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Idaho legislator goes from hike to bike

TRAILS – Idaho state Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, hasn’t given up his plan to travel the length of Idaho this fall by muscle power to promote trails, experience rural areas and raise funds for the Redside Foundation that supports the health of Idaho guides.

But he said a leg injury has forced him to change his plan from hiking the 950-mile Idaho Centennial Trail to continuing on a bicycle. 

He’d hiked 220 miles in 10 days from Upper Priest River Falls to Mullan, but a few days later on the stateline trail along the Bitterroot Mountains, the leg injury got too him.

His Facebook posts show him biking down the old Lewiston Grade and advancing to Riggins and the Mountain Time Zone.

On Wednesday, the outdoor educator and climbing guide said, “Left the bike up north, caught a ride Boise, put on a suit and am headed to interim Energy, Technology and Environment Committee meeting.

"However,” he added, vowing to finish his Idaho end-to-ender, “I am not shaving my face until I get to Nevada!” 

Day hiking the Salmo-Priest loop; de-trashing the wilderness

HIKING — Holly Weiler of the Spokane Mountaineers led a 20-mile day hike on the Salmo Loop in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness on Saturday to bring her August Hike-A-Thon mileage close to 300 miles as she raised donations for the Washinton Trails Association.

Photo shows Holly and Ed Bowers about 12 miles into their day hiking down off Little Snowy Top Mountain. In the background is Crowell Ridge and Gypsy Peak, highest point in Eastern Washington.

Why is Holly carrying such a big pack for a day hike, you ask?

Because, as usual, she's been picking up garbage along the way as she cruised through the wilderness, including lots of plastic stuff, plus empty butane fuel canisters and full freeze-dried food packages that were being chewed through by rodents in the Little Snowy Top lookout.

Note to the uninformed:

  • Fire pits are not garbage disposals.
  • Aluminum does not burn in a campfire.
  • If you can pack it in, pack it out.

Wilderness found:  The Salmo-Priest is getting plenty of attention.  We counted 36 hikers including our group of three had signed in on 8-31-13 at the two Salmo Basin Trailsheads at the end of Colville National Forest Road 2220.

Colville Forest closes Albian Hill Road for repairs

PUBLIC LANDS — Forest Road 2030000 (Albian Hill Road) will be temporarily closed in various sections starting Sept. 3 to replace two culverts in two locations that are currently blocking fish passage. 

The Lower Albian Hill culvert, located just past the junction of Hwy 20 at MP 0.3, will be closed Sept. 3 through Sept. 21. 

The Upper Albian Hill culvert is located just before the Wapaloosie Trailhead at MP 3.2 and will be closed from Sept. 16 through Oct. 8, 2013.

Access to the Albian Hill road is still available by way of Forest Road 9565000 (Deadman Creek Road).

Info: Three Rivers Ranger Station, (509) 738-7700.  

State legislator hiking length of Idaho

TRAILS — State Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, who was elected to the Idaho House of Representatives in November, is attempting to hike a 950-mile route the length of Idaho in about 40 days.

“Why did you run?” we asked the mountain climbing guide and outdoor educator who teaches college-level physical education and leadership courses.

“Tom Luna, mainly,” he said referring to the resentment many educators have for Idaho's controversial state schools superintendent.

“More important, why are you hiking the Idaho Centennial Trail?”

“To raise awareness of trails in Idaho and as a fundraiser for the Redside Foundation, which promotes health programs for guides. Outfitters have their own association, but there’s not much support for the guides who work for them.”

Erpelding, who started at Upper Priest River Falls, barely had 100 miles under his belt Saturday when we caught him in Clark Fork poring over maps and protein-loading at a barbecue hosted by Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

“This is a bi-partisan effort,” he said, noting that Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, hosted him for a night at his lake place.

The route is a network of trails, roads and bushwhacking through at least 10 national forests and three wilderness areas.

“I’m getting insights on rural areas and exploring ways people can work together for Idaho,” he said.

The trail isn’t for sissies. “The Upper Priest River trail is amazing through the cedars,” he said. “But in other places the Centennial Trail is poorly marked or nonexistent. Road-walking isn’t fun, and you can go more than 20 miles on ridges without water.”

Despite devoting 10 hours to a 13-mile navigation error over White Mountain, Erpelding, 38, had covered 220 miles in 10 days as of Wednesday.

