Thursday, January 12, 2017

Finally, clear cerulean blue sky! Make your own outdoor adventure in the snow!

Powder alert! Soldier Mountain will be reopening Friday after being closed all week!
They couldn't open today (Thursday) because they had too much snow!  
Brundage is hosting a Beer and Gear Festival on Saturday and Sunday
Make your own adventure in the snow ... this is a group of guys skiing
from Deer Point to the city of Boise last week ... 
Huck having fun on Crestline Trail recently 
XC trails at Jug Mountain Ranch ... conditions should be perfect this weekend! 
Hi all,

It's been quite the winter so far, eh? We've got great snow in the mountains, providing plenty of thrills for the powder hounds. And we've got consistent snowpack in the Boise Valley, allowing people to make their own adventure close to home, whether it's sledding, snowshoeing, boot hiking, running, snow biking or cross-country skiing.

I wasn't able to talk about it on the radio last week, but some of you might have seen last week's post about three buddies and I making a big backcountry ski trek from the top of Deer Point lift at Bogus Basin to the city of Boise, ending up at the bottom of the Corrals Trailhead. That adventure would still be doable, but given how the snow in the lower foothills has become encrusted by rain this week, it would be quite the bobsled run down icy trails!

For my outdoor tip this week, I'm making a mixture of recommendations for you to enjoy the snow at a time when the weather has finally cleared after a seemingly nonstop onslaught of precipitation in the last week. It's beautiful to see the cerulean blue sky gleaming in the sunshine once again! Be sure to bundle up and dress in layers ... it's going to be fairly cold this weekend:

  • Here's a powder secret: Soldier Mountain is opening on Friday after being closed all week. They couldn't open today (Thursday) because they had TOO MUCH SNOW! Their lifts and buildings were buried in snow! Soldier will be open through Monday for the MLK holiday. 
  • Brundage Mountain is hosting the Beer and Gear Festival on Saturday and Sunday so skiers can demo new equipment and sample local hand-crafted beers from Salmon River Brewery, Payette Brewing Co., Mad Swede, Mother Earth Brewing and County Line Brewing. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 11-4 on Sunday.  
  • Are you interested in learning how to cross-country ski? Bogus Basin is hosting a lesson series called the Nordic Passport program that offers four lessons -- two class lessons and two skate-ski lessons -- and rental equipment for a package price of $150. The cool bonus about this program is after you complete your lessons, you get a free Nordic season pass for the rest of the season at Bogus Basin. 
  • Go snowshoeing, boot hiking, running, snow biking or cross-country skiing on Boise Foothills trails. After everything froze hard following the rain, however, I have found that boot hiking with solid boots or snowshoeing are more manageable than xc skiing or snow biking. The trails were very soft with 5-6 inches of slush before they froze solid, so the tread on the trails is pretty rough. 
  • Go backcountry skiing or snowshoeing at Mores Creek Summit. The skiing in the upper elevations of Pilot Peak and Sunset Mountain should be fabulous! You just have to climb for your runs! Come prepared with avalanche safety gear and check the local avalanche forecast for the latest conditions. 
  • Go boot hiking or snow biking along the Boise River Greenbelt. The Greenbelt is plowed on a regular basis so it's very passable right now ... however, it can be quite icy in places, so be careful out there!  
  • Go cross-country skiing or fat biking in McCall area. Winter conditions are fabulous in the McCall area and at Jug Mountain Ranch right now. See conditions on McCall Nordic. The warmer temperatures and rain never lasted long in Valley County, so the snow quality is still excellent on the xc ski trails at Bear Basin, Ponderosa State Park and Jug Mountain Ranch. At Jug, you can fat bike all of the xc ski trails. Great fun! 
Have fun out there!
-SS

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Plenty of snow makes adventure ski tour possible from Bogus Basin to Boise, plus free xc ski day in Idaho

L-R, Mark Utting, Roberto Negron, Mark Anderson and Steve at the conclusion of our big ski tour
from the top of Deer Point to the Corrals Trailhead in the lower Boise Foothills. 
Hi all,

Well, this has been quite the winter so far! We've got more snow on the ground in Boise -- approximately 15 inches or more, depending on where you live -- than any time since records were first kept in 1940, according to the National Weather Service.



