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Lewiston hiking author opens hike trails website

HIKING — Mary Aegerter, a hiking author from Lewiston, has opened a Hiking from HERE website featuring some of her favorite hikes in the region geared to hikers leaving from the Lewiston-Pullman areas.

She plans to change the offerings every few weeks.

Currently, she's offering information on early-season hikes at the BLM's Escure Ranch south of Sprague, WA, as well as Rapid River near Riggins, ID. 

What’s this truck doing on Antoine Peak?

COUNTY PARKS — A hiker sent in this photo of a pickup stuck on Antoine Peak, the Conservation Futures area above East Valley High School.

The mountain is managed by Spokane County Parks. No unauthorized motorized vehicle access is allowed.

My question to the hiker:

I wonder if this is another example of the sad way maintenenace workers leave ruts in the access road as they maintain the radio towers on top of the peak, or whether it's another case of vandals disregarding the "No Motor Vehicles" signs and locked gates.

His answer:

Not unless Busch Light cans tossed about are part of "maintenance." Already sent the ranger an email with this shot & a couple others.

Visualizing the long-distance backpacker

HIKING — Hikers who tackle entire lengths of long-range trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail are called "thru hikers." 

Follow them on the Thru Hiking facebook page. 

Congress considers wiping out trail funding

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

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

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

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

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

Read an ABC News report on the bill here.

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

Fly fishing, map and compass and wetlands on outdoor event schedule

OUTDOOR PROGRAMS — Here's a few outdoor programs to consider catching this week:

Fly fishing – “Match the Hatch Simplified,” free program by Oregon fly-fishing author Dave Hughes, 7 p.m., Wednesday (Feb. 8) at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, hosted by the Spokane Fly Fishers.

Map and compass – Free seminar on basics of reading a map and applying a compass for navigation, 7 p.m., Thursday (Feb. 9), at REI. Pre-register here to assure a spot.

Wetlands – The Pullman chapter of Ducks Unlimited will hold its annual fund-raising banquet for wetlands conservation on Feb. 12 at the Paradise Creek Brewery in Pullman. Tickets: Joe Ford (509) 872-3030.

Studs required for city hiking

TRAILS — South Hill trailmaster Jim Kershner said he didn't see anyone while hiking the South Hill Bluff trails this morning.

His photo explains why.

He managed to get home without any broken bones.

Anyone for luge?

Big snow: nordic skiers having fun, too

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

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

Where would you go to see a moose?

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A reader emailed me today asking where he could bring a friend from out-of-state to see a moose.

Most of us who live in this region take moose for granted.  We see them regularly, if not predictably. Seeing a moose for the first time would be a big deal for this reader and his friend.  But where to send them?

I had a moose in my yard near Hangman Creek a few weeks ago, but I haven't seen hide nor hair of the bull since.

Mike Miller of Spokane snapped a photo of this bull moose on Wednesday while dayhiking along the Little Spokane River.

Just last year, moose were chasing dogs accompanying hikers in the Dishman Hills.

I put out a few queries to Fish and Game officers. So far, they haven't come up with an area where you could regularly be likely to drive up and see a moose, although moose are being poached not far from I-90 near Cataldo.

One moose was killed in a collision with a motorist off Highway 2 just north of Spokane this week and another was killed by a vehicle two weeks ago off Highway 195 just south of town.

Moose are all around Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, and up the logging roads throughout the region. I saw one near Liberty Lake last week. Elk hunters have told me they've been seeing more moose than elk up the logging roads from Idaho's St. Joe River area to 49 Degrees north in Washington.

 But it's tricky to tell somebody where he could go out and see one tomorrow.

City recruiting helpers to build trails in NW Spokane park

TRAILSSpokane Parks and Recreation Department is planning two volunteer trail building days at Wyakin Park. This undeveloped park is in the northwest part of Spokane at the corner of Assembly and Francis. 

"This area is about 20 acres and will make a great small trail area that is close to Riverside State Park, and the Merkel Trail system," said Mike Aho, the city's outdoor program director. "It makes a great hiking, trail running, dog walking and Mountain Biking park for the northwest residents."

