The official opening of the William O. Douglas Trail was celebrated on June 9 at Davis High School in Yakima, Douglas’ alma mater, and one of the trailheads.
In 2005, the William O. Douglas Trail Foundation spearheaded the William O. Douglas Trail Task Force, to create a trail to honor its namesake, William O. Douglas, the longest-serving justice in the history of the US Supreme Court, and who grew up in Yakima. As a boy, Douglas roamed the hills and mountains from Yakima to Mount Rainier.
Since the inception of the Task Force, CCC and volunteers have been working diligently to make this trail - from Yakima to Mount Rainier National Park - a reality. When complete, the trail will showcase many places that were significant to Douglas. The plans are to designate this tail as a National Recreation Trail, which requires intricate agreements between CCC and land agencies. While most of the trail already exists in smaller segments, such as dayhikes to Kloochman Rock, Snow Mountain Ranch and Cowiche Canyon, connector trails are needed to complete the whole.
CCC’s Ray Paolella, who first conceived the idea of the trail, hiked the entire route in 2006 (see WTA article here). Saturday’s celebration highlighted six trails that people can currently hike, and included trailhead hosts at the six trailhead locations in order to give the public an understanding of the significance of the William O. Douglas Trail.
Add a new pass to the list of recreation passes available for federal and state land. And good news! This one is free!
A new version of the annual America the Beautiful Pass provides access to federal land for all active members of the military and their families. It provides free access to National Parks and for those trailheads requiring a Northwest Forest Pass, as well as U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation.
Where there are entrance fees, the pass covers the owner and accompanying passengers in a private, non-commercial vehicle at recreation sites that charge per vehicle, such as Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks. At sites where per-person entrance fees are charged, it covers the pass owner and three accompanying adults age 16 and older. There is no entry fee for children 15 and under.
"Our country's iconic memorials, open spaces, and majestic landscapes provide inspiration for those serving in the military, especially those far from home," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, whose agency oversees national forests. "In appreciation for their service, we want to encourage these men and women and their families to visit and enjoy America's wondrous lands and waterways."
This military pass has only been available since May 19 and is available at national parks and several other locations. Learn more about this pass and how it can be obtained here.
For a full description of ALL the recreation passes that are available, visit WTA's Recreation Pass Information page.
Memorial Day is always a scramble for day hikers, backpackers, and car campers. The criteria of a crowd-free location, trails without snow and decent road conditions easily stymies even the most experienced hikers. Those who have found a destination can be as tight-lipped about it as a fisherman is about a favorite fishin’ hole. However, at WTA we are in the business of helping people find a hike, so we have some ideas for you.
First off, the weather. This weekend forecasts call for relatively cool and showery weather, mixed with sun throughout much of the state. That means great flower, forest and dramatic cloudscape photos - and experiencing the true meaning of “rain” forests on the coast. Check the National Weather Service website to ensure you're prepared for whatever conditions you might encounter.
Next, where to stay. Camping can be tricky this time of year, though most campgrounds are opening in advance of the Memorial Day weekend. Your best bet will be to reserve a spot, and fortunately you still have time to do so. Check out our Camping Reservations Tips for links and more information.
Don't forget to stay safe. Snow is still the name of the game in the high country, and hikers can easily encounter slick and dangerous conditions on snowy slopes and from overhanging cornices. All of that snow has to go somewhere when it melts too. Rivers and creeks are running at their peak levels right now. Read WTA's Spring Hiking Tips to refresh what you need to bring in your pack and how to stay safe under these conditions.
Finally, where should you go? Here are some excellent choices for day-hikers and backpackers alike.
