Thursday, March 25, 2010

Boise Foothills low-elevation trails are in great shape

Top of Shane's Loop

Bucktail near Shane's Jct.

Boise B's climbing Hulls

The B's climbing Corrals

Corrals - Hulls Loop (click on map to enlarge)

Jumpin' Jeepers Figure 8 Loop
Sunny skies are forecast for the weekend with temperatures in the 60s, so it should be a great time to head into the lower portion of the Boise Foothills for a hike, run or bike ride.

Because of the rain on Thursday and Friday, you should wait until Saturday afternoon for things to dry out. Check on the latest trail conditions on the Ridge to Rivers trail system web site.

I'm recommending two loops for this weekend:

1. Corrals - Hulls Gulch Loop - 9.2 miles w/shuttle to the Corrals trailhead for hikers and runners; 13 miles starting and finishing at Camelsback Park, 13th and Heron, in North Boise. See map above for details.

Travel time: 4 hours hiking; 2 hours running (I run slow); 1-2 hours mountain biking

Experience: It's an easy-going moderate climb to Corrals Summit and the 8th Street parking lot. Then, it's a fun rock slalom downhill in Hulls Gulch back to to Camelsback.

: Great view of downtown Boise from Corrals Summit; creekside bird-watching possible along Crane Gulch and Hulls Gulch; primo gradient for hiking, running or mountain biking.

2. Jumpin' Jeepers Figure 8 loop - 6.75 miles. Start and finish in Military Reserve Park by Fort Boise in East Boise. See map above for details.

Travel time
: 2.5-3 hours hiking; 1:15 running; 1+ hour mountain biking

: This is a neat figure-eight route made possible by Bucktail and Central Ridge trails and Shane's Trail. It's a long gradual climb on Central Ridge and Bucktail Trails before you scale Shane's to the top, and then a really fast and fun twisting singletrack ride back to the start.

Highlights: Nice views from Shane's Summit and some of sweetest buttery singletrack sections in Boise.

During the next 30-45 days, the Boise Foothills will be subject to lots of rain, meaning that trails can get muddy after those storms. It's important to stay off the trails until they dry out. Please use common sense and go on a road ride or a Greenbelt cruise when conditions are wet.

Another good source of information for Boise Foothills trail conditions is the Boise Front Trails Yahoo Group. Go to this link to join the group and get regular updates on trail conditions.

Have fun and tread lightly!
- SS

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tulum, Mexico - a great getaway

Fly fishing for bonefish

We ran across a fresh a snapper during our bird tour

The beachfront cabanas at Cesiak

Steve and Wendy at the Mayan ruins in Tulum

An empty beach south of Tulum

My partner, Wendy, and I aren't that much into the beachfront full-on "resort" scene so we searched for a place where we could enjoy the Caribbean coast on our own terms for a little spring vacation. Tulum, located 1.5 hours south of Cancun, was a great choice.

Tulum is an actual Mexican town with quite a few shops, a few decent restaurants, a well-stocked grocery store and plenty of accommodations -- either on the beach or in town.
Here's some video from our trip.

The beaches in Tulum were absolutely perfect -- lots of silky white sand along the coast, large shallow areas for swimming, and that gorgeous turquoise Caribbean water leading out to a large reef that extends for many miles up and down the coast. You could hang out in the more popular local beach, where pina coladas were close by, or search for a private spot farther down the coast, where we didn't see hardly anyone.

It was a very relaxed scene. Some women went topless. In the more remote beaches, it was definitely clothing optional.

We chose to stay at Posada Yum Kin, a hotel in Tulum proper, for the first 4 nights of our stay ($70/night U.S.). It was a good home base with a kitchenette. That way we didn't have to eat out for every meal.

In the second half of our trip, we stayed at Centro Ecologico Sian Ka'an (cesiak) ($80/night U.S.), a beautiful spot less than an hour from Tulum, at the gateway to the 1.3-million-acre Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. Cesiak had these cool, beachfront cabana-style huts with well-ventilated canvas wall tents inside to keep out the bugs and rain, if an issue.

We kept the hatches wide open and slept amid the sound of big wind, crashing waves and bird song. I sure miss that background aura already!

We did bird-watching tours, snorkeling, fly fishing, R&R on the beach, jogging on the beach and several Mayan ruins. We wanted to go sea kayaking to observe wild pink flamingos, but that didn't work out.

Wendy had a lot of frequent flier miles logged with Alaska Airlines, so most of our plane fare was taken care of. Alaska flies to Cancun from Seattle or L.A., a 5-hour flight from either location. That seemed pretty quick and easy to me.

Bon voyage!
-- SS

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Do you care about Idaho State Parks? If so, tell your legislators

Henry's Lake State Park

Farragut State Park, Lake Pend Oreille

City of Rocks National Reserve

Bruneau Dunes State Park

Some of you may remember when Gov. Otter unveiled his state budget in early January. He proposed to zero-fund the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, sell off the IDPR headquarters by Shakespeare and the Boise River, and absorb the agency into the Idaho Department of Lands.

Quite a few people came unglued.

Because of the outcry, Gov. Otter has back-tracked on eliminating IDPR, and he wants to keep all 30 Idaho State Parks open. But he has proposed a draconian 80% budget cut for IDPR, which will put our State Parks in a precarious position from an operations and safety perspective.

For campers and visitors, the cuts will mean:

- Reduced visitor hours
- Some parks will be closed seasonally
- Bathrooms will get cleaned less often
- Skeleton staff levels for parks
- Park facilities falling into disrepair
- Potential safety issues

I've been involved in forming a new private nonprofit group called Friends of Idaho Parks & Recreation in hopes of building broader public support for IDPR, State Parks and the agency's recreation programs. People who love state parks and its recreation programs need to convince Gov. Otter and the Idaho Legislature that we don't want to ruin our state parks to balance the state budget.

Most agencies are looking at 15-20% cuts. For IDPR, it's 80%. Does that seem fair? Does that seem right?

If you're concerned, please write the budget committee members in the Idaho Legislature and let them know how you feel.

Here is a column I wrote recently urging people to take action on Facebook. Follow those links for emails of legislators and talking points. There is a fan page for Friends of Idaho State Parks. Please join.

The Legislature's budget committee will set IDPR's budget on Monday morning. Please write your email prior to 8 a.m. Monday.


- SS