Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hike & camp by Crooked River or tackle the Silver City Skyline Tour for Labor Day

Fishing Crooked River
Leo Hennessy, Jerry Quick and Doug Lawrence near War Eagle Mountain.
Jim Young enjoys the views on the Silver City Skyline Tour 
Hi all,

I've got a couple of last-minute ideas for Labor Day weekend, places where you could go for a hike or a bike ride and camp nearby -- Crooked River near Idaho City or the Silver City Skylline Tour, starting and finishing in Silver City in the Owyhee Mountains.

The weather will be on the cool side in the mountains on Saturday, Sunday and Monday for Labor Day weekend, with temperatures in the 60s forecast in McCall, Stanley and Ketchum/Sun Valley, but to me, that's a bonus. Love the cool temps that come with fall weather! If you stay in town, it's supposed to fall into the high 70s, which sounds pretty fab for Boise, too!

The Crooked River Trail is featured in my Boise Trail Guide - 75 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. The easiest way to access the trail is via the Edna Creek Road off of Idaho State Highway 21, northeast of Idaho City and Mores Creek Summit. You'll see a highway sign for the Edna Creek Road and Atlanta, turning right off Idaho 21, about 60 miles east of Boise. There is a pull-out for the trailhead on the Edna Creek Road in the first half-mile from the highway. You can either hike or bike from here.

The trail is a moderate hike, but a little more challenging as a mountain biking trail because it is all singletrack, and that makes the riding a little trickier and technical. The trail runs downhill along Crooked River, but remember, you will have to climb back to the trailhead. About 4 miles down the trail, it becomes more sketchy with downfall, and you may want to turn around. The trail is supposed to extend all the way to the North Fork of the Boise River (10 miles one-way) but it needs much more clearing and maintenance to make that trip doable for Joe 6-Pack. 
Crooked River map. Click to enlarge. 
Bring a fishing pole if you like to fish. It's a beautiful creek with nice deep holes, and it's in a beautiful pine and fir forest setting. Be sure to bring a lunch with you to enjoy the scenery. 

Camping nearby: There are many unofficial camping areas on the Edna Creek Road in the first few miles after you turnoff of Idaho 21, and there's an official campground called Willow Creek about five miles up the road. There also are many self-support camping areas along the North Fork of the Boise River on the way to Deer Park. 
Silver City Skyline Tour map 
Now, if the notion of tackling the Silver City Skyline Tour in the Owyhees sounds appealing, I'll provide some basic directions for this 16.8-mile mountain bike ride, but I'd recommend buying my guidebook for the best details. I rated it strenuous/advanced in The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide. It features 2,750 feet of vertical gain. I loved the ride because it provides a rooftop tour of the mountains surrounding Silver City, and it's nifty that you start and finish in downtown Silver City. Be sure to bring plenty of food and water. After the ride, there are lots of places to camp just outside of Silver City or along Jordan Creek, you make the call. 
Back in downtown Silver City after the ride. Wa-hoo!
Doug Lawrence on the left, and Paul Hilding. 
Directions: Drive to Silver City and park off to the side of Main Street near the old hotel. To get there, go south of Nampa on ID 45 to Murphy. Watch for signs for Silver City on ID 78 as you're heading for Murphy, and follow the paved and dirt road to the historic mining town. 

Mile 0 - Ride back toward New York Summit from Silver City. 
Mile 1.2 - Turn right on BLM Road F483. This is your main route for the first half of the ride.
Mile 2.4 - Bear right on Road F483 at Y junction and climb.
Mile 4.7 - Reach junction with service road to the top of War Eagle Mountain. It's a short, but steep sidetrip to check out the summit. Check out the old buldings and mine shafts at the Poorman Mine near this junction ... it's a short sidetrip.
Mile 5.9 - Back at War Eagle junction. Bear right on Road F483 and cruise on your middle ring to the ridges and mountains to the south.
Mile 6.7 - Bear right at Y junction next to livestock watering area. Bear right again shortly afterward and climb a steep hill with lots of mobile rocks.
Mile 7.9 - Come to sweet overlook to the left of the main road. Cruise over to the trees to enjoy views looking out toward Triangle and the big wide open country of the Owyhees.
Mile 8.4 - Pass through barbed-wire gate.
Mile 9.2 - Bear right.
Mile 9.4 - Ignore trail going downhill on the right. Stay on the ridge.
Mile 9.6 - Pass through barbed-wire gate.
Mile 11.1 - Bear right and pass through gate. Going downhill now on ATV track.
Mile 11.8 - Come to 4-way junction. Take a hard right and climb super-steep ATV trail to a saddle at 12.6. Parts of the climb are rideable; some parts not. Go left at the junction and climb a little more until trail flattens out.
Mile 14.0 - Come to 4-way junction. Turn right and descend into Long Gulch on a jeep trail. It's a fun descent back to Silver City. There are a number of creek crossings.
Mile 16.8 - Arrive in downtown Silver City. You made it!     
Have you heard of the Idaho Smoke 'n Fire 400? A friend of mine, Scott Frey, told me about it at Tour de Fat, and it sounds totally amazing. It's a self-support mountain bike race starting on Wednesday, Sept. 10th in Boise, and god knows when riders will finish. They will be carrying their own overnight gear -- call it "bikepacking" -- as they ride an incredibly arduous course from Boise toward Anderson Ranch Dam to Ketchum to Stanley via dirt roads and trails to Bear Valley, Deadwood Reservoir, and then back toward Placerville before climbing over the Boise Ridge back to town. Wow! 