Wildflowers still adorn the southern slopes of the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington side. Day hikers will enjoy the meadows and views of the relatively unknown
Highway 20 is open for the season, providing access to the wonders of the North Cascades. Driveway Butte near Washington Pass is an excellent early season hike, as evidenced by a trip report one day after the opening of North Cascades Highway this season. There's still snow at the top, but it is worth the effort. Another early favorite of backpackers is Thunder Creek, a long and gentle trail through old growth forest. Or how about East Bank Baker Lake with awesome views of Mount Baker and Shuksan? The road to this trail is closing at Shannon Creek from mid-June to mid-July, so get there now!
Savvy Memorial Day hikers seek the sunnier southern and eastern slopes of the Central Cascades. There are many options in the Icicle Creek area near Leavenworth, including two ways to ascend Icicle Ridge: the gentle Icicle Ridge trail or the Fourth of July Creek butt-kicker. Alternatively, off of Blewett Pass, try out this week's Hike of the Week: Ingalls Creek. It features a raging creek, abundant wildflowers and plentiful campsites.
Most of Mount Rainier National Park is under snow, but not the Carbon River area. A new wilderness walk-in campground is open at Ipsut Creek, which provides ample opportunities to explore this lovely area. Try the trail up to Ranger Creek Falls and Green Lake, or say hello to a WTA Volunteer Vacation crew on the Wonderland Trail. One volcano down the chain, the South Coldwater Lake trail at Mount St. Helens is often one of the first places in the Monument to melt out.
Wildflowers are still going strong in the desert steppe country. Our trip reporters advise that the flower show continues near Quincy at Beezley Hills Preserve. Other good bets are Steamboat Rock State Park near Grand Coulee and Hardy Canyon, near Yakima.
Wow! That's 18 destinations to try out this weekend. We encourage you to get outside, take a hike, stay safe and come back and share your experience by writing a Trip Report.
If you're considering backpacking in several high-use areas of Olympic National Park this summer, you will need to procure a permit up to 30 days in advance.
Washington's three national parks all require permits for backcountry camping, but they each have a different process. At Mount Rainier National Park, there is a lottery in March to handle the overwhelming interest. At North Cascades National Park it is first-come, first-served. And at Olympic National Park, most backcountry campsites do not require advanced reservations, but they are recommended or required for the following areas from May 1 through September 30.
- Ozette Coast (required)
- Royal Basin/Royal Lake (required)
- Grand and Badger Valleys (half of quota is available in advance)
- Lake Constance (required)
- Flapjack Lakes (half of quota is available in advance)
- Sol Duc/Seven Lakes/Mink Lake area (half of quota is available in advance)
- Hoh Lake/CB Flats (half of quota is available in advance)
- Hoh River Trail (reservations are available but not required)
Whether you are backpacking to one of the these popular areas or not, it is wise to call ahead to determine where you can pick up your permit. All backcountry campers will need to carry one, and this permitting process varies across the park. Self-registration kiosks at Olympic National Park are located at trailheads where a reservation is not required for a particular destination. For example, because reservations are not required for Toleak Point, there is a self-permitting kiosk at that traihead; and because overnight permits are required for the Ozette Coast campsites, there is no self-permit kiosk there (it's not needed, because if you're over-nighting at Ozette, you will have picked up your permit at the ranger station).
If you're planning on a night-time arrival to camp at an park trailhead, you may call (360) 565-3100, and the park will place your permit in a box at the ranger station for you to to pick up on your way to the trailhead. And to avoid a long back-and-forth drive, the park has one exception for picking up a permit in-person: if you're going to Royal Basin or Upper Lena Lake, where permits are required and your driving route goes nowhere near a ranger station, a permit can be issued over the phone.
Our May + June magazine reported that beginning this hiking season, North Cascades National Park (NCNP) was to begin the requirement of bear canister use for storing food during backcountry overnight trips to certain destinations within the Park.
Per Sage Boerke of the Marblemount Ranger Station at NCNP, this requirement has been put on hold for 2012, pending more studies and tests that might expand food storage choices, such as the aluminum-lined Ursack.
