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Mount Spokane Summit Road opens June 1

PARKS — Hikers and bikers enjoyed plenty of elbow room at the Vista House and 5,886-foot top of Mount Spokane today, May 31.

The experience will be a little busier starting on Monday, June 1, when Mount Spokane State Park rangers are scheduled to open the gate to allow motor vehicles on the Summit Road.

Discover Passes are required on motor vehicles.

Scotchman Peaks group plans hikes, trail work

PUBLIC LANDS — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are launching another ambitious season of guided hikes, outings, trail work — along with gentle advocacy for securing wilderness designation for a little piece of heaven northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

The group's newsletter, Peak Experiencelists a number of upcoming attractions, starting in Sandpoint with the May 28  State of the Scotchmans program — always a worthwhile gathering. Guest speaker this year is Doug Scott, who was involved with writing the original 1974 Wilderness Act. He'll be speaking on the role of grass roots advocacy — how wilderness gets done.

The Scotchmans group is scheduling a long list of hikes for the season to acquaint people with portions of 88,000-acre proposed wilderness area.

New this year are Field Day Fridays, geared to doing something fun, educational and meaningful outside every Friday from June 12 through Sept. 25.

The biggest trail news is the impending start of rebuilding the lower mile of Trail #65 on Scotchman Peak, the most popular day-hiking destination in the area.

Consider lending a hand.

St. Joe National Forest Avery Office reopening for season

PUBLIC LANDS — The Avery office on the St. Joe Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests is opening Monday, May 18 after being closed for the winter.  The office has a range of information and resources available for visitors.

The office is along the scenic St. Joe River, a popular fishing and camping destination upstream from St. Maries, Idaho.

Firewood permits are available for $5 a cord (minimum purchase is 4 cords and maximum is 12 cords) and are valid on all public lands managed by the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management. 

Interagency Annual Access and Senior Passes are also available.  These passes cover entrance and standard amenity fees at a variety of Federal recreation sites.  Persons 62 years or older can purchase a Senior Pass for $10 and persons with a permanent disability can acquire an Access Pass with proof of required documentation.

Brochures detailing recreation opportunities on the St. Joe Ranger District are available, covering hiking, horseback riding, or riding a motorcycle on the district's trail system. 

Access is nearby for the world-famous 15 mile long Route of the Hiawatha Trail and the Emerald Creek Garnet Area. 

A cabin rental program includes the Arid Peak or Surveyors Ridge historic fire lookout towers. 

The Avery office is open Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is closed from noon to 12:30. 

Info: St. Joe Ranger District Avery Office, 208-245-4517 or the St. Maries office,208-245-2531.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness endorsed by Missoulian

PUBLIC LANDS — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness recently won a critical endorsement for protecting 88,000 acres northeast of Lake Pend Oreille from Bonner County Commissioners.

Last weekend, the group continued to win mainstream acceptance for the proposal, with the editorial endorsement of the Missoulian:

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Area should be next on Montana's agenda
Of all the wilderness proposals under consideration in Montana, the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Area, which spans 88,000 acres of a roadless area on the Montana-Idaho border, is the one that appears to enjoy widespread support. Montana's federal lawmakers should work with their counterparts in Idaho to craft legislation to designate the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.
—Missoulian

Prescribed burns to start in Upper CdA River area

PUBLIC LANDS — Hikers and anglers need to be aware that the Forest Service will begin prescribed burning in the Upper Coeur d'Alene River area starting Sunday, May 3.  Here's the notice from the Idaho Panhandle National Forests:

Beginning on Sunday, May 3, 2015 firefighters from the Idaho Panhandle National forest plan to conduct a series of prescribed fires totaling 500 to 1,000 acres. The prescribed fires will be located in the upper reaches of the North Fork Coeur d’Alene River near Tee Pee Creek, the Coeur d’Alene River Trail, Spion Kop and Pond Peak. Depending on weather conditions, ignitions are expected to begin on Sunday and continue through Monday with lingering smoke and hot spots likely to remain in the area for several additional days. Signs will be posted along local roads and members of the public are urged to avoid the burn areas as ignition will take place very quickly using a helicopter . Forest Service firefighters will continue to monitor the burned areas until the fires are completely out.

The purpose of these prescribed fires is to reduce the risk of significant wildfire and to improve the quality, quantity and distribution of big game browse. Specific locations for the burn units include West Elk, Spion Kop, Cinnamon, Taft, Wilson and Gold Creeks.

See more info at Idaho Panhandle National Forest Website.

Bloomsday mile-by-mile course guide online

FITNESS — Bloomsday is more than a run or walk to celebrate fitness.

