Trails & Tides

Tristan Baurick, the Kitsap Sun's outdoors and public lands reporter, writes about hiking, biking, kayaking and everything else Kitsapers do under the sun.
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Ranger gives ‘State of Olympic National Forest’

April 23rd, 2014 by tristan baurick


On Monday, I headed over to Quilcene for ranger Dean Yoshina’s ‘State of Olympic National Forest’ talk at a North Hood Canal Chamber of Commerce meeting.

The big news from Yoshina, who manages Olympic’s Hood Canal Ranger District Office, was that the U.S. Forest Service is considering the closure of many of Olympic’s logging roads.



Olympic has nearly 2,500 miles of road but current funding levels can support the maintenance of just 600 to 800 miles.

Olympic will start a public process this summer to determine which roads to close. It’s possible that as much as a two-thirds of the roads – some 1,600 miles – will be closed in the coming years.

For more on that, read my story here.

Yoshina’s talk covered several other topics, which I’ll summarize below.

Olympic National Forest was founded in 1905, about 30 years before Olympic National Park was carved out of it.

It’s 635,000 acres neighbor 12 tribes and vast stretches of private and state-owned timberlands.

“It’s one of the best places in the world to grow really big trees,” Yoshina said.

That’s why all those roads were built. Logging peaked in the 1980s when about 400 million board feet of timber was cut annually.

The forest shifted from logging to a “restoration phase” in the 1990s – around the time the spotted owl and marbled murrelet were listed as endangered species.

“Now we manage for the spotted owl,” Yoshina said.

Yoshina didn’t say anything definitive when chamber members asked him whether Dosewallips Road will be fixed. A large chunk of the road was eaten away when the Dosewallips River’s path shifted several winters ago. The road cut off vehicle access to two popular campgrounds.

Business owners in Brinnon and other parts of west Hood Canal say the closure hurt their bottom lines.

“That forest service campground was absolutely critical this area,” said a Brinnon bed & breakfast owner.

In response, Yoshina reiterated that Olympic is in an “unfortunate situation” where it can’t keep up with basic road maintenance, let alone tackle big reconstruction projects.

Yoshina said recreation fees are helping but revenues are nowhere near the years of aggressive logging.

He said camping fees do little more than pay for campground water and waste systems.

Yoshina said past fire control efforts didn’t recognize that fire can be part of a forest’s natural process. Preventing small fires has left a lot of fuel that can make fires today “more catastrophic and of longer durations.” He noted that climate change may also be playing a role in making Olympic’s forests more fire-prone.

He stressed that, despite Olympic’s reputation for wetness, serious wildfires have occurred in recent years and are likely this summer.

He said the forest has seen no serious infestation from the pine beetle – a major cause of increased forest fire danger in other parts of the country.

Yoshina was asked by another reporter about the recent accident at Lena Lake in which a Silverdale boy scout was killed by a log rolled by his fellow scouts.

While the accident happened in Olympic, the emergency response fell to county authorities.

When asked what the forest service can do to prevent similar situations, Yoshina wasn’t sure .

“Trees are always falling out there…” he said.

Yoshina said the east side of Olympic draws a different type of visitor than the more remote west side. East side visitors tend to be older, stay for shorter periods and spend more money.

“There are a lot of retiring Baby Boomers moving or visiting here,” he said. They usually seek out scenic drives, wildlife watching opportunities and short hikes, he said.

Photo: Dosewallips River, Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

Backcountry horse club has made its mark on Green Mountain

April 16th, 2014 by tristan baurick


The local chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of Washington is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

The club, which uses horses to get into the hinterlands for hunting and long rides, has played a major role in making Green Mountain a magnet for Kitsap’s trail lovers, building trails, shelters, corrals, waterlines, bridges and infrastructure for the disabled.

The BCH also use pack horses to help other user groups during work parties.

“Most of us that own horses are used to doing quite a bit of work,” said one of its longtime members. “There’s some of us that enjoy using horses to do that work. Most of my riding is when I’m riding out to a work party or packing and hauling for a work party.”

Read more about BCH here.

And click here to read reporter Annette Griffus’ column about her recent ride with the club.

VIDEO: Olympic National Park’s coastal ecology

April 16th, 2014 by tristan baurick

Olympic National Park has released a short film that follows the park’s coastal ecologist as he travels one of the wildest coastlines in North America.

Titled “Tides of Change,” The 12-minute film (watch it above) documents ongoing scientific monitoring and explores how climate change is altering the conditions and chemistry of the coast’s rocky intertidal zone.

“Climate change is a critical challenge for the National Park Service today,” Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said in a statement. “Science, research, and monitoring help us understand the impacts of climate change and enable us to adapt and respond.”

“Tides of Change” and other short films about the work of park scientists can be found here.

