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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.  

Wilderness goal: get passport stamped for “Blue Mountains 7”

WILDERNESS — Maybe you've followed trails all over the Northwest, but have you visited all seven wilderness areas in the Blue Mountains that straddle the Washington-Oregon border?

The Blue Mountains National Forests (Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests) have introduced the Wilderness Passport Challenge to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act

The passport has a page for each of the seven wilderness areas in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington — Wenaha-Tucannon, North Fork Umatilla, North Fork John Day, Hells Canyon, Eagle Cap, Strawberry Mountain and Monument Rock.

Get the free passport and have it stamped at a Forest Service office when you venture out to visit one of the wilderness areas.This will be a collector's item with a lot of good memories and stories behind it. 

 The National Wilderness Preservation System, established by the Wilderness Act of 1964, has become one of the nation's treasures. 

The passport challenge is just one way you can join the many activities this year celebrating the Wilderness Act 50th Anniversary.

Umatilla National Forest Headquarters

Pendleton, Oregon (541) 278-3716

North Fork John Day Ranger District

Ukiah, Oregon (541) 427-3231

Pomeroy Ranger District

Pomeroy, Washington (509) 843-1891

Walla Walla Ranger District

Walla Walla, Washington (509) 522-6290

Geologists detail discoveries on Wind River backpack trek

PUBLIC LANDS — See the rugged Wind River Range of Wyoming from the perspective of backpacking geologists in a free program Tuesday, 7 p.m. at Jack & Dan's Bar and Grille, 1226 N. Hamilton St. in Spokane.

Geologists Andy Buddington of Spokane Community College and Nigel Davies of Eastern Washington University will discuss the hard rock geology of the northern winds and discuss the lake sediment coring research.  The scenery will be excellent.

 

PCT trail record setter checks out Sandpoint

HIKING — The woman who set the 60-day, self-supported, speed-hiking record for the 2700-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2013 was in Sandpoint Wednesday to give a presentation for the annual meeting of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

The crowd that came for the show was not disappointed — especially with her animated description of an 11 p.m. on-the-trail. face-to-face encounter with a cougar. (Anish dominated!)

But Heather "Anish" Anderson needed to stretch her legs, before the program.  After an early morning radio interview, she headed out on the Gold Hill Trail with her boyfriend, Kevin Douglas, and Phil Hough of the FSPW.

"I don't walk fast," she said. "I'm a 3 mph hiker. What set me apart on the PCT was that I could do it all day, day after day, for 60 days without a rest day averaging only 5 hours of sleep a night."

Pacific Crest Trail speed-record holder to address Scotchman Peaks group

WILDERNESS — Heather “Anish” Anderson, who set the speed record for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail last summer, will keynote the annual meeting of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness on Wednesday, May 14, in Sandpoint.

The 2014 State of the Scotchmans event will start at 6 p.m. at Forrest M. Bird Charter Middle School auditorium, 621 Madison St. 

Anderson will speak at 7 p.m.

The program deals with her mind- and body-challenging trek — 2,655-miles from Mexico to Canada in 60 days — to set a PCT record for self-supported through-hiking.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness advocates will present a progress report of their 10-year-effort in getting an 88,000-acre roadless area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille considered for wilderness designation. 

The group also will announce summer events including work parties and guided treks open to the public in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness and proposed Scotchman Peak Wilderness area.

Directions:

Forrest M. Bird Charter Middle School auditorium, 621 Madison in Sandpoint.

  • From U.S. Highway 2, turn south on Division  (marked by the big Mountain West Bank at the west edge of Sandpoint).
  • Go past the first stop sign and look for a sign on the right pointing the way to the Charter School.
  • A sign marking the entrance to the auditorium building. 

Big pack needed for hike in elk antler country

HIKING — Holly Weiler of Spokane Valley recommends a big pack even for an overnight spring backpacking trip into the Blue Mountains. 

Being the first to trek up the North Fork Asotin Creek Trail was rewarded with the discovery of a six-point bull elk antler shed, which she had to pack out around 10 miles to the trailhead.

