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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.

Tick update: bring extra pint of blood in your daypack

HIKING — After returning from a weekend hiking and fishing trek along the Rocky Ford stretch of Crab Creek north of the I-90 Tokio exit, Hugh Imhof emailed to say he wish he'd read my spring hiking precautions tip in the paper BEFORE he went to Lincoln County rather than afterward.

“….We were infested with dozens of them. We were all grossed out.  It was the worst I've ever experienced. You might want to print another reminder for others who may not be thinking about the little bloodsuckers.”

Also on Sunday, My wife and I ran into a Mother Lode of ticks at Spokane County's Slavin Conservation Area south of town after a hike with our dogs, as I pointed out in a blog post that evening.  We're still finding ticks on us, the dogs and the room where we stripped upon arriving home.

Here are a few tips for dealing ticks during this season, when they're active and waiting, especially in scablands or sagebrush country.

Before going hiking, consider using permethrin to treat the lower leg of your pant, the collar and sleeve cuffs of your shirt (I always wear long-sleeve shirts while hiking and fishing for bug and sun protection). A treated hat or bandana is helpful, too.  

I like permethrin better than DEET repellent because you put it on your clothing rather than on y our skin. Permethrin is the insecticide used in Bug-Off brand clothing.

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 during your trip and when you return home.

Hikers negotiating Lake Chelan Trail washout

BACKPACKING — The big lingering snowpack and advent of warmer, wet weather is raising the pucker factor for any backpackers heading out on routes that cross streams.

A point I missed in my Sunday story about hiking the Lake Chelan Shoreline Trail is  that rising creeks have caused some trail damage. Over the May 14-15 weekend, rainwater flowed through the Meadow Creek drainage, washing out a section of the Lakeshore Trail.

Experienced hikers can still get through this area by hiking down close to the lake, crossing the creek and hiking back up to the trail, the Forest Service reports.  But the difficulty could change daily with the weather and the amount of runnoff coming down the creek.

Hikers looking for easier access to the Lakeshore Trail can plan trips between Stehekin and Moore Point to avoid the Meadow Creek area.

Updates: Chelan Ranger Station, (509) 682-4900.


Check status before hiking Kirkwood Ranch Trail in Hells Canyon

HIKING — After reading my series of stories on early spring hikng in Sunday's Outdoors section, several readers have emailed reports aboout rockslides and closures on Snake River Trail 102 between Pittsburg Landing to Kirkwood Ranch in Hells Canyon. 

But according to an advisory posted May 25 on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Snake River website, the Snake River Trail is closed about 3/4 mile south of Kirkwood Ranch. 

That means the trail is still open for the 5.2-mile stretch between Pittsburg Landing and the ranch site and then 3/4-mile  farther.

A reader who recently talked to a Hells Canyon staffer said he reported the forest will need a blasting crew to fix the trail.  That might not happen until later in the summer.

 Watch the advisory website or call this number on weekdays for updates: (208) 628-3916.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness friends leading group hikes

HIKING — The annual summer series of group hikes organized by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will begin June 4 with a trek into Thunder Creek northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The moderately difficult hike is just the first of 15 hikes the group is offering this summer along with three cooperative trail work projects coordinated with the Forest Service.

In addition, the friends group is offering two hiking workshops with author, naturalist and historian Jack Nisbet.

The group hikes are geared to exposing the public to the rugged and scenic 88,000-acre roadless area the group is proposing for wilderness designation. The area straddles the Idaho-Montana border northeast of Clark Fork, Idaho, and ranges into Montana.

“We have some great hikes, as usual, but we are expanding our focus to include more stewardship and education,” said FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton.

ICL group hikes range from Lake Pend Oreille to high Selkirks

HIKING — A June 4 hike along the proposed Pend Oreille Bay Trail kicks of the summer-long series of free guided North Idaho dayhikes organized by The Idaho Conservation League.

The hike series, which overlaps with a series of hikes offered by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, is geared to introducing people to the wealth of backcountry trail attractions in the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains.

Read on to see the list of hikes currently scheduled or go to the ICL North Idaho Hikes website to register for trips and see if more trips have been added to the season schedule.

Rescued hiker not feeling the love from Glacier Park officials

BACKPACKING — Glacier National Park officials breathed a sigh of relief this week after an aerial search fairly quickly turned up an overdue backpacker who'd set out on an overambitious spring itinerary.

