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Dam gates closed; Spokane River open for recreation at Post Falls

RIVER RUNNING — Avista has lifted its recreation closure on the Spokane River at Post Falls.

With runoff subsiding, the utility has closed the gates on Post Falls Dam, which allows recreational use to resume in the water between the Spokane Street Bridge and the boat restraining systems just upstream of the dam.

The City of Post Falls boat launch at Q’emiln Park was opened to the public on Monday, weeks later than normal.

Typically, the boat launch is opened sometime between Memorial Day and the July 4 holiday, Avista officials said. The median date for closing the gates is June 22.

This year, cool spring temperatures and a lingering, heavy snowpackcaused longer than normal high water flows, which delayed the opening of the boat launch.

For current information on lake leve changes on Coeur d’ Alene Lake, Lake Spokane and the Spokane River, call:

Idaho, (208) 769-1357;

Washington, (509) 495-8043.

OR check online.

Battle-scarred plug landed 43 salmon in two days

SALMON FISHING — Check out the photos sent to Northwest angler Buzz Ramsey by Bob Toman, who'd been fishing in Alaska's Nushagak River, which sports one of the largest king salmon runs in the world.

The scratched and battered Mag Lip plug had caught 43 salmon in two days, Toman said.

“And Bob want's a new one,” said Ramsey, a tackle manufacturer rep.

Responses from other anglers:

  • “Bah! Send it back down! That plug is just getting warmed up!
  • “I think that plug should be mounted above the fireplace, its the real trophy.”
  • “Tell Bob to send that plug to me, and I will send him one that Won't Catch 43 salmon in 2 days.”

Car vandalized at South Hill bluff trail parking area

TRAILS — Never leave a purse, wallet or valuables in sight in a car seat while parked at a trailhead, whether it's along the Centennial Trail or at the edge of a wilderness.

The latest reminder occured Monday around 10 a.m. when a vehicle parked on High Drive near 37th Avenue was struck by a thief while the driver was hiking the  South Hill bluff trails. 

The thief, apparently attracted by a purse left in the vehicle's seat, broke the window in full view of a residential area and fairly busy city street, grabbed the prize and was off.

Outdoor death toll mounts: More hikers killed in region’s high country

HIKING — The Inland Northwest has logged the fourth death this season of a hiker/climber who died after slipping on snow slopes

On Monday, a hiker on a steep snow field on Glacier National Park's Grinnell Glacier Trail slipped and slid downhill 50-100 feet. Initial reports from park officials indicate he suffered head injuries and died.

The hiker has been identified as Nicholas Ryan, 30, from Omaha, Nebraska.   

The death is the latest in a troubling series of fatalities. Some of them seem to have a link to the late-lingering snowpack that's left more snow to negotiate in the high country and a longer period of high, swift and cold water in the rivers below.

A 55-year-old Lake Stevens man died Saturday when he fell from a ridge in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness west of Leavenworth.  It's the second death in the Alpine Lakes this season.

The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office says Thomas Vietti was traversing a ridge on the west side of a lake lake below Big Jim Mountain. He apparently lost his footing as he was maneuvering around a large rock.

On July 3, a 21-year-old woman lost control while glissading on a snow slope and fell to her death in an icy crevasse in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. That's two similar type fatal accidents in one month in one Washington wilderness.  In addition, a woman climbing Mount Baker slid and fell to her death July 2.

In 34 years of covering the Inland Northwest outdoors beat, the spring-summer of 2011 stands out as one of the most deadly periods for the region's outdoors enthusiasts.

A climber slid to her death this month died this month on Mount Baker.

As today's front page S-R story pointed out, around two dozen drownings have been reported, including at least six — from the Wenatchee to the Blackfoot, Lochsa, Salmon and Owyhee — involving rafters in full whitewater gear and PFDs. 

One accident that wasn't specifically mentioned in that story involved a 14 year old girl who drown May 25 after the canoe she was paddling with her brother capsized in the cold, swift spring waters of the Kettle River. Stevens County Sheriff's officers said her brother, who survived, was wearing a life jacket.  She was not.

