Thursday, September 30, 2010

Be Outside campaign in Idaho has great tips for getting your kids outdoors

Drew's "Over the Hedge" project in our backyard

Quinn's first fish at age 4

Quinn and Dad on the Salmon River

Quinn and Dad on the summit of Council Mountain


Drew loves camping "in the middle of no where"

Hi all,

I'm sure everyone knew that this past week was "Take a Child Outside Week," which was observed Sept. 24-30 this year. Just kidding, but actually, it's true, and the Indian Summer weather we've been having in Idaho has been utterly fantastic. So how could you find a better time to get your kids outdoors? Try starting with this weekend.

As an outdoorsy Dad, even I struggle sometimes with my kids to join me on outdoor pursuits. But because I like to play outdoors a lot, my kids often don't have a choice. I tell them we're going rafting, camping, hiking or mountain biking or whatever, and they might try to put up a fuss, but when they say, "Do I have to?" They know the answer is going to be "Yep."

A lot of other parents may struggle with knowing how to get their kids outdoors or having enough ideas to excite them about doing something outdoors. Keep reading for some great ideas.
Five years ago, Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, raised our collective consciousness about the brewing concern that our children were turning into indoor zombies, focusing too much time on video games, computers and TV. His concerns were spot-on, and his book inspired a national movement.

A number of great people in Idaho rose to the challenge and formed the Idaho Children-in-Nature "Be Outside" project, which led to a beautiful web site created by Drake Cooper agency. The Be Outside web site, hosted by the Idaho Travel and Tourism Bureau at, has 101 tips for parents and kids to consider. That's a great place to start looking for fresh ideas to get your kids outside.

The web site also lists events throughout the state, organized by region, and it has hot links to the Idaho Children in Nature Facebook page and YouTube channel. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, one of the partners in the Be Outside project, has produced a ton of inspiring videos about great kid activities -- frog pond, fishing, gardening, composting, story-telling, snow science and many more. Click on the YouTube channel to view the videos. You'll get lots of cool ideas that your kids will enjoy.

The main point is to give your kids some time to enjoy the outdoors without necessarily having to do any one particular thing. It's called unstructured time. Just let them roam around the edge of a river or in a mountain meadow, and they'll use their natural curiosity to find things to do. It might just be playing in the mud, throwing rocks, skipping rocks, looking a tree leaves, watching the clouds roll by or whatever. Get your kids outdoors, and the rest will follow quite naturally.

In Idaho, we are blessed with a multitude of outdoor resources right outside the back door, whether it's an urban pathway where you can go biking, a river where you can go fishing or skipping rocks, or a park where they can play on the playground. It's really easy for us to go play outdoors because we have great amenities close to home. Be sure to take advantage of that and your kids will never forget.

My son Quinn, 12, had a really busy summer playing on the North Boise Little League all-star baseball team that went to the Northwest regional championships in California. It totally consumed his whole summer. The day after he got home from that tournament, junior high football practice started. He never had any down time. So the following weekend, I took Quinn and my other boy, Drew, camping and fishing in the Boise National Forest.

On the first night, we pulled into a campsite next to the North Fork of the Boise River, got a fire going, and kicked back in our lawn chairs. And Quinn said, "Dad, I'm really glad you got us out of town. It's nice to have some time to chill." The next day, he took a nap for 2 hours in the afternoon. He never does that at home.

And I like the fact that there is no wifi or cell coverage in the BNF. The kids had time to just be kids.

Here are a couple of other things that you might want to do with your kids this fall:

1. Visit the Idaho Bird Observatory on the top of Lucky Peak. Raptor experts catch and band birds of prey as they are migrating south, and if you're lucky, they'll let you release the birds. It's a super-cool experience, and it's a rare chance to see birds of prey up close and personal.

2. Take your kids fishing at one of the ponds in the Treasure Valley that Idaho Fish & Game stocks on a regular basis. These are called Family Fishing Waters.

Have fun!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mahalo Trail is a great fall destination

Nick Raganit's mother expresses her appreciation

Former SWIMBA President David Thomas rides the memorial bench

Mahalo Trail profile (click to enlarge)

Mahalo Trail map (click to enlarge)

Hi all,

The Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA) had a trail-dedication Sunday for the brand new Mahalo Trail near Bogus Basin, so I thought it'd share some information about it.

