Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Poster reminds dog owners to bag it

PUBLIC LANDS — Looks like Spokane isn't the only city in the USA where people think it's OK to let their dogs leave calling cards wherever the urge strikes.

Colville Forest hosts NatureWatch hikes, tours

FORESTS – Hikes and other free activities are being organized by the Colville National Forest this summer to celebrate Smokey Bear’s 70th birthday and the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

Here's the lineup of NatureWatch events:

July 12: Hike the 3-mile round-trip route to Round Top Mountain in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness with Forest Service wildlife biologist Mike Borysewicz. Meet at 10 a.m. at the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station. The group will drive about 12 miles to the trailhead at Pass Creek Pass.

This trail, rated moderately difficult, passes through a regenerating old burn, subalpine forests and a picturesque alpine meadow, and Borysewicz has a keen eye for birds and wildlife.   Bring sturdy shoes, a hat, water, and a lunch.

Group size is limited to 12 in the wilderness. Pre-register with the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station, (509) 446-7500.

July 19: Hike the 7-mile round-trip route to Columbia Mountain Fire Lookout Cabin on the Kettle Crest with forest archeologist Alicia Beat. Meet at the Kettle Crest parking area along Hwy 20 at 9 a.m. for this moderately difficult trail with 1,400 feet of elevation gain.

Bring  lunch and plenty of water to enjoy the view from the peak, as well as wildflowers, wildlife, history, and restoration of the lookout.

 Aug. 9: Auto-tour to Salmo Mountain Fire Lookout with forest safety manager Sandy Mosconi. Meet at the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station at 9 a.m. The station is a 20-minute drive east of Ione.

The group will drive about 20 miles along Sullivan Creek, stopping along the way to discover the culture and natural history of the area. Parts of this road are high clearance, narrow and have switchbacks. Bring water and your lunch. Salmo Mountain Fire Lookout will provide views of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness and surrounding areas.

Aug 9: Hike Crowell Ridge into the Salmo-Priest wilderness with  Newport-Sullivan Lake District Ranger Gayne Sears. Meet at the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station at 9 a.m. for a rough 60-minute drive to the Sullivan Mountain Lookout.

This is a high-clearance vehicle road for about 4 miles. The group will hike 2 miles along the scenic ridgeline, returning the same way. Sears will talk about the idea of an enduring resource of wilderness and what wilderness means. Discover the culture and natural history of the area.

Bring plenty of water, lunch, and be prepared for a mildly strenuous hike with glorious views of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

Group size is limited to 12 in wilderness. Pre-register with the Sullivan Lake Ranger Station, (509) 446-7500.

 

 

 

Hanging around at a backcountry camp

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

Three-day festival near Libby celebrates wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS — A Blackfeet Tribe troubadour and a former chief of the U.S. Forest Service are coming to the Inland Northwest to be part of a three-day event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

An impressive mix of wilderness and wildlife experts plus entertainment and educational programs are scheduled Friday through Sunday, July 11-13, at the Bull River Rod and Gun Club at Bull Lake on State Highway 56 south of Troy and Libby, Montana.

The setting couldn’t be more symbolic. Bull Lake is in a valley between the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness and the proposed Scotchman Peaks Wilderness:

The Cabinet Wilderness was among the original 54 wilderness areas designated when Congress enacted the Wilderness Act of 1964.

The Scotchman Peaks wilderness proposal, which straddles the Idaho-Montana border, is the region’s most likely candidate for wilderness designation should the next Congress consider a wilderness bill.

Friday’s program includes a 3 p.m. talk on Grizzlies in the Cabinets by Wayne Kasworm, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly research expert for the region. A program on wilderness advocates will be followed by “Classical Music for the Wild by the Glacier Orchestra.

Capping Friday’s events will be a wilderness movie and performance by Jack Gladstone of the Blackfeet, who illustrates Western Americana through an entertaining fusion of lyric poetry, music and narrative.  

Dale Bosworth, former chief of the Forest Service, will headline’s Saturday’s events with a 7 p.m. presentation on wilderness advocates.

Bosworth crafted the 2005 Travel Management Rule in response to the growth of off-highway vehicle use, which had more than doubled between 1982 and 2000. The rule allows OHVs to travel in national forests only on roads or routes specifically designated for their use.

