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Mount Spokane nordic trails clogged with blowdowns

TRAILS — Many of the region's trails are littered with blowdown trees after the Nov. 17 wind storm, and the most desperate situation is at Mount Spokane, where the 60 kilometers of cross-country ski trails are virtually clogged with timber.

Volunteers organized by the Spokane Nordic Ski Association were on the trails Saturday, busy with chainsaws and even a front loader. But much more needs to be done before a state park groomer could take advantage of any snow that might be coming.

Stay tuned for another volunteer opportunity coming up soon.

Burn off turkey dinner with Dishman Hills guided hike

TRAILS — Take a nature break on the day after Thanksgiving with a guided group walk suitable for families through the Dishman Hills Natural Area.

Jeff Lambert, Dishman Hills Conservancy executive director, will lead a hike of 2-3 miles at a moderate pace while identifying geological and natural features of the area.

The Dishman Hills will provide a free trail map and REI coupons to the first 30 people who arrive.

Meet at 10 a.m. at the Dishman Hills Natural Area winter parking lot at 320 S. Sargent Road in Spokane Valley.

Bring water and sturdy shoes. Note: The upper parking lot and bathrooms are closed.

Info: Jeff Lambert at 999-5100.

Centennial Trail friends donate $20K to Nine Mile extension

TRAILS — Friends of the Centennial Trail reports making a $20,000 matching funds gift to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission for the Centennial Trail extension in Nine Mile Falls. The funds are generated by donations and the annual Spokane Bike Swap.

The Northwest Extension will add nearly two miles of separated trail from Sontag Park to the Nine Mile Falls Recreation Area, the group says. The project launched in October and will be completed in spring, 2016.

Here's more info from the Friends:

The gift was donated from the Trail Builder's Fund of Friends of the Centennial Trail, created to provide community-based funding for trail completion and enhancement projects. Major sources of donations to the Trail Builder's Fund are private, designated gifts and proceeds from the annual Spokane Bike Swap & Expo, held the first Saturday of April. In the past four years, $98,000 in Bike Swap proceeds have been invested in the Trail Builder's Fund.
"Your Spokane River Centennial Trail has been a source of community pride, enjoyment and free recreation for 25 years," noted Executive Director Loreen McFaul. There is great synergy right now to complete its gaps, upgrade the asphalt surface and make it easier to navigate. It is thanks to membership support, Adopt-a-Mile partnership and Spokane Bike Swap & Expo attendance and participation that the Trail Builder's Fund can make impact gifts and help move projects along."
The Northwest Extension will bring trail users to the Nine Mile Falls Recreation Area on Lake Spokane, owned by Avista and managed by Riverside State Park, approximately 39 miles from the Washington/Idaho state line. And, with the additional 24 miles in Idaho, Centennial Trail users can enjoy over 60 miles of trail "book-ended" by lakes and following the Spokane River, with Lake Coeur d'Alene on the east and Lake Spokane on the northwest.

Ferry County rail trail upgraded; online auction boosts effort

TRAILS — An online auction is underway for a longboard signed by guitarist Eddie Vedder and other rockers to raise funds for the continuing effort to develop the Ferry County Rail Trail.

The trail is a scenic 28.5-mile non-motorized route on an abandoned railway along the Kettle River from Republic north to Canada.

The eBay auction runs to about 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The custom-made longboard is a collector's item signed by Pearl Jam's Vedder plus Tony Hawk Flea, Michael Stipe and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Trail advocate Bobby Whittaker says 100 percent of the auction proceeds will go directly to the current trail surfacing improvement project and will be matched dollar for dollar with funding from the Washington State Recreation & Conservation Office.

"The improvements will happen in the spring," said Whittaker, of the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners. "We are thrilled the surfacing will make the trail smooth and very user friendly from the Curlew School north along the Kettle River to the tunnel and from the Curlew Lake trestle south the full length of the lake, about 6 miles, to the Herron Creek Road trailhead. That's a lot of waterfront for everyone to enjoy."

Volunteers have been active this year, securing grant funding and rolling up their sleeves for projects ranging from redecking the trestle over the Kettle River north of Curlew Lake to the current effort for trail resurfacing.

A four year $8,000 grant was secured this fall from The Great Northern Railway Historical Society to provide for four interpretive historical signs.

"Using grants from the Washington state Recreation and Conservation Office, development continues on the rail trail to create a world-class community asset and a proven tourist attraction," Whittaker said.

A grant has enabled the group to surface 3.2 miles along Curlew Lake and the group recently has been awarded another $192,000 from RCO for Phase 3 improvements to surface the rest of the stretch along the scenic fishing lake and state park.

A paved connection to the rail trail called the Golden Tiger Trail runs 2.5 miles from Republic.  The trailhead, which is across Highway 20 from the Fairgrounds, has a vault toilet and parking funded by a state Department of Transportation grant.

"There is still one very sandy, raw segment of the Golden Tiger from the end of the paving north to Herron Creek," Whittaker said. 

A TIMELINE of Ferry County Rail Trail milestones follows:

