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La Sportiva Wildcats a hit with Pacific Crest Trail through hikers

BACKPACKING — Ultra light, ultra functional and ultra durable — those are the keys to gear that causes a buzz among through hikers on long-distance trails.

One group of hikers most of the way through their month's long,  2,650-mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, recently were comparing notes on their shoes at Washington's Chinook Pass. The durability winner in this group was the La Sportiva Wildcat trail running shoe, a Backpacker  Editor’s Choice item in the magazine’s 2010 gear review.

One hiker had 1,000 miles on his pair and they were still going strong.

While trail running shoes may be perfect for PCT through hikers, who are focused on speed and staying on the trail, they may not be the best for everyday hikers who may not be so trail hardened or who do more off-trail exploration.

Fires affecting front country and backcountry

WILD FIRES from recent lightning storms on tinder-dry landscapes are an issue for people heading outdoors in almost every direction.

Here's a regional roundup from Mountain West News:

Thousands of lightning strikes spark hundreds of fires in Washington state
The 300-acre Cascade Creek Fire is the worst of the 200 wildfires sparked by lightning in Washington state over the weekend.
Portland Oregonian;Sept. 10
Wildfire in southern B.C. forces hundreds from their homes
Strong winds pushed a wildfire first reported Sunday afternoon across more than 200 acres in southern B.C., and more than 1,550 residents near Peachland were ordered to evacuate.
Vancouver Sun;Sept. 10
 

Evacuations ordered as wildfire burns on Wyoming's Casper Mountain
A wildfire first reported at 4 p.m. Sunday on the east side of Casper Mountain in Wyoming grew quickly to hundreds of acres and forced the evacuation of campgrounds and dozens of homes.
Casper Star-Tribune;Sept. 10

More evacuations ordered on Mustang Complex fire in Idaho
A level 3 evacuation order was issued for residents along the Highway 93 corridor from Quartz Creek to North Fork in Idaho on Sunday, as the Mustang Fire Complex moved closer to that corridor.
Ravalli Republic (AP);Sept. 9

Wildfire threatens resort in W. Wyoming
The Little Horsethief Fire that ignited Saturday afternoon grew quickly to 800 acres, and on Sunday, residents living on Snow King Mountain near Jackson, Wyo., were put on notice that they may need to evacuate.
Jackson Hole Daily;Sept. 10
 
Crews have 8,000-acre wildfire in Montana 51 percent contained
Fire investigators believe the 8,000-acre wildfire burning in Montana south of Livingston was human caused.
Billings Gazette;Sept. 10
 

Fire restrictions loom for Labor Day weekend campers, hunters

PUBLIC LANDS — Fire danger as well as still-burning wild fires will be a major factor for some campers and hunters heading for recreation areas in Idaho, Montana and Washington during Labor Day weekend.   

Smoking, campfires and use of chain saws are restricted on most state and federal lands to prevent more fires. Access roads and trails to some areas are closed because of existing fires, notably in Montana and central Idaho.

For example, the Selway River Trail, popular with hikers and hunters in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, is closed this week as fire crews clear timber falling on the route in the Moose Creek District.

No major fires are listed on the Colville or Idaho Panhandle National Forests, but fire restrictions are in place.

Despite cooler temperatures, fire danger continues to be rated extreme in much of the region, said Joani Bosworth, spokeswoman for the Umatilla National Forest. 

National forest websites are the best all-hours sources for updates on fire-related restrictions.

Websites with updates on fires and restrictions include:

THROUGHOUT THE WEST

IDAHO

WASHINGTON

Walk and learn: Nisbet, Gifford lead hike on South Hill bluff Wednesday

TRAILS — After a good turnout last week, author Jack Nisbet and forester Guy Gifford will be leading another walk this week on Spokane’s South Hill bluff trails to explain the value of volunteer efforts and a $50,000 grant to improve the health and fire resistance of the forest below High Drive.

More than 23 miles of trails on the bluffs are prized by local walkers and mountain bikers, but much of the beauty could be snuffed out if a fire erupts before the forest is thinned, said Diana Roberts of the Friends of the Bluffs.

Nisbet, a popular educator, naturalist and South Hill resident, will join Gifford for a two-mile educational walk on Wednesday (Aug. 29) starting at 6:30 p.m. at 57th and Hatch Street.

