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Volunteers building new trail to Star Peak lookout

TRAILS — Volunteers are helping the Kootenai National Forest build a new trail to a stunning view from a forest fire lookout overlooking the Clark Fork River and the proposed Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness already has put in multiple days of routing, brushing, log cutting and carving the tread to the Star Peak Lookout over the past two years.  

The peak where an historic lookout is located formerly was known as Squaw Peak.

  • The next work party is set for Friday ( Aug. 9).   Meet at the trailhead (see map) at 9 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (10 a.m. Mountain). 

Following work days are Aug. 23 plus the weekend of Sept. 21-22.

The group also has set work days on the South Fork of Ross Creek on Aug. 16 and  Morris Creek in the Lightning Creek drainage on National Public Lands Day, Sept. 28.

"We are getting close, and I am very confident we will finish this trail this summer," said Sandy Compton, FSPW program coordinator. The Forest Service trail crew cut the rest of the trail out last week. If it's really warm, we will hike up to where the the new trail meets the old single track and work down the hill in the shade.

The friends group isn't all work and no play.   See the FSPW list of guided hikes designed to familiarize the public with the official wilderness in waiting.

To sign-up and help with the trail projects, contact Sandy Compton, (208) 290-1281.

Winter treks led by Scotchman Peaks group

WINTER SPORTS — Tracking critters with a naturalist, studying winter ecology and a ladies-only snowshoe trek into an ancient cedar grove are among a dozen outings the public can join in a winter trip series led by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

The annual outing series in the proposed wilderness area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille starts Sunday with a snowshoe walk up the Lightning Creek Road to the Regal Creek Trail.

Some of the trips are easy, some are quite challenging.

Pre-registration is required.

Volunteers to be trained for wolverine research

WILDLIFE — A training workshop will be held Saturday in Sandpoint for volunteers planning to help wildlife researchers monitor wolverines, lynx and fishers in North Idaho this winter.

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, the Idaho Conservation League and Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education (SOLE) once again are forming the core of the effort to put up bait, tend motion-activated cameras and harvest hair left by visiting critters for DNA sampling.

More than 140 volunteers helped last year in the effort overseen by Idaho Fish and Game Department researchers.

On Saturday, volunteers will be trained in some new proceedures from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Forest Service Sandpoint Ranger District, 1602 Ontario St.

Since much of the work requires volunteers to ski or shoeshoe into the backcountry, an optional avalanche awareness presentation is included.

Info: (208) 265-9565

Vote online to boost North Idaho wolverine study

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness once again is asking people to vote online before Sunday (Oct. 28) to help the group garner $27,600 in requested grants from Zoo Boise that would be applied to wolverine research in the Idaho Panhandle.

Visit the Zoo Boise projects website for details and to vote.

Review the the wolverine proposal and the other finalists and then vote for your two favorites in each category. The four projects with the most votes will each receive a grant from the total of $110,000 the zoo is awarding in 2012. One vote session per person is allowed.

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness has partnered with Idaho Fish and Game and the Idaho Conservation League on a proposal for an Idaho Panhandle Wolverine Study.

Wolverines (Gulo gulo) have been classified as ‘warranted but precluded’ for listing as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Only about 35 breeding wolverine females were known to be roaming the lower 48 states two years ago.

Read on for more details about the North Idaho project.

Clothing-optional hike among National Trails Day outings

HIKING — A Washington nudist park north of Spokane is celebrating National Trails Day June 2 with a clothing optional hike.

Kaniksu Ranch Family Nudist Park near Loon Lake, WA will host the hike Saturday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m. in its 260-acre forest. The park, run by members, welcomes everyone. The group says it's family oriented, although unless the kids are still learning to walk, it doesn't take four hours to hike 260 acres.

“The Inland Northwest has lots of wonderful scenery, but the one unique feature Kaniksu Ranch offers that no one else does is that we can hike safely and legally NAKED in a beautiful, family-friendly environment,” organizers said.

They made no mention of whether the mosquitoes are out.  And we suggest you bring plenty of sunscreen — and dark glasses.