Idaho presents wolf hunting-trapping rules Thursday in CdA

FISHING — The Idaho Fish and Game Department will present its proposals for the 2011 wolf hunting-trapping season during an open house meeting Thursday at the agency's Panhandle Region office, 2885 W. Kathleen Ave. in Coeur d’Alene. See map.

Regional staff will be on hand to answer questions and to solicit input on the 2011 wolf season proposals from noon to 6 p.m.

Wolves were hunted during 2009 in Idaho, with 27 wolves legally taken during the hunting season.  This harvest likely slowed the growth of the Panhandle’s wolf population for that year, but wolf numbers increased during 2010, a year in which no wolf season was held. 

Proposals call for:

  • Starting the Panhandle hunting season a month earlier than in 2009,
  • Allowing trapping during a portion of the season,
  • Allowing hunters and trappers to take more than 1 wolf a year

Agency biologists say the number of wolves must be reduced to preserve adequate numbers of big-game animals and reduce conflicts with humans and livestock.  Meantine, they said reducing wolf numbers can be done while ensuring the long-term viability of wolves.

Click here for further information and a public opinion survey on wolves in Idaho. 

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will review public comments before making a decision on wolf season proposals at its July 27-28 meeting in Salmon.

Humpies hammer hooks on Washington Coast

SALMON FISHING — While the fish have just begun entering the Puget Sound area, this year's big crop of pink salmon is already making itself known to anglers along the north Olylmpic Peninsula.

From LaPush all the way to the western edges of Port Angeles, plethoras of pink salmon are flooding into the area, according to local reports.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Randy Lato of All-Ways Fishing (360-374-2052) in LaPush. “[Thursday] wasn’t too bad but [Wednesday] … I know I released over 50 of the damn things. It was just nonstop.

“It got to the point where I just said, ‘Guys, I’ve got to take a break.’ I said, ‘I gotta eat my sandwich.’

“By the time I got done with my sandwich, I had three fish waiting to get released.”

Indeed, the smaller pinks are starting to be a nuisance to the king- and coho-focused anglers.

But they’re providing anglers a virtual guarantee of hooking at least one salmon on a trip to Peninsula saltwater

Mariners can really score — when fishing for lake trout

FISHING — A group of players and friends from the Seattle Mariners took advantage of the All Star break to catch a nice pile of Lake Chelan mackinaw on July 11.

 At left, Aaron Laffey of the Mariners caught with the big fish of the day, an 18.6-pound laker.

The group fished with Anton Jones (the short guy above) of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service.

“What still continues red hot is trolling for big lake trout on the Lake Chelan “Bar” early in the morning,” Jones said.  “We are trolling for those Mackinaw in depths of 120 to 150 feet on the Bar just out from the Mill Bay boat launch.  The uplake half of that piece of structure has been absolutely loaded with quality fish the past few weeks.  This pattern has been solid for over a month. 

“We have had consistent success pulling T4 and U20 flatfish in Purple Glow at 1.2 to 1.5 mph.  Mack’s Lures Cha Cha Squidders in glow colors with a purple blade also worked fine.  Additionally Silver Horde’s Ace Hi Fly in glow colors baited with a strip of Northern Pikeminnow also worked great. 

“Don’t forget that you can add an Action Disk from Wigglefin.com to give all those squid rigs a bit of a different action.  Big Smile Blades from Mack’s Lures are another fine choice. 

“Although early and late in the day continue to be best, we have caught nice numbers of fish throughout the day.” 

Afghanistan soldier mourned by 49 Degrees North Ski Patrol

SKIING — He was far more than a soldier, of course.

Among other things, Staff Sgt. Wyatt A. Goldsmith of Colville was a Green Beret and a ski patroller at 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort.

Goldsmith, a medical sergeant with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne),  was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade attack by insurgents in Helman province, Afghanistan, according to The Spokesman-Review's front page story today. 

