Thursday, April 17, 2014

Primo family hike! Station Creek in Garden Valley; top it with a float on the Payette River

Mule deer like the open south slopes right now ... 
Station Creek Trail - Courtesy Living in Idaho blog 
Grassy open slopes are typical on the way down ... 
GPS tracks of the Station Creek hike ending up at the Alder Creek Bridge 
Hi all,

Antsy to get out of town and stretch your legs? One of my favorite spring hikes in SW Idaho is the Station Creek Trail, a primo family hike in the pine-studded mountains that loom above the South Fork of the Payette River in Garden Valley. You could double-up the activities for the weekend by camping in the Boise National Forest nearby and go boating on Sunday on the South Fork, Middle Fork or Main Payette Rivers.

The weather forecast looks pretty darn fab for a weekend in April ... high in the mid-70s on Saturday, and mid-60s on Sunday. I say go for it!

The Station Creek hike is featured in my book, the Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home. I rate it "moderate" in terms of difficulty. It's a sweet singletrack that climbs 1,300 feet over several miles to the top of the ridge overlooking the broad valley. It's a 4.5-mile hike round-trip. Travel time is 2+ hours. Pack a lunch for the top. 

The trailhead is about 1:15 from Boise on the Banks to Lowman Road. Take ID 55 to Banks, turn right to Garden Valley. Proceed past the town of Garden Valley to the Garden Valley Ranger Station. Station Creek Trail is directly across the road from the station. There's parking there but no rest room. 
Trip map from Boise Trail Guide (click to enlarge)

The trail winds through neatly spaced ponderosa pine trees and climbs at a moderate pace to an initial ridge at mile 2.1. You'll notice a right-hand turnoff on the way up for a short loop. Ignore that one unless you have really young kids and can do only a short hike. At the top of the ridge, you'll see a sign directing you toward the downhill loop toward the Alder Creek Bridge, which crosses the South Fork of the Payette River. Take the left fork to walk a series of ridges back to the highway bridge or circle back toward the trailhead. As my book notes, the downhill trail fizzles out as you leave the top of the ridge, but you can see the valley below the whole way, so you can just enjoy a ridge-walk downhill.

As an alternative, at the top of the ridge (mile 2.1), you can go right and follow the trail to Bald
Mountain for a bigger view. It's worth the extra work to get there. Return to the ridge junction and cruise back to the trailhead or the Alder Creek Bridge.
After the hike, you can hit a local hot springs and/or have a burger in Crouch at the Longhorn Saloon. There are many places to camp in the area, particularly along the Middle Fork Payette Road north of Crouch, or you could stay at a Bed & Breakfast, the Garden Valley Hotel, or rent a private cabin. Check out the Garden Valley Chamber of Commerce web site for more information.

Most whitewater boaters know that the "surf's up" on the Payette River. It's cranking at about 4,400 cfs in Horseshoe Bend, according to the USGS. The South Fork "Staircase" section will be at a great level this weekend, and ditto with the Main Payette and the Middle Fork. It's still a little chilly out there, and the water is very cold, so dress accordingly. Wear life jackets. 
The Middle Fork Payette River 
If you're more of a canoe-type person who favors slower water, I highly recommend the Tie Creek section of the Payette River. It's an 8-mile reach from Tie Creek campground, north of Crouch, to the town of Crouch. The water level is plenty deep right now, and the current will be strong. There are no rapids along the way, just small chop and eddies along the shore. The Middle Fork is best floated in a canoe, inflatable kayak, raft or kayak. It'd be a real sporting run for a strong and experienced SUP'er.

Shuttle a vehicle to Crouch on the way to the launch. 

The thing I like about floating the Middle Fork is that you float by a whole bunch of private cabins along the way ... it's kind of interesting to check out the cabins -- some of them are curious-looking shanti's -- and say hi to the people as you float by.

Boise National Forest officials say all of the campgrounds in the Garden Valley and Middle Fork areas are closed this weekend. Tie Creek and Hot Springs will open on May 2, and more will open up after that, officials said. However, there are lots of places you could set up a self-support camp along the Middle Fork Road or in the Boise National Forest.  

After the hike, you can hit a local hot springs and/or have a burger in Crouch at the Longhorn Saloon. There is lodging in the area if you'd like to stay at a Bed & Breakfast, the Garden Valley Hotel, or rent a private cabin. Check out the Garden Valley Chamber of Commerce web site for more information.

