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Landers: Camping is an educational event worth the misery

“If God wanted us to sleep on the ground, he wouldn’t have invented beds,” a man wrote.

Clearly this is a sickness that needs to be addressed, starting with education on the religious foundation of camping: God did not create furniture. God did create the ground, where campers sleep in order to fully appreciate a bed.

I would never put down people who don’t enjoy camping. It’s understandable that some consider a poison ivy rash unattractive while others may be too selfish to share their jelly sandwiches with ants.

Good campsites would be hard to find if everybody was looking for a place to pitch a tent.

But I feel sorry for people who dislike camping, especially if they have kids or grandkids. More here, Rich Landers, SR

I do  not have the words to tell you how much I LOATHE camping. How about you? Are you a happy camper?

Landers shocking solution to off-leash dogs

PUBLIC LANDS — I've been told by a reader/dog owner that by writing about my uncomfortable experience with loose dogs at Mount Spokane, in Sunday Outdoors, I'm paving a way for a ban on all dogs in the state park.

I disagree and suggest that people who disobey the park leash law could be leading the way to a dog ban. All it would take is one dog attack on a human or leashed pet to prompt a lawsuit that could cause a knee-jerk reaction that would lead to a ban on pets in parks.

I understand that people want to let their dogs loose. The issue is where they choose to do it.

I'm wondering if I could make a bundle of money by developing a cattle prod hiking stick. That way, if a loose dog persisted in threatening me or my on-leash dog, I could give it a quick shock to deter the immediate problem.

At the same time, I'd be delivering a lesson and an important training moment that might deter the dog from bothering the next person.


Lessons from rafting the Grand Canyon: for anglers

ADVENTURING — My recent multi-week winter rafting-hiking adventure on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon (see story here) prompts a few hints to people planning similar river trips as well as to anglers planning multi-day trips to places such as Alaska:

CARE FOR YOUR HANDS.  River trips suck the moisture out of your skin, especially your hands. I've come home with cracked, bleeding hands after week-long float-fishing trips in Alaska, my fingers so sore it was difficult to stuff a sleeping bag in its sack.

Colorado River rafters emphasize this point and recommend preventive treatment.  

Based on a recommendation from an experienced Canyon boater, I started using ProKera lotion (available at RiteAid stores) twice a day several days before we launched.  

During the trip, I wore paddling gloves as much as possible while on the boat and especially while loading and tending bow lines.

And I applied the extreme-care ProKera lotion two or three times a day. This is the kind of lotion (Tiger Balm also works well) that takes several minutes of rubbing to absorb into your hands. The time is well spent. My hands came out of the desert river trip in excellent condition.

Lessons from rafting the Grand Canyon: for groups

ADVENTURING — My recent multi-week winter rafting-hiking adventure on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon (see story here) with a private group prompts me to share some observations to people planning similar group river trips. For example:

BAG THE GROUP KITCHEN: If your trip is long and the group is larger than about six members, rafting guide Brian Burns recommends letting every rafter, couple or family bring and prepare their own meals on their own cooking equipment.

"The group kitchen thing can cause problems on trips longer than a week or so," he said. "People eat different quantities and have different food preferences and the chores can become a sense of friction if some people think others in the group are slacking."

And it can be a big bummer to get up at 5 a.m. on a bad-weather day to get the group meal going so the coffee's ready by 7 — especially if several in the group want tea.  

The do-it-yourself method worked beautifully on our Grand Canyon trip. It gave people time to chill on their own and then mingle as they wished during breakfast and dinner, sometimes sharing with the group treats such as cocktails, chocolate, smoked oysters and wine before and after mealtime.

Even after a couple weeks, the only person you could blame for inadequate food was yourself.

Landers returns from wild time in Grand Canyon

About 50 hours ago I snapped this photo after hiking out 10 miles and nearly a mile in elevation to the Grand Canyon's  South Rim Village.

