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Scotchman Peaks group plans hikes, trail work

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

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

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

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

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

Consider lending a hand.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness endorsed by Missoulian

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

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

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

Scotchman Peaks’ brewing support, time to toast

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonner County commissioners endorse Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duo completes first winter thru-hike of Pacific Crest Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chart: Region’s snowpack washing away

WINTERSPORTS — If you like snow, Go East!

The snow pack situation around the region is generally below average and continued to deteriorate with the unusually warm and wet pattern of late, says the National Weather Service in today's report. The only location that made some minor improvements was the Basin stretching from the north Cascades to Okanogan Highlands.

The Cascades are really hurting at this point.

But don't forget, March often has been a snow pack savior month.


Women’s Souper Bowl: stomping good time at Mount Spokane

WINTERSPORTS — Long before the big football game, a team of 300 ladies flocked to Mount Spokane today backed by a "12th man" support group handing out snowshoes, skis, food and prizes.

The 10th annual Women's Souper Bowl Snowshoe and X-Country Ski Day kicked off Super Sunday with good companionship and sometimes gaggles of giggles as groups trekking around the state park nordic trails put together poker hands for prizes before being served a soup-er lunch.

In 10 years, the event has raised more than $100,000 for the Women's and Children's Free Restaurant.

And as far as I could tell, they were having a blast doing the job.

Forest Service sets rule for oversnow vehicles

WINTERSPORTS — Just-released news of special interest to backcountry skiers and snowmobilers alike:

The U.S. Forest Service today released the final policy for managing snowmobile and other "over-snow" vehicle use on national forests and grasslands. As directed by court order, the policy requires that roads, trails and areas where over-snow vehicle use can occur be specifically designated by local Forest Service mangers. Previously, managers had the discretion to decide whether to designate specific areas for over-snow vehicle use.

Following are details in the agency's announcement:

"The Forest Service always seeks to provide a wide range of motorized and non-motorized recreational opportunities," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "This policy maintains community input and local decision-making so that those with knowledge of local areas can decide how to best balance natural resource issues with legitimate recreational uses of national forest land."

Many forests and grasslands currently have oversnow designations—more than 40 percent of national forests where snow depths can accommodate over-snow vehicles have guidance consistent with the final policy—and the agency has directed all remaining forest supervisors where the policy applies to make the providing local guidance a priority. The policy maintains the requirement that all designations must be made with public input as well as ensure protection of natural resources, such as water and soils and wildlife, while continuing appropriate recreational opportunities for over-snow and other recreational uses. The court's order ensures that the final policy also provides consistency across all forests and grasslands by requiring designation of areas where over-snow use is allowed.

The policy, scheduled to be published on Wednesday, Jan. 28 in the Federal Register, is formalized in 30 days. The Forest Service reviewed more than 20,000 comments on the proposed guidelines, which were published in June, 2014.

The best-known use of over-snow vehicles is recreation. However, over snow vehicles are also used for other purposes such as gathering firewood and subsistence hunting. Nationally, the U.S. Forest Service manages more than 200,000 miles of roads and 47,000 miles of trails that are open to motor-vehicle use. These roads and trails vary from single-track trails used by motorcycles to roads designed for high-clearance vehicles such as logging trucks.

The final policy will preserve existing decisions governing over-snow vehicle use that were made under previous authorities with public involvement; allow decisions for over-snow vehicle use to be made independently or in conjunction with decisions for other types of motor vehicle use; and local units will create over-snow vehicle use maps separate from use maps for other kinds of motor vehicles.

The mission of the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the Nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

Sign up: Women’s beginner snowshoeing clinic

WINTERSPORTS — Only a few spots left. Get on it, ladies.

REI Spokane has set a FREE Women's Snowshoe Basics class for Thursday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m.

Register here to save your seat.