A longtime member of the 49 Degrees North Ski Patrol, Goldsmith is remembered as someone who was always happy to be in the mountains when not serving his country. 

“Whenever Wyatt was on leave, he would be up here on the mountain.” said Brad Northrup, resort spokesman. “Every time I saw him on the slopes, he had a huge grin on his face.  He really loved skiing.”

His military awards include Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal (2nd Award), Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghan Campaign Medal with one campaign star, Iraqi Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Parachutist Badge, Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, Special Forces Tab and Combat Infantryman Badge.

He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, and the Meritorious Service Medal.

And he loved to ski.

Wildflowers splashing color across Mount Spokane

NATURE — While a few snow patches still lingered on the upper slopes of Mount Spokane on the third weekend in July, the state park's wildflowers are making up for lost time and bursting into bloom.

From delicate calypso orchids along Trail 110 to the beargrass exploding all over the mountain, this is prime time to fill your eyes with the color nature is splashing on the landscape.

Two notable attractions I found during 12 miles of hiking on the mountain Sunday:

  • Beargrass at the top of the Eagle Crest Trail in the cross-country ski trail system is particularly prolific…resembling deep snow banks in some spots.
  • Lupine is blooming in one of the most spectacular displays on the mountain from — of all places — a former gravely mining equipment “parking lot” on the road near the summit of Quartz Mountain.  Check it out.

Crews have been out to clear blowdowns, leaving most of the trails open for easy cruising. 

Hike reveals bare grass fantasy

HIKINGWhen I hike through the forest this time of year, I can't help but note the resemblance between blooming beargrass and ….

Moose become canvas for new wildlife control tool

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — When law enforcement officers arrived around 6 a.m July 5 to deal with three moose on Interstate 90 near Liberty Lake, they were armed with guns you can buy at a toy store.

Washington state troopers blocked I-90 traffic while state Fish and Wildlife police “escorted” three yearlings out of traffic toward the Spokane River. To keep the moose moving, the officers used paintball guns.

“Two officers went at them on foot and stung them every now and then with the paintball guns,” said Capt. Mike Whorton of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department. “Pretty soon they ran across all four lands of I-90 and out of the way of traffic.”

Whorton said one of his officers tested his own paintball gun last year for harassing and moving wildlife out of danger. The test was so successful, a local sportsmen's group has purchased paintball guns for all of the area Fish and Wildlife police, he said.

“Paintball guns can get off a lot of shots rapidly and accurately,” he said. “They are so much more effective and cost effective than the rubber bullets we had been firing out of 12-gauge shotguns. And aside from some pink paint on their rumps, the paintballs don't do any more than sting the moose.”

U.S. starting to curb appetite for overfishing

OCEAN FISHERIES — Forty stocks of fish populations are subject to overfishing in U.S. waters, but progress is being made to rebuild stocks and reduce overfishing, federal officials say.

The number of fish populations being fished at too high of a level at the end of 2010 was up by two from 2009, according to an annual report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Among the stocks being overfished are cod in the Northeast, red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific bluefin tuna off the West coast.

But officials said many key populations of fish have shown improvement over the years. Twenty-one stocks have been rebuilt to healthy levels since 2000, and three key stocks in the Northeast — Georges Bank haddock, Atlantic pollock and spiny dogfish — reached healthy levels in 2010, said Eric Schwab, the head of NOAA’s Fisheries Service.

“We are turning a corner as we see important fish stocks rebounding,” Schwab said in a statement.

Eating our way out of invasive species infestations

EXOTIC SPECIES — Care for a nutria burger?  Or maybe a dab of didymo “rock snot” on your ice cream?

With a boost from creative marketing, the bloated American appetite could help control exotics while conserving imperiled native species.

An invasive species called lionfish is devastating reef fish populations along the Florida coast and into the Caribbean. According to a New York TImes report, an increasing number of environmentalists, consumer groups and scientists are seriously testing a novel solution to control it and other aquatic invasive species — one that would also takes pressure off depleted ocean fish stocks: they want Americans to step up to their plates and start eating invasive critters in large numbers.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is now exploring models suggesting that commercial harvest of Asian carp in the Mississippi would most likely help control populations there, “as part of an integrated pest management program,” spokeswoman Valerie Fellows told The Times.

