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Treat dad to an outdoor adventure this weekend

FATHERS DAY— Give dad what he really wants for Father's Day — some good, healthy outdoor time with the family.

Here are four suggestions:

FISHING — Most of the region's lakes and streams are in great fishing condition for the weekend, and some Spokane-area are getting a Fathers Day bonus with additional plants of triploid rainbows. Montana is sweetening the holiday attraction by offering Free Fishing Days on June 15-16.  Nobody needs a license to fish in Montana over the weekend, but you must follow all of Montana's other fishing regulations.

BIKING — The Spokane River Centennial Trail and the Fish Lake Trail offer excellent and safe family biking opportunities in Spokane. The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is a prized rail trail between Mullan and Plummer, Idaho. Or go for big adventure near Lookout Pass on the Route of the Hiawatha rail trail, featuring tunnels and towering trestles.  Shuttles, bike rentals and even lunches are available.

BOATING — It's hard to beat a family tradition of being on the water with Dad. I prefer paddling the Spokane River or, say, Horseshoe Lake in a canoe or kayak.  Maybe a whitewater rafting trip on the Spokane or Clark Fork rivers with Wiley E. Waters or ROW Adventures. Sailing or motorboating is has been bringing families together for generations, as you can vividly see in this heartwarming short video, Good Run, by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister. The film tells the story of one man’s experience on the water and shows why life is better with a boat. 

HIKING — Taking a walk to a nifty spot is a simple and rewarding family outing, whether it's close to home in Riverside State Park or off in the mountains of a nearby national forest.  Need some tips?   Check out my new guidebook, Day Hiking Eastern Washington, which details 125 trips, including a bunch of hikes within a short drive of Spokane. (The book is available at REI, Mountain Gear and local book stores.)

My suggestion:  If you're up for stretching your legs, give Dad the book with a note that says, "We want to make this your best Father's Day ever by taking you on one of the hikes described in this book.  We'll pack the picnic lunch!"

I heard from several families who reported that offer was a big hit on Mothers Day.

Wenaha River beckons backpackers

HIKING — This photo is just a glimpse of the scenic value I enjoyed this weekend with other backpackers as we hiked up the Wenaha River from Troy, Oregon.

The Wenaha is a major trib to the Grande Ronde, a former steelhead and salmon fishing ground for Chief Joseph, and namesake for the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. 

You have to hike in roughly six miles just to reach the wilderness boundary.

It's a sweet early-season trek, opening to backpackers sometime in March.

Hiker and dog highlight State of the Scotchmans gathering

 WILDERNESS — Long-distance hikers Whitney "Allgood" LaRuffa and his dog, Karluk, will make a keynote presentation highlighting the annual State of the Scotchman's gathering Friday to update the pubic on the campaign for winning wilderness designation for the Scotchman Peaks area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The gathering organized by the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will start at 5 p.m. Friday (May 31) at Eureka West, 513 Oak St. in the Old Granary District of Sandpoint.

This is a chance to catch up with wilderness advocates and get an update on the political state of the proposal, which has gotten a boost this year from the March release of the movie Grass routes: Changing the Conversation by Wildman Pictures.

"Exciting things are happening around the movie," says Phil Hough, FSPW exec, "and more than ever before, it feels like the time is now for a bill for the Scotchmans."

Eichardt's Pub, Grill and Coffee House will be provide no-host beer and wine at the event and Jupiter Jane's food bus will standing by to feed the hungry. Bring a folding chair for seating during LaRuffa's presentation.


Hough, LaRuffa and Karluk will lead a "doggy" hike on the new Star Peak Trail in Montana on Saturday (June 1) as part of the National Trails Day celebration nationwide.

Sign up for the hike by email: phil@scotchmanpeaks.org.

Landers offers tip of the hat to Day Hikers

TRAILS — A humble thanks to the 200 people who packed into Mountain Gear tonight for my program about the great sport of  Day Hiking.

I said to heck with the Camelbak and had a beer afterward! 

I detailed many of the virtues of taking a hike in this Sunday Outdoors story.

The program was based on my two years of research for a new guidebook, Day Hiking Eastern Washington, which I've co-authored with Craig Romano.