My friend and backcountry skiing pal Mark Anderson decided to ski from Bogus Basin to the city of Boise last week in much less snow, and he made it. When he mentioned the idea to me on Monday, I thought, I've always wanted to do that! But in 30 years of living in Boise, it seems the conditions have never been quite right. It rarely stays cold enough in Boise for the snow to stay around that long in the lower Boise Foothills, but this year, it's at least 15-20 inches deep! So I started calling backcountry skiing friends and earmarked Wednesday (yesterday) to do the big tour.

Mark, a computer science lecturer at Boise State University, was able to go with us along with friends Roberto Negron and Mark Utting. We rode the Deer Point ski lift to the top of Deer Point (elevation 7,100 feet), and started the long trek through lots of light, fresh powder snow to Boise.

Our route would take us "down" the Boise Ridge Road to Hard Guy trail, and then down Hard Guy to the Corrals Trailhead. We parked a rig at the bottom of Bob's Trail, hoping we'd have time to ski down the Highlands Trail to finish up the tour, but as things turned out, we made it to Corrals Trailhead at 5:45 p.m., and it was close to getting dark. So we asked our friendly shuttle driver, Molly Negron, to pick us up.

It took us 4.5 hours to make the trek because of all the new snow. Travel distance was about 11.5 miles, but it felt much longer than that. Vertical drop was 4,500 feet. It took us 2.5 hours just to travel along the Boise Ridge Road to Hard Guy trailhead. Three of us used backcountry skis and climbing skins. Mark Utting had a pair of lightweight backcountry skis with fish scales and metal edges, and that worked just fine for him.

Taking off at the gate at the top of Deer Point at Bogus Basin 
The Boise Ridge Road has so many ups and downs that I left my skins on for most of that segment of the trip. There were a couple of downhill pitches where we de-skinned. On the way down Hard Guy, we had to pole or walk in between the steep downhills because of all the new snow. It would go much faster after the trail is packed down by a number of skiers.

But still, the novelty of the whole trip made it totally worthwhile. All of us had scaled the Boise Foothills on our mountain bikes many times, riding up Hard Guy or Corrals-Scotts-8th Street, and it's always a thrill to zoom down Hard Guy or Dry Creek from the ridge road. It usually only takes me about 20 minutes to descend Hard Guy on my bike. Yesterday, it took us almost 2 hours to ski down the trail.

Making our way down Hard Guy ... 
In the steeper sections, we were able to make turns in the soft fluffy snow in the trail corridor, and then poled, pushed and walked to the next hill. We had to put on our skins at the Crane Creek crossing to climb up to Corrals, and we were home free from there, but still had to pole and push with all the new snow.

Roberto's wife, Molly, was our hero yesterday, driving us up to Bogus in snowy road conditions to drop us off, and then picking us up at the end of the day. Thanks Molly!

If you decide you'd like to do the tour, make sure you go with someone who knows the Boise Ridge Road route ... it's a major dirt road in the summer, but right now, it can be hard to follow. After it stops snowing for a few days, it will have more snowmobile or skier tracks on it. We found that it was pretty easy to follow the Hard Guy trail corridor because we know the trail so well from mountain biking on it.
--------------------------------------
Free cross-country ski day at Idaho State Parks 

On Saturday, Jan. 7th, Idaho State Parks will offer free trail fees, plus demo equipment and hot chocolate at Lake Cascade State Park in Cascade and at Ponderosa State Park. IDPR officials also will lead a snowshoe trip up to the Stargaze yurt on Saturday, starting at 9 p.m. You must provide your own snowshoes and ski poles.

