Tennis: DeMond sisters will have lots of help

March 18, 2012 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — Davis twins Erica and Megumi DeMond broke a six-year state drought for Pirates girls tennis when last spring as sophomores they advanced to the Class 4A tournament .

This year, they might lead a Pirate contingent to state.

Davis coach Eric Robbins believes his team not only has the depth to contend in the CBBN 4A, but to send a group of players to the state tournament in Richland on Memorial Day weekend.

M. DeMond

“We’re a year older and hopefully more confident,” Robbins said. “We have a lot of returning girls.”

Those returners are led by the DeMonds, who are the first Davis girls to earn a state berth since Angela Houser and Eleni Sorenson took fourth place in 2005 and were both first-team all-CBBN 4A selections last year. Megumi was player of the year.

In the postseason, they combined their styles to advance a few steps past the 2010 season when they were state alternates coming out of regionals.

“Megumi is a more consistent player, more stable,” Robbins said. “Erica is a little bit more explosive, more powerful.”

Also back are seniors Catherine Maier and Katy Jach, who won the No. 1 doubles at last weekend’s Coke Classic at Kissel Park. The duo also took fourth place at last year’s district tournament.

E. DeMond

Yet, with all the returners, it’s a freshman atop the Davis lineup.

Paige Toop holds the top singles slot for the Pirates and has impressed early. She took defending district champion Claire Bohoskey of Eisenhower to a third set in the semifinal round of the No. 1 singles tournament at the Coke Classic. Toop would finish third.

“I really expect good things from all those girls,” Robbins said. “If all goes well, we could send a couple doubles teams and a singles player to state.”

While the Pirates girls team is on the upswing, so are the Ike girls, at least at the top.

As a freshman last year, Bohoskey became the first Cadet to advance to the state tournament since Ciara Schultz and Katie Staudinger teamed to take second place in 2006.

Last spring’s CBBN 4A district champion hasn’t slowed down this year having won the Coke Classic.

After outlasting Toop in the semifinals, she topped Eastmont’s Bekah Waterhouse — seventh place in last year’s Class 3A state tournament — in straight sets.

2/14/2012 Prep Insider

February 14, 2012 by  

A preview of the weekend’s top prep action, highlighted by Mat Classic in the Tacoma Dome, the Davis boys going for the district basketball championship on Friday at home and the CWAC and SCAC deciding district basketball championships on Saturday.

WSU’s Moos riding wave of excitement

January 17, 2012 by  

AD says Leach hiring has fans, boosters rejuvenated||

YAKIMA, Wash. — It’s the fervor normally reserved for college football teams fresh off bowl victories or at least winning seasons, not ones with nine total wins over the past four campaigns.

Then again, Washington State did make a splash of a coaching hire when it tapped Mike Leach and his video game-like ‘Air Raid’ offense to take the Cougar reins.

Since the late-November hiring, WSU has been riding a wave of national interest, rejuvenated fans and record donations.

That wave briefly swept into Yakima on Tuesday when WSU athletic director Bill Moos spoke to the annual Yakima growers meeting.

“It’s very exciting, there continues to be a national buzz,” he said shortly after addressing the group of more than 600 at the Yakima Convention Center.

Moos was a break from the agriculture-heavy lineup that included sessions on stinkbugs, coddling moths and fungicides. With many WSU alums among those in attendance, though, his message fit the occasion.

“The synergy was there,” said Darrin Belton of Zillah, who lined up the affable AD’s appearance.

Moos, himself a 1973 graduate, pulled the trigger on hiring Leach, who won 84 games in 10 seasons at Texas Tech but was fired in late 2009 after allegations he had mistreated a player.

The move meant firing fourth-year coach Paul Wulff, whose own hiring was due in good part to Moos, the chair of the selection committee that picked the former Eastern Washington coach in late 2007.

Wulff had helped bring back, if only incrementally, a football program that had three straight 10-win seasons a decade ago.

“We were improving, yet had an apathetic fanbase,” Moos said. “I just felt we were a junction where I had to make a decision.”

More than 1,300 new season-ticket orders, a million-plus dollars in donations and visions of a chuck-it-everywhere offense later, those fans have been galvanized.

