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Fat bikes the ticket for old Milwaukee railroad trail

BICYCLING — Todays S-R story about long-coming proposals to begin developing the Palouse section of the abandoned railroad stretch known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail is good news for bicyclists. 

Although the state of Washington acquired the railroad right of way in 1981, the section from the Columbia River east to the Idaho state line remains largely rough with gaps that make it difficult to use even if you go through the hoops to get the required permit from Washington State Parks.

BUT, the growing popularity of fat bikes offers a chance for tough riders to get on the trail now.

These bikes with extra-wide, extremely low-pressure tires tame the rough ballast and bogs that greet trail users on long stretches of the trail.

But don't expect to be the first to fat bike the entire route. Others have already figured it out.

On his 26InchSlicks blog, Spokane fat-biking-fanatic Pat Sprute has posted an excellent story with photos and maps of his 2012 trip along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail from Tekoa to the Columbia.  

Check it out and be inspired.  

Regional trails plan unveiled Tuesday at REI

TRAILS — An update to the 2008 Spokane County Regional Trails Plan will help integrate routes for walkers, runners, skaters, cyclists and equestrians into planning and development as the population grows, officials say.

The draft plan, up for county approval this month, identifies 677 miles of routes ranging from single tracks to the 12-foot-wide Centennial Trail, said Parks Department planner Paul Knowles.

The plan will help the county preserve and maintain existing trails while identifying links for an interconnected network of user-friendly trails, he said.

But don't take our word for it: check it out for yourself:

  • See maps, ask questions and comment on updates to the Spokane County Regional Trail Plan at an open house meeting Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., at REI, 1125 N. Monroe St.
  • See the Regional Trail Plan documents on the County Parks website.

The county Planning Commission is set to review the draft plan on Jan. 16.

Outdoor groups in the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition helped fund the trail planning, map trails and propose possible links and expansion throughout the region.

The new Centennial Trail segment through Kendall Yards is indicates the benefits that can be achieved through trail planning Knowles said. The proposed Dream Trail running north-south completely through the Dishman Hills is another goal.

The plan could facilitate public access from Five Mile Prairie to the Little Spokane River.

Read on for more information about the plan.

Red Hot Chili Peppers sign skateboard to boost rail trail auction

TRAILS — A hot band is music to the ears of rail-trail developers in northeastern Washington this week.

The Ferry County Rail Trail is getting a boost by members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who've autographed a skateboard that's being auctioned on eBay this week to benefit the 501(c)(3) non-profit Ferry County Rail Trail Partners

The group is developing a 25-mile trail in northeastern Washington between Republic and Canada, mostly along the Kettle River.

This isn't the first time top-name musicians have stepped up for the cause.

How do these big names get interested in a trail in a Washington county populated by fewer than 8,000 people — a fraction the size of the audience that signs up for just one of their concerts?

Bob Whittaker (center in photo at left), tour manager for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, also lives in a cabin near Republic and has been helping spearhead the project. He got the Peppers to sign the skateboard in Brazil on Nov. 9, 2013 when the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs opened for the Peppers while on tour in Rio de Janeiro.

Whittaker, son of Jim Whittaker, who was on the first American team to climb Mount Everest, purchased the skateboard. The eBay auction item also includes the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' day sheet, set list and Bob's passes for the event in Brazil.

This skateboard isn't just a pretty wall hanger. The 9.5” x 34” Hendrix model, mid-sized longboard deck was handcrafted, signed and dated by the artisans at El Phante in Rio de Janeiro.

Time to comment on regional trails plan

TRAILS — The Spokane County Regional Trails Plan, which provides guidance for local, state and federal agencies in developing new trails and maintaining existing routes, is open to public comment through an online survey.

The plan seeks to coordinate trails throughout the region, identified corridors for trails and wildlife, aim for road and trail standards and promote the system.

The inventories and organization of the multi-partner plan already has helped the region secure more than $7 million in funding for trails and conservation areas, said Lunell Haught of the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition.

The plan includes the Spokane River Centennial Trail, Fish Lake Trail and other major trails as well as a network of smaller trails on agencies ranging from county parks and state parks to U.S. Bureau of Management Lands.