It's an extravaganza — as you can see here in a Bloomsday mile-by-mile guide (use it in your mobile device!) prepared by S-R graphic artist Molly Quinn.

In case  you're wondering, Molly is a daughter of Sylvia Quinn, a Bloomsday Perennial age-group star.

Olympics Enchanted Valley closed to camping as hiker trash lures bears

CAMPING — Sloppy campers have trashed the opportunity for hikers to tent overnight in the popular Enchanted Valley of Olympic National Park, at least for the next 30 days.

Backpackers reported cleaning up pasta and trash left behind by hikers ahead of them earlier this month, the Washington Trails Association reports.

Black bears were lured in by the food and were reported to be unafraid of people.

"Park staff closed the popular valley to overnight camping for 30 days," WTA reports. "During the closure, rangers and wildlife biologists will monitor the situation."

 

"Bears that eat human food come to consider people as a food source, and are extremely dangerous," said Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. "Sadly, bears have gotten into and consumed human food this spring in Enchanted Valley and we have closed the area to camping effective immediately."

 

Pack it in, pack it out is the standard rule in national parks and national forests, including camping areas in the Colville and Idaho Panhandle national forests.  Wildlife that becomes conditioned to eating human food become a risk of injury or disease.  Usually, it's the critters that lose.

Pledge to keep trails clean

Tonight: The Making of ‘100 Hikes’

TRAILS — The Spokane Mountaineers are planning a series of events this year to celebrate the club’s centennial, including a free program, The Making of 100 Hikes, starting at 7 p.m. on Monday at Mountain Gear Corporate Offices, 6021 N. Mansfield.

Rich Landers — that's me — guidebook author and The Spokesman-Review’s outdoors editor, will offer insight into the years of effort that went into selecting and researching 100 of the region’s best routes for the popular regional guidebook.

Decades of Spokane Mountaineers’ outings to their favorite trails laid the groundwork for what would become the bible for the region’s hikers.

Wildflower bloom peaks along South Hill bluff trails

NATURE — The showy bloom of arrowleaf balsamroot has turned portions of the South Hill bluff into a wild version of sunflower fields.

The bloom is peaking under delicate white blossoms of serviceberry.

There's no better time to hike the 25 miles or so of trails below High Drive. 

If you've never been there, start from the parking area at 29th and High Drive or the one near 37th and High Drive.
  

Rainier’s Wonderland Trail booked for season

HIKING — Mount Rainier National Park has stopped taking reservations for the popular Wonderland Trail because of a overwhelming surge in demand this year.

The park will still have some walk-up permits available this summer.

The Wonderland Trail is nearly 95 miles long and circumnavigates Mount Rainier.

Park Superintendent Randy King says requests for either the full circuit or large portions of the trail have been in high demand this year. Within the first two weeks of the reservation window, the number of applicants exceeded the space that can be reserved at backcountry camps along the trail.

Think of Bloomsday as a start, not a finish

FITNESS — Spokane’s 39th annual Bloomsday run is set for May 3, but the deadline for registering without a late fee is Tuesday, April 14.

If you’re a serious runner or wheelchair athlete, you probably know all about the age divisions and potential for awards.

If  you’re just an average runner, jogger or walker, the huge moving celebration offers a group incentive to be your personal best for 7.46 miles.

Your reward will be a great t-shirt and motivation to continue pursuing the goal of good health and fitness.

A lot of people think, "I want to finish the race." 

I'd rather think of it as training for the next adventure, perhaps a wilderness backpacking trek, a goal just another few steps beyond….

It's hard to buy such inspiration nowadays. The entry fee is only $18.

Scotchman Peaks’ brewing support, time to toast

PUBLIC LANDS — You know you've arrived when someone names a brew in your honor.

MickDuff's Brewing Company's new Goat Hope Ale is debuting in honor of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness and the group's efforts to protect an 88,000-acre wild area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.  The suds are named for the mountain goats that often great hikers who make the trek to the summit of Scotchman Peak.

Last month, the Scotchman's wilderness proposal was endorsed by the Bonner County Commission.

Now it's time to tap into the party on Thursday, April 9, starting at 5:30 p.m. at MickDuff's, Third and Cedar in Sandpoint.

Live music and one handcrafted keg of extra-hoppy, golden-pale ale will be available through 8:30; proceeds from all pints of Goat Hop Ale will go directly toward working for wilderness.

Check in regularly with the FSPW to join them on hikes, trail work days, kids outings and education days throughout the year.

49th annual Buttercup Hike at Dishman Hills

HIKING – The 49th Annual Buttercup Hike in the Dishman Hills Natural Area is set for Saturday, April 11, starting at 1 p.m. from Camp Caro, 625 S. Sargent Rd.