“I called them caged Cougars,” Moos joked of the alums and fans who have been re-energized by the Leach hiring.

Their role, though, is just beginning, Moos said. Eventually he wants donations to cover the cost of scholarships for the athletes.

Money the school gets from the Pacific-12 Conference’s $3 billion television deal will help pay coaches competitive salaries — as it did with Leach’s $2 million-a-year contract — and improve facilities, Moos said.

“People need to realize they’re not off the hook,” he said.


12/5/11 What’s Happening

December 5, 2011 by  

Toys for Tots shoot Sunday at Pomona

The annual Toys for Tots Turkey Shoot hosted by the Yakima Valley Sportsmen Association at the Pomona shooting range in Selah is set for this Sunday.

The event, scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will include as many as three to five games for shooters, including old-fashioned style. There will be separate traps for youth, intermediate and experienced shooters.

After this Sunday’s event, the next major event on tap at the Pomona range will be the Wayne Klingele Button Shoot series, set to begin on New Years Day — which happens to fall on a Sunday, which will be shooting day for the 10-week series. A class winner will be awarded every week, with a new class for this year’s series — Super Seniors, for ages 70 and up, joining the already established classes, Youth, Ladies, Men and Seniors (60-plus).

The series will climax with class shoot-offs and an Annie Oakley competition between all weekly winners to determine the club champion.



Winter is a great time to look for raptors here in the Yakima Valley. With the clear skies and lack of leaves to impede your view, they are much easier to see.

This week’s raptor tally included one golden eagle soaring high over a large, open, mowed hayfield between Audubon Road and Maloy Road. This area was also being hunted by a prairie falcon, while a rough-legged hawk perched atop a small ponderosa pine nearby. In Toppenish, a peregrine falcon was noted sitting on one of the cross support beams below the small water tower along Highway 22, busily plucking a bird.

An adult bald eagle was spotted perched in the trees at the intersection of 44th Avenue and Viola. A Yakima resident reported a bald eagle flying directly over his house, and two more were observed perched just south of the Poppoff Trail by the river. A sharp-shinned hawk has been consistently leaving a pile of feathers under a pine tree in Terrace Heights, and a drive along Glade Road south of Mabton produced good looks at northern harrier, prairie falcon, rough-legged hawk, merlin, American kestrel and Cooper’s hawk.

Swans have also been showing up around the Valley, with 10 tundra swans spotted at Toppenish Wildlife Refuge, including one wearing a blue collar with orange letters on it. One swan was observed at Wenas lake but it was too far out to identify to species, and six swans were seen flying in for a landing near Gleed.

Please report bird sightings on the Yakima Valley Audubon phone line at 509-248-1963.

— Kerry L. Turley



CLAM DIG: Tired of turkey for the holidays? How about fresh razor clams? The WDFW has approved an evening dig Saturday at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks beaches.

GUIDED SNOWSHOE HIKES: The annual program of Forest Service-guided snowshoe hikes out of Snoqualmie Pass — 90 minutes for beginner/intermediate snowshoers, half-day tours for the more advanced — will begin Jan. 8. To reserve a spot or find out about some of the other programs, call 425-434-6111.



TODAY: The Cascadians’ Tuesdays will meet at 8 a.m. at the 40th Avenue Bi-Mart and head out to whatever hike, ski or snowshoe outing the trip leader has scoped out. Bring lunch, lots of liquids and plenty of energy, and be ready for anything.

THURSDAY: The Cascadian Pokies will do a trek on the Greenway from Sarg Hubbard Park. For meeting time and place, call Jeanne Crawford at 509-966-8608.

SATURDAY: The Cascadians will host a cross-country ski outing off Highway 410 near Chinook Pass. Prospective participants will meet at the Woodshed at 9 a.m., but should call trip leaders Saundie and Miles McPhee before Friday night for a head count.

DEC. 17-18: This is just a calendar-saver note for anyone wanting to volunteer with the annual Christmas Bird Counts in Yakima (Sunday, Dec. 18) and Toppenish (Saturday, Dec. 17) hosted by the Yakima Valley Audubon Society.

