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Spokane adventurers detail 15 weeks in Alaska

ADVENTURING — Spokane adventurers Debbie and Bill Pierce will present a free program about their 15-week, 12,000-mile summer trip of kayaking, fishing and wildlife photography in Alaska tonight (April 23), 7 p.m., at the Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland Ave.

"Carrying kayaks and mountain bikes on our conversion van,  we explored as many roads, trails and waterways as possible," Debbie Pierce said. "With no real plan or time commitment,  we used  the fireweed as our only timekeeper-our summer's clock.

"Traveling from mid-June to late September, we watched  the blossoms climb up the stem of the  tall plant, knowing that (according to Alaska folklore), summer was over when the petals  hit the top."

She said their photos include some of Alaska's amazing scenery, "including the beautiful  mountains and wild rivers, the rugged coastlines and magnificent wildlife."

The program is sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

Frigid waters greet Lightning Creek paddlers

KAYAKING — The chilly scene in the photo above is the feeder creek Todd Hoffman and two other kayakers used today to launch their boats before  paddling downstream into Lightning Creek in North Idaho.

I'll guarantee they weren't wearing shorts and flip flops when they got into their boats.

Hot weather, cold water dangerous combo on area waters

RIVERS — Water in area rivers and lakes may look tempting during warmer weather forecast for the weekend, but experts say rivers and lakes remain deadly cold.

Cold water immersion can render a person helpless in minutes regardless of sunny skies and warm air temps. Hypothermia can kill you in a few minutes more.

Experienced paddlers wear wet suits or dry suits in cold waters and launch in groups to help each other out in case of unplanned swims.

At least five non-motorized boating fatalities have been recorded by Washington State Parks since March 17, the highest in any year since 2002.

On April 1, a Gonzaga University student died from hypothermia suffered after his kayak capsized in Rock Lake. One man is dead after being swept away in the Spokane River this month; a capsized canoeist remains missing.

Useful links:

REI prompts flurry of volunteer work at recreation area sites

Popular recreation sites around Spokane will be getting a major spring facelift this weekend from volunteer efforts supported by grants totaling $20,000 from Recreational Equipment, Inc.

Projects the Spokane outdoor equipment store is supporting in partnership with local groups include:

Centennial Trail, Saturday 9 a.m. – The 20th annual Unveil the Trail event, supported by a $5,000 REI grant to the Friends of the Centennial Trail, taps volunteer groups to spruce up sections of the 39-mile paved trail along the Spokane River. Preregister to join a group and get a free lunch, 624-7188.

Mirabeau Point boat access, Saturday, 9 a.m. – A $10,000 REI grant to the Spokane River Forum funded an overhaul of the Spokane River access for rafts, canoes and kayaks fall. Volunters plan to finish the work and prepare the area for hydroseeding, which is being funded by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

Dishman Hills Natural Area, Sunday, 1 p.m. – Hundreds of volunteers already are signed up for the Earth Day work project to pick up litter, restore habitat, improve trails and other projects based out of Camp Caro in Spokane Valley.  The project is backed by a $5,000 grant to the Dishman Hills Natural Area Association. Preregister for t-shirt and food at www.rei.com/Spokane.

Canoe or kayak best way to see this waterfall

WATERFALLS — It's been a great, wet spring to experience the power waterfalls from the Spokane River in downtown Spokane to Palouse Falls near the Snake River and many more.

I've written about the some of the hiking possibilities for many of these falls, including those on BLM land at Hog Canyon (near Fishtrap Lake) and Rock Creek/Escure Ranch.

How about a canoe trip to visit the small but intimate Exley Falls at Horseshoe Lake in Pend Oreille County?

The lake's public access is managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, so a Discover Pass is required, or the Vehicle Access Pass that comes with a hunting and fishing license.

Kayaking collaborators plot Spokane River play spots

PADDLING — An open online collaboration is plotting a map of kayaking play spots on the Spokane River, complete with directions and a few sparse details.

