The Washington Coast offers a great winter getaway. Copalis River Spit last December. Photo by Jon Stier.
The holiday season is rife with traditions, from annual Thanksgiving feasts to family gift-giving to New Year's resolutions. In my family, it's also a time to plan the next year of outdoor adventures -- and to take a few as well. I find that having annual trips and traditions helps motivate my family (and me) to turn off the screens, get out of the house and make memories outdoors.
We recently asked WTA's Facebook community what outdoor traditions they have, and combined with my own experience, we have created this primer for traditions you can start right now.
According to annual tradition, Facebooker John S climbed Mount Teneriffe today and Gwen T took her "Post Turkey Day Trot" at Wallace Falls, something both do every year. What better way to work off a feast than to take a hike the day after a major holiday. While the malls are filled with shoppers, the trails have a fraction of the people they do in the summer.
It may not be Black Friday any longer, but it's still the holiday season. Get some fresh air, work off the turkey and pie and choose a trail that you want to visit each year at the same time.
Where will you be on New Year's Eve?
Last year, my family started a new tradition. We took a short vacation to Ocean Shores for New Year's. With school vacation entering its second week, we were ready to get out of town and do something new. We were fortunate to find sun at the coast and enjoyed a hike at Copalis River Spit, snowy owls at Damon Point and a side trip to the rainy Quinault rainforest where we lunched at the iconic lodge on New Year's Eve. It was the best New Year's I've had in years, and my son is still talking about the owls and the wind he braved to see them.
Plan a milestone hike for yourself or with someone special
After twelve years as advocacy director, WTA bids a fond farewll to Jonathan Guzzo. As he takes the next step in his career, he leaves hikers in a much better position than when he arrived in 2001. From trail funding to coalition-building around trails, Jonathan has delivered time and again for hikers.
In 2001, WTA's advocacy program was focused almost completely on the state legislature. During his tenure, he took it from that narrow focus to a program that was effective across a broad range of issues and in many different venues, from state and federal land managers to the US Senate.
In Olympia, Jonathan poured his first three years of work into reforming the Non-Highway and Off-Road Vehicle Activities program (NOVA). This program allocates gas tax revenue for projects that are accessed via a non-highway road (like those on national forests and national parks). His efforts were instrumental in changing the allocation from being 20 percent for non-motorized projects to 80 percent, which has been a boon for trail maintenance projects around the state.
Under Jonathan's leadership, WTA also became a national leader for other funding programs, including the federal Recreation, Heritage and Wilderness and the Recreational Trails Programs as these came up for reauthorization. At the state level, Jonathan successfully advocated for funding for DNR lands and Washington State Parks.
Jonathan's collaborative approach brought together trail groups that had squabbled for years, uniting hikers with equestrians and mountain bikers in particular around issues of mutual importance. After researching a ground-breaking report about the state of recreational access on Washington's public lands last year, he took a lead role in pioneering the Sustainable Roads Analysis Process on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This public process is culminating November 13 in Everett, and will help the Forest shrink the size of its massive road system.
"I'm proud of the work that I've done at WTA," reflected Jonathan Guzzo on his long tenure. "Our advocacy program is as respected as an innovative, engaged and effective model for positive change. Over the past twelve years, I have worked hard to address difficult issues in a collaborative spirit, and we've won important victories in the process."
Jonathan is taking some well-deserved time off before taking on his next professional venture.
"The time is right for me to take on new challenges and learn new skills. I'm looking forward to watching WTA as it continues to succeed on complex issues and win victories for hikers."
And WTA looks forward to working with Jonathan in whatever new position he takes on. We thank him for a great twelve years!
Road closed signs will be a familiar sight to hikers wanting to access national parks during the government shutdown.
Updated: Oct. 3, 2013.
Due to the impasse in Congress, the federal government shut down at midnight last night. Aside from the many impacts to federal employees and programs, the shutdown also impacts hikers, campers and potentially trail volunteers.