Click "continue reading" for all the dangling details on this event.

MEANTIME, here are a few mainstream Trails Day options for Saturday, June 2 (most require clothing and advance sign-up):

Washington Trails Association is organizing a work party to re-route and maintain trails at Liberty Lake County Park.

Riverside State Park is joining with REI for a family-oriented forest health pruning project in the park.

Elk Creek Falls is the destination for a free two-mile loop hike on the Colville National Forest, led by a Forest Service wildlife biologist.

Butterflies at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge will be the focus of a presentation and field hike led by an expert from the Washington Butterfly Association.

Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are leading a family and dog walk on Saturday and a visit to the Ross Creek Cedars on Sunday.

Lynx shows up at wolverine bait station

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — Although they're trying to document the presence of wolverines, getting good snapshots of a Canada lynx still made the day for volunteers monitoring bait stations for the wolverine research project trail cams in North Idaho last week.

The photo comes from a bait station set up by Idaho Fish and Game, which is partnering on the research with Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Note the black tufts on the tips of the ears, and the huge furry feet that give it snowshoe-like buoyancy  on the snow. The winter track of a lynx looks as though a powder puff has been dabbed in the snow.

The lynx, which is federally listed as a threatened species, feeds primarily on snowshoe hares

See more bait station photos of the lynx as well as of the volunteers and other critters visiting the bait stations — on the Wolverine Study Facebook Page.

Trail-cam mystery critter identified

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A snowshoe hare is caught in action by a trail cam set high in the Cabinet Mountains for a wolverine research project funded by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

See martens, bobcats, volunteer helpers — and even a wolverine — in the group's wolverine research Facebook photo album.

The hare in the photo above normally wouldn't be able to go eyeball to eyeball with the camera mounted up on the trunk of a tree, but winter winds drifted snow into a viewing platform.

Some readers viewed the mystery close-up photo (left) and guessed "rabbit."  Close, but not correct.

Read on for the differences between "hares" and "rabbits."

Mystery critter mugs on wolverine study trail cam

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Can you ID the critter, above, in this close encounter last week with one of the wolverine research project trail cams in the Cabinet Mountains?

The camera is one of about 40 installed by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Answer coming later…

It's easier to identify the marten, left, that provided this cool action image for a trail cam posted on a bait station at high elevations in the wolverine research project.

Some of the responses on my Facebook Page regarding the mystery critter above are close, but NOBODY in that thread is correct, yet.


The camera is in a tree up off the ground.

—The mountains have had some snow and wind.

—Bigfoot has NEVER been caught on camera.

—Some critters resemble others but have significant differences….

Answer and photo proof coming tomorrow from Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Tough volunteers set bait for wolverines in North Idaho

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — More than 40 volunteers showed up for a training course on Dec. 3 to learn how to use their expertise in backcountry snowshoeing or ski touring to help researchers study wolverines.

It's already paid off.  Read on for the big news from last week.

Idaho Fish and Game wildlife biologists taught them how to rig up bait and install wire gun-cleaning brushes in the bait tree to snag hair for DNA testing as the critters climb up for the free meal. They also learned about trail cams and traveling safely through avalanche terrain.

Now they're out doing it in the wilds of the Cabinet mountains northeast of Lake Pend Oreille, as you see by the photos. The going's tough, but that's why many of them signed up. There's nothing better that having a purpose for going into the winter backcountry.

The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness is providing the backbone of the financial support and the base of volunteers that came to the classes before heading into the field. 

Oh, yeah. The big news:

After checking their first round of rare forest carnivore monitoring stations last week, Idaho Department of Fish and Game biologists discovered a wolverine had been caught on camera in the Selkirk Mountains of North Idaho.  The biologists have confirmed the wolverine visited the station twice.  The story is to be continued… but click "continue reading" below to see one more photo of what volunteers are going through to support this research.

Wolverine study training volunteers in Sandpoint

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Volunteers with skills to travel deep into the backcountry on skis or snowshoes are being trained for monitoring bait stations involved in an Idaho-Montana wolverine research project.

