Thursday, July 19, 2018

Dan Noakes of McCall just completed the Idaho Centennial Trail in 52 days ... Wow! What an adventure!


Dan and Michelle Noakes at the Idaho-Canada border ... the end of the ICT on the Upper Priest River by a cool waterfall. 
Hi all,

Dan Noakes emailed me yesterday, saying that he had just completed the Idaho Centennial Trail. He shared a video trailer with a few nuggets from the super-challenging 900-mile journey. I took a quick look at the video, and it was a visual feast.

The stream-crossings that he captured on video looked scary and epic, including one where he's doing a belly-crawl across a skinny lodgepole pine tree over the top of a rushing stream. And then there's this segment where he's saying "I'm so cold, I'm so cold," running with his pack on through the forest to avoid hypothermia. Take a look ...



Dan wrote me because I wrote a guidebook about the Idaho Centennial Trail for the Idaho Trails Council in 1998. We didn't have a lot of budget, but it was a first attempt to provide a detailed guide to navigating the trail, albeit with horrible big-picture maps that were scaled to page size and reprinted from BLM and Forest Service maps.

The value of the book is that folks can learn about the history of how the trail was created through the inspiration of ICT pioneers Roger Williams and Syd Tate, who hiked the length of Idaho in the mid-1980s. It was the first time that anyone had done that, to anyone's knowledge, and it served as inspiration to create an official Idaho Centennial Trail route during the Idaho Centennial year in 1990. Williams and Tate took 86 days to complete the journey, hiking at a pace of 14 miles a day. By the end, they each had lost 20 pounds and Tate had a big long beard. "Our legs looked like a weight-lifters and the top half looked like a prisoner of war," Williams said.

Stateline Trail on the Idaho-Montana border
ICT route (courtesy IDPR)
Left route is an alternative
route for motorcyles and bikes
The final ICT route ended up being a little different than the one that Williams and Tate did. It was selected by a committee of ITC people and Forest Service and BLM staffers. But the route overall did fulfill the vision that Williams charted from the get-go -- he wanted it to go through the "Best of Idaho," meaning the Sawtooth Wilderness, the Frank, the Selway-Bitterroot, the Stateline Trail, and the Cabinet Mountains in the Idaho Panhandle.

Noakes, 33, ripped through the 900-mile route in 52 days. He started on May 21 on the Idaho-Nevada border and finished the trek at the Idaho-Canada border on the Upper Priest River trail last week. His wife, Michelle, hiked the last section with him from Clark Fork to the Canadian border. Michelle helped with water and food drops, and Noakes had a friend join him for another segment of the hike. But for much of the route, he hiked alone. Did you know that the ICT hike features 90,000 feet of elevation gain/loss?

Noakes' father got him into backpacking when he was 11 years old. They often hiked the John Muir Trail. "He ingrained in me the spirit of backpacking," Noakes says. "I always wanted to check off a through-hike."

He found out about the Idaho Centennial Trail through a Google search, just looking for big through-hikes. He thought, it's only 900 miles, shouldn't be too big of a deal ... but when he was out in the big wide open Jarbidge and Bruneau desert, hiking the two-tracks next to those big canyons, and realizing how far he had to go, "I realized this was going to be a big deal. It was the real deal."

Noakes planned to hike at least 20 miles a day; sometimes more if he felt he could go farther. He carried a light-weight pack of just over 30 pounds with all of his gear -- clothes, cook stove, food, water, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, etc. He wore Altra Timp hiking shoes, and went through several pairs during the big adventure.

To plan the trip, Noakes ran across Clay Jacobson's web site, Idaho Centennial Trail.org, which provides a ton of useful information, including the names of the people who have done the thru-hike in recent years. Thomas Ord told him where to do the water drops in the desert section. Another hiker gave him the complete GPX file to the ICT, the trail tracks for the whole route.