I rode the trail today (see helmet cam video), and it was totally beautiful up there on the Boise Ridge, with the fall colors (yellows and reds) kicking in big-time. I really enjoyed the trail -- it has some challenging rock features, fun switchbacks with banked corners, and lots of twisty singletrack through the woods.

SWIMBA trail-building leaders Dan Meeker, Mike Edwards and SWIMBA volunteers have put 2,000 hours into creating this trail. It's been a huge effort. These are the same guys who brought you the Eastside Trail, Mr. Big and Sinker Creek Trail near Bogus Basin. If you like these new trails, do your part and join SWIMBA to contribute to the cause.

Stephanie Church from the Mountain Home Ranger District of the Boise National Forest has been instrumental in assisting with the trail-creation effort, Edwards said. Thanks to Stephanie and the BNF!

How to get to the Mahalo Trail:
1. Drive to the trailhead: Take Bogus Basin Road about 12 miles toward the ski area. Turn right on Forest Road 275 next to a pullout. This is the Deer Point service road which connects to the Boise Ridge Road. Shift into 4WD, drive toward Deer Point, and at the Deer Point junction (gated), bear right and go .8 miles to the trailhead at Forest Road 275C. Ride on 275C past a gate .03 miles to the Mahalo Trailhead. The loop is 4.7 miles. 1 hour travel time for average riders. (See map above)

2. Do the loop from Bogus Basin. Park at the Simplot (Lower) Lodge. Take Deer Point Trail #91 about 2 miles to the top of Deer Point, then peel left to the Boise Ridge Road and go .8 miles past the gate to Forest Road 275C. Go left and proceed .03 miles past a gate to the Mahalo Trailhead. Ride the Mahalo Trail and circle back on the Boise Ridge Road to Deer Point (all uphill) and return to the lower lodge.

3. Incorporate Mahalo Trail as part of a Hard Guy-Dry Creek loop ride. Climb Hard Guy to the Boise Ridge Road. Go left and climb to Forest Road 275C. Turn right and ride the Mahalo Loop. Go left at Peace Rock Junction and watch for the Dry Creek turnoff on the right in the next mile. Descend Dry Creek (6.8 miles) to Bogus Basin Road and return to Boise.

It was really neat to see the photos of the SWIMBA trail dedication on Sunday posted by Dan Meeker on Facebook. Mike Edwards created a really nice memorial bench out of a ponderosa pine tree for the late Nick Raganit, who was a very dedicated SWIMBA ride leader and volunteer. Nick was a great guy who'd always help out the slowest riders or those in need. He used to come to many of my REI presentations to add helpful information to newcomers in Boise. You can see from the photo of his mother (above) that she was so grateful for the wonderful tribute to Nick.

It should be noted that even though the Mahalo Trail was built by mountain bikers, it's open to hiking, biking, running. It's a non-motorized trail, and there are several trail barriers/step-overs to ensure that it stays that way.
See if you can get out there and enjoy the new trail before winter sets in. You'll be glad you did.
- SS

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail is a sweet treasure close to Boise

Upper Hulls Gulch ... the trail is at the bottom of the draw

Watch for wildlife along the way

Main trailhead 3 miles up 8th Street

Hi all,

Lower Hulls Gulch is probably the most popular trail in the Boise Foothills, a place where people go hiking, biking, jogging, dog-walking, bird-watching, you name it.

But 3 miles up the hill is the best part of the Hulls Gulch, and you'll rarely see anyone up there. It's called the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail, and it's also known as the Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail because of the educational signs about geology and nature that you'll see along the way. It's great for kids and families, and really, just about anyone.

The BLM developed the trail many years ago, and it was closed to mountain biking in the late 1980s to set a QUIET tone for the upper watershed, where hikers, runners and school kids can tour the area without fear of confronting speeding cyclists.

There are three ways to experience the trail, all with different mileage and experience:

1. Standard route - Drive 3 miles up North 8th Street after it turns to dirt and you'll come to a large parking area with rest rooms. This is the primary trailhead for the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail. It's a 6.5-mile hike to do the full tour of the trail to the upper watershed of Hulls Gulch, where the trail loops around the headwaters, passes by a waterfall (most impressive in the spring), and and returns to the trailhead. You should allow 2.5-3 hours for the trip (not including the drive). Mary Beth Anderson did a nice job detailing this route in her blog.

2. Upper Trailhead - Go past the main parking area and drive several more miles up 8th Street to the Upper Trailhead, which is well-marked. The road is rough with big holes and water dips. You'll need a high-clearance 4WD rig to make it up there. The upper loop is 2.5 miles to the tour the upper watershed. Here's a nice little description about that section from This hike would take about an hour and a half.