The three-hour educational walking tour will be led by Michael Hamilton, former Dishman Hills Conservancy president, retired geologist and resident naturalist.

Thirsty Wenatchee eyes water in Alpine Lakes Wilderness

PUBLIC LANDS — Dam and diversion projects or expansions are being proposed on lakes within Washington's Alpine Lakes Wilderness up to satisfy Chelan County water needs and/or desires.

The Department of Ecology's Office of the Columbia River is funding and sponsoring proposals to increase water diversions from seven lakes in the Enchantment Lakes region of the Cascades wilderness that flow into Icicle Creek:  Colchuck, Eightmile, Upper and Lower Snow, Nada, Upper Klonaqua and Square Lakes.

Rachael Paschal Osborn, a public interest water lawyer in Spokane, has posted a four-part series of articles describing the Alpine Lakes proposed projects on her Naiads website:

  • Part 1 describes the "Genesis of the Icicle Work Group.
  • Part 2 discusses the Eightmile Lake Restoration-Storage project.
  • Part 3 discusses the Upper Klonaqua Lake pipeline proposal.
  • Part 4 discusses the Alpine Lakes Automation-Storage project.

"In 2012, the Office of the Columbia River funded Chelan County to form a "collaborative work group" to address Icicle Creek water quantity issues," she says. "Ostensibly the purpose of the Icicle Work Group (IWG) is to solve instream flow problems in Icicle Creek while obtaining more water from the system for out-of-stream uses."

The Office of the Columbia River has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and is seeking another $3.5 million to continue the IWG work into the 2015-17 biennium and wind through a dizzying process of state and federal laws, including the Wilderness Act.

"The Icicle-Peshastin Irrigation District  holds grandfathered easements and water rights that allow it to store and divert water from the Alpine Lakes," Osborn says. "Leavenworth Fish Hatchery (owned by US Bureau of Reclamation, operated by US Fish & Wildlife Service) also holds a water right for Snow & Nada Lakes.  The scope of these interests is a matter for evaluation as well."

Osborn said wilderness advocates should weigh in on the matter, since options are available that would be less invasive to one of Washington's most prized wilderness areas.

"Rather than divert additional water from the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, water solutions for Icicle Creek could be found through more sustainable approaches," she said. For example, "Approximately 117 cfs of new instream flow could be added to a 6-mile length of Icicle Creek (downstream of Snow Creek) by moving the Icicle Peshastin Irrigation District's take-out point downstream to the Wenatchee River.

"Water conservation opportunities are substantial."

  • For more information about the Icicle Work Group, see the Chelan County website, and read the Naiads series, Parts 1-4 (links above).

South Hill Bluff ‘friends’ to assess accomplishments

TRAILS — 'The Bluff: Wildlife Nirvana, Crossroads or Death Trap?' — That's the title of the keynote address planned for the annual public meeting of the Friends of the (South Hill) Bluff on Tuesday, (March 31) 6:30 p.m. at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, 5720 S. Perry St.

Ken Bevis, stewardship wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Natural Resources, will evaluate the status of the wildly popular trail system and natural area that stretches below High Drive down to Hangman Creek.

The Friends of the Bluff works to coordinate volunteer to maintain the area, plan for its future, improve trails and forest health and make it fire-safe for the adjoining neighborhoods.

Volunteers upgrade Knothead Trail in Riverside State Park

TRAILS — A popular trail to an overlook near the confluence of the Spokane and Little Spokane rivers got more TLC last weekend.

Volunteers organized by the Washington Trails Association put in 280 hours of effort that included building a spur to an outcropping viewpoint, reports Cherie Gwinn, Riverside State Park program specialist.

Trailheads for the 6.4-mile loop route are at Indian Painted Rocks as well as just off SR291 north of Nine Mile Falls near the Spokane House.

The route is detailed in Day Hiking Eastern Washington, Hike #84.

Last year, nearly 100 volunteers worked on the trail near the Little Spokane River on June 1 for a National Trails Day event sponsored by REI and WTA.

Opening Day for Trails a good start

TRAILS — The outdoor and indoor activities planned for the Opening Day for Trails celebration Saturday in the Spokane area connected a lot of people with outdoor groups and trails in the region.

Participation in the 3 bike tours and 8 guided hikes was good and Greenstone office at Kendall Yards was very busy with hikers learning about all sorts of undertakings, from improving the Centennial Trail and Washington Trails Association trail maintenance projects to the fabulous open spaces being protected by the Spokane County Conservation Futures Program.