There's still just a handful of people who have completed the trail since it was designated in 1990. It's not that well-known, or heavily publicized, and the difficulty level is pretty extreme in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness because of heavy blowdown and trail-finding. That's a sad commentary, compared how things were 30 years ago, when the trails in those wilderness areas were some the most well-maintained anywhere in the state.

Fortunately, Noakes had a good GPS that had the ICT route built-in, and he forged ahead, knowing he was going in the right general direction. He hoped to rejoin the trail when it became visible again. "I lost the trail many, many times," he says. "The trail is non-existent at some points."

Segments of Marble Creek, upper Kelly Creek and Windy Creek had a lot of downfall, but at least things improved after a few hours of walking, he said. The Idaho Trails Association and Frank Church-Selway Bitterroot Foundation have been working on opening up Marble Creek for several years. But once he got into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness section, he said, the route-finding and hiking were miserable.

"That section was the hardest for me. Every day, it was cold, rainy and wet, and the blowdown trees were epic. The challenges in the Selway would make a grown man cry. But what makes it so great, is that after you get through there, you think, dang, I did this. You feel a real deep sense of accomplishment."

Michelle met him at Wilderness Gateway Campground on U.S. 12 next to the Lochsa, and Dan must have been SO happy to see her! Imagine how that experience may help in other aspects in life, when he'll feel his patience tested by whatever, and he'll know that he's experienced far more difficult things on his ICT hike. "I was in pain pretty much the whole time," he says.

When Noakes arrived at Moose Creek Ranger Station in the middle of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, he sniffed a campfire burning and went directly to it. Some pilots were hanging out by the airstrip, and they warmed him up. That was one of his favorite moments of the hike.

He also really enjoyed the Stateline Trail between Idaho and Montana, going north from Hoodoo Pass to Wallace. "The could be some of the greatest backpacking in that area," he says. "But when I was there, I was walking on snow most of the time." He took a break in Wallace, wandered into the public library in town, and ran across my ICT guide. He hadn't seen it before the trip. He loved reading about Syd and Roger's vision and adventure.

In terms of wildlife, Noakes saw a big wolf on a hillside on a stormy day. He wasn't able to get any pics or video. He saw a lot of wolf tracks along the way, a few elk, 1 moose and 1 bear. He heard from another ICT hiker that the guy had gotten charged by a black bear. That would be scary.

Noakes, who's a professional video animator for his company, Motifize.com, plans to release a new video segment about his big adventure each Monday until he's exhausted his video from the trip. The first segment will run on Monday, July 23, on his YouTube channel and continue each week. I know I'll be watching.

"There's something magical about the Idaho Centennial Trail," he says. "I think if you experience it, it might change you for the better. For a lot of people, it could be a life-changing experience, and here it is, right in our backyard."

Kelly Creek country ... it's located in a roadless area that is not official wilderness, but wilderness just the same.
When I did the ICT book, I suggested that every Idahoans should consider making it a lifetime project to experience all the segments of the ICT. Not everyone can do it in one fell swoop, especially if they're working a full-time job, raising kids, etc. Noakes agrees. "Everybody needs to experience the ICT at some point in their lives."

While other long-distance trails can be tackled as well, such as the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail. But the ICT is probably one of the most challenging and primitive thru-hikes anywhere in the U.S. You won't see many trail signs. You'll frequently lose the trail. You'll have to deal with a ton of blow-down timber across the trail. You'll have to navigate  super-challenging stream crossings. But it will make you a more skilled outdoors person, and perhaps a better and stronger person overall.

I am hoping to do it in the next 5 years while I still can! Hope you can plan a trip on the ICT too! Thanks to Dan Noakes for the inspiration!
- SS

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Plan a trip to Wallace to ride the Route of the Hiawatha and Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

Inside the St. Paul tunnel well-illuminated by good night lights! (Courtesy Spokesman-Review)
The Route of the Hiawatha is surrounded by green trees in the St. Joe National Forest. Note the high trestle in the distance.
Hi all,

I've always felt that the Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail near Wallace, Idaho, is one of the neatest rail-trails imaginable. I've ridden it several times since it was opened in the mid-1990s, and I even had the opportunity to do an early test ride on the trail before it was open to the public. Every time I ride it, it's an invigorating and beautiful biking adventure.