What effects the shutdown will have are still being determined, and we'll continue to update this blog as we learn more. (Agencies' “close down procedure” asks that managers and supervisors arrange for securing their offices, canceling meetings and events and communicating with their partners, the public and their employees about what it means.)
Here's what we know now:
National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges are closed and gated
The National Park Service has been very clear about the impacts to its 401 sites around the country. They are closed. You can read its contingency plan here.
- All 401 National Park Service sites are closed across the country. This includes Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park, as well as smaller units in the San Juan Islands and elsewhere. National Wildlife Refuges will also be closed.
- Roads that go through or around National Parks will remain open—SR 20 across North Cascades National Park and SR 410 around Mount Rainier—but roads that provide access into the park will be marked as closed or gated. For instance, there is no access to Mount Rainier's Paradise, Olympic's Hurricane Ridge or Hoh Rainforest or Cascade Pass in North Cascade National Park. For mountain pass conditions, check with Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT). All trails and activities along these roads through the National Parks are curtailed.
- All visitor centers and facilities are closed. People already in campgrounds or overnight facilities were given 48 hours to leave.
- All permits for backcountry camping and climbing are rescinded. No new permits are being issued. Update 10/2: The contingency plan also states that day use visitors—and that would include hikers—would be asked to leave the park. As such, WTA does not recommend hiking in National Parks during the shutdown. The Pacific Crest Trail Association is also advising the same for PCT thru-hikers.
- All National Park Service websites have been taken offline, and staff has stopped posting to their social media streams.
- The majority of National Parks employees have been furloughed. In the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, 118 employees are on furlough because of the shutdown and approximately 40 concessions employees are similarly affected. (Nationwide the shutdown has furloughed more than 20,000 National Park Service employees.)
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
- Update 10/1: At the Mount St. Helen's Monument, the Johnston Ridge Observatory and Science and Learning Center at Coldwater are closed during the lapse in federal government funding. According to Mount St. Helens Institute (a private, non-profit organization), Climber’s Bivouac, the climbing route and all hiking trails will remain open, though bathroom facilities at all parking lots and trailheads will be locked.
National Forest trails not closed to hikers, but camping, facilities are closed
The effects to hikers in Washington's National Forests are less clear than in the parks. Here's what we do know, though these are subject to change and will be updated on this blog as we learn more. You can access the U.S. Forest Service Contingency Plan here.
- Forest Service visitor centers and offices are closed.
- Trailheads and trails in National Forests are not closed, but hikers could encounter gates. Trailhead facilities like toilets and garbage will not be serviced.
- Update 10/3: The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has asked WTA not to sell Northwest Forest Passes. But as a precaution, continue to hang your Northwest Forest Pass at trailheads. You probably don't need it, but Law Enforcement Officers will still be working, and many of the trailheads are patrolled by county sheriffs.
- Campgrounds operated by the US Forest Service will be closed within two days, although some campgrounds operated by concessionaires could remain open.
- Road projects may be halted, and some are going forward on a case-by-case basis.
- The U.S. Forest Service and recreation.gov websites have been taken offline and staff are no longer updating or posting to social media channels.
- Update 10/3: Got an Enchantment permit? Here's what one hiker told us was posted as a note on the door of the Wenatchee Ranger Station: "If you have a printed permit, please enjoy your trip. If you have not printed your permit yet, it is not possible to do so; however, you may print your confirmation letter that was emailed to you when your application for a permit was granted, and take that with you on your hike. If you do not have a NW Forest Pass, leave a copy of your confirmation on the dashboard of your car." Additional Hiker info: See the comments below from schifferj for more info about snow conditions and passes.
- The Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest's Sustainable Roads public engagement meeting in Everett on October 9 has been cancelled.
WTA trail work parties on federal land cancelled
Update 10/2: WTA has cancelled work parties on National Forest land for the first weekend in October. We will be able to resume on federal land work parties when government operations resume. Where possible, we will redirect these work parties to state or county properties. And in a fit of optimism, we will keep our October 11-13 work parties for National Forest land on the schedule.