Sign up if this sounds appealing. Thirty-seven riders have signed up so far, including Scott. There is no entry fee and there are no prizes. Just bragging rights and survival.   
If you do stay in the Boise Valley this weekend, be aware that there are numerous Labor Day sales going on at your favorite outdoor stores -- preseason sales on skiing equipment, and closeout sales on boating, biking, hiking and camping equipment. Great time to buy!

Have fun!
- SS 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Two must-do rides in the White Cloud Mountains that will blow you away

These guys are living large in the White Clouds! L-R, Mark Anderson,
Mack Lyons, Roberto Negron, Steve Schneider and Jim Young.
Woo hoo! Roberto Negron descends into
Chamberlain Basin on a steep series of switchbacks,
with Castle Peak in the background.  
Hi all,

I missed out on a big weekend with some of my mountain bike buddies in the White Cloud Mountains because I was just coming off a Middle Fork Salmon River trip, and couldn't fit it in. But I heard all about it -- "it was totally epic, man ..." -- I've seen the photos, and my friends pretty much were exhausted and exhilarated all at once after the experience.

I'm recapping their experience in my blog this week because the two rides they notched in the White Clouds are some of the best rides in Idaho and the Rocky Mountain West, in my opinion. The scenery is totally spectacular. Very unique. It's pretty rare to ride by high mountain lakes and high peaks like you do in the White Clouds. 
Hanging out on the saddle divide ... 

On Saturday, they rode a huge traverse in the White Clouds from 4th of July Creek Trailhead to the East Fork of the Salmon River. This ride is often referred to as the Castle Divide Trail. They also rode the Big Boulder - Frog Lake - Little Boulder Loop. Both of these rides will be doable until the snow flies in October. September would be a great time to plan to go there. These rides are pretty much advanced to expert cross-country rides because of the endurance and skill set required. 

"Oh man, it was incredible," said Doug Lawrence, a retired school teacher. Noting that the big loop took them 7.5 hours, Doug said, "it was a frickin' workout. But what an incredible downhill from the Castle Divide all the way down Little Boulder Creek. It was 9-10 miles of downhill, and there was cold beer in the rig, so that was perfect."

"I thought the Big Boulder-Little Boulder Loop was fun, but the big traverse was totally awesome," added Jim Young, a retired log home builder. "I'd say that's a bucket-list ride for sure. You've got to do that once in your lifetime."
Remember that the White Cloud Mountains are used by horseback riders,
backpackers, motorbikes, trail-runners, etc.  ... so keep a watch ahead on the
trail for other users and yield accordingly.   
Plus, folks who worry about how the proposed Boulder-White Clouds National Monument would affect these trails will be relieved to know that both of these loops are included in a MOU hammered out by IMBA and the Wood River Bike Coalition with monument advocates. Both loops would remain open under the monument proposal. 

Loop #1 - Big Boulder-Little Boulder Loop - About 20 miles. Riding time: 5.5 hours. Vertical gain: 2,800 feet. Access is off the East Fork of the Salmon River Road. Take the dirt road up Big Boulder Creek to the Livingston Mill area and the Big Boulder Creek Trailhead. Take the Big Boulder Creek Trail to the Frog Lake Trail and descend on Little Boulder Creek. The climb is reasonable on Big Boulder Creek Trail, and the downhill on Little Boulder Creek is rocky and technical in places. Leave a shuttle vehicle at the bottom of Little Boulder Creek. 

