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Volunteers clear Selkirks trail to Beehive Lakes

HIKING — Trail 279 to Beehive Lakes got a facelift last weekend, tanks to nine volunteers from the Idaho Trails Association.

The group camped up the Pack River Road in the Selkirk Mountains and worked under the supervision of three Forest Service trail crew leaders to clear brush from the popular 4.5-mile trail.

This year the Sandpoint Ranger District budget for trails was approximately $10,000.  No other funding was available for maintaining hiking trails on the district this fiscal year.

“The work these volunteers did was priceless,” said MaryAnn Hamilton, Sandpoint Ranger District Trails Coordinator.  “It’s great to see hikers helping out with the trails they enjoy.”

The Idaho Trails Association incorporated in 2010 to, in part, help trail managers maintain hiking trails in the state, said
“We would like to express our gratitude for the volunteers that turned out to help keep this trail safe, sustainable, and enjoyable,” said Brad Smith, a member of ITA’s Board of Directors.

The group organized five other trail projects this year across Idaho.  ITA’s mission is to promote the continued enjoyment of Idaho’s hiking trails.

West Nile virus found in Yakima mosquito

OUTDOOR HAZARDS — The state Health Department says the West Nile virus was found in a mosquito collected Tuesday in Yakima County — the first sign of the disease this year in Washington.

No human cases have been identified this year, but there were two last year, and a 38 people in the state were sickened in 2009 by the virus, which is carried by birds and mosquitoes.

Most people bitten by a mosquito with the virus won't become ill, but some people with weak immune systems risk serious illness.

The department recommends wearing bug repellant and long pants and long sleeves when outdoors.

Aggressive mountain goat reported in North Cascades

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Hikers in the Teanaway area of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest are being warned to watch out for an aggressive mountain goat.

Spokeswoman Nancy Jones says the forest has received six or seven complaints since June, most recently last weekend. The goat is bold enough to nibble on backpacks and clothes.

NOTE TO NORTH IDAHO HIKERS:  Please, please don't feed the popular mountain goats that greet hikers at the top of the trail to Scotchman Peak. They are a treat to visit, but people who feet these creatures could be leading them down a path to their demise.

The North Cascades complaints have come from hikers on trails near Long's Pass and Eagle Pass.

The animal is apparently seeking salt. Hikers are encouraged to urinate at least 50 yards off trails and be ready to frighten a goat by yelling, waving clothing or throwing rocks.

In October, a mountain goat gored and killed a Port Angeles man in the Olympic National Park.

Hiker packs heat, stands tall against a charging … pika

HIKING — Since Congress overturned the Reagan-era restrictions on openly carrying firearms in national parks, we're seeing noticeably more heat on trails in and outside of parks nowadays.

Nevermind the research in Alaska showing that pepper spray is a much more certain defense in case of an attack by a grizzly.

But a hiker never knows what other critter might charge from the wilderness.

Here's a report from a recent hiking trip by outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson of Lincoln, Mont., to go with his photo, above.  Trust me, this will leave you shaking your head.

“After a grueling hike of several hours off trail, we were set up (with our cameras) on the edge of this rockslide waiting for the pika’s to make their appearance. They seem to dislike the warm mid-day heat and become active just before dark. The entire hike in we walked through fresh grizzly digs that were made within the last one or two days.. we kept one eye watching for one to make an appearance.

“Instead, we heard approaching hikers. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it. We never see other hikers. They were trudging along the rockslide walking by. They had no clue we were even in the universe. Then to make things worse, a pika lets out a chirp right in front of them (they were about 50 yards away from us).

“The first guy draws his pistol and takes aim on the pika. Before he could shoot, I hollered out “Dude, don’t shoot the pikas.”

“Surprised by our presence, the guy jumped a foot. Then he sheepishly said, 'But he was coming right at me.'

“I said, 'Yeah, killer pika,' and shook my head.

“He seemed embarrassed, put his pistol away and continued walking.”

