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Would Sawtooths benefit from national monument status?

PUBLIC LANDS — A group that's been a watchdog over the spectacular Sawtooth Mountains in central Idaho is wary of elevating the national status of the area.

Sawtooth Society wary about proposed Idaho national monument
The Sawtooth Society has been involved with Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho since 1997, and a new push to put those lands, as well as others into a new Boulder-White Clouds National Monument has the group calling for an all-inclusive examination of just what creating a monument would mean for those lands and the communities adjacent to them.
—Twin Falls Times-News

Oregon state parks consider ban on outdoor smoking

PARKS — The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is holding four meetings this week for the public to comment on plans to ban outdoor smoking at state parks.  

The Statesman Journal reports the proposed ban would stop smoking on hiking trails, picnic areas, waysides and common areas of state campgrounds. People could still smoke in their cars, RVs or tents.   
 
Violators would face fines between $60 and $110.  
 
The parks commission will take up the rule at its February meeting. The ban wouldn’t take effect until 2015.  
 
Smoking is already banned in parks in 56 cities and counties across Oregon. 

Nordic skiing events coming up around Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — Several special nordic skiing activities are gearing up this week, according to Spokane Nordic. Time to dig in:

Hands-on Waxing Clinic

Friday, Jan. 10 at 6 p.m. — A two-hour class on base prep to finish waxing on your own gear at Fitness Fanatics in Spokane Valley. $35 a person/set of skis. Pre-register, (509) 922-6080.

Kids' Telemark clinic this weekend

Jan. 11-12 at 49 Degrees North — This is a rare treat for kids ages 6-14, who will be fitted with junior nordic downhill gear from Tele Ned's van.

Cross-Country Skiing Basics Class

Thursday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. — Session at the Spokane REI store covers fundamental differences between backcountry, telemarking, and touring ski styles, plus clothing choices and where to get started. Pre-register here.

Coming up Jan. 19: WinterFest, presented by Spokane Nordic.  

Here's what to think about now:

Register for Donut Dash

The Donut Dash Sprint Race during WinterFest Jan. 19th is geared to all ages and abilities. Enter the lighthearted or competitive bracket. Learn more and register.

> Backcountry Clinic and Free lessons

A few spots are still available for the FREE Backcountry Ski Clinic at WinterFest. There are also free lessons slots available throughout the morning.

> Sign up for soup and cider

Two "folk ski" routes to free soup and cider at the Nova Hut will be featured on Jan. 19. Learn more and register.

 

Regional trails plan unveiled Tuesday at REI

TRAILS — An update to the 2008 Spokane County Regional Trails Plan will help integrate routes for walkers, runners, skaters, cyclists and equestrians into planning and development as the population grows, officials say.

The draft plan, up for county approval this month, identifies 677 miles of routes ranging from single tracks to the 12-foot-wide Centennial Trail, said Parks Department planner Paul Knowles.

The plan will help the county preserve and maintain existing trails while identifying links for an interconnected network of user-friendly trails, he said.

But don't take our word for it: check it out for yourself:

  • See maps, ask questions and comment on updates to the Spokane County Regional Trail Plan at an open house meeting Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., at REI, 1125 N. Monroe St.
  • See the Regional Trail Plan documents on the County Parks website.

The county Planning Commission is set to review the draft plan on Jan. 16.

Outdoor groups in the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition helped fund the trail planning, map trails and propose possible links and expansion throughout the region.

The new Centennial Trail segment through Kendall Yards is indicates the benefits that can be achieved through trail planning Knowles said. The proposed Dream Trail running north-south completely through the Dishman Hills is another goal.

The plan could facilitate public access from Five Mile Prairie to the Little Spokane River.

Read on for more information about the plan.

Washington state parks consider more commercialization

STATE PARKS — The public has until Tuesday, Jan. 7, to comment on a proposal to allow commercial advertising in the Washington state parks website.

At its next regular meeting on Jan. 23, the parks commission plans to approve a new Washington State Parks advertising policy to allow commercial advertising on digital and printed material, and to set criteria for any such advertising.

The draft advertising policy can be found online.

The proposed policy does not include commercial advertising in state parks, but only advertising on agency websites and select printed materials.

The public can comment online by Jan. 7. Comments will be given to the commission for consideration.