Loop #2 - White Clouds Grand Traverse - "Castle Divide" Ride - 25 miles. 5,000+ vertical gain; riding time 6-7.5 hours. Sturtevants in Ketchum runs a regular shuttle service. Call 726-4501 to book it. You can leave Sturtevants in Ketchum at 8 a.m. and be back by 6 p.m. They drop you off at 4th of July trailhead and pick you up on the East Fork. My friends hired a Stanley shuttle service (Sawtooth Transportation) to take them from the East Fork to the 4th of July trailhead, and they camped on the East Fork. 

The Castle Route route is totally amazing ... you start at the 4th of July Trailhead, ride over to Washington Lake, then climb over to Chamberlain Basin, ride a super-steep trail to the top of Castle Divide (on the shoulder of Castle Peak), and then descend on the Little Boulder Trail down to the East Fork. So there are three major climbs and then the long rocky downhill on the Little Boulder Creek Trail. 
All eyes on the map! 
"It's pretty cool to ride through the pine trees, aspens, red rocks and sagebrush until you come to the East Fork," said Mark Anderson, an engineer in Boise. "Because of all the climbing and the stops we made along the way, we only averaged a little better than 3 miles per hour. We were all pretty gassed by the end. One of our guys fell off his bike on Little Boulder, so he was hurting pretty bad by the time we finished."

The folks at IMBA put together this super-cool virtual tour of the Castle Divide Ride. Check it out.

In case you're interested in the monument proposal, and how mountain bikers would be affected, see this press release on the MOU from the IMBA web site
Paul Hilding strikes a pose 
Full disclosure: I personally am in favor of the monument proposal because it would allow nearly all of the key mountain bike trails to remain open in the White Clouds, while protecting the ecological values in the high alpine areas and world-class fish and wildlife habitat. The old wilderness proposal (CIEDRA) would have closed off a number of those routes to biking, but the wilderness bill appears to be dead in our do-nothing Congress. I work for several groups in support of the monument, so I am biased. I'm also a longtime IMBA member. 
Beer-me now! 
Hope you have a chance to experience these rides. You will love it! 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Let's go hiking! Five of my favorite kid-friendly hikes in Stanley and McCall

Hi all,

The summer is fast slipping away! There's only a couple of weeks left before school starts, so time is running short to get the kids and family out of town for some mountain adventure in our state's top scenic locations in SW Idaho -- Stanley and McCall.

For my outdoor tip this week, I'm recommending five kid-friendly hikes in these cool, high-elevation areas:

4th of July Lake (courtesy
1. Short hike to 4th of July Lake and Washington Lake, Stanley area - This one is ideally suited for young kids because it's not a very long hike. It's about 1.7 miles to 4th of July Lake, and 2.8 miles to Washington Lake. Very easy hiking in a beautiful mountain setting in the White Clouds! Access the trailhead by driving south of Stanley to Iron Creek Road on the left side of Idaho 75. Take the road about 10 miles to the trailhead. Bring your flower book.
Drew and Quinn take a breather on the way to Alpine Lake
Gorgeous basin you climb through to reach the lakes 
Alpine Lake, the best spot for camping
Sawtooth Lake ... beautiful but not much flat space for camping
2. Iron Creek Trail to Alpine Lake or Sawtooth Lake, Stanley area - The Iron Creek Trailhead is located a few miles west of Stanley. Follow the Iron Creek Road to the trailhead and park. It's 8 miles out and back to Alpine Lake and 10 miles out and back to Sawtooth Lake. Alpine Lake lies in a shady forested setting. Sawtooth Lake is much higher with open views of the Sawtooth Mountains. It's a hefty hike to either location on a steep mountain trail, but your kids will do great. I also see a lot of young kids backpacking to Alpine Lake on this hike.  

Marsh Creek 
3. Marsh Creek fishing special, Stanley area - Fish for native westslope cutthroat trout on the Marsh Creek trail (single-barbless hooks only; catch-and-release) in this key tributary of the famed Middle Fork of the Salmon River. It's a 5-mile hike one-way from the trailhead to a glory hole at the junction with Bear Valley Creek. It's worth the walk if you're a diehard. Access the trailhead by taking Idaho 21 to the Lolo Campground and Bradley Boy Scout turnoff in the Cape Horn area. Turn left and proceed to the Lolo Campground. The trailhead is just past the campground.

