in?

  • Answer: An automobile — totally safe, unless a tree blows down on top of you.

This is Lightning Awareness Week, so be aware.  Sure, you can't bail out of the wilderness every time a thunder storm rolls in, but you can minimize risk by checking weather reports and getting very early starts on ventures into the high ridges so you can return to safer areas or your car by the time thunder activity begins, usually in the afternoon.

Check the attached document for some solid background on lighting safety.


Documents:

Injured hiker had to fend off bears

HIKING — Bears have always been good at smelling opportunity.

A hiker who fell, broke his leg and dislocated his shoulder in the North Cascades last weekend said he had to fend off bears while he waited several hours for a helicopter rescue team.

The 50-year-old man activated a beacon that notified his wife after his accident at 6,000 feet on Syncline Mountain along the Pacific Crest Trail, the U.S. Navy told the Bellingham Herald.

  • Most mountains in the North Cascades were covered in snow above 5,000 feet last weekend.

A helicopter with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine responded and found him at the bottom of a winding series of switchbacks. But that crew did not have space to land or slings to hoist the man off the mountain.

So they dropped him food, a medical kit and a water bottle with a note letting him know another helicopter, from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, would come to rescue him soon.

Perhaps the bears smelled the rations.

The injured man was hoisted out off the mountain in a rescue basket by the Navy helicopter at 10:30, more than five hours after the accident.

He told the crew he'd encountered more than one bear while waiting, but fended them off with bear spray. 

Mount Rainier plays no favorites when it claims a life

HIKING — Although the official announcement still wasn't released this morning, friends on Sunday mourned a well-known outdoors writer and photographer who had been missing for three days in Mount Rainier National Park before searchers said they recovered a body of a woman.

The National Park Service said it will be up to the Pierce County medical examiner to confirm that the body found Saturday afternoon was that of 70-year-old Karen Sykes of Seattle, but her daughter confirmed the death, according to the Associated Press.

Annette Shirey says her mother had developed a personal connection to the mountain and wanted to share that love with others. 

Sykes' body was discovered in an area where searchers, and they ended the three-day rescue effort after finding it.

Although the cause of Sykes' death has not been determined, early-season hiking poses hazards associated with lingering snow.  An early-season hiker slipped on a snowfield and slid to his death in Glacier National Park last year. 

 Also, hikers can suffer injuries from breaking through snowfields weakened by rocks or moving water below.

“For a lot of local hikers, it’s an extreme loss,” said Greg Johnston, who edited a “Trail of the Week” column she wrote for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “For decades, she showed us the way, and now that’s gone.”

Here's more from the AP:

Sykes was prominent in the Northwest hiking community for her trail reviews and photographs, for her book on hiking western Washington and for leading group outings. Friends said she found sanctuary in the wilderness.

“It was a real healing thing for her,” Johnston said. “Once she found hiking, she never stopped.”

She had been hiking with her boyfriend, Bob Morthorst, on Wednesday in the Owyhigh Lakes area east of Rainier’s 14,410-foot summit when they encountered snow on the trail at about 5,000 feet. He stopped and she went on, friends and park officials said.

When she didn’t return as planned, he made it safely down the trail and reported her missing.

The body found Saturday was off-trail, about halfway down a steep hillside above Boundary Creek, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said. She didn’t know whether it was apparent that the woman had fallen or what caused the death. It remains under investigation.

Among the dangers of hiking on snowfields in the summer are falling through snow bridges caused by melting water beneath the surface and sinking into tree wells, where deep, soft or unsupported snow accumulates around tree trunks. A searcher was hurt Thursday when he punched through a snow bridge and was airlifted out of the area.

“It’s a time to be cautious when you’re in the backcountry on snow, but we don’t know if that was a contributing factor or not,” Wold said.

Michael Fagin, a meteorologist who specializes in mountain weather forecasts, said Sykes invited him on the hike, but he had to work. Often during hikes with Sykes and her boyfriend, she’d continue walking around and taking pictures when Fagin and Morthorst stopped to eat or rest.

“Bob and I would stop and eat lunch, and she’d be crawling in the dirt taking pictures of flowers,” Fagin said. “She couldn’t sit still.”

Fagin said he would typically take the lead on their walks; Sykes, who was also a distance runner, would get too far ahead if she led.

Much of Sykes’ recent work had been for the website of Visit Rainier, an organization that uses local lodging taxes to promote tourism at the mountain. She often tried to write about lesser-used trails, Fagin said.

“After lunch on the ridge we continued, climbing from one high point to the next facing the mountain,” she wrote in a piece about snowshoeing on Mazama Ridge. “As much as we love the forest there is something that stirs the restless soul to go further, to go higher.

“One has to be careful to establish and stick to a turnaround time. The siren will tempt you with another high point along the ridge, then another, then another.” 

Snow slowly receding, exposing high-country trails

HIKING — Phil Hough and Deb Hunsicker celebrated the summer solstice by checking out the Grouse Mountain Trail in the Cabinet Mountains for an upcoming project by the Idaho Trails Association.  They couldn't resist to going all the way to the summit of the 5,980-foot mountain northeast of Sandpoint and east of McArthur Lake.

They had to ford a the North Fork Grouse Creek, which will be a rock hopper later in the summer.  And they had to walk on snow at higher elevations.