The public input will be incorporated into the plan as it's updated this year, Haught said.

Route of the Hiawatha bike trail opens Saturday

TRAILS — The Route of The Hiawatha rail-trail near Lookout Pass is set to open for the 2013 summer season on Saturday (May 25).

The 15-mile route for mountain biking or hiking follows the abandoned Milwaukee Railroad grade between the old town site of Taft, Mont., (off Interstate 90) and the North Fork of the St. Joe River near Avery, Idaho.

Top attractions include seven trestles towering up to 230 feet over the creeks and forest and 10 tunnels, including the 1.7-mile St. Paul Pass Tunnel at the Montana-Idaho border.

The gentle 1.6 percent  average grade drops 1,000 feet  over the 15 miles length with shuttle buses available to transport trial users and their bikes back to the top.

Trail passes, shuttle tickets and mountain bike rentals are available at Lookout Pass Ski Area conveniently located off I-90 at the top of the pass on the Idaho/Montana border 12 miles east of Wallace, Idaho.

Basic trail passes cost $6 for kids and $10 for adults. Season passes and group rates area available, as well as shuttle bus service from Lookout Pass, lunch options and guided tours. 

The trail will be open daily, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. PDT, through Sept. 29.

Biking the Hiawatha is one of the Inland Northwest's top memorable adventures you can organize for an active outing with summer out-of-town guests.

Celebrities sign skateboard to boost Ferry County rail trail

TRAILS — Development of the 28.5-mile Ferry County Rail Trail from Republic along the Kettle River to the U.S. Canada border is getting a boost with an auction item signed by celebrities.

A Longboard Skate - donated to Ferry County Rail Trail Partners by Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder - is being signed by celebrities as a one-of-a-kind auction item. The effort is spearheaded by FCRTP organizer Bob Whittaker, who's also a professional rock band manager currently on a world tour with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Celebs signing the board so far include Nick Zinner, Karen O and Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as well as Eddie Vedder, Neko Case, Nick Cave and pro-skating champ Tony Hawk.

2013 FCRTP Annual Meeting 
The annual meeting of the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners will be held at the Carousel Building at the Ferry County Fairgrounds, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday (April 21). Expect to find good people and refreshments, plus a Ferry County Historical Society presentation on area railroad history.

Tonight: Trails groups update region’s growing routes

OUTGOING – The Inland Northwest Trails Coalition has rounded up a dozen local leaders in trails-related efforts for the annual “state of the trails” presentations tonight (March 21) starting at 6 p.m. at Mountain Gear Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield Ave. in Spokane Valley. 

This is the place for trail users to learn where they can get involved in trail projects.

Natural areas will be covered, including the Dishman Hills, Palisades Park and Spokane County Conservation Futures areas.

The Centennial Trail, Trolley Trail and Fish Lake Trail will be reviewed as well as the expanding hiking, biking and nordic ski trail systems at Mount Spokane.

Progress on the Spokane River water trail will be updated and the Washington Trails Association will detail this season’s trails maintenance projects from Spokane County to the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

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

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

Spokane Valley plans trail in city core

TRAILS — A proposed bike-pedestrian trail through the heart of Spokane Valley will be discussed at a community workshop Monday, March 11, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague, Suite 101. 

The proposed 12-foot wide trail would run about 2.2 miles down the old Milwaukee right-of-way, between University Road and Evergreen Road and between Sprague and 4thAvenue. Future extensions would be possible.

City of Spokane Valley Public Works staff members and design planning consultants will be on hand to introduce the project, review maps, and help gather input from the community.

Info: Steve Worley, project manager, 720-5014, email sworley@spokanevalley.org.

Repairs temporarily close Centennial Trail segment near Barker Road

TRAILS — The Spokane River Centennial Trail is closed between miles 7 and 9 through Nov. 24 as workers  repair the erosion damage to the trail west of Barker, reports Kaye Turner of the Friends of the Centennial Trail.

The detour flows from the Walt Worthy building bollards (near the basalt water fountain; east of Sullivan and Krispy Kreme) out onto Indiana Parkway.