  • 2006 - Bob Whittaker arranges for nationally recognized rail banking attorney Charles Montange to assist the Ferry County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) in negotiating a rail banking agreement with Kettle Falls International Railway (KFR) on a pro bono basis.
  • 2008 - Ferry County Rail Trail Partners (FCRTP) receives 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Their mission is to preserve the rail corridor for the long term economic benefit of Ferry County and create a non-motorized trail.
  • Dec. 15, 2008 - BOCC signs rail banking agreement with KFR.
  • 2009 - FCRTP surveys adjacent landowners with a simple “motorized/non-motorized” mail-in questionnaire. Of 100 respondents 86 favor a non-motorized trail and 14 favor motorized.
  • Feb. 17, 2009 - BOCC passes Resolution 2009-06 “Rail Corridor Interim Management Plan” which provides for rules of the non-motorized rail corridor.
  • April 17, 2009 - BOCC passes Resolution 2009-26 amending Resolution 2009-06 which creates the Ferry County Recreational Trails Committee and appoints 5 motorized advocates and 4 non-motorized advocates as members.
  • Summer 2009 - BOCC agrees to include an advisory ballot measure on the November 2009 general election.
  • Nov. 3, 2009 - General Election results on advisory ballot measure are over 60% favor non-motorized trail.
  • March 1, 2010 - BOCC passes Resolution 2010-03 Amending Resolution 2009-26 Rail Corridor Committee Bylaws. The committee name is changed to Ferry County Rail Corridor Committee (RCC) and designates the rail-trail right-of-way from Herron Creek Road north to the Danville Bridge as being “multi-use non-motorized only.”
  • Aug. 23, 2010 - BOCC passes Ordinance 2010-04 “Rail Corridor Interim Management Plan” provides for changes related to the results of the 2009 ballot measure.
  • Oct. 23, 2010 - RCC awarded one year assistance grant by the National Park Service’s River, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. This grant will provide personnel who will help the RCC with developing Ferry County’s Concept Plan for the rail-trail. This RCC is subsequently awarded a one year extension of this grant.
  • Nov. 11, 2010 - RCC presents Ferry County’s grant application to the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of the Northeast Washington Regional Transportation Planning Organization (NEWRTPO.) This grant will provide for decking of the trestle over the north end of Curlew Lake.
  • Dec. 15, 2010 - Ferry County is awarded a $100,000 grant through NEWRTPO. The grant is provided by the Federal Highway Administration Transportation Enhancement Program (TA.) This application is under the categories that provide funding for bicycle and pedestrian facilities and the preservation of abandoned railways.
  • Nov. 21, 2011 - BOCC passes Resolution 2011-06: ADA rules for non-motorized trails.
  • April 16, 2012 - BOCC passes Resolution 2012-07: Rail Corridor Noxious Weed Control Agreement.
  • April 23, 2012 - BOCC passes Resolution 2012-09 endorsing the Ferry County Rail-Trail Concept Plan.
  • April 23, 2012 - BOCC passes Resolution 2012-10 Authorizing Resolution for Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) grant application 12-1654.
  • June 2012 - RCC applies for RCO grant on behalf of Ferry County. Phase 2 Grant #12-1654D will provide for application of crusher fines to 2.85 miles of the trail from the trestle south along the west side of Curlew Lake to provide a trail surface that meets ADA guidelines. This will include $30,000 in cash donations from Kinross and FCRTP and $5,000 in donated labor and equipment for a total budget of $70,000.
  • June 2013 - RCC, on behalf of Ferry County, applies for and is awarded an additional $100,000 for the trestle decking and gravel surfacing project through NEWRTPO.
  • Aug. 2013 - Goldline Construction is awarded contract for trestle decking project with a bid of $163,919.
  • April 26, 2014 - Ribbon cutting ceremony for Curlew Lake trestle decking project completion
  • April 28, 2014 - BOCC passes Resolution 2014-08 Authorizing Resolution for RCO grant application #14-1677D.
  • May 2014 - RCO notifies county that they have been awarded funding of $70,000 for grant #12-1654D. Work is scheduled to be completed by September 2015. BOCC signs agreement with the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board.
  • Aug. 2014 - RCC presents RCO Phase 3 grant application #14-1677D. The total budget for this grant is $197,000 which will include completing surfacing along Curlew Lake south to Herron Creek Rd., installation of a vault toilet at Black’s Beach and surfacing from the tunnel north of Curlew south to at least Lundimo Meadow Road. Ranking results and anticipated state budget indicate an excellent chance of being awarded this grant.
  • June 2015 – Ferry County is approved for Phase 3 funding of RCO grant #14-1677D.
  • May 2015 – Phase 2 surfacing project completed along Curlew Lake including the section from the east side of the trestle to Kiwanis Rd. parking area for a total of 3.2 miles. Phase 2 access control and signage was installed during the summer of 2015. This project was completed with over $35,000 in donated labor, equipment and materials which met Ferry County’s entire match commitment.
  • Sept. 2015 – Ferry County Rail Trail Partners receives four year $8,000 grant from The Great Northern Railway Historical Society. This grant will provide for four interpretive historical signs.
  • Oct. 2015 – Phase 3 grant agreement for RCO project #14-1677D signed.

Zombies to haunt Riverside State Park trail

TRAILS – The fourth annual Return of the Zombies hike is set for Saturday, Oct. 24, on “the scariest half-mile hike ever” in Riverside State Park.

Visitors of all ages can hike the half-mile haunted trail between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. as a fundraiser for the Riverside State Park Foundation.

The event is set at the park’s Seven-Mile Airstrip, 7903 W. Missoula Road, at Nine Mile Falls.

Admission: $10 for adults; $5 for youths age 3-12, free for kids under 3.

The Washington Discover Pass is not needed on vehicles for this event.

Adults are issued a flashlight and kids ages 3 to 12 receive a glow-in-the-dark bracelet.

Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Pets are not allowed.

Volunteer “zombies” provide the scary atmosphere. Participants should be prepared to walk over uneven terrain and wear comfortable shoes and warm clothing. Organizers will be selling Zombie Hike Shirts. Volunteer Zombies are still being sought.

Info: Cherie Gwinn, 465-5066 or cherie.gwinn@parks.wa.gov.

Trail helpers needed Sunday at Mount Spokane

TRAILS — Washington Trails Association volunteers will wrap up their season of re-routing and upgrading Trail 160 at Mount Spokane State Park on Sunday.

The popular route for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians leads to an overlook of the Spokane Valley on Mount Kit Carson. 

Volunteers will meet at the snowmobile parking lot at 8:30 a.m. Sign up at wta.org

Seeing red over dog poop? Oregon town paints it orange

PETS OUTDOORS — Students and veterinarians in Corvallis, Oregon, have a bright idea for raising awareness of the amount of dog poop pet walkers are leaving around parks and wild areas. 

They're painting it orange and leaving it to make a point.

They're on to something. From what I've seen around Spokane, in natural areas and Riverside State Park trailheads, the number of people hiking with dogs is mushrooming while the problem of people not picking up after their pets is growing into an epidemic.

Here's a report on the Oregon project from the Associated Press.

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) – For the last three weeks, it’s been difficult for anyone walking McDonald Forest trails not to notice the countless mounds of dog poop littering the trails and walkways. And it wasn’t just because of the smell; orange poop is kind of hard to miss.

On Saturday, volunteers set about picking up all of the piles of poop that were previously spray painted orange with a construction-grade paint to make the poop stand out. About 20 volunteers picked up around 1,000 piles of poop at Oak Creek, Peavy Arboretum, Lewisburg Saddle and Calloway Creek trail.

The orange poop is part of a new public information campaign from the Oregon State University College of Forestry and local veterinarians aimed at bringing awareness to the amount of waste that – in addition to being unsightly and smelly – is causing potential ecological problems.

“We’ve been getting dozens of complaints from people noticing the increasing amount of poop on the trails and it’s been getting worse the last couple of years,” said Ryan Brown, recreation and engagement program manager for OSU Research Forests. “We’re all dog lovers and dog owners and walkers of these trails and we know the opportunity to have dogs out here is super important to the community of Corvallis. And 99 percent of them are really careful and clean up after their dogs. But we want people to be aware that this is causing a lot of problems.”

While some community members have argued that dog poop is natural and can act as a fertilizer, local veterinarians and professors with the OSU College of Forestry say the dog poop has caused serious ecological issues along the trails and in the forests themselves.

“There are stream ecology studies happening in the waterways along Oak Creek and anything that gets into the water can drastically change the ecology,” Brown said. “That isn’t natural and it can really throw off the health of the streams and cause certain organisms to grow that aren’t natural to the area.”

Veterinarian Sharon Forster-Blouin, who owns and runs Corvallis Cat Care, volunteered for the campaign after picking up after her own dog on the trail and hearing arguments that the dog poop was natural.

“I had someone say to me while I was picking it up that I was picking up valuable fertilizer the forest needs,” she said. “I said, `no, I’m trying to keep you and your dog from getting horrible viruses and keeping it from contaminating the waterway.“’

Forster-Blouin, who holds a master’s degree in zoology and parasitology, said dog poop can carry dozens of parasites including roundworm, hookworm, tapeworms, whipworms, coccidia, glardia and cryptosporidium. In addition to being a veterinarian and dog owner, Forster-Blouin volunteers to pick up the poop from the Oak Creek trail. She regularly picks up more than 80 pounds of dog poop from the half-mile trail each month.

“It is not natural for there to be this much poop in one small area along our creeks and our forests,” she said.

Forster-Blouin is convinced that more people in Corvallis would pick up after their dogs if they were aware of the ecological and public health problems.

“The thing that I find to be interesting is that there is no human litter. People in Corvallis are environmentally aware and care about where they live and they don’t litter on these trails,” she said. “But I don’t think they realize that dog stool is litter.”