"To make this happen we are relying on volunteer labor to help create another close to home nature area. Your help continues to make Spokane a great place to live and recreate by helping out."

The work days are:

  • Friday (Nov. 11-Veterans Day), noon-3 p.m.
  • Saturday (Nov. 12), 9 a.m.-noon.

Sign up: Contact volunteer coordinator Ted Moon at  lunarover@comcast.net or 991-5166

Bring Trail tools (shovels, racks, litter bag, loppers), Gloves, Sturdy Shoes, water bottle and dress for weather.

Meet at the park just North of Francis Avenue on Assembly Street.

Dishman Hills group celebrates 45 years — with more conservation plans

The  Dishman Hills Natural Area Association is the low-key local conservation group that just keeps on giving. Consider joining the celebration and seeing what the groups in planning next.

Goat-goring lawsuit already having impact on park wildlife

WILDLIFE — The $10 million claim against Olympic National Park for the October 2010 goring death of a hiker already is having an impact on the park's tolerance of overly friendly or aggressive wildlife.

Park officials said they knew of at least one disruptive mountain goat on Klahhane Ridge before Bob Boardman, 63, bled to death after being menaced and gored in the leg by an aggressive goat. But officials have said they had no way of singling out the goat that killed Boardman as a goat they'd had problems with.

New rules for less tolerance of overly friendly or aggressive animals already are in place in the park.

On Sept. 6, a park ranger operating under the new rules killed a mountain goat that for three days had refused to leave a campsite near Upper Royal Basin along the park’s eastern boundary.

Read on for a Peninsula Daily News story detailing the developments that led to the Boardman family filing a $10 million lawsuit on Tuesday against the National Park Service.

Mount Spokane mountain biking topic of parks survey

STATE PARKS – A survey regarding mountain biking at Mount Spokane State Park has been launched by Washington State Parks. People who love the park should comment, even if they are not mountain bikers. Read on and I'll tell you why.

The public has until Dec. 16 to complete the online survey and indicate their desires for mountain biking opportunities at the 13,919-acre state park to help officials plan future trail developments.

Survey questions focus on how park visitors use the trail system now and on how the system could be improved.

After 15 years of effort from the Mount Spokane State Park Advisory Committee, a "master plan" has finally been approved. Now the details and on-the-ground stuff is being worked out.  Trails can and are being realigned for all sorts of reasons, and one of the chief reasons to consider is safety.

Unfortunately, a full mountain biking plan has yet to be completed. 

If you've hiked or ridden a horse on Mount Spokane trails you probably share my feeling that high-speed downhill mountain biking is not compatible with other recreationsts on steep trails. This survey seems to be a start at addressing that.

"We want every visitor to Mount Spokane to have a positive experience, and we know that many people have experienced conflict, frustration, and outright fear when high speed mountain bikers encounter other recreationists," said Friends spokesman Cris Currie. "The local mountain biking community and state parks in Olympia have created a survey to gather input on this matter and I would hope that each of you might take the time to answer it.

"The Advisory Committee's position so far is to create a high speed mountain biking area in the alpine ski area and then apply more restrictions to mountain biking on other trails in the park.  We've reached no conclusions yet regarding what these restrictions might look like, but we would like your opinions!" 

Fore details on Mount Spokane trails and the master plan updates, see the great Friends of Mount Spokane State Park website.

For more info on the survey, contact: Nikki Fields, state park planner (360) 902-8658, email mount.spokane.mountainbike@parks.wa.gov

Judge orders 6 Idaho forest trails closed to OHVs

TRAILS — A federal judge has decided to temporarily close down trail access to off-road vehicles in sections of the Salmon-Challis National Forest pending a review of the forest's travel plan, the Idaho Statesman reports.

The order issued Tuesday follows a February ruling that the U.S. Forest Service had ignored evidence showing significant damage to trails and the landscape from off-road vehicles when it crafted its 2009 plan.

Brad Brooks of The Wilderness Society says the closure will ensure trails are protected until the forest managers can craft rules better protecting soil, water and vegetation from ATV's and other vehicles.

