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Trophy mounts measured at Big Horn Show

HUNTING — The Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show doesn't open until Thursday at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, but “Trophy Territory” big-game mounts already are being scored and judged and eventually will be awarded ribbons in numerous categories.

Several species and racks, in all shapes, sizes and counts are considered. More than 300 mounts were on display at last year’s show.

To enter a trophy for scoring, drive to the south entrance of the Fair and Expo Center and continue through the Yellow Gate to Bay 3 at the following times: Wednesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon.

Info: Larry Carey, (509) 328-6429.

Sage advice for hikers in tick country

HIKING — The ticks are out in the scablands around the region, and they're thirsty.

Spokane hiker, writer and photographer Aaron Theisen offers this observation from his vast experience: 

"Never go to a dinner party directly from an early-spring hike, unless you want to entertain guests with the old 'watch a tick crawl out of my shirt collar' trick."

Click here to read my detailed primer on hiking and recreating in tick country.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 7-10

SNOWMOBILING — As fate would have it, the real adventure began 70 miles from any assistance behind the racers in the Iditarod sled dog race. As the temperature plunged to minus 32 degrees — nearly 60 degrees colder than the day they started out following the Iditarod Trail — snowmobilers Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane faced some arctic cruelness:

  • The starter on Bob's snowmobile was falling apart.
  • A clunking noise was developing in Josh's snowmobile.
  • A friend died in McGrath and the town had to unite to dig a grave in the frozen ground.
  • Fuel was $7.15 a gallon in McGrath.
  • Bob and Josh had to drive over a dead moose in the trail.
  • And then Josh's snowmobile developed problems that threatened to end the 1,000-mile expedition.

Click "continue reading" to see how the two ingenious adventurers saved their butts by hooking on to something a fisherman left behind in a remote BLM cabin.

Also: click here to see a continuously updated photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Free admission to state parks March 18-19

PUBLIC LANDS — This weekend will be a freebie at Washington state parks, which will be offering free admission four times this year.

The first set of free days will be March 18-19 in honor of the park system’s 99th birthday on March 19.

Other scheduled "free" days are June 9, Sept. 29 and Nov. 10-12.

On these days, the Discover Pass will not be required to visit a state park. But the Discover Pass still will be required to access lands managed by the state departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife on the free park days.

The cost for the Discover Pass is $10 a day or $30 a year (some transaction fees might be charged).

Ticks rise to occasion of warmer weather

HIKING — What a difference a couple of warm days can make.

Neither my dog nor I picked up ticks in Wednesday's cold temperatures while hikng BLM's Lakeview Ranch near Odessa.

On Friday, after a couple warmer nights and days, a friend harvested a bumper crop of ticks while hiking and fly fishing at Crab Creek.

Be prepared, sage-country early-season hikers!

Click here to read my detailed primer on hiking and recreating in tick country.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 1-6, plus links for entire trip

SNOWMOBILING — Snowmobiler Bob Jones, 72, of Kettle Falls was in Alaska this winter, once again following the annual Iditarod sled dog race with his son-in-law, Josh Rindal, who works at Fairchild Air Force Base.

We followed Jones's diary of ups and downs from the arduous trip on the Iditarod Trail as he reached several personal milestones:

  • — His 100th Alaska visit.
  • — A total of more than 20,000 miles following the 950- to 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome.

Here's a wrapup story about Jones and his love-hate relationship with snowmobiles, but read on to follow his journey day by day.

Jones, a colorful guy with a gift for gab, is a familiar face in the remote villages along the race’s two routes since he began following the event by snowmobile in 1995.

“The first year, eight snowmobiles followed the route, and my Washington group had four,” he said. “One year, I was the only one doing the whole thing.”

He tows a trailer with gear for camping in bitter cold. Sometimes he stays in roadhouses.

“The villagers all know me and like me because I only stay a day, have a good time and leave,” he said.

Live the arctic life with with Jones by clicking "continue reading" for the first six days of diary posts from the Iditarod Trail, followed by links for Bob's take on the rest of the trip.