Brown said she’s hopeful that even if people disagree with the environmental and sanitary concerns shared by volunteers, researchers, dog lovers and veterinarians alike, they would pick up after their dogs for another tough-to-miss reason.

“It stinks. In the summertime we get a lot of complaints from people who won’t walk these trails anymore because there is so much poop,” she said. “I mean, it’s gross.”

Officials get earful on John Wayne Trail closure proposal

TRAILS — It was weeds versus we the people at a special meeting Wednesday called in response to an under-the-public-view attempt to close a portion of the John Wayne rail trail that runs from the Columbia River to the Idaho state line at Tekoa, Washington.

Here's an update on the meeting at Tekoa moved by the Associated Press.

By Josh Babcock/Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Landowners, trail advocates and elected officials packed the Tekoa City Hall on Wednesday morning to express concerns regarding the recently proposed closure of part of the cross-state John Wayne Trail.

The meeting prompted 9th District Rep. Joe Schmick and Ted Blaszak, a Tekoa City Council member, to agree to create a six-person committee by the end of the week, which would consist of three landowners and three trail advocates to determine the best action for the trail.

"I’m not going to plan on introducing legislation to close the trail until we hear from this committee," Schmick said.

A provision to close the trail from the Columbia River to Malden was intended to be included in this year’s state Capital Budget, but an error caused the closure in the bill to read "Columbia River to Columbia River," instead.

Last week Schmick told the Daily News the proposal derived from the trail’s lack of use, noxious weeds, illegal dumping and other criminal activity and lack of improvements.

At Wednesday’s meeting, both state Reps. Mary Dye and Schmick were questioned by trail supporters, while adjacent landowners explained their concerns.

In several cases, members of the crowd interrupted Dye and Schmick as they tried to respond.

Blaszak, president of the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association, asked a series of questions regarding the future of the trail, private groups funding the trail, crime along the trail and why a public hearing was never held before the the trail’s closure was proposed.

Schmick reiterated his reasoning as to why he proposed to close the John Wayne Trail.

He said trespassing, theft, scavenging and using the trail as an access point to landowners’ property for hunting are what encouraged the initial proposal.

"These are real issues, now what are we going to do about them?" Schmick asked, more than once.

Dye was reluctant to answer any questions: "I wasn’t there at the time this was introduced, I wasn’t here when it was developed, I wasn’t here when the stakeholders were discussing the issues with the legislative body."

Fred Wagoner, 58, who traveled the entire trail this summer, brought in his pictures that he said showed the trail was in good condition from the Columbia River to Tekoa and some grass clippings were the only dumping he saw on the trip.

Martha Mullen agreed. She said she hiked the trail six times last year.

"I have never seen a hiker - or bike rider even - carrying a small appliance," Mullen said to laughter from the audience.

She apparently referred to a letter to the Daily News that said hikers only reported seeing appliances and shotgun shells littering the trail.

She said there was one spot outside Malden where trash was dumped, but it would take a vehicle to haul the garbage there, ruling out the possibility of trash being dumped by hikers and other trail users.

Branden Spencer, who said he was representing 75 different landowners and the Adams County Weed Control Board, said the trail cuts his property in half.

Spencer said that last year, and for the past five years, the State Parks Department didn’t spray any weeds along the trail due to lack of funding.

This year, Spencer said, trucks were allowed to travel on the trail and spray weeds in problem areas, but they only sprayed the weeds on the road deck, which left Spencer to do the rest of the space on each side of the trail, on his own time with his own money, as the weeds could overtake his property otherwise.

He said since the park ranger based in Washtucna retired, there is no legal oversight of much of the trail in eastern Washington.

If he needs law enforcement help, he said he has to notify rangers as far away as Spokane or Wenatchee.

With no parks supervision of trail users, Spence said, "We literally could be spreading weeds across Washington state much faster than the State Parks Department could ever have the budget to control them."

Nearly every landowner in attendance expressed concerns over spraying weeds on state land.

Spencer also noted landowners have recently been faced with responsibility to maintain the fences that line the trail, which were maintained by the state.

Spencer read his railroad deed from 1918 to the packed city hall, which stated that his property would be forfeited to him in the event the railroad is not used "for any one year after its construction."

Other landowners reiterated Spencer’s concerns, but also added rattlesnakes, dogs killing chickens, shot cows and horses, and cut fences to the long list of problems they encounter.

But Abijah Perkins, a landowner whose property does not abut the trail disagreed and said trespassing and dumping are issues that have to be dealt with by all property owners.

"If you own land there are going to be some of these issues, but you don’t take away the people’s park," Perkins said to boos from most other landowners in the room.

Perkins said Schmick’s "ignorance" on the issue was insulting to those who were in attendance who cared for the trail.

"On this issue you knew you were going to get questions; it’s really hard for us to understand you don’t have the answers," Perkins said.

Tekoa Mayor John Jaeger said he was also disappointed in the "lack of answers" from the legislators.

"We were hoping you would say what you thought, why you did what you did, and why you thought you needed to do what you did," Jaeger said.

He said members of the Spokane City Council have reached out to him in support of the John Wayne Trail, which is linked to the Fish Lake Trail, a project on which Spokane has spent more than $4 million and budgeted another $4 million.

Republican State Rep. Tom Dent, whose 13th Legislative District includes much of the trail, said he is in favor of the trail.

He asked everyone to come together and welcome Schmick’s idea of a committee so the concerns on each side are recognized.

"This closure is not going anywhere; it’s dead, it has to be reintroduced; now you have a great opportunity to work with the people who have the issues and fix it," Dent said.

John Wayne Trail closure discussion in Tekoa Wednesday

TRAILS — Washington legislators who have proposed closing the John Wayne rail trail across Eastern Washington have agreed to present their case at a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 30,  starting at 10 a.m. in Tekoa City Hall, according to the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association (TTTA).

State Reps. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, and Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, will meet with those who oppose their plan to close a 135 mile stretch of the state wide John Wayne Trail State Park.

Several other supporters of trail closure also will attend, including Whitman County Commissioner Art Swannack, the group said.

The city of Tekoa — which is at the east end of the trail — recently passed a resolution condemning proposals to close the trail, which still has major potential for development. 

According to the TTTA:

In the 2015 WA legislative session, Representatives Schmick and Dye wrote a proviso to the Capitol Budget that closed a 135 mile stretch of the John Wayne Trail/State Park. The legislation never had a public hearing and was a complete surprise to the constitutes of her district.

This legislation was nullified by a typo so that it read the trail/park shall be closed from “from the Columbia River to the Columbia River”, rather than “from the Columbia River to Malden”. According to Rep. Schmick if not for this typo the trail would be closed now.

The Trail/State Park, along with a connecting bike way spans the entire State of Washington, East to West. It is a conversion of a rail to trail program, the land was given by the Railroad to State of Washington in 1976. It is one of the very few cross state trails in the United States and the only trail that travels through the Scab Land.

She did it again! Anish sets self-supported Appalachian Trail hiking record

HIKING — A 34-year-old Seattle woman on Thursday set a UNSUPPORTED backpacking speed record for hiking the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail through 14 states from Maine to Georgia in 54 days, 7 hours and 48 minutes.

Heather Anderson, trail name Anish, is no fleeting moment in trail-record history.  In 2013, she set the unsupported backpacking speed record for the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in 60 days, 17 hours and 12 minutes. 

Her record attempt last year on the John Muir Trail in the Sierra-Nevada Range came up short.