I'd been rafting the Colorado River and exploring the side canyons for two weeks. But I had to leave my rafting buddies and return to Spokane as they continue downstream on one of the greatest 30-day adventures one can have in the USA.

Two things motivated me to put the pedal to the metal for the 1,240-mile return drive from the Canyon:

  • Shop-stuff, such as catching up on the news, preparing the next Spokesman-Review Sunday Outdoors package and updating my blog.
  • Being on time for tonight's dinner date with my Valentine, the beauty I kissed good-by on Jan. 27.

Stories to come.  Stay tuned.

Landers’ Recipe For A Skunked Dog

Any hunting dog with gift for finding birds also has a nose for trouble. It’s in the contract you accept when a pup joins your world. That’s why I’m always prepared for the day my bird dog sniffs the business end of a skunk. I’ve packed home dogs with broken legs, wounds from barbed-wire and snouts full of porcupine quills. Traumatic? Yes. Toxic? No. A dog that returns to the hunting rig after rolling in a steaming cow pie or wallowing in putrid roadkill is relatively pleasant compared to a cur that’s taken a full-bore load of skunk musk at close range/Rich Landers, SR. More here.

Question: Have you or one of your pets ever been hit by skunk musk at close range? What did you do?

Landers offers tip of the hat to Day Hikers

TRAILS — A humble thanks to the 200 people who packed into Mountain Gear tonight for my program about the great sport of  Day Hiking.

I said to heck with the Camelbak and had a beer afterward! 

I detailed many of the virtues of taking a hike in this Sunday Outdoors story.

The program was based on my two years of research for a new guidebook, Day Hiking Eastern Washington, which I've co-authored with Craig Romano.

I'll look forward to emails with questions and feedback about the presentation as well as questions you may have as after sampling the routes detailed in the book.

Even more, I'll look forward to seeing you on the trail.


Tonight: free Day Hiking program by trail guide author Rich Landers

TRAILS —  Join me to discuss the pleasures of Day Hiking - and a few places to enjoy them - during a free slide program tonight (May 2), 7 p.m., at the Mountain Gear retail store in Spokane.

The program is based on my two years of research for a new guidebook, Day Hiking Eastern Washington, which I've co-authored with Craig Romano.

Be ready to take the Day Hiker's Quiz.

New Dishman Hills trails

Gonzaga University student Derek Desrosier works a Pulaski on a trail in the Dishman Hills Natural Area in a project organized by the Dishman Hills Conservancy on April 21. He was among about 200 volunteers who showed up to help create a series of new trails. SR photo/Rich Landers

If you haven't had a chance to check out today's paper, let me bring to your attention a story by outdoors writer Rich Landers on the trails in the Dishman Hills Natural Area in Spokane Valley. Volunteers have been trying to decommission some old trails and at the same time creating several miles of new trails. But not everyone has gotten the message. People are removing the debris placed on the old trails and using them again. Read Rich's story to get the full details and see a map of the new trails.

Short Hike Are Cheap Elixir For Body

Heading out on a trail for a day or even a few hours is one of life’s simplest active pleasures. Craving fresh air, wildflowers, wildlife and healthy exercise? Taking a walk is the universal alternative whether you’re young or old, rich or poor. I look at day hiking as backpacking without the baggage – knee-friendly ventures that can be short and easy or long and challenging. Your choice. Day hiking has an attractive cost/benefit ratio compared with other means of venturing outdoors. It requires a minimal investment in equipment for traveling the widest variety of routes. Since day hikers often need little time for packing and planning, they have more time and incentive to discover new places/Rich Landers, SR. More here. (Rich Landers' SR photo: Bitterroots are delicate pink wildflowers that blossom from sparse rocky soil — sometimes sprouting in spring from well-traveled trails)

Question: What's your favorite place to day hike?

SR Blogs: Sandpoint Still Emerging

"Although I thought Sandpoint had arrived long ago," posts Rich Landers/Outdoors, "the North Idaho town has just been  named one of the nation’s 'top 10 emerging ski towns' in the March 2013 issue of  National Geographic’s Adventure magazine." More here.