But what filled her pack was all the trash she collected that wintered in the mountains, leftover from last fall. 

Said Weiler:

Ice axe loops work nicely for shed hunters, too. That pack was heavy! The plastic bag is full of other people's trash.

North Fork Asotin Creek is one of the many destinations mentioned in my story about the visual pleasures of day hiking in April

It's Hike No. 124 in Day Hiking Eastern Washington.

Note:  I do not recommend camping at the ladybird beetle "meadow" during spring.  It's a rare find — a fragile traditional roosting spot for bugs that have great value to society by preying on crop-plaguing insects.

Hikers find forest trails still plugged with snow

HIKING — April is prime time for exploring lowland river trails or routes through Eastern Washington's scablands.

Here are just a few suggestions, with details in the guidebook, Day Hiking Eastern Washington or 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest:

Short trips:

Spokane River trails, Fishtrap Lake and Hog Canyon, Z Lake, Crab Creek, Rocks of Sharon, South Hill Bluff, Saltese Uplands, Palisades, Slavin Conservation Area.

Longer trips: 

Lake Chelan Shoreline Trail, Northrup Canyon and Steamboat Rock, Escure Ranch, North Fork Asotin Creek, Snake River trail in Hells Canyon.

Flowers are blossoming and the vegetation is greening in these lower elevation areas.  By late June some of these areas will be starting to turn brown.

In the forests, however, trails are weeks from prime conditions because the trees and higher elevations translate into lingering snow cover.

Reports from the mountains above Lake Thomas in the Pend Oreille Chain of Lakes east of  Colville told of deep snow and ice not far from the Valley floor.

The Inland Northwest Hikers ventured Sunday to Marie Creek Trail in the Wolf Lodge area north of I-90 just east of Coeur d'Alene (see photo above and directions in 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest Bonus Hikes).  Sunny areas were fine, but shaded areas were snow-packed.

As Natalia Ruiz put it, "It's a wonderful hike, but at this time trail conditions are atrocious in some areas."

Landers hiking program featured at county libraries

TRAILS — I'll be at Spokane County Libraries tonight and Thursday night to present free programs on "Hiking, the Perfect Sport" based on my latest trail guidebook, "Day Hiking Eastern Washington." 

I'll be sharing tips from the trails and, while I'll cover some great places to go hiking, I'll also explain why I can't easily answer the question "What's your favorite hike?" 

The programs start at 7 p.m. as follows:

Group seeks official status for Canada’s Great Divide Trail

TRAILS — It's hard to imagine why Alberta wouldn't want to promote one of the world's great trails through unmatched scenery.  Some Canadians have stopped wondering why and are regrouping to get the Great Divide Trail officially on the map.

Alberta seeks official recognition for Great Divide Trail
The nearly 746-mile Great Divide Trail runs from Waterton Lakes National Park on the Canada-United States border, follows the continental divide north and ends at Kakwa Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia, and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resources Development is seeking a consultant to help get the entire length of the trail officially designated.
—Calgary Herald

Annual Spokane backpacking school starts March 28

HIKING — The highly regarded annual Backpacking School presented by the Spokane Mountaineers starts March 28 — and there may still be a few openings.

  • Two of the instructors, Holly Weiler and Samantha Journot, are pictured above on a 2013 club backpacking trip in the Glacier Peak Wilderness

The weekly evening sessions are on Fridays starting at  6:30 p.m. running through May, when the school concludes with a three day "graduation" backpacking trip in Idaho over the Memorial Day weekend. The classroom sessions are held at Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield in Spokane Valley.

This course covers clothing and boots, map and compass skills, trip planning, major equipment, first-aid, meal preparation and leave-no-trace practices. By the time the class ends, participants should have the knowledge and skills to plan and execute backpacking adventures safely and thoughtfully.

Additionally, the club offers weekday evening hikes and weekend club outings to help hikers get in shape for the season and connect with other backpackers.

Info: David Sorg, (509) 924-6593.