Also, click here to see a photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Forest Service responds to court decision on access fees

PUBLIC LANDS — The U.S. Forest Service has just released the following  statement regarding a federal court decision on fees charged for access to some national forest trailheads.

A recent article that appeared in news outlets around the country misportrayed a recent court decision that has the Forest Service currently reevaluating portions of its recreational fee system.

Visitors to national forests should continue expect to pay the established recreation fees that are currently in place. The U.S. Forest Service has charged user fees since 1965 and, since the mid-1990s, more than 90 percent of those fees have been used for improvements to the areas where the fees have been collected.

The Forest Service began a review of all recreation fees two years ago, and in January made preliminary proposals on their future status. Under these proposals, 26 national forest areas will still require visitor fees, down from the current 90 areas nationwide. However, no final decision can or will be made until the proposals are reviewed by the local Recreation Resource Advisory Committees, which will be meeting throughout 2012.

All Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public and include opportunities for public comment.

Court tells Forest Service fees to take a hike

PUBLIC LANDS — The fees forest visitors have been paying to access trailheads in some national forests may be history following a federal court ruling.

The Ninth Circuit Court of appeals recently ruled the U.S. Forest Service "Federal Lands Access Enhancement Fees" are not legal. Essentially the court said the agency couldn't charge fees under the program for hiking, walking, hunting, fishing, picnicking, parking, four wheeling, boating, horseback riding and other uses on undeveloped federal land.

Read the story in today's Los Angeles Times.

The Forst Service  began charging access fees in 1996 on some forests, such as the Wenatchee, Okanogan and Umatilla.   Other forests, such as the  Idaho Panhandle National Forests did not adopt the fee program.

"Everyone is entitled to enter the national forests without paying a cent," wrote Judge Robert Gettleman for the unanimous three-judge panel.

 The Forest Service is studying the ruling, and has 60 days to request a rehearing.

I have not yet received answers from my request for comment from affected forests in Washington.

"For now the recreation fee program remains unchanged in the Pacific Northwest," said a spokesman from the Forest Service Region 6 headquarters in Portland.

Stay tuned.

BLM proposes fee increases at Lake CdA sites

BOATING – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is proposing recreation fee increase for sites around Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Daily boat launch fees at Blackwell Island and Mineral Ridge would increase from $4 to $6 and season passes would increase from $30 to $40.  

Tent camping fees at Mica Bay Boater Park, Killarney Lake Recreation Site, Huckleberry Campground and Windy Bay Boater Park would rise from $8 to $10 a night. 

Trailer camping fees at Huckleberry Campground along the St. Joe River are proposed to increase from $15 to $18 a night.

No fee increases have been proposed for the U.S. Forest Service sites in the area.

The proposals will be considered by BLM’s District Resource Advisory Council  Wednesday (Feb. 22)  at the BLM office, 3815 Schreiber Way.

Info: (208) 769-5004.

Cabela’s to open ‘outpost’ store near Yakima

OUTDOOR RETAILERS – Cabela’s announced this morning it is introducing a new store format that will bring the outdoor sporting goods retailer to Washington Plaza, a shopping center under construction at the former Costco property near Yakima.

The news was reported by the Yakima Herald-Republic.

The Sidney, Neb., company announced the Union Gap store, the first under its smaller "Cabela’s Outpost Store" format, during its fourth-quarter earnings call to shareholders.

Cabela’s plans to open the 40,000-square-foot store by this fall. The Post Falls Cabela's store, by comparison, has 125,000 square feet of showroom space.

Despite Cabela’s popularity, local businesses that have served Yakima Valley’s outdoor and hunting community remain optimistic.

Gary Fairbanks, owner of Fairbanks Outfitters, a fly fishing shop in Yakima, said he can compete on price, noting that he has ordered product for customers at a lower price than listed in the Cabela’s catalogs.

"They have a huge selection," he said. "But (its) prices are quite high compared to mine."

Read on for more details from the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Time to reserve forest cabins, lookouts

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 on the St. Joe River.

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 Clearwater National Forest, including Kelly Creek areas.