Welcoming Rich Landers

So how do you welcome Spokesman-Review outdoors writer Rich Landers to his new spot in the newsroom? You use tape to put down an outline of a dead deer on the floor, of course. Someone who shall not be named took a little time out of his morning to put together this scene of outdoor mayhem.

Landers: Where To Go To See Moose

A reader emailed me today asking where he could bring a friend from out-of-state to see a moose. Most of us who live in this region take moose for granted.  We see them regularly, if not predictably. Seeing a moose for the first time would be a big deal for this reader and his friend.  But where to send them? I had a moose in my yard near Hangman Creek a few weeks ago, but I haven't seen hide nor hair of the bull since. Mike Miller of Spokane snapped a photo of this bull moose on Wednesday while dayhiking along the Little Spokane River. Just last year, moose were chasing dogs accompanying hikers in the Dishman Hills. I put out a few queries to Fish and Game officers. So far, they haven't come up with an area where you could regularly be likely to drive up and see a moose, although moose are being poached not far from I-90 near Cataldo/Rich Landers, SR Outdoors. More here.

DFO: Is there anyone out there beside me who hasn't seen a moose on the loose around town?

Question: Where would you tell a visitor to go, if s/he wanted to see a moose?

Fly Fishermen Can Always Improve

While fly fishing the Missouri River a few years ago, a friend of mine – close enough to be funny and frank at the same time – called from upstream and said, “Did anyone ever mention you cast like an old lady?”  “That comment is an insult,” answered another friend from downstream. “I don’t know any old ladies who cast that poorly.” Funny, but basically true. I’m adequate. I catch fish when I go fly fishing – sometimes more fish than my generously talented partners – but it’s not pretty. I’ve simply never made time to learn and practice proper fly-casting techniques/Rich Landers, SR. More here. (SR photo: Rich Landers)

Question: Fly fisherman or worm/bait fisherman?

Landers: Don’t Deify McClure Just Yet

The legend-making began quickly this week with news that former Idaho Sen. James McClure, 86, had died. Even in the case of a politician’s death, Americans have a natural inclination to soften edges, revise history and speak kindly of the deceased out of respect for families. But out of respect for the national forests that suffered McClure’s tenure, the record begs a brief reality check. Certainly he was a refreshing gentleman in contrast to the volatile politics we must endure today, yet McClure was not always an adherent of inclusiveness, as some suggested this week, nor was he a champion of the public interest. He jumped on the Reagan bandwagon in the early 1980s to support Interior Secretary James Watt and his in-your-face Sagebrush Rebellion plan to privatize public lands/Rich Landers, SR. More here.

Question: Should we ignore the clay feet of the dearly departed — in this case Sen. Jim McClure's weak environmental record?

Landers: Photo Of 8 Cougars Legit

A Wenatchee hunter has a right to be proud for his photo showing a pride of mountain lions on the Douglas County ranch where he has permission to hunt. The black and white trail-cam image, which shows EIGHT cougars in one spot (web readers click on “photos” above), has gone viral in Northwest websites and e-mail lists since he first released it to acquaintances on Christmas Day. (Complete Outdoors post & photos from Rich Landers here)

  • Wildlife enthusiasts were in awe of the scene, which few people will see in their lifetimes.
  • Alarmists were ready to take up arms against the lion onslaught on the Central Washington deer population.
  • Skeptics assumed it was just another Internet hoax – at best just a hungry pen of cougars in a zoo.
  • But a Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologist who received a CD of this photo and all of the hunter’s remote camera cougar images raised his eyebrows and called it, “a magnificent one-time observation; not unheard of, but it’s very rare.”

Question: Which category are you in re: photo? Wildlife enthusiast? Alarmist? Skeptic?

