By Sharon Wootton Herald Columnist
Kudos to the 2,600 Washington Trails Association volunteers who put in 100,000 hours to work on maintaining and improving 153 state trails in 2011.
The hours translate into 1,006 work days in five national forests, two national parks, seven state parks, two county park systems and DNR lands.
The association has a map of all the trails that received some TLC. Go to www.wta.org and see for yourself the scope of the work. Then consider volunteering. More than half of the volunteers were helping for the first time.
WTA’s website is highly informative. It includes 5,100 trip reports from 1,850 hikers.
An open house will be held Jan. 26 from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the Washington Trails Association office, 705 Second Ave., No. 300, Seattle. Meet the new executive director, Karen Daubert and find out what’s planned for 2012.
Trail reopens: Whiskey Bend Road, the 4.5-mile road that connects Olympic Hot Springs Road to the Whiskey Bend trailhead, has reopened to public vehicle access.
All areas west and downhill of the road, closed to vehicles since December 2010, remain closed due to dam removal activities and quickly changing sediment conditions around Lake Mills.
Go to www.nps.gov/olym to view webcam shots of the Glines Canyon Dam removal, and Lake Mills.
Counting brant: About 6,700 brant in Skagit County were recently counted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. It’s worth noting brant hunters will be around Fidalgo, Padilla and Skagit bays Saturday and Sunday, Wednesday and Jan. 28 and 29.
The count is about 2,000 birds below the 10-year average and 800 birds under last year’s count.
Roaming: Twenty-seven gray wolves in five packs, including three breeding pairs, were confirmed in a year-end survey by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. For more information, go to tiny.cc/nhb3q.
Snow envy: Whistler ski resort is the envy of many other ski areas across the country and with good reason. While most resorts have below-average snow coverage, the British Columbia megaresort reported 18 feet of snow and 8,171 acres open to skiers and snowboarders this week.
Faster, heavier: Winds in the Southern Hemisphere have increased in speed over several decades, causing wandering albatrosses to alter their foraging.
Faster winds increased the flight speed of albatrosses, allowing them to spend less time foraging, according to a study published in the latest issue of Science journal.
That, in turn, has improved breeding success and the birds have gained an amazing 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) on average, about a 10th of their body weight, in the past 20 years.
On the bookshelf: I love Harbour Publishing’s series of water-resistant pocket-sized, full-color guides. The latest is Daniel Winkler’s “A Field Guide to Edible Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest” ($8).
The eight-fold vertical guide is easy to use. It includes color diagram of the parts, a clear set of symbols as to whether a particular mushroom is edible or not, and which ones have better taste or are poisonous.
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.