I'll look forward to emails with questions and feedback about the presentation as well as questions you may have as after sampling the routes detailed in the book.

Even more, I'll look forward to seeing you on the trail.

Rich

Tonight: free Day Hiking program by trail guide author Rich Landers

TRAILS —  Join me to discuss the pleasures of Day Hiking - and a few places to enjoy them - during a free slide program tonight (May 2), 7 p.m., at the Mountain Gear retail store in Spokane.

The program is based on my two years of research for a new guidebook, Day Hiking Eastern Washington, which I've co-authored with Craig Romano.

Be ready to take the Day Hiker's Quiz.

Start hiking season Tuesday with WTA’s Toast to Trails

OUTGOING – Meet Washington Trails Association members for updates on on the region’s trails and trail projects Tuesday (April 23), 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at Northern Lights Brewhouse, 1003 E. Trent Ave.

RSVP here.

Olympic Park not taking campsite reservations by phone

BACKPACKING — Olympic National Park is accepting reservation requests for wilderness camping areas with overnight use limits by fax or postal mail only. Phone reservations are no longer accepted.

Limits on overnight use in high-use wilderness camp areas are in effect May 1-Sept. 30 to help minimize the impact from humans and provide a quality wilderness experience. Reservations for these sites are recommended, park officials said in a news release.

Reservations for camp areas without overnight use limits are not required and are not accepted. Permits for these areas are not limited and may be picked up at a permit office just before a hike.

A wilderness camping permit is required for all overnight stays in the park’s backcountry areas. Permit fees are $5 to register a group and an additional $2 per person per night for anyone 16 or older. The full permit fee will be charged for all reservations. The fee is nonrefundable.

Overnight use limits are in effect for these high-use wilderness camp areas:

Ozette Coast, Royal Basin/Royal Lake area, Grand Valley and Badger Valley area, Lake Constance, Upper Lena Lake, Flapjack Lakes, Sol Duc/Seven Lakes Basin/Mink Lake area, Hoh Lake and C.B. Flats, Elk Lake and Glacier Meadows and the group and stock camp sites along the Hoh River Trail.

Here's the proceedure:

  • Download the campsite reservation form.
  • Mail reservation requests to Olympic National Park, WIC, 3002 Mt. Angeles Road, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or
  • Fax reservation requests to (360) 565-3108.

 Click here for additional information.

Spokane Mountaineers annual Backpack School walks the talk

HIKING– The Spokane Mountaineers are gearing up for their annual Backpack School, an excellent resource for novice and intermediate hikers who want to develop hiking skills and contacts.

  • Deadline to sign up is Friday (March 22).
  • The Friday-evening classes start April 5 and run for seven weeks, along with some Saturday field sessions, culminating with a two-night graduation backpacking trip.

Session topics include gear, clothing, navigation, first-aid and wilderness cooking with the support of a club that leads weekly group hikes.

"Participants learn to be confident and comfortable in the backcountry and make some new friends to share adventures with," said school co-leader Chuck Huber.

Cost: $35 plus club membership.

Info: 939-2644 or email chuckmatic@gmail.com509.

Hog Canyon waterfall beckons early season hikers

HIKING — Fishing success is tapering off at Hog Canyon Lake west of Spokane near Fishtrap Lake, but the hiking season is underway.

The waterfall that flows into the lake's upper end was flowing nicely on Saturday. A dozen or so anglers were trying to catch rainbow trout in the winter fishing lake that closes for the season at the end of March while several groups of hikers were walking — and backpack camping — along the shoreline on land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

  • See a post from a previous year.

Fishing at Fishtrap Lake, which should be excellent this year, opens the fourth Saturday in April.

Backpackers face work, joy on circumnavigation hikes, Landers says

HIKING — TONIGHT (March 18) I'll be presenting a free slide program, "Hiking Full Circle: The Pains and Pleasures of the Wonderland Trail, the Tour du Mont Blanc and other Loop Trips" for the Spokane Mountaineers — and you're invited.

The program starts at 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield Ave. in Spokane Valley.

Remember, the critical "opening day" is near to apply for backcountry camping permits needed for hiking around Mount Rainier.

The Tour de Blanc is the classic circumnavitation trek in Europe.