Check it out.

Paddlers put odds in their favor BEFORE dumping on Hangman Creek

CANOEING — Despite the bad news recently about paddlers on the area's swollen waters, some canoeists and kayakers are enjoying the season safely.

Going with a group of people with comparable skills, knowing the weather forecast and having the right gear on your body and in the canoe or kayak can make a big difference.

A Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club group was on Hangman Creek Saturday after the river had come down from veryhigh flows the previous week. While rafters like higher flows in the upper river for their thrills, canoests generally look for flows in the neighborhood of 1200 cfs to avoid too much big water and still have enough to float without banging their boats on rocks.

"Saturday's flow was900-940 cfs, which was nice for our group," said Dan Hansen.

"We ran into a kayaker who mentioned he would have liked bigger waves. I think it could have dropped another 100 cfs or so, and we still would have been happy.

"As it was, (Therese Wittman and I) took on a lot of water at the Big Rock Wave (in Vinegar Flats), bailed out the water, then went back to surf… that’s when we dumped my Dagger Legend.

"Luckily, I had bought a wetsuit … the day before our outing… the best $37 I’ve ever invested.

"I was also glad that I had an air bladder in the canoe (to make it easy to swim the boat to shore)."

Spokane pulmonologist, adventurer, Dick Byrd dies in Cuba

Dr. Richard Byrd, a Spokane pulmonary specialist and globetrotting adventurer, died on April 3 after suffering a blow to the head in a fall while hiking a rocky area on the coast of Cuba.

Byrd, 82, was traveling with his wife, Laurie, and a group led by National Geographic Expeditions. The adventure travel organization has clearance to lead Cuba cultural trips that include U.S. citizens, who are otherwise restricted from entering the nation.

Byrd was featured in a 2010 story in The Spokesman-Review for the inexhaustible energy that allowed him to continue a medical practice with the Rockwood Clinic while satisfying a world-class appetite for climbing mountains, paddling kayaks and hiking treacherous trails.

“The group was hiking and he was out in front, as usual,” Laurie said, describing his fatal accident. “He apparently slipped and hit his head. He never regained consciousness.”

She said she finds comfort in knowing he was out exploring new territories and doing what he loved.

“On the other hand, this was such an incredibly active and vital man who still saw patients – and he was gone in an instant. It takes some getting used to.”

Byrd, a former Air Force officer, launched most of his outdoor adventures after the age of 50. He was active in the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club and a veteran, along with Laurie, on wilderness trips in North America.

They paddled off the Galapagos Islands as well as northeastern Greenland, a trip that took 10 years to arrange with permission from the natives.

“It was worth it,” he said.

Byrd climbed peaks such as Kilimanjaro and hiked to the base camps of Mount Everest and K2.

He'd trekked in Nepal, India and Buton, an island in Indonesia. He’d canoed Alaska’s Noatak River into the Bering Sea, kayaked the Strait of Magellan in Chile and rode out 400 miles of whitewater in a canoe, along with Laurie, on the Nahanni River in Canada’s remote Northwest Territories. The Nahanni trip is epic in the paddling club’s history because the group nearly starved.

After trekking 200 miles across England, walking an average of 20 miles each day, Byrd wondered if he was in good enough shape to run a marathon. He proved he could by finishing the Portland Marathon, just before he turned 80.

Byrd’s ashes returned the United States with his wife. The family is planning a memorial on April 27, 11 a.m., at Hamblen Park Presbyterian Church.

Kayaker makes spring season splash in Pack River

PADDLING — Watch Spokane pro kayaker Brian Jamieson carry over the lingering snow to sack the falls and rock slides on Idaho's Pack River.

Kayaker claims first descent of Towell Falls

PADDLING — Brian Jamieson claimed the first kayak descent of Towell Falls Saturday in the BLM's Rock Creek/Escure Ranch area 20 miles south of Sprague

The proof is captured here by photographer Michael Kinney (Tag Ur it Photography).