The event was organized by the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition.

Hike or bike with a group in Saturday’s trail day events

TRAILS — Three bike rides and eight hikes coordinated by the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition are being led on Saturday in the Spokane area — one near Reardan — by local trails-related groups and they're inviting you to join them.

Check out details about the Opening Day for Trails celebration:

RSVP for a bike ride or hike below. Share the Facebook event with friends.
You're not required to attend an organized hike to attend the celebration (bottom)! 

BIKE RIDES

Tandem Bike Ride @ 10am
Spokane City Parks
RSVP

Mountain Bike Ride: 7 Mile Trailhead (7903 W Missoula Rd) @ 10am
Riverside State Park Foundation
RSVP

Ben Burr Park @ 10am
Southgate Neighborhood Council
RSVP

HIKES

Glenrose Conservation Area (Ferris HS parking lot at 37th & Ray) @ 10 am
Dishman Hills Conservancy
RSVP

Dishman Hills Natural Area (625 S Sargent Rd) @ 12pm
Dishman Hills Conservancy
RSVP

Fish Lake Trail Trailhead @ 10am
Hobnailers Hiking Club
RSVP

Location TBA @ 10am
Spokane Mountaineers
RSVP

Deep Creek (Meet at Riverside State Park’s Ranger Station) @ 10am
Riverside State Park Foundation
RSVP

Audubon Lake Wildlife Area @ 10am
RSVP

McKenzie Conservation Area @ 10am
Ms Adventures - Women Only
RSVP

18 Downtown Bridges: (Leaving from Kendall Yards) @ 4 p.m.
Rich Landers, guidebook author
RSVP

Opening Day Celebration at Kendall Yards (1335 W Summit Pkwy) @ 2pm

Meet for snacks, trail talk and celebration!

Bonner County commissioners endorse Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

Updated 5 p.m. with quotes and more detail.

PUBLIC LANDS — Bonner County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday calling for the U.S. Congress to designate the Idaho portion of the Scotchman Peaks as a wilderness.

This is another milestone in an effort to protect a worthy spread of  mountain real estate northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

“The Scotchmans is a perfect area for wilderness,” said Cary Kelly, chairman of the three-man board.

“There’s not a lot of timber that could be used because of the soil composition and terrain and no big mining interests. There’s not really any opposition other than from the element that doesn’t want any federal rules on our forests.”

The entire 88,000-acre wilderness area proposal straddles the Idaho-Montana border in the Kaniksu and Kootenai national forests.

The steep, rocky, mountainous area northeast of Lake Pend Oreille has been recommended for wilderness by Forest Service management plans that were debated for more than a decade and approved in January.

The Idaho side of the proposed wilderness area encompasses about 14,000 acres of national forest land, including Bonner County's tallest mountain. Scotchman Peak, elevation 7,009 feet, is a popular hiking and mountain goat viewing destination overlooking Clark Fork.

“It’s one of the few areas that commissioners can support as wilderness,” Kelly said. “It’s kind of the exception to the rule.”  

The Sandpoint-based Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness was founded in 2005 to work with the region's communities, elected officials and outdoors enthusiasts to find common ground for protecting the roadless area.

“We appreciate the leadership and support from the Bonner County Commission,” said Phil Hough, the friends group’s executive director.

Individual commissioners in adjoining Sanders County, Montana, have shown support for the wilderness, he said. Other formal endorsements have been approved by the Sandpoint City Council and Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce as well as the current and former Montana governors, he said.

“For a county commission to offer unanimous support for wilderness, while not unheard of, is pretty unusual,” Hough said. “It’s a reflection of the widespread support for the wilderness among residents of Bonner County and around the region.”

Kelly said the Bonner County board has supported the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness proposal since 2006, but the time was ripe for a formal endorsement.

 “Only Congress can designate wilderness, and the (friends) group is trying to move forward with the proposal in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

“Most attempts at declaring wilderness probably are not very popular with a Republican conservative House and Senate. But we’re looking at the exception to the rule and the commission is urging Idaho congressmen and senators to try to support this proposal.”

