Latest from The Spokesman-Review
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.
TRAILS — Spokane 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 email@example.com 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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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)
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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 email@example.com 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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
For info on becoming involved with Friends of the Bluffs, contact Diana Roberts, email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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).
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.
Info: (208) 265-9565.
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 email@example.com
TRAILS — International 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: firstname.lastname@example.org (208) 769-7809, Lake City Trail Builders: email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
HIKING — From Sept. 19-22, hikers on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail No. 2000 just north of I-90 can expect delays of one or two hours while crews work to remove a large log jam and reconstruct the trail.
The project area is 3½ miles north of Snoqualmie Pass.
The trail crew will post details at the trailhead be on the trail to prevent hikers from entering the project area while work is in progress, Forest Service officials say.
Info: Cle Elum Ranger Station, (509) 852 1100.
HIKING — Sorry I've been a bit out of touch this week. My wife, Meredith, and I had to focus on what we were doing: Above Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park, British Columbia.
If you've been waffling on whether to go backpacking into the high country this weekend, get over it. Go!
The nights are cool, the days are perfect, huckleberries are ripe and the crowds and bugs are gone!
NATIONAL FORESTS — Restrictions on campfires, smoking and use of chain saws have kicked in at most of the region's national forests. Hot, dry weather will continue through the weekend as firefighters work to contain forest fires caused by lightning strikes. See the latest on the region's forest fires here.
In the St. Joe River watershed, several small fires — some prescribed for forest health — are restricting access to several roads and trails. Temporary closures include:
- Forest Road 201 from Bathtub Meadows to the junction with Forest Road 1258.
- Forest Road 762 from its junction with Forest Road 1258 to the end of the road.
- Trail 631 between Twin Lakes and Conrad Crossing Campground.
- Trail 28 between Twin Lakes and Fly Flat Campground.
- Trail 2 between its junction with trail 28 and Walo Point.
- Trail 629 between Twin Lakes and Fly Flat Campground.
- Trail 89 between Twin Lakes and Beaver Creek Campground.
- Trail 88 between its junction with Trail 89 and Trail 629.
- Forest Road 320 between Forest Road 218 and Heller Creek Campground.
Six small fires are currently burning in the upper St. Joe River watershed. None of the fires pose any threat to communities or infrastructure and are being managed to provide forest health benefits. The fires range in size from less than one acre to 20 acres and are expected to continue burning until fall rains and cooler temperatures extinguish them.
HUNTING — The Idaho Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Public Outreach Campaign is urging people who use ATVs or motorbikes during hunting season to stay on designated trails and do their homework to ensure that the trails they plan to ride are open.
Officials with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Managementand Idaho Department of Fish and Game say hunters riding off-trail on ATVs or motorbikes continues to be a problem on public lands during hunting season.
"We are most concerned with instances where a hunter drives off-trail to scout for game or retrieve game," said Andy Brunelle, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. "One set of tracks through the brush or in a meadow can invite others to do the same, and the impacts add up, damaging vegetation and causing soil erosion into streams."
According to several surveys, more than half of the approximately 240,000 people who hunt in Idaho (residents and non-residents) during the fall months are using motorbikes or ATVs to access their hunting areas.
Officials with the U.S. Forest Service encourage hunters to obtain copies of Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM's) from the national forest where they plan to hunt. Hard-copy maps are available from national forest ranger district offices, and in some cases, they are online.
The Panhandle National Forests have published new MVUMs for the Coeur d'Alene River Ranger District and the Kaniksu Zone. These are available from Panhandle National Forest offices, and they are online on the forest's web site.
Panhandle National Forest officials are still working on the map for the St. Joe National Forest. The Idaho OHV Public Outreach Project's web site, www.stayontrails.com, has a link to online Forest Service MVUM's on its where to ride page.
BLM officials encourage hunters to check BLM district office web sites for info. Hard-copies are available at district offices.
Under the Forest Service's National Travel Rule, "it's incumbent on the user to know if the trail is open or closed" regardless if the trail is signed appropriately, forest officials said. That's because people have been known to shoot signs full of bullet holes, remove signs or vandalize them.
Hunters also should check Idaho Fish and Game regulations to check on trail or road restrictions in their hunting areas. The Idaho OHV Public Outreach Project produced a YouTube video that helps explain how to sort through MVUM maps and Fish and Game regulations to see if trails are open or closed.
A new Idaho law requires youths who do not have a driver's license to take a free safety course before they ride OHVs on forest roads, and that youths under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet when riding on an OHV or driving one.
HIKING — Trail 279 to Beehive Lakes got a facelift last weekend, tanks to nine volunteers from the Idaho Trails Association.
The group camped up the Pack River Road in the Selkirk Mountains and worked under the supervision of three Forest Service trail crew leaders to clear brush from the popular 4.5-mile trail.
This year the Sandpoint Ranger District budget for trails was approximately $10,000. No other funding was available for maintaining hiking trails on the district this fiscal year.
“The work these volunteers did was priceless,” said MaryAnn Hamilton, Sandpoint Ranger District Trails Coordinator. “It’s great to see hikers helping out with the trails they enjoy.”
The Idaho Trails Association incorporated in 2010 to, in part, help trail managers maintain hiking trails in the state, said
“We would like to express our gratitude for the volunteers that turned out to help keep this trail safe, sustainable, and enjoyable,” said Brad Smith, a member of ITA’s Board of Directors.
The group organized five other trail projects this year across Idaho. ITA’s mission is to promote the continued enjoyment of Idaho’s hiking trails.
URBAN FORESTS — Residents interested in Spokane’s High Drive bluff — the trails and the neighborhoos — are invited to participate in a discussion of forest health for the area on Wednesday (Aug. 31).
Last spring, community members identified fire risk abatement as a high priority for the Bluff. This workshop will focus on a plan for reducing fire risk on the Bluff and for neighboring homes.
The workshop will be held at the Rocket Market at 726 E 43rd Ave from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will include a description of the proposed forest health plan, plus a question and answer session.
Join in the discussion, enjoy a no-host beverage with neighbors, and learn how you can get involved in the project!
For planning purposes, please RSVP to Diana Roberts at WSU Spokane County Extension, phone (509) 477-2167 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.