Thursday, December 5, 2019

Hot tips on where to play in the snow this weekend in SW Idaho

Grand Targhee will be celebrating Global Fat Bike Day on Saturday with free 1-hour rentals. (Courtesy Grand Targhee)
Free demo day at Galena Lodge on Saturday. (Courtesy Galena Lodge)
Hi all,

My, it has been a DREARY week for those of us stuck in the valley! Wake up to freezing ground fog, and hope things burn off for a little sunshine in the afternoon. Pretty grim.

Hopefully, all of you have been doing your snow dancing, sending good vibes to the Snow God Ullr.

A solid storm system is headed our way Friday night-Sunday, which is expected to dump 4-6 inches in the mountains, hopefully even more! Here's my OpenSnow post with the details on weekend weather and ski area openings and re-openings this weekend.

It's note-worthy to mention that Sun Valley will be opening the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain on Saturday with the Challenger lift, providing more than 3,000 thigh-burning verts top to bottom. Ditto with the River Run side of the mountain, Upper College and Lower College. Sun Valley is offering reduced lift ticket and lodging prices prior to the Christmas season. Be sure to take advantage of that!

Photo for #BarrelyanEvent snowboard event this year. (courtesy Bogus Basin) _
It's also pretty cool that Bogus Basin is providing top-to-bottom skiing with man-made snow on Chair #1 Deer Point, plus you have the Terrain Park, some Nordic ski trails are open and the tubing hill is open. There's a snowboard event happening on Saturday. Be sure to make advance reservations to go tubing. More terrain will open as we get more snow.

Tamarack and Brundage will be operating their beginner lifts this weekend, but that's all until we get more snow. Did I say we need more snow~!!!! Skiing/riding is free at Brundage BTW.

Cross-country skiers might want to travel to the Wood River Valley this weekend to ski some groomed trails around Galena Lodge and in the Wood River Trail System. Galena Lodge is hosting a demo day on Saturday to give you a chance to try out new skis, boots and pools for Free!


The Blaine County Winter Trailink provides a quick glimpse of what xc and snowshoeing trails are open so far. The Harriman Trail is apparently skiing really well, north of the Sawtooth NRA trailhead, and there are a number of trails open around Galena Lodge.

There isn't enough snow in McCall for xc ski grooming yet, so stay tuned on that.

Closer to Boise, watch the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page for the latest conditions. It's touch-and-go on most trails right now except on the all-weather trails, and if it rains this weekend in the valley (snow up high), the lower foothills trails will be muddy and gummy. Please stay off muddy trails.

Boot hiking? Family crew hiking Freddy's Stack Rock Trail over to Sweet Connie.
Book hiking is another possibility this weekend on the service road to Deer Point or perhaps the Eastside Trail or the new Freddy's Stack Rock trail above the snowline. We boot-hiked Freddy's on Thanksgiving Day. It had several inches of snow on a frozen surface ... perfect!

Road trip? In case you haven't heard, the skiing/riding in Utah is pretty darn good already! Wasatch Resorts are reporting summit bases in the 50-60 inch range. More snow is expected this weekend! The skiing/riding is decent at Grand Targhee, too, right now ... they're celebrating Global Snow Bike Day on Saturday, with 1-hour free rentals.  


Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Go enjoy the trails while mild weather persists ... Jug Mountain Ranch trails rocked our world!

All grins coming down Doe Joe Trail at Jug Mountain Ranch
Steve Schneider

Jim Giuffre, Wendy and Steve by JMR Reservoir
Hi all,

Well, it's looking as if we're getting a slow start on winter, even though we had a cool and wet September and October.

I checked the short- and long-term weather forecasts, and it appears that we'll have continued warmer-than-usual temperatures in the afternoons and below-normal precipitation for the next couple of weeks. In a long-range 2019-20 winter forecast, NOAA is predicting that most of the western United States will have a warmer-than-normal winter, but the Northwest region, including Idaho, has equal chances for normal precipitation, at least by December. That's the good news!




In the meantime, you might as well enjoy these sunny afternoons, and hit the trails while they're still in prime shape. At least in the Boise Foothills, the trails are dry and perfect for hiking, trail-running and mountain biking. Same goes for the Owyhee Canyonlands.