We’ll have more on the Bird Counts later, but if you’re all fired up to participate and just can’t wait, email count leader Denny Granstrand ([email protected]) for info on the Yakima count or Luke Safford ([email protected]) for the Toppenish count. You don’t have to be a big-time birder, organizers say — interest and enthusiasm are the keys.

1B volleyball: Knights take eighth

November 13, 2011 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — The eighth-place trophy wasn’t the one the Sunnyside Christian volleyball team was aiming for Saturday.

That hardly mattered to the Knights and coach Stephanie Dalrymple, though. It was the nearly three-month journey that resulted in SC capturing just its second trophy in its third trip to the state tournament that had the coach smiling.

“Regardless of the finish, I’m very proud of my girls,” Dalrymple said after the Knights left the SunDome floor following a five-set loss to Odessa-Harrington in the Class 1B state tournament. The Titans, who won 25-19, 9-25, 25-19, 19-25, 15-8, took seventh.

SC matched the program’s best finish which it accomplished in its last state berth in 2007. The Knights also advanced to the Class B tournament in 1997.

In defeat, the Knights showed plenty of reasons to believe there won’t be another four-year break before their next state berth.

Sophomore middle hitters Brittany Broersma and Stormee Van Belle, 5-foot-10 and 5-11 respectively, were key upfront for SC. Van Belle, who finished with a team-high 24 kills, had a block-kill-block combo to record the final three points of the fourth set.

And each time the Knights went on a run, it seemed junior Alexandra Newhouse was serving.

“We’ve got the foundation and I’m very optimistic we’ll be coming back here (to state),” Dalrymple said.

The Knights’ inability to seize momentum in the first, third and fifth sets proved their undoing Saturday.

The Titans used several scoring runs to capture the program’s 11th trophy, all of which — including five championships — were won by Odessa.

Odessa-Harrington closed the match with a 9-2 run, including the final six points of the match.

The second set was SC at its best. The Knights took a 9-1 lead and never looked back.

SC won the fourth set by building a 15-10 lead and staving off the Titans the rest of the way. Knights senior Maddy Wavrin had a few of her 23 kills in the set.

Elsewhere, Thorp’s pursuit of its first state trophy fell short Saturday morning when the Tigers fell to Wilbur-Creston 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-18 in consolation play.

Selah graduate and former Eisenhower assistant Jesse Steuckle has guided Thorp to the state tournament in two of the past three seasons.

Sunnyside Christian highlights: Alyssa Haak 42-42 serving, 9 kills, 23 digs, 36 assists; Alexandra Newhouse 18 digs, 23 perfect passes; Stormee Van Belle 29-30 serving, 24 kills, 23 blocks; Danika DeGroot 25-27 serving, 18 digs, 21 assists; Maddy Wavrin 23 kills, 35 digs, 34 perfect passes; Grace den Hoed 29 digs, 27 perfect passes; Brittany Broersma 12 kills, 21 blocks; Ashleigh Oswalt 23 perfect passes.

Volleyball: Warriors well-prepared to defend championship

November 11, 2011 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — The Almira/Coulee-Hartline volleyball team hasn’t rested on the Class 1B state championship it won a year ago in the Yakima Valley SunDome.

The Warriors’ schedule won’t let them.

Dotted with more than a half dozen state-qualifying teams, ACH’s rugged regular-season slate left the second-ranked Warriors with a few losses, but also ready to defend the program’s first title.

“It’s great preparation,” coach Katie Walsh. “Sometimes it show us our weaknesses and other times our strengths. We are fortunate to play some tough 2B schools and tough 1B competition.”

This tournament draw did ACH no favors as No. 4 Tekoa-Oakesdale, a semifinalist a year ago, awaits in this morning’s first round.

Adding to the possible gauntlet, the Warriors could face No. 4 Moses Lake Christian in the quarterfinals and top-ranked Christian Faith in a potential rematch of last year’s title match in the semifinals in the bottom half of the bracket.

Walsh, though, won’t look ahead.

“We play one point, one ball at a time,” she said. “We just know we have to take care of our side of the court.”

Christian Faith enters the tournament — as it did last year — atop the state rankings. This year, however, the Eagles and coach Stephanie Pond are aiming for one rung higher than last year.