Also on the Saturday schedule are programs on Wild Yoga, Critter Crafts, Backcountry Horses, Skulls and Skins, Native Americans in the Cabinets, Early Pioneers, Birds of the Wild, Kid in the Wild puppet show and more capped with evening music by two groups, Naples and Huckleberry Jam.

All three days include food vendors, a beer tent, horseshoe tossing, kayak rentals and a group campfire at the lake’s edge.

The lineup is worth camping on site or looking into a motel room at Libby or one of several national Forest campgrounds in the area.

 Sunday’s programs cover compass skills, fly tying, a wilderness ranger reunion and primitive skills demonstrations.

  •  Another wilderness celebration with programs on wildlife photography, grizzly bears, changing directions in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness and more is scheduled for Aug. 23, noon-9 p.m. in Libby Riverfront Park. The Libby event will features a 7 p.m. family concert by the popular Wylie and the Wild West Show.

Forest Service seeks Pacific Northwest Trail advisers

TRAILS — The U.S. Forest Service is seeking volunteers to serve on the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Advisory Council to help plan future upgrades — much work and many decisions will have to be made — for the 1,200-mile route from the Olympic Peninsula east through Glacier National Park.

The trail traverses through three national parks and seven national forests, including about 125 miles through the Colville National Forest.

The route is not a continuous trail. It links existing trails, roads and cross-country routes from the Pacific Ocean to the Continental Divide area.

The Council, established under the National Trails System Act, will provide recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture about matters relating to the administration and management of the Pacific Northwest Trail, specifically advising on trail uses, establishing a trail corridor, and prioritizing future projects.

The trail was first mapped and promoted 30 years ago by the founding members of the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

Designated by Congress as a National Scenic Trail in 2009, the PNT connects people and communities  in Montana, Idaho and Washington. “Interested candidates should have a desire to perpetuate and protect the characteristics and values of the Trail while taking into consideration other public interests along the Trail corridor,” the Forest Service says. “Members will serve a two year term and may serve consecutive terms.”

The first Council meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 2015, and will meet approximately twice a year for three years.

Applications are due by Sept. 30.

Contact Matt McGrath, Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Program Manager, (425) 783-6199; email: mtmcgrath@fs.fed.us.

Idaho trails group targets Grouse Mountain trail

TRAILS —  The Idaho Trails Association is looking for volunteers to help out on a one-day project in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest northeast of Sandpoint next Wednesday (July 9).

“We will be constructing a puncheon walkway to go over a bog hole about a mile from the summit of Grouse Mountain,” said project leader Phil Hough. “When completed the bridge will help make hiker access easier, safer and decrease impact on the landscape.”

Volunteers will enjoy a moderately strenuous three-mile hike on the Grouse Mountain Trail through lush forests with filtered views to get to the project site. Afterwards a short climb to a great outlook will provide stunning panoramas as a reward.

“We like to combine some moderately hard work with some moderately hard hiking and some killer views” Hough said Phil Hough.

Hough and his wife and hiking partner Deb Hunsicker found snow when they scouted the route more than a week ago, but the white stuff should be gone and replaced with wildflowers by July 9.

Finally, Glacier Park’s “Sun” road set to open

NATIONAL PARKS – Postponed by a late storm and flooding, the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is expected to be open to vehicle travel by this weekend, allowing access to Logan Pass.

While most snow removal efforts are being completed and snow above the road is being monitored and removed, road crews continue to sweep debris from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, install removable guard rails and road signage, and prepare the Logan Pass Visitor Center and area for opening. 

The park’s free, optional shuttle system that provides shuttle services along the Going-to-the-Sun Road will continue limited operations to The Loop on the west side, until the entire length of the road opens.

The west-side vehicle closure remains at Avalanche and the east-side closure remains at Jackson Glacier Overlook. Closures will continue at their respective locations until the entire length of the road is open to vehicle travel.

Hiker-biker access on the west side of the park is currently available from Avalanche to Bird Woman Overlook. There is no hiker-biker access on the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road due to road rehabilitation work.   

  • Get information on the shuttle system,visit . 
  • Click here for current information on park roads, weather conditions, and visitor services.

