Thursday, October 12, 2017

Caution: Big game hunting seasons are open, and it's prime time for Cast & Blast

Hunting season is upon us! Be sure to wear bright colors as Wendy and I did in the Silver City area. 
Fall trips provide great opportunities to see wildlife. We've seen multiple black bears in Hells Canyon. 
Fall chinook on the line! 
Hi all,

Head's up folks! It's that time of year when Idaho and out-of-state hunters are heading into the mountains to pursue big game. General deer season opened on Wednesday, Oct. 10th, pretty much statewide, including Unit #39 in the Boise River Mountains. Elk season will be coming soon on Nov. 1 in Unit #39, but it opens sooner than that in many units.

During hunting season, it's important to wear bright colors if you're going to be out hiking, biking or trail-running in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area, the Boise, Payette and Sawtooth National Forests or out in the Owyhees. Put bright colors on your dogs, too. Remember that you should expect to see hunters in some of your favorite recreation areas, and share the resource. If you don't want to see hunters or hear gunfire, stick close to home in the lower part of the Boise foothills.

If you're interested in learning more details about hunting seasons in various parts of Idaho, check out the Idaho Big Game regulations booklet online or pick one up anyplace where hunting licenses are sold. If you're ever thought about going hunting yourself, the big game regs are the go-to source for deciding what species to hunt, when the seasons occur, etc.

Speaking of hunting, now is the perfect time to be thinking about doing a cast-and-blast fishing and bird-hunting trip ... Watch the weather for the best experience, but I'd recommend trying to squeeze in a late-season float trip on the Lower Salmon River, Main Salmon or Hells Canyon to fish and hunt chukars. This has been an annual tradition for me since the late 1980s, and it's always a great time.



In a matter of days, the steelhead will be running stronger up the Salmon River and Snake River, so you could add these beautiful ocean-going fish to the list of fish you might catch. If you have people in your group who carry big-time fish tackle for sturgeon, that'd be another potential prize to pursue.

From the standpoint of trip logistics, it's easiest to put together a Lower Salmon or Hells Canyon trip in SW Idaho. For those who live near Stanley, Salmon or Idaho Falls, a Main Salmon trip would be easier to pull off, but it also would take more days to do the 80-mile trip. The South Fork Snake River is another great fall trip near Idaho  Falls, where you can fly fish for trout and maybe find a grouse in the woods above camp. Plus, you're likely to see moose and bald eagles.

Here are some basics on the fall river trips:
  • Hells Canyon - Put in a Hells Canyon Dam and float to Pittsburg Landing, a distance of about 35 miles. This trip is easily doable in three or four days. Take as much time as possible. Only self-issue permits are required, available at the web site. Shuttles can be arranged through Scotty's gas station in Pine, Oregon for $160 cash. They do a marvelous job! 
  • Lower Salmon Canyon - Float from Hammer Creek to Heller Bar or arrange for a jet boat shuttle to Pittsburg Landing from the mouth of the Salmon. It's almost 50 miles from Hammer Creek to the mouth of the Salmon, and the river is running very low (3,500 cfs), so allow for plenty of time to do your float. Fishing is limited to small-mouth bass and steelhead in this section. 
  • Salmon River near Riggins - If you don't have time to do a longer trip, you could put in at Carey Creek or Vinegar Creek and float down to Riggins while fishing for steelhead and hunting chukars. 
  • South Fork Snake River - Put in at Palisades Dam for the long version of the float or at Swan Valley and float to the takeout at Heise. The South Fork Lodge in Swan Valley does shuttles. Check with the experts on what kinds of flies the fish are taking. The cuts on the South Fork get fished very hard by a steady stream of outfitters every day. By this time of year, it's more locals than outfitters. Here's a blog post I did on the South Fork two years ago. 
One more thing, there's a new closure on the Boise River Greenbelt to note: From the Idaho Parks and Recreation state office and Shakespeare theater entrance to Diversion Dam will close on Oct. 25 and remain closed for repairs until June 22, 2018.

Have fun and enjoy the fall!
- SS

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Ride the Weiser River Trail in memory of Shirley Atteberry, plus fall scenic drives

Shirley Atteberry, Queen of the Weiser River Trail, died earlier this week. It's time to ride the trail in honor of Shirley.
(Photo courtesy Craig Kjar) 
Shirley, middle front, with friends at the Council terminal for the WRT (Courtesy Irene Saphra) 
Hi all,

In the fall of 1997, I remember being summoned to a meeting at the old Red Lion Riverside by Yvonne Farrell, former director of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. A railroad line from New Meadows to Weiser was being abandoned by Union Pacific Railroad and gifted to a new nonprofit called Friends of the Weiser River Trail. When Yvonne calls you in person, you go.

Yvonne invited lots of trail people to the meeting. She wanted to know how each and every one of us were going to step up and help the Friends group get rolling with turning the old railroad bed into a user-friendly recreation trail. I found myself fidgeting in my chair.