Wolverines are a backcountry-loving secretive member of the weasel family protected by the Endangered Species Act.

A "Bait Station Leader" training course will be held Saturday, (Dec. 3) from noon to 5 p.m. at the Sandpoint Ranger District offices at 1602 Ontario. (Another is planned for Jan. 14.) The program:

  • Idaho Fish and Game Department biologists Michael Lucid and Lacy Robinson will hold a session on bait station construction and maintenance.
  • Kevin Davis of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center will give an avalanche training.
  • Hang out with mustelid and winter tracking expert Brian Baxter in the classroom and then in the woods and learn more about who you are sharing the forest with. 
  • A talk winter travel basics also will be presented.
Interested? RSVP by Thursday to mustelids@scotchmanpeaks.org to take the Bait Station Leader training.
If you are interested in helping with this project, but would rather not be a Bait Station Leader, please respond to info@scotchmanpeaks.org
The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness group is giving the wolverine research a big boost by helping to secure funding as well as providing manpower.

Wolverine study gets boost from Scotchman Peaks group effort

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — Wolverine research in North Idaho and northwestern Montana got a big boost Friday from an online voting campaign spearheaded by the Friends of the Scotchman-Peaks Wilderness.

The group generated enough enthusiasm and web clicks from supporters to win a public vote for a $29,700 grant from Zoo Boise. The wolverine study proposal written by FSPW executive Phil Hough will enable Idaho Fish and Game Deparment researchers to continue their study and upgrade their research on the reclusive creatures in the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains.

Job opportunity: The grant will help fund a part-time wolverine study coordinator.  Check here for the job description and application.

Vote online to boost wolverine study in Idaho Panhandle

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are asking people to vote online before Oct. 28 to help them garner nearly $30,000 in grants from Zoo Boise that would be applied to wolverine research in North Idaho.

Visit the Zoo Boise projects website for details. Review the the wolverine proposal and the seven other finalists and then vote for your two favorites in each category. The four projects with the most votes will each receive a grants. One vote per person is allowed.

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness has partnered with Idaho Fish and Game and the Idaho Conservation League on a proposal for an Idaho Panhandle Wolverine Study.

Wolverines (Gulo gulo) were recently classified as ‘warranted but precluded’ for listing as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Only about 35 breeding wolverine females are roaming the lower 48 states.

Read on for more details about the North Idaho project.

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.

Scotchman Peaks continues mountain goat awareness effort

WILDLIFE — Three cheers for Gonzaga University student Molly Sullivan Roberge and others who've been putting up posters recently to help the mountain-going public learn how to be good neighbors with the mountain goats that highlight our high-country hiking trips.

Shown above, Molly is putting up a poster at the Scotchman Peak Trail #65 near Hope, Idaho.  The posters printed by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (in cooperation with state wildlife officials)  identify a few practices that hikers should follow when hiking in goat territory. (See below)

So far, volunteers have posted signs at the trailheads to Goat Peak, Scotchman Peak, Star Peak, Pillick Ridge, Dry Creek, Ross Creek Cedars and Little Spar Lake.

Read on for details from the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks:

Video: Hikers enjoy company of Scotchman Peak goats

The Mountain Goats of Scotchman Peak from Bob Legasa on Vimeo.

HIKING — We teased you earlier, but now North Idaho videographer Bob Legasa has completed his short feature on the pleasures and personalities you might meet after making a hard 7-mile round-trip hike up Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

Enjoy the video, and please notice a couple of things.

  • The hikers did not feed the mountain goats.
  • The hikers kept their dog under control.

Legasa posted the "mountain goat etiquette" tips for hikers at the end, courtesy of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Video hints at rewards of hiking up Scotchman Peak

Scotchman Peak Teaser from Bob Legasa on Vimeo.

HIKING — Bob Legasa, the North Idaho videographer best known for footage of hotdog skiers getting air and breaking pow, is working on a video of the critters he met on his recent hike to the summit of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

Here's his teaser.  I'll let you know when the finished product is out.