When backpackers pick up their permits, the permitting officer will advise if the desired destination is a high bear activity area, and will offer a bear canister to borrow (free of charge, but you need to supply credit card information - which will not be used if the canister is returned). For those not confident in their food-hanging technique, bear canisters can be borrowed for free from NCNP, whose website includes a page with tips and advice about food storage requirements in the backcountry (yes, proper food storage is a law!).
Good food storage habits lessen or eliminate the chances of a bear becoming conditioned to human food.
Warm weather + clear skies + mountains = hikers getting out to explore our mountains.
Warm weather + clear skies + mountains + lots of snow = ripe conditions for avalanche activity.
Several bureaus are issuing warnings of moderate to severe avalanche potential in all areas of the Cascades for this coming weekend.
Climbers aren't the only explorers who need to know avalanche conditions. Slides can travel great distances, so hikers who enjoy lower portions of our mountains can also be at risk. Avalanches and cornices know no boundaries, and the only law they follow is that of gravity. Exposed, south-facing slopes are especially prone to avalanche activity during this time of year.
A popular Mother's Day tradition, hordes of climbers make for the south side of Mount St. Helens to climb to the rim dressed in... well, dresses. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest has posted a warning that avalanche conditions on Mount St. Helens is "extreme." They are offering refunds for climbing permits for those wishing to avoid the current conditions.
Avalanches have already claimed several lives in Washington's Cascades this year.
Be safe. Be smart.
Hikers traveling around the state now have more options with popular mountain passes opening this week. Cayuse Pass (SR 123) on the east side of Mount Rainier opened and North Cascades Highway (SR 20) is opened at noon today. The final piece of the puzzle, Chinook Pass (SR 410), should be cleared and open by the Memorial Day weekend.
These routes give hikers more flexibility in route-planning. Cayuse Pass provides more access to Mount Rainier National Park, including the Ohanapecosh Campground. The Methow Valley, including ice cream cones in Winthrop and a stroll along the Chewuch River on the Se Teekh Wa trail. Car campgrounds will also be open in time for the Memorial Day weekend.of the North Cascades Highway makes it easier for many hikers to explore the
Snow removal crews on the North Cascades Highway have been worked hard since March 26 to cut through the snow, getting the highway open a full two weeks ahead of last year. Do note that this road is often closed a time or two after the initial opening due to avalanche danger, so check back on the WSDOT until conditions are consistently stable.
Now grab the Gazetteer and Green Trails maps and start planning your hike over the mountains!
Imagine what it would be like to take your young nephew with a disability to enjoy a day in the woods, only to find that the accessible trail you thought was suitable for him was indeed too difficult, after all. Had you been able to determine the trail specifications before setting out, you may have chosen to visit another location.
To better inform people with disabilities about what to expect of a trail in Oregon and in SW Washington, a committee called Access Recreation is in the process of developing guidelines so that land managers can provide useful information to users with disabilities to better decide if a particular trail or a portion of that is suitable for them. For example, if a viewpoint on a trail is not connected to an accessible route, that information should be provided.
Access Recreation is comprised of representatives from federal, state and local agencies, and organizations involved in public recreation and accessibility - people who understand the spectrum of disabilities and what trail design features might mean a deal-breaker. Access Recreation is developing universally-accepted shapes, colors and symbols to denote accessible amenities at trailheads to be used on trailhead signs. Consistent placement of universally-accepted icons that users can rely upon finding on a specially-designed webpage will also be a part of the guidelines.
A public presentation of the guidelines is May 10th May 10, 2012 from 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm at 1120 SW Fifth Avenue, Portland, Oregon.
For more information, check their website here.
Spring is here! And while the weather hasn't yet satiated our desire and need for Vitamin D, there are sure signs that spring is in bloom. To get us in the mood, all week we'll be featuring a new sign of spring in this space. Yesterday, we blogged about the first Volunteer Vacation in the Hoh Rainforest. Today special guest Kim Brown takes on a true harbinger of spring: skunk cabbage.