When they find tastey recipes for spotted knapweed, cheatgrass, rush skeletonweed, milfoil and zebra mussels, we'll be on the road to recovery.

Learn basics of backpack cooking Thursday at REI

BACKPACKING — Tired of Ramen? Too cheap for freeze-dried?

Get tips for organizing and preapring fun, easy meals on your next hiking adventure during a free intro to backpack cooking program Thursday, 7 p.m., offered by the staff of the REI store at 1125 N. Monroe.

The program will touch on preserving, preparing, packing and cooking tasty meals that won’t drag you down.

Woman hot-footing toward speed record on Appalachian Trail

BACKPACKING — Ultra hiking specialist Jennifer Pharr Davis of North Carolina is trying to break her own speed record of 57 days, 8 hours, 35 minutes  as she attempts to go from Maine to Georgia on the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail.

Davis, who began her supported trek in midJune is also mindful of the men’s record of 47 days, 13 hours, 31 minutes.

For perspective, to set her record of 57 days she had to average a brisk pace of 38 miles per day every day for two months.

She knows what she's up against on the 2,181-mile footpath. Davis hiked end to end (called a thru-hike) from south to north in 2005 before setting the speed record three years later going north to south.

Read on for more details.

Big cover up revealed at Glacier’s Parks Logan Pass

NATIONAL PARKS — The Going to the Sun Road has been open for three days and the scenery's fantastic.

But the photo gives you a hint of what it's like at the top of Logan Pass.

Late snow blocks climber’s 10 peaks in six days attempt

MOUNTAINEERING — Near the top of Eastern Oregon's nearly 10,000-foot Sacajawea Peak, Steve Kominsky of Medford found himself staring at an all-too familiar barrier between himself and Oregon mountaineering history.

A 25-foot snow cliff, slickened under the mid-summer sun, shouldn't be there in July. But there it was, the last impediment to reaching the top.

OregonOutdoors on Facebook

To see two short videos shot by Steve Kominsky, on Steen Mountain and South Sister, go to the Oregon Outdoors Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Oregon-Outdoors/162141490490326

One slip and he'd tumble 1,300 feet or more. He thought of his pregnant wife, Heather, his 15-month-old son, Dawson.

“It was one of those moments of, 'What do I really need to do here?' ” Kominsky, 28, told Mark Freeman, outdoors writer for the Medford Mail. “No summit is worth that risk.”

Indeed, the elements, not his mettle, have kept Kominsky from reaching his goal of climbing Oregon's 10 tallest peaks in six consecutive days.

His personal “Oregon 10-in-6 Challenge” ended Friday atop Mount Hood as something of a bust, with the uber-athlete able to reach the summit at only four of his high-altitude quests.

Gnarly, way-above-average snowpacks have forced him to turn back at six others, even when he stood as close as 300 feet from the top of Middle Sister on Wednesday, Freeman reported.

“It's honestly disappointing,” Kominsky said Wednesday as he climbed down South Sister after reaching its summit. “There's no doubt in my mind that the 10-in-6 is completely doable.

“Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about the conditions,” he says.

See a his short video from the summit of South Sister near Bend, Ore.

Columbia River sockeye run likely fourth largest on record

SALMON FISHING — Better late than never – the 2011 sockeye salmon run pouring over Bonneville Dam and heading up the Columbia River likely be the fourth largest since records were started in 1980.

Most of the sockeye are headed for the Wenatchee and Okanagan river basins in central Washington and British Columbia, but around 2,000  are destined for a 900-mile swim up the Columbia and Snake  river systems to spawn in the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho.

While this year’s forecast of 181,000 sockeyes is big, it pales to last year’s record run of 387,858.

Beginning yesterday, anglers can retain adult sockeye salmon in the mainstem Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam, including the Okanogan and Similkameen Rivers, and Lake Osoyoos.

