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Device helps women stand up when nature calls

CAMPING — The females in my family have never had a problem squatting in the woods to relieve themselves — this video seems to suggest it's a problem for some outdoorswomen.

But the Pee Pocket device the video promotes has real value in outdoor applications.

For instance, by being able to stand a pee like a man, a woman can urinate more easily into a bottle in a tent, for instance, so the urine can be disposed of in an outhouse or away from camp the next morning.  This would be a big advantage in a storm or when in grizzly country  — or for simply keeping pesky deer away from camp that are otherwise lured by the salt.

While floating the Grand Canyon this winter, several gals on the trip were envious of my “pee bottle,”  which I used at camp rather than having to hike to the river from the tents — sometimes a long way — every time the urge struck, day or night.

I'll let you outdoor women size this up for yourselves, but I'll bet you'll be able to find a few good uses for it.

Lightning storms start fires in Washington forests

PUBLIC LANDS —Monday's afternoon thunderstorms led to many lightning strikes across the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and surrounding lands starting several new fires, the Forest Service reports.  Response crews were dispatched immediately.

See the report on small fires also reported on the Colville National Forest.

In northcentral Washington, the Stokes Road Fire is being managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources near Carlton and the Gold Creek area and is around 600 acres. Four Rappellers were dispatched up Foggy Dew Creek for a 0.75 acre fire around 4:00 p.m. yesterday. Other small fires reported:

  • South Ridge Methow, Piper Creek, tenth of an acre reported
  • West Buck Mountain, Methow RD, tenth of an acre, contained at 10:00 pm
  • Miner’s Ridge, Entiat RD, tenth of an acre, contained at 10:30 pm
  • French Cabin Junction, Cle Elum RD, quarter acre

Along with these reported fires were numerous smoke reports which fire suppression resources attempted to find in the field. These often can lay undetected in deep litter and duff layers on the ground or within trees undetected for days after a lightning event only to pop up later and spread as wildfires.  People should be aware of these conditions and report wildfires as noted below.

  • For general forest fire information on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, call 664-9314
  • To report a wildfire, call 911 or 1-800-258-5990. 

 

Lake Spokane Campground closed during wildfire

CAMPING — The Lake Spokane Campground, formerly operated by the Washington Department of Natural Resources, has been closed by state officials as they fight a nearby wildfire in Stevens County.

Other Riverside State Park facilities remain open.

See the story.

See more details on where to go here.

Hanging around at a backcountry camp

HIKING — This may be the ultimate low impact campsite. Comfy, too.

Fire, fireworks restricted or banned from public lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Campfires, fireworks and exploding targets are prohibited outside of designated sites on state and federal lands. Agencies are emphasizing those rules in a large-scale fire prevention effort on the eve of the Fourth of July holiday.

Generally speaking, campfires are allowed only in fire pits at developed campgrounds in national parks, most national forests and all state lands. 

Fireworks and exploding targets enjoyed by shooters are banned.

Even shooting at normal targets is banned on some state wildlife areas in Central Washington.

Roosevelt cedar grove reopens, but only for day use

CAMPING — The Forest Service has re-opened Stagger Inn, the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars and Granite Falls, but visitors will be allowed in the area only during daytime. Camping will not be allowed this season.

The sites were closed last summer for removing hazardous trees after a camper in a tent was killed by a tree that came crashing down in a severe wind storm.

Although hazardous trees have been removed, forest officials say they're still concerned about the stability of some trees in the area.

“We recognize the importance and value of the site to generations of campers and will do our best to deem the site safe for camping in the future” said Matt Davis, Priest Lake District Ranger.

“Over the course of the next year the Forest Service will be monitoring other trees and soil conditions on the site determining if additional tress need to be removed and whether to open the site for camping in the future.”

High winds on the night of August 25th, 2013 caused several trees to become weakened and damaged in the Stagger Inn Campground, resulting in several fallen trees and causing one fatality at the campground.

Info: Priest Lake Ranger District, (208) 443-6839.

Lightning: flashy way to die outdoors

OUTDOOR SAFETY — Name the safest place to seek refuge if you are outdoors and a lighting storm moves in?