The reason it's so cool is you ride through 10 unlit tunnels, including the 1.7-mile-long St. Paul Pass tunnel on the Idaho-Montana border, and seven high trestles as part of the 15-mile trail. If you take a shuttle, the ride is completely downhill, and it's totally family friendly.

Several years ago, USA Today published an article about the top 10 rail-trails in the United States, and the Route of the Hiawatha was listed as numero uno!

So when you're planning your vacations or long weekend getaways this summer, try to work in a long weekend in the Wallace or St. Maries area and ride the Route of the Hiawatha. The trail is managed by Lookout Pass Ski Resort, located on the Idaho-Montana border on I-90. Lookout Pass provides shuttles, trail passes, etc. The ride is featured in my Falcon Guide Mountain Biking Idaho.
This is the 20th anniversary season for the trail. Amazing how time flies! 

You'll see some interpretive signs along the way about RR history and mining. 
Here's a video about the trail and the railroad history. Believe it or not, former Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, had a big hand in obtaining federal funds to develop the old railroad line into a rail-trail. There was a very progressive recreation officer working for the St. Joe National Forest at the time when the trail was only an idea, and she worked closely with lots of people in Wallace and St. Maries to create the trail and a new tourism draw in a town that was reeling from the decline of the mining industry. It's always sweet to see a dream project become a reality.

You should stay in the Wallace Inn (formerly the Best Western) or other lodging properties in Wallace while you're in the neighborhood, and check out the Oasis Bordello Museum, or you can camp at the foot of the trail by traveling from St. Maries up the placid and scenic St. Joe River (fly fishing is good!) and camp in the national forest. Bring a canoe, kayak or SUP if you'd like to paddle the St. Joe as a side trip opportunity.

Be sure to bring a BRIGHT and POWERFUL light for riding in the dark tunnels, if you have them. Lookout Pass has lights available for rent for $5, plus they have bikes and helmets available for rent, if you don't want to take your own. I've found that night-riding mountain biking lights work great.

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is beautiful with smooth pavement. 
More experienced bike riders will enjoy the challenge of riding the Route of the Hiawatha from the Pearson Trailhead, near Avery, in the St. Joe drainage. It's 13 miles uphill at only a 2 percent grade, and then 1.7 miles of riding through the St. Paul Pass tunnel on the Idaho-Montana border, for a total of 15 miles. Then you can turn around and cruise downhill back to Pearson, for a 30-mile ride. It took me less than an hour to climb the trail, and about a half hour to zoom down it, pedaling all the way.

While you're in the 'hood, carve out some time to ride the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, a fairly new paved trail along the Coeur d'Alene River. You can access the 71-mile trail in Mullan, just up the hill from Wallace, and ride downriver to Harrison and Heyburn State Park, if you want to ride the whole thing.

If you bring the kids, you have to stop at Silverwood Theme Park, north of Coeur d'Alene, where you can enjoy 65 rides, including roller-coasters, insanely steep and fast rides, and water slides. Silver Mountain in Kellogg also has an indoor water park that the kids would enjoy.

As you can surmise, it'd be easy to spend a week in the Silver Valley-Coeur d'Alene area for a great and affordable Idaho stay-cation. Have fun!
- SS

Friday, July 6, 2018

Here comes the heat! Five primo spots in SW Idaho to take your Stand Up Paddle Board

SUP'ing to Shoshone Falls makes you feel small. (Courtesy Idaho Stock Images) 
Wow! (Courtesy Southern Idaho Tourism and Visit Idaho)
Hi all,

We sure had a nice long spring, but it's July, and here comes the heat! Temperatures are forecast to be in the 90s in the next 10 days, so grab your Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) and go paddling to stay cool!