See the IDPR web site for details about free xc ski day. This is a great time for folks to get acquainted with the sport of cross-country skiing and snowshing. Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman wrote a nice article in the last week about what it's like to learn how to xc ski at Bogus Basin.

Have fun out there!
- SS

Thursday, December 22, 2016

10 bomb-proof ideas - Christmas gifts for the outdoorsy him and her

Hi Ho Hi Ho -

Christmas is coming in a few days, so it's time for my annual last-minute Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her. I'm calling this a list of 10 "bomb-proof" ideas because you can't go wrong with these gift ideas! They're proven to please!

We've got a true white Christmas this year not only in Boise but especially in the mountains all around us, so your friends and family will need to be properly outfitted for cold weather and playing in the snow!

Remember to support your local family-owned outdoor shops, too! All of these items can be purchased locally.

Here we go:

  1. Snowshoes - It takes a lot of time and money to master the art of skiing or snowboarding, but just about anyone who can walk can strap on a pair of snowshoes and do great! It helps to bring a pair of ski poles for balance. There are many different brands available. Price range: $50-$150 for snowshoe-pole combo sets.  
2. Ski gloves - It's nice to have several pairs that work for various tasks such as driving, xc skiing or snowshoeing (thinner weight), and alpine skiing (warmer). Another reason to have several pairs is because we all tend to lose gloves and mittens. Just part of life. I have found some of my favorite gloves for xc skiing and lightweight use in the work glove section of the hardware store.
3. Winter hats - Can't go wrong in this department, but it's always nice to find a winter hat that has personality! Similar with gloves, it's nice to have different winter hats for situations when it's relatively warm or you're working up a sweat (thinner weight), and when you need a bomber warm hat that keeps you warm in single digits or sub-zero weather. Remember that wool ultimately rocks in the warmth department. Another helpful item is a facemask for the really cold days on the mountain. I also love the smart-looking ballcap-style hats they make for women. 
4. Headlamp - For outdoorsy folks, it's about as easy to lose a headlamp as it is to lose a pair of socks. Especially if you're a family of outdoorsy folks ... everyone borrows your headlamp and it never comes back! You can snag a headlamp for $25-$50, and it has great value for your camping trips, night hiking, river trips, backpacking, even for use around the home! My favorite brands include Petzl and Black Diamond. Get a bright one and you'll appreciate it! My latest Black Diamond model runs on 4 AAA batteries and it's really nice and bright. 

5. Lift tickets, tubing tickets - Surprise your friends or loved ones with a free lift ticket or a date to go tubing at Bogus or the Activity Barn in McCall. Lift tickets everywhere are getting more expensive, especially at destination resorts, so it's a much-appreciated gift. Tubing costs $15 at either location ($18 at the Activity Barn on holidays). At Bogus, the tubing hill requires advance reservations so you really have to plan ahead. Smart thing to do at this time of year. 

Wendy at our cozy cabin in McCall. 
6. Rent a cabin or a yurt for a gift - Backcountry yurts are hard to get on winter weekends already, but there are still mid-week dates available. See my latest yurt roundup story in the Statesman for where to go and how to make reservations. You also could rent a cabin in Garden Valley, Cascade, McCall or Sun Valley for a romantic getaway. Check for rentals at vrbo.comAirBnB and InIdaho.com. Wendy and I rent our Cozy Cabin in McCall for weeks and weekends. Best price in town at $110/night! Sleeps 6. More information on my web site and vrbo.com. You also could check on a Forest Service cabin rental through recreation.gov, or a state parks cabin at the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation

7. Capilene tops, long underwear - For any outdoorsy person who's active, getting out and exercising several days a week, you can quickly run short of tops and bottoms after they get pitted out and pitched into the laundry. So it's nice to have a deep supply of different tops especially ... lightweight, midweight, expedition weight, etc. These items typically run $25-$75. REI and Patagonia make gear with lasting value. Take a look at smart wool, too. 

