Latest from The Spokesman-Review
A federal appellate court has revived a lawsuit brought by homeless Idaho residents against the city of Boise over ordinances that bar sleeping and camping in public spaces. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling sends the 2009 lawsuit back to Boise's U.S. District Court for consideration. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.
PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is looking for camp hosts for two campgrounds in its Coeur d’Alene District, in the Idaho Panhandle.
Mica Bay Boaters Park, about 10 minutes south of Coeur d’Alene, is a boat-in recreation site that offers 15 campsites, a picnic pavilion, fishing docks and a swim area. RVcamping is available for the camp host, but no one else. Here, the camp host performs minor maintenance such as lawn mowing and weed trimming with tools provided by the BLM. The host also monitors visitor use and provides information to users about the site and surrounding area. The work schedule for this opportunity is Thursday through Sunday, as well as one additional floating day during the week.
- Info: John Mottern, Mica Bay Boater Park ranger, (208) 769-5002.
Hammer Creek Recreation Site offers 12 campsites along the Lower Salmon River south of Grangeville. A popular camping, picnicking and swimming destination, it’s also a common put-in site for rafters floating the river. Here, the camp host makes visitor contacts, provides area information and assists with minor maintenance such as painting, cleaning and weed trimming. The BLM is seeking a host that would live on-site from mid-June through Thanksgiving.
- Info: Joe O’Neill, Hammer Creek Recreation Site outdoor recreation planner, (208) 962-3683.
Click here for general information on both sites.
BOATING — Most of the recreation facilities at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir are buttoning up for the winter.
Dam View, Grandad and Canyon Creek campgrounds, and Merrys Bay day-use area are closed for the season and will reopen in the spring 2013 as weather conditions allow.
Dent Acres campground will remain open until Dec. 15, weather permitting, to accommodate late-season hunters.
Big Eddy, Bruces Eddy and the fishing wall area below the dam will remain open for use during the winter season.
Roads accessing recreation areas can be challenging and icy during inclement weather.
Info: (208) 476-1255 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
WINTER TRAVEL — Slippery roads this week are a reminder that drivers should be prepared for mishaps that might catch stuck, stranded or off the road in winter conditions.
A bag of items stashed in your vehicle could spell the difference between comfort and misery if not — in the worst case scenario — life and death.
Carry a survival kit in your vehicle.
- First-aid kit
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Cellular phone and charger
- Windshield scraper with snow brush
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Extra winter clothes including shoes, hats and gloves
- Compact shovel
- Traction aids (bag of sand or cat litter) and tow strap
- Emergency flares
- Jumper cables
- Non-perishable food and bottled water
- Road map
- Candles, matches, non-liquid firestarter.
- Special-needs items vehicle passengers may require.
PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees to celebrate Veterans Day weekend, Nov. 10-12.
The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2012. The Veterans Day weekend fee waiver is the last scheduled for the year.
Offering free admission to national parks and other federal lands has been offered the past three years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.
HIKING — A group of trailwise parents in Spokane has started leading group hikes for families and children. Anyone who likes to hike with families is welcome to join them!
It's a free Meet Up group that organizes online. They call themselves the Big and Little Rock Hikers.
Last week they were on a treasure hunt at Slavin Conservation area.
- Sun. Oct. 14th, Hike & Scavenger Hunt with Clues, to Big Rock & Beyond, led by Gary (age 10) and Kathy Kalich.
- Sat. Oct. 20th, Beaver Dam Hike w Biology Expert & GU Professor Sue Niezgoda, Liberty Lake Trail.
PUBLIC LANDS — No campfires will be allowed at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation area except at designated grated campfire sites at least through Sunday. See the park's announcement issued Monday:
In accordance with the 2012 Superintendent’s Compendium, Acting Superintendent Natalie Gates has extended the ban for campfires on the exposed lakebed through midnight on October 7, 2012.
Campfires in park-provided fire grates at developed campgrounds are allowed. The use of gas and propane barbeques and self-contained stoves is allowed in the recreation area.
Campfires are never allowed on the beach area above the exposed lakebed.
WILDLIFE LANDS — Wild fires continue to char and in some cases nuke forests and other wildlife habitat in scattered areas around the Inland Northwest. But the future isn't all black.