$10 Mil lawsuit filed in death of man killed by park mountain goat

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — The family of a man who was gored to death by a mountain goat in Olympic National Park  last year is suing the Park Service, the Associated Press reports.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Tacoma by the Messina Bulzomi Christensen law firm.

The Interior Department had earlier denied a $10 million wrongful death claim from the family of 63-year-old Bob Boardman of Port Angeles. A department lawyer said there was no evidence of negligence in the October 2010 death.

Tacoma attorney John Messina told the Peninsula Daily News the goat that killed Boardman was a rogue that the park should have done something about.

Park officials said they knew of at least one disruptive goat on Klahhane Ridge but have said they had no way of singling out the goat that killed Boardman as a goat they had problems with.

New rules for less tollerance of overly friendly or aggressive animals already are in place in the park.

On Sept. 6, a park ranger operating under the new rules killed a mountain goat that for three days had refused to leave a campsite near Upper Royal Basin near the park’s eastern boundary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INW: Hiking Every Glacier Park Trail

Jake Bramante crossing through a make-shift finish line on Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Lincoln Lake trailhead in Glacier National Park. Bramante estimates that he has covered approximate 1200 miles in his quest to hike all 734 miles of trail in Glacier National Park. When asked what he was going to do next summer Bramante said he would like to hike Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada. Story here. (AP Photo/Daily Inter Lake, Brenda Ahearn)

Help needed for Gibraltar Trail construction

TRAILS — Mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians are gathering in November for another blitz to build an epic trail east of Republic, Wash., — and they can use more help.

"Last October, over a dozen volunteers from Conservation Northwest, Spokane Mountaineers, Washington Trails Association and the Ferry County Trails Association broke ground on the new Gibraltar trail," said Derrick Knowles of Conservation Northwest. "The trail, the product of a five-year effort between recreation groups, conservationists and the Colville National Forest, will provide new recreation opportunities close to the town of Republic."

The last two work parties of the season will be held Nov. 5-6 and Nov. 19-20.

E-mail derrick@conservationnw.org to sign up or call 509-435-1270 for more info on what to bring, where to meet, and where to camp/stay.

Read on for more details about the trail.

Backpackers bask in golden autumn glow of alpine larch

HIKING — The alpine larch are putting on their annual autumn show of golden brilliance in the region's high country, from the North Cascades across the high Selkirks and Purcell Mountains of British Columbia.

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness has reputation for a sensational larch display, but local backpacker Tanner Grant just got back from a spectacle in the North Cascades where no special permits are required.

"We do a trip every year in search of golden alpine larch," he said. "This year we went to Sunrise Lake high above the Methow River and it was spectacular."

The snow was patchy around 6,300 feet and consistent above 7,000, he said, noting the hike to Sunrise is 13.5 miles round trip with a serious 3,700 feet of elevation gain

Larch  feature branches with needles that look somewhat like those on fir trees except that they turn color and fall off in fall like the leaves of deciduous trees. 

The western larch of the lower forests such as the Pend Oreille Valley and even Lookout Pass, are still about two weeks from prime time for yellow color displays.

But Grant says the alpine larch displays at higher elevations are likely to peak around this week.

Other favorite North Cascades spots on Grant's apline larch fall colors list include Cooney Lake, Eagle Lakes, Crater Lakes, Cutthroat Pass, Maple Pass, and Blue Lake for starters.

"Always check the forecast this time of year and plan for winter conditions," he advised. "Any precipitation will fall as snow."

Click here to see more of Grant's photos from his recent larch extravaganza.

South Hill bluff forest thinning started; comments requested

CITY TRAILS — While most people were relaxing or playing on Sunday, two dozen volunteers thinned ponderosa pine trees and trimmed branches on the South Hill bluff in a demonstration project for reducing fire risk.

“The idea is to manage the forest so a fire would be limited to burning grass and brush on the ground rather than blowing up into a crown fire that would destroy lots of trees and put neighborhood homes at risk,” said Erik Sjoquist, WSU-Spokane County Extension forester.

The bluff below High Drive to Hangman Creek has a system of trails prized by hikers and mountain bikers.