8. Bike light or bike lock - Help your sweetheart get properly geared up for bike commuting. It gets dark so early that bike lights are often needed for a safe and legal ride home after work. You can find a variety of bike lights at a reasonable price. You can find blinking red rear lights for less than $10. The front lights are more expensive. Get a bright one for a better ride and visibility. Bike lights are one item where the cost keeps coming down and the performance keeps getting better. I thought this Electra LED model looked pretty cool ... $29.95 retail. 

9. Hydro Flask - Previously known as a water bottle, the hydro flasks available today can be used for drinking coffee on the go, taking a long a nice hot cup of tea or hot chocolate on an outdoor outing, or actually packing plain old water. Hydro Flask is a brand by itself, but there are many other brands that make quality stainless steel insulated cups and containers. Pricing is in the $10 to $25 range or more. 

Gold Fork with Quinn and Drew
10. Book a trip to the Springs in Idaho City or Gold Fork Hot Springs near Donnelly - The Springs is much more upscale, with massage serves available, pool-side cocktails and food, and even overnight accommodations. Still, it costs only $16 to go soaking at the Springs. Go there after a day or xc skiing or snowshoeing. Advance reservations are required. Gold Fork Hot Springs is open six days a week except Tuesdays, and you can just show up and soak. The road into Gold Fork can be icy so take a good snow-worthy vehicle when you go. It costs $8 for adults and $6 for children to soak at Gold Fork. Always a good time!

*Bonus item: An outdoor guidebook from Stueby! Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home, Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide, Boise Road Cycling Guide, the only road biking map available for the Boise Valley, Paddling the Payette, guide to 24 day trips on the Payette River, are all available on my web site and at most outdoor stores in the valley. My most popular guide, Boise Trail Guide, is discounted just for Christmas at $15.95. Let me know if you want to meet up and get a book signed! 

Hope everyone has a great Christmas and New Years holiday season!
- SS

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Here comes the snow! Yee-haw! Where to go downhill skiing, xc skiing and snowshoeing

Big storm coming our way today and thru the weekend (courtesy NOAA) 
Brundage forecast today and tomorrow Winter Weather Advisory Woo-Hoo! 
Targhee has gotten a ton of snow in the last week ... 
Pomerelle Mountain Resort near Declo is opening on Friday
Anthony Lakes is looking good! They open Friday to season pass holders,
and on Saturday for the general public. 
Hi all,

I was watching the weather on the 10 p.m. news last night, and I heard Scott Dorval with KIVI-TV say that we should get 1-3 feet of snow in Idaho's Central Mountains in the next week! That put a smile on my face, I'll tell you what! It's been a bit of a slow start to the ski season, but now things are catching up! Bring it on!

Here's the latest information as of Thursday, Dec. 8th on ski area openings and conditions:

First, here are the resorts that are open now or plan to open this weekend:
  • Sun Valley is open for top-to-bottom skiing on man-made and natural snow. Tickets are cheaper now than they will be all season. 16-inch base at the top and bottom with snow coming down as we speak. 
  • Pomerelle Mountain Resort near Albion is opening Friday and will continue operations Saturday-Sunday with at least 80 percent of their terrain open for skiing and riding. Reporting a 12-inch base at the bottom and 16 inches at the top, with more snow coming today, tonight and tomorrow. 
  • Anthony Lakes near Baker, OR, is opening Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for season pass holders and then it opens Saturday and Sunday for the general public. Reporting a 30-inch base. 
  • Bogus Basin is opening Deer Point Chair and Showcase slopes Saturday, plus the beginner chair. They will open more terrain as new snow allows. Reporting a 21-inch base, and it's snowing as we speak. 
  • Brundage Mountain is opening it's beginning hill, Easy Street, and the Bear Chair on Saturday, and may open up more terrain as new snow allows. Lots of backcountry skiers have been climbing Brundage to ski fresh *pow* while they wait for the Bluebird and Engen lifts to open the rest of the mountain. Reporting 13 inch base at the bottom and 16 inches on top, with lots of snow on the way. 
  • Gateway Parks in Eagle Island State Park opens on Friday. They've got plenty of snow and lots of park features for folks to enjoy. 
  • Grand Targhee opened last week, and they've been getting a ton of snow ever since. "Over 5 feet in 7 days," is the headline on the front page of their web site. If you've got it, you might as well flaunt it! Reporting a 60-inch base. 
Gateway parks at Eagle Island State Park opens tomorrow. 
Boise is supposed to get several inches of snow today, so I'm sure people will be out playing in the snow locally. Snow biking on foothills trails will be excellent until it warms up and starts raining tomorrow. 