“Crossed the Selkirks, Cabinets, and some of the Bitterroots,” he posted on Facebook. “Only had to get my bear spray out once and realized that I needed a much bigger can. Bad news: I hurt my left calf; gonna take a rest in Mullan and see if I can get it up to speed.”

Erpending guided climbers in Colorado and on Rainier this summer. He’s also guided five climbs on Denali, although he had to back out of an expedition last summer: “It conflicted with the Idaho primaries,” he said.

Beyond his priorities for education and equality, he wants to spotlight the value of trails for local economies.

“But it does not good to overstate the problems,” he said. “About the same time Hurricane Sandy was trashing the East Coast, Idaho legislators were calling trail neglect in the Frank (Church Wilderness) a ‘national disaster.’ We’re not going to get much credibility with that perspective.”

Trail conditions in the Frank aren’t his top concern for this trek: “Right now the route in the wilderness is closed because of fires.”

His deadline is Oct. 4 – he’s the keynote speaker for the Idaho School Counselors convention in Boise.

“I’ll do the best I can to finish the trail,” he said.

Last question: Is that blood all over your sleeping ground cloth?

“Huckleberries,” he said. "The North Idaho woods are full of them; and the bears know it."

Flash flood warning for North Cascades east slope

HIKING — Watch the sky if your heading for camping or hiking in the North Cascades near Leavenworth.  The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning with a forecast for storms and heavy rain today.

Forest Service reopens popular trailhead north of Lake Wenatchee

HIKING — Little Wenatchee Road, (Forest Service Road No. 6500), has been re-opened for the first time since winter to public access above the intersection with Smithbrook Road No. 6700, the Wenatchee River Ranger District says today. 

This area, and its popular trailhead for Heather Lake and other alpine destinations, has been inaccessible to motor vehicles since a December storm felled hundreds of trees throughout the area.

The upper portion of Little Wenatchee Road No. 6500 is accessible by taking Smithbrook Road No. 6700 off Highway 2, located about four miles east of Stevens Pass Ski Area, north to the Little Wenatchee Road intersection north of Lake Wenatchee.  The lower portion of the Little Wenatchee Road, from a gate up to the intersection with Smithbrook Road, is still closed due to trees over the roadway from last winter’s storm. 

Trailheads that continue to be open include Little Wenatchee Ford and Irving Pass to Poe Mountain, in addition to trailheads leading to Minotaur Lake, Theseus Lake, Heather Lake, and Top Lake. 

Soda Springs and Lake Creek Campgrounds remain closed due to many down trees and standing dead trees in these campgrounds that can cause safety hazards. 

Reconstruction work continues at Heather Lake Trailhead located on Forest Service Road No. 6701-400 in the upper Little Wenatchee drainage.  For those planning to visit Heather Lake, the trailhead will remain open during trailhead reconstruction work.  Trail users will need to park their vehicles about a half mile down the road from the current trailhead but will be able to walk around construction activities to access the trail. I

Info: Wenatchee River Ranger District, 509-548-2550. 

Thunder storms put hikers in hot spot

WILDERNESS — I'm just back from four electrifying days of backpacking in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, catching up old news for which I had a front row seat.

Mudslides bury North Cascades Highway — Hikers stranded Monday as storms leave the vital summer passage closed over the mountains between Mazama and the Skagit Valley. The Washington State Department of Transportation says eight mudslides have buried SR 20.

Lightning pounds North Cascades — Lightning maps showed more than 7,400 strikes occurred from 9 a.m. Saturday until 9 a.m. Sunday along the eastern slope of the Cascade Range and in Southeastern Washington, including the Glacier Peak Wilderness where I was hunkered three nights in a row wishing I had ear plugs.  Much of the thunder was concentrated in Okanogan, Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Franklin counties, Forest Service officials say. 

                “Significant amounts of rain fell Saturday night so some fires may not be detected for some time,” said Central Washington Interagency Communications Center Operations Coordinator Jim Duck. “Many times lightning will strike a tree and fire will smolder beneath it for some time until fuel around it dries out.”

PCT speed-hiking record setter was overweight girl

UPDATE at Aug. 8, 10:30 a.m. — Unconfirmed reports have Heather “Anish” Anderson finishing the Pacific Crest Trail at 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 7, 2013. That would break the speed record of 64 days by 3-4 days. Reports from Josh Garrett’s friends indicate he will finish this afternoon in a time that would break Anderson’s new record by about two days.