Have fun!
- SS 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring road biking season is here! Bike events, great spring rides to inspire your participation

Riding to Swan Falls, Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area 
Riding on Cartwright Road, a hilly country road in the Boise Foothills 
Boise River Greenbelt
A pack of roadies on Hill Road 
City to Farm ... no traffic! 
Hi all,

The cool and sunny spring weather has been fantastic for doing just about anything outdoors ... and the weekend forecast looks great. It's a perfect time to shake the cobwebs off the road bike and get out and ride!

Let's review the roadie bike events coming up this summer, and then I'll suggest some nice spring roadie rides.

Key events coming up ... 
  • Boise Bike Week - Set for the week of May 13-18, Boise Bike Week already has a bunch of activities scheduled on the calendar. Activities include fun rides, kids rides, women's rides, road rides, mountain bike rides, tips on bike maintenance, ride to work day, etc. Thanks to the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance and Boise Weekly for co-sponsoring this fun-filled annual kickoff to the biking season in our communities.  
  • Bob LeBow Blues Cruise - The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health is teaming up with Terry Reilly Health Services this year to create a bigger and better Bob LeBow Blue Cruise. The ride will be on Saturday, June 28. There will be courses for all abilities and distances, great aid stations and a big lunch to follow the ride. 
  • Four Summit Challenge - Set for July 26, there's plenty of time to train for the popular Four Summit Challenge in Cascade. The main course follows Warm Lake Road over Big Creek Summit to Warm Lake and then up to the top of Landmark Summit to the end of the paved road, before turning around and cycling back to Cascade. This event is getting bigger and better every year. I'm hoping to do it this year. 
  • Ride Idaho - Scheduled for Aug. 2-9, Ride Idaho will tour the Magic Valley area, including scaling the road to Pomerelle Ski Area, touring the scenic Thousand Springs region, lower Wood River Valley, Carey and Declo. Ride Idaho carries your camping gear and you ride 400 miles in a week with 350 riders to tour parts of Idaho that perhaps you've never seen before, at least not from your bike. 
Here are some spring rides to get your legs in shape (all of these are drawn from the Boise Road Cycling Guide by yours truly, the best and only road-biking map available for roadie rides in SW Idaho):
  • Boise River Greenbelt from Municipal Park to Lucky Peak - 9 miles one way, 18 miles out and back. About 1 hour travel time. Surface is flat most of the way, with a few short hills here and there. You may have a tailwind going out, but you'll pay for that on the way back. Wind is always a factor. 
  • City to Farm Loop - 16.2 miles; ride time is about 1 hour. Fun tour of the transition zone between the city of Boise and rural agricultural lands in the outskirts of SW Boise, with many ranchettes along the way. Riding surface is mostly flat. Wind will be a factor. Start at Five Mile and Overland Roads. Go south on Five Mile, right on Lake Hazel, left on Cloverdale, right on Columbia, left on Eagle, right on Hubbard, right on Locust Grove, right on Lake Hazel, left on Five Mile and return to the start. 
  • Country Ride - Feel more ambitious? This one is 35 miles, and 2-plus hours. Start at Cloverdale and Lake Hazel. This one tours the country side in SW Boise and skirts around Kuna before returning to the start. Go south on Cloverdale, right on Poen, right on Swan Falls, left on Kuna Cave, right on Robinson, right on Bennett, straight on King, left on Cloverdale and return to the start. 
  • Cartwright Three Summits Loop - 17.7 miles, 1.5 hours. This is one of my favorite rides cuz it's close to my house. You'll climb and descend 1,591 feet along the way. This one is much more challenging because of the steep hills. Start at the junction of Bogus Basin Road and Hill Road. Climb Bogus Basin to Cartwright, go left and climb Cartwright over the first little hill, and then a second huge wall of a hill, and then ride through the Dry Creek Valley and the Hidden Springs area before climbing over Seaman's Gulch Road to conquer the third summit. Turn left on Hill Road and return to the start. 
  • Hill Road to Eagle or Star - Start at Bogus Basin Road and Hill, or wherever you want to tie into Hill Road, and zip out west to Eagle or Star. It's 40 miles out and back to Star. Wind is a major factor. Ride Hill to Horseshoe Bend Road. Go right, go a mile, then left on Floating Feather. Follow Floating Feather out to Eagle Road, or continue west to Star. Vary your route by going north another mile to Beacon Light. A cool alternative in Eagle: Go north on Eagle Road to the end of the pavement on Willow Creek Road. 
  • Ride to Swan Falls Dam - Start/finish in Kuna. 42 miles, 3+ hours travel time, 1,710 feet of elevation gain/loss. Nice place to ride without much traffic. Take Swan Falls Road south of Kuna (the turn is off of main street in Kuna as you come into town from the west) and go 21 miles to the dam. Besides the hill-climb, the ride features lots of up and down through the giant swells of sagebrush out to the edge of the Snake River canyon. Then you plunge downhill to the dam and grassy picnic area, have your lunch and retrace your tracks back to Kuna. Watch for hawks, eagles and owls. You'll see plenty of ground-squirrels running across the road. 
  • Greenbelt in Municipal Park to Hilltop Summit - 27 miles round-trip. 2.5 hours. 1,214 vertical feet. Take the Greenbelt out to Discovery Park and then jump on Idaho 21 to Hilltop Summit. Wind is always a factor on this ride. But it will work your quads for sure. Nice moderate gradual climb to Hilltop. Watch for deer and elk.     
Be sure to dress in layers and pack a good rain/wind shell. 