Dog owners will be pleased to know that Ann Morrison Park and Esther Simplot Park are official off-leash areas for the winter months. See the off-leash dog areas on the Boise Parks & Recreation web site for more locations. 

You could go snowshoeing at Bogus Basin, Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas,
Ponderosa State Park or Bear Basin in McCall 
As for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing: 
  • Bogus Basin is opening the Nordic highway on Saturday, and Sappers and other Nordic trails will be groomed for xc skiing. Stay tuned on snow bike trails. It may take a little more time to get those ready to roll. 
  • Idaho City Park n' Ski area parking lots were plowed in the past week, so you could go xc skiing or snowshoeing in the Park n' Ski areas. The trails to Banner Ridge and Stargaze are best-marked, according to Idaho Parks and Recreation officials. As previously reported, none of the xc ski trails will be groomed this year because of the Pioneer Fire. 
  • Pondersosa State Park in McCall has rolled a few of their trails including the dog loop and other trails near the trailhead. Park officials report they need another 9 inches of snow to run their groomer and open all of the terrain. But people are out xc skiing and snowshoeing today. 
  • Bear Basin trails near McCall are open and signs are going up to prepare for the weekend. They're reporting an 8 inch base prior to the storms coming today, tomorrow and this weekend. 
  • For people who like to go tubing, the Activity Barn in McCall will be opening on Friday, Nov. 9 in McCall. They'll have one tubing lane open on Friday, and more will open as snow permits. 
Enjoy this early Christmas gift of wonderful snow snow snow! Have fun!
- SS 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Where to play in the snow? Sun Valley is ready to roll, plus more ideas for the weekend

Carve the groomers at Sun Valley! Available now! 
Hi all,

We're starting to get just enough snow to go play in the mountains, but it's still not enough for most of the ski areas to open quite yet. Sun Valley is the exception with its world-class computerized snowmaking system. They opened top-to-bottom skiing yesterday -- that's 3,400 vertical feet of downhill skiing on man-made groomers to get your legs in shape. How about it?

If this sounds interesting, check out Sun Valley's lodging and specials page. I saw that they're offering a 25 percent discount on lodging and lift tickets between now and Dec. 15. I also saw that you can save 20 percent on lift tickets if you purchase them 7 days in advance ... that's $71 instead off an early-season rack rate of $89/day. Over the Christmas season, lift fees will be $133 without discount. Wow! Get there early and enjoy the discounts! Stay at the Sun Valley Lodge and soak up the history.

Before I go into more recommendations for the weekend, I wanted to recommend stopping by Idaho Mountain Touring in downtown Boise this evening (Thursday, Dec. 1) for their 32nd annual anniversary party, featuring the crew of Wide Eye Productions and Tim Woodward who will sign copies of "Idaho the Movie 2;" Kevin Everett, who will be signing copies of a new running guide; and I'll be there selling Boise Trail Guides at a Christmas-season discount price of $15.95, 20% off the normal price. The event runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. with free beer and snacks. Conservation groups will be there this evening as well.


Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home, features tons of trails close to Boise, the Owyhee Canyonlands, and Boise National Forest. It'll keep you busy for several years of hiking, with a huge selection of easy, moderate, strenuous and epic hiking/running adventures. See you there.