However, on Thursday, after averaging 42 miles a day for nearly two months, she said she walked off Springer Mountain in southern Fannin County, Georgia, the way she started the odyssey on Maine's Mount Katahdin — alone.

Anderson is the first person to hold the unsupported record on the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail simultaneously.

To achieve the self-supported status, she packed her food and mailed it to food drops along the way, collected what she needed herself, and carried her own supplies, water and shelter on the trek.

Anderson announced her record setting quest on July 30 about two weeks after ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, 41, finished the Appalachian trail in a supported speed-record time of 46 days, 8 hours and 8 minutes. Jurek had a team of handlers shuttling his gear and supplies along the route.

She used a SPOT device to document her journey, but did not release the data until she had completed the trail to retain her privacy.

According to Appalachian Trails, Anderson has broken the AT unsupported record set in 2013 by Matthew Kirk in 58 days, 9 hours, and 38 minutes  (check out his book Fast, Light, and Free on the Appalachian Trail).

The previous women’s unsupported record was held by Liz ‘Snorkel’ Thomas, who hiked the trail in 80 days, 13 hours, and 30 minutes.

The women's supported speed record was set in 2011 by Jennifer Pharr Davis in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes.

Anderson's life story is compelling. Considered unathletic as a youngster, she wrestled with weight issues until she discovered her love for backpacking. She hiked the AT, the PCT and the Continental Divide Trail all at a normal backpacker's pace to rank among the elite who have bagged the Triple Crown of long-distance hiking. But even after taking the leap from enjoyable hiking to the suffering of AT and PCT record-setting odysseys, she's been pestered by self doubt, and competitive doubters.

She politely asked me to be quiet and take down my post when I put up a photo in July of her bedroom stacked with food boxes ready to be mailed and leaked her intentions to attempt an AT record. 

And she had no fanfare or champagne at the end of the trail after her record mark was set.

"I may be sleeping in a bed for the first time in 54 days, but I'm still drinking from my hydration bladder!"

With minimal body fat clinging to her frame, wearing her signature feather-light sun dress and needing a long uninterrupted sleep to begin life off the trail, an exhausted Anderson posted on her Anish Hikes Facebook page the following philosophical wrap-up. It's directed to her fans and the little devils who try to haunt her:

The trail has a way of answering the questions you most need answered, even if you are afraid to ask.
Those that have followed me for a while know that I have struggled with self-esteem my entire life. You would think setting the PCT speed record would change that.

Yet it only gave the negative thoughts an even more insidious way to demoralize me, especially after I failed to set the JMT record last year.

"The PCT was a fluke. You were only the benefactor of lucky circumstances. You aren't athletic. You aren't able. You're a charlatan."

On and on the whispers go.

I had to come here, to the AT, where my quest to find myself began 12 years ago and face those voices once and for all, alone.

I was too afraid to ask, but the trail knew the question in my heart:
"Was the PCT a fluke?"
The AT answered with a resounding, "NO!"

I wrestled not against the trail or external forces, but with them. If it were easy the whispers of inadequacy would continue. Instead I was challenged every single minute.

In the dark hours when I was tired, lonely, and hungry, that is when the demons came, "Why didn't you stop with the PCT record? It will be your greatest achievement in life. You won't ever do anything else. Now you're out here and you're in over your head. You will fail. You can't do this. And everyone is going to know that you are nothing."
But, every footstep I took was a choice. A choice to face my own perceived inadequacies. Every footstep was a commitment. A commitment to deny that there was any truth to the words of the internal foes.

As the miles dwindled into the double digits I became aware that I was crushing more than miles. I was crushing a lifetime of self defeating beliefs.

So now, I walk off of Springer Mountain, alone just as I came. My pack, my feet, and my heart are light, unburdened at last.

And, I am aware that the end of every journey is simply the beginning of the next and that, far from being behind me, the greatest achievements of my life lie ahead.

See Anderson "Redefining Happily Ever After" in a TEDx Talk.

Middle Fork Calispell ORV Trails temporarily closed

PUBLIC LANDS — Colville National Forest Trails 313, 314, 315 (Middle Fork Calispell ORV Trail System) will be temporarily closed at the junction of County Road 2022 (Middle Fork Calispell Road) to replace a culvert at the beginning of Trail 314 that is currently blocking fish passage. 

The closure is expected to last from Sept. 28 through Oct. 9. 

Info: Newport Ranger Station, (509) 447-7300. 

Trails Day projects Saturday at Fishtrap, Sunday at Stevens lakes

TRAILS — Volunteers have a choice this weekend of National Trails Day projects ranging from the scablands near Fishtrap lake to alpine lakes near Lookout Pass.

The Spokane Mountaineers already have crews signed up for both venues.

Click here for details on signing up to help the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Saturday make way for a new loop trail at Fishtrap Lake west of Spokane off Interstate 90.

To sign up for the Mountaineers' work party headed on Sunday to Stevens Lakes, contact volunteer coordinator Lynn Smith, e-mail kslynndeb@hotmail.com.

The group plans selected work on the way to Stevens Lake and then brushing out the user trail from there to Upper Stevens Lake. The lakes fill glacier-carved basins near the Idaho/Montana border. At about 5 miles round trip and quick access off I-90, they are among the most popular alpine lake destinations in the region.

Google Trekker recording trails in Spokane area

TRAILS — Volunteers in the Spokane area are packing around the 46-pound Google Trekker to provide Street View documentation of trails in the Spokane area for the world to see.

More on the story later.

Meantime, what's your take on Street View technology that offers stunning 360-degree imaging of routes on the ground and down rivers?

The technology allows people to plan at home thousands of miles away or come into a new area, punch an app on their smartphones and see in stunning detail local routes they may want to check out.

To date, Google has documented more than 7 million miles of routes in 65 countries on seven continents.

Bear leaves calling card on Trail of the CdAs

TRAILS — Today's news that a grizzly bear is still hanging around the Coeur d'Alene River near Kingston caught the attention of Erick Swanson.

So did the large pile of bear scat Swanson passed while bicycling along the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes last weekend.

"We were just past the Snakepit heading back to Kellogg," he said. "It was very fresh on Sunday morning."

I can't confirm the pile is grizzly scat.  I've seen large-bore black bears, too, including bear scat in the past on the Trail of the CdAs that runs 71 miles from Plummer to Mullan.

But it could have been the 2-year-old collared grizzly that's been in the area, recorded on video and reported by hunters and fishermen for more than a week.

The photo is an impressive reminder that the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes winds through excellent wildlife habitat and impressive autumn scenery.

Watch out for moose!

Fishtrap Lake loop trail project needs volunteers

TRAILS – A new 8-mile loop trail planned near Fishtrap Lake by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is the target of a National Public Lands Day volunteer effort on Sept. 26 to get the job started.

The Spokane Mountaineers and Washington Trails Association have committed members to working on the non-motorized trail, said Lynn Smith, a trails project coordinator for the Mountaineers.

Workers will assemble at 8:30 a.m. at BLM’s Folsom Farm area and break into groups for work on the trail between Fishtrap Road south to Farmer’s Landing.

Participants should bring gloves, water, and hand tools such as pulaski, ho-dad, pick, shovel, hoe and wheelbarrow.

T-shirts and public-lands access passes also may be given out to registered helpers.

The trail will provide scenic as well as geological and historic values, said Steve Smith BLM’s outdoor recreation planner.

Planning for the trail started in 2013 with help from hiking, mountain biking and horse groups, he said, noting that the trail likely won’t be completed until next fall.