HIKING — Heather "Anish" Anderson is likely to inspire people, including bookworms, daydreamers and overweight people.  Today she is likely to set the world record for through-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail unsupported.

SIDE ISSUE: The debate is likely to continue on whether a record-breaking trek can be called "unsupported" when a hiker posts progress updates on social media and draws a following that shows up at trailheads to offer food and encouragement.   Here's an observation by Karen Dawn, who resents my description of Josh Garrett's record PCT trek as "supported."

Jennifer Phar Davis does not have the "supported" record for the Appalachian Trail.

When Heather/Anish reached Rainy Pass, 60 miles from the finish, she was greeted by throngs, who knew from her facebook updates that she was coming, and was photographed eating pizza. When Josh got to Rainy Pass, after hiking

120 miles utterly alone, his single support person Tish, who had not had reception, had gone into town to check messages. So Josh stood there all alone, no people, no food. Compare that to Anish's "unsupported" experience….

 I am sorry you chose to propogate the unsupported myth — a hike is not unsupported when you are blogging your location and people are showering you with food. She didn't even have to go pick up her last resupply package. 

 

Meanwhile, here's Heather Anderson's background in an inspiring vignette from a Facebook entry she posted on Aug. 2 before virtually disappearing in her final push through the north Cascades to end her 2,655-mile odyssey at the U.S.-Canada border: 

I imagine people may think I am a natural athlete, the girl who played sports all through school. The exact opposite is true. I was an overweight child, a bookworm who sat with her nose in an adventure book and daydreamed. I never exercised and couldn't make it around the track without walking. When I graduated high school I weighed 200lbs.

I daydreamed of adventure, but the thing I daydreamed the most was that I would someday set a record. Not just any record though, an athletic record. I wanted so desperately to not be what I was. I hated my body and myself. I consoled myself by eating a bowls full of oreos and milk as though they were cereal. But somewhere deep inside I knew I was capable of doing something more.

When I was 20 I met something that would forever change my life. A Trail. Though my first few hikes were miserable as I forced my body to work, I was enthralled. Trails took me on the adventures I craved and to beautiful, wondrous, wild places. I lost my heart and soul…and eventually 70 lbs…to the trails.

Now, I am a few short days away from fulfilling my oldest daydream: setting an athletic record. I cry when I think about all the things I have overcome to get here, both on this hike and off. It makes me ever so grateful to that chubby girl who dared to dream big, audacious dreams. I am even more thankful that she grew up to be a woman courageous enough to make those dreams reality.

Local woman hiking PCT; slower pace but worthy cause

HIKING — Regarding my story today about record-setting hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, I've received several notes regarding the other hikers on the trail.  For example:


Laura Talaga, and assistant veterinarian from Chewelah, started in at
Campo on April 23rd.  She's doing it for the adventure and the beauty,
not records, though she's also raising money for the Colville Valley
Animal Sanctuary, which she works with.  Her support is resupply boxes
mailed to strategic locations along the trail.  She's north of Bend at
last report on her blog http://www.traildog4cvas.blogspot.com/.

Not all hikers do it for publicity.

Happy Trails.

Eric Johnson, Spokane

Hikers, berry pickers sharing woods with hunters this month

HUNTING/HIKING — August is a prime month for backpacking in the Inland Northwest and it's also the month in which some hunting seasons open, luring sportsmen with bows or rifles into the same mountains.

Danger levels are very low, but safety-minded hikers wear some bright clothing this time of year.

In Washington:

Black bear hunting seasons opened Aug. 1 in Western Washington and much of the Casdades and Columbia Basin zones. The Northeastern B and Okanogan zones will open Aug. 15.

More seasons, including forest grouse and morning dove, will open Sept. 1.

In Idaho:

Archery seasons for mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk open Aug. 30 and run through September.

In the warm weather of summer, hunters should consider hunting in the higher country. Hunters have an ethical and legal obligation to salvage the edible portions of their kill. But meat spoilage is an important concern during hot weather.

The key to preserving meat is starting the cooling process quickly. Game animals should be skinned immediately and quartered in most cases and transported quickly to cold storage facilities. Early season hunters may consider using large ice chests to keep game meat cool and clean. Removing meat from the bones also helps speed cooling. 