  • Answer: An automobile — totally safe, unless a tree blows down on top of you.

This is Lightning Awareness Week, so be aware.  Sure, you can't bail out of the wilderness every time a thunder storm rolls in, but you can minimize risk by checking weather reports and getting very early starts on ventures into the high ridges so you can return to safer areas or your car by the time thunder activity begins, usually in the afternoon.

Check the attached document for some solid background on lighting safety.


Documents:

Geocaching 101 class offered Wednesday

NAVIGATION — A free Geocaching 101 Class is set for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The class is geared to people who want to learn the basics of the engaging high-tech hide-and-seek game using GPS devices and a  World Wide Web full of clues and challenges.

The class will be held at the Cache Cave, 2324 E. Euclid Ave., Suite 204, in Spokane and conducted by shop owner Lisa Breitenfeldt.

Info: (509) 720-8382,  lisa@cache-advance.com.

Groups highlight trail projects past and future

PUBLIC LANDS – Volunteer trail projects past and future will be highlighted in a program by the Spokane Mountaineers and Washington Trails Association on Monday, June 17, at 7 p.m., at the Mountain Gear Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield.

“The Mountaineers have a long history of giving back to our local trails,” said Lynn Smith, the club’s trail-maintenance program coordinator. “Whether working on our own or in conjunction with other organizations, we understand that stewardship goes hand-in-hand with recreation, and volunteers are a crucial part of the process – especially in this era of shrinking budgets.”

More projects are planned this year in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, he said.

Fish survey: good news for Dworshak kokanee, bass anglers

FISHING — Fishing for kokanee and bass at Dworshak Reservoir is excellent, as confirmed by this fishing report received late Friday from Joe Duont, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional fisheries manager:

Dworshak Reservoir Kokanee Report (6/13/14)

In late April we completed our spring trawl survey, and the time for an update on the kokanee fishery is overdue.  The ‘catchable’ size kokanee we caught in the trawl averaged 9 ¼ inches long, which is about a half inch shorter than the same time last year.  However, there are a lot more fish out there this year.  In fact it appears we have about twice as many 2-year old kokanee (the larger kokanee we like to catch) this year as we did last year.

We have also been busy talking to fishermen at the ramps this spring.  While not everyone is coming in with fish this year, most anglers are.  We are also seeing more limits of kokanee than empty coolers.  In April, catch rates averaged 7.6 fish kept per fisherman and 2.8 fish per hour of kokanee fishing.  In May, it picked up to 10.3 fish per person and 3.9 fish per hour.  We don’t have many interviews so far for June, but right now catch rates are 12.3 fish per person and 3.5 fish per hour.  These are great catch rates for Kokanee fishing.  The Kokanee we’ve seen in the creel recently are around 10 inches long, but there are occasional fish over 13 inches long.  Right now most people are fishing between Canyon Creek and Dent Bridge, but we have marked good densities of kokanee farther up the reservoir during our research work.

Not a kokanee fisherman?  We also interviewed 38 bass anglers over the past month who spent 117 hours to catch 463 smallmouth bass and kept 45. This works out to a little over 12 bass caught per person and four fish per hour.  Harvested bass have averaged about 13 inches, but a couple larger fish have been brought in, with the largest right at 20 inches.  Recent surface temperatures are in the mid to upper 60’s with a thermocline at 10 to 15 feet.  As the water has warmed and spawning has wrapped up, larger bass are moving into deeper water.  Some bass anglers I spoke with over the weekend reported that smaller bass were plentiful, but larger bass were down 40 to 50 feet and tough to come by.

Stagger Inn Campground closed for tree removal

PUBLIC LANDS — The Forest Service has begun removing hazardous trees at the Stagger Inn Campground on the Priest Lake Ranger District and work will continue  through June 30, says Panhandle National Forests spokesman Jason Kirchner.

Stagger Inn and the adjacent Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars and Granite Falls will remain closed during the operations.

“We ask that people remain patient as we work to make the Stagger Inn Campground safe for the public,” said Priest Lake District Ranger Matt Davis. “We recognize the importance of these sites to the Priest Lake area.  Our crews are working hard to reduce the hazards and reopen the site.”