First phase trail improvements will include tread construction, vegetation removal and installation of trail markers and signs.

The July 2014 Watermelon Hill Fire killed a high percentage of the trees along portions of the proposed trail route, especially along the lake's southern end, Smith said. But much of the landscape is rebounding, a process that will be speeded if the drought breaks.

”The public is still welcome to hike or ride horses or mountain bikes anywhere within the Fishtrap (BLM) area prior to completion of the trail,” Smith said.

Sign-up for the project in advance to be counted in for snacks, lunch and beverages by emailing Smith, sasmith@blm.gov.


Appalachian Trail speed-record setter fined $500 for partying

TRAILS — That cheap champagne to celebrate a record-setting completion of the Appalachian Trail got a lot more expensive today.

Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek paid a $500 fine in Portland, Maine, to settle citations over his celebration atop the state’s Mount Katahdin that struck a nerve with park officials worried about crowding and commercialization of the historic footpath.

  • See the story that ran in Sunday Outdoors.

Jurek got into trouble with park rangers when he popped a bottle of bubbly while surrounded by a group of supporters in July after completing the 2,189-mile trail from Georgia to Maine in 46 days, eight hours. A ranger later cited him for public drinking, littering and hiking in an oversized group.

Here's the rest of the update from the Associated Press:

A district judge in Millinocket signed off Wednesday on an agreement between his lawyer and the district attorney in which Jurek paid a fine for public drinking. The other citations were dropped.

Jurek, who wasn’t in court, said afterward that he was unfairly singled out by park rangers to set an example for other hikers.

The Colorado runner said he never once littered while passing through 14 states and said a friend brought the Champagne to the summit of Maine’s tallest mountain after first checking with a park ranger.

“They made it sound like I was partying at the top of the summit with a bunch of college students,” said Jurek, who said his friend surprised him with the Champagne and that he didn’t know he was violating park rules. Two rangers who watched the entire gathering on the mountain’s summit never intervened, he added.

The growing number of hikers on the Appalachian Trail has become a management problem at Baxter, which operates under strict rules to maintain the vision of the park’s donor. Park officials were concerned that Jurek’s corporate sponsorship, throngs of supporters and celebration took away from the wilderness experience.

The late Percival Baxter donated the land with the understanding that it’d be managed in line with his vision of “forever wild” with no hunting, lumbering, hotels, advertising or “trappings of unpleasant civilization.”

Jensen Bissell, director of the Baxter State Park Authority, which manages the 100,000-acre park that includes Katahdin, has warned that the trail’s northern terminus may need to be moved if things don’t change.

But he hopes that there can be an agreement with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and National Park Service to limit the number of people using the trail. The Baxter Park Authority will be meeting later this fall, he said, and it’s likely that the authority will try to set a timeframe for coming up with a workable solution.

Walter McKee, Jurek’s attorney, maintains the situation was blown out of proportion and said “thru hikers” — those who’re hiking the trail from start to finish — account for only a fraction of people on Mount Katahdin.

He also said it’s a good thing that more people in an increasingly sedentary society want to get outdoors.

“Part of Percival Baxter’s legacy was that people should be enjoying the park, getting outside and being part of the outdoors that he so dearly loved,” McKee said.

Jurek, for his part, said he felt that he embodied Baxter’s spirit and ideals. “I think Percival Baxter would’ve congratulated me on my accomplishment,” he said.

Hiawatha Trail shifts to new shuttle hours through September

BICYCLING — The Route of the Hiawatha rail trail near Lookout Pass is still open daily, but shuttle hours have changed through September.

Considered a crown jewel of American rail-to-trail mountain bike or hike routes, the 15-mile trail includes nine train tunnels and seven shockingly high trestles.  The 1.66 mile-long St. Paul Pass Tunnel is a highlight, acquainting visitors with total darkness except for their bike lights. 

The trail opened May 23 and is scheduled to close after riding concludes on Sept. 27.

The trail continues to be open daily, 8:30 a.m-5:30 p.m.

However, shuttle bus operations through Sept. 20 have been reduced each day starting with pickups at 11 a.m. and ending at 4:15 p.m.

After Sept. 20, shuttles will operate only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Info: Lookout Pass Ski Area, (208) 744-1301.

New Pacific Northwest Trail Advisory Council appointed by feds

TRAILS — The east-west trail across Washington, Idaho and Western Montana has taken another step higher in stature.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently appointed 23 members to the inaugural Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Advisory Council under the authority of the National Trails System Act.

The council will advise the Secretary, through the Chief of the Forest Service, on managing the route from the Pacific Ocean to Glacier National Park.

 Designated as one of America’s 11 National Scenic Trails in 2009, the Pacific Northwest Trail is the second such trail – along with the Pacific Crest Trail – to traverse Washington State.

The council is composed of citizens, county commissioners and land managers with diverse backgrounds chosen for their expertise in recreation-related issues, and ability to represent a balance of stakeholder perspectives and geographic areas. The council also includes representatives of the Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, which manage sections of the trail.

First proposed in 1970, the 1,200-mile route runs from the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean at Cape Alava in the Olympic National Park, connecting spectacular natural features as well as communities. 

Establishing the council is a major milestone in the trail’s short history. The Forest Service is cooperating with many other federal, state, and local agencies as well as private landowners to develop a trail-wide comprehensive plan. Over the next three years, the council will provide recommendations on trail uses, signage, establishing a trail corridor, and prioritizing projects.

Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail Advisory Council Members

  • State of Montana: Pete Brown, Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Helena, MT
  • State of Idaho: Dan Dinning, Boundary County Board of Commissioners, Bonners Ferry, ID
  • State of Washington: Brock Milliern, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Olympia, WA
  • Tribes: Vacant – ongoing recruitment for one or more members
  • National trails organizations: Almer Casile, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Coeur d’Alene, ID
  • Mike Dawson, Pacific Crest Trail Association, Vashon, WA
  • Teresa Martinez, Partnership for the National Trails System, Pine, CO
  • Regional trails organizations: Jon B. Knechtel, Pacific Northwest Trail Association, Sedro-Woolley, WA
  • Outdoor recreation (hiking): Wayne Hare, Grand Junction, CO
  • Jeff Kish, Portland, OR
  • Outdoor recreation (pack & saddle): James R. Michaud, Sagle, ID
  • Environmental organizations: Jessie Grossman, Yaak Valley Forest Council, Troy, MT
  • Archaeology and history: David M. Kennedy, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford U., Stanford, CA
  • Adam M. Sowards, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID
  • Wildlife organizations: Brad Smith, Idaho Conservation League, Sandpoint, ID
  • Timber industry: Randall S. Hansen, Hansen Woodland Farm, Kettle Falls, WA
  • Tourism and commercial outfitters: Diane Brockway, Dover City Council, Dover, ID
  • Katie LeBlanc, Cabela’s Outpost, Kalispell, MT
  • Mike Lithgow, Pend Oreille County, Newport, WA
  • Clea Rome, WSU Clallam County Extension, Port Angeles, WA
  • Environmental education: Wendy C. Walker, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA
  • Youth engagement and employment: Steve Quick, Oroville School District, Oroville, WA
  • Raynelle Rino-Southon, Urban Sprouts SF, San Francisco, CA
  • Private landowners: Jeff Chapman, Port Townsend, WA
  • Forest Service: Brad Cownover, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, OR
  • National Park Service: Rosemary Seifried, North Cascades National Park, Marblemount, WA
  • Bureau of Land Management: Diane Priebe, Spokane District, Wenatchee, WA

Cow dog hits the trail with hikers; feasts on hi-cal food

HIKING — Duke the cattle dog caught the attention of several readers who enjoyed the Sunday Outdoors story about hiking 100 miles through the Pasayten Wilderness of northcentral Washington.

