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Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year links to National Parks Week.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

Campground hosts sought for choice locations

PUBLIC LANDS — Being a fly fisherman and if I were looking for a place to be a campground host this summer, I'd jump at this announcement from the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho.  Although the Clearwater offers many great camping options, I'll let you figure out the site that especially catches my attention.

Read on for the details and the contacts.

Clearwater National Forest proposes fee increases

PUBLIC LANDS — Anyone who'd been paying attention to the federal budget and cutbacks in recreation funding shouldn't be surprised at today's announcement from the Clearwater National Forest. Officials propose to raise fees at 29 campgrounds and cabin/lookout rentals.

Nez Perce–Clearwater National Forests Propose Recreation Fee Increases

Recreation managers at the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests have struggled over the past ten years to keep campgrounds, cabins and lookout rentals open without raising fees during a time when budgets have significantly declined resulting in staff and service reductions.  Over the last two years those managers completed a Recreation Facilities Analysis (RFA) to determine how the forest can maintain a sustainable program during severely declining budgets, while still providing the high quality recreation experiences our visitors’ desire. 

Read on for the options, and the inevitable fee increases they propose:

Lessons from rafting the Canyon: pee bottle

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

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

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

Dilution is the solution to pollution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, Canada! You’re missing your great outdoors

Quote of the day:
“It's truly amazing to think that in a country as beautiful as Canada — renowned the world over as Canada is for its natural beauty and world-class parks system and green space in abundance — that we would ever house a population that spends 90 percent of their time indoors, but that's exactly what the numbers are telling us.”

Richard Starke, Alberta's minister of tourism, parks and recreation, discussing a recent report from the Canadian Parks Council that said 80 percent of Canadians now live in urban areas, and that they spent just 10 percent of their time outside.
- Calgary Herald

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

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

Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The next freebie date of the year is Presidents Day Weekend, with fee-free days at all federal lands that charge an entrance fee.

Following is a list of all the 2014 free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

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

Get Adobe Flash player

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

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

Roskelley keynotes Riverside Park Foundation meeting

PUBLIC LANDS — John Roskelley, a Spokane mountaineer and former county commissioner, will be the keynote speaker at the first annual meeting of the Riverside State Park Foundation.

The public is invited to the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29,  at the Mountain Gear retail store, 2002 N. Division.

The foundation,  a nonprofit group that supports Riverside State Park, also will feature Chris Guidotti, park manager, and Lucinda Whaley, Washington State Parks and Recreation commissioner from Spokane, speaking about the status and future of Riverside and the state's century-old parks system.

 Riverside, which borders the city of Spokane, is Washington's largest state park with two rivers, several campgrounds, an equestrian area, ORV area, cultural sites, boating and paddling access, miles and miles of mixed use trails, plus wildlife and stunning scenery. Riverside rangers also manage the Little Spokane River Natural Area, Columbia Plateau Trail and the Centennial Trail, among other duties.

 

Now is a great time to join the Riverside State Park Foundation as it introduces its newly created membership packages. The Foundation is instrumental with the fundraising for Riverside State Park through project support, education, volunteerism and events. For more information about the Riverside State Park Foundation, visit .

Outdoor Retailer groups demo new winter gear

WINTER SPORTS — The annual Outdoor Retailer winter expo brings out the latest outdoor gear for a show in Salt Lake City. There's cool stuff to explore, and  Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is speaking to the manufacturers and retailers on hand as the show opens today.  This is a big deal.

Read the story from the Salt Lake Tribune.

 

Big bore defense: handgun designed for your backpack?

SHOOTING — It's being touted as the perfect gun to carry in your backpack with the necessary stopping power to fend off attacks by pigs and bears.

Smith & Wesson on Monday touted its new .460-caliber revolver as an ideal firearm for your backpack in the backcountry.

Officials with the Springfield, Mass.-based company let selected members of the media fire the Performance Center Model .460 at a range in Boulder City, Nev., as part of the opening day of the annual SHOT Show.  

It has not been reported if there were any survivors.

The SHOT Show, the country’s largest gun show, is underway in Las Vegas.

According to S&W:

Revolvers have long been replaced by high-capacity semi-auto for self defense, but they still make nice companions if you like camping where the critters are big enough to eat you.

The five-shooter features a three-inch barrel, high-visibility sights and a synthetic stock with a shock absorber on the rear of the handle. Chambered for the massive .460 round, it packs a wallop.   Cost: $1,200.

By the way, research has shown that firearms are much less likely to be effective in fending off a bear attack than a large can of bear spray. Cost: $50.

Time to reserve forest cabins, lookouts for summer

PUBLIC LANDS — Most rentals for cabins and fire lookouts on national forests and parks are reserved on a national reservation system that allows the public to book dates no more than 180 days in advance.