Steve and Drew at Snowslide Lake 
Steep trail to Snowslide!  
Drew catches a little brook trout
4. Snowslide Lake, McCall - It's a steep two-mile hike on a rocky trail to Snowslide Lake, but it's a lovely forested lake with a bunch of small brook trout available for kid fishing. My son, Drew, and I hiked up there with Wendy and Huck last weekend. Had a great time! Took us about an hour to get to the lake at a swift pace.

Huckleberry Trail, Ponderosa State Park 
5. Huckleberry Trail, McCall - Ponderosa State Park built an addition to the Huckleberry Trail late last fall, and hikers and mountain bikers are really enjoying it -- for good reason. The trail runs alongside the east side of the peninsula, providing great views of this quiet side of Payette Lake. The trail starts off of the Fox Run Trail, best accessed from Pilgrim Cove Road. Follow the Huckleberry Trail along the lake for 2-3 miles until you join the main Huckleberry Trail. Continue on if you wish and enjoy a more deep forest setting to the top of Osprey Point.

There you have it!
Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Consider upping the fitness ante with road biking; it's working for me, but it's still hard!

Here's Steve, circa Spring 1986, doing a citizen race in Boise.
Pleasant Valley Road. What a nerdy helmet, eh? 
Just a young lad at the time ... ha!  
I'm a happy camper at the 3rd summit, with just one more to go ...
Mack Lyons is on the left. 
These two 4 Summit riders are stoked! 
Hi all,

For this week's tip, I wanted to share my fitness training experience over the last few months in preparation for the 4 Summit Challenge, a 72-mile, super-challenging mountain road bike ride in Cascade. I hope that by sharing this information some folks might benefit or have more ideas or recommendations. The game-changer for me has been upping the ante on road-biking for my overall fitness regime. I've lost 20 pounds since March, and I'm riding stronger than I have been in more than 10 years.

I successfully completed the 4 Summit course on Saturday in about 6 hours, including rest and food stops. The best riders finished in 4.5 hours. But this wasn't a race. It's a recreation ride -- so I wanted to make sure I had fun. Getting into the best shape possible prior to the race was part of that strategy.

The ride is truly a mental and physical challenge. It involves more than 6,000 feet of vertical gain and loss, featuring tough climbs to the four summits and thrilling descents in the wooded and gnarly mountains east of Cascade in the Boise National Forest. The paved roads are pretty darn smooth on the course, with a few exceptions, so on the flats and downhills, you can really zoom.

My inspiration for doing the ride was that two of my friends wanted to do it -- Mack Lyons and Paul Hilding. Mack rode the 4 Summits last year. Mack and I ride mountain bikes on a regular basis with a bunch of guys from Boise. One of those guys, Steve Schneider, said the 4 Summits ride set Mack apart. "After he rode the 4 Summit Challenge last summer, no one has been able to stay with Mack on the hills."

Mack is a really strong climber. That motivates all of us to try to keep up: Plus, I used to love to ride long distances on my road bike when I was in my late teens and 20s. I used to ride Lolo Pass from Missoula at the drop of a hat. I rode the 230-mile Tour of the Swan River Valley (TOSRV West) in two days several years in a row. After college, I rode centuries in Oregon and Colorado. When I moved to Boise, I rode the Hays Century Ride and hammered up to Bogus on a weekly basis. But then I bought my first mountain bike in the fall of 1986, and that opened up a whole new world to me. The 4 Summits ride would be the longest road ride I've done in about 25 years.

Get yourself a nice road bike to get excited about road biking. This
model has an aluminum frame and carbon fiber fork. I had them put
three chain rings on the front crank and climbing gears in back.
Most road bikes only come with two chain rings in front and a
flatlander-style gear set in the back. That won't work very well
 for steep mountain roads.  
Another inspiration for me was the fact that I turned 55 last year. My resolution was to try to drop some pounds and get in better shape. Last spring, I kicked the training into high gear.  