High water makes kayakers happy, humble at Dead Dog Hole

PADDLING — High water in many of the region's streams justifiably keeps average paddlers on shore where they belong.  But expert kaykers relish runoff, giving them the only shot of the year at some mountain streams.

Close to home, Dead Dog Hole on the Spokane River under the Stateline bridge, attracts a regular clientelle of kayakers working on their play-boating techniques.

Photo above by paddler/photographer Brian Jamieson shows a crew staging on Sunday for some Dead Dog action.

But even the experienced paddlers have their limits, as Jamieson emphasized in this Facebook post:

We had two swimmers out at the dog yesterday, neither was bad at all but remember to keep it safe out there! There's a ton of wood comin down right now so a spotter is key. Also, having a throw rope or two on shore is a good idea in case of problems. The hole should be past it's stickiest stage, but let's be sure to keep it safe out there!

Paddlers have eye on surging Hangman Creek

PADDLING — Spokane paddler and guidebook author Dan Hansen couldn't find a scouting report for a stretch of Hangman Creek at high water, so he set out by foot to find out for himself.

Hansen hiked the 10-mile stretch from the Qualchan Historical Monument site downstream to Valley Chapel Road and found excellent paddling water — with a few big rapids to be aware of — at a flow of about 1,000 cubic feet per second.

"At many times of year, Hangman Creek generally flows at less than 200 cubic feet per second. But rain on snow can make the water spike, presenting an opportunity for paddlers," Hansen said.
 
A rain-on-snow event can cause the creek's flow to more than double in 24 hours. It might be 4,000 cfs one day and dropping quickly two days later. And within a few days, the rush is over.

See Dan Hansen's Facebook page video report of Hangman Creek at 1,000 cfs.

Note:  Hansen previously reported that he floated the river at 3,500 cfs. Here's his retraction of that initial report:

"A group of us ran that section of the creek after I sent that…. It was 1,000 CFS, and it was actually just about perfect. I remember thinking at the time that my initial assessment of the creek was wrong. I’d be scared to death to run it at 3,500."

This week: On Tuesday, Hangman Creek peaked at almost 3,500 cfs. It's down to 1,700 today but likely will go back up considering the amount of rain in the weather forecast.

Directions to Qualchan Historial Monument:

Drive south from Spokane to Waverly, which is just southwest of Fairfield. From the main street tavern, go north and west on Spangle/Waverly Road 5.5 miles. Turn right and follow North Kentuck Trails Road just over 2 miles to Hangman Creek. Cross the bridge and start looking for the small monument on the left.

Loal paddler presents program on Bowron Lakes

PADDLING  – Dwight McCain of the Coeur d’Alene Canoe and Kayak Club will present a free program on paddling the 72-mile Bowron Lakes circuit in the Cariboo Mountains of British Columbia on Monday (March 26), 7 p.m., at Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland Ave., sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club.

Video: American Whitewater makes case for its cause

RIVERS — American Whitewater, a national river and river running advocacy group, needs support to continue standing up for free-flowing rivers that are always under pressure for water demands.

Last year, the group had a voice in taking down a few dams, protecting flows in rivers and representing paddler interests.

Since 2005, American Whitewater has been involved in the removal of 14 old and uneconomical hydropower dams, restored flows and improved access to 25 significant whitewater runs and supported designation of 1,118.75 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. I

See a video report on the group's latest projects on this  highlight reel.

Join American Whitewater here or call (866) 262-8429.

Hangman Creek’s high, rafters ready to roll

RIVERS — The river running season is officially underway on Hangman (Latah) Creek, and it could be over in another day or two.

Unlike most rivers that require spring runoff to get the juices flowing, Hangman is notorious for brief spurts of high flows generated by rain-on-snow events like we had this weekend. 