Before-after-photos at Naneum Lake (above) hint at the impact of the Table Mountain Fire, which has spread over thousands of acres along with other forest fires in the Ellensburg-Leavenworth-Wenatchee area. The fires were ignited by lightning storms around Sept. 9, 2012.
Some areas have been reopened to public access, but hunters need to check ahead with the Forest Service, DNR and Washington Fish and Wildlife Department for closures to distinct areas in the Wenatchee region.
This photo comparison doesn't look good, but Washington Fish and Wildlife experts say the damage/benefits to the Colockum elk herd won't be known until next spring when they can assess the ratio of hot-burned areas with the areas that were lightly burned or skipped-over by the flames.
The fires ultimately will be good for wildlife.
The question is whether the recovery will be measured in years or decades.
HUNTING — It's not news that the fields are dry and fire danger is extreme.
But don't let your guard down when you go out hunting or recreating. One thoughtless moment in these conditions can be costly.
Hunters, who have an especially big responsibility to be fire conscious, should:
- Drive only on established roads.
- Avoid roads with tall vegetation in the middle track.
- Never park over dry grass and other vegetation.
- Carry a fire extinguisher—or water-filled weed sprayer—shovel, axe, and, a cell phone for communications in addition to other outdoor safety gear.
- Restrict camping activities to designated camping areas.
- Not build campfires.
- Smoke only inside buildings or vehicles.
Being able to respond is essential in the first few seconds of a fire start when it is small and easily extinguished.
WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A black bear sow and her cub have been frequenting the English Point recreation trail near Hayden Lake, Forest Services officials say.
No reports of aggressive behavior from the bears have been received at the Panhandle National Forests headquarters in Coeur d'Alene, “but it remains important for the public to exercise caution and give the bears plenty of space to ensure future bear encounters are uneventful,” said Jason Kirchner, forest public affairs officer.
“Bear sightings are not unusual but due to the unpredictable nature of bears the public needs to understand that some caution should be taken whenever they are in bear country,” said Coeur d’Alene River District Ranger Chad Hudson.
BEAR ENCOUNTER GUIDELINES
Should you encounter a bear:
- Stay calm. Group together, pick up small children and assess the situation. Prepare to use your bear spray.
- Do not run or make sudden movements, it may instinctively cause the bear to charge you.
- Give bears a chance to identify you as human, and not a threat. If the bear stands up, it is trying to see, hear and smell you better.
- Talk firmly in a low-pitched voice while backing away. Avoid direct eye contact as bears may perceive this as a challenge or threat.
- Continue to back away slowly and cautiously, retreating to a place of safety. Monitor the animal’s response, and adjust your actions accordingly.
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
When I opened my eyes, the sun was not yet over the horizon and the weak light it cast was wrapped in the heavy mist rising from the Missouri River. I lay still, warm and bundled under a heavy layer of quilts, watching through the small window beside the bed as the day came into its own. Soon I could see deer grazing in the rolling fields around the other cabins, all, like my own, early homestead shelters that had been moved to the Virgelle Mercantile and refurbished for guests.
By the time I was up and dressed the coffee was ready in the kitchen of the old Mercantile building. I poured a cup and the steam rose from the mug in my hand as I walked back outdoors out to take photos.
After a breakfast of whole-hog sausage and baked French toast, washed down by pots of hot coffee, in the company of others there for the guided fishing and canoeing trips offered by the Mercantile’s sister business, The Missouri River Canoe Company, we gathered our gear and took the short ride down to the canoe launch.Once our canoes were loaded we paddled away.
This stretch of the Missouri River is shallow this time of year, no more than a couple of feet deep in some places. We made steady progress, paddling hard enough to get where we were going but stopping whenever something caught our attention. The beauty of September in Montana is that the summer travelers have gone back to work and school. We had the river to ourselves, but we were not alone. Deer splashed across inlets and an eagle sitting on the branch of a tall Cottonwood tree studied us as we passed. Farther along, a silent, watchful Coyote, camouflaged in the tall grass, turned his head to follow our progress down the river.
Soon, warmed by the sun and the exercise, our jackets came off. There wasn’t a cloud in the wide blue dome of the sky and only an occasional gust of wind worked against us as we paddled.