High winds on Aug. 25, 2013, weakened and damaged several trees in the Stagger Inn Campground. A man was killed as a tree fell on his tent, prompting closure of the area.

Info: Priest Lake Ranger District at (208) 443-6839.

Lifejackets aren’t for sissies

WATERSPORTS — The season's barely begun and already two drownings have been reported from private rafting trips on Idaho's Salmon River.

Neither victim was wearing a lifejacket on the RIVER OF NO RETURN, which, forgive me for being honest, is inexcusable.

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 National Get Outdoors Day.

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.

Geocaching game launched on region’s forests

GEOCACHING — The Colville National Forest and partners in the Upper Columbia region are setting up a summer geocaching game geared to families.

From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day,  a number of easy to access geocaches will be located throughout the Colville National Forest and other participating adjacent lands designated as part of the Upper Columbia Children’s Forest.  .

Geocaching is like a treasure hunt using a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit.  You input the coordinates and the GPS unit leads you to the geocache. 

While the activities are geared to youths ages 8-12, all of the geocaches require driving to the recreation site followed by a short walk.  Navigating to and from the sites, helping out with reading maps and working the GPS is a great opportunity for everyone in the family.  There are opportunities to learn about how to read maps, how GPS works, and learning about wildlife, trees, plants and cultural history you will encounter along the way.

The geocaches are 6” x 6” plastic boxes that contain a card with information and a short activity specific to the recreation site.  Any child who can collect all of the cards and present them at the Kettle Falls Information Center will be able to claim a small prize. 

The Colville National Forest encourages visitors to practice the Leave No Trace Principals while exploring the Forest.  

Some GPS units are available to borrow at the Kettle Falls Information Center,  255 West 3rd, Kettle Falls, WA.  99141.  To ensure a unit is available, call (509) 738-2300.

If you want to play - go to www.geocaching.com and search “Upper Columbia Children’s Forest geocaches” and get the coordinates to input into your GPS Unit. 

For more Information on geocaching on the Colville National Forest,  visit www.fs.usda.gov/colville/ and look for geocaching under Quick Links, or call (509) 684-7000.

Campground hosts have insight on choosing an RV

CAMPING — Choosing an RV for camping is intensely personal. “You'll get a different answer from almost everyone you talk to,” said Larry Dach, a Spokane natives who retired and became a full-time RVer with his wife, Susan.

The Dachs have a lifestyle that involves regular stints as campground hosts. This summer, they're at the Dragoon Creek Campground just north of Spokane so they can be close to family.

Their constant connection to RV enthusiasts have given them insights on tailoring RVs to their lifestyle.

“Cost is a major consideration for people like us, of course,” Larry said. “But when you’re living in an RV full time you have to make choices that are more expensive than people who simply recreate in them on weekends.  

“Everlube axles are a must when you're on the road all the time. Less expensive fifth wheels have axles that need lubing every 3000 miles. I'd be pulling the hubs all the time.”

Susan and Larry chose a Discover America Luxury Suite fifth wheel they bought used along with a diesel pickup. Their initial investment was far lower than someone who buys a motor home.

They also not that size of a rig can limit where they apply as campground hosts.

“Ours is 33 feet, but at some of the more remote campgrounds, the spaces available are limited to 25-28 feet,” Larry said.

They have friends who love their 42 foot motor home. “They cost more initially and to operate… and have smaller windows for less light inside the living space than our fifth wheel. But they can be easier to park – a motorhome can park where I can’t.

“They have more underneath storage and you can tow a small car for getting around. They have advantages.”

“Room inside the fifth wheel isn’t a problem because we move to stay with the warmer weather so we can be outside most of the time,” Susan said.

“My sister remarked, “Oh, you’re getting to Spokane just when the weather’s getting nice,'” Susan said. “I answered, 'Yeah, that’s the plan.'”

Dragoon Campground reopening north of Spokane

CAMPING — The closure sign for Dragoon Creek Campground was removed Wednesday after this photo was snapped and the campground is scheduled to open Friday in time for the Memorial Day weekend. The campground, managed by the state Department of Natural Resources, has been closed five of the past six years.