Scotchman Friends print cards to educate hikers about mountain goats

HIKING — Mountain goats continue to make friendly appearances to reward hikers who make the steep 7-mile round trip to the summit of Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness would like to see that great relationship continue, but they've learned for experts that even docile-looking mountain goats can become unpredictable and dangerous if humans spoil them.

Read and heed the etiquette so nicely summarized on the card. 

And enjoy mountain goats wherever you find them.

The Friends are handing out the goat cards at the Bonner County Fair!

Nisbet, friends lead trek up Scotchman Peak

HIKING — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will continue their summer group hiking series this weekend by inviting the public to sign up and join naturalist, author and teacher Jack Nisbet on a rugged 7-mile round trip trek to the summit of Scotchman Peak.

Nisbet will give a short talk Saturday morning at the trailhead northeast of Lake Pend Oreille on “thinking like a naturalist” and then lead a hike up Scotchman Peak with opportunities to practice the described skills.

Expect awesome views from the top, but you'll earn them. The group rates this all-day hike as strenuous. Pre-regster and plan on bringing lunch, snacks and plenty of water.

Contact: Lauren Mitchell    trails@scotchmanpeaks.org   

Snow sloggers find company on Scotchman Peak

HIKING — Deb Hunsicker and Phil Hough know their way around Scotchman Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

As members of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness the couple has hiked up the namesake peak numerous times.

Their intimacy with the mountain paid off Saturday as they easily scaled the peak even though most of the trail for the 7 mile round trip is still hidden by snow.

"There's still a LOT of snow," Phil said. "The trail's obscured, so hike only if you already know the route or go with someone who does and add more time than you think you will need."

At the top, in weather warm enough for t-shirts and shorts, Hunsicker and Hough were greeted by the Scotchman mountain goats.

They welcomed the company.

BTW, they know better than to feed the goats. Please don't do that if you go. They're good goats, now.  Let's keep them that way.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness friends leading group hikes

HIKING — The annual summer series of group hikes organized by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness will begin June 4 with a trek into Thunder Creek northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The moderately difficult hike is just the first of 15 hikes the group is offering this summer along with three cooperative trail work projects coordinated with the Forest Service.

In addition, the friends group is offering two hiking workshops with author, naturalist and historian Jack Nisbet.

The group hikes are geared to exposing the public to the rugged and scenic 88,000-acre roadless area the group is proposing for wilderness designation. The area straddles the Idaho-Montana border northeast of Clark Fork, Idaho, and ranges into Montana.

"We have some great hikes, as usual, but we are expanding our focus to include more stewardship and education,” said FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton.

Sandpoint Earth Day Festival a hit with kids

ENVIRONMENT — Friday is Earth Day, and Sandpoint groups are making a point to get the whole family involved.

Sandpoint’s Earth Day Festival is set for 4 p.m.-8 p.m. at the Sandpoint Events Center (corner of Pine and Euclid).

Family activities include a talk by Earth Day co-founder Doug Scott, information from more than 20 local conservation groups and vendors, displays and games for the kids, electric car demos, great local food.

And then there's the no-host beer and wine bar.

The event is sponsored by Idaho Conservation League, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness and Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper.

Info:  (208) 265-9565.

Long-distance hikers talk on wildflower and wild lands

BACKPACKING — Phil Hough and Deb Hunsicker, a pair of long-distance hikers from North Idaho, will tap 3,100 miles of footwork to present a free program, “Wildflowers, Wild Lands and Wild Times Along the Continental Divide,"  Wednesday, 6 p.m., at the Sandpoint Community Hall.

The program is cosponsored by Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society, Sandpoint Parks and Recreation and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

In July 2008, intrepid hikers Phil Hough and Deb Hunsicker, aka Nowhere Man and Walking Carrot, embarked on an epic journey to hike the 3,100 miles length of the Continental Divide Trail.  Over the following three summers they completed this rugged route as it traces its course along the spine of the continent.  In doing so, they also completed the third and final leg of the coveted “triple crown” of hiking, which also includes the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

Hiking the Continental Divide, with an eye to native plants and wild lands, they snapped more than 14,000 photos and compiled countless tales from the trail.