Controversy continues over adding nutrients to Dworshak Reservoir

FISHERIES — In an effort to improve the kokanee fishery in Dworshak Reservoir,  the U.S. Corps of Engineers and Idaho Fish and Game are experiementing with "fertilizing" the waters.

This is a popular idea with some people, but not by others, including those who've filed a lawsuit claiming the nutrient supplementing has caused algae blooms.

The Columbia Basin Bulletin had an interesting dialogue on the issue.  Click here to see two sides to a report the CBC had the previous week.

Take an idyllic time-lapse outdoor tour of Oregon

<a href='http://www.bing.com/videos/browse?mkt=en-us&vid=11fb7d43-c4a3-43ab-9adb-1ffd15358300&from=en-us_msnhp&src=v5:embed::' _cke_saved_href='http://www.bing.com/videos/browse?mkt=en-us&vid=11fb7d43-c4a3-43ab-9adb-1ffd15358300&from=en-us_msnhp&src=v5:embed::' target='_new' title='Finding Oregon Time-Lapse'>Video: Finding Oregon Time-Lapse</a>

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — Many of Oregon's iconic natural features are captured in this soothing production of time-lapse photography.

It's called "Finding Oregon, by Uncage the Soul Productions.

The clip involves six months of photography across the state. It highlights spots that beckon outdoors enthusiasts, such as: Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, the Southwestern Coast, the Alvord Desert, Leslie Gulch, Blue Mountains, Crater Lake, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Deschutes River, and more!
Although you see no people in these photos, they've been discovered, for good reason.

National Parks offer free three-day weekend

PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees to celebrate Martin Luther King holiday weekend, Jan.14-16.

The Park Service is waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2012. The Martin Luther King weekend fee waiver is the first 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.

El Ninia gives region a dry shoulder so far

We thought that first big snowstorm just before Thanksgiving was the beginning of the predicted big snow accumulation associated with an El Ninia year. 

However, to date, Idaho has accumulated only 73 percent of normal snowpack.

Check out this SnoTel chart to see where the snow is — and isn't.

Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department Panhandle Region wildlife manager, says he needs a lot more snow in a hurry in order to do his winter aerial elk surveys.

Normal snowpack is needed to concentrate the elk on wintering areas and make them stand out for the count.

National Parks, other federal lands list 2013 dates for free admission

PUBLIC LANDS — The Interior Department has announced dates in 2013, ranging from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day to Veterans Day, when more than 2,000 national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges and other federal lands will offer free admission. 

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

Tourism and outdoor recreation also are economic engines in communities across the country, the agency noted in a release. Recreation on federal lands in 2009 provided 440,000 jobs and contributed $55 billion to the economy.

Some groups don't have to wait for a holiday to get special rates for visiting federal public lands.

  • 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 Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and older and a $80 annual pass for the general public.

But the fee-free days will give both first time and repeat visitors a good reason to spend time in these extraordinary places, Interior officials said.

2013 fee free days

Here is a breakdown of the days and which agencies are offering free admission:

Jan. 21: Martin Luther King Jr. Day - The National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will waive their entrance fees and the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation will waive their standard amenity fees.

April 22-26: National Park Week - National Park Service.

June 8: Get Outdoors Day - U.S. Forest Service

Aug. 25: 97th birthday of the National Park Service.

Oct. 13: National Wildlife Refuge Day - U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Sept. 18: National Public Lands Day - National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.

Nov. 9-11: Veterans Day weekend - National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Rednecks go gourmet in Jerky of the Month Club

OUTDOOR FOOD — Hey, a jerky of the month club is better than a fruit cake every month.


Show a kid this video on the danger of a single sunburn

OUTDOOR SPORTS — Many people will be hitting the sunny ski slopes this week, or maybe "coloring up" in a tanning booth, or planning for a winter getaway to a warm beach. 

Fine. Take your sunscreen and learn to cover up. 

Remember, your skin is like an elephant. It never forgets.

A single bad sunburn before the age of 18 doubles your chance of contracting malignant melanoma.

This video, "Dear 16-Year-Old Me," is worth sharing with any young person.