Forest Service road work will cause delays near Pass Creek Pass

PUBLIC LANDS — National Forest travelers headed to the Pass Creek Pass area of the Colville National Forest, including the south trailhead for the Shedroof Divide and the Grassy Top Mountain trail, could experience delays this month on certain days.

The Forest Service and Border Patrol are doing heavy road maintenance on Forest Service Road 302 (Idaho) and Forest Service Road 22 (Washington).  This road system, known to locals and mapping as “Pass Creek Pass”, connects travelers between Nordman, Idaho, and Metaline Falls, Washington.

Although the road will remain open during construction, drivers may experience occasional 2-3 hour delays.

This project will improve the drivability, safety and drainage of this road system, says Jason Kirchner, Idaho Panhandles National Forest Spokesman.

Drivers are encouraged to use an alternate route due to the possibility of 2–3 hour delays (or longer), mostly during weekdays including:

  • July 1– July 3, 2014
  • July 7–July 9, 2014
  •  July 15– July 20, 2014

“The work will be only in Washington, but will take place on both the Colville and IPNF although the majority of the work will be on the IPNF side,” Kirchner said. “This is one of those areas where the IPNF slops over into Washington by a few miles. So, anybody approaching the trail heads at the top may experience delays from both sides, but mainly the IPNF side.”

“We recognize the importance of this route for the pubic traveling between Washington and Idaho to recreate in the northern portions of the Priest Lake and Newport Ranger Districts” noted Matt Davis, Priest Lake District Ranger.  “Over the course of the next two months the Forest Service in conjunction with the Border Patrol contractors will be working to improve the road for the overall safety of the public.”

Info: Sandpoint Ranger District at (208) 263-5111 or the Priest Lake Ranger District at (208) 443-6839.

Graham Mountain hike overlooks Silver Valley

HIKING — It's called Coal Creek Trail No. 41, leading up, steeply up in some places, roughly 6 miles from the North Fork Coeur d'Alene River road to Graham Mountain, elev. 5727 feet, overlooking the Silver Valley.

Great views from a former fire lookout sight, looking across to Silver Mountain, up the I-90 corridor to lookout Pass and Stevens Peak.

Trailhead is 12.5 miles up the paved North Fork road from the Kingston Exit off I-90.

Hike is 11 miles round trip with 3,420 feet of elevation gain.

Hiking up to a fire lookout side is almost always worth the effort.

 

Lake Quinault reopens for fishing, paddling, recreation

WATERSPORTS — Lake Quinault on Washington's Olympic Peninsula has reopened for summer activities including fishing and boating after a brief hiatus.  

Lake Quinault Lodge, located just steps from the lake and in the heart of a temperate rainforest, will again offer fishing, boat rentals and tours of the lake. Guests can now enjoy the glacier-carved lake via a variety of vessels including canoes, kayaks, row boats or the comfort of a guided boat tour offering visitors a thorough history of the area, views of beautiful waterfalls, record breaking trees and a variety of native wildlife.

Olympic National Park also lists trails and other attractions in the area.

The Lake, located within the boundaries of the Quinault Indian Reservation, was closed in April 2013 due to concern related to water pollution, invasive species, public safety and the need to protect and restore salmon habitat, particularly Blueback salmon.  It reopened, for swimming only, last year but as of April 26, 2014 it has reopened for all summer activities.

Hikers: snow still lingering in area mountains

HIKING — “Road is open from Lightning Creek through to Trestle Creek,” reports Mary Franzel of Hope, Idaho. But the photo she posted (above) indicates significant snow on the ridge at Lunch Peak Lookout

Creeks are still running high in most areas, making crossings a challenge.

Hikers are reaching Stevens Lakes near Lookout Pass without much problem, but the creek crossing can be a crux.

Farther north in Canada, snow is late to leave.  

Kootenay National Park rangers just called to cancel my camping permit for The Rock Wall Trail, a five-day trek I'd planned to start on July 5.   They said the famous trail would not be passable until at least July 10.

  • I knew I'd be pushing the envelope when I made the reservation months ago, but there are rewards to taking a chance on the early season in the high country.

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:

Injured hiker had to fend off bears

HIKING — Bears have always been good at smelling opportunity.

A hiker who fell, broke his leg and dislocated his shoulder in the North Cascades last weekend said he had to fend off bears while he waited several hours for a helicopter rescue team.