Today it’s even more peaceful at Gypsy Peak

HIKING — Today is the first day of the annual late-summer closure of several roads leading to prime recreation areas in the Sullivan Lake Ranger District of the Colville National Forest.

The closures were instituted in the 1980s to reduce human disturbance in prime grizzly bear habitat and berry areas when they are most attractive to bears, acccording to Mike Borysewicz, Forest Service wildlife biologist.

The gates were locked yesterday on two notable roads leading to trailheads:

  • Johns Creek Road 500 off the 2200 Road just east of Sullivan Lake Campgrounds. It provide's access to the Trail 540 trailhead for the shortest hike (2.5 miles one way) to Hall Mountain, which looms over Sullivan Lake.   Ironically, because of the late spring weather and snowpack, the road is closing before that area's huckleberry crop is ripe.
  • Bear Pasture Road 200 off the 2212 Road near northwest of Gypsy Meadows. It runs to the border of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness, offering the easiest foot access to Gypsy Peak (elev. 7,309 ft.), the highest mountain in Eastern Washington. The route is about 4 miles one way using the alpine-bound Trail 515 and off-trail scrambling.  But you'll have to wait until next year. 

I drove up both of these roads and hiked the trails last week to beat the closures. The areas area spectacular.

The huckleberries were green but the mosquitoes were at their peak.

I met Rick Moore, who was surveying dragonflies for the Forest Service. He said the mosquitoes were viscious at Watch Lake, but around the ridge, where violet-green swallows were swarming like bees — the mosquitoes were barely noticeable.  A coincidence?  Hmmm.

If you want to hear the buzz for yourself now that Road 200 is gated, you'll have to hike all of Crowell Ridge from the Sullivan Lake Lookout more than 8 miles one way to Gypsy Peak.

2011 continues to be a dream for fans of mountain snow

HIKING — It's mid-August and snowshoes are still de rigueur at Mount Baker hiking trails.

John Frankhsuser of Spokane snapped the photo above last week as he ventured toward from the Heather Meadows trailhead parking area. The snow around the plowed area of the parking lot was over his head.

Seems rare to for and East Sider to travel to Western Washington so he can get that “above the arctic circle” feeling. 

The Artist Point area normally is overrun with hikers stretching their legs and smelling the wildflowers this time of year.

Forest crews hacking through Blue Mountains blowdowns

TRAILS – A November storm left a nasty surprise for Forest Service trail crews heading out in the Blue Mountains this summer.

“There’s more timber down this year than I’ve seen in the 30 years I’ve been on trails,” said Rich Martin, trails coordinator for the Pomeroy District. “We were averaging 50 downed trees per mile.

“On the trail from Teepee Trailhead to Oregon Butte, we had to get a fire crew in to help us out or we’d have never got the three miles cleared out to get the lookout (staffer) in there.

“One poor contractor bid the job on the Wenaha River trail last year and came in and couldn’t believe the mess the winter left him. But he had some strong boys with him and they just pulled out of there this week.

“The Wenaha River trail is cleared out and there’s been a lot of other reconstruction work, but you couldn't ride a horse across the river until late July this year because of all the water coming down — and it just kep coming.”

Read on for other projects underway, some of which will be especially good news to hunters:

Whiteness greets hikers slogging deep into Eagle Cap Wilderness

BACKPACKING — The photo above shows Jeff Lambert of the Spokane Mountaineers in the last weekend of July along with Mirror Lake and Eagle Cap Peak from Carper Pass — all popular backpacking destinations in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

The shot is worth a thousand words and a lot of slogging.

The high backcountry in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon requires hikers to be equipped for snow, including self-arrest tools.

Woman breaks Appalachian Trail speed-hiking record

HIKING — Striding along at a rate of nearly two marathons A DAY, Jennifer Pharr Davis has set an unofficial record for the fastest assisted hike of the entire Appalachian Trail from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia.

She saw 36 bears, moose, porcupines and every sunrise and sunset during an epic 2,180 mile journey that lasted 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes. Friends and spouse supported her effort so she could trek equipped with a daypack or less.

