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outdoors

When your gondola gets stuck in midair at a ski resort with one of the highest vertical drops on the continent, you'd be forgiven for having pangs of fear or even panic. For teenager Kody Lapointe and his dad, it was a chance to take an "insane ride" on a rope suspended from a helicopter — and to videotape the event.

On a rainy fall day, a group of bundled up hikers explored Leslie Gulch. Kirk Richardson, with Keen Footwear in Portland, pointed to a bulbous rock formation jutting from the canyon wall.

"I like this one that’s kind of a split molar root," Richardson said. "Looks like something you’d see in a dentist X-ray."

Northern spotted owl numbers are declining across the Northwest, and the primary reason is the spread of the barred owl, according to a new analysis published Wednesday.

Federal scientists have been keeping tabs on spotted owls for more than 20 years now.

“We have a lot of data that suggests that they’re in real trouble,” said study co-author Eric Forsman, a retired U.S. Forest Service biologist.

Biologist Mark Buktenica scours the shoreline of Crater Lake. He scans white sun-bleached rocks, takes a step, flips a rock.

Scan, step, flip.

Let It Snow: Idaho Ramps Up Cloud Seeding

Dec 3, 2015

The looming threat of drought next summer has water managers willing to try anything to build up winter snowpack. Idaho and other Western states are hoping to squeeze more snow out of the clouds with a method called cloud seeding.

New Wolf Pack Confirmed In North-Central Washington

Nov 24, 2015

Wildlife officials have confirmed a new wolf pack near the towns of Twisp and Omak in North-Central Washington.

They've named the pack Loup Loup, recognizing prominent landmarks within the pack's range in Methow Valley, including Loup Loup Pass.

The search for a missing bow hunter in central Washington has been temporarily called off because of worsening weather. This follows a rare call out for volunteer searchers to help in the effort.

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail in the upper Yakima River canyon.
Flickr Photo/Gene Bisbee on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)/HTTP://BIT.LY/1MQCGBG

Because of a wording error, the John Wayne Pioneer Trail remains the country’s longest rail-to-trail corridor – running 230 miles from King County to the Idaho state line.

And trail users see this as a chance to keep it that way.

The Wildfire Conundrum: Weeding The Forest

Nov 18, 2015

Editor's Note: The Wildfire Conundrum is a collaboration between the journalism nonprofit InvestigateWest and Jefferson Publ

Hanford officials and community boosters In southeast Washington are hosting a celebration Thursday at an historic nuclear reactor. A signing ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday made the Manhattan Project National Historical Park official.

Much of the forestland above the Illinois River in Southwest Oregon is a tangled mess of manzanita, shrubby hardwoods and ceanothus. Bushwhacking through it is a branch-to-the-face, boot-snagging, poison-oaky horror.

And this is one of the easy spots, says Portland State University Ph.D. student Charles Maxwell.

“Yeah, this one is a pretty accessible site relatively. Some are quite a bit further in,” he says.

Stephanie Beall went to school to become an expert in recreation management. It turns out there are a lot of things that you don't learn in college that you learn when you get into the field. Such as how often people ignore the rules about where to use the bathroom.

Skip Black Friday, Go Outside Says REI

Oct 27, 2015
Mount Rainier, or Tahoma, Tacobet, Ti'Swaq or Pooskaus.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

David Hyde talks to Kevin Paul Scott, co-founder of the branding agency ADDO Worldwide, about REI's announcement to close its stores on Black Friday.

rain trees
Flickr Photo/Michael B. (CC BY NC ND)/http://bit.ly/1RsXA5U

David Hyde talks to Knute Berger, writer and historian for Crosscut, about how and why rain is such an important part of a Northwesterner's identity. 

Howard Lake, north of Stehekin in Washington's North Cascades.
Courtesy of Mike Annee

A lake in the North Cascades should be renamed Howard Lake after a black prospector, the National Park Service said Thursday afternoon in a reversal of its position.

Wilderness advocates delivered more than 30,000 petitions to Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore) Portland office Tuesday in support of designating Crater Lake and the surrounding area as protected wilderness.