Progress east through the new round-about onto Flora going north until it curves right, east, onto Montgomery. 

At the “T” intersection of Montgomery and Riverway, turn right heading slightly south then east to the “T” intersection with Barker. 

Turn left, north, onto Barker. The Barker Trail Head is on the right before the bridge.

Hiawatha rail trail closing for season Sept. 30

BICYCLING — The Route of the Hiawatha mountain bike trail, with its popular tunnels and trestles near Lookout Pass, will close for the season at 5 p.m. on Sept. 30. 

Centennial Trail among Sunset Magazine’s Top Trails in The West

TRAILS — The Spokane River Centennial Trail — celebrating its 20th anniversary — is listed on Sunset Magazine's list of 20 Best Bike Paths in the West.

That's no suprise to people who live here, and ongoing improvements are steadily making the riverside trail even better.

But wait:  There's no mention of the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.

Most of the trails on the list have an urban link. That makes marketing sense, but it clearly diverts attention to what some people might consider the BEST trails.

For info on more trails, check in with the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

Route of the Hiawatha opens Saturday

BICYCLING — The Route of the Hiawatha rail trail near Lookout Pass will be open for the season starting Saturday, says Phil Edholm at Lookout Pass Ski Area.

That's great news for folks planning bicycling outings over the Memorial Day weekend.  Heck, people were skinning up and skiing the slopes in the area last week.

The nationally acclaimed 15-mile rail-trail uses the abandoned Milwaukee Railroad grade between the old town site of Taft, Mont., and the North Fork of the St. Joe River near Avery, Idaho. 

The unpaved route features 10 tunnels and 7 trestles as high as 230 feet within the Loop Creek canyon at the crest of the scenic Bitterroot Mountains. The grade is a gentle 1.6 percent.

Trail passes, shuttle tickets, mountain bike rentals, souvenirs and picnic lunches are available at Lookout Pass Ski Area, just off I-90 at the Idaho/Montana border 12 miles east of Historic Wallace, Idaho. 

Call (208) 744-1301 or visit www.ridethehiawatha.com for trail information. Equipment reservations are recommended. 

The Hiawatha Trail is set to be open daily through Sept. 30, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Olympic Discovery Trail proponents call for help

TRAILS — The half-realized dream of a national-class lowland trail running 130 miles from Port Townsend to the Pacific Ocean needs money, quickly, to deal with a new requirement for an environmental assessment.

The Olympic Discovery Trail, which volunteers have been piecing together for 24 years along the Olympic Peninsula’s north coast, has come to a land-use planning jam:

The group has until March 31 to raise enough money to construct an alternate trail segment plan the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is requiring to avoid a sensitive wetland area.

See a Rails-to Trails Conservancy report on the Olympic Discovery Trail.

Congress considers wiping out trail funding

TRAILS — The Inland Northwest, with its fabulous system of rail trails, has insight to what would be lost if a malicious defunding bill gets anywhere in Congress.

The Rails to Trails Conservancy is calling H.R. 7 — the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 — “atrocious” for several reasons.

If it passes the House floor and becomes law as it stands, the bill would:

  • Eliminate dedicated funding for trails, walking and bicycling;
  • Destroy a 30-year precedent of long-term dedicated funding for transit;
  • Do away with the rail-trail eligibility category in the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program;
  • Eliminate the Safe Routes to School program;
  • Reduce job creation potential, since trail, walking and bicycling projects create more jobs per dollar than highway projects;
  • Contribute to our growing health and obesity crises.

A coalition of groups, including cyclists, hikers, conservationist and others, is trying to get word out to defeat this bill when it comes to the House floor—expected to begin Tuesday.

Read an ABC News report on the bill here.

American Trails is keeping track of several trails-related bills.

Ferry County Rail Trail skiers make do

WINTER SPORTS — The mountains are in need of new snow for skiers an the hopes of river runners.

But at the valley level north of Republic, Wash., there's boundless optimism for the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners Ski Day on Saturday, Jan. 14, at the old rail car loading area at the north end of Curlew. In the event of inadequate snow they plan on leading a walk along the Kettle River to the old railroad tunnel.