She went through five pairs of hybrid hiking and running shoes while averaging about 47 miles a day, or nearly two marathons, breaking the previous record set by a man six years ago by just over 24 hours.

And she suffered nearly a week of dysentery in the early portion of her trek, giving a new twist to “the trots.”

‘Fastest is so relative,’ Davis told the Associated Press on Tuesday after estimating she had slept about 30 of the past 48 hours. ‘My average was 3 mph. So what are you not going to see at 3 mph?’

She emerged from the woods on Sunday and walked to the granite slab on Springer at the trail's southern end. Her parents and dozens of other family members and friends were cheering her on.

‘There were a lot of tears,’ Davis said. ‘Everyone was like: “Are those happy tears?” I just said they're everything tears. I'm so happy. In a way, I'm sad it's over.

Of course, this isn't Jennifer's first hiking experience.  Here's one of my previous posts on Davis' adventures with links for background.

Nisbet, friends lead trek up Scotchman Peak

HIKING — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will continue their summer group hiking series this weekend by inviting the public to sign up and join naturalist, author and teacher Jack Nisbet on a rugged 7-mile round trip trek to the summit of Scotchman Peak.

Nisbet will give a short talk Saturday morning at the trailhead northeast of Lake Pend Oreille on “thinking like a naturalist” and then lead a hike up Scotchman Peak with opportunities to practice the described skills.

Expect awesome views from the top, but you'll earn them. The group rates this all-day hike as strenuous. Pre-regster and plan on bringing lunch, snacks and plenty of water.

Contact: Lauren Mitchell    trails@scotchmanpeaks.org   

Glacier Park warning high country hikers to have self-arrest equipment

HIKING – Glacier National Park rangers are warning hikers to think like mountaineers in their preparation for trekking high-elevation trails — much as I suggested from my recent experience in this morning's post.

As they opened the popular Highline Trail at Logan Pass to foot travel they offered timely advice to hikers who might venture on the still-snow-patched trail.  Read on…

Hikers still getting chilly reception at Montana’s Jewel Basin

HIKING — From a distance down at Flathead and Echo lakes, the routes looked clear this week.  Only one little snowpatch was visible up in the higher forest openings of a nifty lake-studded mini-wilderness that buffers Kalispell from Hungry Horse Reservoir and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

But a short hike into the Jewell Basin hiking area revealed that snow still clogs many of the national forest high country routes under the forest canopy. 

Twin Lakes, above, were still mostly iced up…although there was enough blue water showing for a few old friends — who glissaded down to the lake's edge — to make a quick — very quick —  skinny dip to remind them they're still mortal.

The snow is compact and it's not difficult to walk over on the flat stretches. But where the snow covers the trail on steep slopes, it's treacherous.  Good boots and ice axes required.

I expect this week's heat to resolve the issue pretty much region wide in about 10 days.

Pacific Crest Trail stretch to be closed next week

BACKPACKING — The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail No. 2000 will be closed to all users at the I-90 North Trailhead from Monday July 25 through Thursday July 28 to allow trail crew members to remove a large “log jam” from the trail.

The area of trail blocked by the downed trees is ¼ mile long and is extremely difficult for hikers to pass through, according to Cle Elum Ranger District officials.

“It is a very complex pile of blowdown and will require a variety of removal methods” said Deb Davis, veteran trail crew member.

The trailhead will be posted with closure information and trail crew members will be on the trail to prevent hikers from entering the project area while work is in progress.

Info: Cle Elum Ranger Station, (509) 852-1100.

Swollen streams pose obstacles to hikers

TRAILS — Many mountain streams are still flowing higher than normal for this time of year. 

Hiker's setting out for hikes that require fords should call ahead and plan for possible adjustments to their routes.

Routes around Mount Rainier that ford glacier-melt rivers can be deadly, especially this year.  Others, such as the Salmo River in northeastern Washington or the Little North Fork of the Clearwater in Idaho, might simply be a bit more inconvenient than usual.