Seattle approves $400 million for bike routes

April 15th, 2014 by tristan baurick


Bike advocates are celebrating Seattle’s decision to overhaul its Master Plan, shifting its emphasis from shared uses of streets to separated bike paths and a network of backstreet routes.

The plan would put $20 million per year into the development of more than 470 miles of new or improved bike routes over the next 20 years, according to the Seattle Times. About 32 miles of off-street trails are included in the plan.

“This is very good news for Bainbridge bike commuters – things will be getting a lot better in Seattle over the next few years!” said Bainbridge bicycle advocacy group Squeaky Wheels on its Facebook page after the plan was unanimously approved by the Seattle City Council yesterday.

The same, then, would be true for commuters who bike from the Bremerton ferry as well.

The Cascade Bicycle Club called the plan’s passage an “incredible moment for Seattle’s bicycling community.” The club is throwing a party to celebrate. More on that here.

Check out the full plan here.

Is mountaineering in decline?

April 14th, 2014 by tristan baurick


The cancellation of Olympic College’s mountaineering course has sparked many questions about why such a respected and longrunning program can’t seem to drum up enough students.

I wrote first wrote about the course’s cancellation in this blog about a week ago and then got into the issue a bit more for today’s paper. You can read that story here.

The reasons for the course’s struggles are varied. It could have something to do with the fact that P.E. is no longer required for graduation. Sticker shock may be a factor. The course costs just over $600, and students must buy their own mountaineering clothes and boots and cover gas for field trips in the Olympics and Cascades.

Another factor: mountaineering isn’t as popular as it once was.

“We’re in a time of Xbox and PlayStation and instant gratification,” O.C. mountaineering instructor Kevin Swem told me. “It takes a lot of effort to get into the mountains to see these beautiful places. Now you just don’t see that many people in the mountains anymore.”

Sure, people still hike and camp, and rock climbing has exploded over the last two decades. But mountaineering appears to have lost the allure it had during the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. It is, after all, a sport that requires you to spend days trudging upwards into increasingly cold and treacherous terrain.

Swem says he occasionally gets interest from young rock climbers.

“But they have no snow and ice experience,” he said. “And they have no desire to get out in the cold, doing things like crevasse travel.”

The number of young Americans (aged 18 to 24) who participate in mountaineering (classified as “ice climbing” and “traditional climbing”) has dropped by 17 percent since 2006, according to the Outdoor Foundation’s 2013 outdoor recreation participation report.

Rock climbing (including bouldering and indoor climbing) remains popular, but even it is showing declines, falling by about 5 percent over the same period.

In all age groups, the percentage of Americans who participate in mountaineering held at about .7 percent between 2006 and 2012.

Rather than climb mountains, Americans appear more interested in outdoor activities they can do close to home and for short periods. Participation in triathlons (cycling, swimming, running) has exploded, growing by 174 percent since 2006, according to the report. Skiing is seeing a resurgence, with telemarking growing by 136 percent and freestyle by 90 percent.

The outdoor activities with the highest percentages of first-time participants in 2012 were stand-up paddleboarding, windsurfing, triathlons and kayaking.

An old mountaineer called me to say he was confounded by the fact that a shiny new REI just opened in Silverdale, and yet the O.C. mountaineering course is struggling to survive.

He proudly told me his father’s REI membership number was in the low double digits, and that REI was founded mountaineers who wanted quality climbing gear.

But that was the REI of his father’s generation, back when mountaineering was front and center. I wasn’t sure if I should mention that it isn’t ice axes and carabiners that greet you at the Silverdale REI store’s entrance. At last check, it was yoga pants.

Photo: A climber ascends Mount Olympus in September 2013. Courtesy of the Sierra Club.

Report: Anderson Point Park slides caused by clogged ditches

April 11th, 2014 by tristan baurick
Slide-damaged portion of the park's trail. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

Slide-damaged portion of the park’s trail. Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

Anderson Point Park does, indeed, have landslide dangers but slope repair work and regular site maintenance should make the park safe for visitors.

That was the conclusion of a slope stability report Kitsap County commissioned for the South Kitsap park, which was closed in 2010 due to concerns about landslides.

Released this week, the report concludes that the slope along the park’s single beach access trail “can be considered a landslide hazard area.” The county parks department’s planned work to repair the slide-damaged trail will increase the slope’s stability and allow safe access for hikers, bikers, equestrians and the occasional service vehicle, according to the report.

Also noted was the likely cause of the 2010 slide that tore out a portion of the trail: poorly maintained ditches

“(T)he majority of the slope instability has been initiated by the debris collecting within the drainage ditches,” according to the report. The clogged ditches “caused uncontrolled surface runoff” from heavy winter storms.

The department plans to begin repair work this summer and reopen the park in September. The planned reopening has triggered a lawsuit threat from nearby residents who object to the noise, traffic and trash they say the park generates.