Have fun!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Just 15 days before Race to Robie Creek! Here are some training tips from Robie Cr. runners

Not far from the start ... (courtesy Idaho Statesman)
Are these guys going the wrong way? 
Near Aldape Summit 
Gotta love the encouraging signs along the way 
Near the finish
Course map, from Boise Trail Guide  (click to enlarge)
Hi all,

There's just a little over 2 weeks to go before the 37th annual Race to Robie Creek on Saturday, April 19. Have you been training? Are you ready?

I'm certainly no expert on long-distance running, so I asked a variety of veteran runners who have raced Robie Creek many times for their tips on training and race-day advice. Hope this helps with your training workouts for the "toughest half-marathon in the West!" I've been seeing a ton of people walking, running and biking on Rocky Canyon Road, getting ready for the big event. This year's race theme is "Killer Queen Robie."

BTW: Rocky Canyon Road is clear of snow all the way to Aldape Summit. There's some snow on the road on the other side of the pass, but I bet that will melt soon if it dries out and warms up.

These tips come from Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home and recent interviews with people in the know:

Mike Carlson, former head coach, Boise Run/Walk
1. The 13.1-mile course climbs 2,100 feet over the first 8.6 miles to Aldape Summit and descends 1,700 feet over the remaining 4.5 miles.
2. Watch where you put your feet: You might find snow, ruts and/or mud spots on Aldape Summit on race day, especially during the first mile of descent.
3. The best way to prepare for any event is to simulate in training what you’ll be doing on race day. So if you’re training for Robie Creek that means you must train on hills. And what better hills to train on than those on the race course!
4. Run long in the hills once a week if you’re accustomed to running hills, or once every other week if you aren’t.
5. Practice good up and downhill running form. Run vertically (no forward lean) uphill and run perpendicularly to the grade on the downhill (slight full-body lean). Take three steps per second to maximize
efficiency and minimize the pounding.
6. Strengthen your inner core, leg muscles and tendons to improve your balance.
7. In April, the weather can vary greatly, but it’s typically fairly warm and often humid. Train in warm conditions—indoors or during the warmest part of the day—to prepare.
8. Good shoes and insoles will serve you well on the descent from Aldape Summit. Make sure your shoes and insoles aren’t worn out, but are broken in.

Andrija Barker-McCurry, formerly of Bandanna Running and Walking
1. Don’t ignore the downhills. Everyone trains for the climb but it seems no one trains for the downhill aspect of Robie Creek. The uphill works your engine, but it is the downhill that beats up your body.
2. Don’t get too technical, thinking you should only train on the course or similar terrain. Boost your maximum oxygen uptake by throwing in interval work. Example: Run 200 meter repeats on your local track. 200 meters moderate to hard followed by 200 meters walk or jog recovery. Also, hill repeats. Run uphill hard for 30-60 seconds, turn around and jog down.
3. Remember nutrition. It is not what you eat the night before, or even the morning of – the weeks leading up to the race are the ones that count.
4. Recognize that Robie is not your local nine o’clock 5k. It is vital to eat enough the morning of to correctly fuel your effort. My favorite is a hearty bowl of oatmeal, a banana, a small glass of juice and a piece of toast. Eat three hours before the race and then have a small snack or a GU 15-20 minutes before race time.
5. Nutrition during the race can be confusing. Glycogen depletion usually begins to take affect when you run over ninety minutes. So, plan on taking a GU or the like and a small amount of liquid if you are running over 90 minutes. If you’re out there over two hours, plan on at least two GU’s plus liquid.

