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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

2020: The year outdoors

By Eli Francovich and Dave Nichols The Spokesman-Review

As with everything else, the pandemic that spread nearly unchecked throughout the region, state and country affected our outdoors pursuits in 2020 and, most assuredly, will continue to do so into the coming new year.

More folks than ever got outside, since it was the safest way to recreate while maintaining social distancing protocols. That’s a good thing, but it also had a downside as parks and recreation areas bore the brunt of overcrowding.

Still, there were plenty of highlights in the life outdoors in the past year. Here is a month-by-month breakdown of 2020’s biggest, most important and just plain interesting outdoor stories.

See you next year!

January

Spokane fly fisherman Josh Mills has helped raise about $20,000 for victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Mills, and other anglers inspired by his example, are tying flies and then auctioning them off. The money is going to a non-profit that works in the Bahamas. (Josh Mills / COURTESY)
Spokane fly fisherman Josh Mills has helped raise about $20,000 for victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Mills, and other anglers inspired by his example, are tying flies and then auctioning them off. The money is going to a non-profit that works in the Bahamas. (Josh Mills / COURTESY)
A collared wolf from the Stranger pack in Washington wandered into Idaho and was legally killed, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reported. Idaho has allowed hunting and trapping of wolves since 2011.

Two skiers were killed and five rescued in the aftermath of a Silver Mountain avalanche. One man, who was buried for 50 minutes in the avalanche, recalled his rescue from the harrowing ordeal.

Omega Pacific, a climbing gear manufacturer that was based in Airway Heights, closed. Nine years ago, the company had roughly 60 full-time employees. It was down to 20 when it closed.

Longtime Spokesman-Review outdoors editor Rich Landers wrote about how a bird dog’s nose leaves footloose sportsman flush with fulfillment, even when shy of a limit.

February

Mikki Douglass of Cle Elum runs her Eurohounds down the finish line at the 50th annual Priest Lake Sled Dog Races on Saturday, February 1, 2020. The races turned 50 in 2020. (Angela Schneider / COURTESY)
Mikki Douglass of Cle Elum runs her Eurohounds down the finish line at the 50th annual Priest Lake Sled Dog Races on Saturday, February 1, 2020. The races turned 50 in 2020. (Angela Schneider / COURTESY)
Conceived as “Bloomsday on snow,” the 10K classic skiing race Spokane Langlauf turned 40. Started in 1980, it was the brainchild of two elite athletes looking for close-to-home competition

A prime piece of steelhead “reel estate” along the Grande Ronde River became public property, thanks to the fundraising efforts of a group of dedicated anglers.

The IDFG approved nine proposals to extend wolf hunting and trapping seasons following a two-week public comment period in which the commission received more than 27,000 responses from across the world.

A ban on the creation of new climbing routes in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest put Spokane-area climbers on edge and spurred a nationwide backlash.

March

Karen Blaine, 69, normally on the road in her Roadtrek camper van for nine months of year more or less but had to come home early to Spokane to offer support to her elderly aunt. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Karen Blaine, 69, normally on the road in her Roadtrek camper van for nine months of year more or less but had to come home early to Spokane to offer support to her elderly aunt. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Research in northeast Washington looked at effectiveness, long-term impacts of hazing cougars.

Due to the pandemic, a statewide fishing ban was ordered by Washington wildlife managers late in the month. It came two days after Gov. Jay Inslee’s first stay-home order.

Spread of the coronavirus left full-time RVers and van dwellers on the run.

Idaho biologists counted 57 mountain goats in the Idaho Selkirks in February, the first survey of the sure-footed bovids in that range since 2001.

April

A Spokane man continued hiking Pacific Crest Trail during the pandemic despite pleas to stop. Officials called the man “selfish.”

Family and friends gathered virtually to remember Spokane’s Jess Roskelley, one of three world-class climbers who perished descending from a difficult and dangerous climb in the Canadian Rockies, on the anniversary of his death.