Here are five primo spots in SW for a SUP adventure:

1. Paddle the Mid-Snake to Shoshone Falls -- The trip starts from Centennial Park in Twin Falls and goes upriver to a portage around Pillar Falls and then to Shoshone Falls. Allow 5-6 hours for the journey. Many of you went down to see Shoshone Falls flowing in all of its glory this spring. It's one of the most unique paddling trips in Idaho to paddle under the Perrine Bridge, where you might see base jumpers launching into the canyon, and paddle upstream on the Snake to a point just below Shoshone Falls. There is very little river flow and current in this reach in mid-summer, allowing you to travel upstream. See my blog post for Southern Idaho tourism for more information.

2. Boise River - Last year, the Boise River was closed in July. Not this year! Float the Boise River from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park or pick a different section of the river that works for you.
Details on floating the Boise River and shuttles are found here at Ada County Parks & Waterways.

3. Quinns Pond and Esther Simplot Park - Very convenient but gets pretty crowded pretty fast and hard to find parking. Rentals available at Idaho River Sports. Get there early!

Cascade to Cabarton ... lovely! 
4. Payette River - Cascade to Cabarton - This is an easy flat-water float with moving water starting from the put-in on the south end of Cascade and float down to Cabarton Bridge. It's a 9-mile float at a leisurely pace. The river is running about 1,500 cfs right now. Bring a lunch and some beverages. Shuttle a rig to Cabarton Bridge before you go or drop one on the way up!


5. Payette River - Montour Section - This is another easy flat-water section of the Payette ... it's 3.5 miles long from the Montour Bridge put-in near Sweet to the backwaters of Black Canyon Reservoir. You can do a bike shuttle, just bring a lock for your bike.

There you have it! All of these trips would be great for sit-on-top kayaking or canoeing as well.

Here are a couple of other links on best SUP spots in Idaho ...

Have fun and stay cool!
- SS

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Heading to Stanley for 4th of July? Five rock-solid ideas for hiking and biking in the area

Group at Bench Lakes (courtesy of Knowles Gallery.) 
Hi all,

I sure am enjoying the cooler weather that we're experiencing right now, and it is expected to stay on the cooler side for the 4th of July holiday if you're planning on heading into the mountains. High temperatures are expected to be in the low 70s in the mountains this weekend (60s on Friday), and continuing into next week for the holiday. Perfect weather for hiking and biking!

I did a post recently on some popular and scenic trails that are open for hiking and biking in the McCall area, and so for this week, I'm recommending 5 rock-solid ideas in the Stanley area. These are mostly hikes and one ride. Overall, I am hearing that snow levels are between 8,500-9,000 feet in the Stanley area, creek crossings are high and hazardous (bring hiking poles and a rope for safety), but the snow is melting quickly. 

As you break out of the trees on the Boundary Creek Trail, the views get more and more spectacular. 
1. Boundary Creek Trail in the White Cloud Mountains - The Boundary Creek Trail rises steeply from the valley floor (trailhead is across Idaho 75 from the Sawtooth Hatchery), and for that reason, the trail affords magnificent views of the Sawtooth Valley, the Sawtooth Mountains and Redfish Lake as you climb the mountain. Here's an online map of the trail. It's about 3 miles to the top, and 2,000 feet of climbing. Rated strenuous but worth the effort for the big view! This trail is best for hiking, but hard-core strong bikers could climb it as well.

Bridal Veil Falls (courtesy of Idaho Campground Review) 
2. Hike to Bridal Veil Falls from Stanley Lake - Roundtrip distance is about 8 miles. Only 570 feet of elevation gain. Rated easy to moderate. This is a popular hike for good reason ... it's very scenic at the falls. Here's a nice writeup on the trip with a short video of the falls. 

3. Hike to Bench Lakes from Redfish Lake Lodge - Take the Bench Lakes trail from the trailhead next to Redfish Lake Lodge and hike to one of the lower Bench Lakes. The uppermost lakes are likely to be snow-bound. There are five lakes overall. Here's a nice writeup from the Outbound Collective. Distance round-trip is about 8 miles, depending on which lake you go to. Rated easy to moderate.

