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Saturday, July 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Group dynamics

Hikers join forces to enjoy, improve forest trails

By Rich Landers Outdoors editor

Summer is marching along for several groups leading hikes and trail work parties in the region’s national forests.

Holly Weiler of the Spokane Mountaineers is among dozens of area conservationists who have been introducing walkers to some of the region’s choice wild areas in the Colville National Forest, Idaho Selkirk Mountains and proposed Scotchman Peaks wilderness area.

Going with a group is an excellent way to become familiar with a new backcountry area. The hike schedules continue into the fall.

But Weiler also is among a growing number of hikers finding great satisfaction in group trips geared to maintaining backcountry trails in areas such as the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

“I enjoy it so much last year, I even bought my own cross-cut saw,” she said, emphasizing her commitment to the cause. “There’s a sense of pride in coming back to a trail that you’ve helped improve for everybody.”

In June, Weiler led nine hikers on a 14-mile daytrip around Columbia and Jungle Hill mountains in a hiking series organized by Conservation Northwest to showcase the Kettle River Range and areas with potential for wilderness designation.

That considerable distance was a breeze for Weiler, who ran three years on state-bound East Valley High School cross country teams. And the mileage didn’t deter her from packing a long a small camp saw — a much smaller tool than her cross-cut saw — stashed in her daypack for brief stops to clear small blowdowns from the Kettle Crest Trail.

Weiler said in late July and August she planned on joining more fun hikes but also volunteering to lead work parties that will focus on improving trails rather than just walking on them.

Indeed, the Washington Trails Association and Conservation Northwest are working in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness this weekend. The groups have hike-in work parties scheduled almost every weekend through September 14, said Ken Mondal, a Spokane physician and WTA board member from Spokane.

“In June, we built a trail in the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge; we’re focusing on the Salmo-Priest in August,” said Mondal, one of several coordinators for the volunteer groups working under the guidance of the Forest Service.

“We work hard, but we also take time to enjoy ourselves — and we eat well,” said Derrick Knowles, work-group leader for Conservation Northwest.

The Spokane Mountaineers, Backcountry Horsemen and other groups join in the projects, and unaffiliated volunteers are encouraged to sign up.

“In late September and October we’ll focus our efforts close to home,” Mondal said. “We’re hoping to attract a lot of local volunteers to help with a major project to rework the Iller Creek Trail (in the Spokane County Conservation Futures area) near the Dishman Hills.”

Statewide, WTA volunteers alone contributed more than 83,000 hours of volunteer trail maintenance last year, he said. The Backcountry Horsemen of Washington logged more than 65,000 hours of volunteer trail work.

Here’s a sampling of upcoming hikes and work parties scheduled by area groups and open to anyone who wants to join in.

Idaho Conservation League

Aug. 9 — Two Mouth Lakes, a more difficult eight-mile hike in the same region.

Aug. 16 — West Fork Lake, a 12-mile round-trip to yet another choice high-mountain lake destination in the Selkirks.

Sept. 6 — Harrison and Little Harrison lakes, 4.5 miles round-trip to two of the most beautiful settings in the Selkirks, up the Pack River Road.

Sept. 27 – Little Spar Lake, a moderately strenuous 10-mile hike on the Montana side of the West Cabinets to a small alpine lake in the heart of the proposed Scotchman Peaks wilderness.

Conservation Northwest

(Carpools are organized from Spokane.

Aug. 2 — Grassy Top Mountain from Pass Creek Pass, an eight-mile hike just south of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness on the divide between Priest and Sullivan lakes.

Aug. 9 – Sherman Peak Loop, a popular six-mile hike around Sherman Peak from Sherman Pass.

Aug. 16 – Hall Mountain, a challenging 14-mile hike up from Sullivan Lake to a former fire lookout site.

Aug. 23 – Wapaloosie Mountain, a challenging six-mile hike up on the crest of the Kettle River Range.

Volunteer work parties

For details on the weekly work groups heading into the Salmo-Priest Wilderness in August-September, contact Conservation Northwest in Spokane.

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