NOAA shuts down, but you can still get weather updates
If you rely on on the National Weather Service to assess conditions before you head out hiking, you'll still be able to get that information during the shutdown. NOAA.gov and most associated websites are unavailable, but because the weather.gov site provides information "necessary to protect life and property, it will be updated and maintained during the Federal Government shutdown."
The silver lining: state and local lands are open
Hike and camp on state and local lands. Washington State Parks and Fish & Wildlife lands remain open for hikers and recreation users and people should bring their Discover Pass to hang in their windows at these sites. County lands remain open as well, and there are many great places to hike close by urban centers.
Volunteer on city, county and state trails. WTA's trail work on these lands will also go forward. We have work parties this weekend scheduled for Taylor Mountain in King County, Big Rock in Spokane County and Dosewallips State Park on the Olympic Peninsula. You can still sign up for these work parties and others.
Share your experience
Have you already been impacted by the shutdown on national public lands? Been turned away from a National Park or asked to leave a campground? Share your story with us in the comments below?
Have the kids look for different kinds of pine and fir cones on their scavenger hunt. Photo by Miranda Everitt, Flickr.
After an incredibly active summer of hiking, camping and backpacking with my family, we've now hit the brakes with fall. The kids are back in school and soccer is eating up our weekends. Like many parents, I've wrestled with how to keep my kids connected to nature when all of our school activities compete for attention.
Fortunately, I've hit upon something: scavenger hunts. My kids (4 and 8 years old) love them. We've done scavenger hunts at their grandparents' house, having them look for animals in the artwork both in and outside their home. And earlier this month I put one together for my son's birthday party. The boys raced around our yard, working together to cross the items off the list.
Outdoor fun, without going too far afield
As my family scavenger hunts have proven, you don't have to go far afield to connect kids with nature.
From your backyard to the neighborhood park, scavenger hunts provide an opportunity to get everyone outside and exploring their environment. And when families are so busy on the weekend with sports and activities -- and simply the need to relax -- sometimes a full day hike is simply not possible.
Take the checklist to a forested park for an hour
WTA has created a scavenger hunt that you can take to a forested city or regional park. Take a hour after school or on a weekend to look, listen, touch and explore the environment. You can look for different sizes of pine and fir cones, ferns and bugs, or things that are scented, smooth or curly. You don't need a bucket to collect items; just have the kids spot them and check them off the list. Have fun and let us know how it goes.
At least eight mudslides have closed the North Cascades Highway (SR 20) west of Rainy Pass. Photo courtesy of WSDOT.
Thunderstorms with intense rains caused wash-outs of two very popular roads this past weekend in North Cascades National Park.
Eight mudslides close North Cascades Highway near Rainy Pass
Highway 20, the major east-west route through the park, is closed for further notice due to a series of at least eight mudslides between mileposts 150 and 155. The road is closed from the winter gate east of Diablo at milepost 147 to milepost 157 east of Rainy Pass. As of Sunday, the largest of the slides is estimated to be a quarter-mile long and 25 feet deep. WSDOT reports that Rainy Pass is accessible from the east.
Before the highway can reopen, the hillsides will need to be analyzed and stabilized by experts, but it is expected that the Washington Department of Transportation will make the repairs as soon as it can. This could take days or even more than a week, however. You can view photos of the slides and follow developments on WSDOT's excellent Flickr page.
Cascade Pass trailhead inaccessible
Heavy rains also caused the Cascade River Road to wash out at milepost 18, which stranded approximately 30 vehicles parked at the Cascade Pass trailhead about 1.5 miles above the washout. Sixty-five stranded people spent an uncomfortable night in their vehicles, while National Park Service employees helped them get word to friends and family at home that they were safe. (Read a first-hand account of the experience from our news partner, The Seattle Times.)
The wash-out on the Cascade River Road is estimated to be approximately 15 feet deep and 40-60 feet wide. Plans have been developed to build a temporary one-lane road to allow stranded vehicles to leave the area as soon as possible, possibly by the end of the day on Monday.