I was vice president of the Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA) at the time, and also the president of the Idaho Trails Council. My first child was going to be born in 2 months. I felt like my plate was more than full.

But then Shirley Atteberry, a retired professional surveyor from Cambridge, stood up and told everyone how excited they were about receiving the gift of the old railroad line.  But she didn't know anything about running a trails organization or managing an 84-mile-long trail. The railroad ties were still sitting there in the rail bed, and the trail surface would be rough as hell after they were removed.

Shirley came across as a genuine sweet woman with a warm voice who had a lot of empathy for the rural corner of Idaho where she lived. She saw the trail as a potential godsend for Adams and Washington counties. All of the towns along the course of the trail were struggling -- and still are to some extent -- New Meadows, Council, Cambridge, Midvale and Weiser. "If we can turn that line into a recreation trail, I can see how it would provide an economic benefit to retail stores, gas stations and hotels, and there would be potential for new business to be created," she said.

Everyone in the room could envision that potential reality if sufficient numbers of people flocked to the trail. We went around the room and everyone there offered to do something to help Shirley get started. But as things turned out, she wouldn't need much help from us do-gooders. She became so committed to the cause, spent countless hours building the organization, and by god, they went to work. And they got 'er done.

Friends of Weiser River Trail had to redeck all of the trestles that cross the river so they're smooth and suitable for biking. 
The Weiser River Trail has been a great trail to enjoy via hiking, biking, running or horseback riding once they opened it up for the public to use in 1997. They almost should call it "Shirley's Trail." Certainly she's the Queen of the WRT. She built Friends of the Weiser River Trail into an organization that has 650 members today. It's a successful nonprofit that's financially sound and has a lot of things going for it because of Shirley's commitment to the cause. She also had a number of other really hard-working locals were with her nearly every step of the way, including her sister, Patti Heldt, Dick Pugh and many others.

Shirley Atteberry died this week. That's why I'm writing about her and the Weiser River Trail. There's a supported two-day bike ride going on this Saturday on the Weiser River Trail, but registration is closed, and there is no day-of registration available. But even so, I encourage all of you to consider visiting the Weiser River Trail this fall or next spring to enjoy the ride. And think of Shirley. Get some friends together and do your own van-supported ride. Stay overnight in Cambridge, and go to Mundo Hot Springs for a soothing soak after the long day. They have some lodging, too!

I like doing the ride in two parts of roughly 40 miles each, starting from the north end, just west of New Meadows, and pedaling downhill. Hard-cores could do the whole thing in a day. Casual riders can do much shorter sections as they wish. The downhill grade is not steep enough to coast except in the section between the Evergreen sawmill and Fruitvale area ... that's one of my favorite parts of the trail. But what's surprising is you'll experience some remote canyons away from U.S. 95 where you're cruising along the river in a quiet and remote place, where the only sounds you'll hear might be chukars in the sagebrush, geese on the river, the wind in the cottonwoods, or just the sound of flowing water in the river.     

Below, see a story I wrote about Shirley in a 2002 edition of the Rails to Trails magazine. It's titled "Tenacious Trail Builder." Sorry, it's not online. Also, for a more detailed narrative about the Weiser River Trail, see my story that appeared in VisitIdaho last year.

If you might be interested in donating funds to WRT on behalf of Shirley, please contact the Idaho Community Foundation or Friends of Weiser River Trail.

One other tip this week, I was in McCall last weekend, and I noticed that the colors are changing everywhere. And then a friend posted a pic of a kaleidoscope of colors framing the Rainbow Bridge, north of New Meadows. It's a perfect weekend for a scenic drive!

Here's my blogpost from last fall, recommending five scenic drives in SW Idaho -- the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, Sawtooth Scenic Byway, Payette River Scenic Byway, Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway, and the road to Silver City out and back. The colors are popping best in the higher elevations right now.

Rails to Trails Magazine – Fall 2002 Issue

Shirley Atteberry: Tenacious Trail Builder

BY STEPHEN STUEBNER

Sitting by a fireplace in the couple's lovely, but unfinished, 4,000-square-foot log home in Cambridge, Idaho, Shirley Atteberry's husband, John, says Shirley "just lives for the trail.

"We’ve been married 39 years, and I've never known her to be this passionate about something.”

"This house is not finished because of the trail,” she admits with a grin. But the image of a rail-trail winding along the Weiser River has captured her imagination, her energy and her dedication since the mid-1990s when she heard that Union Pacific Railroad was going to shut down an Idaho railroad line between New Meadows and Weiser.

What a wonderful trail it would be. Launching from an alpine forest near New Meadows, elevation 5,500 feet, the 84-mile corridor snakes across a series (rock-terraced and grassy canyons, wind through farm country and passes wild sections of the Weiser River before ending about a half mile above sea level in Weiser. The entire trip follows a moderate downhill grade, making an enticing destination for bicycle gravity-riders.