Back to alpine skiing, Bogus Basin (9 inches at the base) and Brundage Mountain (20 inches at the summit; 12 inches at the base) are hoping for more storms before they can open. Hopefully we get hit hard this weekend. Bogus is making snow to accelerate the opening. Tamarack Resort (18 inches at the top) reported that they're opening their bunny hill this weekend, operating Saturday and Sunday. They also have snow-making machines.

While we wait for more snow, you might want to go find your own adventure in the mountains:

  • Toss your snow boots, snowshoes or xc skis in the car, go up to the snow in the Boise, Payette or Sawtooth National Forest (above 5,000 feet) and go boot-hiking, snowshoeing or xc skiing, depending on depth of snow.  
  • I saw a lot of people goofing around on 6 inches of snow on the way to Bogus in the last week ... some were sledding, others snowboarding and skiing. 
    Fat biking on Deer Pt. Service Road 
  • Go fat biking in the snow. I'd recommend the Deer Point Service Road on the way to Bogus, the Boise Ridge Road, Middle Fork Payette River Road, forest roads around Idaho City, and areas outside the fire-closure area between Idaho City and Lowman. Even the Eastside Trail might work between Bogus and the trailhead on a fat bike. Other areas around Tamarack or Brundage would work, too. Jug Mountain Ranch has the best fat biking trails in Valley County but I'm not sure if they have enough snow yet. 
  • Go hiking/biking/running on Boise Foothills trails. There was almost a traffic jam in Military Reserve today. Everyone seemed to have the same idea to get out for a lunchtime run, bike ride or hike on the dirt. The low- and mid-level trails in the foothills are clear of snow. Dress in layers for cold weather. 
    Check out the deep pow at Targhee! Pic taken today. (courtesy Grand Targhee)
  • Make your reservations to ski/ride Grand Targhee. They opened today with a 55 inch base at the summit. Look at how much powder they had today! Oh baby! 
  • Bruneau Dunes State Park would be a great place to hike around on a weekend like this when it's cool. 
  • I saw a nice outdoor feature story on staying at rental cabins at Three Island State Park in the Twin Falls Times-News. Check it out! 
  • I also saw a great summary of Soldier Mountain's new offerings in the winter of 2016-17 under new ownership. They're having a season pass party tomorrow night. Check it out!
------------------------------------
I also wanted to mention a first-time event happening in mid-December at Brundage Mountain ... it's a world-class mountaineering event called the “Northwest Passage Ski Mountaineering Race,” co-sponsored by the McCall Winter Sports Club and the United States Ski Mountaineering Association on Dec. 16-17. 

On Friday, Dec. 16, racers will compete in a 520-meter "vertical race," starting at 4:00 pm at the base of Brundage's 45th Parallel ski run and finishes at the top of Engen. This event is open to local skiers and elite racers.  

On Saturday, Dec. 17, elite racers will tackle a 12.9-mile uphill/downhill course that includes six climbs covering a total of 6400 vertical feet. Recreational racers will compete in a 7.3-mile route with four climbs and 3860 feet of elevation gain. Both courses begin at the base of Brundage Mountain with an uphill climb to the Lakeview Bowl area, which will be the site of the first transition to downhill skiing. From there, competitors will climb back out of the Lakeview area, and leave the ski area boundary en route to the summit of Sargents Mountain. There, racers will complete additional climbs and descents in the Sargents bowl before finishing at the base of Hidden Valley.
 
If you'd like to sign up for the Northwest Passage Ski Mountaineering Race, go to the Brundage web site.  Volunteers are needed to help with the race as well. Contact Jim Pace if you'd like to volunteer at mccallboater@gmail.com.
Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Try Death Valley as a winter destination to explore unique canyons, dunes and peaks

Mosaic Canyon ... getting into the marble zone 
Red Pass is down where our white pickup truck rental is parked.
On our way to Thimble Peak. 
Thimble Peak 
On the summit. We got out early and beat the heat. 
Titus Canyon 
Hi all,

I took Wendy to Death Valley National Park recently for a quick 4-day getaway, and I was impressed. I'd never been there before. I had heard that it's a great winter destination -- the ideal time to visit a place that has temperatures in the 130s in mid-summer. In early November, we experienced lows in the 60s and highs in the 80s in the afternoons. It's even cooler in December and January.