Brad Smith, North Idaho conservation association with the Idaho Conservation League, was at the meeting and reported the vote on his ICL blog.  Smith posted the following resolution approved by the board of commissioners:

WHEREAS the Scotchman Peaks provide outstanding views and recreational opportunities to residents and visitors of Bonner County, Idaho; and

WHEREAS the Scotchman Peaks contribute to the economic vitality of the region through recreation, tourism and as an attraction which draws individuals and businesses to our area; and

WHEREAS the Scotchman Peaks provide habitat to a diversity of native flora and fauna; and

WHEREAS there is broad public support amongst residents of Bonner County to protect the Scotchman Peaks; and

WHEREAS protecting the Scotchman Peaks will benefit current and future generations of Bonner County by endowing them with an enduring resource of wilderness.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Bonner County Board of Commissioners call upon the United States Congress to enact legislation designating the Idaho portion of the Scotchman Peaks as a wilderness area, consistent with the boundary delineated in the revised Land Management Plan for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

S-R Readers’ Outdoor Photo Gallery captures March moments

OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY — Newspaper editors knew the great outdoors would provide inspiration when they put out the call for your images, but the photographic talent readers are sharing has surpassed all expectations.

The Spokesman-Review Readers Outdoor Photos web page hasn't just been popular — it's become a regular pit stop for a breath of fresh air.

Equipped with cameras ranging from smartphones to SLRs with monster lenses, readers aren't just sending snapshots of big fish.  They're providing a broad perspective of what's up outside, one photo at a time.

Since the online feature debuted a year ago, more than 650 images have been uploaded at spokesman.com/outdoors

People are telling us where they're going, what they're doing outdoors and what catches their eye.

The photos offer insight on the changing of seasons, the emergence of wildflowers and the return of migratory birds.

The Spokane River, with all of its moods and the recreation it provides, is a popular subject. So are sunsets — the kind that make you vow to be out there next time weather serves up such a beautiful end of the day.

But some photos are coming from west in the scablands, south in the big-river canyon lands and northeast from high in the wilderness where readers are sharing sights many folks would never see.

Our March 2015 Readers Outdoors Photo Gallery may be the best overall monthly collection since the online feature debuted last year. 

I tried to pick  the top 10 and failed miserably at narrowing it down that tight. 

I'm posting my picks for the top 25 images (above) from the photos uploaded this month, and I'm still leaving out a lot of shots that caught my interest.

Some of the images are excellent because of their photo quality. Others are great because they capture a moment to enlighten us about the outdoors. Some are appreciated real-time field reports on conditions.

The images capture the flows of rivers and waterfalls from downtown Spokane to Towell Falls on Rock Creek south of Sprague.

They chronicle where the snow is, and where it isn't anymore.

Photographers looked this month up to capture porcupines and birds in trees as well as the full moon. They gazed down to picture the first flowers bursting from the soil, marmots venturing from their holes, lady bird beetles swarming in the duff and amphibians emerging from the recently thawed pond mud.

It's not surprising that people head out with cameras at night chasing the Northern Lights, although the quality of the results has us begging for more solar flares

More enlightening, perhaps, is how many hikers and even cyclists leave the warmth of home to enjoy the quiet under the stars.

Check out the good work readers are posting. Upload your own.

Collectively you're creating a picture story of the outdoors around the Inland Northwest that no other single person could tell.

NW left out of Outside’s ‘Most Incredible Trips’ list

OUTDOOR TRAVEL —

Two spots in Montana have made Outside magazine's list of "The 30 Most Incredible Trips to Take in 2015."

Otherwise, the Northwest was virtually left out in favor of river trips in Fiji, islands in Bermuda, adventuring in Chile, road biking in California and food in Texas.

The exception is a Redmond-based bicycle travel company named "Best for outfitted trips for families." The write-up says:

Roughly 10 percent of Bicycle Adventures’ trips are now geared specifically toward families with preteens in tow. This year the Washington-based company launched three multi-day rides in Oregon, Idaho, and South Dakota that follow car-free bike paths and pass through kid-captivating areas like Mount Rushmore … with stops for ice cream, rafting, and swimming holes. Have younger kids? They’ll pedal tag-alongs hitched to adult bikes, and toddlers and infants can ride in provided trailers. From $2,295.

The Route of the Hiawatha on the Montana-Idaho border got residual praise by being one of the trips Bicycle Adventures features.

Meanwhile, Montana continued to get more attention than any single state with two mentions in the Top 30 list.

  • American Prairie Reserve in northcentral Montana is featured as "Best of the Wild West."
  • Mary May’s on 100 acres along Cottonwood Creek near Bozeman is ranked "Best Airbnb Property."

Outside's list was composed by its two veteran travel writers, Tim Neville and Stephanie Pearson, who scoured "the globe to uncover surprising new ideas."

The story recommends a range of activities at the American Prairie, from camping to mountain biking, wildlife watching and canoeing the nearby Missouri River.

“We’re glad to have Outside’s spotlight shine on all that we’ve accomplished so far," said Sean Gerrity, president of American Prairie Reserve, in a statement. "We hope it will result in more supporters for our ambitious project.”