“It was real easy for me to see what could happen,” says Shirley Atteberry, A former land surveyor who bubbles with enthusiasm. "The railroad line ran through four economically depressed towns and two counties. If we could turn that line into a recreational trail, it would provide an economic benefit to retail stores, gas stations and hotels, and there would be potential for new businesses to be created.”

For 30 years, Atteberry and her family lived in Roseville, Calif, near a nifty five-mile pathway along two creeks. She used it for jogging with her collie, Lady, and outings with her two children. That pathway has often come to mind during the years Atteberry has worked to create another fine trail, almost from scratch, near her rural Idaho mountain community.

When Atteberry and a group of civic-minded citizens decided to pursue a recreational trail on the rail line, they quickly realized it would be a challenge. They hoped that Washington and Adams counties would work with Union Pacific Railroad to acquire the right-of-way and develop a trail.

But in this sleepy and politically conservative corner of southwest Idaho, the notion of convening a rail line into a trail was a tough sell. Opponents presented a petition against the trail to the county commissioners. So in July 1996, advocates formed Friends of Weiser River Trail, a nonprofit membership organization. Atteberry joined the board, and currently is Friends’ treasurer.

First, Friends had to negotiate with Union Pacific to acquire the right-of-way for the trail. Through a federal program, the organization could railbank the corridor, preserving it for future railroad use and allowing it to serve in the interim as a trail. Friends forged a complex agreement with Union Pacific whereby the railroad would donate the corridor and Friends would develop and manage the right-of-way as a trail.

Only a few nonprofit groups in the United States have succeeded in convening and operating a rail-trail. Though the railbanking program was structured to allow trail organizations to negotiate with the railroads, the process most often handled by states and municipalities u 1' t: budgets and fleets of attorneys. But Atteberry never wavered in her determination to help build the trail.

Early in negotiations with Union Pacific, she turned to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (R'I'C) for information and support. RTC staff toured the proposed trail corridor and offered suggestions for how to develop it. On a pro bono basis, a former RTC staff member, attorney Charles Montange, took on the railbanking legal work for Friends. Montange told Friends they might convince the railroad to donate the corridor if they could demonstrate strong community for the rail-trail. Atteberry developed a fact sheet detailing the community benefits the Weiser River Trail would bring.
  
Armed with her fact sheet and considerable charm, she went to work. She got an immediate endorsement from the Cambridge City Council and chamber of commerce. Since Cambridge is a gateway to Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, these folks understood the value of tourism. But in the farming town of Weiser, Atteberry had to convince more than 50 percent of the 147 chamber of commerce member businesses to support the trail.

“I contacted every single business owner to gauge whether they would support, oppose or stay neutral," she says. “Finally, I got a majority of them to support it.” Atteberry assembled all the letters of support, and in June 1997 Union Pacific donated the rail corridor to Friends. Local trail opponents went to court to challenge the legality of the railbanking procedure and corridor ownership. Angry owners of land along the trail blocked the path with large boulders and fences. Friends won two lawsuits, but some landowners continue to trespass. Often Friends calls on Atteberry to deal with these problems. “Nobody wants to have to tell a landowner that he's put an illegal gate across our trail and it's got to go," says Dick Pugh, board secretary of Friends. "But Shirley is always willing to take that on. She's really tough."

The first 12 miles of the Weiser River Trail officially opened to the public on June 6, 1998. Today, more than 50 miles of the trail are open. When all 84 miles are complete, the Weiser River will be the longest rail-trail in Idaho

Atteberry’s dreams of creating an income-generating destination are coming true. Her eyes light up when she talks about recent trail events, including a three-day wagon-train trip and the third annual Idaho Endurance Ride. She'd like to spend more time planning events to draw visitors to this spectacular trail and the area, but her slate is full juggling trail management and development responsibilities. Atteberry commonly spends more than 50 hours a week on trail administration issues. The Friends board hopes to raise enough money to hire a full-time executive director.

Meanwhile, Atteberry goes full steam ahead. “It can be hard," she admits "But people will really enjoy the trail. And I can't quit when we've got 450 members out there who are counting on us to get it done.”

Idaho freelance writer Stephen Stuebner has ridden frequently on the Weiser River Trail since it first opened. He looks forward to riding all 84 miles of the trail in the near future."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fall is the time to push your limits on the mountain bike - 5 rides suited to the task

Doug Lawrence on Bear Pete Trail at 8,000 feet. Bear Pete is a classic fall ride. 
Looking south deep into the Owyhee Canyonlands from the Silver City Skyline Tour, above Silver City  
Hi all,

I love the cool weather in the fall ... it's really the best time of the year for active outdoor adventures of any kind. You don't sweat nearly as much on the climb, and it's a beautiful time of year to enjoy fall colors.

This week, I'm recommending five advanced and strenuous mountain bike rides in Boise, Silver City and McCall. Everyone has been riding all spring and summer, and the fall is a great time to push your legs perhaps farther than they've gone this year and knock off some big rides. Get some friends together and go get 'em!