The 50-year-old man activated a beacon that notified his wife after his accident at 6,000 feet on Syncline Mountain along the Pacific Crest Trail, the U.S. Navy told the Bellingham Herald.

  • Most mountains in the North Cascades were covered in snow above 5,000 feet last weekend.

A helicopter with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine responded and found him at the bottom of a winding series of switchbacks. But that crew did not have space to land or slings to hoist the man off the mountain.

So they dropped him food, a medical kit and a water bottle with a note letting him know another helicopter, from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, would come to rescue him soon.

Perhaps the bears smelled the rations.

The injured man was hoisted out off the mountain in a rescue basket by the Navy helicopter at 10:30, more than five hours after the accident.

He told the crew he'd encountered more than one bear while waiting, but fended them off with bear spray. 

Hiker finds Blue Mountains elk herded up with young in tow

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The Blue Mountains delivered a Yellowstone-like wildlife watching experience for hiker Ken Vanden Heuvel of Newman Lake last weekend.

He was solo hiking one of the ridge trails that lead into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness when he came across a herd of elk — at least 46 cows, yearlings and calves.

I cropped in on the left portion of Ken's main photo for a blow-up shot of the left portion of the herd where at least 12 calves were concentrated for protection.  

“When they came back up the ridge in front of me, the calves were whining,” Ken said, noting that he held still to watch the spectacle. “As I waited for them to cross, a few of the calves were nursing.”

A few weeks ago, the cows were all off on their own delivering their young of the year.  As soon as the calves were strong enough, they joined up with other cows and yearlings for strength in numbers — more eyes and ears to help detect danger from predators.

This looks like a good crop.

The bulls, by the way, are off on their own — until September

Mount Rainier plays no favorites when it claims a life

HIKING — Although the official announcement still wasn't released this morning, friends on Sunday mourned a well-known outdoors writer and photographer who had been missing for three days in Mount Rainier National Park before searchers said they recovered a body of a woman.

The National Park Service said it will be up to the Pierce County medical examiner to confirm that the body found Saturday afternoon was that of 70-year-old Karen Sykes of Seattle, but her daughter confirmed the death, according to the Associated Press.

Annette Shirey says her mother had developed a personal connection to the mountain and wanted to share that love with others. 

Sykes' body was discovered in an area where searchers, and they ended the three-day rescue effort after finding it.

Although the cause of Sykes' death has not been determined, early-season hiking poses hazards associated with lingering snow.  An early-season hiker slipped on a snowfield and slid to his death in Glacier National Park last year. 

 Also, hikers can suffer injuries from breaking through snowfields weakened by rocks or moving water below.

“For a lot of local hikers, it’s an extreme loss,” said Greg Johnston, who edited a “Trail of the Week” column she wrote for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “For decades, she showed us the way, and now that’s gone.”

Here's more from the AP:

Sykes was prominent in the Northwest hiking community for her trail reviews and photographs, for her book on hiking western Washington and for leading group outings. Friends said she found sanctuary in the wilderness.

“It was a real healing thing for her,” Johnston said. “Once she found hiking, she never stopped.”

She had been hiking with her boyfriend, Bob Morthorst, on Wednesday in the Owyhigh Lakes area east of Rainier’s 14,410-foot summit when they encountered snow on the trail at about 5,000 feet. He stopped and she went on, friends and park officials said.

When she didn’t return as planned, he made it safely down the trail and reported her missing.

The body found Saturday was off-trail, about halfway down a steep hillside above Boundary Creek, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said. She didn’t know whether it was apparent that the woman had fallen or what caused the death. It remains under investigation.

Among the dangers of hiking on snowfields in the summer are falling through snow bridges caused by melting water beneath the surface and sinking into tree wells, where deep, soft or unsupported snow accumulates around tree trunks. A searcher was hurt Thursday when he punched through a snow bridge and was airlifted out of the area.

“It’s a time to be cautious when you’re in the backcountry on snow, but we don’t know if that was a contributing factor or not,” Wold said.

Michael Fagin, a meteorologist who specializes in mountain weather forecasts, said Sykes invited him on the hike, but he had to work. Often during hikes with Sykes and her boyfriend, she’d continue walking around and taking pictures when Fagin and Morthorst stopped to eat or rest.