Erv Olen, 65, who ran the Race to Robie Creek 22 times (My friend Erv died of cancer in 2008, very sad deal)
1. Start training at least four months before the race (January 1st).
2. Run hills one day every other week. Start with 6 miles (3 up, 3 down), and work up to 12+ miles. I suggest running on the Robie Creek course.
3. Gradually increase weekly long runs to 16 miles.
4. Include weekly speed work. Alternate the following workouts: Start with 4 each 400 meters on a track at 5K pace with 200 meter slow jog in between. Build up to 6 each 1/2 mile intervals at 5K pace. Do hill sprints about 300 meters each. Start with 4 and work up to 8. Let heart rate get down to 100 beats per minute before repeating.
5. Every other week, do tempo runs. Start with 3-4 miles, work up to 6-8 miles. Run pace should be 15 seconds per mile slower than 10K pace.
6. Stretch well before and after workouts. Do easy runs in between hard days. It helps to do weight work 2 or 3 days a week. One rest day a week is a good thing.

Marguerite Lawrence, a frequent Race to Robie Creek participant
1. When training on Rocky Canyon Road, I recommend for the longer runs (8-10 miles), running a shuttle part way up the hill so you don’t have to run all the downhill on your way back.
2. For safety reasons, I don’t recommend running solo on weekdays in Rocky Canyon; however, on weekends in March and April, there are many other runners out there.
3. I run the summit two weeks before the race.

Mike "Shu" Shuman, owner of Shu's Idaho Running Company.
Race-day tips:
Shu in action 
1.  Carry your own water. Yes, there are water stops, but if you have trained carrying water it certainly will not hinder you. There have been many times while running Robie that I have wanted a drink or needed to Gu and not been anywhere near a water stop. Remember, when running Robie Creek you are pitting yourself against the mountain and she isn't forgiving. Therefore, you need to be as prepared as possible, so Carry Water!
2.  Take off your rings before leaving home. One of the most common things I hear from people that are in the "pack" is that their hands swell.  Mine always do. So, get rid of the jewelry!  If your hands do start to swell keep them above your head for awhile.  If you are a walker this seems to happen more often so
remember to keep your arms bent and in a pumping position instead of letting them hang at your sides so your blood doesn't pool in your hands.
3.  Wear gloves. The temperatures on Robie can go from one extreme to the other. Regulating your temp by putting gloves on or taking them off is a very easy thing to do.  I have had to put them on and off several times in the same race!
4.  If you get to the point to where you feel like you can't take another step running or walking (and you will get to that point) turn around and walk backward for a little while. It really helps because you are using different muscles and you give others a little time to rest. Another benefit to doing this is people will ask you what in the world you are doing.  Then you can tell them. Just by taking your mind off how you feel and talking to someone helps because you aren't so focused on your pain. This is a physical and mental break!
5. Be Rocky!!!  As you head up Shaw Mountain Rd. at about the 5th turn there is a family that always plays
the Rocky theme. Enjoy it while you are still fresh enough to do so! Laugh, dance and have fun.
6.  One of the best tips I would give to anyone about running Robie Creek is Don't Be Shy!!! Talk to the
other people around you. Just think, those people near you have covered the same distance you have in
about the same amount of time you have so they are probably feeling about the same way you are. Start a
conversation. Ask how they trained for the event. Share about how you trained. Conversation helps the
time go by faster and make the running easier because you aren't thinking about it.  Besides, you might just
learn something from that person and they could be a potential running partner some day.
7.  Send a change of clothes up in the Toad Mobile. The finish line and party are very crowded and it is
difficult to find people at times.  You want to change when you get there, not look for the person that has
your clothes. Put in clothes for warm and cold weather. You never know what it will be like at the
park.  Pack extra shoe and socks and a pair of sandels can feel great too. Be sure to mark you bag in a way
that will make it easy for you to find it.  ALL BLACK BAGS LOOK ALIKE!  Put bows on it or something!
8.  Enjoy yourself!  The memories of the pain does fade. Guess what? You'll get hooked and wonder what
you are doing back there next year!

What did we forget? Do you have other tips or suggestions? Please provide in the comments, section.

Have a great Race to Robie Creek!
- SS

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bounce back into winter mode, search for the best *pow*; Look for great stay-and-ski deals

Fresh turns in nice powder puts a smile on your face! (Courtesy Brundage Mountain) 
Skier shreds 7 inches of new at Brundage today. (Courtesy Brundage Mountain)
Hi all, 

I've been having a great time playing in the Boise Foothills lately, but with the cool and wet weather happening now and through the weekend, you might as well bounce back into winter-mode and go skiing this weekend. Are your skis waxed for speed? 

The weather forecast looks really promising for powder hounds at Brundage Mountain, Tamarack ResortBogus Basin and the West-Central Mountains, in particular. There isn't as much snow forecast for Sun Valley and Stanley, but there are some great lodging deals cooking in Sun Valley. More about that in a moment. 