I went mountain biking at Jug Mountain Ranch last weekend near Lake Fork, and the trails there were in great shape still (slightly lower elevation than McCall), while the trails north of McCall above 5,500 feet were muddy, icy and snowy. Ponderosa State Park trails were mostly doable. And the North Valley Trail in McCall is still in perfect shape.

Courtesy Jug Mountain Ranch
At Jug Mountain Ranch, I rode South Elk-South Boundary Road to Berm & Ernie, and took Berm & Ernie down to the trailhead. That was a super fun loop, with a fun cruise through the timber on the South Elk singletrack trail, a fairly strenuous climb on the South Boundary Road up to the JMR Lookout, and then you lower your seat and cruise down Berm & Ernie. There are a number of rock drops along the way and spots to launch for big air. They rate that trail as a "blue" run or intermediate.

I also rode from the JMR trailhead up the main trail to JMR reservoir, crossed the dam, rode around the reservoir on Shoreline trail, which had a few patches of ice and snow on it, but otherwise, totally fun and doable. Then we climbed up to the JMR Lookout spot, and zoomed down Doe Joe, which is an endless series of switchbacks with bermed corners, but all smooth ... no rocks ... for a sweet ride.

JMR rates Doe Joe as a beginner trail, which seems a little off, but hey, if you're uncomfortable with riding bermed corners, there are other ways down the mountain, too. Doe Joe is a great addition to the JMR trail system, yet another reason to go there. 



Almost all of the trails at JMR are set up for an uphill shuttle service (provided during summer season). But if you don't mind grinding up the hill yourself, you can enjoy some great trails there before the snow comes. JMR officials caution to stay off any muddy trails if you encounter them. And then after winter comes, you can also snow bike at JMR on the xc trails, including some of the main access roads and trails you can ride now.

Highly recommend it!
- SS 

Bonus shot - big buck in Ponderosa State Park

Gorgeous evening on Payette Lake ... Wendy and Huck. Once the sun goes down, the temp drops like a rock.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

New trail to Sweet Connie, Stack Rock provides plenty of entertainment

L-R, Doug Lawrence, Steve, Jim Young and Mack Lyons on Stack Rock. 
The new trail to Stack Rock has a number of open vistas on the sunny side of the ridge. Nice for cold-weather conditions.
Hi all,

Several of my mountain bike buddies and I rode the new trail over to Stack Rock last week, and we thought it was a blast!

The new trail provides long-term public access over to Sweet Connie junction, and it takes you on a loop around Stack Rock.

Total trip mileage was 12.3 miles to do the loop around Stack Rock. Vertical gain was 1,107 feet, but it seemed like more than that. Travel time was more than 2 hours with several stops along the way for photo ops at Stack Rock, and lunch at Sweet Connie.

Tracks from Bogus Basin Road. 
I would rate the ride strong intermediate, moderate to strenuous in terms of difficulty.

The new Forest Service trailhead is closed for the season, but you can still access the trail by riding your bike from a right-side pullout along Bogus Basin Road, or from parking elsewhere and riding from the top of the trail.

David Gordon, Ridge to Rivers trail coordinator, laid out the new trail. Thanks Dave! Nice work! And a trail construction crew, Cuddy Mountain Trails out of Cambridge, Idaho, did the trail construction. Ridge to Rivers handled all construction contract oversight.

The new trail is slightly downhill on the way over to Sweet Connie junction, and it's slightly uphill on the way back. There are a number of entertaining features where you thread through some granite pillars and that sort of thing. It's a great trail for hiking, biking and trail-running, and it's open to horseback riding as well.

My GPS didn't capture the full mileage because of tree cover, stops or something ... it's more like 12.3 miles. 
It's a quick 3 miles or so over to Sweet Connie junction, and then you can decide if you'd like to ride counter-clockwise or clockwise on the lolly-pop loop around Stack Rock. We did it clockwise, which means you're going to climb a very strenuous granny-gear pitch in the approach to Stack Rock. But it's super fun the rest of the way. Both ways are doable.

I have a feeling that the new trail is going to make the Sweet Connie descent to the Bogus Basin trailhead, Peggy's Trail or Hidden Springs even more popular in the future.