Hiking poles and separate shoes for wading might be in order, and in some cases, a climbing rope and dependable companions may be needed for safety. 

Outdoor death toll mounts: More hikers killed in region’s high country

HIKING — The Inland Northwest has logged the fourth death this season of a hiker/climber who died after slipping on snow slopes

On Monday, a hiker on a steep snow field on Glacier National Park's Grinnell Glacier Trail slipped and slid downhill 50-100 feet. Initial reports from park officials indicate he suffered head injuries and died.

The hiker has been identified as Nicholas Ryan, 30, from Omaha, Nebraska.   

The death is the latest in a troubling series of fatalities. Some of them seem to have a link to the late-lingering snowpack that's left more snow to negotiate in the high country and a longer period of high, swift and cold water in the rivers below.

A 55-year-old Lake Stevens man died Saturday when he fell from a ridge in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness west of Leavenworth.  It's the second death in the Alpine Lakes this season.

The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office says Thomas Vietti was traversing a ridge on the west side of a lake lake below Big Jim Mountain. He apparently lost his footing as he was maneuvering around a large rock.

On July 3, a 21-year-old woman lost control while glissading on a snow slope and fell to her death in an icy crevasse in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. That's two similar type fatal accidents in one month in one Washington wilderness.  In addition, a woman climbing Mount Baker slid and fell to her death July 2.

In 34 years of covering the Inland Northwest outdoors beat, the spring-summer of 2011 stands out as one of the most deadly periods for the region's outdoors enthusiasts.

A climber slid to her death this month died this month on Mount Baker.

As today's front page S-R story pointed out, around two dozen drownings have been reported, including at least six — from the Wenatchee to the Blackfoot, Lochsa, Salmon and Owyhee — involving rafters in full whitewater gear and PFDs. 

One accident that wasn't specifically mentioned in that story involved a 14 year old girl who drown May 25 after the canoe she was paddling with her brother capsized in the cold, swift spring waters of the Kettle River. Stevens County Sheriff's officers said her brother, who survived, was wearing a life jacket.  She was not.

Learn basics of backpack cooking Thursday at REI

BACKPACKING — Tired of Ramen? Too cheap for freeze-dried?

Get tips for organizing and preapring fun, easy meals on your next hiking adventure during a free intro to backpack cooking program Thursday, 7 p.m., offered by the staff of the REI store at 1125 N. Monroe.

The program will touch on preserving, preparing, packing and cooking tasty meals that won’t drag you down.

Woman hot-footing toward speed record on Appalachian Trail

BACKPACKING — Ultra hiking specialist Jennifer Pharr Davis of North Carolina is trying to break her own speed record of 57 days, 8 hours, 35 minutes  as she attempts to go from Maine to Georgia on the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail.

Davis, who began her supported trek in midJune is also mindful of the men’s record of 47 days, 13 hours, 31 minutes.

For perspective, to set her record of 57 days she had to average a brisk pace of 38 miles per day every day for two months.

She knows what she's up against on the 2,181-mile footpath. Davis hiked end to end (called a thru-hike) from south to north in 2005 before setting the speed record three years later going north to south.

Read on for more details.

Trails: Blue Mountains snow gone; blowdowns not cleared

HIKING — A Tuesday report from the Blue Mountains indicates that the snow is gone in “most” of the critical areas, but Umatilla National Forest crews are just completing their work to clear roads and now they're starting to getting out to clear trails.

Here's the report from John and Diane Latta of Spokane after they hiked the trail to Oregon Butte:

“Great views from the lookout and other points along the trail.  You can see the Seven Devils, Wallowas and Elkhorn Ridge.
 
“The road is logged out all the way to the very nice Teepee Treailhead.  The recent big fires have not affected the area in the slightest.  We did find probably 100 blowdowns blocking the trail, many in large groups. We managed to find our way around, over and under them to make it back. 
 