MARCH - Wendy and I took a 10-day whale-watching and sea kayaking vacation in Mexico in late February. I got some kind of stomach bug that led to the loss of the first eight pounds. When we returned to Boise, spring riding was beginning in the Boise Foothills, and I hit the trails with gusto. I wanted to keep those pounds off! My pointer Huck runs like the wind out there in the footies when it's cool and breezy. So fun to watch! Love that time of year!
  • I alternated mountain bike rides with the Cartwright 3 Summits Ride ("the dump loop") on my road bike. 
  • I tried to go spinning at the Y several times a week at noon. Over a period of weeks, I found myself pushing higher gears on the spin bike.  
  • At the summit of mountain bike rides, I'd do 100 crunchers to strengthen my core. 
APRIL - Mack, Paul and his wife, Stephanie, and I made the commitment to ride the 4 Summit Challenge. Stef reserved a sweet RV campsite at Lake Cascade State Park. Now we had a goal to shoot for. I was (gulp!) puckered by the challenge that lay ahead.
  • I blogged about roadie events and clubs in April. I started to think about trying to do a Metric Century or full Century for the Bob LeBow Blue Cruise. 
  • I continued to mountain bike a ton in the foothills and tossed in some longer road rides in SW Boise, rides that I call City to Farm. If you need ideas on road biking routes in the valley, pick up my Boise Road Cycling Guide.  
  • At the summit of the mountain bike rides, I worked up to 200 crunchers. 
MAY - Mack, Paul and I did our first significant road ride of the year. We zipped out to Swan Falls Dam from Overland & 5-Mile via Cloverdale. We put in 50 miles on that one. We were all very spent afterwards. Stephanie came out to Kuna to pick us up at a Mexican Restaurant, where we were pounding food and beers. 
  • I started to ride to Bogus on my road bike every so often. That ride helps you get stronger as a climber, and it definitely works your lungs as well. 
  • I tried to ride steep mountain bike rides whenever possible, such as climbing Hard Guy, Stueby's Death March or Watchman. 
  • I cut out my favorite cocktail, Black Russians. Limited those to special occasions. 
JUNE - I rode the Metric Century in the Bob LeBow Blue Cruise. This ride was 64 miles, including riding into a headwind along the Snake River on the way to Marsing. Despite my training, that ride still totally kicked my butt. I felt that I needed to work harder to be ready for a longer ride with much more vertical than the Blue Cruise. 
  • Did a big hike in the Pioneer Mountains ... 12 miles and more than 3,000 feet of gain. 
  • The cool month extended the mountain biking season in the foothills in terms of after-work rides. 
  • I continued to alternate rides on the road bike. 
JULY - I worried about the impact of spending eight days floating and camping on the Salmon River in Central Idaho. I was gone on vacation July 9-16. I tried to lay off the beer on the raft in the afternoons or at least reduce the intake. 
  • On Saturday, July 19, Mack and I rode from Boise to Horseshoe Bend to Emmett, which involves two summits, Horseshoe Bend Hill and Big Freezeout. That was a 60-mile ride. We felt pretty worked after that one. It was my first big ride after being on the river trip. We had a week to go before the 4 Summit ride. 
  • On Wednesday, July 23, I rode the hardest part of the 4 Summit course, the Landmark grade and the backside of the Big Creek Summit grade. That's about a 40-mile ride. It was helpful to know what gears I would be riding in on those grades. I felt I was ready. 
So really, the big difference for me this year has been increasing the road-biking component of my training regimen. By doing gradually longer and longer rides, I increased the amount of calories burned and built endurance. I still enjoyed mountain biking several times a week to exercise my puppy and me. I hope to ride a century later this summer to keep the momentum going.   

I asked a few veteran road riders about their thoughts:

This is what Tom Platt of George's Cycles had to say: "I think road cycling is a better way to attain a base level of fitness and is also a better mode for weight management plans. The rider maintains a consistent (and slightly lower) heart rate versus mountain biking which keeps things more aerobic. This is important in building general fitness and for fat-burning plans.

"We generally start the year getting all of our base mileage on the road (which also corresponds with the weather and trails). Later I like to mix in mountain biking partly because it is fun but also acts like mini-intervals, accelerating the heart rate for short periods during climbs and allowing for recovery on the rollers and minor downhills.

"I think road riding helps your mountain biking by building endurance fitness, and the mountain biking makes you more powerful and helps in climbing ability on the road."

Kurt Holzer, Boise lawyer and active rider and racer: "Riding on the road is far more a Zen experience. It's more about the endorphins. Going long and deep into the endurance reserves like long-distance running. My adrenaline comes in the racing part of it, but that’s a small portion of my overall riding.  Many more miles of rolling along chatting with friends. My greatest pleasure is being part of St. Luke’s Sports Medicine cycling club rides. Over a 2- or 3-hour ride you can talk about families, vacations, books you’ve read, home projects, politics, cooking, whatever as the miles go by and the scenery changes.  

"From an older weekend warrior athlete perspective, there is no question that the way the body makes energy for those steady state road efforts has great health benefits. Obviously riding of any kind  is good for you, but those long days in the road saddle are generally the one that I feel translate more to skiing fitness etc."