“Bob and I would stop and eat lunch, and she’d be crawling in the dirt taking pictures of flowers,” Fagin said. “She couldn’t sit still.”

Fagin said he would typically take the lead on their walks; Sykes, who was also a distance runner, would get too far ahead if she led.

Much of Sykes’ recent work had been for the website of Visit Rainier, an organization that uses local lodging taxes to promote tourism at the mountain. She often tried to write about lesser-used trails, Fagin said.

“After lunch on the ridge we continued, climbing from one high point to the next facing the mountain,” she wrote in a piece about snowshoeing on Mazama Ridge. “As much as we love the forest there is something that stirs the restless soul to go further, to go higher.

“One has to be careful to establish and stick to a turnaround time. The siren will tempt you with another high point along the ridge, then another, then another.” 

Snow slowly receding, exposing high-country trails

HIKING — Phil Hough and Deb Hunsicker celebrated the summer solstice by checking out the Grouse Mountain Trail in the Cabinet Mountains for an upcoming project by the Idaho Trails Association.  They couldn't resist to going all the way to the summit of the 5,980-foot mountain northeast of Sandpoint and east of McArthur Lake.

They had to ford a the North Fork Grouse Creek, which will be a rock hopper later in the summer.  And they had to walk on snow at higher elevations.

But the glacier-lily bloom was following the receding snowline up the mountain.

Outdoors skills workshop set for women

SKILLS – The Washington Outdoor Women annual fall workshop, for adult women and girls age 9-12, will feature activities such as fishing, hunting and outdoor-skills clinics near North Bend Sept. 12-14.

Volunteer instructors will guide the sessions at Camp Waskowitz, including four biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, who will teach outdoor skills ranging from wildlife identification and freshwater fishing to map and compass reading.

WOW is a non-profit program dedicated to teaching women and girls outdoor skills and natural resource stewardship. The organization is an educational outreach program of the Washington Wildlife Federation.

Info: (425) 455-1986, washingtonoutdoorwomen.org

New map published for Cabinet Mountains Wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS — A new Cabinet Mountains Wilderness map, highlighting about 80 trails, has been published by conservation groups celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

“The last Forest Service wilderness map, published in 1992, is out of print and almost impossible to find,” said Sandy Compton of the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness, one of several groups, agencies and businesses that worked on the project.

“This is not only a good map as far as being able to find your way around, it’s also more of a resource for the local communities,” he said, noting it lists trails, contacts, attractions and services around the Western Montana wilderness area south of the Kootenai River.

Ten trails are spotlighted with short descriptions to show the range of options. It's beautifully illustrated with photos from the area.

The new map is clean, easy to read and water-resistant. But mapaholics won’t want to throw away their old Forest Service wilderness map.

For example, the new map leaves off a few landmark names, including small lakes or ponds and Hanging Valley.

Perhaps only a little prematurely in this age of climate change, it omits Blackwell Glacier on the north side of Snowshoe Peak and shows it as water.

However, trails on the new map are updated, easier to follow and more detailed.

Released this week, the map is being distributed at Forest Service offices, stores in the region as well as the Spokane REI store.

Pull together against weeds at Iller Creek Saturday

PUBLIC LANDS — Local hikers are pulling together to reduce the noxious weed infestation at the Iller Creek unit of the Dishman Hills Conservation Area in Spokane Valley.

The Inland Northwest Hikers are recruiting volunteers for a spotted knapweed pulling party on Saturday.

“We’ll move up the east ridge trail and pull as we go to the Rocks of Sharon,” said co-organizer Bob Strong.

“Bring sturdy work gloves and a trowel if you have one. Bring lunch and at least two quarts of water — it's going to be sunny and warm.”

 Meet at 9 a.m. at Redeemer Lutheran Church to carpool to the trail head. Directions: From Sprague/Appleway in Spokane Valley, turn south on Dishman-Mica Road. Go past 32nd Avenue and turn right (at the traffic light) on Schafer Road to the church parking lot on the right.

Father sets bar high as hiking/parenting role model

HIKING — What's  your excuse for not getting your son or daughter out on the trail lately?