“The old trail over West Butte avoids some of the worst blowdowns, but there are still plenty to contend with to get to the Lookout.  The camping sites near Oregon Butte Spring are covered with blowdowns as well.
 
“Only minimal patches of snow in the woods that will probably melt in the next few days.”
 
A Northwest Forest Pass or federal equivalent is required on vehicles parking at trailheads in the Umatilla NF. 

Hikers still dealing with snow on region’s mountain trails

HIKING — Maria Trujillo Vogel and her husband, Cary, tried to ride the trail to Blossom Lake on the Idaho Montana Divide east of Prichard,Idaho, on their mountain bikes last weekend for an annual July trip.

“Left the bikes half way because we had to trek over several feet of snow,” she said. “Next time we will bring snow shoes and poles. It is July for heaven's sake!

“We did skip the swim this time.”

Her photo above signals why.

But the steady warmer weather is changing conditions rapidly.

Skinny dipping by August, I predict.

Learn basics of camp cooking Thursday at REI

CAMPING — Get tips for organizing and preapring fun, easy meals at the campground during a free intro to camp cooking program Thursday, 7 p.m., offered by the staff of the REI store at 1125 N. Monroe.

Next week at REI: Backpack cooking basics.

Park plea: Don’t pee along trails

HIKING — Olympic National Park hikers who urinate along trails may be creating linear “salt licks” that attract mountain goats. The practice may be partially responsible for luring in goats that have been harassing and even killing park visitors.

Sounds like a troublesome new pack it in, pack it out policy — but there's reason for complying with the park's request to avoid peeing along trails as much as possible.

Read on for more from the Peninsula News.

Join group for Friday hikes in Glacier Park

HIKING — The Glacier National Park Fund is inviting people to join up with their Friday Hiking Club, which heads out on a great park tail every week, starting this Friday through Sept. 16.

The hikes range from 5 miles to 13 miles, easy to moderately strenuous.

Foundation staffers say they're not really “leading” the trips, just facilitating them to introduce people to the sights, insights and needs of the park.

Info: 406-892-3250

GNPF logo
 The Glacier National Park Fund supports the preservation of the outstanding natural

beauty and cultural heritage of Glacier National Park for the use and enjoyment

of present and future generations by fostering public awareness and

encouraging private philanthropy. 

Snow sloggers find company on Scotchman Peak

HIKING — Deb Hunsicker and Phil Hough know their way around Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

As members of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness the couple has hiked up the namesake peak numerous times.

Their intimacy with the mountain paid off Saturday as they easily scaled the peak even though most of the trail for the 7 mile round trip is still hidden by snow.

“There's still a LOT of snow,” Phil said. “The trail's obscured, so hike only if you already know the route or go with someone who does and add more time than you think you will need.”

At the top, in weather warm enough for t-shirts and shorts, Hunsicker and Hough were greeted by the Scotchman mountain goats.

They welcomed the company.

BTW, they know better than to feed the goats. Please don't do that if you go. They're good goats, now.  Let's keep them that way.

Long-distance lady finds life lessons on trail

BACKPACKING — Women (especially) looking for hiking inspiration can score big with a book by an iron-woman who worked her way up the hiking status ranks before setting the supported Appalachian Trail women's record of 57 days to cover 2,175 miles.

That's a brisk average pace of 38 miles per day every day for two months from Georgia to Maine.

Jennifer Pharr (now Pharr-Davis) has captured that epic and the trail leading to it in her book “Becoming Odyssa-Epic Adventures On the Appalachian Trail.”  Blisters and body odor were among the least of her foes.

She'd already hiked the AT plus 9,000 miles on trails across six continents before she worked up to the record-setting effort. All the way she was hiking toward her dreams and goals from “over-confident college graduate” to the owner and operator of Blue Ridge Hiking Company in Asheville, North Carolina.

She makes the case for the long-distance hiker's mantra: Living with less, on the trail and in everyday life, is living free.

And her story reaffirms that wilderness can hold many unexpected life lessons, whether it's at the hand of shocking electric storms or in the tight quarters of a trail shelter with disagreeable companions.