But after returning the Helena man safely to civilization, ark officials issued a press release making it clear they are not impressed with people who set out on solo adventures that have a high probability of putting rescuers in harm's way.

Read on for the details.

Bear Aware websites offer tips on bear sprays and more

BACKPACKING — The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee stresses the importance of following proper bear avoidance safety techniques and recommends bear spray as an effective tool for personal safety when recreating in bear country.

Bear spray has the potential to reduce human injuries and the number of bears that are killed as a result of conflicts with humans. The active ingredient in bear spray is an extremely strong irritant that turns the tables on an aggressive bear.

IGBC bear spray recommendations and other useful information can be found on the IGBC Website or read on for tips on buying and using bear spray.

Chimney camp stove: boil water with sticks and grass

CAMPING — “Fire. Air. Wood. Water. Those are the essential ingredients for the Backcountry Boiler, an esoteric stove-type product called 'the world’s first ultralight chimney kettle.' “ says The Gear Junkie Stephen Regenold.

The product is made in Pittsburgh, and the stove is marketed to ultra-light backpackers and other wilderness types in need of hot water in the backcountry with little fuss.

Check out The Gear Junkie's review.

Note: The Backcountry Boiler is featured on Kickstarter, a fundraising website. The company has a goal to raise $20,000 to fund a redesign and to expand distribution to needy countries where use of the stove can reduce deforestation. More than $13,000 has been raised at this writing. See here for more details.

Hiking tip: Get the right fit

OUTDOORS TRAVEL — Properly fitted backpacks and hiking boots are key to comfort and safety, preventing back injuries, blisters and potentially nasty falls.

The National Outdoor Leadership school has a mantra: snug around the waist, loose in the toe.

For more tips on selecting and adjusting packs and sizing boots, check out NOLS instructional videos, including on fitting a backpack by NOLS Teton Valley gear gurus and fitting boots by NOLS Rocky Mountain boot expert Kevin McGowan.

Founded in 1965 by mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS is a wilderness education leader, providing transformative experiences to more than 15,000 students each year. These students, ages 14 to 70, learn in the wildest and most remote classrooms worldwide—from the Amazon rain forest, to rugged peaks in the Himalaya, to Alaskan glaciers and Arctic tundra — but also with offerings closer to home, from the Washington Coast to the Rocky Mountains.

Info: (800) 710-NOLS (6657) or visit www.nols.edu.

Hiker hunger goes the way of the birds

OUTDOOR NUTRITION — Ah, it's lunch time here in the office.  On the trail, it's always snack time.

The new on-the-trail nutrition bars shown above look and taste somewhat like compressed blocks of birdseed, says The Gear Junkie in a whiff of understatement.

Ingredients such as sea salt, goji berries, macadamia nuts, raw honey, and, of course, many types of seeds – flax, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower – make for a grainy texture that is nutty and rough on the tongue.

Raw Crunch bars, the product of a small North Carolina company called Body Engineering Inc., are the latest in a pool of strange energy foods touted to contain “no artificial nothin.’” the bars are said to be uncooked, unprocessed, enzyme-rich, and made batch by batch each day in a kitchen by hand.

Vital stats: 150 calories per bar with 10 grams of fat and a bit of protein. Cost: about $2.50 apiece.

Alternative: Peanut butter.

Hikers plan scenic vacations around maintaining trails

TRAILS — The Salmo-Priest Wilderness is on the Washington Trails Association's list of 10 signature projects for trail construction and maintenance in 2011.

That means the little wilderness gem in northeastern Washington and a slice of North Idaho will be a destination for volunteers devoting some of their summer vacation to improving trails for all to enjoy.

If you're looking for a change of scenery, I highly recommend looking into the volunteer vacations set for the High Divide area near Mount Baker.  Bring two pairs of socks on this trip, because your first pair will get knocked off when you see the views.

Read on for details:

Bloomsday jump-starts backpacking season

FITNESS — Even if you're not a runner, Spokane's annual Bloomsday run is a great motivation to improve the fitness needed for outdoor pursuits, whether its hiking, hunting, fishing, geocaching — whatever.

Join the thousands of people for the he 7.5-mile run/walk on May 1. You'll be telling the world that Spokane is a special place as you  jumpstart your summer outdoor season.

April 17 is the last day for registering online before the $15 entry fee goes up.