Ski, snowshoe events set near Sandpoint

WINTERSPORTS — The Western Nordic Round, featuring races on cross-country skis plus snowshoeing events, is set for Jan. 24 at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, sponsored by the Sandpoint Nordic Club. Events will start at 9 a.m.

The snowshoeing events of 5k and 10k are for fun or serious competition, since the races are qualifiers for the National Snowshoe Race in Wisconsin.

Nordic skiers can chose for 5k or 10 events in skating or classic divisions.


While the nordic events would be canceled on the chance that snow conditions are not adequate, the snowshoe events will be held snow or no snow because they are national qualifiers, said event spokeswoman Jennifer Macdonald.

The courses will be set on the gentle terrain of the Meadow trails and will be groomed with skate and classic tracks.

Registration, $20 (includes WPGR trail fee);  kids age 12 and under, free.

There will also be a 5 or 10K snow shoe race taking place at the same time so there is fun for the whole family!

Register at  www.sandpointnordic.com or at  www.active.com.

Hikers halfway on winter thru-hike of PCT

HIKING — Shawn Forry if Midpines, Calif., and Justin Lichter of Truckee, Calif., are attempting to be the first to complete a documented thru-hike of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail during winter.

Having started in Canada in late October, they're near Lake Tahoe this week, more than halfway toward their destination at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Pacific Crest Trail Association blogger Jack "Found" Haskel. They hope to finish in April.

"They’ve walked so far that the metal on their snowshoes is wearing thin," Haskel reports. "Soon, they’ll switch to skis."

From frostbite and drenching rain to friendships and stunning and quiet landscapes, their journey is remarkable. The feat requires skill, experience in snow-camping and winter travel plus avalanche awareness, and some luck. Many experts say it's crazy and dangerous.

Lichter, a ski patroller, has more than 35,000 miles of backcountry experience around the world and Forry more than 15,000 miles, according to the  Reno Gazette-Journal. The two also completed a 150-mile ski-and-hike trip last year between the Sonora Pass and Mammoth Lakes.

The light snowfall that plagued the region's ski areas in the early season was a boon to the PCT hikers, who've been snowshoeing 20-mile days since Christmas.

One of the pluses of hiking the PCT, say's Lichter, is then when they take a rest day or resupply, they can nab a motel room at cheap winter rates.

Scotchman Peaks Wilderness group optimistic, plans activities

PUBLIC LANDS — The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness based in North Idaho and Western Montana is celebrating the group's 10th anniversary on a high note this month. 

Recent passage of the Montana Heritage Act indicates that Congress is able — and even somewhat willing — to designate Wilderness, says FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton.

The group has not yet succeeded in winning official wilderness designation for the 88,000-acre roadless area that straddles the Idaho-Montana border. But since the group was founded in 2005, it's attracted nearly 5,000 "friends," Compton said.

“Our new commission in Bonner County is very supportive,” said FSPW executive director Phil Hough, who's based in Sandpoint. “We’ve worked hard in our two Western Montana counties to gain support in a number of ways, including opening an office in Libby and helping create the Lincoln County Prosperity Forum Series."

  • The 10th anniversary celebration will begin in Sandpoint, Friday, Jan. 9, with live music, silent-auction and picnic-style food at Tango Café in the Columbia Bank. Get tickets here.
  • The FSPW  schedule of winter group hikes begins on Jan. 11 with an easy-to-moderate snowshoe trek up Lightning Creek.
  • March events in Troy and Thompson Falls will feature author and historian Jack Nisbet speaking on David Thompson’s explorations of the Kootenai and Clark Fork valleys in the early 1800s.

Stewardship has joined wilderness advocacy in the group's approach to securing protection for the peaks that overlook Lake Pend Oreille and the Clark Fork River. 