3. Lower and Upper Hulls Gulch Trail - Strong runners and hikers will enjoy this approach, which I detailed in my guidebook, Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. It's 11.5 miles from the Hulls Gulch Trailhead by the Foothills Learning Center to the top of the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail and back. Hiking time would be about 5 hours; running time 2.5 hours.

While you're out on the trail, watch for wildlife, songbirds, hawks flying overhead and animal tracks. See if your kids can identify tracks and scat.

A fourth option would be to shuttle a vehicle if you have young children or seniors along who may not be able to climb very well. You could start at the Upper Trailhead and work your way downhill to the main trailhead. This trip would be about 3 miles downhill.
FYI - If you don't have Boise Trail Guide, you can download a detailed description and map of Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail for 99 cents at

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Looking for friends for outdoor trips? Consider joining Idaho outdoor clubs

The Hash House Harriers know how to have fun!

(photo courtesy Joyce Fabre with Boise Women's Hiking Network Yahoo Group)

Hi all,

When I'm out giving an outdoor program about biking, hiking, paddling or whatever, a common question often comes up: "I'm new to town, and I wondered if there are any hiking or biking clubs that I could join to meet people and car-pool to outdoor outings?"

The answer is yes, there are a number of outdoor clubs in the Boise area. Some are more organized than others. But there are actually quite a few groups. I'll talk about some groups that I'm most familiar with here in this week's column, and if people know of other good clubs that I overlooked, please let me know in the comments section below the blog.
  • Idaho Outdoors Yahoo Group - This is an active group whose 1,800 members often request friends to accompany them on hiking, biking, skiing or snowshoe outings in SW Idaho. Owen Jones does a fine job of moderating the group. Anca Stamm is leading a day trip to Sawtooth Lake on Sunday, Sept. 12. See the group posts for more details. All you have to do is get a Yahoo login, if you don't have one already (no cost), and you can join Yahoo groups and post. Leo Hennessy, non-motorized trail coordinator for Idaho Parks & Recreation, leads lots of trips for the Idaho Outdoors group. Leo knows his stuff and he's very well traveled in Idaho. The group also meets on First Thursdays in Boise to get to know each other a little better while strolling through art galleries and drinking wine. Once you join the group, you'll get a daily digest of message posts.

  • Idaho Whitewater Yahoo Group - Idaho Whitewater is a little bigger than Idaho Outdoors with 2,288 members, and it's very active as well. People post information and pictures about their trips, which can be very helpful when you're planning a river trip and want to check on water levels and conditions (trees across the river, changes in rapids, etc.). A lot of experienced whitewater boaters like Ted Day, who also is very knowledgeable about river levels in Idaho as an employee of the Bureau of Reclamation, frequently post information to the group. Many members of the Idaho Whitewater Association are members of this group as well, so you can keep tabs on IWA's projects.

  • Idaho Mountain Recreation - This is a relatively new club in the Boise area, and they have a solid following. Their next trip is "Peak Bagging in the Lemhi Mountains," on the weekend of Sept. 10-12. It's an overnight trip. Idaho Mountain Recreation has monthly meetings with guest speakers (I have been one of them), and they do a lot of fun trips. Colleen Back is the current president. She's a pilot, hiker, skier and fly fisher, among other things.

  • Boise Women's Hiking Network - Joyce Fabre of Boise leads this Yahoo group, which now has almost 900 members. They do a lot of hiking, biking, backpacking, skiing and snowshoe trips. Good source for women who like to go on outings with women. They also do social gatherings from time to time. Joyce can be reached at
  • Boise Trail Heads has a hiking group with 400+ plus members. They're planning a hike on the Corrals Trail tonight at 8:30 p.m. Mike Needham runs the group. Click on the Boise Trail Heads to learn more about the group. The group is run through, a Facebook affiliate.

  • SWIMBA - The Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association leads mountain bike rides primarily in the Boise Foothills and in other locations in SW Idaho on a regular basis. The club is very well organized, being led at the present time by president Margie Rosenberg. Planned outings this weekend include the Sawtooth bike trek on Sept. 11 and a ride from Baker Lake to Norton Creek Sept. 12. See the SWIMBA web site for more details.

  • Mountain West Outdoor Club - I couldn't find their web site, but the group has existed for about 15 years. They do low-key non-competitive outings such as hikes, bike rides and other activities. Call 208-854-1139 for more information.