Columbia River sockeye returns are surpassing expectations and fisheries managers say, “Game on!”

The daily limit is four sockeye with a minimum size of 12 inches. All coho and steelhead must be released.

Bonneville Dam counts have ranged from 3,329 on July 12 to 5,262 on July 8.

As of Wednesday, 173,500 fish had moved above Bonneville of the 181,000 expected.

Read on for a breakdown on the sockeye fisheries opening:

Fledgling ‘EagleCam’ star found dead

WILDLIFE WATCHING— One of the young eagles monitored on a popular Seattle-area EagleCam has died, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reports.

The fledgling eagles were just learning how to fly when one was found dead near the nest tree Tuesday. There were no visible injuries to how the bird died.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents have taken the dead eagle and a necropsy is planned to determine the cause of death.

Wildlife officials say the surviving young eagle appears fine and has mastered basic flying 101. The young eagle may leave the nest soon or continue using it as a temporarily feeding and roosting site.

The EagleCam live video streams an eagle nest egg perched atop a 200-year-old Douglas Fir tree in Seattle.

Thousands of regular viewers have watched the eagles from when they hatched about four months ago to when they took their first flight just days ago.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's network of eagle cams has become an obsession to some eagle fans and an important way to educate the public and get the involved in efforts to protect the rebounding population.

Crystal Mountain’s ski season finally coming to end

SKIING — Washington's Crystal Mountain ski resort near Mount Rainier says its ski season will end Saturday, nearly nine months after it opened in November.

The resort (see map) says the longest season in its 48-year history was made possible by record-breaking snowfall and the new Mount Rainier Gondola.

The resort measured 612 inches of snow — 51 feet — from November to June.  The previous record at Crystal Mountain was 592 inches in the 1998-99 season.

Crowds flock to opening of Glacier’s Sun Road

NATIONAL PARKS — On Wednesday, all 50 miles of the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road opened to the public and the crowds turned out in droves, heralding the official start to summer in this northern region.

The Sun Road's opening was highly anticipated, according to a story in the Missoulian.

The July 13 opening marks the second-latest opening date in the scenic drive's 78-year history, and the latest it's ever opened due to winter weather, the evidence of which was superabundant Wednesday.

Throughout the morning and afternoon, park rangers delivered informational lectures to visitors curious about the status of Glacier National Park's glaciers, which are quickly disappearing due to the effects of global climate change. A snow-covered Mount Clements and a towering wall of snow provided the backdrop to those climate change talks, called “Goodbye to Glaciers.”

“It's always a tough sell when you're standing beside a giant snowdrift like this,” ranger Megan Chaisson said.

It’s an odd year: that means humpies coming to Puget Sound

SALMON FISHING — Western Washington anglers are starting to get pink fever for the big run of humpies that pours into coastal waters on odd-numbered years.

Returns are expected to be huge, and the first short at the front end of the runs starts Saturday on the Nooksack River near Bellingham.

West Side outdoor writers already are giving anglers details on when, where an how to hook their share of the bounty.

Check here for a column by Bellingham Herald writer Doug Huddle regarding the early opportunity.

Prime time in the rest of Pugest Sound is in August and September. 

“The earliest the Skagit opens for the odd-year salmon is Aug. 1 while it’s Aug. 16 on the Snohomish, Skykomish and Puyallup, Aug. 20 on the Duwamish, and Sept. 1 on the Stillaguamish and Carbon,” reports Andy Walgamott in Northwest Sporstman Magazine. “Some runs stay worthwhile into early October.”

Beargrass is blooming at Mount Spokane

HIKING — Beargrass is to wildflowers what antlers are to bone.

They grow long stalks incredibly fast and explode into a white plume of blooms.

Now showing at Mount Spokane State Park and other IInland Northwest mountains near you.

Bobcat on pins and needles when pursued by cougar

WILDLIFE WATCHING — An Arizona couple recently witnessed a wildlife spectacle outside their home hear Gold Canyon as a mountain lion launched an attack on a bobcat.

