Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sift the white sand through your toes on the Salmon River

Our private Idaho

Tommy made a monster

Elena found some tadpoles

Camping on the other side of the river from the road is ideal

Tom and Carolyn clown around

My son Drew and Elena

The beaches on the lower half of the Salmon River, upstream of Riggins or downstream from Whitebird, remind me of the Caribbean.

That's why we love to go there ... not only to float the whitewater on the Salmon River, but to camp on those enormous white sandy beaches, let the kids make sand castles at the water line, play badminton and volleyball, and about once every 15 minutes, you dive into the Salmon River to cool off, and do it all again.

If it's especially hot, set your lawn chair in the water and submerge at least half of your body to guard against the heat. The water temperature right now is absolutely purrrfect!

For this week's outdoor tip, I would recommend heading up to the Salmon River upstream of Riggins, and go camping on the beach, float the river and camp along the way, or do some combination thereof.

If you don't have your own raft or kayak, you can book a trip with Exodus in Riggins while you're up there and enjoy a bunch of super-fun whitewater Class 3-4 rapids on the Riggins day trip section. It's an awesome place for water fights and rapids that make the kids scream with delight. Half day trips start at $66/person.

Check out this video from Exodus on rafting the Riggins day trip.

If you plan to go there, remember that this is a popular destination, especially this time of year. So try to get up there early on a Thursday or Friday to nail a great campsite, or go on a Sunday when everyone is heading back home for work.

Don't forget your sunscreen and a big sun tarp that can withstand a major wind.

So why are the beaches so huge? Because the Salmon River is free flowing with no dams for 475 miles from Galena Summit north of Sun Valley to the mouth in Hells Canyon. It's a natural fully functioning river system. During high water, sediments are carried from hundreds of creeks and deposited high on the river bank. Beaches move around each year as the river dynamics always change. There aren't any big beaches left in Hells Canyon because of the high dams. But the Salmon will always be free flowing because it's a federal wild & scenic river.

How to get there: Take Idaho 55 north to New Meadows. Go north on U.S. 95 to Riggins. It's about three hours from Boise. Turn right in Riggins on the Big Salmon River road and cruise upstream to find your campsite. It's about 30 miles to the end of the road. If you have your own raft, you can nail some beautiful camps that are across the river from the road, so that will give you a distinct advantage.

Have fun! -- SS

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cool off at Loon Lake in McCall

The loop is best done counter-clockwise

Secesh River bridge; sweet singletrack along the river coming up

Flowers amid the burn

I ran into people camping with llamas last year in the meadow 1/4 mile from Loon Lake

Bear Grass in bloom next to the trail

It's going to be sizzling hot this weekend, so you've got to head for higher elevation to get cooler weather, and you need to be near cold water for cooling off. Duh. If it's 100 in Boise, the temps will be nudging 90 in McCall or Ketchum. So I'm recommending going to McCall, and doing a 10-mile (round-trip) hike or mountain bike ride to Loon Lake.

One could backpack into Loon Lake, too. There are some great campsites near the lake, but a lot of people go there, so it's not, shall we say, "secluded." Car camping at Chinook Campground, the Loon Lake trailhead, also is a beautiful spot.

Check out this video on YouTube about mountain biking the Loon Lake trail by Kevin Mullin of Boise. It's got great flow ... just like the ride itself.

Loon Lake is a major-big mountain lake. It's more than a mile across. You might see a moose or a loon. Certainly a merganser. But one thing that's really neat about Loon Lake is that the water is shallow, so it warms up nicely by this time of year, and you can swim a long ways out into the lake and really enjoy it. (I have a story about Wendy swimming naked out there -- and getting stuck out there -- when some Boy Scouts showed up, and she couldn't come back into shore for some time!) Most high mountain lakes are so fricking cold that you can't do anything more than a quick skinny dip! Wendy was out there for like 20 minutes!

There's also a plane-crash site on the west side of Loon Lake that provides information about these guys who miraculously landed a B-23 Dragon bomber in the snow in the dead of winter and survived. They hiked out, and they were 50 miles from civilization! Whoa. It's worth hiking to the wreckage site if you haven't done so already. The Forest Service has put up interpretive signs that tell the story.

Check out the wildflowers along the way to the lake. Watch for salmon in the Secesh. And hit Burgdorg Hot Springs after your trip, if you're so inclined.
-- SS