FSPW volunteers and staff have contributed hundreds of hours of work to:

  • Build or improve Scotchman Peak Trail 65 and Star Peak Trail 999.
  • Monitor weeds, conduct multi-day white bark pine surveys, work on stream restoration and assist with trailside tree planting for the national forest “Treasured Landscape” program.
  • Coordinate summer hike programs for adults as well as for young children.
  • Assist wolverine researchers by setting and monitoring remote camera stations in Idaho and Montana.
  • Create a Winter Tracks program to teach tracking skills and wildlife monitoring methods to area youth, including kids from Spokane.
  • Plan summer 2015 trail projects on the lower portion of the Scotchman Peak Trail and continue to work on trails in Lightning Creek.

Snowshoers didn’t miss First Night fireworks

WINTERSPORTS — Snowshoers walked into 2015 by making first tracks in Mount Spokane State Park.

Holly Weiler led a group of six Spokane Mountaineers on Wednesday to celebrate New Years Eve on the summit, where they watched Spokane fireworks.  The group romped in the darkness with snowshoe hares, returning to the parking area around 1:30 a.m.

It was a short night for Weiler, who returned to Mount Spokane at 10 a.m. Thursday to co-lead a group of 25 for the state park's First Day snowshoe trek.

A couple of hikers went to the summit while most of the group made tracks to the CCC cabin over a five-mile loop back to the parking area.

Cris Currie of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park, who co-led the First Day snowshoe trek, says skiers and snowhoers should find excellent snow conditions in the park this weekend.

After touring the Trails 110-140 loop on Wednesday, he said skiing/snowshoeing was great. "Plenty of snow on the trail, but off trail still needs another foot or so. The loop is all tracked with no significant dead fall."

The upper creek crossing is still a pain, he said, but a fix for that could be addressed this year.



Clinics help snowshoers walk the walk

WINTERSPORTS — A long list of services and events is forming this winter to help more snowshoers get on the trail.

Mount Spokane Rentals

Through the winter season, new snowshoe and nordic ski rental service is available at Mount Spokane State Park nordic ski area next to Selkirk Lodge and the Mount Spokane nordic ski trails.

Fitness Fanatics has a trailer full of gear to rent, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursdays-Mondays during the winter season. Washington Sno-Park permits also are available.

Rent gear in advance by calling the Spokane Valley store, (509) 922-6080.

Best Hand Fun Ski and Snowshoe

On Jan. 3, the 24th annual fun event at Fourth of July Pass sponsored by the Panhandle Nordic Club in conjunction with Idaho's Free Ski Day, when the state Park N Ski vehicle sticker requirement is waived. Check in starting at 10 a.m., and then take off at your own pace at 11:30 a.m.  Prizes and refreshments provided. The event is a fundraiser for the club, which maintains the winter trails at the pass.

REI Snowshoeing Basics 

On Jan. 6 at 7 p.m., a free primer on snowshoeing by the store's staff covering gear selection and where to go.

Pre-register at www.rei.com/spokane.

REI Skijoring Basics 

On Jan. 8 at 7 p.m., learn about skijoring, a winter sport in which a person wearing skis is drawn dog-sled style over snow by one or more dogs. 

Pre-register at www.rei.com/spokane.

Spokane Nordic Winterfest,

On Jan. 11,  Spokane Nordic is celebrating cross-country skiing and other winter sports at Mount Spokane's Cross-Country Ski Park.

Sign up for activities at www.spokanenordic.org.

Holiday rental bargain

On Jan.17-19 — Mountain Gear is offering a deal — a 50-pecent discount on snowshoe rentals — during the Martin Luther King week.  A free Snowshoeing 101 clinic is set for 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 16, at the retail store, 2002 N. Division.

Info: 325-9000.

Women's Souper Bowl

On Feb. 1, the 10th annual snowshoeing or nordic skiing event at Mount Spokane State Park will benefit the Women and Children's Free Restaurant. Snow-shoes, guided treks, prizes and a fabulous lunch provided.

Pre-register: www.souperbowlspokane.org.