1. Dry Creek - Hard Guy - Dry Creek Loop - For advanced rides, Dry Creek is a favorite destination. You just need some time to ride it! It's a tough climb up Hard Guy but the payoff is big riding down Dry Creek and the new bridges, etc. Distance: 20 miles. Vertical gain: 3,500 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous climb). Travel time: 3-5 hours. Start at the Dry Creek Trailhead on Bogus Basin Road. Climb Dry Creek through the rocks to a creek crossing and junction with the trail spur to Hard Guy about 1.5 miles up the trail. This portion of the trail has been improved recently. Climb Hard Guy to the Ridge Road. Take your time and conserve energy. Take a break on top! Go left and ride 2 miles to the Dry Creek junction. Turn left off the Ridge Road on a singletrack that wraps around a ridge and hairpins into the densely timbered headwaters of Dry Creek. Stay right at the Shingle Creek junction. Proceed with caution. There can be downfall and various hazards on the way down the trail. It's 7 miles of fun and adventure descending Dry Creek. Ride through the rocky features and return to Bogus Basin Road. Whew! Time for a beer!

Dry Creek has multiple bridges installed for crossing the creek. Courtesy Idaho Statesman. 
2. Corrals-Scott's-8th Street-Ridge Road-Trail #4-Sidewinder-Crestline-Red Cliffs Loop -Here's another big foothills tour that'll take you to the top of the Boise Ridge climbing via Corrals, Scott's and 8th Street, and then descending on the wide, sandy, dished-out Trail #4 motorcycle trail until you reach Sidewinder, and then it's a fast and smooth downhill from there. Distance: About 18 miles. Vertical gain: 3,600 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous). Travel time: 2.5-3.5 hours. Ride up Bogus Basin Road or the Highlands Trail to Corrals. Climb Corrals to Scott's, go left, and climb the steep singletrack to 8th Street. Ride another 1.5 miles on 8th Street to a junction for Trail #4 on the right. Follow Trail #4 connector over to Trail #4 and hang on for the tricky descent. Keep your weight back and plane through the sand! Trail #4 eventually returns to Sidewinder summit. Descend on Sidewinder to Crestline and then go right on Red Cliffs to complete your ride. Take Red Fox and Chickadee Ridge to Camelsback and you're done! Again, time for a beer!

3. Silver City Skyline Tour in the Owyhees - It's rated strenuous/advanced in my book, The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide. Distance: 16.8 miles, 2,750 feet of vertical gain. I love the ride because it provides a rooftop tour of the mountains surrounding Silver City, and it's nifty that you start and finish in downtown Silver City. Be sure to bring plenty of food and water. The old hotel in Silver City might be open (on weekends) for drinks after the ride. After the ride, there are lots of places to camp just outside of Silver City or along Jordan Creek, you make the call. 

Directions: Drive to Silver City and park off to the side of Main Street near the old hotel. To get there, go south of Nampa on ID 45 to Murphy. Watch for signs for Silver City on ID 78 as you're heading for Murphy, and follow the paved and dirt road to the historic mining town. 

Mile 0 - Ride back toward New York Summit from Silver City. 
Mile 1.2 - Turn right on BLM Road F483. This is your main route for the first half of the ride.
Mile 2.4 - Bear right on Road F483 at Y junction and climb.
Mile 4.7 - Reach junction with service road to the top of War Eagle Mountain. It's a short, but steep sidetrip to check out the summit. Check out the old buldings and mine shafts at the Poorman Mine near this junction ... it's a short sidetrip.
Mile 5.9 - Back at War Eagle junction. Bear right on Road F483 and cruise on your middle ring to the ridges and mountains to the south.
Mile 6.7 - Bear right at Y junction next to livestock watering area. Bear right again shortly afterward and climb a steep hill with lots of mobile rocks.
Mile 7.9 - Come to sweet overlook to the left of the main road. Cruise over to the trees to enjoy views looking out toward Triangle and the big wide open country of the Owyhees.
Mile 8.4 - Pass through barbed-wire gate.
Mile 9.2 - Bear right.
Mile 9.4 - Ignore trail going downhill on the right. Stay on the ridge.
Mile 9.6 - Pass through barbed-wire gate.
Mile 11.1 - Bear right and pass through gate. Going downhill now on ATV track.
Mile 11.8 - Come to 4-way junction. Take a hard right and climb super-steep ATV trail to a saddle at 12.6. Parts of the climb are rideable; some parts not. Go left at the junction and climb a little more until trail flattens out.
Mile 14.0 - Come to 4-way junction. Turn right and descend into Long Gulch on a jeep trail. It's a fun descent back to Silver City. There are a number of creek crossings.

Mile 16.8 - Arrive in downtown Silver City. You made it!     