Spokane County Regional Trail Plan needs your input

​Here's a good opportunity to speak out on an important regional asset: Spokane County Parks and Recreation, working in collaboration with the Inland Northwest Trails Coalition (INTC), has updated the Spokane County Regional Trail Plan and wants your input on it. The Plan identifies policies and specific projects that could further the development of an interconnected system of non-motorized trails that will serve commuters and recreationalists.

An open house is scheduled for Tuesday, January 7, 2014, at REI (1125 N. Monroe St.), from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the plan. Staff will be available to answer questions and receive input. In addition, a display for the Plan Update will be available for viewing at STA Plaza from December 20th through January 3, 2014.

Washington State Parks host New Year’s Day hikes

HIKING – State Parks across Washington are sponsoring family-oriented New Year’s Day hikes to get the  year off on the right foot. Events in the Spokane area include:

Mount Spokane, 10 a.m. — Snowshoe along Trail 130 for a 2- to 4-mile, round-trip hike. Meet at the snowmobile parking lot. A Seasonal Sno-Park Permit and a Special Groomed Trail Permit or a One-Day Sno-Park Permit and a Discover Pass are required for vehicle access to the event. (Purchase Sno-Park permits online at www.parks.wa.gov/winter/) Snowshoes are required, and pets are allowed on a leash.

Riverside State Park, 1 p.m. — Take the foot bridge over the Spokane River for a hike on the Bowl and Pitcher River Trail. Participants will see the unique basalt rock formations cut by the Spokane River known as the Bowl and Pitcher. Meet in the Bowl and Pitcher swing bridge parking lot. Snowshoes may be required. Pets on leash are allowed. 

Another snowshoe trail marked on Mount Spokane

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

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

New OFF-TRAIL option to hike to Bald Knob.

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

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

Snowshoe loop trail marked near Mount Spokane nordic area

WINTER SPORTS —  The Friends of Mt. Spokane State Park, which have a list of trails and routes posted on their website, have opened a new 1.3-mile snowshoe route that starts near the Mount Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park.  Here's a description, posted today by Cris Currie, the friends group president:
It's called the Trail 260 Loop and starts just below the Selkirk Lodge. From the Lodge, hike east and downhill and cross the Linder Ridge Road. Go around the closed sign to the pink flagging and then head straight downhill. 
 
If you are on the groomed Nordic trail, you have gone to far! Just find the easiest way and head straight down until you get the to Condo Road. There is no flagging or trail on this portion of the route.
 
Turn right on the road and pass through a large logged area with great views. After going around a bend and crossing over a wooded stream, there will be another small logged area. Head uphill into the logged area, following some more pink flagging, and then find Trail 260 heading to the right. It is an old logging road that gradually climbs the hill back to the starting point.
 
I opened up the trail last summer and trimmed it a few weeks ago. Yesterday I tracked the whole route and added some more flagging. I would consider it an intermediate trail and it took me less than an hour. You can easily extend it by hiking more of the Condo Road in either direction.
 
The road is on Inland Empire Paper Co. property until it enters the SnowBlaze property. If you follow it east, you will come to the groomed Nordic trails at the bridge. (Snowshoeing is prohibited on the groomed ski trails.) 
 
Trail 260 was going to be a snowmobile route to get the machines off the Linder Ridge Road until IEPCO banned snowmobiling completely from their property. So now we can use it as a snowshoe route! Enjoy!
Also today, snowshoeing volunteer Warren D. Walker signed the Trail 140 route to the Mount Spokane summit.
 
Snow conditions currently are, shall we say, very firm at Mount Spokane, with an icy crust over softer snow, as the photo of Currie (above) indicates.

Mount Spokane snowshoeing trail marked to summit

WINTER SPORTS — Snowshoer and state park volunteer Warren D. Walker got up very early this morning to be high on the slopes of Mount Spokane for sunrise.

To get even more from his outing, with the permission of park staff, he marked a trail for snowshoers to follow.

I hiked today to see the sunrise from the top and to finish marking Trail 140. Did both. Trail 140 is now marked from Bear Creek Lodge to the summit. A good return route from the top is off the back on Trail 140 down to the CCC Cabin then back on 130/131 to the snowmobile parking lot.

Mount Spokane gears up; beer served at Vista House

WINTER SPORTS — 

Mount Spokane is gearing up for holiday crowds at the alpine and nordic areas. Here's the latest:
 
The historic stone Vista House at the mountain summit will open Dec. 26 and stay open daily through the holiday break.  After Jan. 5 it will be open weekends and holidays. New this year, canned beer will be served along with the usual soups, snacks and hot chocolate.  The Vista House is at the top of Chair 1 and is a popular destination for backcountry snowshoers. 
 