  

Beware of marijuana sites in the woods

PUBLIC LANDS — Outdoor recreationists have stumbled into illegal backwoods marijuana growing sites on several occasions already this year.

That's prompted a warning from Forest Service officials: 

Marijuana operations pose significant threats to forest visitors, so it is very important for all national forest users to be aware of their surroundings and any suspicious activities that may be occurring.

Read on for what to look out for and what to do should you encounter a growing site on your next hiking, camping, fishing or hunting trip.

A cold-Hearted greeting for hikers in the Bitterroots

HIKING — The snow clogging the high country isn't stopping hikers wearing boots and gaiters from trekking into some “cool” places.

Bob Clark of Missoula joined friends on Saturday for a hike into Heart Lake, a backcountry destination in the Great Burn area.

The popular hike-in lake is south of I-90 from Superior, Mont. The trailhead is off the Trout Creek Road just before the road heads up the steep section to Hoodoo Pass.

The photo at left shows the snow still covering the pack bridge.

At top is the view up Heart Lake with the Idaho-Montana border above.

Clark is a Sierra Club advocate for the proposed Great Burn Wilderness.  He's a knowlegeable source.

“Washington Backpacking” author to speak in Spokane

HIKING — “Washington Backpacking,” a new guide to 70 multi-day backpacking trips across the  state, has just been published by The Mountaineers-Books, and the author will be in Spokane on Monday to provide a slide-show peek at the ground he covered.

Craig Romano will present the program on the overnight and multi-day routes Monday, 7 p.m., at Mountain Gear's Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield.

Romano is a well-known author who's published a series of guidebooks and writes for numerous publications.

Directions: Near Felts Field, Go north on Fancher from Trent and take a right just before the rail road tracks. See map.

Fathers Day treat: Dad-daughter highlight on Mount Whitney

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OUTDOOR FAMILIES — A few years ago, as he sensed the inevitable changes ahead, Edwyn Hill of Spokane planned a challenging outdoor adventure with his oldest daughter, Whitney.

He wanted to end the teenage chapter in her upbringing with an exclamation point before she moved on to college.

I had the pleasure of tagging along with them to California as the Hills climbed Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states.  The trek was a high point in Wyn's and Whitney's relationship.

Turn up the sound on your computer and check out the video slide show as I document how the Great Outdoors prepared Wyn for an even bigger transition that transpired five years later.

North Cascades hikers limited by snow

BACKPACKING — A group of Western Washington University students found plenty of snow-free landscape for backpacking and camping up the Stehekin Valley from Lake Chelan last week.

Portions of the Pacific Crest Trail in North Cascades National Park were snow-free and easy cruising, they said. 

But as the photo above shows, they didn't have to go too high to find snow still clogging the routes.

Be patient out there.

Heed seasonal precautions for spring hikes

HIKING — In your enthusiasm to get on the trail among the blooming wildflowers, don’t forget the basics of trekking in dryland areas:

•Take plenty of water plus a means of purifying water en route.

• Use sunscreen liberally and cover as much skin as possible with clothing, not only to protect from sun, but also from ticks.

• Ticks can be active and waiting, especially in sagebrush country. Pride yourself in the nerdy look: tuck pant legs into socks and wear light-colored lightweight long-sleeve shirts. Check for ticks in hair, and other places.

• Rattlesnakes are just as eager as hikers to get out and about. Be alert for them on the trail. Watch for movement in the grass. They don’t attack unless provoked, a concept that’s often lost on the family dog.

• Poison ivy infests many dryland areas, especially along river corridors, such as the Snake. While most hikers know the “leaves of three, leave it be” adage, some might not recognize the menacing plant in spring, before the leaves have come on. Watch for long or tall woody stems festooned with clumps of white berries. Contact with them can cause rashes.

• Carry a compass and a map of the area.

• Leave your trip itinerary with a responsible person who will contact authorities should you not return on schedule.