Riding Elk Trail at Brundage Mountain ... great views of nearby Granite Mountain! Courtesy Visit Idaho
4. Bear Basin-Brundage Lookout-Elk Trail-Growler-488 Road Loop - We're moving on to the McCall area now. I did this ride a couple of weeks ago and it worked out splendid! This is a cool tour of the Bear Basin area on a climb to the top of Brundage Lookout, then you descend Brundage ski area on Elk Trail, and then take a trail and a road back to Bear Basin. Great tour! Distance: 18.2 miles. Vertical gain: 2,600 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous in places). Start by taking Bear Basin Road about 1.5 miles to a wooden fence by the east portal to the Bear Basin non-motorized trails. Park. The ride starts here (by all means, ride from town if you want!). Climb Bear Basin Road 9 miles to the top of Brundage Mountain. The road gets pretty soft and sandy near the top. Just grind out the climb. Once at the lookout, ride over to the Bluebird Chair and pick up the top of Elk Trail. Descend Elk Trail about 6 miles to a point near the bottom of the ski area. You'll see a trail on the left at a split called Growler. Go left on Growler and climb the singletrack through open slopes and deep woods until you climb a super-steep section in the woods and pop out into the open on Temptation. Take Growler across the grassy trail and then bear right as the singletrack continues to climb. You'll see an unmarked two-track road taking off laterally from the ski area. This is Forest Road #488. It's downhill all the way back to Bear Basin now -- enjoy it! Watch for tight corners in a few spots, but generally, you can let it rip on the wide gravel road. Head into McCall and grab a burger and a beer!

Mark Anderson above Josephine Lake.
Almost there! 
5. Bear Pete Trail - The McCall locals always do at least an annual pilgrimage to tackle Bear Pete Trail, and I often gather up some buddies to do the same thing. Everyone loves the ride because it does test you, makes you work hard, and sometimes hike-a-bike is required! The cool thing about Bear Pete is that it starts at a high elevation and after you make the big climb to the top of Bear Pete Mountain, you'll be riding at 8,000 foot elevation on the mountain for a number of miles, going up and down, with huge views off to the west (French Creek) along the way. Distance: 17.5 miles. Vertical gain: 2,500 feet. Vertical gain: 3,500 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous). Travel time: full day. Bear Pete Trail is located north of McCall via Warren Wagon Road. Past Upper Payette Lake, watch for a turnoff to Cloochman Saddle. This road takes you to the trailhead. You also should plant a vehicle at the north end of Bear Pete, north of Burgdorf Hot Springs, if you don't want to ride a long dirt road slog back to your vehicle at the trailhead. At the saddle, climb trail #142 Bear Pete and grind for a couple of miles to the ridgetop. You'll ride up and down along the high mountain ridge for several hours. There are a few junctions but stay on the main trail. On the north end, the trail plunges downhill to Forest Road #246, the road to Burgdorf Hot Springs. You made it! Bring your swimsuits and take a soak at Burgdorf after the ride! Always a good call! There are a number of places where you could camp along the Brundage Road, if necessary.

The Idaho Whitewater Association is looking for helpers for their 2nd annual ID 55 highway cleanup effort on Oct. 7th. See their Facebook event invite for more information.

Have fun!
- SS

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Three yurts in Idaho City Park n' Ski system are open for rent! Make reservations now!

Fresh powder near Stargaze Yurt
Getting ready to shred some *pow* with Quinn 
Hi all,

After lots of hard work by Idaho Parks and Recreation officials and volunteers, three of the popular yurts in the Idaho City Park n' Ski system are available for rent as of today! Make reservations as soon as you can! 

The three yurts that will be open this winter are Stargaze, Skyline and Rocky Ridge.

You can make reservations online by going to: https://idahostateparks.reserveamerica.com or by calling 1-888-922-6743. Agents are available 7 days a week, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mountain Time, or Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The online system is handy because you can see what dates are booked, and which ones are not.

The Boise National Forest is working on salvage logging in the area at the current time. It's not clear exactly what xc ski and snowshoe trails will be open in the Idaho City Park n' Ski system, says Leo Hennessy, non-motorized trail coordinator for IDPR, but the access trails to all three yurts will be open for sure by the time winter season kicks in.

Leo also expects that the Gold Fork Loop and Skyline Loop will be groomed for winter xc skiing, snowshoeing and snow-biking this winter. It's also possible that the Banner Ridge and Elkhorn Loops may be open later in the winter. Loggers are cutting fire-killed trees in there right now.

It's great news that the three yurts will be open for the public to enjoy this winter after the wildfire closures in the aftermath of the Pioneer Fire.

Since I posted this blog on Wednesday morning, many of the open dates for the Idaho City yurts have been reserved. There are still some mid-week openings on the online calendar.

But rest assured, if you'd like to go yurting this winter, there are more options!

  • Sun Valley Trekking has many different yurts and wall tents available for rent in the Smoky Mountains north of Ketchum/Sun Valley and they also have locations in the Pioneer Mountains and in the Sawtooths. 
  • Galena Lodge has four yurts that you can rent in the forested mountains adjacent to miles upon miles of xc ski and snowshoe trails. If you like to xc ski, Galena Lodge is manna from heaven. 
  • Sawtooth Mountain Guides - The Williams Peak yurt is very hard to book because a lot of dates are booked a year in advance. But what the heck, see what they've got available! I see some open dates in December ...  