Wildfire closes several trails in Alpine Lakes Wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS — The 30 acre lightning-caused Granite Mountain Fire, burning 19 miles west of Leavenworth, as prompted trail and area closures around Klonaqua Lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, U.S. Forest Service officials said today in a media release.

These closures have been enacted for public and firefighter safety.

An area of about 7 square miles is closed to public entry around the fire zone. 

Trail closures in this area include Klonaqua Lakes Trail No. 1563 and French Creek Trail No. 1595 from its intersection with Snowall Creek Trail No. 1560 to its intersection with Paddy-Go-Easy Trail. 

Signs advising recreationists of the fire and area and trail closures will be posted at trailheads leading into the closed area.

The smell and haze of smoke may be noticeable in the Icicle drainage and also in the town of Leavenworth depending upon weather conditions and wind direction.  Fire managers do not anticipate that smoke will affect any tourism activities in and around Leavenworth.

The fire was started by a lightning storm that passed through North Central Washington on Sunday, August 4.

Hit a trail this weekend; no Discover Pass needed Sunday

TRAILS — Saturday is Washington Trails Day, with groups organizing to give a little TLC to popular paths across the state.

But Sunday is another enticing day to hit a trail especially in Riverside and Mount Spokane state parks, since Aug. 4 is one of the 12 days a year designated for fee-free access to Washington State Parks.  Vehicles will not be required to have a Discover Pass for access to state parks on Sunday.

The Washington Trails Association has organized volunteers to repair and improve 140 trails across the state this year, including a backpacking group that will be out this weekend on the Shedroof Divide Trail in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness of northeastern Washington.

The association's website offers a hiking guide and trip reports about current conditions that are submitted by hikers – more than 4,500 submitted in 2013 alone. WTA also offers many hiking suggestions for hikers of all abilities

Hot news: Keep bear spray where the sun don’t shine

CAMPING — "Bear spray left in car. Becomes bomb. Very impressive."

That's a post  with the photo above from Hal Herring in Montana, who performed an unintentional science experiment by leaving a canister of bear spray in the back of his Subaru open to direct exposure to the hot summer sun.

Manufacturers say aerosol cans can burst above temps of 120-130 degrees.  But the main thing is that the canisters should always be covered — in a duffle, in an uncooled cooler, wraped in a towel under the seat of a car, but NEVER left to the full intensity of the summer sun in an enclosed vehicle.

"Check out the super shred on that bear spray holster…reckon there was a little force there?" Herring notes.

Forest fires alter hiking options in wilderness

HIKING — With the wildfire season kicking into high gear, be sure to call ahead before leaving on a backcountry trip — and have an alternate plan even if you get a green light.

Jim Czirr of Spokane sent in this report after returning from a trek in the Bob Marshall Wilderness:

I just got back from the Bob Marshalls where I was hiking the last several days.  My brother in law and I were the last ones to slip down Red Shale Meadows trail before they closed it due to the forest fires up there. 

The attached photos were taken Saturday PM around 3 or 4 PM Mountain time near the Red Shale fire.  The fire was a few hundred yards from the trail.

We did the section of the CDT from Lake Levale to Red Shale.  Went in Route Pass and out Headquarters, a nice 50 mile loop or so entering the wilderness outside of Choteau.

Hikers in 3 national parks felled by lightning

HIKING — Thunder storms throughout the West this week took a heavy toll, setting fires and raising havoc in several ways.  

The strangest detail:   Hikers in three national parks were injured or killed within a 30-hour period.

See the stories about this week's lightning strike victims in:

Read this story about the serious threat lightning poses and precautions hikers and campers can take.

Peak experience for mountain goats

HIKING — The greeting party was there, as usual on top of Scotchman Peak on Thursday, rewarding my daughter and me for our steep 7-mile-round-trip hike from the northeast corner of Lake Pend Oreille.

Mountain goats that live on the Idaho peak towering above Clark Fork, Idaho, have become an attraction in themselves.  They can almost make you overlook the killer view of Lake Pend Oreille, the Selkirk Mountains to the west, the Cabinet Mountains to the east and the expanse of backcountry to the north proposed for wilderness.

If you go:

— Expect a hike that's vigorous going up and punishing on the way down.

—Prepare for bugs on the summit if winds are calm.

—Urinate off the trail well before reaching the rocky summit area to avoid conditioning the goats to following people. Mountain goats crave the salt in urine and it's thought to make them aggressive, as in the case of the hiker who was gored to death in Olympic National Park.