The popularity of the trails helped spawn a group called Friends of the Bluffs, which is working on several issues related to the trails, including trail maintenance, weed control and fire safety, not to mention dog-dropping containment.

The group is looking for more volunteers to complete the demo project on Sunday, Oct. 16, starting at 1 p.m.

Comments requested

Before proceeding with more fire safety efforts, the Friends of the Bluffs want High Drive area trail users and neighbors to check out the forest thinning demonstration project below High Drive just west of Manito Boulevard.

Email comments to friendsofthebluff@yahoo.com

For info on becoming involved with Friends of the Bluffs, contact Diana Roberts, robertsd@wsu.edu

Helpers sought for tree South Hill bluff tree pruning effort

TRAILS/ENVIRONMENT — The Friends of the High Drive Bluff on Spokane's South Hill are coordinating a tree pruning clinic 1 p.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday (Oct. 9) to help generate more helpers to reduce fire danger on the bluffs and improve thee quality of the bluff trails.

Participants on Sunday will create a fire risk reduction demonstration site.
Anyone interested in joining a team to maintain fuelbreaks along the Bluff trail system is welcome to participate.

Please RSVP by Friday to Erik Sjoquist  of the Spokane County/WSU Extension, phone 477-2175, email erik.sjoquist@wsu.edu

The project will involve physical work on steep slopes.
Meet at the trailhead 20 yards south of the intersection of Bernard and High Drive. Bring water to drink, work gloves and wear sturdy boots. If you have any of the following, please bring them also; pruning saws, loppers, axes, and hard hats.  

Hikers disturb wildlife in parks, study says

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A study done in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks in Alberta and British Columbia found that even one hiker an hour on trails in those parks sent predators and prey scurrying.

However, elk and other herbivores were not as deterred by hikers as were wolves.

Read the Toronto Globe report.

Last call: Hiawatha Trail closing for season Sunday

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

Wild Night for Wilderness Sept. 30 in Sandpoint

CONSERVATION — “Wild Night For Wilderness" – a community celebration of the great outdoors, is being organized into an evening of music, slides and updates on the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30, at Evans Brother’s Coffee in Sandpoint.

The evening also includes a taste of local libations — featuring locally brewed beer by Laughing Dog and locally crafted wine by Pend d’Oreille Winery — plus free appetizers, door prizes and music by Baregrass, a popular local dance band.

The event, sponsored by Idaho Conservation League, Selkirk Outdoor Leadership and Education and Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness,  will have a no-host bar, $5 cover at the door.

Info: (208) 265-9565.

Neighbornhood workshop on fire risk reduction for the High Drive Bluff on Thursday

URBAN FORESTS — The Friends of the High Drive Bluff are organizing a discussion on the proposed Fire Risk Reduction Plan for that popular South Hill recreation area on Thursday, 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m., at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, 5720 S. Perry St.

Anyone interested in the Bluff is welcome and encouraged to participate.
Last spring, community members identified fire risk reduction as a high priority for the Bluff and for neighboring homes. Attend this workshop to learn details of the plan, get answers to your questions, and learn how you can help with the project.

Contact: Diana Roberts, WSU Spokane County Extension, (509) 477-2167, email robertsd@wsu.edu

Downtown hike a great way to celebrate whatever water has flowed under your bridge

HIKING — My wife, Meredith, and I celebrated our 29th anniversary Sunday afternoon (and evening) with a lively troop of trekking friends, shown here bagging the Kardong Bridge on the Centennial Tail.

This was Bridge No. 18 in the 7.8-mile downtown hike of 18 Spokane River bridges. We could have made it 20 bridges had we scampered across the Maple Street and Division Street bridges, but we left that goal for another year of marriage.

 We started and ended at the Sandifur Bridge near High Bridge Park.

What next? We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Mountain bikers offer trail building class in CdA

TRAILSInternational Mountain Biking Association trail crew experts are offering a Trail Building Class, Saturday, Oct. 1,  8 a.m.-4 p.m.  starting at McLain Hall, North Idaho College,  followed by a field session at Blue Creek Bay.