Check out the National Recreation Reservation Service online or call (877) 444-6777 for a complete list of facilities, to check available dates or to make reservations for most federal facilities nationwide.

Click here for details on an exception to the national reservation system: the lottery for reserving the Red Ives Cabin, a modernized drive-up facility on the St. Joe River. Applications are due by the end of February.

  • Quartz Mountain Lookout in Mount Spokane State Park is a hot local item with a premium price of $88 a night for a room with a view. Reservations are accepted up to nine months in advance for the June 15-Oct. 15 season. Make reservations by phone at (888) 226-7688. 

Indeed, if you're making plans for prime time this summer, it's time to get your act together if you hope to reserve a night in a popular room with a view.

Read on for specific information regarding cabins and lookouts in the Idaho Panhandle and Clearwater national forests, including Kelly Creek areas.

Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20, a fee-free day at all federal lands that charge an entrance fee.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

Learn winter camping basics in free program

WINTER SPORTS — Basics of Winter Camping, a free program presented by an REI staffer, will be presented at 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 9, at the Spokane store, 1125 N. Monroe.   

Pre-register to reserve a seat.

Video: See black bear test BearVault food canister

CAMPING — My Sunday Outdoors feature story focuses on bear-proof food canisters — where they are being required for campers and which one to buy.

The video above looks at the story from the bear's point of view.

This bear is very determined, but it doesn't get a reward for trying to steal a camper's food out of a BearVault brand container.

Objections to Panhandle Forests plan available online

PUBLIC LANDS — The 22 formal objections filed to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ revised forest plan were made available for review this week.

The revision of the plan last revised in 1987 was released in September and is meant to guide forest management of everything from timber production to roadless areas for the next 15 years or so.

The objections can be reviewed on Idaho Panhandle National Forests “Objections Received” webpage.

People interested in an objection can file a request to participate in any resolution meetings that are scheduled.

For example:

  • Old stands of pines, cedars and firs don’t have enough protections under the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ draft management plan, according to environmental groups, who say the big trees need more safeguards.
  • The plan's recommendations for wilderness are criticized for being too much as well as too little.
  • Objections from the Shoshone County Commission, including issues about snowmobiling, were so extensive they had to be separated into two online files.

The Forest Service has 90 days to respond to the objections.

 

Study reveals increasing development along forest boundaries

PUBLIC LANDS — Perhaps researchers are offering some insight on how wildlife and hunters are feeling the squeeze of humanity in rural areas — and why forest fire fighting costs continue to soar.

Private development along the edges of most public forests in Oregon and Washington more than doubled since the 1970s, a new study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station has found.

The study, which used aerial photography to inventory structures at the fringes of public forests, is the first to look at development trends in the two states before and after the enactment of land use laws. The findings are reported in Changes in Development Near Public Forest Lands in Oregon and Washington, 1974-2005: Implications for Management, a report published by the PNW Station.

“Although public forests are not necessarily directly subject to development, they still face management issues at their edges because of indirect development pressure,” said David Azuma, a research forester at the station who led the study.

In Oregon and Washington, about half of all forest lands are publicly owned and managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Washington Department of Natural Resources. Using a fine-scale grid of points on air photos across the two states, Azuma and colleagues classified areas outside of federal lands for land use and then recorded the number of structures within a 321-meter radius of each of these points.

“Quantifying the increases in structures in areas that have not been converted in land use can serve as a surrogate for the broader risk associated with development near public lands,” Azuma said.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Structure density within 1 kilometer of public forest more than doubled for each of the public owner groups between the 1970s and the mid-2000s.
  • Washington Department of Natural Resources lands are the most developed along their edges, with an average of 11 structures per square kilometer within 1 kilometer of their land – a rate that is more than twice that of lands managed by the other public land owners.
  • In Oregon, the greatest amount of development occurred along the edges of Bureau of Land Management forests, where there is an average of 4.4 structures per square kilometer within 1 kilometer and 19.5 structures within 2 to 5 kilometers of their land.
  • The greatest increases in structure density along public forest borders occurred in Pierce, King, Snohomish, and Clark Counties in Washington, and in Deschutes County in Oregon.

The study’s findings suggest that areas with increasing development should probably expect continued development. The work can help agencies that manage public forests to better plan for management options at the edges of their land.

  • The study also verifies the attention Washington state agencies and groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and The Nature Conservancy have given to “blocking up” forest lands that are in checkerboard ownership.  See story and links.

The report is available online

Geocaching store grand opening set for Saturday

GEOCACHING — Cache Advance, Inc., is opening the second geocaching retail store in the United States right here in Spokane.