James Geier, a retired law enforcement officer, celebrated Fathers Day by hiking with his 18-year-old son, Jonah, in Arches National Park. Even though Jonah is not able to hike, his dad gave him a tow on trailer so he could enjoy the experience of traveling three miles into the Utah backcountry, climbing 480 feet over slickrock trails and up red rock steps to share with his dad a worldwide symbol of strength and endurance.

“Perseverance,” his daughter Laura wrote of the outing. “Shared by both the Arch in withstanding time and change, and the resolve of a father to hike his disabled son to the Arch to experience the incredible symbol of natural beauty and strength.”

 

Lingering snow delays Glacier Park opportunities

PUBLIC LANDS — Be patient if you're making plans to visit Glacier National Park, especially if you want to venture into the high country.

Snow conditions, cool weather, and debris from snow slides are challenging some spring opening operations for trails, facilities and roads in Glacier National Park.  Snow accumulations in the park are above average this year and spring snowmelt has varied at different locations. 

A weather system is predicted to impact the area beginning tonight through the next couple of days, including cooler temperatures and heavy precipitation.  At this time, a winter storm warning has been issued in and around Glacier National Park for elevations above 6,500 feet with predictions of snow accumulations of one to two feet.   The elevation at Logan Pass is 6,646 feet. 

Numerous trails in Glacier National Park are still snow-covered. Park staff report damage to trails and backcountry campsites due to snow slides and large amounts of avalanche debris.

  • The Ptarmigan Falls Bridge and Twin Falls Bridge have been removed due to winter damage and hazardous conditions. Temporary bridges are expected to be installed by early July.
  • The Iceberg Lake Trail is closed to stock use until permanent repairs to the Ptarmigan Falls B ridge are complete.  Permanent repair work on both bridges is anticipated to begin this fall.
  • Trout Lake Trail has been impacted by extensive avalanche debris.  Hikers are not encouraged to use this trail, or it is recommended that hikers have route-finding skills to traverse the debris. 

Trails may traverse steep and sometimes icy snowfields and park rangers are advising hikers to have the appropriate equipment and skills to navigate such areas, or perhaps visit those areas once conditions improve. 

The park posts current trail status reports.

Even some lowland facilities have been affected by the late season. Frozen and damaged sewer and water lines caused some delays in seasonal opening activities for utilities park-wide.

  • Rising Sun and the Swiftcurrent cabin areas experienced damaged water lines.
  • The Apgar and Lake McDonald areas experienced issues with frozen sewer lines, and some broken water lines.
  • The Cutbank, Many Glacier and Two Medicine Campgrounds experienced delayed openings due to abundant snow accumulation and slow snow melt.   

The Going to the Sun Road is still being cleared by snow removal crews. A snow slide in the Alps area of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, about five miles west of Logan Pass, wiped out about 20-30 feet of rock wall along the road.  Several new slide paths across the road have been encountered this spring, including the need for extensive snow and debris cleanup.    

Snow removal operations on the Going-to-the-Sun Road continue with road crews working near the Big Drift and Lunch Creek areas east of Logan Pass. Above average snow accumulation and cool June temperatures have provided challenges for snow removal operations. The snow depth at the Big Drift is estimated to be about 80 feet, larger than recent years.  Once the snow is removed, a thick layer of ice on the road is anticipated. 

Park road crew employees have begun working overtime in an effort to accomplish snow removal goals.

Snow removal and plowing progress, including images, are posted online.

  • Currently, visitors can drive about 16 miles from the West Entrance to Avalanche on the west side of the park, and one mile from the St. Mary Entrance to the foot of St. Mary Lake on the east side. It is anticipated that there will be vehicle access to the Jackson Glacier Overlook area on the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road by this weekend, but it is dependent on weather conditions.  Vehicle access to Logan Pass, and beyond Avalanche on the west side of park, is unknown at this time. 

Hiker-biker access is currently available from Avalanche to the Loop on the west side, and from St. Mary to Rising Sun on the east side. See current hiker-biker access and park road status reports.  

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.

BLM gating Escure Ranch road to Towell Falls

PUBLIC LANDS — Motor vehicles will be blocked from driving the Escure Ranch road to Towell Falls on Rock Creek south of Sprague starting today,  U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials say.