Enjoy!
- SS



Thursday, October 31, 2019

Dry Creek hike in Boise Foothills reveals neat ice patterns, fall color

Huck had a blast sniffing for birds and perching on rocks 
Patches of ice formed interesting patterns in the creek. 
Hi all,

I went hiking with Huck on the Dry Creek trail this week to see if the fall colors were still happening -- and they were in places. But it was a surprising dividend to see some cool shapes and designs in the ice forming in the creek.

We've had low temperatures in the teens and 20s this week, so Dry Creek was definitely covered with ice in flatter portions of the streams and in the beaver ponds. It's supposed to get a little warmer in the days ahead, so I recommend getting out to hike Dry Creek or do the Shingle Creek-Dry Creek Loop before the snow comes and the trail gets mucky.

That's my outdoor tip this week ... get out and enjoy the Boise Foothills trails while you can!

Some sections of the creek were almost completely frozen. 
I also am looking forward to attending the Bogus Basin Ski Education Foundation Ski Swap Friday-Sunday at Expo Idaho this weekend. See the web site for details on selling and buying equipment.

BTW, if it's ski swap time, that means the Warren Miller annual ski movie is coming up! It's scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 21 through Sunday, Nov. 24 at the Egyptian Theater.

A hiker and a jogger cruising up the trail with their dogs 
Now back to the Dry Creek hike ... starting from the trailhead on Bogus Basin Road, you can hike up the creek as far as you want ... On Thursday (today), I hiked about two miles or so up the trail to the Shingle Creek junction, and came back. Going on a mid-week day, I saw only 2 other people on the trail during my hike.

The Dry Creek trail is kind of steep up and down threading through some cool granite goblin-like rocks in the first 1/2 mile, but after the trail drops down by the creek, it's a very pleasant walk up the draw. There are numerous places where you could stop and have a picnic.
Dry Creek-Shingle Creek Loop map (courtesy alltrails.com) 

Remains of a stone house next to a large locust tree that settlers planted.  
Tackling the Dry Creek-Shingle Creek Loop is a much more ambitious endeavor. The route covers 13.8 miles and features 2,221 feet of gain. Nothing too extreme, but it's still a substantial hike with multiple strenuous pitches. That one would take about 5 hours or more, depending on your speed of travel.

Take a walk up there and enjoy the sights! I wondered about the history of a stone house up there ... I would like to know more about the settlers who tried to live up there.

Beaver pond complex was just freezing over. 
Be sure to dress in layers for the hike. You'll warm up and shed most of your layers on the way up the trail, and then cool down for the walk back down. I needed a hat and gloves for my hike. The temperature was in the high 30s, so not all that warm. It is supposed to warm up a bit next week in the afternoons.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Six all-weather trails in the Boise Foothills when the weather gets wet

Mountain Cove Trail in Military Reserve Park has a new all-weather surface.
Good place to go when things get wet! 
Hi all,

We've been getting some pretty dicy weather lately as we make the transition from fall to winter.

For those in-between days, or times when the trails can get soaked from storms in the Boise Foothills, it's good to know about the all-weather trails available so you can get out on a walk and not worry about causing damage on a muddy trail. You can enjoy yourself GUILT-FREE!

All-weather trails have extra sand and gravel on the surface to absorb moisture and provide a pretty bomb-proof compacted surface. They're all pretty short in distance, and mostly suited to walking, running or a small bike ride.

I noticed the Ridge to Rivers trail crew putting in a new all-weather surface on the Mountain Cove Trail in Military Reserve Park last week. The trail runs for a little less than a mile parallel to Mountain Cove Road, next to Freestone Creek. The trail also connects to Central Ridge, Bucktail, Shanes and more in the Military Reserve complex.   

Mountain Cove Trail is the newest edition to Ridge to Rivers' quiver of all-weather trails. There are five others to consider:

1. Red Fox - Owl's Roost - a 2.2-mile loop from Camelsback to the Foothills Learning Center, suitable for all abilities. Hulls Grove Trail next to Owl's Roost is another all-weather alternative in that area.

Hulls Ponds from Red Fox Trail near Camelsback Park 
2. Harrison Hollow - Slightly less than a mile (one-way), all-weather trail in the hollow behind Highland's Hollow Brew Pub and Healthwise. Super easy trail, very gentle incline.

3. Neighborhood all-weather trails in the Foothills East subdivision off of Shenandoah and Shaw Mountain Road. Beautiful colors in that area right now!