The Cache Cave grand opening at 2324 E. Euclid Ave., Suite 204, is set for Saturday, Nov. 9, noon-5 p.m., with a ribbon cutting and geocaching flash mob at 1 p.m. 

  • If you're a geocacher, perhaps you'd prefer the coordinates: N 47° 41.140 W 117° 22.526

Owner Lisa Breitenfeldt started the business in 2005 largely for online sales to fill a niche for supplying the needs of geocaching enthusiasts triggered by the public availability of Global Positioning System navigation technology.

Geocaching is a high tech treasure hunt. Played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices or GPS enabled Smartphones, geocachers hide and/or locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share their experiences online.

October 2013 one of the best ever for staying outdoors

ENVIRONMENT — If you are a camper, backpacker, paddler or angler, you're probably looking back, as I am, with fond memories of October's fall color spectacle against blue skies.  

It was fantastic, with perhaps a record dearth of rainfall to spoil the experience.

Not great for everyone, but we take the lemonaide when it comes.

We were sleeping under stars and an brilliant full moon without need for a tent in the middle of the month 

Like all seasons, October glory is finally waning into something else, as this photo suggests from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Alaska family adventures trekking into Aunties Bookstore

ADVENTURE — Alaskan author Erin McKittrick and her family, who are all traveling by camper van from from Alaska through California on a book tour will present a program Sunday, Nov. 3, at 1 p.m., at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane. 

Published this month, the book, Small Feet, Big Land: Adventure, Home, and Family on the Edge of Alaska (Mountaineers Books).  

That should help explain why the book, family and the program may be worth your attention.

Erin and her husband have two little kids who feature strongly in their stories and presentation, so their events are free and family-friendly (i.e., lots of cool gear for little kids to climb into and around).

Also of note, Erin and her family are also the featured subject of a Banff Mountain Film Festival film this year, a short piece called “Life on Ice” which follows them around as they lived for a few months on the Malaspina Glacier in Alaska. 

Erin and her family have been profiled by the New York Times.  Now you can see for yourself.

Plan ahead for free entry to federal lands Nov. 9-11

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The last big freebie of the year is Nov. 9-11 — Veterans Day Weekend — with free entry to virtually all the federal public lands.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three  holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Federal shutdown still taking toll on recreation

PUBLIC LANDS — As the federal government shutdown advances to Day 11, I was buoyed by this headline and story today:

Utah loans federal gov't $1.7-million to open 5 national parks
On Saturday, the five national parks in Utah, as well as Natural Bridges, Glen Canyon and Cedar Breaks national monuments, will reopen after the state signed an agreement to loan $1.7-million to the federal government, enough to keep them open for 10 days.

But we can't get our hopes too high in Washington — where we're not even adequatley funding our STATE parks.

Maybe a caffeine high will be our salvation:

Starbucks launches petition drive to get government open again
On Friday, petitions seeking the reopening of the federal government will be available at all 11,000 Starbucks shops in the United States.

Although many people and businesses are suffering this week in all walks of life, my outdoors column on Thursday highlighted some high prices recreationists are paying for the budget impasse in Washington, D.C. Here's a summary as we head into the weekend:

All 401 national parks are closed, including Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and the public boat launches for the Columbia River Reservoir. Note: Free boat launching is available at Two Rivers Marina, owned by the Spokane Tribe.

National Wildlife Refuges are closed. That means hunters with special elk permits for Turnbull Wildlife Refuge are out of luck, waterfowl hunter who would be using blinds at Columbia and Kootenai national wildlife refuges and locked out and fishermen who would by catching trout at Bayley and McDowell lakes are prohibited from entering the refuge until the shutdown is over.

Forest Service offices are closed, which means outfitters can't get permits for their seasonal activities and neither can woodcutters, all of whom are on a deadline delivered by the seasons regardless of what goes on in Washington, D.C.

Hunters are finding campgrounds closed as they head into the opening of deer and elk seasons.

Anglers are finding streamflow information on U.S. Geological Survey water websites and fish passage numbers from the Corps of Engineeers are not always up to date.

Hikers trying to finish the months they've devoted to completing the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail are being blocked at the national park boundaries, such as at North Cascades National Park, and told they have to stop or re-route.

Other stories to ponder as the arrogancen in D.C. continues:

Shutdown halts logging project in Idaho, puts sawmill in peril
Brad Jensen, the owner of Jensen Lumber Co., the sawmill in Ovid, is just one of a number of timber contractors who were told to stop logging in Idaho because of the federal government shutdown, and Jensen said the cessation of the work puts his entire business at risk.

Wyoming national forest sends its concessionaires packing
Grand Teton National Forest had kept its concessionaire-operated facilities operating despite the Oct. 1 government shutdown, but they were told to pack up and leave as the shutdown continued, which means Granite Hot Springs in the Wyoming forest closes today.