In a desperate escape along the foothills of the Superstition Mountains, the bobcat sprinted up a very tall and very stickery saguaro cactus. The mountain lion called off the chase at that point.

Curt Fonger tells the story and shares photos with an Arizona TV station.

The photographer seized the opportunity to capture photos of the bobcat on its perch. One of the photos from a distance gives a good perspective on the height of the cactus.   The bobcat just hunkered on the saguaro for hours until the coast was clear, and then departed, seemingly impervious to the sharp cactus spines.

Fonger said the only way he'll top that wildlife photography experience is if the mountain lion comes by and gives him a pose.


Why does a mountain’s shadow appear triangular?

MOUNTAINEERING — Even experienced mountaineers have been stopped in their tracks occasionally by the rare sight of a triangular shadow darkening the landscape in the distance away from a major peak.

The triangle shadow phenomena is fairly commonly seen from the tops of large mountains and volcanoes, but not well understood.

Check out this astronomy website for a good explaination.  Navigate to the Astronomy picture of the day for July 5, 2011.

Montana sets quota of 220 wolves for fall hunt

PREDATORS — Hunters will be able to shoot as many as 220 gray wolves in Montana this fall under rules adopted today by state wildlife commissioners.

The hunt is scheduled to begin in early September and is expected to reduce the predator’s Montana population by about 25 percent to 425 wolves, according to an Associated Press report.

Idaho's proposed hunting-trapping plans last week for controlling wolves — proposals are detailed online — but decisions won't be made until later this month.

Read on for more Montana details and background from the Associated Press.

Last chance: Centennial Trail group offers chance to win bike

TRAILS — Forget the freaking Washington State Lottery. If you want a GOOD chance to win something valuable, join the Friends of the Centennial Trail.

People who become members by Friday (July 15) get their name entered in a drawing to win a Trek 7.2 FX 20-inch bicycle, sponsored by Two Wheel Transit.

It's a nifty bike, and the odds are outrageous.  Only about 60 people have signed up in this campaign.

Check out the details on the Friends' website or call (509) 624-7188.

  • Incidentally, the Friends are worth donations beyond membership. They do great things to help push forward major projects, including proposed overpasses as streets such as Mission Ave.

Epilogue: Nugent’s beliefs off target in my hunting camp

HUNTING ETHICS — Right-wing rocker/hunter Ted Nugent has come and gone from the Inland Northwest.

Here's a column wrapup with a few of my final thoughts on the celebrity and his impact on the sport of hunting as I know it.

Salmon River anglers bagging spring chinook

SALMON FISHING — This year's huge and prolonged runoff down the Snake River system has dealt Salmon River fishing guides a tough hand  — until this week.

“Salmon Fishing is on!” reports Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures in Riggins. “We are done singing the High Water Blues. Salmon River flows have receded to the 30,000 cfs mark and now is the time to book a trip.”  Email: riverescape@frontier.com

This week's Idaho Department of Fish and Game's regional fishing report concurs:

“Without a doubt the highest catch and harvest rates are around Riggins averaging 4-5 hours per fish kept,” the report says. “Last week (July 4-10) an estimated 2042 adults were harvested in the Salmon and Little Salmon rivers combined. This leaves around 4,000 Rapid River adults to harvest so go put some notches on your permit.”

See the IFG fish planner salmon map for season details.

Join group maintaining South Hill bluff trails

TRAILS — With more than 23 miles of trails to maintain on the South Hill bluff trail system below High Drive, a group is organizing to do the job right.

Join them Saturday, 9 a.m.-noon, for a practical clinic on how to protect trails from erosion.

The group will work on an intersection that is eroding back to its “natural” angle of slope.

Mike Brixey will teach how to deal with these situations, which are common on the bluff trails.

Meet at the High Drive trailhead 20 yards south of Bernard. Wear work gear and bring sturdy tools!

Hikers and mountain bikers are all welcome to participate.

Info:  Diana Roberts 477-2167, Email: robertsd@wsu.edu