We stayed at the Furnace Creek Ranch for about $150/night. We liked that spot quite a bit. There's a large swimming pool for ranch guests to use, plus tennis courts and a bacce ball court. Wifi was kind of lame, but you're supposed to be on vacation. There are three restaurants and a general store in Furnace Creek where you can find suitable eats and supplies. There also are many different campgrounds in the national park where you could park an RV or tent camp.

Here are a few places that I'd recommend visiting:

  • Mosaic Canyon - There are some neat rock formations in Mosaic Canyon -- really old limestone rock that dates to 700 million years old is overlain by much more recent compacted sediment and gravel that occurred just several thousand years ago. The old limestone rock eventually changed to dolomite and then marble over the years. About 1 mile up Mosaic Canyon, you get into the smooth marble rock in the canyon walls, and the canyon narrows as you hike upstream. Continue up the canyon, the views and geology keep getting better. 
    Golden Canyon above the valley floor 
  • Golden Canyon - We really liked Golden Canyon. It's close to Furnace Creek, and it's a beautiful hike into Golden Canyon in the morning or evening when the low-elevation light punctuates the topography. The geology in the Golden Canyon area is more fine silt, sand and ash-flow tuff layers from volcanic eruptions. It's a mixture of beige, tan and much older rocks above the silt and tuff layers. You can do an out-and-back hike in Golden Canyon, climb to Zabriskie Point or do a 5-mile loop with a vehicle shuttle. 
    View from Zabriskie Point as the sun was going down 
  • Zabriski Point - This is a super-cool point of interest off the main highway leading into Furnace Creek. It's a very short walk to a gorgeous overlook of the Golden Canyon area. If you go there at sunrise or sunset, the colors are spectacular. We got there near sunset and took a lot of pictures as the sun went down. 
    Loved the twilight from Zabriskie Point 
  • Badwater Salt Flats - Given that this is the lowest point in North America (282 feet below sea level), it's worth visiting Badwater Basin just to say you've been there. It's a salt flat with a trail that goes out into Badwater Basin in the middle of Death Valley. Perfect for a selfie photo. 
    Badwater Salt Flats 
  • Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes - The dunes near Stovepipe Wells Village are quite extensive, a larger dune complex than Bruneau Dunes State Park. We didn't explore the dunes but they looked like fun to explore when the temperatures are moderate. 
  • Titus Canyon - Thanks to some friends, we got a cool tip to go climb Thimble Peak off of Red Pass as part of doing a big driving loop. The canyon is so tight that the whole route is one-way. We drove the Daylight Pass road from Death Valley into Nevada (about 30 minutes), and then drove a dirt road up to Red Pass to start our day hike to Thimble Peak. We climbed up a ridge to a shorter mountain (6,100 feet elevation) and then scaled Thimble Peak (6,500 feet). The 360-degree view was totally spectacular up there. We climbed back to our rental pickup truck, and then drove down Titus Canyon back to Death Valley. You go through an old mining area on the narrow two-track road. Glad we had a high clearance rig! Highly recommend doing that drive and then taking some side-hikes along the way. 
There are many other canyons and peaks to explore in Death Valley. This was just our first trip. But I'd recommend visiting the area in the winter and enjoy a vastly different experience than other canyons and peaks in the West.