The annual summer closure begins when fire danger becomes high in the range land area south of Sprague, said Steve Smith, recreation manager for BLM's  Spokane District.

While the gate will be locked, hikers and mountain bikers are still free to travel on the roads and trails, he said. 

Note: Keep dogs on leash.  The area is a fairly reliable place to see rattlesnakes.

State Parks pass can buy you a free lunch

PUBLIC LANDS — The value of a Washington state Discover Pass is going up.

The $30 annual pass, required on vehicles in state parks and many other state lands, also will be valid for a free sandwich at many SUBWAY® sandwich shops.   Most of Eastern Washington is left out of the deal, but if you're headed west of the Columbia River, take your Discover Pass and stay nourished.

The “Walk in the Park” promotion starts Saturday, June 14, (National Get Outdoors Day) and runs through Sept. 30 at all 435 SUBWAY® restaurants in 17 counties throughout Western Washington — King, Snohomish, Chelan, Clallam, Douglas, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Thurston and Whatcom.

Show your Discover Pass at the shop or at a state park in participating counties to receive a voucher for a free regular six-inch sandwich with the purchase of a regular six-inch sandwich of equal or greater value and a 30-ounce drink.

Wilderness goal: get passport stamped for “Blue Mountains 7”

WILDERNESS — Maybe you've followed trails all over the Northwest, but have you visited all seven wilderness areas in the Blue Mountains that straddle the Washington-Oregon border?

The Blue Mountains National Forests (Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests) have introduced the Wilderness Passport Challenge to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act

The passport has a page for each of the seven wilderness areas in northeast Oregon and southeast Washington — Wenaha-Tucannon, North Fork Umatilla, North Fork John Day, Hells Canyon, Eagle Cap, Strawberry Mountain and Monument Rock.

Get the free passport and have it stamped at a Forest Service office when you venture out to visit one of the wilderness areas.This will be a collector's item with a lot of good memories and stories behind it. 

 The National Wilderness Preservation System, established by the Wilderness Act of 1964, has become one of the nation's treasures. 

The passport challenge is just one way you can join the many activities this year celebrating the Wilderness Act 50th Anniversary.

Umatilla National Forest Headquarters

Pendleton, Oregon (541) 278-3716

North Fork John Day Ranger District

Ukiah, Oregon (541) 427-3231

Pomeroy Ranger District

Pomeroy, Washington (509) 843-1891

Walla Walla Ranger District

Walla Walla, Washington (509) 522-6290

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.

Blockages: Check ahead for forest road, trail conditions

HIKING — It's early season; snow is still plugging mountain roads and Forest Service crews are just working their way through projects left by the ravages of winter.

The basic rule: Call ahead to the national forest ranger districts or other agencies for any updates on road and trail conditions before making solid plans for a trip.

For example:

  • Two popular trails and one road are temporarily closed west of Winthrop Washington.  The West Fork Methow and Cutthroat trails were both damaged by avalanches over the winter and Harts Pass Road, a gateway to the Pasayten Wilderness, is impassable due to storm damage. Trees, logs, brush, and other debris were left behind by avalanches, blocking portions of both trails. Contact Methow Valley Ranger District at (509) 996-4000;  www.fs.usda.gov/okawen.
  • Marble Creek Road in the St. Joe Ranger District will present travelers this summer with road delays ranging from 30 minutes to an hour due to Potlatch Corporation  logging operations.  The work will begin mid-June 2014 and is expected to continue until September 2014. The line machine will be first set up at the 2 – 2 ½ mile marker of Marble Cr. Rd. 321 mid-June and then will move to the 3 ½ mile marker in mid-July. Contact David Canning or Gerri Bush at the St. Joe Ranger District (208) 245-2531.

Here's more info regarding the Methow region issues:

“There is a considerable amount of debris on each trail, so it will take some time to get them open”, said Jennifer Zbyszewski, Recreation, Wilderness and Facilities Program Manager for the Methow Valley Ranger District.  “For now though, the debris fields are dangerous to cross and we’ve temporarily closed the trails; until we can clear them.” 

Harts Pass Road is also temporarily closed.  A rainstorm last fall damaged the road where it crosses Cache Creek, approximately one mile north of Dead Horse Point.  Snowmelt in Cache Creek has caused additional damage to the road and it needs to be repaired before it is passable.