Paqlite takes ‘glow-in-dark’ to higher level

NEW GEAR – The UVPaqlite is worth checking out in case you have an application for a portable light source that does NOT require batteries, bulbs, electricity or chemical activation.

These glow-in-the-dark ‘lights in a bag’ charge even by cloudy daylight, will illuminate 3-6 person tents, provide light all night, yet they weigh less than an egg.

The manufacturer says they can be re-worked forever.

Electronic navigation devices can leave hikers out in the cold

HIKING/SURVIVAL — It's good news that a Leavenworth hiker who got lost last weekend walked out safely from the woods after spending an unexpected cold night in the mountains. He had the gear and know-how to survive. Yay!

But a few readers have been intrigued by one of the last graphs in the Associated Press story quoting sherrif's deputies who said the source of the man's trouble was electronic devices that weren't functioning properly because of the cold weather.

The story did not elaborate, leaving us to wonder what electronic devices he was relying on: GPS?  Headlamp?  Or God forbid, a smart phone with its notoriously poor battery life?

I don't know. But I can tell you this:  A map and compass require no batteries and work great in cold weather.

Just sayin'.

National parks to offer 17 `free’ days in 2012

PUBLIC LANDS — For the third consecutive year, visitors will enjoy free admission to national parks on 17 days in 2012, the Department of Interior has announced. Some of those freebies include three-day holiday weekends and even a week-long celebration of National Parks Week.

National forests, national wildlife refuges and BLM areas that charge fees are offering a slightly reduced schedule of free admission days.

National parks and public lands serve as an economic engine for many local communities, supports jobs and driving tourism, he said.

National Park fee-free dates for 2012 are Jan.14-16 (Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend), April 21-29 (National Park Week), June 9 (Get Outdoors Day), Sept. 29 (National Public Lands Day), and Nov. 10-12 (Veterans Day weekend).

Other freebies: Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service will waive their entrance and standard amenity fees Jan.14-16, June 9, Sept. 29, and Nov. 10-12. The Bureau of Reclamation will waive standard amenity fees on Sept. 29 and Nov. 12.

College kayakers live sheltered lives

CAMPING — Parents love getting notes from their kids indicating they're capable of dealing with adversity — especially when they maintain their smile while making lemonade from lemons, and inflict comfort and happiness on people around them.

Here's a recent email message from my youngest daughter, Hillary, who works with the Outdoor Program at Western Washington University.

"I just got back from a wonderrrful kayak trip to Lummi Island, and I was an official leader so I even got paid 90 bucks! We saw  4 river otters frolicking today, as well as a PORPOISE and seals galore!
"We forgot the tent poles, so we had to be innovative and practice our tarpology skills… with the help of the throw ropes and some paddles, we managed to make a mansion out of rain flies and ground cloths! 
"My chocolate sea pudding with the Turkish washcloth seaweed thickener was a big hit :)

REI’s ‘Diva Night’ focuses on getting women active outdoors

WOMEN OUTDOORS — The Spokane REI store is devoting an evening to providing women with information on programs and events designed especially for getting women active in outdoor activities.

Diva Night is set for Oct. 20 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 1125 N. Monroe.   That's a week a way, but the first 30 women to pre-register for Diva Night will receive a complimentary gift bag of fun prizes!

Topics to be covered range from  health and wellness to camp cooking, backpacking, climbing and more.

 Participating groups include the Susan G. Komen Foundation, The Souper Bowl, Emde Sports, Belles & Baskets, Gals Get Going, the YWCA, Jazzercise, Fitness Center, Rossignol, Superfeet and Moving Comfort, Petzl, Columbia, Black Diamond, Asics and ZipFizz and Girl Scouts.

The REI climbing wall will be open for women to try out.

Volunteers needed for Sheep Creek Campground project

CAMPING — The Washington Department of Natural Resources and the town of Northport are co-hosting a volunteer work party on Saturday, (Oct. 15)  9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Sheep Creek Campground near Northport. 

Two years ago, the town of Northport took over managing the campground for DNR. This successful partnership has allowed the campground to remain open during tight economic times and provide recreation access for the public.