Heed the warning signs and please don't feed the goats — for their own good and yours.  They've been fed before and they'll come looking for food and salt to lick.  Guard your packs. They may try to nibble at your pack straps.

I fear for the mountain goats' future if they continue to be spoiled and set up to hurt somebody one day.

UPDATE

After posting the blog info above on Facebook, I received this reply to consider from FB friend Nick Delavan:

My friend Cody Evans and I made our yearly pilgrimage to the summit (of Scotchman Peak) a month ago. We were greeted by 7 goats one of which was extremely aggressive and at one point he charged, stopping only ten feet from us. We almost turned his white coat orange! Thankfully a well placed rock via fast pitch sent him on his way. I believe that particular goat was sick, injured or both. It was a good reminder that these animals are wild and have the potential to be dangerous. At no point should people forget that. Leave no trace applies even on a day hike!

Bear activity closes popular Harrison, Beehive Lakes trails in Selkirks

HIKING — Bear activity has prompted the Idaho Panhandle National Forests today to temporarily close popular trails to Beehive and Harrison Lakes in the upper Pack River drainage of the Selkirk Mountains.

The two trails and the surrounding area are closed to the public until further notice to ensure public safety, said Jason Kirchner, Forest Service spokesman in Coeur d'Alene.

A bear recently entered a camp site near the Beehive Lakes Trail and was able to remove camping equipment and human food, he said.

Campers have to step up and follow simple bear-wise rules to protect campers who come after them as well as public access to these coveted backcountry areas.

This bear — the people involved couldn't verify whether it was a black bear or grizzly — likely had been lured by food previously.

One group's sloppy camping can unnecessarily screw up the outdoor experience for everybody, as this instance proves.  

And neglecting to hang or protect food usually brings a bitter end for the bears, as it did this month for bears that had become food-conditioned in Montana's Smith River State Park (see story).

Here are the rules from the Panhandle National Forests

There is a mandatory food storage order in effect from April 1 through December annually. All food and beverages including canned food, soda and beer, garbage, grease, processed livestock or pet food and scented flavored toiletries must be unavailable to bears and stored in bear resistant containers at night and when unattended. For more information on proper food storage, members of the public are encouraged to visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s food storage web site.

Temporary closures are the first step in ensuring public and bear safety when problematic encounters occur.

For more information please contact the Sandpoint Ranger District at (208) 263-5111 or visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests Website.

Trail crew boss divides teens, and conquers

PUBLIC LANDS — Pat Hart, who manages maintenance of recreation sites and trails in the Bonner Ferry Ranger District, has become an expert of attracting and accommodating volunteers, from youths to seniors, to get seasonal jobs done on a slim Forest Service budget.

It takes more thought that you might think.

Every year, Camp Thunderbird, a Minnesota youth outdoor summer camp, buses out about 20 teenage boys and another group of 20 girls, a lot of them from cities like Chicago, for outdoor adventure in the West, including a couple weeks of service work on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

“The girls arrive on a different day than the boys,” Hart said.

“The camp promises to do a ton of work while they’re here. We promise to keep the boys and girls groups at least three drainages apart for the entire time.”

Holden Village offers faith-based backpacking, trail work

BACKPACKING — Holden Village, a Lutheran camp above Lake Chelan near the boundary of the Glacier Peak Wilderness , is offering a new summer program,  “Holden On The Trail,” which combines backpacking with study and volunteer trail maintenance in partnership with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
 
Sign up by the end of this week for any of six sessions, each about one week, planned accommodate multiple hiking skill levels. Depending on the session, hikers will cover 18.5 to 39 miles and volunteer between eight to 16 hours of trail maintenance during the week.
 
Cost is $350 for the six-night sessions, and $370 for one seven night outing. The fee covers food, program and major gear, including sleeping bags, backpacks, stoves and tents.
 
Each hiking group will include nine participants and three Holden staffers who are experienced hikers.
The staff will include a pastor, teaching staff member and leader trained in wilderness first aid and trail maintenance. Worship and teaching topics may include theology and religion, ecology and environment, health and wellness, global studies and politics, and visual arts.
 
Download applications and submit by Friday, (July 12). Follow the link under the events menu.
 