FYI - We took a direct flight from Boise to Vegas on Southwest Airlines, rented the pickup truck from Enterprise Rental, and were in Death Valley by around noon. Very easy to get there from Boise, we thought. Many people drive down in their camping rigs so they can camp out and enjoy the area in that fashion. I've heard that when it gets windy down there, camping isn't much fun because of the blowing sand. 
-SS

Thursday, November 10, 2016

10 outdoorsy ideas to pursue on a beautiful November weekend in SW Idaho

Boise River Greenbelt in the fall (courtesy LifewithLolo)
Paddling to see fall colors on Payette Lake (courtesy Pete Zimowsky) 
Leslie Gulch would be a great call this weekend 
Fall biking is all the rage right now ... perfect riding conditions
Fisher-Williams Trail in the White Clouds 
Steelhead fishing is hot now! 
Hi all,

The weather looks fab for the weekend, with temperatures in the 60s and a very small chance of rain in the Boise and SW Idaho area on Saturday morning ... It's amazing to have this kind of weather in November, but it looks like this will be the last weekend of warm temps before things turn to cooler and wetter weather next week, so you might as well get out and enjoy it!

This week, I'm throwing out some outdoorsy ideas close to home to appeal to folks who like to hike, bike, run, paddle, camp or fish ...

1. Go for a sunny walk, run or bike ride on the Boise River Greenbelt. Wait for the weather to warm up in the afternoon and enjoy it! Make a point to stop by the new Esther Simplot Park near the Whitewater Park and check out the many pathways and trails in the park.  

2. Go hiking/running/biking in the Boise Foothills and enjoy the last remaining fall colors. Going to the creeks and gulches is where you'll see the colors in the shrubs and trees. I recommend Polecat Gulch, Dry Creek, Corrals, Hulls Gulch, Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail, Military Reserve Park, Five Mile Creek, and Orchard Gulch. My book, Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home, would be a handy reference for any of these trails.

3. Go kayaking/rafting/SUPing on the Payette River. Banks to Beehive would be the best bet. Wear a wetsuit if you're SUPing.

4. Go steelhead fishing on the Salmon, Snake or Clearwater rivers and catch a monster steelhead ... See a new blog post I wrote for VisitIdaho about this fall ritual.

5. Go fall mountain biking! I wrote about five of my favorite rides statewide in a new blog post for VisitIdaho. The blog features Around the Mountain at Bogus, Loon Lake Loop in McCall, Fisher-Williams Loop in the White Clouds, Gold Hill Switchback Special near Sandpoint, and Farragut State Park north of Coeur d'Alene.

It's all fun riding the China Ditch Trail in Reynolds Creek canyon
Pictured here are Paul Hilding, Mark Anderson, Steve Schneider and Jim Giuffre 
6. Ride the Northwest Passage Loop in the Wilson Creek area in the Owyhee Front. This is a 16.2-mile ride that takes about 4 hours to complete. Be sure to take your time, pack a lunch and enjoy the scenery. My blog post has all the details. The ride also is featured in my book, "The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide."

7. Top off the tires in your road bike and go for a nice long afternoon ride. I'd recommend: a) Hill Road to points west (Eagle or Star). Loop it with Floating Feather or Beacon Light Road. b) Ride to Hilltop Summit and back; c) Cartwright Loop; d) City to Farm. All of these rides and more are detailed in my road guide, "Boise Road Cycling Guide."

Wees Bar petroglyphs (nice pic by SummitPost) 
8. Hike/run or ride to Wees Bar on the Snake River by Swan Falls. It's 12.2 miles out and back to Wees Bar, where you can see Native American petroglyphs on big boulders on the banks of the Snake River. Trailhead is across Swan Falls Dam. The route is detailed in Boise Trail Guide

9. Hike or ride from Mores Creek Summit to see how the Pioneer Fire may have affected your favorite backcountry ski lines on Pilot Peak or Sunset Peak. Go to Idaho City and continue on Idaho 21 to Mores Creek Summit to reach the trailhead. I'm hoping to do this myself very soon!

10. Go hiking or camping at Succor Creek or Leslie Gulch. It's a perfect time to visit these destinations in the Owyhees. Take U.S. 95 south from Marsing to a signed turnoff for Leslie Gulch. Succor Creek is best reached via Homedale. Both areas are detailed in my Owyhee Canyonlands guide.

Trail note: SWIMBA is hosting a trail-work day at the Eagle Bike Park to work on a re-route of Treasure View Traverse. See this link for details.

Have fun!
- SS