And there are plenty more loop trips to consider right here in the Inland Northwest. 

Rich Landers, Outdoors editor for The Spokesman-Review, has been a Spokane Mountaineers member since 1977.  Landers, author of 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest and Paddling Washington, has co—authored a new hiking guidebook, Day Hiking Eastern Washington, that will be published this spring.

San Juans Islands, Glacier Park on Lonely Planet’s list

OUTDOOR TRAVEL — Two premier outdoor recreation areas within a day’s access from Spokane are listed among the Lonely Planet's Top 10 U.S. Destinations for 2013.

The San Juan Islands are No. 3 on the list and dubbed “The Gourmet Archipelago.” The writer notes the three main islands – San Juan, Orcas and Lopez – support two vineyards, a lavender farm, an alpaca ranch and weekend farmers’ markets that ply everything from artichokes to marionberries.”

From the outdoor recreation angle, the islands are standouts for bicycling, sailing and sea kayaking. “Hop on a bike, explore the beaches and enjoy the scenery, but be sure to eat!” the author says, noting several fine restaurants.

Glacier National Park is ranked No. 10 — perhaps a little low from a outdoor enthusiast's point of view, but that’s just as well, considering the Lonely Planet’s top 10 list is viewed by 12 million people a year.

“A relatively new shuttle system offers an eco-friendly alternative. But go soon,” the author warns. “The park’s 25 glaciers are melting – and could be gone altogether by 2030 if current climate changes continue!”

Here's full list of Lonely Planet's Top 10 U.S. Destinations for 2013:

  1. Louisville, KY
  2. Fairbanks, AK
  3. San Juan Islands, WA
  4. Philadelphia, PA
  5. American Samoa
  6. Eastern Sierras, CA
  7. Northern Maine, ME
  8. Twin Cities, MN (Minneapolis and St. Paul)
  9. Verde Valley, AZ
  10. Glacier National Park, MT

Energy bar truly puts a hop in your step

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"It's about time."
Florence Vaccarello Dunkel, associate professor of entomology at Montana State University, about a Utah company that is marketing an energy bar made with ground up crickets.
- Salt Lake Tribune

Washington outdoor recreation plan needs public input

OUTDOOR REC — If you enjoy the outdoors, you owe it to yourselff to participate in the online Washington State Outdoor Recreation Survey.

So far, about 800 comments have been filed on the easy to navigate Town Hall website

In addition to the survey, which can help channel planning and funding in the future, the site is asking the publicv to post their stories and photos showing how outdoor recreation impacts you and your family.  The information will be used in the final report.

  • In the last statewide survey conducted in in 2005-2006, WALKING was rated the most popular outdoor recreation activity in Washington.

The state’s outdoor recreation strategic plan, called the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), needs to be updated every 5 years to maintain the state's ability to receive federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  The funding is used for grants to local communities to build parks and trails, and conserve wildlife habitat.

Pack rafting project seeks donations

RIVERS — Here's an appeal from Montana experts in the field of packrafting — a combination of rafting and backpacking:

We'll produce videos to help educate the public on safe, responsible backpacking, but we need a little help with funding. What do you get? Info on the equipment & techniques of packrafting so you can safely plan and execute your own packrafting adventures.

Check it out. 

Cost of boots could take a hike under tax proposals

Outdoor enthusiasts may see footwear prices jump 30 percent

Unless Congress can negotiate with the Obama administration's opposition to outdoor industry duty suspension bills, the cost of footgear for hiking, biking and other outdoor activities that are manufactured overseas will increase prices nearly 38 percent, according to Outdoor Industry Association President Frank Hugelmeyer.

—Boulder Daily Camera;Nov. 29
  

Volunteers clear tangled timber from Big Lick Trail

TRAILS — A skilled group of skilled youths and other volunteers have prevailed after putting a week of sweat into the seemingly hopeless task of clearing blowdowns off the Big Lick Trail in the Kettle River Range.

The maze-like tangle of downfall had rendered the historic route impassable before volunteers from Kettle Range Conservation Group and Curlew Job Corps forestry students put in a herculean effort requiring seven days and 366 person hours to clear 5.5 miles of trail. The hundreds of blowdowns in some locations were piled into twisted trunks and branches more than 7 feet deep, said Tim Coleman, KRCG director. 