Holy Powder Handstands, it is bombing snow in McCall! Brundage received 7 inches of new today, and it's nice, light snow with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees F. Damn! Shoulda been there today! They could get 8-14 inches Friday, 4-8 inches Saturday and 2-4 inches on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. All told, that could be 14-26 inches over the weekend! The great snow god Ullr is looking kindly upon Brundage. Wow! 

Bogus got 5 inches of new today (Thursday), and it could get another 10-20 inches of snow by Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service. I also see "rain/snow" mix at times on Friday and Saturday, so I hope you can avoid that. But there should be a steady dose of new storms rolling in and dumping snow Friday and Saturday. Watch the weather, Bogus' web cams and catch the best powder window that you can. 

Tamarack Resort also is going to get dumped on, with 10-21 inches forecast through Sunday. 

The forecast for Sun Valley calls for 3-6 inches of new snow through Sunday. But if you don't like skiing in a lot of powder, then Sun Valley might be the right call. It's a huge mountain with tons of great slopes, finely manicured groomers and plenty of challenge in the Baldy Bowls and bump runs like Holiday, Exhibition and Limelight. 

Best of all, you can save a ton of money on lift tickets by doing a combo stay-and-play package. Right now, you can stay overnight and ski a day at Baldy for $65/night, and kids 15 and under ski free! Contact VisitSunValley to book a room. 

McCall has some excellent lodging deals going on as well. Visit the McCall Chamber of Commerce's stay-and-play lodging page, and you'll see some package deals with lift tickets to Tamarack and Brundage ranging from $63.50/night to $90 a night and more. 
Sagebrush and bitterbrush planting efforts improve habitat
 for mule deer, song birds and other wildlife. 
Closer to home, there are a couple of volunteer opportunities going on this weekend. Mary Dudley of Idaho Fish and Game could use more volunteers for planting sagebrush and bitterbrush in the Pony fire complex area north of Mountain Home on Saturday. People are meeting at the Nature Center at IDFG on Walnut Street at 8 a.m. Dress warm for foul weather, bring a lunch and water. Call Mary to RSVP if you'd like to go, 208-327-7099. There's another planting day planned April 5th, if you'd rather not plant in rainy weather. 

On Friday afternoon, Mike Pellant from the Healthy Hills Initiative in Eagle needs 10-15 more volunteers to plant forbs at the Eagle Sports complex near Floating Feather and old Horseshoe Bend Road from 3-7 p.m. They have 1,300 forbs to plant in a native plant education area. Call Mike for more information or to let him know you'd like to help, 208-867-1571.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring has sprung in the Owyhees! Exploring Sage Creek a good bet for the weekend

Our kids mess around in the rocks above the draw ... 
Hiking into Sage Creek from the trailhead.
One of many caves you'll see in there.
Balanced-rock features are everywhere in the middle of the canyon.
Hi all,

The slighter warmer, spring-like weather has been excellent for hiking, running and biking in the Boise Foothills. People are loving it, and they're out there in big numbers! And for good reason, spring is a perfect time to get out hiking, biking and running! March-June also is the perfect window of opportunity to explore the Owyhee Canyonlands before it gets blazing hot in July and the rattlesnakes emerge.

This week, I'd like to feature a couple of cool hikes in the Owyhees in the Sage Creek area, near Succor Creek State Park. Sage Creek is featured in our new guidebook, the Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide. It's a low-elevation destination, with tons of unusual and colorful volcanic rock and ash formations, and it's a kid-friendly and family friendly hike.

This is what I said in the book: "Sage Creek is a hidden jewel chock full of spectacular volcanic rock and ash formations in the creek-bottom and on the mountainsides as you hike along the creek ... One of the key highlights in Sage Creek is that you'll encounter multiple balanced rock features, some of them obvious phallic-type symbols, as well as spires, cliffs, fins and caves."
My son, Drew, loved the hike. 
Our guide features a 2.5-mile exploration out-and-back hike, cruising up the bottom of Sage Creek (rated easy for all abilities), and a 6-mile hike up to the top of McIntyre Ridge from Sage Creek (rated moderate to strenuous), with nearly 2,000 feet of climbing. Both of them are great!