Landers: ‘Shoot’ Remark Was Unnerving

(Washington Fish & Wildlife Director Phil) Anderson conceded and politely summarized the saga of wolf reintroduction. He detailed how wolf hunting seasons in Montana and Idaho were canceled last fall by a federal lawsuit and how Washington is developing a wolf management plan. Pending a new court ruling, Anderson explained, wolves are federally protected as endangered species. Unless the law is changed, “we don’t have the authority to be shooting wolves,” he said. A response blurted out from the middle of the room: “Why don’t we shoot some legislators?” a man said. Several people gasped. Anderson stood speechless at the front of the room. A few men quietly commented “That’s not funny,” and “You can’t say that.” Anderson moved the meeting on, but the man’s phrase was a smoldering ember that needed to be doused/Rich Landers, SR. More here.

Question: Was this situation handled properly?

Rich: Wolf Encounter Memorable

A close encounter ranks among the most memorable outdoor experiences my wife, daughter and I have experienced together. But we weren’t alone and the wolves didn’t advance on us. Bold wolves are worth noticing. A lawsuit prevented the highly regulated wolf hunting season scheduled in Idaho this fall, a situation that’s been cheered and loathed.  I personally have little desire to shoot a wolf. But after interviewing some of the top wolf experts in the world last year, I’m convinced – as they are – that limited hunting would be good medicine for the wolf’s acceptance by our society, and it’s ultimate survival/Rich Landers, SR. More here.

Question: Do you agree with Rich’s opinion that limited hunting “would be good medicine for the wolf’s acceptance by our society, and it’s ultimate survival”?

Buck Loses Battle w/Lawn Ornament

Wisconsin whitetails apparently are willing to challenge any bull elk that come wandering into their turf during the rut. In an early November battle, a whitetail buck fought to the death with a 640-pound concrete elk lawn ornament. Both critters suffered serious damage. Outdoors writer Rich Landers provides the rest of the story here.

Lookout Pass To Open Friday

Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area is opening its lifts Friday to take advantage of 8 inches of fresh snow on a base up to 20 inches deep, Phil Edholm, ski area president announced minutes ago. “The majority of the front side of the mountain will be open with top to bottom skiing and riding off Chair 1 plus the beginner area,” he said, noting that coverage is good and snow was still falling at 11 a.m. today. Lifts will operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday with  reduced ticket rates, but full services. Additional lifts and terrain will be opened as conditions allow/Rich Landers, SR Outdoors Blog. More here.

Question: When do you usually strap on your skis for the first time during a snow season?

Another Green Monday

It was only a few Another Green Mondays ago when we heavily criticized President Obama for his lackadaisical approach to Copenhagen. He wouldn’t show up, in effect sending a xenophobic message to world leaders who understand the urgency of climate change. Next, we heard Obama was swinging by on his way to pick up the Nobel. Now, the story’s different. This time he’ll appear at Copenhagen on the last day, December 18th. A White House press release stated, “based on his conversations with other leaders and the progress that has already been made to give momentum to negotiations, the President believes that continued US leadership can be most productive through his participation at the end of the Copenhagen conference on December 18th rather than on December 9th. There are still outstanding issues that must be negotiated for an agreement to be reached, but this decision reflects the President’s commitment to doing all that he can to pursue a positive outcome. The United States will have representation in Copenhagen throughout the negotiating process by State Department negotiators and Cabinet officials who will highlight the great strides we have made this year towards a clean energy economy.”

This is very good news. Usually, the first days are reserved for handshakes, high-fiving, and protests. The most significant moment is at the end, and it appears a deal could be brokered. Perhaps Obama will be the closer. After all, ask any stand-up comedian, it’s not how you start but how you finish. But as the White House indicated, there has indeed been a shift in momentum despite skeptics foaming at the mouth while developing countries like India and China honor commitments. The whole world will have their eye on Copenhagen and we will too with a renewed sense of optimism, updating the site with the latest news.

Here are some stories you might’ve missed.