Hell Roaring Lake (courtesy of Idaho Campground Review)
4. Hike to Hell Roaring Lake or Imogene Lake in the Sawtooths - It's an easy 5.5-mile hike to Hell Roaring Lake in the Sawtooths. You'll need a 4WD vehicle to reach the trailhead. The trail is pretty flat, less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain. But the payoff is big with spectacular views of the Sawtooths at the lake, and super cool view of the Finger of Fate. See writeup and pics courtesy of Matt Leidecker, author of excellent full-color guides to the Sawtooths and the White Clouds.

Margie and a couple of teen-age boys loved the Potato Mountain Ride ... Quinn wasn't so sure at the time. 
5. Ride the Potato Mountain Loop near Stanley - This is one of my favorite bike rides. The crossing of Big Basin Creek might be kind of gnarley this time of year, but it sure is fun to do the ride. It's about 13.5 miles to do the loop. It starts out kind of steep but once you get over the hill and drop into Little Basin Creek, you're smiling all the way. The trail runs very close to the creek. See full description on the MTB Project site. I took my son Quinn on this ride when he was about 13, and he whined most of the way, but he survived. Several other teen-age kids went with us. So that's an option if you want to take kids.

Have a great 4th of July holiday!
- SS  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What's on your list for summer fun? Steve's Top 10 must-do, must-see outdoor list

Climb a mountain is one of my recommendations ... this is in the Pioneers near Stanhope Peak. 
Hi all,

Today, June 21, marks the official beginning of summer, and also the Summer Equinox, the longest day of the year. The weather is warming into the 80s in the afternoons, so it's pretty much perfect weather conditions for just about anything outdoors. Welcome to summer!

To celebrate this moment in time, I am recommending 10 must-see, must-do activities for the summer of 2018:

1. Float a river (day trip) - we're blessed with so many options here, but the summer season opens on the Boise River at Barber Park at noon on Friday, June 22. Warm summer weather also gets people jazzed about floating the Payette River, either the Main Payette, South Fork Payette or Cabarton run on the North Fork. Check with Cascade Raft & Kayak, Idaho Whitewater Unlimited and the Payette River Company about guided trips. The Payette's calmer sections are great for stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), sit-on-top kayaking and canoeing.

Float a river! This is on the Cabarton stretch of the Payette River. 
2. Climb a mountain - The pinnacle is to climb Mount Borah, but there are so many other options in Idaho, with dozens of peaks over 10,000 feet and 8 peaks over 12,000 feet. See Idaho mountain expert Tom Lopez's list of recommended mountain peaks. McCall mountain expert John Platt also has an extensive list of peaks and mountains that he's climbed. 

3. Ride the ski lift to the top of Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain or Sun Valley and go hiking or biking from there.

4. Take your kids fishing - See the list of Idaho Fish and Game's Family Fishing Waters to find some great recommendations close to home.

Go hiking in the Sawtooths (photo courtesy Michael Lanza/The Big Outside)
5. Go backpacking in the Sawtooths, White Clouds, Pioneers or Big Lost Mountain Range. See Michael Lanza's recommended hikes in the Sawtooths in his blog, the Big Outside. See a recommended major loop in the White Clouds in Backpacker mag. For a great hike in the Pioneers, see my blog post about hiking Broad Canyon. For the Big Lost range, see this overview in Summit Post.com.   

6. Sleep under the stars in a dark sky venue like Bear Valley, the Owyhee Canyonlands or outside of Stanley.

Catch a trout on the Middle Fork Salmon River. 
7. Fly into the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and go fly-fishing for native cutthroat trout. Air taxi services in Boise, Cascade or McCall can take you into the Middle Fork in less than an hour. All fishing is catch and release.

8. Go mountain biking on a classic loop trail like Fisher-Williams in the White Clouds, Loon Lake north of McCall or Around the Mountain at Bogus Basin. 