Bring water and a thirst to learn about urban forestry and trails.

Info: 477-2167

Guidelines posted for hiking near mountain goats

HIKING — Reports of aggressive mountain goats have forced rangers once again to close some trails in Olympic National Park, where a hiker was gored and killed by a goat two years ago.

Hikers can play a role in preventing these otherwise docile creatures from becoming dangerous in their high-country habitat.  Here are guidelines posted by the Washington Trails Association:

The 50/50 rule: pee off trail, give goats a wide berth

If you only remember two guidelines around mountain goats:

> No matter how cute they are, mountain goats are still wild animals. It's up to hikers to give the goats a wide berth, even if they are standing close to, or even in, the trail.
  • Hikers should urinate at least 50 feet off the trail, preferably on rocks. The animals' attraction to the salt in human urine can bring goats closer to trails (and the hikers on them) than is good for either species.
  • Try to stay 50 yards (or about 150 feet) away from mountain goats at all times. For photographers, this means using a telephoto lens to snap your shots. Never try to approach or pet kid (young) mountain goats. No matter how cute they are, mountain goats are still wild animals. It's up to hikers to give the goats a wide berth, even if they are standing close to, or even in, the trail. If the trail doesn't permit you to go around, consider turning back early.

“If the goat wants the trail, give the goat the trail,” Nancy Jones, a Visitor Services Specialist with the Cle Elum Ranger District, told WTA last year. “Back off. Give the goat the right-of-way. Go the other way.” 

Guided walks highlight South Hill bluff features


View Larger Map

TRAILS — Author Jack Nisbet and forester Guy Gifford will be leading walks on Spokane’s South Hill bluff trails this month to explain the value of volunteer efforts and a $50,000 grant to improve the health and fire resistance of the forest below High Drive.

More than 23 miles of trails on the bluffs are prized by local walkers and mountain bikers, but much of the beauty could be snuffed out if a fire erupts before the forest is thinned, said Diana Roberts of the Friends of the Bluffs.

Nisbet, a popular educator, naturalist and South Hill resident, will join Gifford for a two-mile educational walk on Wednesday (Aug. 22). The walk will be repeated Aug. 29.

Both walks will start at 6:30 p.m. at 57th and Hatch Street.

Bring water and a thirst to learn about urban forestry and trails.

Info: Diana Roberts,  robertsd@wsu.edu

Palisades, Beacon Hill also getting TLC

On the heels of a $50,000 grant for a forest health project at High Drive Park, the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has granted an additional $70,000 to the City of Spokane Urban Forestry program for similar work at Palisades Park and Camp Sekani/Beacon Hill.

“The money will be used for contract work on thinning and pruning the forest. This will reduce the risk of intense, uncontrollable fires that would threaten adjacent homes and neighborhoods as well as the trees themselves,” said Guy Gifford, a forester with DNR. 

“The thinning and pruning will also improve the forest health as the remaining trees will have more space, light, and moisture so they will be less susceptible to damage from pine bark beetles” he added.

Volunteers needed for trail work at area parks

TRAILS – Trails at Liberty Lake, Mount Spokane and the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge are scheduled for rerouting or maintenance projects by the Washington Trails Association in the next few weeks.

The most ambitious project involves work near a popular waterfall to make the Liberty Lake County Park natural area trail safer and more sustainable.

All of the work is done by volunteers led by trained WTA leaders. Some businesses, such as Itron, have encouraged employees to volunteer on specific days, said Jane Baker, WTA leader in Spokane.

Liberty Lake work dates are Sept. 5, 6, 8, 12, 13, 27, 29 and Oct. 11, 13 and 14.

Mount Spokane projects are underway this weekend with more set for Sept. 15-16.

Little Pend Oreille Refuge work is set for Sept. 22-23.

Sign-up online  or call (206) 625-1367.

Man runs 75 wilderness miles through The Bob in 15 hours

PUBLIC LANDS — On July 31, Ben Laster, 29, of Kalispell reported ran 75 miles north to south across Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness in 15 hours.

Apparently the run was not aided by wind, the heat from forest fires or from grizzly bears chasing his butt up the trails.