“We were ranked No. 1 last year and walked out without the big gold ball, so the ranking hasn’t meant much for us this year,” Pond said.

While five seniors graduated from last year’s squad, the return of libero Dena Green and setter Amanda Tofaeono and the influx of a stellar freshman class have been key for the Eagles, who were second to Ridgefield in the small-school field at the SunDome Volleyball Festival.

In the top half of the bracket, last-year’s third-place finisher Wilbur-Creston and No. 3 Colton, fifth last year, could meet in the quarterfinals.

Thrills … and spills: Area skier enjoys ups and downs of movie appearance

October 31, 2011 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — Not that this will come as any surprise to mere mortals who can face-plant on an intermediate run, but those jaw-dropping flights-on-skis that will make it to the Capitol Theatre’s screen in Warren Miller’s latest adrenaline fix didn’t always come on the first take.

Sometimes that wow came only after a bunch of whoops.

“There’s definitely times where I crash, and I’d say everybody else does, too. It’s just bound to happen,” says Andy Mahre, the Naches resident and White Pass ski team alum who is one of the featured athletes in “… Like There’s No Tomorrow,” the 62nd annual feature in Miller’s seminal series of high-altitude highlights.

“The amount of footage that’s seen in the movie is a small fraction of what’s actually filmed,” says Mahre, 27, who spent just over a week last March skiing for Miller’s camera crews in the Monashee Range of British Columbia’s rugged interior.

“Skiing for a Warren Miller film is an epic experience,” Mahre says, but those avalanche-and-injury-defying shots of backcountry heli-skiing require research and repeats. Before descending an unfamiliar area, Mahre and the film’s other athletes typically fly over and photograph the slope to determine the most spectacular route that can be safely skied.

Then, of course, they have to memorize it.

“You have to remember certain landmarks — a group of trees, or a single tree — and where you need to be relative to that feature,” Mahre says. “The hardest part, actually … when you’re looking at something you can see how it links up and how it’s doable — but when you’re on top of it, you can see maybe 100 feet or 300 feet, and 1,500 feet below that you don’t have a clue.

“That’s the hardest part, knowing where to be when you’re going over that spot you can’t see past. Small little areas of misalignment can lead to big crashes, that’s for sure.”

Even for someone like Mahre, who grew up on skis — the son of one Olympic medalist, Steve Mahre, and the nephew of another, Steve’s twin brother Phil — and honed his craft over years of trial and error, risk is both inevitable and accepted.

“For 90 percent of the stuff or more, it’s fun,” Mahre says. “But at the same time there are those occasions where it is dangerous — there’s the situation where you can’t fall or you might not walk away from it.”

If it was easy, though, anybody could do it. Because not just anybody can, though, a guy like Andy Mahre is able to make a decent living as a professional skier.

He spends several months out of every year in mountain ranges across the globe, either testing products for the ski-equipment manufacturers who sponsor him or generating exposure for those products while filming high-octane ski footage for DVD sales or online “webisodes.”

Free-lance pro skiers like Mahre also have to do much of their own marketing, which means lots of shaking hands with sponsors, manufacturers and the public. And when it’s a major client like Warren Miller, Mahre is happy to oblige.

“For the Warren Miller shows, I go to 15, 20 shows in the fall. I was just in Salt Lake last week for a show,” says Mahre, who will also be at the Capitol Theatre for Wednesday’s showing of the newest film. “Ultimately the skiing job is more than just the skiing. You have to be available to meet and greet the people.

“It’s pretty enjoyable,” Mahre says of the marketing side of the business. “But the hardest time for me is when there’s snow on the ground and I’m not skiing. I’m jumping around from city to city going to all these shows and I’m like, ‘Maaaan, everybody else is skiing.’”

But the business end of skiing has paid off. Mahre bought a home in Naches early last year and he’s able to make a living — albeit not the mansion-and-a-Ferrari variety — by doing what he loves.

“I’m one who makes similar to what the guy in the office makes,” Mahre says. “There are guys who are winning big competitions and getting the big endorsements and they’re getting into six figures. Maybe even a couple of them into seven (figures). There’s definitely money to be made.