Climbing up a short hill to finish the Fisher-Williams Loop (courtesy Salsa cycles)
9. Go SUP'ing, boating or swimming in a refreshing, natural Idaho mountain lake like Payette Lake, Redfish Lake, or Priest Lake.

10. Go see an outdoor concert! See Michael Deed's column in the Idaho Statesman for a full rundown of outdoor concerts planned in the summer of 2018.

For further enrichment on Idaho bucket list trips, see an Idaho bucket list post from Boise State radio, and a post that I did listing another 30 bucket list trips that they didn't cover. 
- SS

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Five premium mountain bike rides to get your adrenaline and fun meter in the red zone

Flowers are blooming in Ponderosa State Park right now along the super fun Huckleberry Trail 
Lunch break at Loon Lake 
Friends Barb and Paul on Jug Mountain Ranch singletrack 
Hi all,

The weather is supposed to cool off markedly this weekend, particularly on Sunday when it's supposed to hit only 65 degrees as high in the Boise Valley. In McCall, Stanley and Sun Valley, it will be much cooler with rain and snow in the high elevations predicted.

But neverthless, for this week's outdoor tip, I'm recommending five premium mountain biker rides in Boise and McCall that are in good shape and ready to ride as of today ... the McCall trails will get wet this weekend, but the weather is supposed to snap back to warm temperatures by Tuesday and Wednesday. The summer season is upon us, and the kids are out of school!

The rides:


Typical view of Around the Mountain Trail on the backside of Bogus ... super fun! 
1. Around the Mountain at Bogus Basin - Distance 10 miles, riding time 1.5 hours, 1,500' vertical gain. This was voted as the best ride in Idaho by IMBA ... I'm not sure I agree with that, but it's definitely in the top 10. Bogus Basin is open for summer operations. See their web site for more information.

2. Eastside-Stack Rock-Sweet Connie-Chukar Butte to Boise - I'm not sure of the distance of this ride but I'd guess it's close to 20 miles if you end up at in Hidden Springs on Dry Creek Road at the bottom of Chukar Butte. Vertical drop has to be about 3,000-feet plus. This is a huge long downhill that's much improved with the trail-enhancement work that'd been done on Sweet Connie. Shuttle to the Eastside trailhead, ride Entrance Exam to Eastside to Stack Rock then take Sweet Connie downhill to Chukar Butte and go right on Chukar Butte over to Hidden Springs. This is probably one of the coolest downhill rides that you can do in the Boise area.

3. Jug Mountain Ranch, Lake Fork - The trails at Jug are opening up for lots of fun and enjoyment. See the latest list of JMR trails at this link. They've built a new beginner downhill trail called "Doe-Joe." I'm looking forward to riding it. It looks like Doe-Joe connects to Berm & Ernie, which is a super-fun flowy trail with banked corners. Another great loop is to take South Elk over to the South Boundary Road, climb that to Murphy Jct., climb to the Jug Reservoir, ride the Shoreline Trail around the lake, then take Vendelay downhill to Harper's Hollow and finish out on North Elk back to the trailhead.
JMR trail system map (courtesy JMR)
4. Loon Lake Loop - I checked with the McCall Ranger District and the trail has been cleared to the Secesh River. You may encounter a few downed trees on the way back along the Secesh River to the trailhead. Distance: 10 miles. Difficulty: Strong intermediate. Travel time: 2-3 hours. Bring a lunch and enjoy a picnic at Loon Lake. Here's the MTB project writeup on the larger Loon Lake Loop.
Here's a writeup and video on the 10-mile loop in my blog.

5. Huckleberry Trail Loop at Ponderosa Park - Distance 6 miles; riding time 1+ hour; vertical gain, 750 feet, Difficulty: Strong intermediate. Park staff built more singletrack a couple of years ago so you can hike, run or mountain bike around the whole park peninsula. The trail has tree roots and rocks on it, and it has lots of up and down, so it's a good training ride for more challenging national forest rides in the McCall area. MTB project didn't do the whole loop, but they have a description of most of the trail.

