Morning Press: Lost in the wilderness, blasting under a mountain, pot and pain, squirrels, running for Congress



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Lost in the wilderness

Last year, there was a record number of search and rescue missions in Skamania County — the rural area containing Mount St. Helens, along with other popular outdoor destinations such as Beacon Rock, Silver Star Mountain and the vast Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

With a population estimate of just over 11,000, the people who get lost in Skamania County are primarily from out of town, said Undersheriff Dave Cox. They’re hiking trails, searching for mushrooms and exploring creek beds — all hoofing it in the outdoors — when something goes amiss.

Search and rescue coordinators have no clear-cut theory for why more people got lost last year than in years past. It could be that more people took advantage of dry days in 2013, or simply that more people are adventuring into the outdoors.

Though the Washington Trails Association doesn’t keep hard numbers on how many people hike, spokeswoman Susan Elderkin said the trails appear to be more crowded than they used to be. (Anyone who’s tried to find a parking spot at Beacon Rock State Park on a sunny weekend can attest to that.)

The WTA has about 3,400 volunteers who maintain and build nearly 200 trails statewide, making access to the great outdoors easier than ever. An estimated 90 percent of people in Washington consider themselves walkers, Elderkin said.

People run into trouble when they’re not prepared. They didn’t check the weather forecast before they left. They didn’t tell someone where they were going and when they expected to be back. They didn’t pack necessary supplies.

Read the complete story here.

Shaking a volcano

Geophysicists will set off 23 explosive charges Tuesday night around Mount St. Helens as part of a study of the magma pipeline far below the volcano.

About 75 scientists, including some based in Clark County, are setting up the project this weekend as part of a four-year study Imaging Magma Under St. Helens.

The 23 charges will be set off in boreholes, about 80 feet deep, drilled in a pattern around Mount St. Helens. Most of the charges — from 1,000 to 2,000 pounds each — will be detonated late Tuesday evening when other activity is at a minimum.

Seismic waves generated by the explosions will be monitored by 3,500 seismological sensors in the region.

It’s called an active-seismic experiment because the scientists aren’t waiting for a natural tremor.

Scientists get data from earthquakes, but “an earthquake translates into a fuzzy image,” said Vancouver-based seismologist Seth Moran. With active seismic testing, “you know exactly what you put into the earth and where it happened.”

Rice University’s Alan Levander, the lead scientist for the IMUSH experiment, said people who live in the area probably won’t notice the detonations. Local residents won’t be able to hear the blasts because of the depth of the boreholes.

And the blasts are unlikely to rattle any dishes: They’ll be the equivalent of magnitude 2 earthquakes, which typically can’t be felt, Levander said in a news release.

If any quaking is felt, it will be “no more than low-level seismic activity that occurs in the area on a weekly basis,” Levander said.

Read the complete story here.

Price of pot may include losing pain prescriptions

Christopher has suffered from migraines since he was 2. He experiences insomnia that leaves him to roam his home throughout the night.

Christopher is a Camas man in his 50s. He is married, runs his own business and volunteers in the community.

Christopher has a prescription from his doctor for Norco, a hydrocodone/acetaminophen combination similar to Vicodin that is used to relieve pain. He uses the 15 pills, which is about seven doses, prescribed each month when his migraines can’t be controlled by Excedrin or Tylenol with codeine.

He also has a written recommendation from a naturopath to use marijuana to manage his insomnia. Providers cannot prescribe marijuana but can advise qualifying patients that they may benefit from the medical use of marijuana.

While Christopher acquired both medications through the appropriate channels, his use of marijuana is prohibited by his medical provider. As a result, Christopher’s provider will not refill his Norco prescription.

“People need to know that they may be forced to make a decision about what ailments they want to treat if they start using marijuana,” Christopher said. “I’m forced to choose whether to treat my insomnia or my headaches.”

State law requires pain medication prescribers to use written treatment plans and agreements with patients. State law does not, however, specify requirements to be included in the agreements and doesn’t address the use of other drugs, such as marijuana.

That means they can, and do, vary from provider to provider.

Read the complete story here.

Woman feeling strain of running squirrel refuge

From her home in central Vancouver, Jackie Marsden operates Squirrel Refuge, a small nonprofit she created a few years ago with a mission to look after the many squirrels, chipmunks, opossums and other small mammals that live alongside us.

In her backyard are two “squirrelariums,” large wooden enclosures built by her husband to temporarily house the hundreds of small creatures dropped off at their home every year. If there was no Squirrel Refuge, most of the injured or abandoned wildlife that end up in her care would likely be euthanized. She estimates about 95 percent of the animals she receives are orphaned babies.

Marsden is one of about 75 wildlife rehabilitators licensed with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“They are not just hobbyists,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Patricia Thompson, who leads the rehabilitators program. “For all intents and purposes, they are practicing heavy duty rehabilitation.”

A successful rehabilitation means an animal is mentally and physically ready to return to the wild, though many never reach that point and must be euthanized according to state law. It’s illegal to own a wild animal in Washington, and the ones that Marsden and other rehabilitators care for are only temporary housemates.

“Most people don’t know that we’re out here,” Marsden said about the wildlife rehabilitation program. “Most people don’t think about it until they have an animal in their hands.”

That’s exactly what happened to Marsden four years ago when she came across a baby squirrel while mowing her lawn. It was alone and in need of care. She didn’t know what to do.

“I called all around to figure out what to do with it, and I realized there were no real resources at all for wildlife. The only option was taking it to the humane society to be euthanized. The closest wildlife center at that time was in Cowlitz County,” she said. “I asked myself, ‘Why not me? Why don’t I do something about this problem?'”

So, after some research, she began the process of starting her own small wildlife center from her home.

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Opponents agree: Herrera Beutler is too aloof

Michael Delavar says he’s running against U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler because he’s disappointed by his fellow Republican’s voting record.

He ticked off a few examples and then said, “Sometimes it’s difficult to know why she votes” the way she does.

Suddenly, his Democratic opponent, Bob Dingethal, also vying for the 3rd Congressional District seat, who was waiting to give his opening remarks, started nodding his head in agreement.

The odds are against both Dingethal and Delavar: it’s very difficult to unseat an incumbent. But as the two campaign to distinguish themselves from the two-term congresswoman and each other, there is one point that continually resurfaces.

Herrera Beutler’s “aloofness and unwillingness to engage are her biggest weakness,” Dingethal said.

“It shows a lack of courage and conviction. … If she’s so confident her policies are the right ones, she should be confident to stand up in front of people and discuss them in detail,” he said.

It’s a criticism Herrera Beutler seems accustomed to hearing, saying she’s taken a “vigorous approach” to town halls throughout the district. The congresswoman hosts “community coffees”; people who live nearby are called and invited to participate.

“I’ve hosted a tremendous amount of meetings in the district, and I’m not going to let up on that and I’m going to do it in a way that I think best allows people to share honestly and openly and frankly what their thoughts and needs are,” she has told The Columbian.

If elected, both Delavar and Dingethal said they would host traditional town hall meetings.

Read the complete story here.