The day’s work activities will include installing and upgrading picnic tables, installing an ADA-accessible barbecue, cleaning the viewing deck, maintenance work on fire pits and the group shelter, painting signs and outhouses and disposing of brush.

Volunteers can earn vouchers toward a complimentary Discover Pass.

Contact Lon Emmett, DNR, 509-684-7474, lon.emmett@dnr.wa.gov or Northport Mayor Mike Lamb, 509-732-4450, northprt@theofficenet.com.

Wild Night for Wilderness Sept. 30 in Sandpoint

CONSERVATION — “Wild Night For Wilderness" – a community celebration of the great outdoors, is being organized into an evening of music, slides and updates on the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30, at Evans Brother’s Coffee in Sandpoint.

The evening also includes a taste of local libations — featuring locally brewed beer by Laughing Dog and locally crafted wine by Pend d’Oreille Winery — plus free appetizers, door prizes and music by Baregrass, a popular local dance band.

The event, sponsored by Idaho Conservation League, Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education and Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness,  will have a no-host bar, $5 cover at the door.

Info: (208) 265-9565.

Hikers leave map home, separate from party, spend cold night out

HIKING — A couple of seasoned hikers made three classic mistakes that left them out on the slopes of Mount Rainier for a cold night in the woods Tuesday.

In a nutshell:

  • They separated from their party (and the party didn't wait for them at a critical trail junction!);
  • They didn't bring a map for the area to make an educated decision at the trail junction,
  • They didn't have matches that would light a warming fire when they realized they had to spend the night out in temps that ranged to about 40 degrees.

But they did a few things right

  • They stayed put, stayed calm, made shelter and cuddled to conserve body heat.

“I can tell you this for sure, his butt is warmer than mine,” said one of the hikers, both of whom are older than 75. 

"Yeah, how do you know?" the reporter asked.

“Because I was right up against it. And that’s a pretty strange feeling, I can tell you.”

Read on for the story by Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic

CdA River campgrounds reopened for free autumn use

CAMPING – Big Hank and Bumblebee campgrounds on the Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District have been reopened for free fall camping through October on a trial basis.

“We’ve had requests to open the campgrounds in the fall to accommodate both hunters and people who enjoy fall camping,” said Deputy District Ranger Kimberly Johnson.

“This year we decided to experiment with an extended season to determine how much use these sites would receive after Labor Day.”

No camping fee is being charged during the extended trial season. No water or trash removal is offered, but outhouses will remain open.

If the experiment works, and visitors pack out their garbage, other campgrounds, including Kit Price and Devils Elbow, would be considered for fall openings.

  • Big Hank Campground is 15 miles north of Prichard, Idaho, on Forest Road 208 along the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River.
  • Bumblebee Campground is 2 miles west of Forest Highway 9 near the Little North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River on Forest Road 796.
  • Info: (208) 664-2318.

‘Backpacking Washington’ author to give slide show at REI

HIKING – Craig Romano, author of Washington Backpacking (Mountaineers Books) and several other hiking guidebooks, will present a free slide program on overnight and multiday backpacking routes across the state on Thursday (Sept. 22), 7 p.m., at REI, 1125 N. Monroe.

Late summer in another century

There's a lot to like here: 1. The way she's dressed. 2. The way he's dressed. 3. The alarm clock on top of the car. 4. Her cooking glove. 5. The animals just beyond the trees waiting for her to finish making breakfast before they make their move. 6. And, how come you can see right through the tent?


And here on the Island of Bicycle Women, we have Convertible Man adjusting his shades to better see what we can't. 


Long-range weather predictions spell good news for NW skiers, river runners

La Niña, which contributed to extreme weather around the globe during the first half of 2011, has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter. Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center have upgraded last month’s La Niña Watch to a La Niña Advisory.

NOAA will issue its official winter outlook in mid-October, but La Niña winters often see drier than normal conditions across the southern tier of the United States and wetter than normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley.

“This means drought is likely to continue in the drought-stricken states of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center. “La Niña also often brings colder winters to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Plains, and warmer temperatures to the southern states.”