Expect to see experienced river runners equipped for being on the cold, off-color water testing their river skills on Wednesday.

Kayaker puts new boat to the Spokane River test

PADDLING — Some people were content to be inside where it was warm on Thursday.

Blake  Sommers was on the Spokane River test-driving his new kayak for the first time.

He got a little swimming practice, too. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. But he didn't let go of his boat.

Video spells out kayaker terminology

PADDLING — If the winter weather has chilled your paddling expeditions, it's time to bone up on the kayaking lingo so you'll mesh with the gang when runoff kicks in.

Sandpoint paddler’s program crosses North America

PADDLING — Paddling Across the Continent, a free program set for Monday (Jan. 23), documents a series of trips spanning eight years by Bob Rust of Sandpoint and a group of Inland Northwest companions who kayaked, canoed and hiked across North America.

I detailed the journey in this 2008 Spokesman-Review feature story.

Rust paddled 2,900 miles from Astoria, Ore., to York Factory on the shore of Hudson Bay, following the overland and paddle routes of David Thompson, fur trader and cartographer.

The free program sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club starts at 7 p.m. Monday at the Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland Ave.

Spokane Parks looking for outdoor trip assistants

OUTDOOR RECREATION —  The Spokane Parks & Recreation Department's Outdoors Program is looking for outdoors lovers who would make good outdoor trip assistants for the great outings featured in the Outdoor program guide.

The main benefit:  Cool group outdoor trips at no cost.   Here's the job description:

In this volunteer position, you will learn to facilitate a safe and fun outdoor adventure such as snowshoeing, cross country skiing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and bike tours.
 
Trip Assistants receive free training and discount outdoor merchandise!
 
To get started on this adventure, contact volunteer coordinator Catherine Lyle, 625-6216 or email clyle@spokanecity.org.
 
  • See more info on the Outdoors Program volunteer website.
  • See the Outdoor Trip Assistant description here.

Video: Kayakers work hard for their whitewater

High Sierra Safety (a full length film) from 7 Finger media on Vimeo.

PADDLING — This nifty video is a nicely filmed, beautifully thought out how-to story about kayakers hiking into one world's most famous Class 5 overnighters.

The group is up for running Upper Cherry Creek near Yosemite National Park, a trip that requires an 11-mile hike with their kayaks before they could put in.

You're likely to learn something by watching this full-length video (above).

Here's a short vignette of the paddling.

Paddlers plunge over 90-foot falls for video

KAYAKING — A trio of kayakers raised the eyebrows of local officials recently by paddling over 90-foot Noccalula Falls in Etowah County, Alabama.

See the story.

The paddlers risked big fines and a tongue lashing by doing the stunt for a video — "Watershed: Land of Giants" —  they plan to release online around Christmas.

Still, their feat of daring and survival pales to the 2009 leap of faith Tyler Bradt made when he set a world record for waterfall paddling by surviving his 186-foot kayak plunge over Palouse Falls in Eastern Washington.

See the video here.

Incidentally, Bradt reportedly injured his spine on Oregon's Abiqua Creek on March 20. A Facebook post said his L1 was pulled apart and his surgeon predicted 12 weeks for recovery. 

Ask this surf boarder if whales have bad breath

WHALES — And she didn't even have to pay for a whale-watching tour. Close call.  Check out this short video and tell me what do you think?

Stateline bridge engineers pay tribute to kayakers

PADDLING – The new stateline bridge over the Spokane River, which is expected to open to traffic on Tuesday, features a railing with illustrations of an evergreen tree, symbolizing Washington, and a kayaker.

Give credit to state and county engineers for listening to paddlers concerns and recognizing the area’s importance to recreation:
  

Part of the bridge was reconfigured to avoid affecting Dead Dog Hole, a popular kayaking spot.