Mary May's is touted by the Outside writers for the variety of options available from the door of the small studio that rents for $125 a night, such as skiing, a trip to Yellowstone National Park or hiking.

Head missing from Bryce Canyon’s ‘Turtle’ hoodoo

PUBLIC LANDS — The popular "turtle" formation at Bryce Canyon National Park has lost its head. A critical piece of the redrock hoodoo on the Mossy Cave Trail is missing; likely the result of erosion, the Salt Lake Tribune reports

The national park's formations are famous across the world as mysterious natural wonders that create color-splashed settings for photographers. But they're also fragile, as a recent photo published in The Salt Lake Tribune indicated.

Here's more from a story by Brett Prettyman:

Interpretive park ranger Kevin Doxstater said the 75 to 125 pounds of rock in the unique formation, commonly called the Dragon or Turtle, likely broke off naturally due to erosion — perhaps during wintertime freeze-and-thaw cycles, when water seeps into cracks in the siltstone and limestone. Hoodoos throughout the 35,000-acre park are constantly changing.

"It's just further proof of what is happening here," Doxstater said. "Most of what happens is at a slow pace we can't detect. Every once in a while, we get a significant event like this one. It's a cool thing to see."

More than 250 people entered the "Where Is It?" contest when it hit the sltrib.com website March 6.

Only Berg pointed out the difference; she had just made the Mossy Cave hike a few weeks earlier.

It seems likely the turtle lost its head fairly recently, Doxstater said.

"The major erosion at Bryce happens in the winter when water seeps into cracks and then freezes," he added. "We did have a big snow event on Dec. 31 and then March-like weather in January, so that would have been a good opportunity for something like this to happen."

Some people hiking below the rim at Bryce Canyon National Park on Presidents Day weekend noticed smaller signs of erosion that had caused rocks and dirt to slide down the steep slopes.

Doxstater said hoodoos can collapse any time of the year, but the damage is rarely witnessed by people. One notable event happened two years ago when visitors watched as a massive chunk of the Boat Mesa formation near Fairyland Point broke off and tumbled into the canyon.

Other famous southern Utah formations have partially or completely collapsed in recent years.

  • Wall Arch — 71 feet tall and 33 1/2 feet wide — in Arches National Park collapsed in August 2008.
  •  Landscape Arch, 306 feet tall, also on the Devils Garden Trail in Arches, lost a 60-foot-long and 11-foot-wide slab as visitors watched in 1991.

Now that Bryce Canyon's Turtle no longer has its head, the question is: What will they call it?

Spokane Mountaineers recruit trail volunteers for projects

TRAILS — Two outdoor groups will give a program Monday, March 16, about their plans for organizing volunteers to build and maintain trails in the region this summer.   The public is invited.

The Spokane Mountaineers and Washington Trails Association program will begin at 7 p.m. at the  at Mountain Gear Corporate Office, 6021 E. Mansfield in Spokane Valley

Lynn Smith and Holly Weiler will discuss projects the groups did last year as well as introduce work planned for this year. 

Both organizations have had one event so far this year with many more planned in Washington and Idaho, both single and multi-day.

"For the experienced hands its a chance to connect with past trail buddies, and for the many new people who have expressed an interest, its a good time to see what the programs are all about," Smith said. "Bring a friend and show them what you've done and why its so compelling."

Potential trail volunteers can contact Weiler at hmweiler@yahoo.com or Smith at kslynndeb@Hotmail.com.

Video captures 2,600-mile hike of PCT in 4 minutes

TRAILS — Andy Davidhazy hiked the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2013 and 2014 and snapped a selfie every mile to document the route.

He's compiled the images into a four-minute time-lapse video (below) that flies viewers ground-level from Mexico through Callifornia, Oregon and Washington to the trail's northern terminus near the U.S.-Canada border.

"The end of the trail is just the beginning of the story," says Davidhazy, who's producing a short film, Lost or Found: Life after 2600 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, due for release this spring.

Here are more details about the time-lapse video (above) from Davidhazy:

The Pacific Crest Trail travels 2660 miles through the mountains of California, Oregon and Washington, starting at the Mexico border fence near the small town of Campo, CA, and finishing just across the Canadian border in Manning Park, British Columbia. It took about 5 months to complete and I lost 50 pounds in process. Total elevation change was about 450,000 feet, with the high point being 13,200 feet at Forester Pass in the High Sierras. I documented the physical transformation of the environment and myself by taking a selfie on trail every single mile of the hike.