Fall colors are pretty nice in Military Reserve Park right now. 
4. Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Trail #19A  (Table Rock/Castle Rock area) Flat and easy trail for all abilities. 

5. Red-Winged Blackbird #35A (Camelsback Park area) - Flat and easy trail for all abilities. It runs from the Hulls ponds to Chickadee Ridge through a wetlands environment. 

All of the all-weather trails are mostly flat because they're most suitable for the sand-and-gravel compacted treatment, explains David Gordon, manager of the Ridge to Rivers trail system. Steeper trails wouldn't work - they'd be too subject to erosion. 

So keep this list in your hip pocket when needed! 

In the meantime, you might have noticed that Ridge to Rivers has put out some signs related to Happy Trails! The signs are symbolic of a recent campaign by the R2R to encourage trail users to smile and be friendly out on the trails, Gordon says. 


"Realize that you're out on a shared-use trail system, so smile at your fellow trail users and be nice!"

From the etiquette section of Steve's early
mountain bike guides. 

I'm all for it, personally. I think if you're trying to be a good trail ambassador anywhere, you show good trail etiquette and say hi to folks and be friendly when you pass by. For mountain bikers, it helps to slow down and show the walkers and runners respect as you pass by. They appreciate it! 


Here's the R2R web page on Happy Trails for more information and etiquette tips. You can actually take the Happy Trails Pledge! I did it! It took about 15 seconds.  


In the early editions of my Boise Foothills mountain bike guides, I paid an artist to create a drawing (right) to encourage folks to be friendly and courteous on the trails ... Some things are timeless even if they're a little dorky! :) (circa 1992)


- SS 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Fall colors are bursting in the mountains! Time for a scenic drive in Idaho!

The tamarack trees are peaking in Smith's Ferry and Valley County! This photo was taken Wed., Oct. 16. 
Hi all,

I've been burning up the highways in Idaho lately, mostly for work, but I can tell you that the colors are really starting to peak along Idaho 55 between Boise and McCall.

The same is true in North Idaho on scenic U.S. 12 between Lewiston and Missoula, and I'm sure the colors are peaking on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway between Boise and Stanley, and on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway as well. The colors along the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway between Hagerman and Twin Falls are happening, too!

Along Idaho 55, the tamarack trees are peaking this week! The shrubs are going wild as well with lots of brilliant yellows, crimson reds and bright orange hues as well.   

Even if the weather is crummy this weekend, particularly on Saturday, I'd recommend you take a scenic drive when you get a chance to enjoy the brilliant fall colors Idaho-style! Plus, you can bet that the big front moving through on Saturday is going to blow a lot of the leaves off the trees, so there's a bit of an imperative to get out to see the colors when you can!

Here are my recommendations - click on the links to see the scenic byway detailed descriptions via VisitIdaho:

North Fork Payette River near Banks 
1. Payette River Scenic Byway - Take Idaho 55 north to McCall to enjoy fall colors along the North Fork of the Payette River and in the Boise and Payette National Forests. Even making a shorter drive from Boise to Smith's Ferry would yield big dividends right now. The colors are magnificent around Banks and the North Fork, and in Smith's Ferry, there are lots of tamarack trees to view.

2. Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway - Idaho 21 and the Banks-to-Lowman Highway should be promising, but you don't have to go all the way to Stanley. You could take an out-and-back cruise to Idaho City, or maybe make a reservation at The Springs to take a leisurely hot springs soak. You also could drive a big loop by taking ID 55 to Banks, take the Banks to Lowman road to Lowman, and then circle back to Boise via Idaho City on Idaho 21. Might be a little snow at Beaver Creek Summit!

Fall colors bursting from trees near Lowell, Idaho 
3. Sawtooth Scenic Byway - Take U.S. 20 to Fairfield and head for Sun Valley when the weather gets better. The colors in the Wood River Valley and the Sawooth Valley should be fantastic, but you may not have that much time left, particularly after the weather hits this weekend! Stop for lunch in Ketchum. There are many great restaurants to choose from. I personally like the Pioneer, Whiskey Jacques, and Lefty's.

Selway River, near Lowell 
4. If it might work for your schedule, try the scenic drive on U.S. 12 from Lewiston to Missoula, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway. It roughly follows the historic route of Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery. I was up there last weekend, and the colors were brilliant along the Clearwater River and along the Lochsa River.

