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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.


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.  

City projects could affect access to South Hill bluffs

TRAILS — The City of Spokane's plans to "remodel" High Drive in 2014 while updating sewer lines could change bike lanes and reduce parking options for the popular South Hill bluff trails.

Traffic flow, pedestrian walkways, and bike lanes will also be affected, according to the Friends of the Bluff.

A neighborhood meeting on set for 7 p.m.-9 p.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 8) at he new Jefferson Elementary School Multi-Purpose Room, 123 E. 37th Ave.
This might be the public's best chance to see the initial plans and provide constructive input, the Friends group says.

Mount Spokane warming hut construction progressing

PARKS — The foundation is done and a contractor has put up the walls on the new Smith Gap warming hut for snowshoers and backcountry skiers at Mount Spokane State Park.

Warren D. Walker snapped this photo to document the effort on Sunday.

Steven Christensen, park manager, said it's unlikely the hut will be ready for use this winter, but there's still a possibility.  Either way, volunteers will be needed next summer to finish the inside, he said.

Pend Oreille Bay Trail group reaches funding goal

TRAILS – A non-profit group has raised $400,000 to secure a key piece of Lake Pend Oreille waterfront for a trail near Sandpoint.

Friends of the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail president Jon Sayler said a couple of large donations helped raise the required money a year ahead of schedule.

The City of Sandpoint already as purchased two parcels of four parcels needed to secure the trail corridor.

The City of Ponderay has agreed to purchase the third parcel in October and the Friends group has pledged to by the fourth parcel next year, he said.

Sayler said the purchases, opening more than a mile and a half of shoreline trail to the public, are the first phase of the trail project.

Future plans call for securing portions of railroad right-of-way to complete the trail into Ponderay, an underpass under the railroad from the shoreline to Ponderay and master trail planning for future trail construction and amenities.

The Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail Concept Plan, developed by the community in 2010, also calls for the trail to extend into Kootenai and Ponder Point, which will also require cooperation of the railroad and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A celebration event is set for Nov. 21 at the Pend d’Oreille Winery.

Abercrombie area roads to be repaired

PUBLIC LANDS — Good news/bad news for hikers who enjoy the trails to Abercrombie and Sherlock Peaks in Pend Oreille County:  

The Colville National Forest will begin road maintenance and reconstruction on Oct. 1 on the following roads.

  • Forest Service Road 7078000 (Sherlock Peak Road)
  • Forest Service Road 7078300 (Abercrombie Road)
  • Forest Service Road 7078070 (Silver Creek Road)
  • Forest Service Road 7078075 (Windy Ridge Road)
  • Forest Service Road 7078109 (Gladstone from Windy Ridge)

These roads access the Abercrombie and Sherlock Peak areas and the Silver Creek Trail Head.  Expect delays and temporary closures due to road construction until December 01, 2013

Info: Three Rivers Ranger Station at (509) 738-7700.  

Roman Nose access blocked for road repairs

PUBLIC LANDS – The Bonners Ferry Ranger District will close the access road to the Roman Nose trailhead this week for repairs, according to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

Forest Service Road 1007 over Caribou Pass will be closed Tuesday-Friday so culverts can be replaced. It will be open next weekend, but will be closed again Oct. 7-11.

Info: (208) 267-5561.

Discover Pass revenues increase, but still short of projections

STATE LANDS — Revenue collected from sales of the Discover Pass was nearly $1 million higher than the previous year, according to a report prepared for the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission.

But it still falls short of funding the needs of state parks.

Sales in the second full year of the program generated almost $16.7 million, compared with $15.7 million in the first year.  The majority went to state parks, with the rest going to the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Even with the increase, the Discover Pass revenues fall short of the Washington Legislature's projections when it enacted the pass program.

The program was created to offset the loss of state funding through budget cuts. A $30 annual pass or $10 daily pass is required in motor vehicles accessing state parks and other state-managed recreation lands.

The Discover Pass program was projected to bring in $23.4 million in the first year. It managed only $13.2 million.

A report prepared for the state Parks and Recreation Commission says the state took in $32.4 million in the two-year budget cycle that ended June 30.

Parks officials hope that the trend of accepting the Discover Pass continues, boosted by legislative changes to allow families to use on more than one vehicle.

Free-entry offered for state and federal parks, refuges on Saturday

PUBLIC LANDS — Saturday is a big day of freebies and stewardship on public lands throughout the region.