“That’s a tremendous amount of hours and work, but thanks to the volunteers that organized work parties and the Curlew Job Corps crew that completed much of the heavy lifting to reopen this trail, the task got done this year,” said Eric McQuay, Recreation Program Manager for the West Zone of the Colville National Forest.   “Without help from groups such as these, we simply couldn’t keep trails such as Big Lick maintained with the Forest Service’s limited trail maintenance budget,” he said.  

Big Lick Trail is a historic Ferry County trail along North Fork St. Peter Creek and traversing the Kettle Range between Mt. Leona and Profanity Peak. It links the western side of the Kettle Range to the Kettle Crest / Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail and to Ryan’s Cabin Trail and S. Fork of Boulder Creek on the range’s eastern flanks. Historically, this route was used by fur trappers, market hunters, ranchers and prospectors, but more recently its use is primarily for backcountry recreation.

Read on for more details about this effort that serves everyone who uses and appreciates trails.

Appalachian Trail proposal seeks link to Gulf of Mexico

HIKING — A proposed extension of the Appalachian Trail could add add a few hundred miles of foot trail — and possibly a canoeing option — to link the trail all the way south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The nonprofit organization Trust for Public Land has been working for years to acquire land along the Chattahoochee River in the southeastern United States, where the Appalachian Trail (AT) ends at its southernmost point. The organization intends to make this land available to the National Park Service and other partners for an extension of the AT that would lead all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Currently, the 2,184-mile AT begins in the middle of Maine and ends in northern Georgia. It crosses the Chattahoochee River’s uppermost headwaters. Curt Soper, the Georgia-Alabama state director of the Trust for Public Land, told ABC News that the non-profit envisions Appalachian hikers being able to continue on a trail down along the river to the Gulf of Mexico at the shores of Florida.

National Parks offer free three-day weekend

PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees to celebrate Veterans Day weekend, Nov. 10-12.

The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2012. The Veterans Day weekend fee waiver is the last scheduled for the year.

Offering  free admission to national parks and other federal lands has been offered the past three years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.

Trailwise parents organize online to hike with kids

HIKING — A group of trailwise parents in Spokane has started leading group hikes for families and children. Anyone who likes to hike with families is welcome to join them!

It's a free Meet Up group that organizes online. They call themselves the Big and Little Rock Hikers.

 Last week they were on a treasure hunt at Slavin Conservation area.

Coming up:

  • Sun. Oct. 14th, Hike & Scavenger Hunt with Clues, to Big Rock & Beyond, led by Gary (age 10) and Kathy Kalich.
  • Sat. Oct. 20th, Beaver Dam Hike w Biology Expert & GU Professor Sue Niezgoda, Liberty Lake Trail.

Dead moose near Harrison Lake prompts warning

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A fresh moose carcass was discovered TODAY along the Selkirk Crest’s popular Harrison Lake Trail prompting local Forest Service officials to issue a wildlife hazard warning.

No conflicts between humans and wildlife have been reported, but officials recommend that hikers choose another trail and avoid traveling within the vicinity of the carcass, which is likely to attract large carnivores.

The carcass is a half half mile from the trailhead and is likely to attract wildlife including predators such as grizzly bears and mountain lions.

It is unknown what caused the moose’s death, said Jason Kirchner of the Panhandle National Forests.

Info: Sandpoint Ranger District, (208) 263-5111.

Campfire ban extended at Lake Roosevelt

PUBLIC LANDS — No campfires will be allowed at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation area except at designated grated campfire sites at least through Sunday.  See the park's announcement issued Monday: 

In accordance with the 2012 Superintendent’s Compendium, Acting Superintendent Natalie Gates has extended the ban for campfires on the exposed lakebed through midnight on October 7, 2012.

Campfires in park-provided fire grates at developed campgrounds are allowed.  The use of gas and propane barbeques and self-contained stoves is allowed in the recreation area. 

Campfires are never allowed on the beach area above the exposed lakebed.

Impact of fires on wildlife won’t be known until spring

WILDLIFE LANDS — Wild fires continue to char and in some cases nuke forests and other wildlife habitat in scattered areas around the Inland Northwest.  But the future isn't all black.