The full slope stability report is below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Growing Bremerton bike shop promises more space … with yoga and beer?

April 10th, 2014 by tristan baurick


A hole-in-the-wall bike shop in Bremerton’s Manette neighborhood is moving into bigger digs across the street.

Along with more space for bikes and bike repairs, the two-year-old Bicycle-Works is promising some interesting non-bike additions.

“The new shop is much larger will have an espresso bar, a seating area, spin nights, yoga nights, mechanic classes, movie night,” the shop’s owner said on Bicycle-Works’ Facebook page.

When he asked for additional suggestions, one customer suggested beer.

“A tap is in the works” was the the response.

Bicycle-Works’ new location is 2109 11th Street. A grand re-opening is planned but a date had not yet been set.

Photo: Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun

A razor clamming how-to guide

April 7th, 2014 by tristan baurick


I joined a razor clamming and cooking class taught by foraging expert and author Langdon Cook. Read the story and see the photos and video here.

We’re heading into a razor clamming season that might be the best in decades.

Dan Ayres, the state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife’s coastal shellfish manager, says ocean beaches are boasting a bigger population of razor clams than last year.

Some areas like Seabrook, north of Aberdeen, have some of the densest populations seen since the 1970s, Ayres said.

That means it’s high time you took up a clam shovel (or clam gun, if you’re that kind of clammer) and hit the coast.

Here’s a quick guide to get you started:

Buy a license
An annual state shellfish license is required for harvesting razor clams and must be with the clammer during the harvest and while transporting the clams. The cost is $16.30 for the standard shellfish license or $13 for the razor clam-only license. As of April 1, all diggers older than 15 need to have a license. Licenses are available at outdoor and fishing stores or from

Know the rules
Razor clammers are limited to 15 clams per day during the clamming season. You must keep the first 15 you catch, regardless of size or condition. Clams can be taken by hand, shovel or by a tube (aka clam gun) with a minimum diameter of 4 inches. Each clammer must use a separate container for clams.

Go when it’s time
Washington is strict about where and when you can dig razor clams, but daily start times are typically two hours before the low tide. It’s best to check Fish & Wildlife’s clamming webpage before making plans. The state’s razor clamming zones stretch from the Long Beach peninsula to the Kalaloch area. Click here for a map.

Choose your weapon
Many long-time clammers swear by the razor clam shovel. With its short handle and narrow blade, the shovel makes for rapid clam extraction once you get the hang of it. Its proponents also say you break fewer clam shells than you might with a clam gun. The downside: you tend to get dirtier.

Most clammers use the gun, which is basically a plastic or metal tube with handles. You drive it into the sand where you think the clam’s hiding, get it more than 6 inches below the surface and then pull hard, using suction to extract a “core sample” of sand and, hopefully, a clam. The gun should be at a slight angle away from the ocean. Crushed clams are more common among gun users, but broken shells don’t lessen a clam’s edibility. Toss it in the bag and call it good.

Both guns and shovels are available at certain outdoor recreation stores, including the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Silverdale.

Spot a your prey
You’ll know a clam by its “show.” A show is the little hole or dimple in the sand where the clam has withdrawn its neck or started to dig. Larger holes usually indicate a larger clam. Clams show at the edge of the surf line when you pound the beach with a shovel handle or your foot. Dig quick. Razor clams can sink about an inch per second when they sense you’re after them.

Cook it up
Now for the best part. Razor clams can be fried, made into chowder or cooked much as you would other clams.

Head down below to see a razor clam ceviche recipe from Northwest foraging expert Langdon Cook.
Read the rest of this entry »

Low enrollment cancels O.C.’s mountaineering class

April 4th, 2014 by tristan baurick

Olympic College’s storied mountaineering class was cancelled this year due to low enrollment.

Considered the oldest college mountaineering class the nation, it formerly drew more than 40 students each spring. This year, only 10 people signed up. It needs at least 15 but might have gone as low as 12.

“I’m definitely kind of down about this,” said Brad Albro, the class’ longtime instructor. He began helping with the class in the late 1970s and took over 14 years ago.

Interest has been waning for years. Low enrollment forced the class’ first cancellation two years ago.

It started in the late 1950s when local mountaineers convinced the college that a class would help counter the growing number of accidents in Olympic and Cascade ranges.

Its first graduates formed the nucleus of Olympic Mountain Rescue the class still supplies the volunteer group with skilled recruits.

Albro hopes to revive the class next year, perhaps with better marketing and outreach.

Puget Sound halibut season reduced

April 1st, 2014 by tristan baurick

Overfishing last year has led to a three-day reduction in this year’s halibut season in Puget Sound.

You can read the state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife announcement below.

Read the rest of this entry »

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