“But for me, I’m definitely just happy to be where I’m at. I’ll take a steady, decent paycheck over getting a large paycheck for a few years and then having to figure out, ‘What am I going to do now?’”

He knows if he keeps getting calls from the Warren Miller folks for another film, he won’t be saying no. The skiing he did for this latest film, he says, “was some of the best tree skiing I’ve ever had.

“The snow was really deep and the runs were really long, and the crew was really good, too.

“It just made for a really good experience.”

Sandsberry: You can’t regulate idiocy

October 31, 2011 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — Hunters’ forums around the Pacific Northwest and beyond were roiling last week over the previous Friday’s news out of the Salem, Ore., area, where a Marine reservist was killed by a hunter who thought he was shooting a black bear.

The victim was wearing black, not hunter orange or another color that would be easily recognizable as human apparel, but to their credit the hunters on those forums weren’t reacting in knee-jerk defense mode, rationalizing away the hunter’s regrettable error.

No, they were reacting as they usually do in this kind of case — the same way most four-wheel-drive enthusiasts do when they hear about a backcountry meadow turned into a mud bog by some of their more Neanderthal brethren.

They get downright mad.

Like four-wheelers, hunters know a hefty slice of the population already views with prejudice their chosen recreation, and this tragedy will fan that flame. It’s easy to understand why it would: There’s simply no excuse for any hunter pointing a loaded weapon and pulling the trigger if there’s even the slightest uncertainty what is being aimed at.

But I thought it was … just isn’t good enough. Not when you’re wielding a weapon powerful enough to knock down and kill a 700-pound mammal from hundreds of yards away.

It wasn’t good enough last fall in a wooded area near Shelton in Mason County, when a hunter shot what turned out to be a 25-year-old Guatemalan man who was earning the princely sum of $30 a day picking salal, those leaves used by florists in floral arrangements.

It wasn’t good enough two years ago on Sauk Mountain in Skagit County when a 14-year-old hunter on the opening weekend of bear season saw what he thought — and hoped — was a black bear and pulled the trigger. His aim was true, but his judgment was not; even at a distance of just 120 yards, the young hunter didn’t recognize the target as a woman wearing a blue jacket and green pants, bending over to put something into her pack.

It wasn’t good enough barely a month before that incident when, on the other side of the continent, a 23-year-old college senior two weeks away from her graduation ceremony was shot near her campus while looking for specimens for a science project just 75 yards from a paved cul de sac. The hunter told police he thought she was a deer.

Whenever something like this happens, there are invariably calls for laws making it mandatory that anybody out in the woods during hiking season wear hunter orange.

I disagree with this thinking. Although I believe people should take precautions to insure their own safety — plenty of visible hunter orange being the best one I can think of — making it mandatory creates the potential for assigning blame to the victim of the next idiot hunter.

And those two words — idiot hunter — are really the only way to describe someone who fires at a person, thinking the object in his sights is something else. There’s simply no excuse for it under any circumstances. That very thing — be absolutely certain of your target — is the mantra of every hunter-education class.

That’s why hunters get so angry when one of their own fails at this single most-important rule in hunting. They know they’ll be painted with that same broad brush stroke of condemnation as the guy who pulled the trigger.

The prevalent sentiment on hunter forums last week was this: Any person should be able to go into the woods dressed however he or she likes, even to the point wearing a deer-skin coat with antlers attached, and still be safe — because rule-abiding, safety-conscious hunters should never take that shot.

Unfortunately, idiots will, just as other idiots text while driving, thereby turning a 2,000-pound motor vehicle into a far more dangerous weapon than any hunting rifle.

As one hunting forum commenter posted, “You can’t fix stupid.”


Outdoors editor Scott Sandsberry can be reached at 509-577-7689 or [email protected].

Wildlife moment: Turkey was almost a bigger bird that it already is

October 31, 2011 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — Thanksgiving is coming up, and if you’re fortunate enough to gather with family and friends around a healthy feast of turkey, stuffing and cranberries, you might just pause a bit before your first bite of the main course.

That domesticated turkey on the table has a smaller cousin, the wild turkey, that is North America’s largest game bird. But it came very close to owning a far greater distinction.