Indeed, Duke — a two-year-old shelter dog —  is a hiking star, taking on the mileage with little difficulty.

One question asked:  Did he carry his food?

Before the trek, Duke was eased onto a diet of special high-calorie dry food (more expensive, too). This enabled his owner, Samantha Journot, to give him the needed calories with less bulk and weight. Pet specialty shops are good places to shop for these specialty foods. 

Duke carried all of his food, plus a pint water bottle and collapsible bowl to help him through the long waterless stretches the hikers encountered.  He also carried a folding trowel, which was used to bury his dumps — as well those of other members of the trip.

How did Duke's feet endure the 100 miles

Duke already had been trail toughened before the trek.  Being young, he had a lot of energy to waste.  Journot carried a long leash to keep him from bolting after ground squirrels in meadows, where he could do harm to his feet. By Day 3, Duke wasn't wasting too much energy. He lay down and rested when the group did. This helped save his feet.  However, after 70 miles, we had a hot day on the PCT and the rocky trail was sizzling.  Journot put booties on Duke, which he adapted to quickly. They definitely helped him, but they didn't fit well. We had to duct tape them into place with marginal results. 

With Duke in mind, we got up at 3 a.m. the last day and had 15 miles done shortly after 1. Duke did much better by getting him of the trail sooner.  Temperature in Twisp as we hit the pub for a late lunch and the cheeseburgers we were craving: 100 Degrees! The Twisp River Pub has a dog-friendly shaded deck with water bowls for dogs.

As for dog booties, you definitely want to have them for your dog on a multi-day trek.  I think the simpler the better. One dog enthusiast recommends checking out dogbooties.com.

St. Joe Travel Plan for motorized use out for public review

PUBLIC LANDS — A proposed Travel Management Environmental Assessment that designates motorized travel routes for the St. Joe Ranger District has been updated and is available for public review and comment.

The Draft EA has been developed based on requirements of the 2005 Travel Management Rule. The rule requires each national forest to designate roads, trails, and areas that will be open to motorized travel, identify the type of wheeled motorized vehicles that are allowed to use these routes, and publish this information on a Motor Vehicle Use Map.

After the map is published cross-country wheeled motorized vehicle use will be prohibited.

Public participation in developing alternatives included meetings, comment periods and participation by the St. Joe Focus Group," said St. Joe District Ranger Matt Davis.

Legislation and national policy have changed since the original St. Joe Travel Management EA was released in 2009. These changes required the St. Joe Ranger District to update the Travel Plan EA to reflect the updated directives. Although the changes do not require additional public review, Davis felt it important to ensure the public has the chance to review and comment on the updated Draft EA before he issues a draft decision notice.

Public comments will be used to help refine the analysis and to develop a draft decision. The 30-day comment period ends Sept. 8, 2015.

Information on the plan is available from the district St. Maries office, (208) 245-2531, or on the project website.

Parker Ridge fire closing trails in Idaho Selkirks

HIKING — A wildfire in the Idaho Panhandle is affecting popular hiking trails northwest of Bonners Ferry. Here's the latest report from the Forest Service:

Fisher Peak Trail #14 and dispersed campsites along that route are now closed due to increased fire activity from the nearby Parker Ridge Fire.  The fire has already closed the Parker Ridge Trail #221.  Both trails link to the popular Pacific Northwest Trail system, forcing a reroute of the trail three miles north to Long Canyon Trail.

Recent fire activity on the 401-acre Parker Ridge Fire seven miles southwest of Porthill forced fire managers to close the trail.  The lightning strike fire on the Bonners Ferry Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest is burning in timber and brush and being monitored by firefighters.  Sudden changing weather conditions could push the fire into open trail areas.

Sign-in logs have been posted at the Trout Creek, Pyramid, and Long Canyon trailheads to help locate hikers in case changing fire conditions.  Hikers are requested to use the sign-in logs at the three trailheads in case firefighters need to account for them and/or evacuate them in case of an emergency.


Obama signs Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness bill

PUBLIC LANDS — Less than three days after the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill approving the Boulder-White Cloud Mountains area for wilderness designation, President Barack Obama has signed the bill into law, ending a 40-year effort.

Obama signed the Senate's approval of H.R. 1138, the “Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act,” which designates three new wilderness areas (encompassing about 275,665 acres) in Idaho as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System; releases four wilderness study areas so that the land would be managed for multiple-use activities; and provides for several land conveyances in Idaho.

Following are remarks by the President during the signing of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act in the Oval Office at 9:05 a.m. PDT:

     THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, over the last six years, the American people have worked really hard to bounce back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  We got jobs numbers today, showing that America created another 210,000 new jobs.  That makes 65 consecutive months of private sector job growth.  This is the strongest two-year run of private sector job growth that we've seen in the last 15 years.  And it is a testament I think to the incredible ingenuity and resilience and hard work of the American people.

     So, even as we continue to focus on rebuilding our economy, providing more opportunity, one of the things that we've also been trying to focus on is leaving a legacy for the next generation in preserving this incredible beauty, the God-given blessings that we've received — those of us who live here in the United States of America.

     I think everybody here knows that one of the prettiest states that we have with some of the greatest national treasures is the great state of Idaho.  I am very proud to be able to sign this piece of legislation, enacted by the House of Representatives, entitled the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act.  And what this does is it designates three additional wilderness designations in the great state of Idaho. 

This is a remarkable area.  It is used by fishermen, hunters, rafters, people taking hikes.  It is not only beautiful, but it’s also an important economic engine for the state — attracting tourism, creating jobs.  And thanks to the work of a broad-based coalition of folks in Idaho, but spearheaded here in Congress by Congressman Mike Simpson — who was able to receive not a single “no” vote — (laughter) — which does not happen often in the House of Representatives — something that folks have been working on for quite some time is going to be reality.

And so we want to congratulate all of them.  We want to urge the American people to visit these new, incredible wilderness areas, and recognize that not only will this give opportunities to people in Idaho, but it's going to be there for future generations as well.

One last point I want to make — we want to be thinking during the course of this summer about the firefighters who are taking on some really tough fires all across the Western states. As I've noted before, we've seen a consistent escalation of the severity and the length of wildfire season.  And a lot of that is attributable to the fact that climate change is going to be raising temperatures and creating less water, more vulnerability to a lot of forests out there.  

One of the things we're trying to work on with Congress is making sure that we are able to properly fund firefighting efforts, but also that we're engaged in the kind of conservation planning to ensure that we're preventing fires from happening in the first place. 

And so that's a project that, at least in the Western states, you get a lot of bipartisan support for.  Hopefully we'll be able to get that same kind of support here in Washington.

So, again, congratulations to all of you.  Mike, congratulations for the great work you’ve done.

I will now sign this designation.

(The bill is signed.)

There you go.  Good job.  (Applause.) 

Here's a news report on the signing with details on the wilderness areas from the Associated Press:


By KEITH RIDLER/Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — President Barack Obama on Friday signed a wilderness bill protecting 275,000 acres in central Idaho.

Obama signed the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act in the Oval Office with Republican Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho and others behind him.

“This is a remarkable area,” the president said. “It is not only beautiful, but it’s also an important economic engine for the state — attracting tourism, creating jobs.”