The campground is unusual in that:

  • It's 15 minutes from Spokane.
  • No fee is charged.
  • Washington Discover Passes are required on vehicles
  • No pets are allowed.
  • The campground gate is locked at 8 p.m. and remains locked until 7 a.m. 

See my story about the campground reopening and my column about the new campground hosts, which had to be secured before the campground could reopen.

Washington seeks ideas on transforming outdoor recreation

The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation is accepting comments and ideas on how to engage and transform outdoor recreation throughout Washington. 

This effort, launched by Gov. Jay Inslee, involves state parks as well as other state lands, including wildlife areas.

Best to pay attention here. Your input is important.  

Please comment here. 

 

Nine Mile boat launch improvements complete

BOATING – Boat launch renovations at Nine Mile Recreation Area, 11226 W. Charles Rd., on Lake Spokane (Long Lake) have been completed and the site is open for the season.

Riverside State Park officials say the access road has been repaved and new docks have been installed. A new concrete ramp has been poured that reaches deeper into the lake at a more gradual grade.

Opening the site was delayed because of late delivery of the docks. The launch fee is $7.

Hear sounds under night sky at Steamboat Rock

CAMPING — In case you've forgotten what it's like to camp out under the stars, Spokane photographer Craig Goodwin reminds us by devoting a sleepless night using his camera and recording night sounds at Steamboat Rock State Park.

On a recent night-photography outing I made a short audio recording of the amazing sounds the animals were making. I wanted to share the recording to give a sense of why these all-night shoots are so magical, so I added it to some of the pictures I took that night and created a short 1:30 video. Bonus points for anyone who can identify all the calls, cackles, and chirps. The most interesting sound is right near the end. The photos follow the sequence in which I took them. What's interesting to me is you can see how the tonal quality of the light changes from 1:00 a.m. (the first shot) to 4:00 a.m. (the last shot).

Panhandle National Forests raise camping fees

PUBLIC LANDS — The cost of camping or using pay-for-use recreation sites on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests will increase this season, generally $1 to $2 per use.  

Read on for specifics from the Forest Service:

Stagger Inn Campground, cedars trail remains closed

CAMPING —  A campground north of Priest Lake remains closed this spring after a giant tree fell in a violent August windstorm and killed a man in his tent.

The Stagger Inn Campground near the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars is still being evaluated for unstable trees and tree removal to make it safe, Idaho Panhandle National Forest officials say.

The campground has been closed since Aug. 26, along with the associated cedar grove, Granite Falls and the trail system.

The Forest Service is trying to remove the remaining hazards in order to open the recreation site for the busy summer season.

Info: Priest Lake Ranger District, (208) 443-6839.

Urinating on campfires

Make a guess. What percentage of Inland Northwest males have done it?

St. Joe River campground host sought

CAMPING – A campground host is being sought for the Huckleberry Campground along the St. Joe River 30 miles east of St. Maries, Idaho.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Coeur d'Alene District provides the volunteer hosts free camping and utilities for services five days a week.

Info: (208) 769-5041.

Read on for more details from the BLM:

Mica Bay Boater Park closed for tree removal

BOATING — The Mica Bay Boater Park on Lake Coeur d'Alene has been closed temporarily until hazardous trees can be removed, according to the Bureau of Land Management Coeur d’Alene Field Office.

Closure of the popular lake access site  will continue while operators work to fell and remove at-risk trees.  The order is expected to be lifted by mid-May. 

The BLM explains in a media release:

Last fall, after several diseased western larch fell and grazed a camp host's trailer, managers conducted a safety inspection of the trees in the recreation area and prepared an analysis outlining options to ensure the safety of users at the site.  Western larch is typically noted for being resistant to diseases such as root rot but throughout the north-facing ridge bordering the site, many trees have been compromised.  Because of the potential risk of failure that could cause a threat to people and/or property, managers determined that removal of the trees was necessary before the public begins to actively use the site for the summer season. 

Mica Bay Boater Park is a popular day-use area for boaters on Lake Coeur d’Alene and is also accessible by foot for groups looking for a secluded picnic spot or quiet place to pitch their tent.  

See information on alternate boater parks or picnic areas managed by BLM’s Coeur d’Alene Field Office. 

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!