The Great Seal was adopted by Congress on June 20, 1782, with the bald eagle as its centerpiece. Two years later, none other than Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to his daughter, sharing his thoughts about the fallacy of America having settled on this particular bird as its new symbol.

An excerpt from the letter:

“… for my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk [osprey]; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

“With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. … For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America. … He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Originally this species was native to deciduous forests mostly in eastern North America. It has been widely introduced into areas where it historically did not occur. This is true for Washington.

The Washington Department of Game introduced wild turkeys into various counties in Washington beginning in 1913, though these earliest releases were not successful. Later, especially starting in 1961, releases were successful in Klickitat and Stevens counties.

In 1984, a more aggressive program of introductions began and the bird now seems well established in several areas of the state, most notably the ponderosa pine forests in the state’s northeast corner, in Klickitat County and in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Near Yakima, there have been a number of wild turkey introductions, especially in the Wenas Creek and Bethel Ridge areas, usually in ponderosa pine forests.

How to spot one: Everyone knows a domesticated turkey, a tame, brown or white, clumsy, and rather stupid-appearing bird. Their wild cousins, especially males, have beautifully iridescent plumage, and are wary and nimble. Males are huge, standing fully three feet tall and weighing 15 to 18 pounds. They have an ugly, naked, blue head and grotesque red wattle, brightest in spring when they are trying to attract females. Females are smaller (about 9 pounds), browner, with much less iridescence in their plumage.

Social life: Turkeys spend most of their time in groups on the ground, scratching leaf litter to expose seeds, grain, berries, insects, and acorns. Towards nightfall, they noisily and very clumsily fly up into tall trees to roost.

In spring, males give a gobbling call to attract females. If a female approaches he puffs out all his feathers, raises and fans its tail, swells up its face wattles, drops its wings and proceeds to strut, rattling its wing feathers, making a humming sound. This fancy display may attract a female, who responds by uttering a clucking call.

Family time: One male may mate with several females. After mating, the male takes no further action in raising the family. The female places her nest on the ground, usually hidden in the grass. The nest is a shallow depression, lined with grass and leaves. She lays 10 to15 eggs; these are pale buff with reddish-brown dots. More than one female will sometimes lay eggs in one nest. She incubates the eggs for 26 to 30 days.

The young hatch quite developed, like a chicken, and leave the nest very soon after hatching. The hen then leads the young to food-rich areas. She protects the young at night by brooding them for several weeks after hatching. In fall, families join into groups of up to 60 birds.

What you may not know: Across its large range, turkeys have evolved into recognizably different subspecies. The males differ the most. In the humid forests of the east, birds have coppery-edged tail and lower back feathers; in the dry west, these parts are white. In eastern Washington, most introductions have been of turkeys from more arid parts of the birds’ range. These are commonly called “Rio Grande turkeys.”


Wildlife Moment, focusing on native wildlife, typically runs in Outdoors on the first Tuesday of every month, with the cooperation of the Yakima Valley Audubon Society.

Hunters the most recent group upset at Forest Service

October 31, 2011 by  

NACHES, Wash. — Already targeted by critics of the ongoing Forest Plan revision process within the Wenatchee National Forest, primarily motorized users and mountain bikers, staffers at the Naches Ranger District have lately found themselves in the emotional crosshairs of yet another user group: hunters.

By the time the nine-day, modern-firearm elk season began Saturday in Yakima-area game-management units, the Naches district had been deluged by complaints about road closures in certain drainages that have been traditionally popular with elk hunters.

Many of the closures have been in force since flooding blew out culverts or otherwise damaged roads last winter or even in previous years. Many of them, including a closure at the base of the 1601 road heading up Dry Ridge out of the Nile Valley and one on the Milk Creek Road, have been blocked by a veritable wall of gravel and stone pillars.

“(District crews) have gone to a lot of effort all over these roads that are closed, putting in loads of rock and gravel to block these roads,” said Nile resident and hunter Ty Brown. “With the amount of time and effort they’ve put into blocking these roads, they could have fixed some of them.”

The Dry Ridge Road (1601) was closed to motorized traffic at its crossing of Dry Creek after flooding last winter damaged a culvert and washed out a portion of the road. The closure is next to a dispersed camping area that often fills up during every big-game season with hunters precisely because of its easy access to the 1601 and the numerous huntable draws beyond.