Before-after-photos at Naneum Lake (above) hint at the impact of the Table Mountain Fire, which has spread over thousands of acres along with other forest fires in the Ellensburg-Leavenworth-Wenatchee area. The fires were ignited by lightning storms around Sept. 9, 2012.

Some areas have been reopened to public access, but hunters need to check ahead with the Forest Service, DNR and Washington Fish and Wildlife Department for closures to distinct areas in the Wenatchee region.

This photo comparison doesn't look good, but Washington Fish and Wildlife experts say the damage/benefits to the Colockum elk herd won't be known until next spring when they can assess the ratio of hot-burned areas with the areas that  were lightly burned or skipped-over by the flames.

The fires ultimately will be good for wildlife.

The question is whether the recovery will be measured in years or decades.

Peak fire season tips for hunters

HUNTING — It's not news that the fields are dry and fire danger is extreme.

But don't let your guard down when you go out hunting or recreating.  One thoughtless moment in these conditions can be costly.

Hunters, who have an especially big responsibility to be fire conscious, should:

  • Drive only on established roads.
  • Avoid roads with tall vegetation in the middle track.
  • Never park over dry grass and other vegetation.
  • Carry a fire extinguisher—or water-filled weed sprayer—shovel, axe, and, a cell phone for communications in addition to other outdoor safety gear.
  • Restrict camping activities to designated camping areas.
  • Not build campfires.
  • Smoke only inside buildings or vehicles.

Being able to respond is essential in the first few seconds of a fire start when it is small and easily extinguished.

Mount Adams fire closes part of Pacific Crest Trail

TRAILS — A wildfire burning near Mount Adams forced the closure of part of the Pacific Crest Trail late Thursday.

The closed segment of the trail is between the Williams Mine Trailhead off Forest Road 23 to the junction of the Divide Trail on the Mt. Adams, Ranger District, said Ken Sandusky of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Call the district office for more information, (509) 395-3402.

The Cascade Creek fire, apparently sparked by lightning storms near Mount Adams on Sept. 8, has burned 9,800 acres. Firefighters say its only about 50 percent contained.

National Parks offer free admission Sept. 29

PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees to celebrate National Public Lands Day on Sept. 29.

The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2012.

Offering  free admission to national parks and other federal lands has been featured the past three years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.

La Sportiva Wildcats a hit with Pacific Crest Trail through hikers

BACKPACKING — Ultra light, ultra functional and ultra durable — those are the keys to gear that causes a buzz among through hikers on long-distance trails.

One group of hikers most of the way through their month's long,  2,650-mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, recently were comparing notes on their shoes at Washington's Chinook Pass. The durability winner in this group was the La Sportiva Wildcat trail running shoe, a Backpacker  Editor’s Choice item in the magazine’s 2010 gear review.

One hiker had 1,000 miles on his pair and they were still going strong.

While trail running shoes may be perfect for PCT through hikers, who are focused on speed and staying on the trail, they may not be the best for everyday hikers who may not be so trail hardened or who do more off-trail exploration.

Map shows forest areas closed by fires in Leavenworth-Wenatchee area

FOREST FIRES — The map above from the Wenatchee National Forest shows areas off limits to visitors because of forest fires in the Central Washington area.

The closures affect hikes in prime season and hunters out for Washington's early High Buck Hunt that opened Saturday.

Cool-headed backpackers evacuate Alpine Lakes as fires close in

BACKPACKING — After reading my post this morning about fire-related closures affecting hikers in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness,  Stephanie Akker of Kennewick emailed me the photo (above) snapped Saturday from the Colchuck Lake area as she decided to evacuate during the night to safety. 

I was happy to see your article on-line as I have been scouring for more info since we backpacked out of Colchuck, in the dark, Saturday night. 

Attached is a photo of the fire from our campsite on the north end of Colchuck.  We day hiked into the Enchantments Saturday after camping at Colchuck Friday night. We chose to evacuate after watching the fire grow dramatically over the course of 24 hours and also considering the proximity to the parking lot. 

Yes, we had to forgo our coveted permit, but felt it better safe than sorry. 

Read on for her photo of Colchuck Lake, a scene that helps you understand why it was no easy decision to leave.