According to a story in the Kalispell Daily Interlake, Laster ran from the Meadow Creek Gorge to the North Fork Blackfoot River trailhead.

“I never stopped for more than five minutes. It was pretty much 15 hours of running,” Laster said. “I was feeling kind of rough at the end. But not as bad as I thought I would be feeling.”

Laster works as a wilderness instructor for the Wilderness Treatment Center, which counsels troubled youths by exposing them to outdoor experiences.

He left the Meadow Creek Gorge at 4:30 a.m., running with a headlamp, a light wind jacket, electrolyte fluids to mix with his water, about 3,500 calories in Hammer Nutrition gels and nutrition bars, a lighter and extra socks.

His father was waiting for him at the trailhead with specific instructions not to seek help unless Laster failed to show up by 10 a.m. the next day.

“I knew there was a strong possibility that I might spend the night out there,” he said.

He arrived at the trailhead at 7:30 p.m., a couple hours later then he'd estimated if the run went smoothly.

“I could have done it in 14 hours if it hadn’t been so hot,” he told the Interlake.

New access to Big Rock-Rocks of Sharon opens Friday

COUNTY PARKS — The long-awaited trailhead parking area on the south side of the Big Rock-Rocks of Sharon area in Spokane Valley will be open to public access Friday at 3 p.m., said Paul Knowles, Spokane County Parks planner.

Heavy equipment is still working at the site accessible from the Palouse Highway near the end of Stevens Creek Road.  County Parks will be hydro-seeding, putting up signs and doing other touch-up worth at the parking area through fall, Knowles said.

The Big Rock area, adjacent to the Iller Creek Conservation Area,  is prized by rock climbers and hikers. It's been secured by the county through a series of deals and purchases with help from the Dishman Hills Conservancy.

The new parking area is designed to handle school buses. It will accommodate about 30 passenger vehicles if parked in an organized fashion.

Notable restrictions include:

  • No motorized vehicles allowed on trails beyond the parking area.
  • Dogs must be on leash.
  • Equestrian use of the Rocks of Sharon-Iller Creek Conservation Area is discouraged because newer trails built by volunteers have not had time to compat and poor visibility along trail corridors makesconflicts between different users more likely, Knowles said.

See a map of hiking trails accessible from Stevens Creek or from the north side Holman Road access to Iller  Creek.

Centennial Trail among Sunset Magazine’s Top Trails in The West

TRAILS — The Spokane River Centennial Trail — celebrating its 20th anniversary — is listed on Sunset Magazine's list of 20 Best Bike Paths in the West.

That's no suprise to people who live here, and ongoing improvements are steadily making the riverside trail even better.

But wait:  There's no mention of the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes.

Most of the trails on the list have an urban link. That makes marketing sense, but it clearly diverts attention to what some people might consider the BEST trails.

For info on more trails, check in with the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

Colville Forest releases revised South End motorized use plan

FORESTS – The Colville National Forest is seeking comments on a revised proposal to regulate dispersed camping and designate and expand roads and trails open to motorized recreation.

Comments are due by the end of August on the South End Project scoping notice and plans for the Tacoma, Chewelah and Calispell drainages).

  • See the revised proposals in the document attached to this post.

The original plan was appealed last winter by conservation groups.

The project goals include designating an expanded system of routes for motor vehicle use.


Documents:

Bear hunters join hikers, campers, berry pickers in mountains

HUNTING — Black bear hunting seasons opened Aug. 1 in portions of Washington, including areas in the North Cascades as well is areas in Lincoln County.

More bear hunting areas will open Aug. 15, including the area from Spokane north through Mount Spokane.

Although hunting-related accidents with othe recreationists are extremely rare, black or brown are not the best colors to wear while hiking or huckleberry picking during bear seasons.

The black bear season that mixes hunters with the most hikers, campers and berry pickers opens Sept. 1 in most of the areas of northeasthern Washington's Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

  • North Idaho's black bear hunting seasons open Aug. 30.

Photos capture Kootenai Falls, cedar grove

OUTDOOR ATTRACTIONS — Kootenai Falls near Libby and Ross Creek Cedars in the Bull River Valley always are worth a visit and a look.