  • Singlesteps of Boise - This is a group led by Leslie Harned of retirees and others who have flexible schedules to do hikes and other outings during the week. Leslie is currently leading two hikes per week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting at 9 a.m. The group has a calendar on its web site, and others are welcome to lead outings. They also go to movies, play golf and go bowling. Contact Leslie at 321-0134.

  • If you like to do trail-running, Greenbelt running or running in general, there are a number of clubs specifically focused on running, including the Y Striders (runs start and finish at the downtown YMCA), Hash House Harriers (running and beer drinking or vice versa :) ), Boise Aggies, and Boise Run/Walk. Two running stores, Bandanna Running and Walking, and Shu's Idaho Running Company, offer weekly outings as well.

  • Many of Boise's bike shops also offer regular weekly outings or sponsor riding clubs. If you have a favorite bike shop, ask them about weekly rides. Idaho Mountain Touring sponsors the Lactic Acid Cycling Club, which has a strong following. George's Cycles sponsors the Boise Cycling Club. Bob's Bicycles sponsors road and mountain bike teams but there are no weekly rides at the present time. Again, check with your favorite bike shop to see if they have regular rides.

  • If you have kids who might want to ride bikes competitively, the Boise Youth Rider Development Squad, BYRDS, is the place to go. BYRDS is led by Douglas Tobin, a very experienced cyclist and fitness expert. BYRDS helps kids learn how to ride road bikes, mountain bikes and cycle-cross. They have several rides every week. Contact Tobin for more inforation,
  • Both Idaho River Sports and Alpenglow Mountainsport provide regular paddling outings, often low-key canoe and kayak float trips. IRS is leading a trip on the North Fork Meanders, starting at North Beach on Payette Lake on Sunday, Sept. 12. Alpenglow is promoting a competitive event at Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Again, if I've overlooked your club, please chime in, in the comments section below, to let people know what you offer and how to hook up. I'll touch on ski clubs this winter.

Thanks! - SS

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Try bagging Hyndman Peak or Thompson Peak this fall for awesome summit views

Hyndman Peak (courtesy

Looking back at Redfish from Thompson summit (courtesy

Thompson Peak (courtesy

Hi all,

September is upon us, and it's one of my favorite months of the year. The weather is cooler, and usually, high pressure prevails for clear blue skies -- creating ideal conditions for outdoor adventures.

Most people have made their Labor Day plans by now, so I'm suggesting that you try to carve out some time in September to climb 12,009-foot Hyndman Peak in the Pioneer Mountains or 10,751-foot Thompson Peak in the Sawtooth Wilderness.

Thompson is the highest peak in the Sawtooths, so it attracts a fair bit of attention, and Hyndman is the 9th highest peak in Idaho, and the highest point in the Pioneers. So you can count on fantastic views from either summit.

Details on climbing both mountains can be found in Tom Lopez's guide, Idaho: A Climber's Guide, available on There also are excellent detailed reports about climbing both mountains on and

An adventuresome friend of mine, Steve Townsley, took his two boys to the top of Hyndman Peak when they were 10 and 12. Steve says the rapid elevation gain involved in climbing to Hyndman was hard on the boys, giving them headaches and making them nauseous. If you're planning on taking kids, even most 12-year-olds would have a hard time climbing Hyndman. The kids -- and you -- need to be in good shape, and highly motivated to make it to the top.

It's a good idea to camp at the base of Cobb and Hyndman Peaks the day before, and acclimate to the elevation before heading to the summit. Hyndman is located in the East Fork of the Big Wood River drainage. You head up the East Fork, past Triumph, then go left on the jeep trail heading up Hyndman Creek to the trailhead. Follow directions on the Idaho Summits web site on approaching Hyndman Peak. There is a yurt platform in the trees at the base of the mountain peaks where it's ideal to camp.

Thompson Peak is best accessed from the Redfish Lake Trailhead near Redfish Lake, Stanley and Idaho Highway 75. It's 6.5 miles to the summit and 4,200 feet of elevation gain. Again, it's best to hike into the base area of the peak the day before heading for the summit to acclimate to the elevation and to give yourself some time to enjoy the spectacular scenery.

The key when heading to the summit of Thompson is to corkscrew in a counter-clockwise direction toward the west and south portions of the rocky peak so you don't get cliffed out. This is the best way to approach the summit for the easiest but still difficult walk-up route.

Enjoy! - SS