Jim Goodwin on December 16th, 2010


Do you remember those days from your childhood of rushing down a snowy slope on a runner sled? The air rushing past your face, the twinkle of the sun off the ice crystals on the surface of the snow, the thrill of passing someone just before you reach the bottom? Well, Jim Goodwin and his wife Karma remember it vividly, as if it was just last weekend.

In fact, it was just last weekend for them! I guess some people just never grow up, even when they are adults. But adulthood has its advantages. Today, Jim buys and rebuilds sleds so they can handle more speed and weight, and then he and Karma load the 15 sleds they own onto the back of the travelall, and fill several vehicles with local kids and head out to Johnson’s Grade, a back road south of Northport that the county no longer maintains during the winter. So Jim took over the maintenance of part of it for sledding. If you know the road, then you are aware of the two hairpin turns half way up the grade. All beginners are trained starting below these corners. They are taught how to steer the sled with their hands, but are not allowed to go above these turns until they learn how to use their whole body to turn and until they have learned the many safety rules which Jim teaches. Once these things are mastered, then they can experience the entire mile-long run.

A fire is often built at the bottom of the hill, and if the event is an all-day affair, hot dogs are brought to cook over the fire. Many a graduate from Northport High can attest to the fun times they had on Johnson’s Grade. A caution sign is placed at the bottom of the road to warn motorists who might venture up the road and the travelall always follows the sledders down. At the bottom, sleds are loaded onto a hitch-mounted hauler, snow is brushed off the sledders and they are loaded back into the travelall and hauled back to the top of the run.

Have we rekindled any childhood dreams? If so, you are welcome to join us. The sledding happens nearly every weekend in winter and is open to anyone whether you have a sled or not. If you get on the call list, Jim will let you know when he is heading out. Otherwise you could call him at 732-6175, or just look for the "Caution Sledding" sign set up near the bottom of the hill. We will be back down in a minute or so. HAPPY SLEDDING!!

[editors note: Sledding is not an official SMOS function]

Continue reading about Johnson’s Grade Sledding: Adrenaline Rush of the North.

Ben Siks on November 19th, 2010


Bicycling is a great way to get outside and experience nature; and there is no better place to bike than right here in Northport! If you are an experienced rider or just beginning, I hope that my posts will guide you with your two wheeled adventures.

The goal of my bicycle articles is to inspire riders in the area with a summary of the local mountain bike and road bike routes. If there is a demand I can also post “how to” articles on repairing and maintaining bicycles in general.

Reasons to bike

“Bicycling is for kids!” “I’m too old to bike.” “My bike is a clunker.” “Why would I ever want to bike?” I have heard many of these reasons from people over the years, and although it may seem childish, daunting, or just plain silly to ride a bike, I can think of at least 3 million reasons why YOU should go for a nice long bike ride.

  1. Increased fitness – Do you want a stronger, fitter, healthier you? Biking provides a low-impact alternative to running and at the same time sheds excess body fat and increases endurance and stamina!
  2. Great Mood – It is actually scientifically proven that biking will put you in a good mood (unless you get a flat). Hormones produced during exercise (especially during bicycling) called Endorphins are released which relieve the stress and create an overall great mood.
  3. Environmental Impact – When you ride your bike to the store rather than driving your car, you are no longer contributing carbon dioxide to the environment, don’t have to pay for the gas, and you are getting fitter. It’s a win-win-win!

Okay, enough propaganda for now. Time to look at one route which I consider to be the “classic” road bike ride around Northport.

Northport to Deep Lake Loop


As shown on the map above, the ride consists of a loop that includes Northport-Waneta Rd, Co Hwy 9445, and Aladdin Rd. Advanced riders should have no problem completing the approximate 35 mile loop. Intermediate riders may want to avoid the Waneta Rd section until they feel comfortable both going up large hills, and traversing windy narrow roads. An equally enjoyable alternative for beginning riders would be to simply park at Cedar Lake and ride along the flat road to Deep Lake. A road bike is recommended for the entire loop, but as long as you have a bike and determination you will do great!


Always wear a helmet and drink lots of water! Have a good one!

Continue reading about Fun is a Bicycle

Jim Goodwin on November 15th, 2010

View of Black Sand Beach

For many decades, the Columbia River was used by the smelter in Trail B. C. as a convenient way to dispose of glassified slag.  An estimated 9100 tons of the material was disposed of into the river from the 1930’s until 1995 when the disposal process was changed to a land-based format.  Early on, no one really cared about the slag.  Later, we were told by the smelter’s owners, Cominco (presently Teck America) that the material had traces of heavy metals, but that it was inert (harmless) in the present glassified form.

When I moved my family to Northport in 1989, I heard of Black Sand Beach and learned that it was a great place for some fishing and a picnic.  I really didn’t realize what it was made of, but after my first visit with my young son, I knew something wasn’t right.  The first thing I noticed was that the water would turn rust red when my son would dig at the waters edge.  Later, we had to remove tiny slivers from his hands.  I later learned it was the glassified slag material.

In the 1990’s it was realized that this material wasn’t inert as we thought.  Since then, the site has still been used actively, but there became a grassroots push to get the site cleaned up.

Evidence of fire on Black Sand BeachThrough the help of the Washington State Department of Ecology and others including Citizens for a Clean ColumbiaTeck America was convinced to clean up the site.  This process was completed this fall.  9100 tons of slag material were removed and hauled to Canada for reprocessing and disposal.  New clean material was hauled in by the  Colville Valley Cement company and the site was rebuilt to its original grade with CLEAN rock, cobble and sand.  The sand is a little coarser than the previous slag material, but having examined the site myself, I feel it was well done.  Even the locals have accepted it, as is evident by the fire building materials found on the site in my recent visit.  If you had any reservations about using the site, rest assured it is much cleaner and safer now, so get out there and enjoy nature!  The beach is located on the east bank of the river above Northport.  Just ask a local and they can give you directions.

Continue reading about Black Sand Beach Clean-up Project