Finally, Mt. Spokane to open; all area ski resorts operating

WINTERSPORTS — Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park has announced it will open for the first time this season on Wednesday — Christmas Eve. Although the base is thin — just 7 inches at the lodge — more snow is in the forecast.

That means all of Inland Northwest ski resorts will be open through the holidays.

Snowshoe hut looks lonesome on brown ground

WINTERSPORTS —  Brown-earth-weary skiers, boarders and snowshoers aren't giving up hope in Idaho.

"The snowshoe hut is ready for the season," reports Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Club after rigging up the warming structure on the Fourth of July pass winter trail system and installing the wood-burning stove.  "All we need now is snow."

The club's 24th annual "Best Hand Fun Ski and Snowshoe" event is set for Jan. 3 at the pass in conjunction with Idaho's Free Ski Day, when the state Park N Ski vehicle sticker requirement is waived.

Check in at Fourth of July Pass starting at 10 a.m. Then take off at your own pace at 11:30 a.m.  Prizes and refreshments provided.

The event is a fundraiser for the club, which maintains the winter trails at the pass.

"The event is a go no matter what the conditions are," said Jim McMillen, club president.  "We expect snow but if there isn't any, we'll go for a hike."

Photo: Area winter resorts still begging for snow

WINTERSPORTS — "It was 57 degrees at 9 p.m. Tuesday" at the Mt. Spokane Ski Area chairlift — and barely any snow in sight at the base, reports local outdoorsman Ken Vanden Heuvel. (See photo above from the Mt. Spokane web cam).

2014 will rank among the slowest starts to the ski and snowboard seasons at area winter resorts.

Stay tuned to the ski reports.

Check out Web cam links for ski areas and highways around the region at Spokesman.com/outdoors.

Spots available for tonight’s free avalanche class at REI

WINTERSPORTS — Don't miss this chance to be prepared for the winter backcountry travel season.

At last check, there were at least 15 spots available for tonight's FREE Avalanche Awareness workshop at the Spokane REI Store, 1125 N Monroe St.

The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education Avalanche Awareness Workshop is for any winter backcountry traveler, whether you ski, snowshoe, snowboard or snowmobile.

Recognition of avalanche danger is an essential and potentially lifesaving skill.

This session introduces and explains where and why avalanches occur and provides a basic approach to managing risk in the backcountry.

Learn to access local avalanche bulletins and weather reports, recognize basic signs of avalanche danger, and learn simple ways to help avoid avalanche danger.

Nordic ski, snowshoe rentals available at Mount Spokane

WINTERSPORTS — A new rental service for cross-country skis and snowshoes is officially debuting today at Mount Spokane State Park.

Fitness Fanatics, based at 12425 E. Trent Ave., will have a trailer full of gear to rent, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursdays-Mondays during the winter season. The trailer is next to Selkirk Lodge and the Mount Spokane nordic ski trails.

Fitness Fanatics owner Robin Deruwe said Sno-Park passes and snacks will be sold and snowshoeing maps will be available.

The center will have classic and skate gear for adults and kids, as well as hats, gloves and waxes, she said.

Nordic skis and snowshoes can be reserved by calling the store, (509) 922-6080.

Snowshoeing event Dec. 7

The annual Snowshoe Stomp, Spokane’s only snowshoe event, is set for Sunday, Dec. 7, at Mount Spokane State Park, sponsored by Fitness Fanatics.

It's a day of racing, training and just simply snowshoeing for fun.

Transportation will be available from Mt. Spokane High School on a first come, first serve basis.

$25 for Individual Participant (Includes one beanie)*
$50 for family of four (Parent and child combo; Includes 2 beanies; Option to purchase more beanies)*
*Add $10 if pay at the event

Click HERE to Register

Volunteers needed for Mount Spokane trail bridge project

TRAILS — They're at it again on Mount Spokane.

Volunteers who built a bridge over Burping Brook last year on the Mount Spokane State Park trails up from the Lower Mount Kit Carson Loop Road are building more bridges that will be especially helpful to spring hikers and winter snowshoers.