A couple of concluding thoughts:
  • Pick up a nice road bike. It'll get you excited about riding on the road.  
  • Build your mileage slowly.
  • Sign up for an ambitious bike event(s) and make that your goal. 
So there you have it! In the blog comments or on Facebook, please share your opinions with me about road biking for fitness and training, or other things that you do that build endurance and burn off the fat. Thanks!
  • On Sunday, Tamarack Resort will run their chairlift to mid-mountain so people can enjoy the Super G Trail and other mountain bike trails in the area. Lift fees are $40. USA Cycling members get a $10 discount. 
  • There's a 12K trail run in the Boise Foothills on Saturday. Sponsored by Bandanna, St. Luke's and Idaho Nordic. 
  • Next big road biking event is the annual Bogus Basin Hill Climb on Saturday, Aug. 16. Sponsored by George's Cycles and Fitness.  
  • Check out the Idaho Statesman annual photo contest winners. Results were announced today.   
- SS 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Try the new Round the Mountain Trail at Bogus Basin; Plus 4 Summit Challenge

Ya man! Conquered the mountain! Courtesy Josh Howard 
Round the Mountain on the backside ... courtesy Josh Howard 
My friend Paul Pegorsch got a small badge of honor when riding Round the Mountain ... 
Wendy completes the loop near Pioneer Lodge 
GPS tracks of Round the Mountain ... ride it counter-clockwise
Vertical gain profile for Round the Mountain Trail
Hi all,

The new Round the Mountain Trail at Bogus Basin is proving to be a bit hit with mountain bikers and hikers in the Treasure Valley. I've ridden it a couple of times now, and I really enjoy it. It's all singletrack. It's fast and smooth in places, rocky here and there, and it's got some super-fun downhill switchbacks banked corners, very similar to the Upper Drain Trail at Bear Basin in McCall.

Round the Mountain is a partnership project involving the Ridge to Rivers Trail System, Bogus Basin and scores of volunteers who helped work on the trail. Ridge to Rivers provided a sign at the trailhead that gives recognition to the many groups and local retail shops that helped out.

The complete Round the Mountain loop is about 10 miles in length. It features 1,230 feet of climbing and descent. I would rate it intermediate to strong intermediate. Travel time will vary, but it took me about 1 hour, 20 minutes to do the loop. It took us a little over 2 hours on Sunday with my partner Wendy.

The thing that's great about Round the Mountain is that it fully circumnavigates Bogus Basin in a way that no other trail has before. The trail snakes around the mountain mid-slope between the summit and the bottom of the chairlifts. The views are awesome. You can look out over the Boise Valley, Robie Creek, Idaho City, Garden Valley and points west toward Emmett. You can dream about skiing or riding down Paradise, Wildcat, Nugget or whatever when you pass by those slopes and let the fun memories of high-speed cruisers wash over your mind on an 85-degree day.

The trail itself was built with some fun challenges in mind -- you'll encounter some rock features near creek crossings, many nice but narrow wooden bridges, some fast downhill switchbacks with banked corners, and a few steep uphills. The trail pretty much stays on the same general contour all the way around the mountain, but there's lots of ups and downs.

Wildflowers are sprouting big-time along the trail. Bring your flower book.

Adding to this excitement is that Bogus has a barbecue deck open on weekends this summer, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with live music starting at 4 p.m. This week's featured artists are Possum Livin on Saturday and Jonah Shue on Sunday.

How to get started? Pick up Round the Mountain Trail #98 off of the Deer Point #91 Trail, which begins at the base area next to Deer Point Chair #1. You'll ride Deer Point for about a mile or so before you come to Round the Mountain. Follow Trail #98 as it winds around the mountain! It's about as simple as that. You will climb a few steeps at the beginning of Round the Mountain, and then the trail weaves out to the south flank of Deer Point, offering big views of the Treasure Valley. The trail crosses the Boise Ridge Road and then heads for deep woods on the Pine Creek Chair #6 side of the mountain. This is where you'll encounter the fun downhill switchbanks with banked corners. The trail contours around to the Superior Chair #3 side of the mountain and then climbs the grassy lodge traverse back to Pioneer Lodge. You can take the Morningstar singletrack downhill from there, or choose whatever route you like to the base lodge.