Washington’s wolf population grew at least 11% between 2018 and 2019, despite the deaths of 21 wolves from hunting, lethal removal and predation, WDFW announced.

Yellowstone staff struggled with how to reopen the park after its initial closure due to the pandemic. “We’re figuring out the best way to shape a clear path forward in a very unclear situation,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a call.

May

Cars are seen here blocking a private driveway near the Stevens Creek trailhead in the Dishman Hills Natural Area. (COURTESY of Jeff Lambert)
Cars are seen here blocking a private driveway near the Stevens Creek trailhead in the Dishman Hills Natural Area. (COURTESY of Jeff Lambert)
The coronavirus pandemic delayed the spring hunting and fishing seasons by nearly a month. Once restrictions were relaxed, hunters and anglers found respite in the outdoors.

Glacier National Park turned 110 years old. It is the nation’s 10th national park.

An elk from a Yakima herd tested positive for elk-hoof disease earlier in the year. The elk was captured by WDFW and sent to a new, state-of-the-art elk-hoof research facility at Washington State University.

June

Filmmaker Mark Titus brings his latest work, "The Wild," to a virtual interactive screening at Magic Lantern on Thursday at 7 p.m. The film examines the plight of the world's last intact salmon run and the battle against a potential copper mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska.  (Courtesy)
Filmmaker Mark Titus brings his latest work, "The Wild," to a virtual interactive screening at Magic Lantern on Thursday at 7 p.m. The film examines the plight of the world's last intact salmon run and the battle against a potential copper mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska. (Courtesy)
Puddles, Washington State’s first mussel-detection dog, discovered invasive mussels on a boat traveling from Lake Havasu, Arizona, at the Washington-Idaho border checkstop.

A leading booking service for outdoor guides surveyed more than 100 active mountain guides on how their businesses had been affected by the pandemic. What they found was fairly astounding.

Mineral prospectors can no longer use motorized or gravity siphon equipment to search for gold in rivers and streams that are designated as critical habitat under the federal Endangered Species Act for salmon, steelhead or bull trout.

What’s an aging cyclist to do when the hills get too long and steep? Thanks to the increasing acceptance of e-bikes in the last couple of decades, there are many new trails to explore.

July

Tim Sperber, right, and son Dillon look to catch cutthroat trout on the St. Joe River shortly before dusk on Saturday, July 4, 2020, near Calder, Idaho.  (Madison McCord/The Spokesman-Review)
Tim Sperber, right, and son Dillon look to catch cutthroat trout on the St. Joe River shortly before dusk on Saturday, July 4, 2020, near Calder, Idaho. (Madison McCord/The Spokesman-Review)
The summer got underway with three drownings in a week on the Spokane River.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed a 2018 ruling that the Trump administration illegally stripped Endangered Species Act protections from Yellowstone’s grizzly bears. The decision spares the grizzlies from previous plans for trophy hunts in Wyoming and Idaho.

WDFW lethally removed an adult, nonbreeding female member of the Wedge wolf pack in northeast Washington, reducing the pack to two known remaining members. The department killed the remaining two wolves two weeks later.

August

Sharlene Lundal says she bicycles regularly, “because I can…. At 79, I have to keep moving. I have places to see and people to meet.”  (RICH LANDERS/FOR THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Sharlene Lundal says she bicycles regularly, “because I can…. At 79, I have to keep moving. I have places to see and people to meet.” (RICH LANDERS/FOR THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
A member of tWashington’s Wolf Advisory Group was dismissed from the committee by WDFW director Kelly Susewind in the latest twist of hotly debated issues surrounding wolf-kill orders in northeast Washington.

A three-year, $16 million stream restoration project – in a partnership involving Seattle City Light, the Pend Oreille Public Utility District and the U.S. Forest Service – has dramatically changed the Mill Pond Historic Site.

While government agencies and conservation groups wrestle with how best to protect the native salmon that live and spawn in the waters of the Columbia and Snake, the bottom line is that due directly to human-generated factors, those waters themselves are becoming incapable of sustaining their inhabitants.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission approved $17 million in budget requests for needed enhancements to manage fish and wildlife in Washington state. Commissioners also provided a list of potential service cuts – up to $23.5 million.