A four-day bridge-building work party starts Friday at Mount Spokane. Holly Weiler of the Washington Trails Association is coordinating helpers for the construction.

You can still sign up on the WTA website to join the work party.

The bridges will be useful to snowshoers using the new winter hut, also being finished by volunteers this summer.

Snowshoeing hut shapes up at Mount Spokane

WINTERSPORTS — Volunteers are putting finishing touches on the new winter shelter primarily geared for snowshoers at Mount Spokane State Park.

The hut is 1.25 miles up the Lower Kit Carson Loop Road from the hairpin curve parking lot.

Cris Currie of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park focused last weekend to painting the hut's interior, and there are several more projects to finish.

"It was a wonderful 73 degrees up there and really peaceful," he said.

To help with the volunteer effort, contact Currie by email, criscurrie22@gmail.com.

ANOTHER PROJECT seeking volunteers is a four-day bridge-building work party starting Friday at Mount Spokane not far from this cabin. Holly Weiler of the Washington Trails Association is coordinating helpers to build more bridges over Burping Brook and tributaries, much like the bridge that was much appreciated last winter by snowshoers in the area.


Volunteers working on Mount Spokane snowshoe hut

STATE PARKS — A hut geared primarily for snowshoers at Mount Spokane is well on its way to being completed for the next winter season.

Nora Searing, above, and Cris Currie of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park were working on the hut Thursday, as Nora painted the stair railings.

"Afterwards I had a scenic little hike all by myself up Trail 140, while Cris continued to work," she said, making a perfect day of work and pleasure.

Says Cris, who heads the Friends group:

The volunteer project to finish the snowshoe hut at Mt. Spokane is up and running. Today, volunteers painted the first coat on 3 sides and we've made lots of progress insulating the floor. I'm planning to work on it next Thursday through Sunday, so if you would like to help, please let me know what days you are available. If it's showery weather, we'll paint inside, and if not, we'll do the 2nd exterior coat. Three to five people each day would be perfect. It's also not too early to start getting firewood if anyone is so inclined. I could also use a couple more carpenters for the more technical work like the deck railing, the ADA ramp, the wood shed, and the interior siding and window trim. We also need someone to make a table and benches out of a really nice white pine I found in the nordic area. It has been ripped into rough cut lumber and drying since last August. This place is going to be soooo nice when it's all done!!!

Most nordic routes groomed at 4th of July Pass

WINTER SPORTS — Here's today's grooming report for Fourth of July Pass cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails from Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Club:

The last warm system that passed through condensed the dryer snow from Sunday and Monday and dropped a little new wet snow.  The result was 8 - 10 inches of wet snow on the established base of all runs. All trails that we groom were groomed with the exception of Tree Top View and Loose Moose. Double track was set on the Inner Core Trails with a skate lane between. The outer trails (Skywalker, Moonrunner, the Eagle Run, Skateaway and Elderberry) have a single track set at the side to accommodate a wide skate lane. Because the snow was so wet maneuvering the groomers was a challenge  on some turns.  As a result some widely taken corners resulted in one of the two lanes being damaged and some groves in places. 

Wet snow is more of a challenge to groom.  Since it is forecast to turn off cold, we did not pack Loose Moose.  It is better to have broken snow on this steep run as compared to a packed surface that can freeze up and become exceedingly difficult to ski.  Elderberry has a single track to near the benches and packed snow machine tracks on to Ian's hut. We were able to remove to trees from the cut across trail before chainsaw trouble spared for another day the "jackpot" of four trees. The trail is a work in progress, but in most places can be skied or walked. 

Dogs leaving their mark on Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — The trend toward more dogs, linked to the growing popularity of snowshoeing, is getting easier to track at Mount Spokane State Park.

And sometimes you might track it into your car.