“We’re going to repair the Harts Pass road as soon as possible,” said Zbyszewski.  “We know folks are anxious to drive up that road to see the wildlife, flowers, and beautiful views.  We hope to have it open within the next few weeks.”

State of the Trails program updates a dozen prized areas

TRAILS — The Inland Northwest Trails Coalition has rounded up more than a dozen local leaders in trails-related efforts for the annual “state of the trails” presentations Thursday, June 12,  starting at 5:30 p.m. at Mountain Gear Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield Ave. in Spokane Valley. 

“Every year the coalition invites land managers to give a report on what is happening with our hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, biking, kayaking, canoeing outdoor adventure areas,” said Lunell Haught, INTC coordinator. “We all come together in one big meeting so that you do not need to go to 10 different meetings to find out the latest news.” 

Trail users can hear the status of trail issues and learn where they can get involved in trail projects.

Natural areas will be covered, including updates on Spokane County Conservation Futures areas – a new Antoine Peak trail and access plan is developing – and progress on the proposed Dream Trail corridor heading north from the Dishman Hills.

Popular paved routes and rail-trails, such as the Centennial Trail, the Ben Burr Trail and Fish Lake Trail, will be reviewed, including efforts to connect them.

Two Washington State Parks that provide roughly 200 miles of trail opportunities – Mount Spokane and Riverside – will be represented by park rangers.

The useful Spokane River Water Trail website will be updated and the Washington Trails Association will detail this season’s trails maintenance projects from Spokane County to the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

The Beacon Hill mountain biking trail system and terrain park will be covered.

Geological routes through the region’s Channeled Scablands will be summarized by the Ice Age Floods Instutue and local U.S. Bureau of Land Management managers will highlight plans for new trails in the Fishtrap Lake area.

Haught said the consortium of outdoor recreation and conservation groups has pulled together to encourage city and county governments to engage in regional trail planning.

The group’s vision, she said, “is a system of paths, trails and open space corridors that connect neighborhoods, community and regional parks and conservation land in our region to engage people in muscle-powered recreational and conservation opportunities, promote active transportation and preserve open space to enhance our region’s quality of life.”

Spokane County Parks has plan for Antoine Peak

PUBLIC LANDS — Spokane County Parks Department has created an access and management plan for the 1,066-acre Antoine Peak Conservation Area in Spokane Valley. The plan will be presented in an open house meeting tonight, May 28, 4 p.m.-6 p.m., at Mountain Gear Headquarters, 6012 E. Mansfield. 

Antoine Peak was purchased in three phases, 2007 - 2012, with half of the funding coming from the county Conservation Futures Program and half from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (Urban Wildlife Habitat Category).

So far, a small trailhead has been developed on the east side of the property off of Lincoln Road. Other access points are undeveloped.

Although unauthorized motor vehicles are not allowed on Antoine Peak, about 20 miles of road, trail, and ATV tracks have been built or formed over several decades before the land was secured by the county. This network has created erosion and encouraged illegal motorized access and disturbance to wildlife, said Paul Knowles, county parks planner. 

The proposed access and trail plan strives to balance recreation and wildlife needs as much as possible, Knowles said, noting that it calls for:

  • Creation or preserving several loop trails
  • Creating larger areas of undisturbed habitat
  • Developing adequate off-street parking on the west side of the park
  • Preserving several routes necessary to maintain access for stewardship and emergency response
  • Cosuring roads and trails that are little used by the public, fragment habitat unnecessarily, are steep and facilitate erosion, and/or serve little to no maintenance function.

Next Steps: After receiving public input and finalized, Knowles says Spokane County Parks will pursue grant funding to implement the trail plan. Once finished, Antoine Peak will become a destination for hiking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and many other passive recreation uses.


Documents:

Geologists detail discoveries on Wind River backpack trek

PUBLIC LANDS — See the rugged Wind River Range of Wyoming from the perspective of backpacking geologists in a free program Tuesday, 7 p.m. at Jack & Dan's Bar and Grille, 1226 N. Hamilton St. in Spokane.

Geologists Andy Buddington of Spokane Community College and Nigel Davies of Eastern Washington University will discuss the hard rock geology of the northern winds and discuss the lake sediment coring research.  The scenery will be excellent.