Read on for a list of the scheduled hikes:

Colville National Forest reports alarming budget decline, especially in recreation

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal resource acengies are suffering big budget hits, as I pointed out on my Sunday Outdoors story.

Here's a spotlight on the issues, using an example close to home:

ALARMING NUMBERS FROM THE COLVILLE NF

The 1.1 million-acre Colville National Forest spans 3 counties in Washington. This year its overall operating budget is about $16 million, employing about 150 permanent staff and 100 temporary workers. Forest officials round out the figures with these trends:

62 percent decrease in employees since the early 1990s.

5 percent reduction in overall budget in each

of past four years.

46 percent decrease in road maintenance contracting

budget in the past two years.

64 percent reduction in the already meager recreation budget expected in the next year.

Selkirk Mountains lakes still frozen above 6,200 feet

HIKING — Despite the heat wave the moved into the region on Sunday, plenty of snow and ice remained in the high Selkirk Mountains of Idaho.

I joined a group of hikers, drove north of Sandpoint and followed the Upper Pack River Road to the Beehive Lakes trailhead a mile from the end of the road.  (Eight cars were parked at the Harrison Lake TH and our group brought the total to six at Beehive TH).

Within a few hours, we had followed the trail and the short section of cairns over granite slabs just over 3 miles to upper Beehive Lake elev. 6,457 feet and found it frozen with only a little water around the edges showing.

Scrambling up a ridge toward the crest, we looked down on Little Harrison Lake, 6,271 feet elevation (see Harrison Peak in the top right background of the photo above). It, too, was still iced over.

 But the trail into Beehive was snow-free and scrambling was good on the granite slabs and ridges.

The snow is going to go fast in this hot weather, though.  We were able to easily cross Beehive Creek over some cut branches on the way up. But on the way down that creek had swelled from snowmelt and everyone got his feet wet as the water poured over the makeshift woody debris bridge.

Other observations:

  • Excellent conditions for glissading.
  • Moose on the trail.
  • No mosquitoes at Beehive, yet.

Other reports:

What to know before you go to forests for holiday

PUBLIC LANDS — Fireworks are prohibited year-around on national forests, BLM lands, state wildlife lands and most other public lands. 

That's the first rule to know before heading out for the Fourth of July holiday.

Here are more considerations from the Idaho Panhandle National Forests:

Responsible Motorized Use.  Please stay on designated routes and obtain the appropriate travel maps before you go. On the Colville National Forest as well as the Coeur d’Alene River, Bonners Ferry, Sandpoint and Priest Lake Ranger Districts visitors should carry the FREE Motorized Vehicle Use Maps, available at Forest Service Offices. 

  • The Colville National Forest "Motorized Use Map" can be viewed online under Maps and Publications.

No mud bogging is allowed anywhere on National Forest System lands.  State traffic laws apply to all motor vehicles including off-highway vehicles (OHVs) and motorcycles of all types.

For the latest information on road conditions, including restrictions, closures and construction, visit the national Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ “Road Status” web page.       

Camping.  Camping is allowed for up to 14 days within any 30-day period in developed recreation sites, undeveloped recreation sites, campgrounds, wilderness areas and other general forest areas. Visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ “Recreation” web page to check the status of your favorite site.

Campfire Safety. Even if it’s “green,” please practice good sense by using caution with fire and smoking at all times, in all places.  Drown, stir and check your campfire for heat with your bare hand.  ALL fires must be DEAD OUT when left unattended and before leaving the site.

Keep it Clean to Avoid Bear Encounters!  Proper food storage practices are recommended throughout the Idaho Panhandle National Forests and are required on the Sandpoint, Priest Lake and Bonners Ferry Districts. Bears often develop a strong liking for human and pet foods.  Store food in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof containers. Keep sleeping areas, tents and sleeping bags free from food and food odors. Wash up, change clothes and remove all scented articles nearby before going to bed.  Wild bears avoid people, but bears conditioned to human food can be aggressive and may be euthanized if problems occur. For more information on safety in bear country visit our “Food Storage” web page.

More info: contact your local Idaho Panhandle Forest Service office.

Field report: Trailheads becoming accessible in Selkirks

HIKING — Most of the popular trailheads in the Selkirk Mountains near Bonners Ferry are accessible by vehicle as of this week thanks to rain that erased much of the snowpack.

But hikers can still expect to find snow on the high and shaded trails.

Also expect blowdowns on many trails for awhile as trail crews are just getting  access, too.