Because Round the Mountain is only 10 miles long, more serious advanced riders and trail-runners might want to consider the following add-ons:

  • Ride the Round the Mountain Loop and combine it with Eastside. The trailhead for Eastside is opposite to the Bogus Basin base area on the left side of the road as you come to Bogus. So it'd be super easy to jump on the Eastside Trail and enjoy an even smoother ride with fun obstacles and features here and there. Eastside is about 7 miles long, and then you climb back up to Bogus, and return to the ski area on the pavement. 
  • Add the Mahalo Loop for a little extra zip. After you've been on the Round the Mountain Trail for about 2 miles, you'll cross the Boise Ridge Road. Turn right at that point, and drop down to Forest Service Road 275C on the left. Ride 275C past a gate to the Mahalo trailhead. Ride Mahalo and ride the ridge road back to Round the Mountain and complete the loop. This would add about 6 miles to the ride ... Mahalo has a bunch of fun singletrack thanks to SWIMBA! and the Boise National Forest. 
  • Drop down from Mahalo and take the Dry Creek trail back to Boise
  • After riding Eastside, drop down Sweet Connie to complete the day
  • After completing the Round the Mountain Loop, at the Pioneer Lodge, take a left on Brewer's Byway, climb over to Deer Point Trail #91, and enjoy a ripping fast descent on #91. Remember that there may be people riding or hiking uphill on the trail, so don't get too carried away on the speed. 
There you have it! Enjoy Round the Mountain. Thx again to Ridge to Rivers for building such a gem.
On Saturday, I'll be riding the 75-mile version of the 4 Summit Challenge. Gulp! I've been training, and I think I'll be all right, but it's going to be a tough ride ... 75 miles and 6,000 verts in the mountains east of Cascade. Next week, I'll tell you all about it.

Registration is still open for this event, which has space for up to 650 riders. You can choose from the following:

  • Family ride - 8.2 miles
  • 1 Summit - 30 miles
  • 2 Summits - 50 miles
  • 3 Summits - 60 miles
  • 4 Summits - 75 miles
The great people of Cascade really roll out the red carpeting for this event. There's a great BBQ and beer party after the ride.
Hope to see you there!
-- SS 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Here's a way to beat the heat and avoid the smoke: Cool off in the Salmon River

Jim Lafferty runs Split Rock Rapids between the two big mollars 
Putting on the sunscreen to start the river day ... Blackadar Camp 
My boys Drew and Quinn love the Salmon River ...
Quinn's friend Dakota is in the background ... 

Dakota and Quinn found a great cliff-jumping rock
at Swimming Hole campsite. 
Sun tarps help create shade next to the water's edge ... 
Shade is premium on a hot afternoon on the Salmon River. This is California Bar. 
If you're lucky, you might see some bighorn sheep!  
Black Creek Rapids ... left-hand run was smooth but steep 
Buckskin Bill's little castle 
Hi all, 

We just returned from a 7-day trip on the famed Main Salmon - River of No Return section in Central Idaho. I heartily recommend cooling off in the Salmon River this summer to beat the heat and to avoid the smoke from wildfires burning in the Garden Valley area and elsewhere in the region.  

Who go? The Main Salmon is arguably one of the best family wilderness whitewater vacations in America. And it's located right here in our home state in Central Idaho. You camp on spacious beaches with lots of shade afforded by tall stately ponderosa pine trees. You get to play on the river during the day, and then you can set up the volleyball net on the beach, play bocce ball, hang out and enjoy the scenery, and more. Plus, there's hot springs, history, and Buckskin Bill's, where you can buy fresh ice cream for your kids.

River trips are one of the cushiest forms of camping you can imagine. Instead of hauling all of your food and clothes on your back such as in backpacking, the raft carries all the weight. You can bring iced coolers with just about any food items you want, plus you can carry plenty of favorite beverages for the kids and adults.

As you're enjoying the float trip during the week, the members of your floating party bond and get to know each other on a much more personal basis. You will make lifelong friends on the river. And you will fall in love with the river canyon. 

The Main Salmon is best suited for families and intermediate boaters because the rapids are not as hard to navigate as they are on more technically challenging rivers. Follow an experienced boater down the river, and you'll learn a ton. But once you learn how to run a boat, you'll want one of your own. 

For the do-it-yourself boating community, the hardest part of getting on the Main Salmon River is drawing a permit. A friend of ours drew a permit for our group for this year's trip. You could still score a permit for this summer by picking up a cancelation on Check the site several times a day for the best results. 

The second way to book a river trip is to go with an outfitter. Idaho is blessed with a multitude of quality outfitters. As longtime businesses operated on Idaho's best rivers, the outfitters receive an allocation of permits for their trips. So you don't need to draw a permit to go with them. You just have to pay the trip fee, which is usually about $1,500 per person. Go to the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association web site, and shop for an outfitted river trip. 