- SS

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Five September hikes close to Boise - guaranteed to please!

Amy and Robin apparently thought this spot was photogenic! Between the Creeks in the Owyhees. 
Wendy getting ready to take flight on top of a mountain above Toy Pass in the Owyhees 
Hi all,

It's SO NICE to see the hot weather moderating and the skies clearing of smoke! The Boise forecast is calling for highs in the 60s on Friday and Saturday, and 70s on Sunday. That's almost unbelievable considering the string of HOT weather we've had nearly continuously through July and August ...

So my recommendation is to enjoy the cool temperatures and plan a hike this weekend in the Boise Foothills or the Owyhees. All of these hikes are detailed in my guidebooks, Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home, and The Owyhee Canyonlands, an Outdoor Adventure Guide. 

Here are my recommendations for five hikes guaranteed to please:

1. Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail - Distance: about 5 miles or less. Difficulty: Moderate. Time travel: You make the call. Take the kids and the dog and go for a hike on the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail, starting from the BLM motorcycle parking lot about 3 miles up Eighth Street from the North End of Boise. Take the singletrack trail up the gulch, pausing to learn tidbits about geology and nature from the interpretive signs. Eventually, you'll come to a fork on the trail, go right to see the headwaters. Maybe the creek will be running? Turn around and return the way you came.

Exploring granite outcroppings above Hulls Gulch 
2. Dry Creek Trail - Distance: You make the call. Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. Time Travel: You make the call. It's a stout hike to hike on the Dry Creek Trail from the trailhead on Bogus Basin Road to the top of the Boise Ridge, but you really don't have to go that far. Just walk up the creek as far as you'd like, and enjoy the day in the cool, creekside, shady environment. Pack a lunch and enjoy the day! For the hard-cores, it's 6.8 miles to the top of the trail, if you want to do a 15-mile day and power walk it.

3. 5 Mile Creek-Watchman-Three Bears Loop - Distance: 6 miles. Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. Time Travel: 2.5-3 hours. Drive up Rocky Canyon Road from the end of the pavement to the Five Mile Trailhead on the left. The hike starts here. The loop brings you right back to your rig. Pretty cool. Hike up Five Mile Creek several miles to the Orchard Junction, keep going straight along the creek, and the trail turns into Watchman at the top of the steep hill. Follow Watchman as it contours around the mountain, visits another creek, and then descends to the top of the Three Bears grade. Make sure you go left at the junction with Trail #6. Take a breather at the top of the grade, and then it's all downhill to Three Bears junction at the saddle, go left and drop down to Rocky Canyon Road. Go left on the road, and your car is around the corner.

Three Bears Trail heading back to Rocky Canyon Road rounds out the Five Mile-Watchman Loop 
4. Between the Creeks Loop, Owyhee Canyonlands - Distance: 8 miles. Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. Travel time: 5 hours. See my blog post for photos and details of this hike ... it's one of my all-time favorite hikes in the Owyhees, especially because it's relatively close to Boise. Allow 1.5 hours to reach the trailhead, depending on how fast you drive. The scenic hike takes you on an upland tour of West Shoofly Creek and East Shoofly Creek on top of a plateau, hence the name, "Between the Creeks." The rhyolite canyons are craggy and beautiful.

Top of the mountain to the west of Toy Pass
5. Toy Pass, Owyhee Canyonlands - Should be beezy and cool up on Toy Pass this weekend, making for great hiking conditions. Two optional hikes take off from Toy Pass in the Owyhee Front, near Oreana, starting at 5,875 feet. One hike is 5.3 miles exploring the mountain to the east of the pass, and the other is 4.5 miles, exploring the small knob on the west side of the pass. Take I-84 to the Simco Road exit. Turn right on Simco Road and proceed to the state highway. Turn right at the highway and proceed to Grand View. Turn right on ID 78 in Grand View and then take the second left-hand turn to Oreana. Drive through the little town and go past the Basque church, then bear right on the signed Bachman Grade Road. Follow the well-maintained dirt road to the top of Toy Pass (about 13.5 miles). Park at the pass, and decide which mountain you'd like to climb from there. There are some nice car-camping spots on the south side of the pass, heading toward Triangle.
- SS

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Stueby's last-minute camping and river-floating tips for Labor Day weekend

Stay cool! Go boating on the Cabarton reach of the Payette River! 

How about a spin around Redfish Lake? 
Sit on top kayaks are a perfect choice for the weekend ... 
Lick Creek Summit area, Payette National Forest ... near McCall.
Hi all, 

Labor Day weekend is upon us, the typical last weekend of camping in the summer season, so I'm dishing up some last-minute tips for the three-day weekend. 

Before we get into the camping ideas, both Bogus Basin and Brundage Mountain have some fun stuff going on this weekend. 