Experts train locals in techniques to help boost area trail systems.

Dress for a day of work in the woods and bring plenty of water and snacks.

  • Who: Anyone interested in developing mountain biking in our area
  • Cost: FREE – lunch is provided

Sponsored by North Idaho College Outdoor Pursuits, Lake City Trail Builders Association, International Mountain Biking Association, Bicycle Sales and Service, Two Wheeler Dealer, Bureau of Land Management.

Contacts: Jon Totten: jon_totten@nic.edu (208) 769-7809, Lake City Trail Builders: lctba83814@hotmail.com

Fall foliage gets grip on Pend Oreille Divide

HIKING — This is my notion of crimson and gray: Fall huckleberries and granite.

I hiked the north-south divide between the Pend Oreille River and Priest Lake today, North Baldy to Kalispell Rock and back today. Total of 17 miles, temps in high 80s. Gorgeous.

A beer well earned.

Birthday fire settles down, but trails, roads closed in Selkirks

PUBLIC LANDS — Recreation is being curtailed as fire fighters are getting a handle on the 640-acre Birthday fire, which is burning on the Crest of the Selkirk Mountans northeast of Priest Lake and about 20 air miles northwest of Bonners Ferry.

The fire is centered near in the subalpine regions of Abandon Mountain, which is south of West Fork Lake and north of Lions Head. The Forest Service and Idaho Department of lands have closed many popular roads and recreational trails in the area.

Road, trail, and area closures include: 

  • FS Road 281, from its junction with FSR655; the entire length of Trail 21 (starting at West Fork Trailhead to the junction with Trail 102) and the entire length of Trail 347 (starting at Trail 21, to its termination at West Fork Mountain);
  • FS Road 2545 (from the junction with Road 655 to its termination); the entire length of Trail 102 (starting at Hidden Lake trailhead, to its termination at Road 281);
  • FS Road 2443 from the junction with Road 281; the entire length of Trail 17 (starting at the trailhead on road 2443); and the entire length of Trail 18 (starting at Cutoff Peak, ending at Smith Triangulation.)

Idaho Department of Lands also may be restricting access to the Lookout Mountain area northeast of Upper Priest Lake.

Detailed descriptions of closures, as well as an area closure map are posted on the “Birthday Fire” link on www.inciweb.org.

State could lose $1.8 million in federal recreational trail funding

TRAILS — Organized trail user groups — including hikers, bikers, equestrians, snowmobilers and OHVers — are scrambling to avoid loss of  recreational trail funding from the federal transportation budget.

With the Recreational Trails Program in jeopardy, a contingent of trail user group representatives met with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-WA, recently to see what can be done.  The recreational groups said Beutler, who serves on Beutler serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was receptive to their information on the cost-effectiveness of the RTP program grants, which usually are matched and boosted by volunteer groups. 

RTP funds critical maintenance projects by the Forest Service and non-profit volunteer organizations, keeping hundreds of miles of trail open. In fact, your state receives roughly $1.8 million annually from this program. Local clubs leverage this money several times over as it is used it to build and maintain trails all over Washington state.

RTP is funded through a federal gas tax, which provides revenue for important motorized and non-motorized trail projects. Unfortunately, Congress is looking for cuts, and by sweeping RTP dollars away to cover some other non-recreation transportation projects, they would be redirecting the gas tax money trail users pay at the pump. (The gas tax for RTP is based on an estimate of the amount of gas purchased for off-highway recreation).

The Washington Trails Association says RTP grants account for 20 percent of its funding for trail maintenance program budget.

The International Mountain Biking Association is asking trail users to contact representatives in Congress to urge them to sign Rep. Herrera Beutler's letter in support of the Recreational Trails Program.

>> Learn more! Recreational Trails Program Q & A

Volunteers needed for September projects on local trails

TRAILS — Several local groups are joining the Washington Trails Association to upgrade Spokane-area trails this month. Most of the work parties are on weekends, but there's a project set for Thursday at Mount Spokane.

Read on to for details about all the September projects, including a major effort at the Iller Creek Conservation Area in Spokane Valley.