I listened as our guide, a genuine Montana woodsman who makes his living guiding, hunting and trapping along the river, talked about Lewis and Clark’s journey along the same route through what is now the Missouri River Breaks National Monument. It was, he pointed out, with the exception of the occasional barn or fenceline and the grey-green Russian Olive introduced by homesteaders as a way to shelter flimsy cabins from the relentless wind, essentially an unchanged landscape. Soon, at a bend in the river, the eerie Hoodoos and white sandstone cliffs so unique to that portion of the river, the aptly-named White Cliffs stretch, came into view. One more thing checked off the list of places I need to see before I die.
After a couple of hours we pulled our canoes onto a pebbled strip of beach and stopped for lunch, digging into the sandwiches and fruit like we were starving, as though we hadn’t eaten a massive breakfast that morning. As we ate, I thought about something one of the group had said the night before. He’d been telling a story and mentioned a particular day— a special day—as one of the thirty or so he actually remembered of that particular year. I’d never really thought about it before but he is right. Most of the 365 days of work and worry, scheduled appointments, hurried commutes and eat-at-your-desk lunches, blend into a blur. Not much stands out. But, once in a while, there are moments that stay with us forever, etched into memory. They are special enough to share.
We packed up the scraps left from our meal and pushed away from the shore, paddling on down the river. More white cliffs and narrow coulees. More photos. More memories.
At the end of the trip, gathering our gear and hopping back into the van that would carry us and the canoes back to our cars at the Mercantile, I let what I’d seen and done replay in my mind. From the moment I opened my eyes and let them rest on the fog-softened view, to the last spectacular mile of Missouri River wilderness before we pulled our canoes out of the water, the day was special. It was a day worth holding onto and, in that way, worth sharing.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees to celebrate National Public Lands Day on Sept. 29.
The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2012.
Offering free admission to national parks and other federal lands has been featured the past three years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.
BACKPACKING — Ultra light, ultra functional and ultra durable — those are the keys to gear that causes a buzz among through hikers on long-distance trails.
One group of hikers most of the way through their month's long, 2,650-mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, recently were comparing notes on their shoes at Washington's Chinook Pass. The durability winner in this group was the La Sportiva Wildcat trail running shoe, a Backpacker Editor’s Choice item in the magazine’s 2010 gear review.
One hiker had 1,000 miles on his pair and they were still going strong.
While trail running shoes may be perfect for PCT through hikers, who are focused on speed and staying on the trail, they may not be the best for everyday hikers who may not be so trail hardened or who do more off-trail exploration.
FOREST FIRES — The map above from the Wenatchee National Forest shows areas off limits to visitors because of forest fires in the Central Washington area.
The closures affect hikes in prime season and hunters out for Washington's early High Buck Hunt that opened Saturday.
BACKPACKING — After reading my post this morning about fire-related closures affecting hikers in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Stephanie Akker of Kennewick emailed me the photo (above) snapped Saturday from the Colchuck Lake area as she decided to evacuate during the night to safety.
I was happy to see your article on-line as I have been scouring for more info since we backpacked out of Colchuck, in the dark, Saturday night.
Attached is a photo of the fire from our campsite on the north end of Colchuck. We day hiked into the Enchantments Saturday after camping at Colchuck Friday night. We chose to evacuate after watching the fire grow dramatically over the course of 24 hours and also considering the proximity to the parking lot.
Yes, we had to forgo our coveted permit, but felt it better safe than sorry.
Read on for her photo of Colchuck Lake, a scene that helps you understand why it was no easy decision to leave.
HIKING — Many backpackers with coveted permits for the prime September season in the Enchantment Lakes area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in northcentral Washington are finding their plans up in smoke.
Area includes Eightmile Road, Colchuck, Stuart, Eightmile, Caroline, and Trout lakes, and the Windy Pass portion of the Enchantment area in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness due to a fire burning Many Enchantment area overnight camping permits are cancelled. However, the Enchantment Basin itself remains open at this time with access via Snow Creek Trail. Please call the Wenatchee River Ranger Station for more information on which permits are cancelled.
See a photo and report from a backpacker who self-evacuated Colchuck Lake Saturday night as fires closed in.
Read on for the latest press release and details from the Wenatchee National Forest.
WILD FIRES from recent lightning storms on tinder-dry landscapes are an issue for people heading outdoors in almost every direction.