September

Recreation turned into “wreckreation,” as COVID-cabin-fevered hikers, campers and day-trippers ventured out and damaged public lands all over the state – including sparking wildfires with careless or clueless behavior.

The immediate public concern of wildfires that ravaged portions of Eastern Washington was the human suffering, destruction of property and the pall of hazardous smoke. Behind the headlines was the unheard anguish of wild creatures.

October

The sun peaks over a ridge near Waikiki Springs, which is adding to its 114-acre Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife property along the Little Spokane River.  (Inland Northwest Land Conservancy/courtesy)
The sun peaks over a ridge near Waikiki Springs, which is adding to its 114-acre Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife property along the Little Spokane River. (Inland Northwest Land Conservancy/courtesy)
A Kitsap County woman attempted to set the fastest known time for a 500-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Trail. Then starvation set in. She didn’t break the record but lived to tell about it.

Biologists at WDFW estimated wildfires last summer burned tens of thousands of acres of Eastern Washington sage-grouse habitat, adding to the reasons the department recommended endangered status for sage-grouse in Washington through its periodic status review processes.

The Columbia River Gorge Commission adopted revisions to the management plan for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to improve protection of this nationally significant landscape, the most extensive policy changes since 1991.

The Deep Creek area of Riverside State Park was one of Jess Roskelley’s favorite places in the area to climb. Soon, the first phase of a practical tribute to one of the sport’s finest will be completed there.

November

A group of elk are chased into the trap by a helicopter during trapping operations north of Mountain Home last week. Idaho Fish and Game captured 16 elk for transport to central Idaho.  (Courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game)
A group of elk are chased into the trap by a helicopter during trapping operations north of Mountain Home last week. Idaho Fish and Game captured 16 elk for transport to central Idaho. (Courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game)
An unusual operation to capture and “translocate” dozens of marauding elk to a location northwest of Stanley, Idaho, ended up reinforcing the notion that the wild animal has a mind of its own.

Rich Landers and Kootenai County hiker David Taylor released “Urban Trails: Spokane-Coeur d’Alene,” a guide featuring more than 60 areas with notable trails convenient to residents of the two cities.

Although Washington has a history of beaver tolerance, coexistence has relied mostly on keeping beavers and humans apart. Palouse landowner Linda Jovanovich has learned to live – and thrive – with them.

For the first time in more than 30 years, there wasn’t a live showing of the Banff Film Festival in Spokane. Instead, there was a one-night virtual show on Nov. 26. “This is a nice stopgap,” organizer Paul Fish said. “But I was really hoping to touch base with our Spokane customers (in person).”

How do you count one of the world’s more elusive ground animals? Very carefully. That’s one of the messages from a WDFW video released in November called “How to Count a Wolf.”

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission on Nov. 21 approved changes to nonresident participation in general season deer and elk hunts to address concerns from residents about hunter congestion in some areas.

December

From left, William Keller, Ryan Malcom, John Keller, Brian Malcom, Kyle Everheart, Greg Keller and Aaron Everheart pose with the head and antlers of an elk shot by 84-year-old John Keller.  (Courtesy of Greg Keller)
From left, William Keller, Ryan Malcom, John Keller, Brian Malcom, Kyle Everheart, Greg Keller and Aaron Everheart pose with the head and antlers of an elk shot by 84-year-old John Keller. (Courtesy of Greg Keller)
Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park changed its uphill skiing policy, shortening the time skiers are allowed to ski up and instituting a $50 season pass. Many were not happy.

For the first time in more than a generation, chinook salmon spawned in the upper Columbia River system. Colville Tribal biologists counted 36 redds along an 8-mile stretch of the Sanpoil River.

Started in 1918, The Spokesman-Review Inland Northwest Trapshoot will celebrate its 103th anniversary, albeit under difficult circumstances. The eight-week competition begins Saturday.

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