 
The Mount Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park is scheduled to be groomed tonight even though the groomer normally doesn't operate on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. "We're going to take care of the new snow we got and keep it groomed probably six days a week instead of five through the Christmas break," said Steve Christensen, state park manager.
 
A snowshoe hike is being organized by the park staff and volunteers for Jan. 1, starting at 10 a.m. from the snowmobile parking lot located before the road drops down to the alpine ski area.  Sno-Park permits will be required for vehicles.

Trapper group asks wolf trappers to stay clear of ski trails

TRAPPING — With wolf trappers and hunters crossing paths with recreationists on public lands, a Montana trapping group this week appealed to trappers to use common sense and keep traps away from popular recreation trails.

This action comes after:

On Wednesday, the Montana Trappers Association announced it wants trappers to think twice about setting traps anywhere near the dog-friendly cross-country ski trails at Lake Como in Montana's Bitterroot Valley.

Read on for the story by Perry Backus of the Ravali Republic.

Now’s the time to map out next year’s hiking adventure

TRAILS — Now's the time to plan next year's major backpacking excursions for more reasons than one.  

Permits need to be secured in some cases, and if the trip is in the West, now's the best time to buy specially designed topos from Green Trails Maps.

The company is offering FREE SHIPPING on map orders through Dec. 15 from its Web Store.  

While they are based on USGS topograhic maps, Green Trails maps are better for hikers because they are enhanced with on-the-ground research to detail trails and trail mileages.

Founded in 1973, Green Trails doesn't cover every place you might want to go.  But the 140 or so topographic recreation map titles the company has chosen to publish cover  the most spectacular mountain, beach desert areas North America, including Washington and Oregon's Cascade Mountains, the Olympic Peninsula, Mount Rainier's Wonderland Trail and western wilderness areas.

Green Trails maps show the most current trail, road, and access information to national forests, national parks, state and local parks, and other public lands in a clear, compact and convenient format and scale.  

Some of the most recently revised Green Trails maps include the Goat Rocks Wilderness, Alpine Lakes/Stevens Pass and Columbia Gorge East.

Counties challenge Clearwater National Forest travel plan in court

PUBLIC LANDS — A week after conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit against the new Clearwater National Forest Travel Management Plan, two Idaho counties have filed suit against the plan that closes 200 miles of national forest trails to motorized vehicles.

Idaho and Clearwater counties charge that forest officials failed to adequately consult with local authorities while drafting the travel plan enacted last year.

County officials also claim forest planners didn’t properly analyze the plan’s local economic impact and allege the forest created de facto wilderness areas by banning motorcycles and mountain bikes from areas previously recommended for wilderness.

“We thought we better take a stand,” Clearwater County Commissioner Don Ebert told The Lewiston Tribune. “We get ran over all the time by the Forest Service. We picked a battle where we think we are on solid ground and hope we will prevail.”

Forest officials did not offer an immediate response sought by The Associated Press today on the new legal challenge.

Commissioners from both counties say they were compelled to file a lawsuit after their administrative appeal of the travel plan was denied by the agency.

The lawsuit is the latest filed against the forest and its 2012 travel policy.

Last week, three environmental groups sued in federal court, contending the forest plan allows too much access for motorized vehicles, a policy they say will ultimately harm wildlife habitat. The environmental groups allege the travel plan violates a 1987 plan by allowing motorized vehicle use in areas the agency had pledged to protect as prime habitat for elk.

Federal laws require agencies like the Forest Service to coordinate their actions and plans with state and local governments.

The case brought by the counties alleges agency officials made little effort to coordinate the travel plan with the counties, who favor more motorized access when possible.

“We didn’t really see any attempt to do that,” Ebert told the Morning Tribune. “They just sort of disregarded us.”

Clearwater travel plan challenged by conservationists

PUBLIC LANDS — Three conservation groups say they filed a lawsuit on Dec. 5th in Idaho Federal District Court challenging the Clearwater National Forest Travel Plan. The recently released plan determines which trails and roads will be open to motorized vehicles and which areas of the national forest will be open to snowmobiles.

The plan defers the decision on the ultimate size and extent of the road system.

The Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Sierra Club contend that rather than protect key wildlife habitat and wild areas, as prescribed in the forest plan, the travel plan allows motorized vehicles to enter sensitive wildlife habitat in the
backcountry on trails not designed for motorized use.
 
The organizations also contend that the travel plan does not minimize summer or winter off-road vehicle damage or minimize damage to wildlife habitat, watersheds or quiet recreation.
 
Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater says the 1987 Clearwater National Forest plan was supposed to protect the natural resources with its specific standards set for the protection of wildlife in certain backcountry areas. 
 
“Since then, motorized vehicles have been essentially unregulated on backcountry trails, severely degrading both terrestrial and aquatic habitat," he said. "Roadless areas that are prime wilderness candidates, including Weitas Creek and Pot Mountain, have
been overrun with motorized use.”
 
The plaintiffs note that the Forest Service did not even fully protect its limited recommended wilderness
from motorized vehicles. “Even the biologically unique Fish Lake in Kelly Creek, an area recommended for wilderness by the Forest Service, was not protected from vehicle use," says Al Poplawsky of the Sierra Club. "The resource damage from vehicle use in this area has been so serious that the Forest Service has had to close the trail during wet periods in recent years. The trail to the lake and areas around the lake are littered with vehicle parts and broken glass. It would make more sense to just close the entire area to vehicle use.”

Objections to Panhandle Forests plan available online

PUBLIC LANDS — The 22 formal objections filed to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ revised forest plan were made available for review this week.

The revision of the plan last revised in 1987 was released in September and is meant to guide forest management of everything from timber production to roadless areas for the next 15 years or so.

The objections can be reviewed on Idaho Panhandle National Forests “Objections Received” webpage.

People interested in an objection can file a request to participate in any resolution meetings that are scheduled.

For example:

  • Old stands of pines, cedars and firs don’t have enough protections under the Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ draft management plan, according to environmental groups, who say the big trees need more safeguards.
  • The plan's recommendations for wilderness are criticized for being too much as well as too little.
  • Objections from the Shoshone County Commission, including issues about snowmobiling, were so extensive they had to be separated into two online files.

The Forest Service has 90 days to respond to the objections.

 

Chart simplifies Mount Spokane’s winter access pass requirements

WINTER SPORTS — My recent blog post on the transitions at Mount Spokane State Park indicated the biggest change this seasons is the elimination of the Discover Pass for WINTER vehicle access to the park through March 31.

The handy chart above, courtesy of the Spokane REI store, helps illustrate the change.

Read the story for details.

Nordic skiing gears up at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — This is transition time for nordic skiers and snowshoers at Mount Spokane State Park.

This week:  State Park staff was out recently to clear about 50 trees that had blown down on the 60-kilometer cross-country trails system after two feet of snow followed the storm and buried them well.  Taking the snowcat out for that job helped pack some of the trails, and Park Manager Steve Christensen went out on his own with the snowmobile groomer to smooth out the trails, although it was too hard-packed to set tracks.  The Selkirk Lodge will be opened on Thanksgiving Day, he said.  "I've been trying to save a little money on heating it — it costs about $1,000 a month — since there's not that many people up here yet," he said.

Starting Dec. 1:  Official grooming will begin if snow conditions allow. The biggest change this year mostly affects snowshoers.  Dec. 1 marks the day that Discover Passes will no longer be valid for parking during the winter season at Mount Spokane, where all vehicles will need a Sno Park Permit in their vehicles EXCEPT at the Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park official parking when the resort is operating.  No parking will be allowed along the roads without a Sno-Park Permit this season.

Lots of other things are gearing up.  A good way to stay informed is to Join or Renew a membership with Spokane Nordic and get the club's regular newsletters and email updates.   A sampling of this week's updates:

Snowball potluck, Dec. 7
Celebrate the first Saturday of grooming at the Mt. Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park with the Snowball potluck on Dec. 7, assuming conditions cooperate. If it has to be moved later for lack of grooming conditions, we'll let you know through email and Facebook. This is open to ALL skiers. Get to know your fellow skiers and start the season with a full belly.  Bring a dish to share for lunch at noon at the Selkirk Lodge. What to bring: Names starting with A-P bring a main Dish; Q-Z bring Dessert. 

WinterFest early registration prizes
Even better than Black Friday… register for WinterFest by Dec. 1 and you'll be automatically entered to win an REI backpack. WinterFest is a new event the club is organizing to celebrate muscle-powered winter sports at Mount Spokane.