Here's a regional roundup from Mountain West News:
The 300-acre Cascade Creek Fire is the worst of the 200 wildfires sparked by lightning in Washington state over the weekend.
Portland Oregonian;Sept. 10
Strong winds pushed a wildfire first reported Sunday afternoon across more than 200 acres in southern B.C., and more than 1,550 residents near Peachland were ordered to evacuate.
Vancouver Sun;Sept. 10
Evacuations ordered as wildfire burns on Wyoming's Casper Mountain
A wildfire first reported at 4 p.m. Sunday on the east side of Casper Mountain in Wyoming grew quickly to hundreds of acres and forced the evacuation of campgrounds and dozens of homes.
Casper Star-Tribune;Sept. 10
More evacuations ordered on Mustang Complex fire in Idaho
A level 3 evacuation order was issued for residents along the Highway 93 corridor from Quartz Creek to North Fork in Idaho on Sunday, as the Mustang Fire Complex moved closer to that corridor.
Ravalli Republic (AP);Sept. 9
The Little Horsethief Fire that ignited Saturday afternoon grew quickly to 800 acres, and on Sunday, residents living on Snow King Mountain near Jackson, Wyo., were put on notice that they may need to evacuate.
Jackson Hole Daily;Sept. 10
Fire investigators believe the 8,000-acre wildfire burning in Montana south of Livingston was human caused.
Billings Gazette;Sept. 10
PUBLIC LANDS — Last night's wave of thunder storms in Eastern Washington has sparked numerous fires in the dry canyons and forests near Leavenworth, Chelan and Wenatchee. Here's the just-posted Forest Service report for details on locations, with the grim warning that high winds are predicted to fan the flames.
PUBLIC LANDS — Citing budget cuts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed several camgrounds on the Columbia River on Tuesday — weeks earlier than normal.
The move surprised campers as they were evicted on Tuesday in picture-perfect weather for being in a campsite with their families.
Read the Tri-City Herald story.
See a list of Walla Walla District recreation sites and closure announcements.
It probably didn't help the Walla Walla District's budget last week as crews had to clean up trash from 3,000 partiers at the corps' Illia Dunes recreation site on the Snake River.
WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — The recent story of a bear protecting its cubs in the presense of humans calls for a review of basic procedures for walking in bear country:
- Bear spray is an effective deterrent to bear attacks.
- Bear spray is useless if not immediately accessible when a bear is encountered.
In Montana and Idaho, grizzlies are especially active this time of year looking for berries to put on fat for the winter, as displayed in the photo above snapped last week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.
Hikers and especially stealthy hunters, such as archers, should be prepared for bear encounters during fall.
PUBLIC LANDS — Fire danger as well as still-burning wild fires will be a major factor for some campers and hunters heading for recreation areas in Idaho, Montana and Washington during Labor Day weekend.
Smoking, campfires and use of chain saws are restricted on most state and federal lands to prevent more fires. Access roads and trails to some areas are closed because of existing fires, notably in Montana and central Idaho.
For example, the Selway River Trail, popular with hikers and hunters in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, is closed this week as fire crews clear timber falling on the route in the Moose Creek District.
No major fires are listed on the Colville or Idaho Panhandle National Forests, but fire restrictions are in place.
Despite cooler temperatures, fire danger continues to be rated extreme in much of the region, said Joani Bosworth, spokeswoman for the Umatilla National Forest.
National forest websites are the best all-hours sources for updates on fire-related restrictions.
Websites with updates on fires and restrictions include:
THROUGHOUT THE WEST
- Forest fire activity updates: www.inciweb.org
- Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forest: http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nezperce/alerts-notices
- Idaho Panhandle National Forests: www.fs.fed.us/ipnf/
- Colville National Forest: www.fs.usda.gov/colville
- Umatilla National Forest (Blue Mountains): www.fs.usda.gov/umatilla/.
- Washington state lands: http://fortress.wa.gov/dnr/firedanger/BurnRisk.aspx
PUBLIC LANDS — A popular recreation area along the Snake River southwest of Pullman will not be open for Labor Day because it was trashed last weekend by hard-partying visitors.
Apparently school's in session at WSU.