While it is likely that the wash-out on Highway 20 will be cleared by WSDOT in the near future, the timeline for repairs on the Cascade River Road is less clear. In the past it has taken months or even seasons to repair. The trail to Cascade Pass and the Sahale Arm is one of the most popular (for a reason) hikes in North Cascades National Park and a fine place to for late summer and fall hiking.
Update on 8/13/2013 from North Cascades National Park on Twitter:
Cascade River Road Update: Successfully evacuated stranded visitors late yesterday. Road reopened to vehicles to MP 20; foot traffic to TH— North Cascades NP (@NCascadesNPS) August 13, 2013
The road is closed to vehicles at milepost 20, the Eldorado Creek parking area, 3 miles before the road's end. The Cascade Pass Trailhead and Boston Basin access point are not accessible by vehicle. Foot traffic is allowed past the closure point.
On your next hike, stay fueled up on trail with quick, easy and heart-healthy bar recipes made with all-natural ingredients. Sarah Kirkconnell, author of Trail Cooking Made Simple, offered these suggestions in the July/Aug 2012 issue of Washington Trails magazine.
- 3/4 c. almond meal
- 1/2 c. natural prunes
- 3 Tbs pure maple syrup
- 1/4 c. peanut or other nut butter
- 2 Tbs dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 c. unsalted pistachios
Finely chop prunes and chocolate chips. In a bowl, stir all ingredients but the pistachios together until well mixed.
Chop the pistachios and put in a shallow bowl. Use a tablespoon disher (scoop) to make balls of prune mixture. Ross gently in your hands to smooth out, then roll in the nuts, gently pressing them in.
Blueberry Almond Bars
- 1 c. Medjool dates, pitted (15-20)
- 1 c. raw almonds
- 2 Tbs. unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 c. dried blueberries
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Chop the dates up roughly. Add them and the remaining ingredients into a food processor. Pulse until chooped up, then run on high for 3-4 minutes until finely diced and starting to stick together.
Line an 8"x8" glass dish with parchment paper on the bottom. Knock the mixture into the dish and flatten out, pressing down hard to compact it. Cover and refrigerate. Cut into bars of desired size and wrap each one tightly.
Chocolate Chia Bars
- 1/3 c. chia seeds
- 1 c. slivered almonds
- 1 1/2 c. pitted Medjool dates
- 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
In a food processor pulse the almonds a couple of times, then transfer to a small bowl. Add the dates and process until a paste forms. Add the nuts and remaining ingredients. Process until mixed.
Line an 8"x8" glass baking dish with plastic wrap. Knock the mix out and flatten into the dish until even. Press down. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and store tightly wrapped.
All recipes and photos by Sarah Kirkconnell. Find more trail-worthy recipes for your next adventure at her website: trailcooking.com.
Tired of PBJs, GORP and freeze-dried dinners on trail? Need some culinary inspiration to liven up your trailside snacks and backcountry meals? We've heard from many hikers that they want recipes, so we're bringing back WTA's Backcountry Kitchen. It's starting out in our blog, but if this is something you like, we will look for ways to make it a more permanent feature.
Today we tackle trail snacks, with three can't-miss options to keep you and your companions energized and well-fed.
Nut Butter Tortillas
- Spread favorite nut butter
- Add fun ingredients: sliced fresh or dried fruit; honey; cereal; granola; chopped fig newtons; potato chips; pretzels; pickles
- Roll 'er up and eat!
Make ahead or on the trail, and be creative to give this hiker lunch a new twist. For breakfast, it can also be heated up before serving.
- 1/4 cup dried hummus* per person
- curry or other spices (optional)
- crackers or pita
This is a great lunch option for hikers and backpackers.
Put the hummus and spices in a quart-sized bag before your hike. Redehydrate in the bag on trail with an equal part water (or follow instructions on mix). Dip crackers and sliced cucumber in bag for a nutritious and tasty meal.
*Dried hummus can usually be found in grocery stores with good bulk food departments.