Here's a summary by Bonners Ferry Ranger District trails coordinator Pat Hart:

Roman Nose-Trout Creek road open to trailheads, but snow remains on trails.

West Fork Smith Creek route is open but West Fork Lake Trail has considerable damage; not suitable for stock.

Two-Mouth and Myrtle Peak  access road is in bad condition, not even suitable for some high clearance vehicles. However, trail to Burton Peak is accessible and maintained.

Clifty Peak area is accessible but not maintained.

Boulder Creek area has just become accessible to vehicles, but has not been maintained.

Long Canyon-Parker Ridge may not be maintained for at least two weeks. Snow still clogs the high areas.

Snyder Creek ORV trails have been maintained.

Field report: Stevens Lakes trail snow-free for hikers

HIKING — Here's a Saturday Field Report for hikers:

Spokane Mountaineers group led by Lynn Smith maintained and brushed the trail to Stevens Lakes near Lookout Pass. They also picked up and packed out ALL of the litter.

  • Snow is gone up to the lower lake, but snow patches linger at the upper lake, elev. 5,740 feet. 
  • East Fork Willow Creek can be crossed on logs. 
  • Still big cornices looming off Stevens Peak. 
  • Good huckleberry crop brewing.

Hungry bear causes closure of Lake Chelan backcountry campsite

CAMPING — A backcountry campground near the head of Lake Chelan has been closed indefinitely because of a black bear that was lured by the taste of food and garbage left unsecured by visitors.

The National Park Service announced Thursday that Tumwater Campground, located about 12 miles from Stehekin Landing, is closed until further notice.

A bear received a "substantial food reward" when it got into a garbage can at the primitive campsite on Monday, the agency said. Though the can has been removed, the bear is expected to return to the campground to look for more food.

The nearby High Bridge Campground will also be monitored by park staff to make sure the bear does not go there in search of an easy meal.

The agency said that a camp closure of two to three weeks in generally enough to convince a bear that there is no more food there.

High-mountain trails beginning to open for backpackers

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.  

Woman out to be first to trek Oregon Desert Trail

TRAILS — Aptly named Sage Clegg, 33, is attempting to become the first person to solo hike-and-bike the 750-mile Oregon Desert Trail.

Clegg has the credentials, having already proved to be among the country’s fastest ultralight female backpackers.

She left her home in Bend on June 5 and is en route to Idaho, hoping to finish by July 20 before the desert goes from hot to broiling. She's already encountered treeless stretches, arrowheads, bighorn sheep and this week entered some forested terrain, accordng to her desert trail blog.

The Oregon Natural Desert Association created the concept of the desert trail to raise awareness for desert protection.

The staff has worked two years mapping the route, which links trails, roads and corridors through Oregon desert jewels, including the Badlands, Hart Mountain, Steens Mountain and the Owyhee canyonlands.  (See a map of the route.) But Clegg will still have some dots to connect as she bicycles the flatter, most boring sections of trail and walks another 600 miles.

Her support team will mail food packages to spots along the way (Frenchglen, Fields, McDermitt, Rome), just as it did during the 18 months it took her to hike 8,000 miles of the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide and Appalachian national scenic trails.

Clegg carries about 12 pounds plus food and water. Her tent weighs 3.5 ounces. This is the perfect time for the wildlife biologist to go hiking because her work as a desert tortoise researcher in California’s Mojave Desert goes on hiatus while the reptiles spend summer underground.

Follow her desert journey online, onda.org.

Canadian backcountry ski lodge opening for hikers

HIKING — A backcountry ski lodge famous for launching skiers into acres of powder from a lofty, cozy base in the Canadian Selkirk Mountains is offering  package deals for summer backcountry hiking.

Mount Carlyle Lodge has three-day packages for hikers who want to trek at eye level with the sky-scraping peaks of the Kokanee Range north of Kokanee Glacier National Park.  Carry only a daypak and return each night to the comfort of the lodge.

I checked out this area for this 2005 story. The scenery was stunning, the mining history fascinating and the hospitality was at a very high level…. around 7,200 feet!

You should check out this offering: 

The SourDough Trail, a spectacular Kootenay Classic. 3 days / 2 nights of casual hiking along a high elevation, grassy ridgeline, overflowing with wildflowers. Camp beside alpine lakes while being surrounded by 5 different mtn ranges. A photographers dream.