But for now, they're waxing poetic.  

Here's the Curlew Trailhead snow report from noon today, Jan. 8th:

2 inches of new and someone already skied it today!

Fingers crossed for 2 more inches over next 48 hours…

National Weather Service Forecast - Okanogan Highlands





Big snow: nordic skiers having fun, too

WINTER SPORTS — Alpine skiers weren't the only ones reveling in the early onslaught of winter and the deep powder in the mountains last week.

Cross-country skiers were having a great time making tracks from the back-country of North Idaho, on Mount Spokane's ungroomed but inviting nordic trail system, and even on the Ferry County Rail Trail, Golden Tiger section near Republic (above).

North Idaho rail trails continue to garner headlines

TRAILS — North Idaho continues to get a steady stream of good press from its world-class rail trails — the Route of the Hiawatha near Lookout Pass and the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes that runs from Mullan to Plummer.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy publication recently published a feature about Wallace entitled, “In Idaho, Former Silver Mining Town Reinvents Itself as Trails Destination.” 

“When we use the phrase “destination trail,” the Route of the Hiawatha in Idaho is exactly what we have in mind,” the author says. “The trail itself is the draw; people come from across the country, and sometimes the world, to ride this 15-mile rail-trail through the spectacular Bitterroot Mountains and wilderness area, including a 1.6-mile tunnel.”

As recreation enthusiasts add it to their “bucket list” of adventures, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy named the Hiawatha to its Rail-Trail Hall of Fame earlier this year.

The nearby Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, North Idaho Centennial Trail and Old Milwaukee Road corridor, has meant to local populations have made “giant impact” on local communities, Wallace businessmen told the writer. The 72-mile Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes passes directly by Wallace, a geographical key to transferring trail-user numbers into commerce that fills up to 20 percent of the beds in the Wallace Inn during the summer trail season.

Info:  Friends of the Coeur d'Alene Trails

Advocates not resting as Senate blocks raid on top trails funding source

TRAILS — The U.S. Senate voted 60-38 to reject Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky) amendment to siphon the only dedicated source of funding for walking and biking trails into bridge repair projects.

“The amendment was opposed by both Democrats and Republicans, important news as we head into what is likely to be months of more attacks on the Transportation Enhancements program,” said Jake Lynch of the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

Transportation Enhancements funds have been the largest and most cost-effective source of funding for trails, walking and bicycling during the last 20 years.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has posted a short story on both the vote and the amendment.

“This current budget battle has the potential to dramatically alter everything from how we get around to our economic, environmental and personal health for decades to come,” said Lynch, who's based in Washington, D.C.

Follow the political threats to active transportation on the Rails-to-Trails Consevancy blog.

Last call: Hiawatha Trail closing for season Sunday

RAIL TRAILS – The popular Route of the Hiawatha Trail rail trail near Lookout Pass is scheduled to close for the season on Sunday, (Oct. 2).

‘State of Our Trails’ program set for Thursday

TRAILS– Efforts to maintain and develop some of the region’s standout trails will be presented at the annual “state of our trails” program organized by the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition Thursday, 6 p.m., at Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield in Spokane Valley.  (See map)

Groups and agencies will share information on what’s happening at Mount Spokane and Riverside state parks, Spokane County Parks and Conservation Futures areas, Spokane city parks and the Fish Lake rail trail.

Get a summary on area bicycle trails and river trails as well as the effort to secure a “Dream Trail” through the entire Dishman Hills area to the Iller Creek and Rocks of Sharon conservation areas.

Washington Trails Association members will update on volunteer trail work to improve routes in Iller Creek, Liberty Lake and the Colville National Forest.

Read on for a detailed list of the trails to be covered.

Ferry Country Rail Trail gets $17K windfall from Vedder’s uke

TRAILS — Today is a grand day for trails in northeastern Washington. In fact, it's a 17 Grand day.

The final eBay bid in the auction that ended today  was $17,100 for the ukulele Eddie Vedder has donated to the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners.

The gift from the Pearl Jam star will be a huge boost for the group that's trying to develop the abandoned railway trail that runs 25-miles from Republic along the Kettle River and Curlew Lake to the Canada border.