The legislation creates three new wilderness areas in the rugged Boulder and White Cloud mountains. They are the 138-square-mile Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness, the 142-square-mile White Clouds Wilderness and the 183-square-mile Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness.

Simpson had been working on wilderness designation for 15 years, trying to balance the interests of ranchers, recreationists and environmental groups. Some groups had been pushing Obama to designate a much larger area a national monument. Simpson and others have said that threat likely played a role in the wilderness bill getting through the U.S. House and Senate.

“The Boulder White Clouds area is now protected, in perpetuity, by the gold standard of preservation designations,” Simpson said in a statement.

U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Julie Thomas with the Sawtooth National Forest said boundary signs for the three wilderness areas could start going up in a month, and that the agency hopes to have maps available this fall.

The Forest Service is responsible for managing all of the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness, and all of the White Clouds Wilderness except for 450 acres, which is being managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Of the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness, the majority is being managed by the Forest Service, with about 37 square miles managed by the BLM.

The agencies have three years to create a joint management plan for the wilderness areas, said Jesse Bender, a BLM spokeswoman based in Idaho Falls. She said the larger of the BLM wilderness portions was already a wilderness study area.

“The management won’t change significantly,” she said. “It’s going to be an evolving process for us.”

Both agencies said they’re still absorbing information and weren’t immediately able to say what initial steps were planned.

“We have a lot to learn about this,” Thomas said. “We have a lot to figure out.”

It’s not clear whether a wilderness designation will increase or decrease the number of visitors to the area. Thomas noted the Sawtooth National Recreation Area already draws 1.5 million visitors annually.

The legislation includes an option allowing grazing permit holders on land within or adjacent to the newly created wilderness areas to voluntarily retire their permits and be eligible for compensation from outside groups.

Custer County, where officials oppose restrictions on public lands, is receiving $5 million under the legislation for a county health clinic and road improvements.

Custer and Blaine counties are also each receiving individual parcels of land for various uses.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell had this statement on the signing:

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today commended President Obama for signing into law a bill that designates three new wilderness areas encompassing about 275,665 acres in Idaho as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System; releases four wilderness study areas so that the land may be managed for multiple-use activities; and provides for several land conveyances in Idaho.

“Idaho’s Boulder White Clouds is a spectacular corner of our country and is absolutely deserving of the recognition and permanent protection it achieves today. I look forward to getting back out to the region in the future to fully appreciate these new wilderness areas.

“Congressman Simpson’s legislation reflects years of meaningful engagement with ranchers, hikers, hunters, tribes and other stakeholders to ensure that the management plan meets the needs of current and future generations. I applaud Congressman Simpson and Senator Risch, whose efforts will benefit generations of Americans to come who will be able to enjoy this stunning area just as we do today.

“There are many bills pending in Congress to recognize special lands and waters across our nation that are deserving of protection, and I am hopeful that Congress will be inspired by what happened with Boulder White Clouds to move pending legislation forward expeditiously.”

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act designates three areas to become part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, including the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness (117,000 acres), White Clouds Wilderness (91,000 acres) and Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness (88,000 acres). These protected areas preserve approximately 276,000 acres of high mountain backcountry with crystal lakes and abundant wildlife.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages more than 24,000 acres of the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness, and 450 acres of the White Clouds Wilderness. The U.S. Forest Service manages the other federal lands within the wilderness areas. The Wilderness Act, signed into law in 1964, established the highest level of conservation protection for federal lands.

Firefighting burns up Forest Service budget; other needs unfunded

PUBLIC LANDS — Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service released an alarming report illustrating the profound impact of rising firefighting costs on national forest conservation, restoration, recreation and management programs.

If you're wondering why the Colville National Forest doesn't have a pro-crew for trail maintenance this season, here's you're answer.

Firefighting costs consume more than  50 percent of the Forest Service’s budget, compared with just 16 percent in 1995.

The costs are expected to comprise two-thirds of the agency’s budget in 10 years if left unaddressed.

The Washington Post has this report on the report:

Report: Wildfire costs now consume one-half of the USFS's budget
The U.S. Forest Service says it spent 16 percent of its budget fighting wildfires in 1995, that this year more than 50 percent of its budget will be spent on that purpose, and that, under current budget conditions, wildfire spending will constitute 67 percent or more of its budget by 2025.

U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, whose department contains the Forest Service, is calling for a new funding model to fight wildfires, and that he would prefer a "budget cap adjustment," which allows agencies to spend more money on disasters outside spending caps.

Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness bill headed for Obama’s signature

UPDATED with local reaction 2:05 p.m.

PUBLIC LANDS — Acting quickly after Monday's committee approval, the U.S. Senate today unanimously approved a bill to officially designate the Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness in central Idaho.

The quick action — which follows more than 40 years of debate among ranchers, recreationists, environmental groups and politicians — protects more than 275,000 acres of public land as wilderness, the country's most restrictive federal public land designation.  No motorized vehicles or equipment or even mechanized gear such as bicycles are allowed in wilderness areas.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. James E. Risch (R-ID). A companion bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), cleared the U.S House of Representatives on July 27. The measure is headed to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The Boulder-White Cloud Mountains feature 10,000-foot peaks, sparkling alpine lakes, flower-filled meadows and a wild mix of wildlife. The region is already well-known for hunting, fishing and other recreation.

The plan approved by Congress creates three new wilderness areas in the rugged Boulder and White Cloud Mountains:

  • The 138-square-mile Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness,
  • The 142-square-mile White Clouds Wilderness,
  • The 183-square-mile Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness.

Passage of the bill comes after four decades of debate and proposals.  A stalemate let President Obama to consider the Boulder White-Clouds for national monument status, which he could accomplish by executive order.

The national monument option was favored by mountain bikers so they could keep more of their riding areas open under the less-restrictive monument regulations.

The political teamwork needed to pass the Boulder White-Clouds bill is encouraging to Phil Hough, executive director of the Sandpoint-based Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. The group has been working for nearly a decade to garner support for protecting an 88,000-acre roadless area that straddles the Montana-Idaho border northeast of Lake Pend Oreille.

"This is an historic day," he said Tuesday. "Not only have we preserved this fabulous wild area in central Idaho, but we've also reached a moment in time when the Idaho delegation came together to craft an Idaho solution for wilderness.

"The Owyhee Wilderness in southern Idaho was designated six years ago in an omnibus bill, but you have to go back to the 1980s for the last time the Idaho delegation came together to support wilderness."

Hough, who traveled to Washington, D.C., in May to meet with the Idaho delegation, says the Scotchman Peaks are in good position to be the next Idaho candidate for wilderness.  The Bonner County Commission joined other groups in support of the Scotchman's proposal earlier this year.

John Roskelley, former Spokane County Commissioner, worked in the Boulder-White Clouds in 1972 for the U.S. Bureau of Mines mapping and sampling hundreds of old claims and mines.

"This land was up for Wilderness designation and our job was to determine the mineral wealth that was left after a hundred years of gold and silver mining," he said.

"It's a beautiful mountainous area, but it has been abused by miners and loggers. As a designated wilderness, the area will be a great draw for hikers and backpackers."

The Boulder White-Clouds bill had diverse support of groups including the Sawtooth Society, the Custer County Commission, East Fork of the Salmon River Ranchers, the Idaho Farm Bureau, the Idaho Cattle Association, Idaho Outfitters and Guides, the Pew Charitable Trust, the Idaho Conservation League, the Wilderness Society, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Sierra Club and the Idaho Recreation Council, which represents motorcycle and snowmobile riders.