The process of stopping to take a picture every mile had a big impact on my actual experience of doing the hike. I had to be well aware of where I was at all times, which was quite annoying in that it made it difficult to get in a zone and maintain good momentum. That said, I am happy to have done it, and it provided a good conversation starter with so many hikers that I would meet along the way. I love seeing so many wonderful faces popping up in pictures in unexpected places.

For the purposes of showing the Pacific Crest Trail in it's entirety, this video is actually a combination of two hikes. Mile 0 through 2424 was done in 2013, before an early snow storm dumped more than six feet of snow on the trail north of Snoqualmie Pass, WA making it impassable at the time. So I road walked the rest of the way to Canada along the Iron Horse Trail and Highway 97 north to Osoyoos, British Columbia. I went back in 2014 to hike the missed portion of the PCT from 2424 to the trail's Northern Terminus at mile 2660. The snow storm and road walk will feature in the upcoming short film, Lost or Found: Life after 2600 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Mineral Ridge Trail to close for hazardous tree removal

HIKING — The Mineral Ridge Scenic Area off the northeast portion of Lake Coeur d'Alene, including the popular Mineral Ridge Trail, will be temporarily closed next week for hazardous tree removal, U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials say. 

The Beauty Bay-area closure is scheduled for Monday, March 16, through Thursday, March 19. 

The temporary closure applies to the parking area, picnic shelter, hiking trails and surrounding BLM-managed lands within the recreation area.

As an alternative hiking and recreation area, the Coeur d’Alene Field Office suggests visitors check out the Blue Creek Bay area, which is a short drive north of Mineral Ridge and offers several hiking options, a day use picnic area and fishing docks. 

See more information on BLM recreation areas in the Coeur d'Alene region.

Grizzly bears on verge of official recovery in Montana

THREATENED SPECIES — As wildlife officials put their finger to the wind on the potential for restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades, Montana is getting ready to claim Endangered Species success.

National forests in Montana prepare for delisting of grizzly bears
The grizzly bear population in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in Northwest Montana has been increasing by 4 percent annually for the past decade, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on a plan to remove federal protections from that population of bears, and on Friday, the five national forests in that area of Montana released a draft forest plan amendment to ensure that personnel in the Flathead, Lolo, Bitterroot, Lewis and Clark and Helena national forests are all on the same page for grizzly bear management.
— Missoulian

Grizzly bears in Cascades generate mixed emotions

Updated March 10, 2015.

THREATENED SPECIES — While there's support for reintroducing grizzly bears into the North Cascades to spark a regional recovery effort, the sentiment certainly isn't unanimous at the public meetings that are being conducted in communities along Washington's iconic mountain range.

Duo completes first winter thru-hike of Pacific Crest Trail

TRAILS — Two California men on Monday, March 2, completed the first winter thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail after 132 days of walking, skiing and snowshoeing along the 2,650-mile route from Canada to their finish at the Mexico border.

Never mind that they took time off the trail at Christmas and were blessed with an extremely low snowpack in the Cascades and Sierras this season: Shawn Forry, 33, of Midpines, Calif., and Justin Lichter, 34, of Truckee, Calif., still had to slog through snow and slush, skirt cornices and avalanche danger and endure bitter cold and frostbite in their carefully chosen ultra-light clothing and gear totaling about 18 pounds apiece.

The trek wasn't a lark. Before setting out on the PCT on Oct. 21, the two men had combined had more than 55,000 miles of trail hiking experience in seven different countries. They knew the PCT would be brutal in winter and set their goal on finishing in April.

Lichter, a ski patroller, had more than 35,000 miles of backcountry experience around the world before this trek and Forry, trail name "Pepper," is an instructor with with Outward Bound California who'd logged more than 15,000 miles. The two also had completed a 150-mile ski-and-hike trip last year between the Sonora Pass and Mammoth Lakes.

Roughly 1,300 to 1,500 hikers attempt to thru-hike the PCT each year, and just more than half of them finish even though most of them travel south to north beginning in late April so they can finish in September or October and avoid the additional challenges of winter.

“When he told me it has never been done before I kind of said ‘you know there is probably a reason,”’ Forry's father, Randy Forry, told the Reno-Gazette-Journal.  The risk associated with the winter trek was such that before Lichter and Forry decided to attempt it, many within the hiking community would have considered it foolhardy.  

The Pacific Crest Trail's popularity has boomed since 2012 after the release of Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild and has received another big boost from the recent film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon. In February, the Pacific Crest Trail Association announced a new permit system to limit the number of hikers who can start from the trail’s southern terminus to 50 people a day starting this spring.

But unlike summer hikers, Forry and Lichter had to be prepared to deal with issues on their own.