Chewy Granola Bars
- 1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
- 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup shredded coconut
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips (frozen)
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (or honey)
- 1/2 cup peanut or other nut butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
This is a carbo-rich snack to make before you head out on your trip.
Spray an 8x8 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Mix the first five ingredient in a large, heat-safe mixing bowl.
In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and syrup to a boil. Take off heat and add nut butter and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Quickly add the hot syrup to the dry ingredients, mixing while pouring in.
Once thoroughly coated, dump mixture into the prepared pan. Pack down firmly. Let sit until cool then slice into bars with a thin knife. Wrap tightly for carrying.
Share your modifications
What do you think of these recipes? If you have modifications to suggest, please add them to the comments section below.
Reprinted from Mar+Apr 2013 issue of Washington Trails magazine, by Sarah Kirkonnell. Join WTA to get your one-year subscription.
Western black-legged ticks can be found in Washington. From left to right: nymph, adult male, and adult female. Photo courtesy Calif. Dept. of Public Health
Disgusting. Creepy. Disease-ridden. Nuisance. There is no end to the derogatory feelings we have about ticks. However, with a bit of awareness, preparation and vigilance, hiking in Washington's tick country can be incredibly awarding and enjoyable.
Tick prevention starts by covering up
Minimizing your exposure to ticks begins with your clothing. Ticks tend to latch on in grassy areas above the cuff of your pant-leg and move upward, looking for dark places to burrow. Here are a few tips for hikers:
- Wear pants and long sleeves -- no shorts! The best choice is convertible pants with a flap over the zippered legs -- this is an excellent tick trap.
- Tuck your shirt into your pants. Tuck your pants into your socks.
- Wear light colors, so you can identify the ticks more easily as they climb.
- Don a cap with a flap behind the neck, if you have one.
There is a lot of discussion about tick repellents. Hikers report that DEET works great for mosquitoes, but not so well for ticks. Permethrin is a better choice for ticks; several brands of clothing are made with Permethrin-infused fabric, or you can buy a spray. Do note that these are pesticides and thoughtfully consider if and how you want to use them.
During and after your hike
Stick to the trail. Ticks like to hang out in shaded, grassy areas. Sticking to an established trail is good prevention, but certainly is not fool-proof. This is one more great reason to keep dogs, who are tick-magnets, on leash.
Tick check frequently. Hikers in tick country will want to do regular tick checks during the day. Brush those bad boys off or crush them between your fingers, but don't worry that they are going to burrow in immediately. Ticks like to cruise around for awhile before they take a bite.
Post-hike tick check. After your hike you'll want to do a thorough check. One hiker we know changes into a complete set of new clothes back at the trailhead. She puts all of her hiking clothes in a garbage bag and seals it, then does a full body check. Favorite tick burrowing sites include the scalp, waist and other dark places where they can hide.
Back home, take a shower. Consider filling up a bathtub or washbasin and tossing in your hiking clothes. Ticks will float up to the surface. Crush them or flush them down the toilet; note that they can survive a wash and rinse cycle.
Check your backpack. Don't forget to give your backpack a full check too. Leave it outside rather bringing it in your home.
Tick First-Aid: five steps to remove a tick
If a tick has found a place to burrow in on your body, don't panic. Chances are very slim that you will end up with Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. The Pacific Northwest is a "low risk" area for Lyme and spotted fever is extremely rare. But you do want to get the tick out quickly and completely.
How to check for and remove ticks on your dog
If you hike with a dog in tick country, prevention and tick checks should be a regular part of your routine.
- Talk to your vet about preventative medications.
- Find out how to do a thorough tick check of your dog and get tips for removal.
Follow these five steps for the best way to remove a tick:
- Use an antiseptic or alcohol wipe to clean the area around the tick.
- Grasp the tick with tweezers (or fingers) as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull straight and steady. Do not twist or yank. You do not want to leave the tick's head and legs under the skin.
- If parts do remain under the skin, pinch the skin up and try to scrape the remains away. Use a sterilized needle if you have to dig anything out.