During the mid-October modern-firearm deer season, many hunters — no longer able to drive across the damaged culvert — took to driving their rigs over the long, slow, circuitous route up the 1611 to Mud Spring and then back on on the Dry Creek Road (1613) or the Orr Creek Road (233). Finally, they would head down the 1601 road to its base — on the other side of the Dry Creek closure.

That circuitous route was roughly a 60- to 80-minute drive, but then the hunters would leave their rigs overnight alongside the 1601 across the creek from their hunt camps and, in the morning, simply walk to their rigs and drive from there.

On the next-to-last day of the deer season, though, hunters saw a sign at the 233 junction saying the Dry Ridge Road below that junction was closed to motorized traffic, and that violators could face a fine of $5,000 or more. Meaning, of course, that their park-and-ride system was illegal.

“Everybody up there is so mad,” Yakima hunter Curt Johnson said the next day. “Not just my camp, but the whole area is mad.”

Having to go the hour-plus drive the long way around, instead of simply walking across the damaged culvert to a vehicle parked on the other side, he said, “is just ridiculous. Now we’re coming up to the start of the (elk) rifle season and they close that road. It’s been open all year — archery, muzzleloader, even deer season — until it comes to rifle season elk, and then they close it off.”

What the park-and-ride hunters didn’t realize was their system had been illegal for three months. The first 1 1/2 miles of the 1601 road, up to its junction with the 233, had actually been closed by forest order on Aug. 19.

Marge Hutchinson, South Zone engineer for the Wenatchee National Forest, said the road had originally been signed as closed not only at the creek crossing, but up that 1 1/2-mile grade at the 233 intersection. By deer season, though, that sign was gone.

“We put signs at all of our closure spots,” Hutchinson said. “That doesn’t mean they stayed there.”

Naches Ranger District spokesman Doug Jenkins said road signs — particularly ones that announce road closures — are routinely torn down, removed or vandalized. Even without signs, he added, it’s incumbent on all forest road users to be aware of any road closures.

“They ignored the closure. The road’s closed. That’s the bottom line,” he said.

“(The closure notice) is on the website. It’s in the rec(reation) report. It’s in the road report. It’s pretty much everywhere. What we’re running into is people are removing the barriers or they’re tearing down the signs and then going back in there.”

The original closure order at the 1601 road was amended from no traffic to allowing mountain bikes, horse riders and hikers, Jenkins said, adding that hunters could still walk across at the damaged culvert and hike up the ridge.

“But we’re getting inundated in our office with phone calls from hunters,” Jenkins said. “They want (the 1601 and other roads) open and they want it open now because they don’t want to get out of their rigs and walk.

“They’re demanding. They say, ‘We pay for our hunting licenses and we pay for our Discover passes and we pay for this and that and we want those roads open.’ Wrong. We’re not responsible to keep those roads open for hunters. We’re responsible to everybody.”

Johnson said it was simply “not feasible” for hunters to hike that steeply uphill 1 1/2-mile stretch to the 233 junction — “carrying gun, spotting scope, range finders, food, water and everything else you put in your rig every day” — and beyond. And no hunter would leave his rig overnight at the junction, 1 1/2 miles from hunt camp, he said.

Hutchinson, the Forest Service engineer, said the 1 1/2-mile stretch of road going up Dry Ridge is closed not for safety reasons, but to prevent the very thing hunters resorted to doing — parking rigs across the creek from the camping area.

“We don’t want them getting down into that bottom area,” Hutchinson said. “If we have cars parked on the other side, someone’s going to see them on the other side and people are going to drive across the culvert.”

Even though there is a dump-truck load of gravel and large stone obstacles blocking the road?

“You’d be amazed,” Hutchinson said, “at what people will do.”

Brown, the Nile resident and hunter, said his frustration is less with the closures than with what he sees as an increasingly exclusionary attitude within the Forest Service itself.

“I think the Forest Service does some of these things because, truthfully, they don’t want people in the woods,” he said.

“As a motorized user myself, I get that feeling from them that they’d be happy if I wasn’t up there anywhere.”

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