This Saturday, Sept. 2, marks the final Music on the Mountain at Bogus Basin for the summer. The event, sponsored by 10 Barrel Brewing Co., will feature live music throughout the afternoon in the newly landscaped base area outside of the Simplot Lodge. Fun Zone activities, including summer tubing, bungee trampoline, gem panning, and climbing wall, will operate from 11 am to 7 pm., and so will the Deer Point Chairlift. Single ride tickets are $15 and a full-day pass is $30. Get up there early in the morning, do a hike or a bike ride, and then kick back in the afternoon and enjoy some live music. 

The music lineup is as follows: 
1:00 – 2:45 pm Sono Fuego
3:00 – 4:45 pm Hot Pursuit
5:00 – 7:00 pm Voice of Reason
At Brundage, the Bluebird Chair will be running from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm Thursday through Monday. Lift fees are $15 for one ride, and $35 for a full day. 

On Friday night, Sept. 1st, Brundage is hosting a Dinner and Music event, featuring the Emily Stanton Band, a Soul R&B artist. The event starts at 6 p.m. They're serving a cajun crawfish boil for dinner. The event costs $25 each. 

Now, on to the camping ideas and other Labor Day ideas ... since it's going to be warm in Boise this weekend, with temperatures in the high 90s Saturday and Sunday and maybe 100 degrees on Monday, it would be nice to cool off at higher elevations in the national forest! You might even want to go paddling or boating on a lake or a river!

Cabarton run on the Payette River as it flows below the Rainbow Bridge ID 55
  • Float Cabarton on the Payette River one more time - The flow is 1,500 cfs, which is the typical summertime flow on the North Fork of the Payette River. Get a group of friends together or hire an outfitter and go float Cabarton, the best day trip in SW Idaho. It's got a little whitewater, swimming in the flatwater sections, and great lunch spots along the way. 
  • Float the Boise River, Swirly Canyon on the South Fork Payette, or the Main Payette. There's only a few more days of raftable flows on the South Fork Payette Canyon and Staircase runs, so it'd be good to nail those runs before the flows go away. These are Class 4 runs best done with outfitters or experienced boaters. See my guide, Paddling the Payette for information and waterproof maps. If you run the Main Payette, use caution at Go Left, and scout it from the highway on the way to the put-in. Lots of rafts are flipping in there.

  • Cascade area - Stolle Meadows and Landmark are my favorite camping areas in this neck of the woods. There are tons of primitive car-camping spots in both locations, east of Cascade, off the Warm Lake Highway. Plus, there are hot springs in the vicinity. The main road to Stolle Meadows #474 is closed due to a bridge washout, but you can take the Warm Lake cutoff #427 to the meadows. Once there, you can take the road south up to a trailhead for Rice Lake and Rice Peak. Nice and easy hike up to Rice Peak, and you can explore ridge tops from there ... In the Landmark area, there's a little-known mountain bike loop from the McClure Trail to the Buck Creek Trail ... it's kind of obscure, so not sure how much downfall is on the trail. 
    Lick Creek area in the Payette National Forest 
  • McCall area - Camping, hiking and backpacking in the Lick Creek area NE of McCall should be fabulous. Some of the nice mountain lakes up there include Box, Snowslide, Duck, Hum, Enos and Thirty-three lakes. Pick up a Payette National Forest map or a McCall Adventure Map to get the details for access. Also, check my blog from earlier this summer on five easy-to-access kid-friendly mountain lakes in the McCall area. 
    Stanley Lake 
  • Stanley area - I'm sure the Stanley area will be hopping with lots of campers at Stanley Lake, Redfish Lake, Pettit Lake and points along the Salmon River. Backpacking in the White Clouds should be dandy, particularly from the East Fork side, being a three-day weekend and all. Don't forget the Marsh Creek Trail as another potential destination ... great hiking and fly fishing spot. Hike up to the junction of Bear Valley and Marsh Creeks, and there's a huge glory hole right there. 
    North and Middle Forks of the Boise River ... car-camping mecca 
  • Idaho City area - The North and Middle Forks of the Boise River work great for car camping. See my post from last week.  
  • Salmon River beaches - Should be fab upstream of Riggins. Pick your spot, bring your rafts and kayaks, and your volleyball and bocce ball sets. Get there early! The prime beaches will be taken early. 
If you're staying in town, I'm hearing that some people will be taking in the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic, going on from Thursday through Sunday. There are supposed to be more than 5,000 balloon launches.

Also, Labor Day weekend is chock full of big sales at your favorite outdoor retailers in the Boise area, places like Idaho Mountain Touring, George's CyclesBoise REI, Greenwood's, McU Sports, Alpenglow Mountain SportIdaho River Sports, and Shu's Idaho Running Companyall have some fantastic clothing and gear on sale right now. Great deals! Go get 'em! 
- SS

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Five fall car-camping destinations sure to please in the Boise National Forest

Top of Whitehawk Mountain with Quinn (elevation 8,500 feet) 
Early-morning fog hovered over the tall -grass meadows in Bear Valley ...
We awoke to a chorus of sandhill cranes every morning ... 
Ah, the Middle Fork Salmon River ... Huck wanted to catch fish
Hi all,

Last weekend was quite the scene for the solar eclipse on Monday ... what a thrill to see that from the top of a mountain like so many others did in Idaho ... I took my son Quinn to Bear Valley to see the eclipse on Whitehawk Mountain (elev. 8,450 feet), which was right in the bull's eye for 100% totality.