How to get thereTake I-84 to the ID 55 exit in Nampa, heading west toward Marsing. Go west on ID 55 and  and Turn right on Chicken Dinner Road, then left on Homedale Road, and go to Homedale. Follow State Highway 19 west of Homedale, and then Highway 201 in Oregon, to a signed turnoff for Succor Creek State Park on the left. Head south on the dirt road. It's 12.1 miles to the unsigned right-hand turnoff  for the Sage Creek Trailhead. There is a lone scrubby cottonwood tree at the turnoff. Follow the primitive two-track road over several creek-crossings to the trailhead .9 miles from the Succor Creek Road.   
Nice rhyolite cliffs with Wendy in the foreground. 
Road access challenge: 4WD high-clearance vehicle is required to reach the trailhead; multiple creek crossings are involved. It's possible, however, to take a 2WD vehicle to the Sage Creek road junction, and hike from there. Add .9 miles to the trip if you start from Succor Creek Road. 

Hike #1 - 2.5-miles out and back
Cruise up the creek-bottom of Sage Creek, picking your way up the draw as you like. Hike at least a mile upstream to see the balanced rock features on the mountainsides above the draw as well as many other interesting rock formations. The volcanic ash flows in the area have turned different shades of white, orange and green over time. These formations are very erosive ... you can scratch the ash with your fingernails. Wear shoes that can get wet ... I doubt there's much water in the creek-bottom, but you will encounter some pools along the way.   
Hiking down-canyon back to the trailhead.
Hike #2 - 6-mile loop
From the end of the road, hike up-canyon and cross the creek to the left side. At mile .2, climb up the left-hand draw. It's a super-cool hike through many rock formations as you ascend the draw. It's about 2 miles to the top of the saddle near McIntyre Ridge. Climb to the top of McIntyre Ridge if you'd like. This area overlooks Succor Creek State Park to the east and Three Fingers Rock and many other features to the west. On the way down, descend the ridge to the left of the draw you climbed up, and enjoy a cool hike down into the draw. You'll pass by the "official" balanced rock on your way into the draw. Turn right at the bottom of the draw, and hike back to the trailhead.

Family pic in Sage Creek. November 2012. Kind of rare to get our 4 kids together for a family hike!
L-R, Drew, Tom with our pointer Huck, Wendy, Elena, Quinn, Steve 
Camping notes: You could camp in the bottom of Sage Creek. Quiet spot. Self-support camping. You also could camp at Succor Creek State Park, which has a public rest room, very close by, but that will be much more crowded. If you'd like to explore some other areas, Succor Creek Road connects to Leslie Gulch, Three Fingers Rock and many other areas worth checking out in our guidebook. 

If you're looking for ideas about what to do over Spring Break next week, check out my blog from last year with many ideas for recreation and camping close to home

Have fun! 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Boise Foothills trails dry up fast, ready for hiking, biking, trail-running; Have fun!

Let the spring riding season begin! Bucktail Trail in Military Reserve 
Happy Puppy on Military Reserve Connector! 
Hi all,

Wow, living on the edge of the desert, it's amazing how quickly the Boise Foothills trails can dry out when we get a combination of wind and sun after all the moisture we had in February.

I checked the Ridge to Rivers web site and trail blog yesterday, and they gave the green light to go enjoy the trails. I went for a quick ride from Camelsback Park, up Owls Roost to Kestrel, up Crestline to Sidewinder Summit, and I was amazed how the trails had dried out so quickly! Like in a matter of a couple days since Monday's soaking rain and hail.

This is exciting to me as I love to get a quick workout in the foothills whenever possible. I'm sure many of you feel the same way. There were tons of people hiking, dog-walking, running and biking in the foothills yesterday evening.

So for this week's tip, I'd recommend getting out on the foothills trails to enjoy a nice hike, dog-walk, bike ride or trail-run. I'll provide a list of recommended loops, starting with some easy kid-friendly routes and building to more challenging ones.

Before you go, pay heed to these words of advice from R2R:

  • Walk, run or ride through the isolated puddles out there if they cover the whole width of the trail. If you go around on the edges, you end up widening the trail. 
  • Be sure to yield to uphill traffic of all kinds. Mountain bikers need to come to a stop when encountering uphill traffic, move off to the side of the trail, see hello, and let people pass. 
  • Be aware that you may encounter some trail sections that suffered significant damage from heavy runoff 3-4 weeks ago. You will see evidence of this on Corrals, Bob's, Central Ridge in Military Reserve and on the Five Mile Creek trail. R2R crews are out there working on repairing these sections or installing water dips or water bars. They are working on Bob's at the present time, and then will move to Central Ridge, Corrals and Five Mile, in that order. 
Now, for the recommended loops. All of these are featured in detail in my books, Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hikes and Running Routes Close to Home, and Mountain Biking in Boise
  • Red Fox-Owls Roost Loop - Rated easy. 2.3 miles total distance. About one-hour travel time on foot. 30-minutes or less for runners and bikers. Great for young kids! Start at Camelsback Park, pick up the trailhead east of the tennis courts. Go up Red Fox and return on Owls Roost or vice-versa. You will need to cross 8th Street by the Foothills Learning Center to complete the loop. Be sure to have your dogs leashed on the sections of trail that require it, and pick up after your pet. 
  • Try the Polecat Finger Ridge Loops - Rated easy to moderate. Long loop is 5 miles; Doe Point out and back is 2.5 miles. 1 hour riding time on a bike; 1-2 hours hiking time. Take Cartwright Road west from Bogus Basin Road over two summits and then watch for the Polecat parking area on the left. This is the main trailhead, but a new one will be built off of N. Collister in the near future. Proceed up the trail to the first junction on right, and follow that to do the Polecat Loop. Go straight if you want to take the shorter route to the top of Doe Point.   
  • Climb Table Rock from the Bishop's House by the Old Pen. Rated strenuous for hikers and runners; Advanced intermediate ride for mountain bikers. Pick up Trail #15 at the trailhead and climb to the top of Table Rock. It's less than 2 miles to the top, but the climb gets progressively steeper as you approach the summit. It's a super-steep granny gear climb on a bike for the last half mile. Once on top, look for Trail #16 on the backside of Table Rock and take that around the quiet side of the bluff back to Trail #15 and return to the trailhead. 
  • Kestrel-Red Cliffs Loop - Rated moderate. Distance is 5 miles if you start from Camelsback Park. Hikers can shorten the route by parking at the Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center on 8th Street. 600-feet of elevation gain. For this one, you can do the loop clockwise or counter-clockwise. To do it the easy way, take Owls Roost or Red Fox to the Foothills Learning Center. Pick up Kestrel Trail, climb Kestrel to Crestline, go left on Crestline and go less than a mile to a left-hand turnoff for Red Cliffs. Follow Red Cliffs on a fun curvy descent back to the Foothills Learning Center. It's a little stepper if you start on Red Cliffs and come back on Kestrel.    
  • Cross-Foothills Loop - This one is best for trail-runners and mountain biking. Distance is about 10 miles. Riding time is less than 2 hours. Running time would be similar, depending on how fast you run. Start by climbing Bogus Basin Road to the Corrals Trailhead 1.2 miles from the stop sign at Highlands School and Curling Drive. Take Corrals to Corrals Summit, descend over to 8th Street, cross the road, and drop into Hulls Gulch. At the Hulls-Crestline junction at the creek, cross the creek and take Crestline almost to the trailhead, and turn left on Military Reserve Connector trail, climb to Central Ridge and descend to the Toll Road trailhead. 
  • Rocky Canyon - Five Mile -Watchman Loop - This ride is still one of my all-time favorites in the Boise Foothills. It's a great workout; the scenery is fantastic on Watchman and Curlew Ridge, and it's a great length for my pointer, Huck. Distance is 10.2 miles from the end of the pavement on Rocky Canyon Road. Travel time is 1.5-3 hours, depending on how fast you ride. Vertical gain is 1,906 feet. Climb Rocky Canyon less than 3 miles to Five Mile Creek Trailhead on the left. Climb Five Mile Creek past the Orchard Gulch junction and you'll come to the Watchman Trail. Most of the climbing is over now, and you can enjoy a really fun ride from here. Follow Watchman to the junction with Trail #6, go left to follow Three Bears Trail on Curlew Ridge to Shane's Summit. Go left and drop out on Rocky Canyon Road, and return to the trailhead at the end of the pavement. 

Jump Creek Road closed temporarily. BTW, I saw that the BLM is doing some construction work on the access road to Jump Creek canyon, near Marsing. This is a popular spring destination, but the road will be closed for repairs from March 24 - May 19, according to an article in today's Idaho Statesman

Steve talks about his outdoor tips every week with Ken and Misty on 94.9 FM The River on Friday at approximately 7:30 a.m. More information about hiking, running, biking and paddling in SW Idaho can be found on Steve's website at

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Whale-watching, sea kayaking trip in Mexico makes for a great winter or spring vacation

Now this is living! Sea kayaking on Isla del Carmen. We snorkeled here, too. 
Danielle Rodier of New York City took some great photos and video on our trip. 
Light winds made for easy going paddling between the islands. We were lucky! 
Wendy counted more than 61 bird species on our trip, including a peregrine falcon on the last day.  