The proposed boundaries for the Crater Lake Wilderness would make the National Park into a 75-mile, 500,000-acre corridor of protected area.

That's two-and-a-half times the size of the current park.

Wilderness designations are used to limit human activity, and can even include bans on motorized vehicles.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will hold public meetings the week October 12 in Richland, Washington, about opening Rattlesnake Mountain to the public.

Sen. Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson fishes with his son, Peter, on an unnamed lake in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Henry M. Jackson Foundation

The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for state, federal and local parks without any taxes, relying on royalty money from federal oil and gas leases. Or at least it did until Republicans recently killed it by letting the funding expire.

Heather Anderson, trail name Anish, posted this picture of herself after beating the Appalachian Trail unsupported record.
Facebook Photo/Anish Hikes

A Seattle-area woman has set a new speed record for an unsupported hike along the Appalachian Trail: 54 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes.

To put Heather Anderson’s feat in perspective:

Howard Lake, north of Stehekin in Washington's North Cascades.
Courtesy of Mike Annee

Several years ago a Seattle man hiked into a lake in the North Cascades that had an unusual name:  Coon Lake.

Jonathan Rosenblum thought that sounded racist. "This was a wrong that needed to be corrected," he told David Hyde on KUOW's The Record.

He convinced Washington state officials to change the name to Howard Lake after Wilson Howard, a miner who staked claims in the area and was one of only two black miners to stake claims in the North Cascades.

David Calahan (left) and Chandra LeGue (center) hike up a trail in Southern Oregon. LeGue is carrying the Google Trekker to photograph the sights.
EarthFix Photo/Jes Burns

Earlier this summer, EarthFix reporter Jes Burns took us on a walk in the Southern Oregon woods with Oregon Wild. The conservation group had been chosen by Google to use a backpack-mounted Trekker camera. The plan was to document trails on Bureau of Land Management lands that could be affected by upcoming changes to how the forests are managed.    

Mount Baker glacier as seen from a helicopter in 2009.
Flickr Photo/judy_and_ed (CC BY NC 2.0)

Jeannie Yandel talks with Seattle Times science reporter Sandi Doughton about her story on the alarming melting of Northwest glaciers due to hot weather and low snowpack. Scientists say glaciers across the North Cascades could shrink by as much as 10 percent this year.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a key step Friday in completing a 1,200 mile trail from Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean.

Hikers already use what's called the "Pacific Northwest Trail," but it has gaps, and isn't fully built out.

Vilsack has named 23 advisers to help finalize the trail corridor, including Jon Knechtel with the Pacific Northwest Trail Association.

North America's highest mountain has a new name. Or rather, an old one. President Obama has announced that Alaska's Mount McKinley will now be called Denali, which is what natives call the peak.

Twenty-two-year-old professional rock climber Sasha DiGiulian is attempting to become the first woman to scale the Paciencia route on the north face of Mount Eiger. The peak in the Swiss Alps is known as the "Wall Of Death."

The giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada are one of America's treasures, but for the first time in Sequoia National Park's history, the trees are showing visible signs of exhaustion due to the drought.

On a hike last summer, a scientist noticed that the needles of the giant sequoias were browning and more sparse than usual. This finding got ecologists thinking: Did the drought cause this?

Everyone is accounted for and no one was injured by a flash flood and debris flow in Mount Rainier National Park. It happened Thursday when the terminus of the South Tahoma Glacier broke off and released trapped meltwater.

DNA tests confirm a captured grizzly bear was the animal that killed Lance Crosby while he was hiking in Yellowstone National Park last week. The bear was put down Thursday, according to a National Park Service news release.

The tests also conclude that, in addition to the adult grizzly, cubs were at the site of the attack, the statement says:

Idaho fish and game regulators want there to be no doubt that hunters cannot use drones. In Oregon as well, lawmakers have tried to head off a fair chase issue before it rears its head.

When people go hiking these days, all kinds of gadgets can help guide their way. But historically, humans used something a lot more low-tech: a pile of rocks.

The piles, technically called cairns, have marked trails for millennia, but in recent years, these stones have become steeped in controversy.

To Beth Dinet, stacking stones provides "an overwhelming sense of peace, and connecting with onenness."

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