National wildlife refuges off-limits to hunters as federal shutdown continues
Upland bird hunters in South Dakota, duck hunters in Montana and antelope hunters in Colorado won't be able to hunt on national wildlife refuges this weekend as seasons open but the federal government remains closed.

Montana governor says state won't pay to open national parks
Gov. Steve Bullock said he would not use state funds to open state parks as he believes the federal government should re-open it its entirety, including the payment of death benefits to members of military families who lost loved ones.

National Parks, neighboring towns take financial beating from shutdown

PUBLIC LANDS — My outdoors column today highlights some personal stories of individual recreationists impacted in a big way by the continuing government shutdown that's closed federal services and some federal lands since Oct. 1.

Here are more details about some of the overall costs:

Report tracks shutdown's costs to national parks
A report issued by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees said that the federal government's shutdown that closed national parks and monuments has cost the U.S. economy $750 million in the first ten days, with Yellowstone National Park representing $9,452,054 of that loss; Glacier National Park $3,076,712; and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where visitors travel in October to view the eye-popping fall foliage, has lost $23 million.

—Casper Star-Tribune

Shutdown throttles businesses in Utah community near Zion NP
October is usually a busy time of year for Springdale, as tourists stop in the Utah town on their way to or from Zion National Park, but the shutdown has left the community's streets quiet, although the IMAX theater in town, which is now showing documentaries about the park, which is, for now, the only way to experience the park.

—Salt Lake Tribune

Utah governor offers to loan Interior Dept. money to open national parks
Gov. Gary Herbert said he talked with Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell on Wednesday and offered to loan the federal government the necessary money to get national parks and monuments in the Beehive State open again, and he said that his offer has precedent, as Arizona loaned the federal government money during the 1996 shutdown to keep the Grand Canyon open.

—Deseret News

Government shutdown leaves options for outdoors enthusiasts

PUBLIC LANDS — As the House and Senate continue to battle over a budget compromise, the impact of a potential government shutdown on Washington state would be a pain for some people, but it wouldn't necessarily be earth-shattering to the short-term plans of outdoors enthusiasts.

If Congress fails to reach an agreement by midnight, all national parks and refuges would be closed, as well as national monuments like Mount St. Helens, and Forest Service ranger stations would be closed.

Visitors using overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park. 

However, access would still be allowed to national forests and state lands would not be affected.

Snow closes Glacier Park’s Logan Pass temporarily

PARKS — The first serious bout of winter-like weather has temporarily closed Glacier National Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road today at The Loop on the west side of the park.  

Weather conditions along the higher elevations of the Going-to-the-Sun Road today have included very windy conditions — 30-40 mph at Big Bend — slush and icy conditions on the road, cloudy and limited visibility, and snow accumulations of more than 8 inches at Logan Pass.

Camping conditions suck.

Plan ahead for free entry to refuges Oct. 13

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is Oct.13 — National Wildlife Refuge Day — which is honored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service areas such as Turnbull and the Little Pend Oreille national wildlife refuges. 

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three  holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

When campers leave, yellowjackets still have to bug something

CAMPING — Most of the campgrounds are empty, but streams around Lake Pend Oreille are ripe with “new meat” for this year's infestation of yellowjackets to gnaw at.

I'll have a Kokanee with that, sir.

Rainbow Family gathering cost Forest Service $575K

PUBLIC LANDS — My last family outing to a national forest was not this expensive…

USFS tab for Rainbow Family gathering in Montana was $575,000

The U.S. Forest Service spent approximately $400,000 providing law enforcement at the Rainbow Family gathering in July in Montana, and another $175,000 in administrative tasks.
— Montana Standard

Norman Maclean had high perspective on lightning

MOUNTAIN STORMS — If you haven’t read Norman Maclean’s “USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook and a Hole in the Sky,” Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune recommends it, and so do I.

It is one of the “other stories” in his book “A River Runs Through It and Other Stories.” 

Recently I wrote a story about a backpacking trek in the Glacier Peak Wilderness during which thunder storms pounded my camp with the shock and awe of the bombing of Bahgdad.

Maclean says this about thunderstorms from the perspective of a forest fire lookout staffer at  Elk Summit near Powell, Idaho:

“In the late afternoon, of course, the mountains meant all business for the lookouts. The big winds were veering from the valleys toward the peaks, and smoke from little fires that had been secretly burning for several days might show up for the first time. New fires sprang out of thunder before it sounded. By three-thirty or four, the lightning would be flexing itself on the distant ridges like a fancy prizefighter, skipping sideways, ducking, showing off but not hitting anything. But four-thirty or five, it was another game. You could feel the difference in the air that had become hard to breath. The lightning now came walking into you, delivering short smashing punches.”