It's National Public Lands Day as well as National Hunting and Fishing Day.

Here are some opportunities to consider:

Washington State Parks are offering free vehicle access on Saturday — no Discover Pass is required.

Federal lands, including all National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges such as Turnbull are offering free entry on Saturday, one of 13 national lands Fee-Free Days in 2013.  The next will be Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

Hunting and fishing activities and information for newcomers to the sports will be offered by sportsmen's groups, 1 p.m.- 5 p.m. at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional office grounds, 2315 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.   See story for more details. 

Spokane River Clean-Up, an annual event that attracts around 800 volunteers from individuals, families and groups, will spiff up sections of the river from 9 a.m.-noon followed by a barbecue. Get details and register online at friendsofthefalls.com.

Volunteers building hut for snowshoers, skiers at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — Work is progressing on a hut to serve as a Smith Gap warming shelter for snowshoers and backcountry skiers at Mount Spokane State Park.

  • Park staff constructed most of the foundation. A contractor is coming in to build the enclosure, hopefully before winter. Volunteers will be needed to help with finishing the inside next season, according to Park Manager Steve Christensen. 

It's no surprise that Cris Currie, long-time leader of the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park, is in the thick of the volunteer action. The friends group is looking for a wood stove to install in the hut.

Here's a weekend update with these photos from Currie's wife, Nora Searing:

Cris working this afternoon underneath the floor of the new snowshoe hut at Smith Gap on Mt. Spokane. There might even be walls and a roof finished by this winter season!

Centennial Trail section to close for repairs

TRAILS — Repairs to the asphalt will require the Spokane River Centennial Trail to be closed on Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 25-26) from Miles 26.5 to Mile 28 from the south side T.J. Meenach Bridge to the Equestrian Area in Riverside State Park, says Loreen McFaul, executive director of the Friends of the Centennial Trail.

Today’s highlights

Rustin Hall and his son Joseph unfold the wing structure of the 24-foot, 75-pound dragon they built for the University High School drama department production of “Shrek.” SR photo/Dan Pelle

Now that I have finally found my copy of today's Valley Voice that was sitting right in front of me on my desk, I can go over some highlights. (Don't ask. It's one of those days.) Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a cool story on a local family that built a huge mechanical dragon for the University High School's winter play "Shrek." She breathes smoke, she talks and she moves. It will take five students to control the beast. The production is scheduled for Dec. 5-14. Is it too soon to buy tickets?

The Southest Spokane County Fair is this weekend in Rockford. The 69th annual event features a parage, 3-on-3 basketball tournament, live music, a pancake breakfast, a fun run and much more. Of course, you can't forget all the animals either. They even play center stage in the Cow Chip Bingo.

A woman interested in opening a gymnastics facility is asking the city of Spokane Valley to make changes to its zoning code to allow her business to be located in an industrial zone. In a close vote, the city council sent the proposal back to the planning commission for further deliberation.

The city of Liberty Lake has finished a couple of missing links in its trail system along Sprague Avenue. There will be a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday at Sprague and Molter Road.

Day hiking the Salmo-Priest loop; de-trashing the wilderness

HIKING — Holly Weiler of the Spokane Mountaineers led a 20-mile day hike on the Salmo Loop in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness on Saturday to bring her August Hike-A-Thon mileage close to 300 miles as she raised donations for the Washinton Trails Association.

Photo shows Holly and Ed Bowers about 12 miles into their day hiking down off Little Snowy Top Mountain. In the background is Crowell Ridge and Gypsy Peak, highest point in Eastern Washington.

Why is Holly carrying such a big pack for a day hike, you ask?

Because, as usual, she's been picking up garbage along the way as she cruised through the wilderness, including lots of plastic stuff, plus empty butane fuel canisters and full freeze-dried food packages that were being chewed through by rodents in the Little Snowy Top lookout.

Note to the uninformed:

  • Fire pits are not garbage disposals.
  • Aluminum does not burn in a campfire.
  • If you can pack it in, pack it out.

Wilderness found:  The Salmo-Priest is getting plenty of attention.  We counted 36 hikers including our group of three had signed in on 8-31-13 at the two Salmo Basin Trailsheads at the end of Colville National Forest Road 2220.