“Generally you’re around enough people that if something happened to you, someone would come along in 24 hours at the latest,”  Whitney LaRuffa says in a wrap-up report posted today by Outside Magazine online. LaRuffa, an experienced thru-hiker and the President of the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West, had high regard for the two winter trekkers who, during a 1,700-mile stretch from Snoqualmie Pass in Washington to north of Walker Pass in California, didn’t see another soul.

One of the pluses of hiking the PCT, say's Lichter, is then when they take a rest day or resupply, they can nab a motel room at cheap winter rates. But there's no softening the nights on the trail.

“What Shawn and Justin have done is really remarkable,” said Jack Haskel, who kept track of the effort in his blog as trail information specialist for the PCTA.

“For them to be able to plan a hike that completely goes against that norm and faces all those challenges, rather than structuring their hike to avoid them, makes what they’ve done unique and exceptionally challenging,” Heather Anderson told Outside. Anderson set the self-supported speed record on the PCT in 2013.

Scablands trails bloom for explorers in March

TRAILS — Trails through the sage-steppe scablands of Eastern Washington are among the first to welcome hikers and mountain bikers in March.

Sunday was a perfect day to bike the single-track and double track through along the basalt-rimmed canyon and blooming buttercups of the Odessa-Pacific Lake Trail.  More flowers will be blooming by the end of the month.

The 13-mile route is described in detail in the guidebook Day Hiking Eastern Washington.

Notes:

  • Deep-well irrigation has lowered the water table dramatically in this area. Pacific Lake is just one of the victims. Bobs Lakes, in the basin ahead of the biker, are history. But one big surprise: Bobs Lakes spring is still flowing.
  • Haven't detected any ticks yet, but will hold off on official word since they have a way of showing up on my wife's pillow a day or two later.

Ice Age Floods experts set programs, field trips, hikes

GEOLOGY — There's no better way to soak up the science and history of how the Inland Northwest landscape was shaped than to join in some of the events scheduled this season by area geologists and experts in the Ice Age Floods.

The Cheney-Spokane Chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute has a excellent schedule of events ranging from lectures and field trips to a rugged hike. Check them out.

MARCH 12 —  Free lecture, “The Incredible Shrinking Glacial Lake:  A Nonfiction Account of the Rise and Downfall of Glacial Lake Columbia,” 7 p.m.,  Eastern Washington University Science Building, Room 137, in Cheney.

Earth scientist, Michael McCollum presents the incredible story, 20,000 years in the making. He'll describe a 3,000 year onslaught by catastrophic Floods whose sediments finally overtook the lake’s accommodation space and the continuing assault by incremental headward erosion of the southwest bedrock battlements at Grand Coulee, followed by the final betrayal in which global warming caused the disappearance of the once supportive Okanogan ice lobe. 

MARCH 14 — Hike (rated "most difficult"), Palouse Canyon to Palouse Falls, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., covers 8 miles on and off trail. Begins under railroad bridge near Lyons Ferry Fish Hatchery, near Washtucna, Washington. 

Leaders Lloyd Stoess and Gene Kiver, emphasize the Ice Age Floods story as well as Native American and settlement history. Participants must be in good shape, with no serious heart or vertigo problems, and capable of hiking at least 3 miles on rugged terrain without a break. Fee: $10 for students/teachers, $20 for chapter members and  $30 for non-members. 

MAY 8 — Free lecture, “Lower Grand Coulee and Crab Creek Floodways,” 7 p.m., JFK Library Auditorium, EWU Campus, Cheney

Gene Kiver, who taught geology at EWU for 32 years, will give an overview of the Missoula Floods through the Grand Coulee and the merging with floodwaters that descended through the Telford-Crab Creek Scabland.  A complex of minor coulees occur along Interstate 90 and other areas.  Scabland features of note include large flood bars, giant current ripples, and recessional cataract canyons.

MAY 9 — Spring field trip, 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Gene Kiver and Bruce Bjornstad, authors of the field guide "On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods," are the guides and lecturers on deluxe buses to sites of Ice Age Floods features through Lower Grand Coulee.  A fee is charged.

OTHER TRIPS coming up, with more details to be posted on the local chapter website include:

May 31, Saturday, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.  “Floods, Flowers, and Feathers Festival” at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, Cheney.  This is a free public event.

June 2, Tuesday, 7-9 p.m., Vic Baker will lecture at Spokane Community College, The Lair Auditorium.

Sep. 19, Saturday, IAFI Field Trip, Wenatchee.

Oct. 23, Friday, 7-9 p.m., IAFICS Membership Meeting and John Buchanan will lecture “Big, Bigger, Biggest:  A Comparative Look at Megafloods”

October —Two Hikes. Details to come.