BTW, 10 Barrel Brewing is sponsoring a downhill bike race on Sunday, called "Bogus to the Barrel." Cash prizes are at stake. There must be some talent coming into town to compete for the cash! Might be fun to watch somewhere along the course, or to participate in ...

Have fun biking!
- SS

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Snake River Raptor Fest, Big Water Blowout in Riggins and the Grand Ronde River

Steve on the Grand Ronde River last weekend ... 

There are many deluxe camps in the forest along the river. 
Hiking up the mountain behind camp is always rewarding and beautiful. 
Hi all,

The weather has been pretty topsy-turvy lately, with major rainstorms or hail late in the day. But the 10-day forecast for Boise and surrounding areas in the valley looks like summer is coming BIG-TIME! 

Just as we turn the page into June, forecasters are predicting temperatures in the 80s on Saturday, low 90s on Sunday, and mostly 80s through mid-month. Bring on summer!

For my outdoor tip this week, I'm recommending two weekend events and providing some recap notes from our Grand Ronde River trip in Eastern Oregon. 

First, the events ... the Snake River Raptor Fest in Kuna sounds like a lot of fun this year, particularly because of the 25th anniversary of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, a great location at Indian Creek Winery and live music! I'll be manning a table and signing copies of Cool North Wind, a well-regarded biography of Morley Nelson's life with birds of prey. The event runs from noon to 5 p.m. There will be live birds of prey on display and kids activities as well. Hope to see you there. 

This is what one reviewer had to say about Cool North Wind"It is truly an amazing book, and a fun, entertaining, and enlightening read!" American Falconry 

BTW, I'll be on a panel at the Idaho Environmental Forum next Wednesday, June 6th, to talk about Morley Nelson as part of a discussion about the 25th anniversary of the designation of the birds of prey area. Former Congressman Larry LaRocco will be on the panel along with Amanda Hoffman, area manager of the birds of prey area for the BLM. The deadline for signing up for this IEF luncheon program is on Monday. 



The first weekend of June also marks the Big Water Blowout in Riggins ... Take a wild ride with a local outfitter or bring your own raft and try your hand at running some big water on the mighty Salmon River. The Salmon River has been flowing in 50,000-60,000 cubic feet per second range in the last week or so after two peaks over 70,000 cfs. Should be cranking in the 65,000 cfs range this weekend! 

A lot of big water whitewater boaters were at the Lochsa River Memorial Day gathering last week, so they'll be tuned up for some more big water fun in Riggins! 

For a lower-key river adventure, I would recommend running the Grand Ronde River right now. We camped on the river for 4 days last week, Thursday-Sunday, and it was a super fun time. The whole canyon is really beautiful right now, chock full of wildflowers and very green! We picked a campsite that ended up having a resident bighorn sheep herd grazing on the opposite mountain from camp. We hung out and watched the wild sheep in the morning during breakfast and also during the cocktail hour in the evening. There were at least 4 baby lambs that were chasing each other around in the rocks and a small group of about 12 sheep ... really precious to watch! 

With fairly high flows in the 9,000 cfs range, the Grand Ronde scoots along at 7-8 mph. That means you can clock a lot of miles fairly quickly, and then make a base camp. The whole section we typically run is only 35 miles in length. So we went down about 20 miles in 3 hours, base camped for 3 days, and then rowed out 15 miles the last morning. 

The put-in for the Grand Ronde is at Minam, northeast of La Grande on Highway 82 (paved road all the way to the put-in; unusual for some rivers), and the takeout is at Powatka Bridge by the Wildcat Creek road. You do drive a gravel road from the takeout to a point near the little town of Wallowa, where you jump back on the highway. Super easy drive in the whole scheme of things to do a stellar river trip. 

The Grand Ronde is great for kids, side-hiking, wildlife-watching, camping and R&R. I highly recommend it! 

- SS