But the glacier-lily bloom was following the receding snowline up the mountain.

New map published for Cabinet Mountains Wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS — A new Cabinet Mountains Wilderness map, highlighting about 80 trails, has been published by conservation groups celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

“The last Forest Service wilderness map, published in 1992, is out of print and almost impossible to find,” said Sandy Compton of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, one of several groups, agencies and businesses that worked on the project.

“This is not only a good map as far as being able to find your way around, it’s also more of a resource for the local communities,” he said, noting it lists trails, contacts, attractions and services around the Western Montana wilderness area south of the Kootenai River.

Ten trails are spotlighted with short descriptions to show the range of options. It's beautifully illustrated with photos from the area.

The new map is clean, easy to read and water-resistant. But mapaholics won’t want to throw away their old Forest Service wilderness map.

For example, the new map leaves off a few landmark names, including small lakes or ponds and Hanging Valley.

Perhaps only a little prematurely in this age of climate change, it omits Blackwell Glacier on the north side of Snowshoe Peak and shows it as water.

However, trails on the new map are updated, easier to follow and more detailed.

Released this week, the map is being distributed at Forest Service offices, stores in the region as well as the Spokane REI store.

Father sets bar high as hiking/parenting role model

HIKING — What's  your excuse for not getting your son or daughter out on the trail lately?

James Geier, a retired law enforcement officer, celebrated Fathers Day by hiking with his 18-year-old son, Jonah, in Arches National Park. Even though Jonah is not able to hike, his dad gave him a tow on trailer so he could enjoy the experience of traveling three miles into the Utah backcountry, climbing 480 feet over slickrock trails and up red rock steps to share with his dad a worldwide symbol of strength and endurance.

“Perseverance,” his daughter Laura wrote of the outing. “Shared by both the Arch in withstanding time and change, and the resolve of a father to hike his disabled son to the Arch to experience the incredible symbol of natural beauty and strength.”

 

Lingering snow delays Glacier Park opportunities

PUBLIC LANDS — Be patient if you're making plans to visit Glacier National Park, especially if you want to venture into the high country.

Snow conditions, cool weather, and debris from snow slides are challenging some spring opening operations for trails, facilities and roads in Glacier National Park.  Snow accumulations in the park are above average this year and spring snowmelt has varied at different locations. 

A weather system is predicted to impact the area beginning tonight through the next couple of days, including cooler temperatures and heavy precipitation.  At this time, a winter storm warning has been issued in and around Glacier National Park for elevations above 6,500 feet with predictions of snow accumulations of one to two feet.   The elevation at Logan Pass is 6,646 feet. 

Numerous trails in Glacier National Park are still snow-covered. Park staff report damage to trails and backcountry campsites due to snow slides and large amounts of avalanche debris.

  • The Ptarmigan Falls Bridge and Twin Falls Bridge have been removed due to winter damage and hazardous conditions. Temporary bridges are expected to be installed by early July.
  • The Iceberg Lake Trail is closed to stock use until permanent repairs to the Ptarmigan Falls B ridge are complete.  Permanent repair work on both bridges is anticipated to begin this fall.
  • Trout Lake Trail has been impacted by extensive avalanche debris.  Hikers are not encouraged to use this trail, or it is recommended that hikers have route-finding skills to traverse the debris. 

Trails may traverse steep and sometimes icy snowfields and park rangers are advising hikers to have the appropriate equipment and skills to navigate such areas, or perhaps visit those areas once conditions improve. 

The park posts current trail status reports.

Even some lowland facilities have been affected by the late season. Frozen and damaged sewer and water lines caused some delays in seasonal opening activities for utilities park-wide.

  • Rising Sun and the Swiftcurrent cabin areas experienced damaged water lines.
  • The Apgar and Lake McDonald areas experienced issues with frozen sewer lines, and some broken water lines.
  • The Cutbank, Many Glacier and Two Medicine Campgrounds experienced delayed openings due to abundant snow accumulation and slow snow melt.   

The Going to the Sun Road is still being cleared by snow removal crews. A snow slide in the Alps area of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, about five miles west of Logan Pass, wiped out about 20-30 feet of rock wall along the road.  Several new slide paths across the road have been encountered this spring, including the need for extensive snow and debris cleanup.    

Snow removal operations on the Going-to-the-Sun Road continue with road crews working near the Big Drift and Lunch Creek areas east of Logan Pass. Above average snow accumulation and cool June temperatures have provided challenges for snow removal operations. The snow depth at the Big Drift is estimated to be about 80 feet, larger than recent years.  Once the snow is removed, a thick layer of ice on the road is anticipated. 

Park road crew employees have begun working overtime in an effort to accomplish snow removal goals.

Snow removal and plowing progress, including images, are posted online.

  • Currently, visitors can drive about 16 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche on the west side of the park, and one mile from the St. Mary Entrance to the foot of St. Mary Lake on the east side. It is anticipated that there will be vehicle access to the Jackson Glacier Overlook area on the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road by this weekend, but it is dependent on weather conditions.  Vehicle access to Logan Pass, and beyond Avalanche on the west side of park, is unknown at this time. 

Hiker-biker access is currently available from Avalanche to the Loop on the west side, and from St. Mary to Rising Sun on the east side. See current hiker-biker access and park road status reports.