The Corps of Engineers closed the Illia Dunes after more than 3,000 visitors left broken bottles and beer cans on the beach and littered parking lots with trash, creating health and safety hazards.
The corps says it doesn’t have the resources for such a big cleanup job if visitors can’t pick up after themselves.
The dunes are a popular recreation site with sandy beaches on the south shore of the Snake River about three miles downstream of Lower Granite Lock and Dam
Having an astonishing variety of outdoors skills is one way.
Being the one person who never complains is another.
But when it comes to making yourself a legend during a camping trip, there's nothing quite like epic snoring.
SKY WATCHING — Other than a bit of lingering haze from the region's wildfires, the weekend provided picture perfect conditions for watching the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower.
I'm impressed at how many of my Facebook friends were out camping in wild places to get the most from the event. (See photo above by Blake Sommers/Outdoor Flip Photography, who was camped at Revett Lake near Thompson Pass at the Montana-Idaho Border — Hike 24 in 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.)
The higher the elevation and the farther you are from city lights, the better the viewing.
When our kids were young, our family had a tradition of renting one of the area's fire lookouts or at least camping near one for the Perseid event. We'd roll out our sleeping pads on the lookout catwalk and watch the “shooting stars” until we faded away to sleep.
This year, near the Cabinet Mountains Widlerness, I was graced with a view of a meteor entering the earth's atmosphere with a streaming tail of orange that raced directly up the Clark Fork River. It was better than the Olympics closing ceremony.
Here are more photos of the Perseid Meteor Shower from Universe Today readers around the world.
FORESTS – The Colville National Forest is seeking comments on a revised proposal to regulate dispersed camping and designate and expand roads and trails open to motorized recreation.
Comments are due by the end of August on the South End Project scoping notice and plans for the Tacoma, Chewelah and Calispell drainages).
- See the revised proposals in the document attached to this post.
The original plan was appealed last winter by conservation groups.
The project goals include designating an expanded system of routes for motor vehicle use.
CAMPING – The drinking water supply has been tested and OKed at Pioneer Park Campground near Newport, Colville National Forest officials said today.
The water system had been shut down for a week after reports of possible contamination.
STATE PARKS — The Spokane Mountaineers are organizing volunteers to remove an illegal camp apparently established by skiers in a pristine forest on the west side of Mount Spokane State Park.
The illegal campers had installed a stove and cut down trees during the winter.
CAMPING — E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria was discovered Aug. 4 in the drinking water at the Pioneer Park Campground in Pend Oreille County.
Today Colville National Forest officials said the Newport Ranger District had notified guests who recently stayed at the campground if contact information was available.
No reports of illness had been received, they said.
While the campground three miles from Newport remains open, the drinking water system has been shut down while the Forest Service investigates the source of contamination.
Info: Contact the Newport Ranger District (509) 447-7300.
NATIONAL FORESTS — Crews have reopened all the primary roads on the Colville National Forest since a July 20 storm leveled trees on roughly 4,000 acres of the 1.1 million-acre forest. Most of the damage was on the Republic Ranger District.
Some of the seconary roads and trails are still plugged with trees that were toppled by the storm — or weakened so much that they're still falling.
Crews have cleared all secondary roads listed as “open” on the Colville National Forest Interactive Motor Interactive Vehicle Use Map, said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman. If a road was useable this summer before the storm but not officially designated as “open” to motorized use, crews will not be dispatched to cut out the blowdowns, he said.
“While all roads that were passible prior to the storm event have been cleared of down trees, it is important to note that there are roads that were washed out do to storm activity prior to this event that have not been repaired,” he said.
A list of those roads can be found on the Colville National Forest Web site under Conditions: Road Report.
All trailheads are open, but trails can still have trees down across them and potentially weakened trees that could come down. More trees have fallen on some trails that have been cut out, he said.
“If you're a mountain biker or equestrian headed out on the trails, you should bring a saw,” he said.
Ten Mile Campground south of Republic (see photos above) remains closed and the Empire Lake dispersed campsites are also closed.
Updates: Republic Ranger District Office, (509) 775-7400.
CAMPING — The best part of this camping trip? Nobody was killed.
A Cheney family survived a harrowing evening during the storm that ravaged Ferry County on July 20, 2012.
See their photos above.
See a story about the storm and brief surge of hurricane-force winds swept through the region