Congress comes together, finally, for Michigan wilderness bill

PUBLIC LANDS — The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to pass the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act, sending the measure to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

The bill, which passed in the Senate in June, will protect more than 32,500 acres in Michigan, including pristine shoreline and forests on the coast of Lake Michigan.

It will be the first new wilderness designated during the 113th Congress. 

Meanwhile the wilderness debate is going on across the country.  Here are examples from publications in Montana and Utah:

USFS chief discusses divide on wilderness debate
As part of the "Room to Roam" Wilderness Issues Lecture Series hosted by the Wilderness Institute at the University of Montana in Missoula, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell talked about the need for untrammeled wild areas, provided his agency's perspective on current wilderness proposals before Congress and the agency's ability to respond to change.
— Missoulian;

Quote of the day:
"It's hard for me to say the 'w' word, but I believe the state can do a better job and there are areas that need to be protected. They are special areas for people."

Rep. Mike Noel, the chair of the Utah House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee, about the Utah Wilderness Act the panel approved on Tuesday.
- Salt Lake Tribune

Lessons from rafting the Canyon: pee bottle

CAMPING — Urine management is required on rivers, but it's also worth consideration on virtually any camping trip where a vault toilet isn't close by camp.

I thought about this several times a day — not to mention a few more times at night — during my recent rafting-hiking adventure in Grand Canyon National Park.

Rafters on heavily used rivers such as the Colorado through the Grand Canyon, as well as on Idaho's wilderness rivers such as the Salmon and Selway, are asked to pee in the river rather on shores.  

Dilution is the solution to pollution.

Peeing on shore ultimately stinks and makes the campsite less appealing to those who follow.  Urine also attracts critters who crave the salt. This can be cute at first but menacing to those who follow.

The pee bottle for men or a pee bucket with a lid for women is a highly recommended item I've used for years — during snow storms climbing Mount McKinley, during late night nature calls while sleeping in the back of my pickup at hunting camp, in my tent in campgrounds…. you get the idea.   

On river trips especially, you can store the pee in the bottle for an entire evening and through the night and make one trip to a flowing section of the current to dispose of the urine rather than making numerous trips during the course of a camp.

The best bottles are wide-mouth plastic bottles with tight-sealing lids.

My time-tested favorite is the 48-ounce (bigger is better)  Nalgene Canteen — a flexible wide-mouth container that collapses flat for storage while traveling. 

 There, I'm relieved to have shared this with you.

Lessons from rafting the Grand Canyon: for anglers

ADVENTURING — My recent multi-week winter rafting-hiking adventure on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon (see story here) prompts a few hints to people planning similar river trips as well as to anglers planning multi-day trips to places such as Alaska:

CARE FOR YOUR HANDS.  River trips suck the moisture out of your skin, especially your hands. I've come home with cracked, bleeding hands after week-long float-fishing trips in Alaska, my fingers so sore it was difficult to stuff a sleeping bag in its sack.

Colorado River rafters emphasize this point and recommend preventive treatment.  

Based on a recommendation from an experienced Canyon boater, I started using ProKera lotion (available at RiteAid stores) twice a day several days before we launched.  

During the trip, I wore paddling gloves as much as possible while on the boat and especially while loading and tending bow lines.

And I applied the extreme-care ProKera lotion two or three times a day. This is the kind of lotion (Tiger Balm also works well) that takes several minutes of rubbing to absorb into your hands. The time is well spent. My hands came out of the desert river trip in excellent condition.

Lessons from rafting the Grand Canyon: for groups

ADVENTURING — My recent multi-week winter rafting-hiking adventure on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon (see story here) with a private group prompts me to share some observations to people planning similar group river trips. For example:

BAG THE GROUP KITCHEN: If your trip is long and the group is larger than about six members, rafting guide Brian Burns recommends letting every rafter, couple or family bring and prepare their own meals on their own cooking equipment.

"The group kitchen thing can cause problems on trips longer than a week or so," he said. "People eat different quantities and have different food preferences and the chores can become a sense of friction if some people think others in the group are slacking."