“Developing this trail has become a priority for a community that finds itself in the midst of both an economic and a public health crisis,” said Bob Whittaker, head of the rail-trail group who made the contact with Vedder. “Without question, a completed world class rail trail facility can be a big part of the long term solution specifically for these two issues.

“Eddie just called me to congratulate us, say that he was happy to be a part of it and wish Ferry County luck with its 30-mile rail trail project…  Big thank you to Eddie, Pearl Jam and the whole PJ management team for helping our community!”

The trail has it all: tunnels, a trestle across the north end of Curlew Lake, access to a state park and campgrounds, miles of tranquility along the river, a swimming beach and access to food, coffee and goodies in Curlew — and  safe way for local kids to commute to school and neighbors.  

For details, check out my story on the grass roots effort to push through the controversies and polish this gem in the rough.

Meantime, hats off to Vedder and all who made the auction possible. In the attached letter Vedder says the ukulele was used during the recording of his new solo album Ukulele Songs.


Route of the Hiawatha rail trail to open Saturday

BICYCLING – The Route of the Hiawatha near Lookout Pass will open Saturday for its 14th season, officials confirmed today.

 Lookout Pass Ski Area coordinates bus shuttles and bicycle rentals for the popular 15-mile rail trail that straddles the Montana-Idaho border.

The trail opened three weeks earlier last year when the mountains were not so loaded with snow.

The trail, which includes 10 tunnels and seven trestles as high as 230 feet, attracts visitors from around the world.

Crews have been working to clear snow from the trailhead at the east portal of the Taft Tunnel, which is the highest point of Route of the Hiawatha at 4,147 feet.

For details and bike rentals, call (208) 744-1301 or visit www.skilookout.com.

Read on for more details.

Fish Lake Trail mural marred by vandals

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TRAILS — Vandalism has marred a mural in the Fish Lake Trail tunnel less than two weeks after volunteers had put all but the finishing touches on the colorful farm-to-rail scenes.

Apparently on Friday night, a paint roller was used to write graffiti and ruin every panel on both sides of the tunnel near Marshall, said Dan Schaffer, who heads the friends group that stewards the trail.

Eastern Washington University art students had worked for weeks to design and outline the farm-and-railroad-themed mural. Volunteers ranging from kids to retired helpers showed up on May 14-15 to add color to the outline.

 The popular paved railroad right of way starts near Sunset Boulevard and Government Way and runs 7.4 miles to Scribner Road near Marshall.

Email tips that might lead to the perpetrator to the Fish Lake Trail friends group at traildan@comcast.net.

Tax-deductible contributions for repairing the mural can be sent to Inland Northwest Trails Coalition, PO Box 3331, Spokane WA 99220-3331.  (Dan Schaffer funded most of the first round, including artist fees, by himself.)

Info: traildan@comcast.net

Families encouraged to paint Fish Lake Trail mural

RAIL-TRAILS— Families chipped in for a kid-friendly event on Saturday and Sunday to add a splash of color to a tunnel on the Fish Lake Trail near Marshall and Scribner Road.

Families helped paint a mural designed by art students from Eastern Washington University and led by Tina Johnson, a senior in art history and studio painting.

Volunteer Dan Schaffer, working with the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition, organized the painting party as he continues to be a major influence in the development and enjoyment of this paved rail-trail.

The major trailhead in Spokane is at near the intersection of Sunset Highway and Government Way, behind the church on Milton Ave.

For information on volunteering for other Fish Lake Tail projects, contact Schaffer by email,  traildan@comcast.net.

Public invited to Trail of Coeur d’Alenes meeting

TRAILS — The commission that governs the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes — which stretches 72 miles from Mullan to Plummer —is having a meeting Thursday, and the public is invited. 

The meeting will start at 9 a.m. at the Heyburn State Park Visitor Center in Plummer.

An agreement between the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe establishes a partnership for the ownership, management and operation of the trail. Part of that called for a six-member commission to oversee trail management, a joint news release said.

Meetings are held twice per year.

Info: call the tribe at (208) 686-1800 or the Department of Parks and Recreation at (208) 769-1511.