By TOM LINDE
Hikers need to be aware that a fire closure is now in effect.
Gas stoves are the only approved form of fire allowed outside of a developed campground.
A great hike or bike ride is the 153 trail (Paradise Ridge). This is a high ridge line trail offering spectacular views of all the volcanic snow covered peaks in this area of the Cascades. This is a challenging trail system, but most people should not have any problems.
Fire conditions are extreme, and a campfire closure is in effect on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. No campfires, charcoal, or open flames are permitted, except in designated developed campgrounds, the only exception is the use of gas stoves.
The designated campgrounds are: Cultus Creek, Little Goose, Morrison Creek, Smokey, Atkisson Group Camp, Paradise, Panther, Beaver, Oklahoma, Moss Creek, Goose Lake, Forlorn Lakes, Peterson Prairie, Government Mineral Springs, Fall Creek Horse Camp and Hemlock Lake.
No smoking is allowed outside a vehicle on the Forest, including wilderness areas.
Wildlife viewing is becoming more difficult due to the hot dry weather, as most wildlife are holding up in heavy cover and seldom come out before dark. For the best chance of viewing wildlife look around wet areas in the early mornings or late evenings.
Steelhead numbers coming over Bonneville Dam continue to rise, but the strong winds on the Columbia River make fishing difficult.
Trout fishing in the high lakes remains good with nice catches being reported.
Huckleberries are beginning to ripen in the lower elevation fields. The area around Goose Lake, Peterson Prairie, and Fall Creek have some berries that have turn color, but they are not really sweet yet. The higher fields look to be ripening in late August.
Yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets are going to be a big problem again this year. Without the normal cold weather, many of the queens made it through the winter and have a good start on hives this year.
The best way to avoid these pests is to make sure there is no food setting out that will draw them in, this includes cat and dog food. For people with berry plants or orchards, make sure all ripe fruit is picked and not left on the ground to attract these pests.
A fire closure is in effect on the entire forest and everyone needs to be careful. In late July, the forest averaged one fire a day, and while none got big, each had the potential of becoming one.
The forest is not the only place fire conditions are extreme.
Around most homes the grass and brush is very dry. While most people think that large fires could not happen here, conditions are such that another Yacolt Burn could occur very easily. So just remember to be extra careful around your home and while out in the forest.