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Enchantments wilderness permit application period opens

BACKPACKING — It's time to make your application for a coveted permit to backpack into the Enchantment Lakes area of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near Leavenworth.  Here are details from the U.S. Forest Service:

Rugged, beautiful and unique, the nationally known Enchantments are contained within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in the Cascade Mountains of north central Washington State. With such wide popularity, many people are already planning for the 2014 season and hope to obtain one of the limited entrance permits that are required for either day or overnight use in this special area.

Overnight Users:  It is essential that all overnight visitors have one of the limited entry FEE permits for trips planned from June 15 - October 15, 2014.

Day Users: Day users must obtain a free self-issue wilderness permit available at any of the three trailheads accessing The Enchantment Permit Area.

Demand for overnight permits far exceeds the number available and a pre-season lottery will be held in February to allocate the majority of permits.  Following the pre-season lottery, any remaining permits are available on a first come, first served basis through the www.recreation.gov advance reservation system.  Only a few unreserved permits are available on a daily “walk-in” basis held at the ranger station.

The 2014 Enchantment Permit Area pre-season Lottery period is open February 15th (3:01 ET) - March 3rd (2:59 am ET) through this website: www.recreation.gov.  Not all dates and zones for the season are taken during the lottery and any open dates available can be reserved after the lottery ends. Lottery results will be released March 6

Campfire ban extended at Lake Roosevelt

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.

Impact of fires on wildlife won’t be known until spring

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.

Peak fire season tips for hunters

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.

Map shows forest areas closed by fires in Leavenworth-Wenatchee area

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.

Cool-headed backpackers evacuate Alpine Lakes as fires close in

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.

Fires restrict access to Alpine Lakes Wilderness, other areas

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.

Enchantments reservations go online Monday

BACKPACKING — Reservations for overnight permits to camp in the Enchantment Lakes Basin will be available only online beginning this year, starting Monday.

A popular destination in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, camping in the Enchantments from June 15-Oct. 15 is limited, and permits are picked by lottery each year.

Instead of hand-processing thousands of permits, the Wenatchee River Ranger District has changed to an online system, according to a news release. Applications may be filed beginning Feb. 28. Those who win permits will be notified beginning April 5.

The application fee of $5 per person, per day is the same, but an additional $6 will be charged per permit. Fees pay to administer the system and help fund wilderness rangers and other on-the-ground services.

Hikers can also access alerts and other recreation information through the reservation website. Applications require a profile and password, which can be set up in advance. Those without access to the Internet can call the reservation helpline at (877) 444-6777.