But Western Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson has a way of making you wonder why you haven't made time lately for a visit.

Check out these two photos he made over the weekend.  His comments: 

We spent two days at the Ross Creek Cedars located in the far northwest corner of the state. We’ve always wanted to go there, but until recently never seemed to find the time. The trip was well worth it. The campground was great and the Cedars are spectacular. We shot hundreds of images.
 
The Kootenai Falls shot was an experiment. It was a 70 second exposure in broad daylight. It was taken using a +10 stop Neutral Density filter on the lens. This basically reduces the amount of light that can get through to create the image. The longer the shutter is open, the more motion that is captured (making the water look fuzzy).

Colville forest crews still clearing storm blowdowns

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NATIONAL FORESTS — Crews have reopened all the primary roads on the Colville National Forest since a July 20 storm leveled trees on roughly 4,000 acres of the 1.1 million-acre forest.  Most of the damage was on the Republic Ranger District.

Some of the seconary roads and trails are still plugged with trees that were toppled by the storm — or weakened so much that they're still falling.

Crews have cleared all secondary roads listed as “open” on the Colville National Forest Interactive Motor Interactive  Vehicle Use Map, said Franklin Pemberton, forest spokesman.  If a road was useable this summer before the storm but not officially designated as “open” to motorized use, crews will not be dispatched to cut out the blowdowns, he said.

“While all roads that were passible prior to the storm event have been cleared of down trees, it is important to note that there are roads that were washed out do to storm activity prior to this event that have not been repaired,” he said.

A list of those roads can be found on the Colville National Forest Web site under Conditions: Road Report

All trailheads are open, but trails can still have trees down across them and potentially weakened trees that could come down.  More trees have fallen on some trails that have been cut out, he said.

“If you're a mountain biker or equestrian headed out on the trails,  you should bring a saw,” he said.

Ten Mile Campground south of Republic (see photos above) remains closed and the Empire Lake dispersed campsites are also closed.

Updates: Republic Ranger District Office, (509) 775-7400.

Some Colville Forest area still inaccessible from storm

NATIONAL FORESTS — A week after a storm and brief surge of hurricane-force winds swept through the region, areas around Priest Lake and especially the Colville National Forest are still clogged with downed trees.

The good news is that powerline crews, government agencies and private citizens have been working their butts off with chain saws and equipment to make progress.  The bad news is that some areas are a big mess and still unaccessible.

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area reports all campgrounds and facilities are open.  Priest Lake Range Station reported that some trails got “hammered” with blowdowns, but no specific reports were available. Forest trail crews and volunteers had just finished a logging out 192 miles of trails on the Priest Lake District the week before the storm struck, killing a man in his pickup in the Priest Lake area.

Generally, the Panhandle National Forests came out of the dangerous storm fairly well, said Jason Kirchner, forest spokesman in Coeur d'Alene.

But the Colville Forest's Republic Ranger District and portions of the Collville Indian Reservation, where assistance is still being requested, are a different story.

Here's the word from Colville Forest spokesman Franklin Pemberton:

The impact to recreation specific to the Republic R.D. from this event is severe. 

Crews have made significant progress on getting all of the main forest service (FS) roads open and “passible”.  All of the main FS roads are passible for a full-size pickup truck, but motorhomes, camp trailers and horse trailers are not recommended.  Work continues to open all of the main FS roads completely to larger size vehicles such as ambulances and fire engines and is expected to be completed by this Friday.  Many secondary FS roads remain blocked by down timber and will be opened once all the main roads are completed.

Many roads to trailheads remain blocked and trail conditions are being reported as being blocked by down timber.  All campgrounds are open with the exception of Ten Mile Campground.  Crews will continue to work to open secondary roads that lead to recreation sites and trailheads, but there is no estimate of when this work will be completed.

Forest officials are still recommending that visitors to the Republic R.D. stay in the developed campgrounds and limit their travel on the forest as much as possible.

Contact the Republic Ranger District Office, (509) 775-7400 for specific recreation questions.

Hikers: check conditions before you head out

TRAILS — Heavy rain and lingering snow have created a few obstacles for hikers, campers and other heading into the backcountry this weekend. Best to check with Forest Service offices today to make sure your destination is reachable.