Kids' skis available
The online ski swap lists a collection of used small kids' gear available at Mountain Gear's retail store in Spokane. You can also find a set of barely-used ski waxes and some booties for your skijoring dog.

Nordic Kids and Youth Rangers
Register for Nordic Kids and the new Youth Rangers program before Dec. 15 to avoid late fees. And invite a friend to get their kid going in lessons!

Adult nordic skiing lessons
Adult lessons are scheduled for all experience levels, skate or classic on Saturdays and Sundays starting Dec. 7. Tweak those skills, and invite that friend or co-worker who's never skied to try out a beginner lesson.

Contact Spokane Nordic by email: info@spokanenordic.org

 

 

Centennial Trail reopens at Convention Center construction site

TRAILS — The section of the Spokane River Centennial Trail that's been closed for weeks because of sewer line construction at the Spokane Convention Center expansion site (see story) will reopen this afternoon.

The Friends of the Centennial Trail report that Mile 22.5 of the Centennial Trail, from Division Street Bridge west to King Cole Bridge at the Spokane Convention Center, flows through the first phase of restoring and re-landscaping the area.

"Like the newly discovered Spokane River Gorge views from the Trail at Kendall Yards, the 'new' Convention Center views show case Riverfront Park, the north bank of the river and Gonzaga University like never before," the Friends say in a email update.

"Extensive work to restore and landscape the Spokane River shoreline and bring a new first-phase surface to the Trail is beautiful.  Even in their dormant state, the addition of over 75 trees and hundreds of native plants make this area flourish.  Some Miracle Mile Medallions here have been carefully removed and stored.  They will be re-installed in numerical order when the project is completed by December, 2014."

The second phase of trail construction begins next September.  
  

Color fading from brilliant fall hiking season

HIKING — Last month I emphasized that the hunting seasons shouldn't deter hikers from getting out to enjoy the region's trails during the brilliant autumn show of colors.

Ann Fennessy and her husband second that motion.  As Ann said in an email, the season can be full of discoveries, for hikers and their companions:

My husband and I had a beautiful hike this past Friday close to Chewelah Peak.  Our Golden Doodle, Mae, bailed out over the trail for a moment, then returned with a dog's version of a rich man's home on Halloween: the remains of a field-dressed deer. We couldn't see the carcass, but the hunter had kindly sawed the bones into 8-9" sections: perfect for each of our hounds to find a hunk and carry it along for the rest of the hike.

Oh, Lord, were they prancing and dancing! Occasionally, they just had to flop down and gnaw their treasure for a minute. Bob and I were happy to pause and let them savor while we savored the surroundings.

As you can see, we are decked out in fairly visible gear. I do get nervous hiking at this time of year, but take precautions. Plus, my husband and I carry on conversations most of the time and we stick to the trails.

A couple of weeks and a couple of wind storms later, the larch are losing their golden needles and the autumn hiking season is fading away. 

High Drive meeting: Are sidewalks just for poor people?

TRAILS — A packed house showed up last night at the new Jefferson Elementary School for the city-sponsored meeting to unveil new plans for the $6.8 million project that will repave and remodel High Drive while changing access to the South Hill bluff trails.  The meeting provided a lot of answers to concerned neighbors and perhaps raised a few more questions.

One comment from the audience caught my attention as an illustration of how wide the views range on developing a public asset such as High Drive.  The comment from the man, Dave, reminds us that private property owners often take very narrow views of public interest on city right-of-way.

To paraphrase Dave:

The city should focus funding earmarked for sidewalks to poor neighborhoods where people need the walkways to get to the bus rather than waste the money on a sidewalk in an affluent neighborhood where it isn't needed.

First, Dave apparently doesn't look out the tinted windows of his vehicle as he drives to and from his South Hill home to observe all of the walkers and runners who use High Drive each day.

Second, more walkers and runners would enjoy the premier views of High Drive if they didn't have to walk in the road especially around dangerous curves.

Third, it's crazy that the city has gone this long without providing a sidewalk or path the length of High Drive, one of the finest pedestrian routes the city has to offer.

High Drive street project could impact access to trails

TRAILS — As today's news story points out, City of Spokane engineers are ready to present a new plan for the $6.8 million High Drive street project after public criticism of initial proposals this summer and fall sent them back to the drawing board.

The project is of major concern to the hikers, cyclists, dog walkers and runners who flock to the 25-mile trail system along the South Hill bluff. Initial proposals would have reduced access to the trails and eliminated up to 80 percent of the available parking.