We went up to Bear Valley on Saturday morning to get a choice car-camping spot near the lookout road in a tall-grass meadow that's full of sandhill cranes. There weren't hardly any people up there on Saturday, and a few more dribbled in on Sunday. Bear Valley is a sweet spot for car-camping that's only about 1.5-2 hours from Boise. The #582 road from Lowman was freshly graded as of last week. At elevation 6,700 feet, Upper Bear Valley is nice and chilly at night, and warm during the day.

Side trips: You can hike, bike or run to the top of Whitehawk Mountain, or drive to other potential trails in the vicinity. Being close to Boundary Creek, we had to scoot over to the Middle Fork Salmon (45 minutes), visit Dagger Falls and fish the Middle Fork. We spent most of Sunday over there, mesmerized by the pristine beauty of the pure water rolling downriver from Boundary Creek. Almost strange to be there, and not be launching on the river!

On Monday, we biked to the top of Whitehawk Mountain (tough, continuous climb, about 4-5 miles, 2,000 feet of gain). Get into a low gear and grind it out! When Quinn was 12, I dragged him to the top of Whitehawk Mountain on his mountain bike, and he toughed out the climb, stopping for breaks, and made it to the summit. I was really proud of him, because it was his first mountain summit on a bike. Now at 19, Quinn is in top shape. He totally dusted me on the climb to the top, which is fine with me! That's the way it should be!

Anyway, for my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending five fall camping spots for you, your friends and family, including Upper Bear Valley. Even though the kids are back in school, there's still 4-6 weeks of fall camping remaining before the weather turns winter-like in October or November. Gather up your camping stuff and get the kids out in the mountains while you can! Remember to dress warm, and hopefully the Stage 1 fire restrictions will be lifted so you can have a camp fire!

2. Dagger Falls Campground - There's only a few camping spots at Dagger Falls, but most people are camping across the way at Boundary Creek, getting ready for Middle Fork trips. When we visited Dagger Falls last Sunday, there was only 1 party camping there. You can see Dagger Falls Rapids from the campground, and the Middle Fork is just a hop, skip away! Side trip: Go hiking on the Middle Fork or fish the nice holes between rapids in the top 1.5 miles of the river. USFS web site.
Getting there: Take Idaho 21 past Banner Summit to Boundary Creek turnoff on the left. Follow signs to Boundary Creek and Dagger Falls.

3. Deadwood Reservoir - The long drive to Deadwood Reservoir -- many miles of dirt road from the Banks to Lowman Road -- deters a fair number of people from visiting Deadwood Reservoir, but it's a super cool place to go where you can camp on the waterfront, go swimming, fishing, and bring your SUPs, kayaks, blow-up toys, whatever! USFS web site.

This Forest Service video gives you a sense of the setting at Deadwood Reservoir



There are multiple official fee campgrounds around the lake to choose from. Side trips: Several hiking and biking trails vector off from the lake on the west side and south side. Getting there: Take Forest Road #555 from the Banks to Lowman Road to the reservoir. Take your time.

4. North Fork Boise River - This is a car-camping mecca along the North Fork, with potential hiking and biking opportunities in the neighborhood. Black Rock Campground is the main developed campground in the area, but there are scores of primitive sites available for self-support car-camping. Barber Flat is a choice spot, and so is Deer Park, farther to the east. Can't go wrong! Side trips: Fishing on the North Fork, try adjacent logging roads for walking or biking. Getting there: Go to Idaho City and take Forest Road #327 over the Rabbit Creek grade into the North Fork canyon.

Nothing like hanging out by the campfire in the fall! 
5. Middle Fork Boise River - This is another car-camping mecca relatively close to home. The Middle Fork is worth visiting because the fishing is markedly better than on the North Fork. There are many car-camping spots to choose from, plus developed campgrounds such as Badger Creek, Troutdale, and Neinmeyer. Side trips: Fishing, hiking on the Sheep Creek Trail or Cottonwood Creek Trail, explore old logging roads that you may encounter.

With Quinn on top of Whitehawk Mountain the first time we went up there together! 
There you have it! It really already feels like fall if you head into the mountains right now. It can get downright chilly at night! That's a nice break from the 90 degree weather in Boise.

If you'r looking for something to do Friday night, Aug. 25? The Land Trust of the Treasure Valley is hosting their annual dinner and fund-raiser in the Dry Creek Valley in Hidden Springs. I support the Land Trust for all of the benefits that they've brought to our community, including the purchase of Harrison Hollow, easements in Dry Creek and Shingle Creek, and access to Stack Rock. They are a worthy organization to support big-time!
- SS