- After you finish, use another antiseptic or alcohol wipe to clean the area.
If you are concerned about disease, save the tick for testing in case you get sick. Watch for symptoms of rash or fever, and if you have concerns, visit your doctor.
The Spokane Regional Health District has an excellent one-pager that covers most of the content in this blog.
You can also send your ticks to the Washington Department of Health for study.
Hikes with known tick issues
Some hikes require extra tick-prevention measures. Don't let ticks scare you off from the wildflowers or other great springtime wonders, but do be careful and read recent Trip Reports to see if ticks have been spotted in the area.
- Columbia River Gorge: Lyle Cherry Orchard, Columbia Hills State Park
- Central Washington: Umtanum Canyon and Ridge, Yakima Skyline
- Eastern Washington: Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge (in spring)
Starting today, a string of low tides in Puget Sound and along the Pacific Coast bring opportunities to discover an ecosystem usually inaccessible to those who like to keep their feet on solid ground. It's a great way to get outside and explore nature in springtime, whether you choose a city beach or a hiking trail along the coast.
I lived near some of the best tide pooling beaches for a dozen years and never explored them. Then one day at Lincoln Park in West Seattle my young son and I stumbled upon volunteer beach naturalists from the Seattle Aquarium during a low tide. Since then, I take my kids tide pooling a few times each year. We usually go to the same beach, but every time we go there are different creatures to find.
Keep sea creatures, marine environments and your family safe
Plan your trip by consulting NOAA's Tide Predictor online or by carrying a tide table (especially when exploring the Pacific Coast where you could become trapped by a returning tide). For maximum viewing, time your visit for an hour before low tide.
The beach naturalists showed us some cool things -- my son was hooked! They also introduced us to good beach etiquette. Here are my take-aways for you:
- Always step carefully during low tide, avoiding sea creatures like anemones that lie at or just below the surface of the sand. For this reason, I highly recommend leaving kids and toddlers at home until they can understand the impact their actions have on the marine environment.
- Do not collect. While beachcombing and collecting may have been one of your treasured childhood memories, the culture has changed as biologists have witnessed the effect of these actions on the intertidal marine environment. Please do not take home shells or animals; they are all integral components of the ecosystem.
- Touch gently, or simply look. Low tides can be stressful for the sea animals.
- Know your tides. Watch for the incoming tide and for rogue waves, especially on the coast. You can find a tide table for dozens of different locations from NOAA.
Your guide to tide pools and easy-to-get-to beaches
If you want to get started, but don't know where to go, I have put together a guide to three excellent tide pool hikes. I've also listed 13 city beaches, from Olympia to Whidbey Island, that are known for the tide pooling. Have fun!
On Saturday the hiking community lost one of its stalwart ambassadors. Don Hanson, owner and proprietor of Scottish Lakes High Camp, died when a tree dropped a giant load of snow on him while he was working outside the lodge.
Don is described by those who knew him as a "force of nature." At 65, he had more energy than most people half his age. He and his wife Chris, transformed the Scottish Lakes High Camp in the their 18 years of ownership, building and renovating several cabins, expanding the lodge, building and maintaining extensive new backcountry hiking, ski and snowshoe trails and much more. But what made High Camp such a unique and special place was the care and hospitality that guests enjoyed from their hosts during their stays. Don was always generous and gracious, becoming lifelong friends with many of his guests.
When not working on the High Camp, Don loved nothing more than an epic backpacking trip. Guidebook author Craig Romano fondly recalls many hiking adventures with Don and his wife. Don was along for several of Craig's research trips for his Backpacking Washington book, including marathon days of 20 plus miles hiking to Chiwaukum Lakes and traversing The Enchantments. It's safe to say that there are few people who knew the east side of the Alpines Lakes Wilderness like Don did.
A Celebration of Don's Life will be held at 3pm this Thursday, March 7th, at Festhalle in Leavenworth. Details can be found on the Scottish Lakes High Camp website.
All of us at Washington Trails Association sends our sincerest condolences to Don's family.