Colville Forest closes Albian Hill Road for repairs

PUBLIC LANDS — Forest Road 2030000 (Albian Hill Road) will be temporarily closed in various sections starting Sept. 3 to replace two culverts in two locations that are currently blocking fish passage. 

The Lower Albian Hill culvert, located just past the junction of Hwy 20 at MP 0.3, will be closed Sept. 3 through Sept. 21. 

The Upper Albian Hill culvert is located just before the Wapaloosie Trailhead at MP 3.2 and will be closed from Sept. 16 through Oct. 8, 2013.

Access to the Albian Hill road is still available by way of Forest Road 9565000 (Deadman Creek Road).

Info: Three Rivers Ranger Station, (509) 738-7700.  

State legislator hiking length of Idaho

TRAILS — State Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, who was elected to the Idaho House of Representatives in November, is attempting to hike a 950-mile route the length of Idaho in about 40 days.

“Why did you run?” we asked the mountain climbing guide and outdoor educator who teaches college-level physical education and leadership courses.

“Tom Luna, mainly,” he said referring to the resentment many educators have for Idaho's controversial state schools superintendent.

“More important, why are you hiking the Idaho Centennial Trail?”

“To raise awareness of trails in Idaho and as a fundraiser for the Redside Foundation, which promotes health programs for guides. Outfitters have their own association, but there’s not much support for the guides who work for them.”

Erpelding, who started at Upper Priest River Falls, barely had 100 miles under his belt Saturday when we caught him in Clark Fork poring over maps and protein-loading at a barbecue hosted by Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

“This is a bi-partisan effort,” he said, noting that Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, hosted him for a night at his lake place.

The route is a network of trails, roads and bushwhacking through at least 10 national forests and three wilderness areas.

“I’m getting insights on rural areas and exploring ways people can work together for Idaho,” he said.

The trail isn’t for sissies. “The Upper Priest River trail is amazing through the cedars,” he said. “But in other places the Centennial Trail is poorly marked or nonexistent. Road-walking isn’t fun, and you can go more than 20 miles on ridges without water.”

Despite devoting 10 hours to a 13-mile navigation error over White Mountain, Erpelding, 38, had covered 220 miles in 10 days as of Wednesday.

“Crossed the Selkirks, Cabinets, and some of the Bitterroots,” he posted on Facebook. “Only had to get my bear spray out once and realized that I needed a much bigger can. Bad news: I hurt my left calf; gonna take a rest in Mullan and see if I can get it up to speed.”

Erpending guided climbers in Colorado and on Rainier this summer. He’s also guided five climbs on Denali, although he had to back out of an expedition last summer: “It conflicted with the Idaho primaries,” he said.

Beyond his priorities for education and equality, he wants to spotlight the value of trails for local economies.

“But it does not good to overstate the problems,” he said. “About the same time Hurricane Sandy was trashing the East Coast, Idaho legislators were calling trail neglect in the Frank (Church Wilderness) a ‘national disaster.’ We’re not going to get much credibility with that perspective.”

Trail conditions in the Frank aren’t his top concern for this trek: “Right now the route in the wilderness is closed because of fires.”

His deadline is Oct. 4 – he’s the keynote speaker for the Idaho School Counselors convention in Boise.

“I’ll do the best I can to finish the trail,” he said.

Last question: Is that blood all over your sleeping ground cloth?

“Huckleberries,” he said. "The North Idaho woods are full of them; and the bears know it."

Forest Service reopens popular trailhead north of Lake Wenatchee

HIKING — Little Wenatchee Road, (Forest Service Road No. 6500), has been re-opened for the first time since winter to public access above the intersection with Smithbrook Road No. 6700, the Wenatchee River Ranger District says today. 

This area, and its popular trailhead for Heather Lake and other alpine destinations, has been inaccessible to motor vehicles since a December storm felled hundreds of trees throughout the area.

The upper portion of Little Wenatchee Road No. 6500 is accessible by taking Smithbrook Road No. 6700 off Highway 2, located about four miles east of Stevens Pass Ski Area, north to the Little Wenatchee Road intersection north of Lake Wenatchee.  The lower portion of the Little Wenatchee Road, from a gate up to the intersection with Smithbrook Road, is still closed due to trees over the roadway from last winter’s storm. 

Trailheads that continue to be open include Little Wenatchee Ford and Irving Pass to Poe Mountain, in addition to trailheads leading to Minotaur Lake, Theseus Lake, Heather Lake, and Top Lake. 