“Pew has worked with the Idaho delegation and local partners for more than a decade to move this legislation forward," said Mike Matz of the Pew Charitable Trusts public lands program, as he thanked the Idaho delegation for their persistence.

"It has been a challenging path over many years, with difficult compromises required of all stakeholders. But perseverance, a balanced agreement, and solid local support have made passage a reality in the House and Senate and shown that wilderness is truly our country’s common ground."

Following is a video featuring the Idaho delegation presentations on the Senate floor before the unanimous vote to approve the Boulder White-Clouds Wilderness:


Forest Service reopens popular Boulder Cave site near Naches

PUBLIC LANDS — Boulder Cave Day Use Site on the Naches Ranger District has reopened after a year-long closure for site improvements.

The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest has scheduled a re-opening celebration for the popular attraction, including the trail built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935. The event is set for 2 p.m.-4 p.m. on Thursday, July 30.

Bruce Whitmore, a local resident and retired school teacher who has been visiting the Boulder Cave area since the 1950’s, will speak at the event. 

“Boulder Cave is an extraordinary place and I would like to express my appreciation for the Forest Service’s investment in making the area a better place for recreation and an outdoor platform for great science and geology enjoyment,” Whitmore said.

Cave visitors should bring sturdy walking shoes, water and a good headlamp.

Site improvements include a new water system, new benches along the river trail and expanded parking.  Now that the trail has re-opened, visitors are able to take the short hike up to the cave, stroll along the river, and enjoy picnicking with friends and family members.

  • From Naches, WA take Highway 12 W for 4.4 miles and continue onto Highway 410 W and follow for another 20.9 miles. Then turn left on Forest Road 1704 / Old River Road and travel 1 mile to the Boulder Cave Recreation area.
  • Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent required.

Info: Naches Ranger District, (509) 653-1401; http://www.fs.usda.gov/okawen.

Spokane Mountaineers program Wednesday at Riverside State Park

OUTDOOR CLUBS — The history of the Spokane Mountaineers will be featured in this week's Wednesdays in the Woods program starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Riverside State Park Bowl & Pitcher Amphitheater overlooking the Spokane River.

Mountaineers historian Chic Burge will discuss the club's 100 years of activities in the region's mountains and beyond.

Founded in 1915 by a group of librarians who loved to hike, the club has grown to incorporate an wide range of activities for members of all ages (15 and up) and abilities, including backpacking, day hiking, bicycling, snowshoeing, paddling skiing and climbing of all varieties.

The club also holds annual schools and clinics on mountaineering backpacking and other activities and has an active conservation committee.

After the presentation, Washington Trails Association and mountaineers members will lead an evening hike along the banks of the Spokane River.  Bring water and snacks for the stroll, plus a camera in case we spot wildlife.

Register for this free presentation at REI.com/Spokane.

  • Discover Pass is required for parking.

Little Spokane River shuttle resumes after fire closure; trails open

PARKS — Hikers and paddlers are regaining most, but not all, access to the Little Spokane River Natural Area after trails and a trailhead were closed by a 176-acre wildfire that was ignited July 6.

The shuttle service for paddlers offered by Spokane Parks and Recreation has resumed, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays through Sept. 5.

The Painted Rocks Trailhead on Rutter Parkway has been reopened and closure signs have been removed on the trails to Knothead and the overlook area in the fire zone above the river, said Chris Guidotti, Riverside State Park manager.

“What remains closed is the segment of trail along the Little Spokane River between Painted Rocks and Highway 291,” he said. “That stretch is below a steep hillside where fire has taken away the vegetation and made the area susceptible to rockfall.

“The Department of Natural Resources recommended we keep that trail closed until there’s a substantial amount of rain to settle it down.”
Hikers heading up to Knothead – a scabrock overlook – from Painted Rocks or Highway 291 trailheads will not be able to make a loop trip until the closure is lifted, he said.

Also, hikers will notice that a bulldozer was used to widen and remove vegetation on some of the trails stretches to provide vehicle access and improve fire line. The path is wide, powdery dirt.

“It will be a different hiking experience for a while,” Guidotti said, noting the mountain bikes are prohibited in the natural area trails from St. George’s School downstream to Highway 291.

Crews have cut down snags that posed an immediate danger to hikers on the trails, he said.

“We’ll be going in there this fall and trying to deal with weeds and erosion control.”

The Little Spokane River shuttle will run hourly on Saturdays from St. George’s river access to Painted Rocks and Highway 291 river accesses, said Ryan Griffith, city parks outdoors program manager.

During the period from Monday through Aug. 14, construction is scheduled to close through traffic on Rutter Parkway from the intersection at Indian Trail to West Hatch Road.

“This will make our shuttle take a bit longer during that time as we will use an alternate route,” Griffith said.


Cancelled: Hucklebeary Epic mountain bike event at Mount Spokane

UPDATE 7/22/15 — Event canceled for 2015 because of fire danger and considerations for private timber land involved in the routes, says race organizer Dan DeRuyter. Inland Empire Paper Co. and other private timber companies throughout the region have restricted public access during this dry summer.


BICYCLING — A new mountain biking event is bruin on Mount Spokane.

The Mt. Spokane Hucklebeary Epic will debut Aug. 8 with three timed ride options of 20, 40 and 60 miles on routes in Mount Spokane State Park and Inland Empire Paper Co. lands.

Only the most focused mountain bikers will post personal bests in this event, since huckleberries will be ripe around the course.

No bonus points are offered for purple fingers at the finish line.

However, aid stations with food and drink will be on the course, too — and a party is planned for the finish.

The event, which has solo and team options, is a fundraiser for trail building and maintenance in the park, says organizer Dan DeRuyter — $5 of every registration will be donated to the Friends of Mt. Spokane State Park and Spokane Nordic. 

Here's the Aug. 8 schedule staging out of the Selkirk Lodge parking area:

  • 8 a.m. start for The Epic (60-mile ride), $75 entry.
  • 9 a.m. start for The Grinder (40-mile ride), $65 entry.
  • 9:15 a.m. start for The Taste (20-mile ride), $55 entry.

Primitive camping options also are available at the parking area the night before the event.

Volunteer: Nordic ski trail brushing at Mount Spokane

WINTERSPORTS – Spokane Nordic is recruiting volunteers for a trail brush clearing party Saturday at Mount Spokane. Meet 9 a.m. at
Selkirk Lodge.

Info: Brian Hawkins, 710-5701.

Ultramarathoner sets Appalachian Trail speed record

TRAILS — Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, 41, finished the Appalachian Trail today in a supported speed-record time of 46 days, 8 hours and 8 minutes.

That's only three hours faster on the 2,189-mile route than the record set by Jennifer Pharr Davis in 2011 when she was 28 years old.

  • Davis has this reaction to the word that her AT record would be broken.

Jurek averaged about 50 miles a day on the historic trail that crosses 14 states from Georgia to Maine.

Jurek is well-known in long-distance running, having seven consecutive wins from 1999 to 2005 in the Western States Endurance Run – a prestigious 100-mile race held in California.

He also holds two titles from the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile course that markets itself as "the world's toughest footrace."

The Appalachian Trail record isn’t his first. In 2010, Jurek set the U.S. record for most miles run in 24 hours — 165.7 miles. He has also won the 153 mile Spartathlon, according to his website.

A Seattle man set the Pacific Crest Trail supported speed record last year.