Paddler program features trip down Georgia’s Chattahoochee River

CANOEING/KAYAKING – Long-distance paddler Jim Payne will give a presentation on his trip down Georgia’s Chattahoochee River to the Gulf of Mexico on Monday Oct. 24, 7 p.m., at the Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland.

The free program is sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club .

College kayakers live sheltered lives

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

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

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

Meet local paddlers for feast, films, gear swap

CANOEING/KAYAKING – Get a flavor for the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club as members gather for the annual potluck, awards and gear swap plus a filmfest of videos from recent club trips.

The free event (bring a potluck dish) is Friday Sept. 23, 6:30 p.m. at the Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland.

Info:  Ken Stallman, 991-8494, goldcreekbuilding@comcast.net

Lochsa River boater access to be upgraded

RIVER RUNNING — The U.S. Forest Service is planning to upgrade facilities at four Lochsa River access points in the next year.

Site #1 Fish Creek Boat Launch:  Work includes addition of stairs on the north side of the existing launch. Stair shall be similar to existing south side stairs. Other work includes adjustment to the slide and replacement of several existing steps. Work includes building of new 27’ x 15’6” double unit changing room located adjacent to existing restrooms.

Site #2 Split Creek Stairs:  Work includes removing and replacing all steps for the existing access. New steps shall be 12’ wide and a railing shall be added on the up river side.

Site #3 Bald Mtn. Boat Launch:Work includes construction of a full boat launch with a slide and steps 8’ wide on each side.

Site #4 Knife Edge Changing Station:Work includes building of new 14’ x 15’6” single unit changing room located behind to existing restrooms.

Multi-sport race to debut at Plante’s Ferry

EVENTS — A new multi-sport race in the Spokane Valley will put three-person teams to the test of paddling on the Spokane River, mountain biking on Beacon Hill and running on the Centennial Trail.

The Plante’s Ferry Adventure Race is set for Sept. 18, sponsored by the Spokane Valley Junior Soccer Association.

PFAR is open to teams of three or individuals. Participants must be age 14 or older. Categories include Youth (14-18),

Friends, Family, Ladies and Corporate. Cost: $99 per team or $49 individual.

Register and get more online.

Idaho’s invasive species sticker not transferrable from boat to boat

BOATING — Idaho’s $7 invasive species sticker, which is required on all boats and inflatables longer than 10 feet, cannot be transferred from one vessel to another, Idaho Parks and Recreation officials say.

A story in the Sunday Outdoors section (Aug. 7) suggested otherwise, noting that some boaters were laminating the stickers for more practical attachment such as a cord or zip tie, especially in the case of their rafts.

“Vendors that offer convenient solutions to affixing them to inflatable rafts with rope rigging are doing just that – providing a convenient solution to affixing them to a designated vessel,” said Jennifer Blazek, department spokeswoman in Boise.

But she advised, “The rules are still the rules. The sticker is non-transferrable.” Here's the Idaho Code to prove it.

She acknowledged that nothing on the sticker says it can’t be transferred, but said it’s stated in the rules.

Beyond that, she said the fee is for a good cause dear to the hearts of all boaters.

“Contributions to the Idaho Invasive Species Fund are put to service protecting our coveted waters from invasive species that can devastate a recreational hotspot in a year or less,” she said. “It’s an important program that should be taken seriously.”

Kettle River Gorge photos have kayaker in stitches

PADDLING — As Bob Whittaker of Republic ran his kayak down the Kettler River Gorge between Orient and Barstow, last weekend, Andy McConnell shot a series of photos. 

Then McConnell "stitched" them together with a photo software program to create this fascinating panorama that lets you look up and down the river in one shot.

The finished product shows Whittaker three times — at the top, middle and bottom of the falls —  as he made a single pass.

Incidentally:

  • The Kettle's flows have dropped down to the boney flows of summer.
  • The river private-property-rights tyrant, Mr. Honeycutt, is still hassling paddlers as the put-in their boats in some areas, regardless of whether or not they're on the public right of way.