Fall colors lighting up Box Canyon (courtesy Southern Idaho Tourism) 
5. Thousand Springs Scenic Byway - Follow U.S. 30 from Hagerman to Twin Falls. Potential side trips include Hagerman fishing ponds, Miracle Hot Springs, Hagerman Fossil Beds museum, Snake River Grill and more! Click here for details. Here's a post about three other scenic drives in the Magic Valley.

Have fun!
- SS

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Brrrrrrr! Feels like Fall! 5 rock-solid Fall Hikes Part 2

Three Fingers Rock (courtesy Summit Post) 
Hi all,

Whoa baby, the Cool North Wind was blowing like a son of a gun today, and it's got me thinking about fall hiking for the weekend.

Pulling a few of my recommendations from a program I gave tonight at Boise REI, I'm recommending five sure-fire fall hikes for my outdoor tip of the week. Consider this Fall Hikes Part 2, following the fall hiking post I did recently. In addition, there are oodles of options to choose from in my guides, the Owyhee Canyonlands - an Outdoor Adventure Guide, and Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home.

This afternoon, Wendy, Elena and I took a walk on Red Fox and Chickadee Ridge, and hiking on the elevated ridge was quite brisk! The rabbit brush was still popping bright yellow, and Huck flushed quail everywhere! Sometimes a quick outing in the super accessible Boise Foothills is a great option when you only have an hour or so.

To that end, we start with:

1. Castle Rock - Table Rock "Foothills on the Rocks" - Distance: 4.3 miles; Difficulty: moderate to strenuous; Vertical gain: 952 feet; Hiking time: 1.5 hours. Start from behind the Bishop's House by the Old State Pen, where there is public parking. Hike Trail #15 to Castle Rock Trail #19 and loop around to the top of Castle Rock. Take a moment to enjoy the view. Continue to the east on Trail #15 and climb to the top of Table Rock. Look out into the city and take a breather. Then descend on Trail #16 and #17, which wrap around the cone of Table Rock, and retrace your tracks back to the start.

2. Marianne Williams - Barber Park Loop - Distance: 3.6 miles; Difficulty: easy to moderate; Travel time: 2 hours; Start either in Bown Crossing or Barber Park. Cap off your trip with some coffee or a beer in Bown Crossing.



Mountain biking on the old Oregon Trail in east Boise 
3. Oregon Trail going out toward Bonneville Point from BLM trailhead on Idaho 21. The trailhead for this hike is just to the east of Surprise Valley off of the Idaho 21 connector to Gowen Road. It's a nice walk to take the trail to the east, climb to the top of the bluff overlooking Diversion Dam and the Boise River, and if you're super ambitious, you could hike all the way to Bonneville Point. But often, I'm just walking the dog and getting some fresh air and an easier out-and-back experience is all I do. I reserve the trip out to Bonneville Point for my mountain bike.

4. Huckleberry Trail, Ponderosa State Park - The colors are turning on "the Huck" and it's a relatively easy walk around the peninsula of Ponderosa State Park. Distance: 5 miles; Difficulty: moderate; Travel time: 2-3 hours. Trailhead is a Ponderosa State Park. If you've got a state trails pass, you can enter for free.

Bear Basin Trails would be another good choice when the snow melts in McCall this weekend, if it melts!

Photo courtesy Carolyn Dickinson of McCall
Norm Nelson takes a breather at the top of Three Fingers. 
5. Climb Three Fingers in the Owyhees - Distance: 2.4 miles; Difficulty: easy to moderate; Travel time: 1.5 hours; Vertical gain: 833 feet. The hardest part about the hike to Three Fingers is to find the trailhead, and that's not that hard. Follow directions in a previous detailed post about hiking to Three Fingers. You should allow 1.5-2 hours to get to the trailhead on the McIntyre Springs Road from Boise. Once you're there, the hike to the top is pretty quick, very kid-friendly, and you'll be amazed at the big views of the Owyhee Canyonlands from the top. You might even see some bighorn sheep.

Be aware that rifle deer hunting season has begins statewide in Idaho on Thursday, Oct. 10, so wear bright colors in your outdoor outings, and put bright colors on your pups.
- SS