We saw lots of tropical fish ... never saw a sea turtle, tho ... 
Hi all,
Wendy and I have been overdue for a vacation, so at the Idaho Rivers United fund-raiser/auction in December, we bought a 10-day whale-watching, sea kayaking trip from ROW Adventures and booked it for late February. It turned out to be a home-run vacation for sure. We highly recommend it! 

ROW Adventures is based in Coeur d'Alene. They do Idaho raft trips and all kinds of cool stuff all over the world. Wendy and I know the owner, Peter Grubb. We like their style of trip, focusing on adventure, comfort, a strong component of education and interpretation, and most of all, fun! 

The trip was based out of Loreto on the east coast of the Baja California Sur peninsula. Loreto is just a two-hour flight directly south from LAX. It's located on the coast of the Sea of Cortez, known as the "World's Aquarium," and it's a two-hour drive from Magdalena Bay, where we did the whale-watching adventure with gray whales. 
Sea of Cortez is on the right side of the map; Pacific Coast and Magdalena Bay on the left ... 
The weather was fab - 85 degrees almost every day, and during our sea kayak adventure, the winds were light and calm, making for easy-going paddling in the gorgeous Sea of Cortez. 

Our trip started with whale-watching. ROW Adventures put us up at the Mission Hotel in Loreto (very nice digs), and then a van picked up our group of eight people for the two-hour ride over the mountains to Magdalena Bay. We brought packs with our clothes for the next three days, and ROW provided all of the camping equipment, food and guides. 

At the bay, we grabbed some life jackets from an outfitter and jumped into a 20-foot white fiberglass boat with padded seats. A local man guided the boat and knew how to get close to the gray whales. At this time of year, the female gray whales have had their babies, and they're hanging out in the bay, allowing the calves to grow and learn the ropes before swimming to the Gulf of Alaska for the summer. The whales are very social ... we had no idea we'd be able to touch them, scratch their bellies and get so close! It was a hoot! 

Over three days, we had multiple two-hour whale-watching sessions. On the second day, we had our best session with multiple female gray whales sidling up to our boat with their youngsters, coming up for pets, and smiling at us, showing us their big tails and the whole deal. It was such a treat! 

The base camp for the whale-watching trip was located on a sandy spit of land between the bay and the Pacific Ocean. It was an easy hike over to the ocean to look at desert plants and hike the sandy dunes next to the sea. Plus you could walk along the ocean and check out the sea shells and enjoy the soothing feeling of the salt water sifting through your toes. Each spacious tent had two cots in it, and single people could request their own tents, if they wanted them. 

On Day 3, we left the whale-watching camp, drove back to Loreto, and stayed at the Mission for a night before the sea kayaking adventure started the next day. I woke up that day with a big knot in my stomach from god knows what. "Montezuma's Revenge" kicked in, and I had a bad case of diarrhea that left me weak, dehydrated and unable to attend our farewell lunch. I went to the medical clinic in Loreto, got some drugs, and slept it off. If I was going to get sick, at least it hit me at a time when I was close to civilization. 

The next day, I needed to sleep and recover. That illness hit me like a ton of bricks. Couldn't eat anything for 1.5 days, but I felt better that evening and started to gain some strength. ROW Adventures has a motor boat that accompanies the sea kayak trip, so they were able to come get me on the morning of Day 2, so Wendy and I could rejoin the trip. 

On the extra day in Loreto, Wendy went out to see blue whales, sea lions and dolphins with a group she ran across at the harbor. She got some killer video of about 200 dolphins leaping about on the boat wakes, close ups of sea lions and blue whales. It was an awesome day for her in the Sea of Cortez. Fortunately, she got some video so I could enjoy it, too!

Our sea-kayaking trip was just as wonderful, if not more because we got to explore the islands in the Sea of Cortez, go snorkeling every day, and enjoy beautiful weather. We visited two islands as part of our journey. The secret coves and caves we visited along the way were very cool. The water is turquoise and gin-clear, so it's like you're paddling with a glass-bottomed boat. Most of us paddled two-person kayaks, which handled very easily, and with smooth fiberglass bottoms, they were sleek and fast. Our support guide went ahead of us during the day in the motor boat, set up lunch at our lunch stops, and set up tents and the kitchen area before we arrived. Very cool. 
We did some neat side hikes from lunch or camp. 
Tarantula seen on one of our side hikes.
See the sea shell fossil in the rocks? 
We saw some blue whales as part of that journey, and we also saw dolphins multiple times along the way. Now I know why they call the Sea of Cortez "the World's Aquarium." What a treat to visit that wonderful place. 

For more information, see ROW Adventures web site on the sea kayak trips. You can add on the whale-watching adventure too.