For example:

  • Hikers headed to Iron Mountain area east of Bonners Ferry will have to walk an extra half-mile to the trailhead because of a washout on Boulder Creek Road. The washout and lingering snow have kept trail crews from the area.
  • Glacier National Park’s Going to the Sun Road was blocked for three days this week after a dozen or so mudslides buried sections of the popular road for miles. It’s open again today. However, the park service says more bad weather is expected on Friday, with a flash flood watch issued for the park from noon to midnight. Heavy lightning, hail and wind up to 60 mph is expected.

Lingering snow has prevented trail clearing in some areas.

  • Idaho Panhandle crews have just begun logging out the Long Canyon area in the Selkirk Mountains northwest of Bonners Ferry.  But the Parker Ridge area above is still covered with snow.

Priest Lake: All 192 miles of trails on the district have been logged out, getting a big boost from the Back Country Horsemen, who cleared out 50 miles of trails in their annual Memorial Day campout work party.

Huckleberries are ripe in some low to mid elevations.

Video offers primer on chosing trekking poles

HIKING — While a Sunday Outdoors feature story covers the value and issues involved with using trekking poles for hiking, this video offers a useful guide to selecting poles for your type of use.

Our family became advocates of using trekking poles while hiking long ago. They save your knees, ward of charging marmots (seriously), offer an upper body workout and come in useful for all sort of things, including a center pole for a tarp tent.

Volunteers sign up for work day at Camp Sekani trails

TRAILS — Volunteers are organizing a work party to spruce up the trail system at Camp Sekani along the Spokane River below Beacon Hill.

The Camp Sekani Trail Day is set for Saturday, July 14, 9 a.m.-noon.

Camp Sekani, owned by the city of Spokane, provides recreationists with hiking, mountain biking, disc golf and many other outdoor opportunities.

This work project will bring together volunteers to clean and maintain existing trails, rehabilitate areas that have suffered from overuse and help to develop the overall infrastructure of the Beacon Hill area for users.

Plan to bring sturdy trail shoes, appropriate clothes, gloves, water bottle with water in it as there is no access to water.

Useful trail tools include shovels, rakes, litter bags, and loppers.

RSVP to volunteer coordinator Catherine Lyle at clyle@spokanecity.org.

Camp Sekani is located at 6707 E. Upriver Drive.

Directions:  Head East on Mission. At Mission and Upriver Drive take a right. Continue on Upriver Drive for about 2 miles until you see the Sekani gate on your left. Enter the gate and you should notice the caretakers house on the right. If you get to the Boulder Beach Parking Lot on your right you have gone too far.

Join the group for hikes to area’s wild spots

TRAILS — Conservation groups throughout the region are scheduling guided group hikes to introduce outdoor enthusiasts to choice wild areas throughout the region. Following are some of the upcoming options with links to see the many hikes on each group’s summer schedule.

Columbia Highlands

  • June 23: Grassy Top-Hall Mountain hike, 8 strenous miles near Sullivan Lake.
  • June 30: Clackamas Mountain hike, 10 moderate miles.

Info: Kettle Range Conservation Group.

Scotchman Peaks

  • June 30: Spar Lake archeological hike, 8 miles, with expert on Native American foraging.
  • July 7: Grouse Lake, easy hike with Native Plant Society leader.

Info: Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Dishman Hills

  • July 11: Dishman Hills Natural Area, five-mile hike including portions of area burned by 2008 wildfire.

Info: Dishman Hills Natural Area Association.

Idaho Conservation League

  • June 23: Maiden Rock, Selkirk Mountains.
  • July 7: Chilco Mountain north Of Coeur d’Alene.

Info: Idaho Conservation League Sandpoint office, (208) 265-9565.

Discover Riverside State Park during Sunday open house

STATE PARKS — Special activities at five venues are scheduled Sunday, (June 24),  10 a.m.-3 p.m., to introduce the public to features and recreation available in Riverside State Park on the west side of Spokane. 

The required Discover Pass will be available for purchase from staff and volunteers. Venues include:

Bowl and Pitcher Area, 4427 North Aubrey L. White Parkway – Hiking and biking information; a free beginner orienteering course; displays, wildlife presentations and children’s activities.