The city will unveil the revised design in an open-house meeting on Thursday, Nov. 7, from 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., at the new Jefferson Elementary School, 123 E. 37th Ave

  • To get involved with protecting and improving the bluff trails and the natural landscape they traverse, check into the Friends of the Bluff

 

October 2013 one of the best ever for staying outdoors

ENVIRONMENT — If you are a camper, backpacker, paddler or angler, you're probably looking back, as I am, with fond memories of October's fall color spectacle against blue skies.  

It was fantastic, with perhaps a record dearth of rainfall to spoil the experience.

Not great for everyone, but we take the lemonaide when it comes.

We were sleeping under stars and an brilliant full moon without need for a tent in the middle of the month 

Like all seasons, October glory is finally waning into something else, as this photo suggests from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Nordic group preps Mount Spokane trails, reveals winter programs

WINTER SPORTS — The hard-working volunteers from Spokane Nordic — more helpers would be much appreciated — are gearing up for their last trail prepping day of the year, set for Sunday, Oct 27, at the Mount Spokane cross-country ski trails. 
 
The group already has cut and split firewood for the Selkirk Lodge and Nova Hut and cleared about 60 percent of the trails to ready them for snowfall and grooming.
 
Last week, 14 people showed up to help. The group says it needs at least that many people this weekend to clean up the trails from Selkirk Lodge to Junction 2 and the teaching area; plus 2 or 3 people to work on the new 8.5 km of outer trail.
 
Meet at Selkirk Lodge at 9 a.m. Bring work clothes, gloves, a lunch, and a friend or family member. If you have loppers or a gas-powered brush cutter/weed eater with a blade, please bring it too. Work will continue until 3 p.m., but any time you can put in is appreciated, even if you have to leave early.
 
What's new this Season
 
Spokane Nordic's newsletter is on its way to members highlighting the following new developments for cross-country skiers focused on Mount Spokane:
 
- 8.5 km of new trails called the Outer Limits, bringing the perimeter to over 31 km
- WinterFest — A fun new family festival set for Jan. 19
- Youth Rangers program for kids moving beyond Nordic Kids lesson — very cool stuff
- A freshly-painted Selkirk Lodge
- A new trailhead sign up the little hill from Selkirk Lodge.
 
KIDS' TRADE-UP: as of this year, there are no local ski shops offering an entry-level trade-up program for kids, although Fitness Fanatics is allowing past participants to continue. A Nordic Kids ski swap is in the works, and beginner packages are available at local ski shops for under $200.

Autumn hunting doesn’t preclude hiking

TRAILS — Do you shy away from hiking trails in the beautiful season of autumn because the hunting seasons are underway?

Here's a query I received from area hiker Randy Gosline:

I'm looking for some advice from a hunter. I hike and backpack a lot of miles during the Spring and Summer. Fall is probably the prettiest time of the year to hike with all the trees and foliage changing colors. Here in lies the problem. Hiking during hunting season scares the "Bajeepers" out of me. Even though I always wear bright colors and make lots of noise along the way I can't help but be very nervous about hiking this time of year. Do you have any advice for those of us who want to continue to enjoy hiking during hunting season?  I hate to put my backpack away when we are having beautiful fall weather to hike in.

My answer:

First, if you're genuinely afraid, you can hike in state and national parks and wildlife refuges where hunting is prohibited.

My best advice for you is to stay on trails and to continue what you're already doing: Wear bright colors, (avoid black, which looks too much like a bear) make noise  — and keep hiking!  

I've hiked or hunted virtually every week during the fall for decades and I've never had a problem.

I've hiked or hunted virtually every week during the fall for decades and I've never had a problem.

My new hiking book, Day Hiking Eastern Washington, offers many good options, as does the local classic, 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.

Here are six choice fall hikes in Eastern Washington.

Enjoy.

State considers motorized use on John Wayne Trail

TRAILS — Farmers and disabled visitors could be allowed to used motorized vehicles on portions of two major state rail-trails under a proposal being considered by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

A public meeting is set for Nov. 1 in Ellensburg to discuss the proposed regulation changes on Iron Horse State Park’s John Wayne Pioneer Trail (JWPT).  The trail is the former Milwaukee railroad corridor that runs from North Bend east to the Idaho border near Tekoa.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1, in the Teanaway Room at the Hal Holmes Community Center, 209 N. Ruby St. in Ellensburg.