Soda Springs and Lake Creek Campgrounds remain closed due to many down trees and standing dead trees in these campgrounds that can cause safety hazards. 

Reconstruction work continues at Heather Lake Trailhead located on Forest Service Road No. 6701-400 in the upper Little Wenatchee drainage.  For those planning to visit Heather Lake, the trailhead will remain open during trailhead reconstruction work.  Trail users will need to park their vehicles about a half mile down the road from the current trailhead but will be able to walk around construction activities to access the trail. I

Info: Wenatchee River Ranger District, 509-548-2550. 

Firefighters storm Marie Creek blaze near Wolf Lodge

PUBLIC LANDS — Forest Service firefighters are continue to attack a four-acre wildfire today just east of Coeur d’Alene near Wolf Lodge, says Jason Kirchner, Idaho Panhandle National Forests spokesman.

The fire is along Marie Creek, which includes a popular hiking trail two and a half miles north of I-90 and five miles east of the Wolf Lodge exit.

Smoke and firefighting aircraft may be visible from the interstate. 

The Marie Creek Fire is lightning caused and was first noted as a one-acre fire late Sunday night, Kirchner said.

Firefighters, including helicopters, Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) and ground crews, spent Monday constructing fire line and dropping retardant to slow and contain the blaze. Firefighting actions today will include additional fire line construction, and water and retardant drops.

Firefighting efforts are complicated by the difficult terrain, he said.

"The closest private property is located more than a mile to the west, but at this time there are no threats to structures."

Further updates for this wildfire will be posted at www.inciweb.org

Volunteers needed for Centennial Trail projects

TRAILS — This is a good time to connect with Spokane's signature trail:

Centennial Trail Volunteer Days, August 11, 17, 25 and 31.

Join the Friends of the Centennial Trail for some light volunteer work to improve the trail heads by painting gates and Militery Cemetery trailhead
bulletin boards, clearing asphalt, picking up litter, weed-eating, pulling weeds, etc.

Work will start at the State Line and work westward to Mission Park, finishing two trail heads each weekend through August. 

Earn a Discover Pass with 24 hours of volunteer time!

Register here

Info: email Volunteer Coordinator Megan Ortega or call her at 509-795-4609. 

Leader needed for yurt construction at Mount Spokane

STATE PARKS — The Friends of Mount Spokane State Park are putting out a plea for someone with building skills to help lead the construction before winter of a yurt for snowshoers and backcountry skiers at the park.

Here's the message:

We are now at a critical point in our 4 year effort to build a new winter shelter for snowshoeing and backcountry skiing at Mt. Spokane, and we need everyone’s help.  A grant for materials has been secured from the Johnston-Fix Foundation and additional financial support is available from the Friends of Mt. Spokane.  The plans have been approved and park staff expect to have the foundation for the hut finished by the middle of next week.  The location is Smith Gap.  Unfortunately, the volunteer retired contractor we had lined up to lead the project is no longer available and we need to replace him.  IF we can find a replacement within the next couple of weeks, and if we can find 3 or 4 committed volunteers who can devote several days a week to the project, we could at least get the exterior done this season.  If not, we will do our best to protect the foundation over the winter and resume in June.
So, I would like to ask everyone if they happen to know a retired or semi-retired builder/contractor (preferably a snowshoer or skier!) who would like to devote a few weeks of their time to direct the construction of this hut.  The Friends Group will pay for the materials and at least this person’s expenses.  We think we can start Friday the 16th.  If you know of anyone, have them email me at criscurrie22@gmail.com or call me at 509-466-9540.  I would be happy to discuss the details with them.  It’s easier if they have their own tools, but they will also be able to use the fairly extensive resources that the park has as well.  I will be out of town this Friday to Tuesday but will be available by email.
Then, secondly, assuming we can find the right person, we will need additional volunteers who can pound nails and move boards around.  So those people should contact me too and let me know their level of building experience and their availability.  You do not need a Discover Pass.  In fact, with 24 hours of service, you can get a free Discover Pass! 
This has the potential to be a very exciting, fun project, and volunteers are guaranteed to learn a lot about the park, have the opportunity to hang out with some fun people, and maybe even learn a few things about building.  
Thanks for your help!!
Cris Currie, President
Friends of Mt. Spokane State Park