Nine Mile Recreation Area, 11226 West Charles Rd – Canoeing and kayaking activities with boats for loan, boating safety expert, bass and fly fishing info, Lake Spokane presentations.

Equestrian Area, Aubrey L. White Parkway off Government Way – Tour riding trails and new campground facilities; free pony rides for kids under 75 pounds.

Spokane House Interpretive Center, off Highway 291 just west of Nine Mile Dam – Indoor and outdoor museum exhibits and demonstrations about the early fur trade.

Off-Road Vehicle Area, 9412 N. Inland Road – All-terrain vehicle test drives, ride-alongs with expert ORV drivers and displays featuring ORV gear.

More information: riversidestatepark.org.

Helpers needed to decommission South Hill Bluff trail

TRAILS — The hiking-biking-running trails blow High Drive on the South Hill Bluff are a wonder of volunteer enterprise, but somebody's going too far.

A steep, unsustainable trail apparently built for a downhill mountain biking course, is eroding at the bottom of the bluff toward Hangman Creek. City Parks officials are coordinating with the Friends of the Bluff group to decommission the ill-advised trail and stop the damage.

“Friends of the Bluff promotes a coordinated approach to trail maintenance that takes into consideration the fragility of the landscape and multi-use needs of the Bluff users,” said group coordinator Diana Roberts.

“City of Spokane Parks and Rec has asked us to help them decommission (cover over) this trail. A good group of about 20 people can accomplish this in a couple of hours.

Please come out to help on Thursday (June 21) at 6 p.m.

Please sign up by email, robertsd@wsu.edu , for information about Friends of the Bluff and directions to the meeting place.

Long-distance trail proposed for region

OUTBOUND – Spokane hiker-biker Derrick Knowles is proposing formal adoption of a 1,500-mile trail linking routes in a loop through prized wild areas of Washington, Idaho and Montana.

The Inland Northwest Trail would range from the Selkirk Mountains to Hells Canyon and lead through six national forests and at least four wilderness areas.

It would include the Spokane River Centennial Trail and Columbia Plateau Trail as well as scenic trails along the St. Joe and Selway rivers.

Knowles says the route, which he’s been researching the route since 2007, would require about four months to complete, but could be done in segments.

Details on the route will be presented Monday, 7 p.m., at the Mountain Gear corporate office, 6021 Mansfield in Spokane Valley.

Big Rock parking construction delayed by weather

TRAILS – Recent wet weather has delayed construction of a parking area to the Big Rock Conservation Area off Stevens Creek Road.

Spokane County Parks and Recreation Paul Knowles said the ground is so soggy, work probably won’t start until around July 2.

Visitors planning to hike into the Big Rock-Rocks of Sharon area near Tower Mountain are advised to use the Iller Creek Conservation Area trailhead.

Silver Mountain gondola reopens; dads ride free

RESORTS — The snow has finally melted and the Silver Mountain gondola is scheduled to reopen Saturday (June 16) to transport hikers, bikers and other visitors who want to enjoy the mountain trails and scenery.

“Summer is a fantastic time to visit Silver Mountain Resort,” said John Williams, director of marketing. “This summer we’re anticipating the 2 millionth rider on North America’s longest gondola since it opened in 1990.”

The gondola will be operating weekends only until July at which time it will be running four days a week (Friday through Monday) until Labor Day.

Father's Day incentive: Dads ride the gondola free this Sunday when accompanied by one or more of their children.

Other incentives: “BARK n’ BREW“ festival in the gondola village Sunday, noon-7 p.m.

Mountain bikers will find more than 30 miles of biking trails that meander down the mountain to the town of Kellogg. New beginner and intermediate trails have been developed.

Banff National Park slashes staff positions

PARKS — Fewer people will be taking care of fish, wildlife and the land in Canada's Banff National Park this year.

Parks Canada has eliminated 49 vacant positions on top of other job losses in Banff National Park and employees are being warned not to publicly talk about the federal government’s budget cuts – or face disciplinary action.

That figure had not been previously publicly revealed, but the elimination of the 49 vacant positions is on top of 34 other “impacted” positions in the Banff field unit alone.

Read the Rocky Mountain Outlook story.