The Washington State Legislature directed that the JWPT be managed for non-motorized uses, and various grants over the years also have limited trail use to non-motorized recreation. A state law restricts motor vehicle use of the JWPT.

However, farmers with property adjacent to the trail and State Parks concessionaires have requested that the agency allow them motorized use.

The proposal would allow motorized use by special permit through the agency for farmers s well as a new class of motor vehicles  defined by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as “Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices.” 

The proposed changes are not intended to alter the primary non-motorized recreation focus of State Parks’ trail management, officials say.

Washington State Parks manages five long-distance rail trails for non-motorized recreation, including hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and winter activities such as cross-country skiing and dog-sledding. The trails include the JWPT, managed as part of Iron Horse State Park and comprising most of the old Milwaukee Railroad corridor between Cedar Falls/North Bend and the Idaho border; the Centennial Trail near Spokane; Columbia Hills Plateau Trail from East Pasco to Fish Lake/Spokane; the Willapa Hills Trail from Chehalis to Raymond; and the Klickitat Trail, with a trailhead in Lyle near the Columbia River.

Info:  Susan Koch at susan.koch@parks.wa.gov.

October bright month for backpackers

HIKING — I'm not the only one who's noticed that October often is a premium month for backpacking.

The weather is clear and crisp and the autumn colors are brilliant.

Check out this photo by Ken Vanden Heuvel from his recent trek into Little Ibex Lake in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness of Western Montana. There's no official trail to the little lake, which is snug in a notch of broken granite.  

So many places to find your autumn niche.

PCT hikers wasn’t lost, ‘just stuck’ in storm

UPDATED at 5:10 p.m.

IKING — A 23-year-old woman reported missing for six days while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in southwest Washington was found safe this weekend.

Alejandra Wilson was located Saturday afternoon, authorities told the Associated Press. She was cold and tired but otherwise OK.

 

A search team spotted the Oregon woman walking in the Crest trail area as she started hiking out. She was reported missing after becoming overdue for a trail check Sept. 30.

Sgt. George Town of the Yakima County sheriff’s office said Wilson reported that she got stranded by a snow storm about a week ago and waited until conditions improved before walking out.

“She said the snow was almost waist deep and she was pretty well stuck. She wasn’t lost, she was just stuck,” Town said in an interview Sunday.

Wilson told authorities she hunkered down and set up camp under some trees to wait out the storm, he said. From there, she said she spotted the Coast Guard helicopters that went up in search of her. The helicopters flew overhead but she wasn’t able to flag them down in time, Town said.

“The Coast Guard guys were right on track. They did a good job. She wasn’t able to make herself visible,” but their presence “gave her real confidence,” Town said.

He noted that she still had food when she was located Saturday. She was reunited with her dad, grandparents and friends Saturday.

Some of the volunteer searchers included hiking companions who had been on the trail with her earlier in her trip, Town said Sunday. 

The Oregonian caught up to Wilson for a first-hand account and the "chilling" details. Click "continue reading" to read the account from the AP Wire.

Three tips for top fall hiking trails

HIKING — Fall is a stunning time to walk through the region's wildlands, from the scablands to the national forests.

Here are three of my many "favorite" fall walks, all of which are detailed in my latest co-authored guide book, Day Hiking Eastern Washington.

1.       Abercrombie Mountain (west of Ione) – The trail to the summit of Eastern Washington’s second-highest peak leads to sweeping views of fall colors, especially the larch that are in the prime of their “goldness” in the Pend Oreille River Valley by the third week of October.

Note: Road improvements are planned on the Abercrombie access roads this fall. Contact the Colville National forest Three Rivers District for updates on restrictions.

2.       Hall Mountain (east of Metaline)– The rigorous hike to the former site of a forest fire lookout overlooking Sullivan Lake and the Salmo-Priest Wilderness passes a variety of fall color scenery with a brilliant red bonus. Near the trailhead, visit the bridge over Harvey Creek next to Sullivan Lake to see thousands of spawning kokanee for their run that peaks in early November.

3.       Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge (south of Cheney)– An easy stroll along the  refuge’s Pine Lakes rewards hikers with colorful fall scenery worth the trip in itself. But bring binoculars to appreciate the even more vivid wild art of migrating waterfowl. The hike leads past waters frequented by trumpeter swans that produced two hatches of cygnets this year  that will be fledging this fall.