Snowshoer Warren D. Walker posted several photos of dog poop he observed while hiking the mountain on Monday, noting that there are plenty of similar photo opps and the trend is dramatic and disgusting.  

Part of the problem is people who violate the state park leash law while others neglect to bring bags to clean up after their pets. Says Walker:

It is a STATE PARK - not a DOG PARK:
Pictures from today - even one at the top of Mt Kit Carson.
I understand your love of animals - but it can not be that hard to pick up after your dog. We are in a State Park - a public place and on a trail used by many - so out of respect and courtesy for others using the trail please pick up after your dog.
Having a dog inside the State Park is a privilege - not a right.

4th of July Pass nordic trails groomed

WINTER SPORTS — Snowshoers and cross-country skiers have some decent opportunities this week at Fourth of July Pass.  Here's today's grooming report from Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Club:

Glen Truscott and I groomed a good deal of the Area today.  The Inner Loop has some good stretches of snow now packed with track set, but there are icy spots in a few places and a bare patch on the Swoop.  The good snow is up the Twisted Klister  (Snowshoeing) and Skywalker - Moonrunner (FSR 614) (skking) especially  above Skateaway on this latter route their is a foot plus of snow with only a few thin places out to Rose Saddle.  Unfortunately, somebody circumvented the berm IDT built at the bottom and drove the length of the road to Rose Creek Saddle and a ways down Skateaway where the gate was opened.. Glenn and I did our best to reduce the ruts but it will take either a snowfall, not predicted until next week at the earliest or grooming with the scarifier that will redistribute the snow.  We will attempt to get this done next Friday (1/24).  Grooming is in place along the route and tracks set,.  The gate is now closed so no additional damage is anticipated. This snow above Skateway is better than any I saw at Palouse Divide this weekend.

Fire lookouts a high prize for winter trekkers

WINTER SPORTS — Looking for a winter trek to a somewhat cozy room with a view:

Here's a photo my daughter emailed to me from her recent backcountry ski trek to Winchester Lookout near Bellingham.  That's Mount Baker in the background.  Not a bad backdrop, even if you didn't have the additional eye candy featuring miles and miles of the North Cascades.

Mount Spokane snowshoers revel in perfect conditions

WINTER SPORTS — Although skiers would prefer a nice dump of new snow to soften the slopes, conditions were perfect for snowshoers exploring Mount Spokane from top to bottom today: firm footing, sunny skies and not a breath of wind on the summit.

4th of July Pass ski-snowshoe event cancelled

WINTER SPORTS — Packed ice on trails is a safety issue throughout the region where the snow cover is especially thin. 

The 23rd annual Best Hand Fun Ski and Snowshoe Event set for Saturday, Jan. 4, at 4th of July Pass has been canceled because of treacherously icy conditions, said Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club.

Usually the club has a plan to walk the trails for the event in the case of thin snow cover, but not this year, Harvey said today:

Glenn Truscott and Van Bennett went up to 4th of July. They reported that you can't drive or walk on the parking lot, much less the trail.  Jim, Carol and Geoff talked and decided the best thing would be to cancel Best Hand Fun Ski. Geoff and Glenn will get a sign up so that people don't even try to enter the parking lot as they may not get out. We plan to reschedule.

Another snowshoe trail marked on Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — Yesterday I noted two snowshoeing trails recently marked on Mount Spokane for all to follow.

Today, snowshoer Warren D. Walker announced that another route has been flagged (tape to be removed at end of season).  Here's his notice:

New OFF-TRAIL option to hike to Bald Knob.

A winter trail is marked (flagged) from Trail 100 up to Bald Knob (dashed line on map). The route is approximate – and goes cross country. Just follow the engineer tape. This completes a loop trail to Bald Knob – or as an alternate return route from the CCC Cabin to the parking lot. The double tape is the trail head as seen From Trail 100 - just beyond the first creek drainage - just look uphill.

The printable map of snowshoeing routes on the Friends of Mount Spokane website was recently updated.