And it can be a big bummer to get up at 5 a.m. on a bad-weather day to get the group meal going so the coffee's ready by 7 — especially if several in the group want tea.  

The do-it-yourself method worked beautifully on our Grand Canyon trip. It gave people time to chill on their own and then mingle as they wished during breakfast and dinner, sometimes sharing with the group treats such as cocktails, chocolate, smoked oysters and wine before and after mealtime.

Even after a couple weeks, the only person you could blame for inadequate food was yourself.

Rafting, hiking Grand Canyon in winter had high, low points

ADVENTURING — Before I write my stories about winter adventuring in the Grand Canyon, I have to decide which I enjoyed more, the view up from the river or the view down from the rim!

Landers returns from wild time in Grand Canyon

About 50 hours ago I snapped this photo after hiking out 10 miles and nearly a mile in elevation to the Grand Canyon's  South Rim Village.

I'd been rafting the Colorado River and exploring the side canyons for two weeks. But I had to leave my rafting buddies and return to Spokane as they continue downstream on one of the greatest 30-day adventures one can have in the USA.

Two things motivated me to put the pedal to the metal for the 1,240-mile return drive from the Canyon:

  • Shop-stuff, such as catching up on the news, preparing the next Spokesman-Review Sunday Outdoors package and updating my blog.
  • Being on time for tonight's dinner date with my Valentine, the beauty I kissed good-by on Jan. 27.

Stories to come.  Stay tuned.

Enchantments wilderness permit application period opens

BACKPACKING — It's time to make your application for a coveted permit to backpack into the Enchantment Lakes area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Leavenworth.  Here are details from the U.S. Forest Service:

Rugged, beautiful and unique, the nationally known Enchantments are contained within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Cascade Mountains of north central Washington State. With such wide popularity, many people are already planning for the 2014 season and hope to obtain one of the limited entrance permits that are required for either day or overnight use in this special area.

Overnight Users:  It is essential that all overnight visitors have one of the limited entry FEE permits for trips planned from June 15 - October 15, 2014.

Day Users: Day users must obtain a free self-issue wilderness permit available at any of the three trailheads accessing The Enchantment Permit Area.

Demand for overnight permits far exceeds the number available and a pre-season lottery will be held in February to allocate the majority of permits.  Following the pre-season lottery, any remaining permits are available on a first come, first served basis through the www.recreation.gov advance reservation system.  Only a few unreserved permits are available on a daily “walk-in” basis held at the ranger station.

The 2014 Enchantment Permit Area pre-season Lottery period is open February 15th (3:01 ET) - March 3rd (2:59 am ET) through this website: www.recreation.gov.  Not all dates and zones for the season are taken during the lottery and any open dates available can be reserved after the lottery ends. Lottery results will be released March 6

Gearing up for a hike in griz country? Read this first

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BACKPACKING — If you're thinking about packing a gun on your next hike into Yellowstone, Glacier Park or other areas of grizzly bear habitat, read this story first.

Then check out the video above on how to effectively use bear spray.

Muir Project film refreshing look at adventure

BACKPACKING — Most of us have marveled at the Radical Reels-type films of hard-bodied and sometimes weak-thinking adventurers challenging themselves to the limits of life and death to climb mountains or plunge off waterfalls in kayaks or cliffs on skis… whatever.

That's why I find this flick, "Mile…Mile & a Half" produced by The Muir Project so refreshing. It's about people with average outdoor skills taking on the 25-day, 219-mile John Muir Trail through the Sierra-Nevada Range of California.

It's truly refreshing, and I hope it inspires others to do the same.

Schelly details trek in Black Sea region, Eastern Europe

NOTE DATE:  The date for this program was incorrect in today's version of the story in print.

OUTTRAVEL – Jane Schelly, a globetrotting Spokane teacher and backpacker, will present a free program on her summer outdoor travels in the Black Sea Region of Eastern Europe Monday, Jan. 27, at  7 p.m., at the Spokane REI store.

Schelly traveled through the mountains of Romania, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey –  “a blend of being tourist of culture, people, nature and cosmopolitan areas,” she says.