Another option is to float the Lower Salmon River below Whitebird to Hells Canyon. This section of river is a great trip for kids and families, and nothing more than a self-issue permit is needed. This is a 4- or 5-day trip, depending on how fast you want to go.

A trip on the Salmon River - River of No Return should be on the bucket list of every outdoorsy Idahoan. If you haven't done that yet, look for opportunities to experience this trip-of-a-lifetime. 
- SS

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pioneer Mountains, Copper Basin offer great camping, hiking, fishing in scenic splendor

On the divide above Goat Lake 
Betty Lake with Standhope Peak looming above 
Views from the rooftop of the Pioneers 
Steve and Wendy by Betty Lake 
Awesome campsite at the trailhead 
Trip map (click to enlarge)
Hi all,

I wanted to share some highlights from a sweet camping, hiking and fishing trip that we did several weeks ago in the backside of the Pioneer Mountains. Mid-week, I was already in the neighborhood, working on a story about several ranchers doing some progressive stuff in the Pahsimeroi Valley, so I came into the Pioneers from the Mackay side of Trail Creek Road. My friends Norm and Tim Nelson carpooled from Boise with Wendy and drove up via Sun Valley and Trail Creek Road to the East Fork of the Big Lost River. We met at the Broad Canyon trailhead in Copper Basin.

As I drove up East Fork, the Pioneers looked stunningly impressive and beautiful, and as always, I was excited about exploring a new spot in the Idaho backcountry. Previous to this trip, I had only explored the Pioneers from the Hailey side of the mountains.

The allure of the Pioneers is that they're generally off-the-beaten path, and the steep-faced mountains and peaks are not only super spectacular, but lofty! Many of the giant peaks in the Pioneers are in the 11,000-12,000-foot range, meaning that you have the chance to climb to the rooftop of Idaho! In the Sawtooths and Frank Church Wilderness, the tallest peaks are in the 10,000-foot range.

Broad Canyon turned out to be an excellent pick because it's got a great base camp at the trailhead, we had the whole place to ourselves for a 2.5-day weekend, and the snow was clear enough that Wendy and I were able to hike a circuit from the trailhead to Betty Lake, Goat Lake and Baptie Lake. Tim also bagged Standhope Peak (11,878 feet) from the rocky divide between Betty and Goat lakes.

The loop hike to the high lakes covered about 12 miles and featured 3,500 vertical feet of climbing and descending, so it's a BIG day to pull that off. It took us about 9 hours, including rest stops and lunch. We met Tim at the divide above Goat Lake and hiked back to camp together.

If I'd do it again, I'd backpack to Baptie Lake on Day 1, make a base camp, and then hike up to Goat Lake and Standhope Peak the next day, and walk out on Day 3.

There are many other hiking, camping and fishing trips in the East Fork and Copper Basin area. Here are several:

  • Take the Lake Creek Trail to a high basin with multiple lakes -- Big Lake, Rough Lake, Round Lake and Long Lake. Looks intriguing. It's about 4.5 miles from the trailhead to Big Lake. 
  • Explore Bellas Canyon to Bellas Lakes. It's about 3 miles to Bellas Lakes from the trailhead. This would be a good one for the kids. 
  • Camp in the Copper Basin area and ride mountain bikes on the Copper Basin loop road. This would be a 23-mile loop on a gravel road with 1,200 feet of gain. 
  • Fly fish the East Fork, North Fork or Main Fork of the Big Lost River. There are some nice cutthroat trout in there, plus some rainbows, cutbows, and grayling. Stop in Lost River Outfitters in Ketchum on your way to learn what flies/nymphs work best. 
  • Wildhorse Canyon is a fairly popular destination. The drainage takes you up to the backside of 12,009-foot Hyndman Peak.  
Events coming up this weekend: 
  • Ride Sun Valley Festival - June 27-29. Great chance to check out Sun Valley-area trails with experienced ride leaders, plus a women's clinic with Rebecca Rusch, racing events, movies, beer parties and more. See the event schedule for details. 
  • Terry Reilly/Bob LeBow Blue Cruise - Big road biking event that benefits several charities. Distances of 3, 10, 25, 35, 62 and 100 miles.
  • Pedal 4 the People - Huffy toss and log pull Friday night, grand finale party Saturday night at Crooked Fence Barrel House.  
There you have it! 

- SS