Permits required in Montana’s Anaconda Pintler Wilderness

BACKPACKING — The U.S. Forest Service says it’s changing from a voluntary permit system to requiring permits in the popular Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness in western Montana.

Wilderness rangers say a growing number of visitors to the area have been ignoring filling out voluntary permits and disregarding warnings about backcountry abuse.

Forest Service spokesman Brandan Schulze says the permits will give the agency an idea of trends in the area so actions can be taken to minimize impacts on the wilderness.

Schulze tells the Missoulian it’s also a way to inform visitors about leave-no-trace principles.

As part of the change rangers will start checking hikers for completed permits. Fines for failing to have a permit range up to $75.

Groups leading trips to choice wild areas from town to wilderness

TRAILS — Conservation groups throughout the region are scheduling guided group hikes to introduce outdoor enthusiasts to choice wild areas throughout the region. Following are some of the upcoming options with links to see the many hikes on each group’s summer schedule.

Columbia Highlands

  • June 8: Fir Mountain day hike, 4 miles, to viewpoints over the Sanpoil River Valley.
  • June 16: Work party to restore historic Big Lick Trail.

Info: Kettle Range Conservation Group.

Scotchman Peaks

  • June 30: Spar Lake archeological hike, 8 miles, with expert on Native American foraging.

Info: Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Dishman Hills

  • June 9: Pond ecology hike to West Ponds in the Spokane Valley natural area, led by a Gonzaga University biology professor.
  • June 13: Rocks of Sharon, six-mile hike up through the Iller Creek Conservation Area to Big Rock.

Info: Dishman Hills Natural Area Association.

Idaho Conservation League

  • June 16: Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail, Family Fun Hike.
  • June 23: Maiden Rock, Selkirk Mountains.

Info: ICL Sandpoint Office, (208) 265-9565.

Conservation funders meet with local groups tonight

CONSERVATION — Local trail-user groups and conservationists are celebrating the major funding efforts of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program with a reception 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., TONIGHT (June 6) at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council Auditorium, 6116 N Market.

The state-funded organization works to leverage public funds for parks, wildlife and working farms, performing a major role in funding outdoor recreation across the state.

In the Spokane area alone, WWRP has provided more than $16 million for conservation and recreation projects. Ranging from the Little Spokane River, Quartz Mountain, Antoine Peak, Mount Spokane and the Centennial Trail, WWRP grants have helped maintain a high quality of life in this area. 

Click here for a complete list of WWRP projects in Spokane County

RSVP for tonight's reception.

Clothing-optional hike among National Trails Day outings

HIKING — A Washington nudist park north of Spokane is celebrating National Trails Day June 2 with a clothing optional hike.

Kaniksu Ranch Family Nudist Park near Loon Lake, WA will host the hike Saturday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m. in its 260-acre forest. The park, run by members, welcomes everyone. The group says it's family oriented, although unless the kids are still learning to walk, it doesn't take four hours to hike 260 acres.

“The Inland Northwest has lots of wonderful scenery, but the one unique feature Kaniksu Ranch offers that no one else does is that we can hike safely and legally NAKED in a beautiful, family-friendly environment,” organizers said.

They made no mention of whether the mosquitoes are out.  And we suggest you bring plenty of sunscreen — and dark glasses.

Click “continue reading” for all the dangling details on this event.

MEANTIME, here are a few mainstream Trails Day options for Saturday, June 2 (most require clothing and advance sign-up):

Washington Trails Association is organizing a work party to re-route and maintain trails at Liberty Lake County Park.

Riverside State Park is joining with REI for a family-oriented forest health pruning project in the park.

Elk Creek Falls is the destination for a free two-mile loop hike on the Colville National Forest, led by a Forest Service wildlife biologist.

Butterflies at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge will be the focus of a presentation and field hike led by an expert from the Washington Butterfly Association.

Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are leading a family and dog walk on Saturday and a visit to the Ross Creek Cedars on Sunday.

Landers picks region’s top early season backpacking trips

BACKPACKING — With the snow still a few weeks from clearing off mountain trails, early season backpackers don't have to wait to hit the trail for multi-day trips.  The Inland Northwest has a good assortment of trails that some hikers have been enjoying since March. 

Here's my list of favorite early-season backpacking treks: