Thursday, March 1, 2012
Ol' Reliable Rocky Canyon Road is a great destination anytime of the year in Boise
Rocky Canyon Road at Aldape Summit early-season
Rocky Canyon Road map (click to enlarge)
Five Mile-Orchard (Trail #7) Loop (click to enlarge)
Five Mile Creek is a perennial stream
Orchard Gulch trailhead
Five Mile Trailhead
Goggles are a must riding in the snow
5-6 inches of fluff this morning!
I wasn't the only person who wanted to recreate in the snow ...
We're getting a nice blast of snow this week to freshen up the "pow" in the mountains, but next week, even by Sunday, the weather is turning warm in Boise ... it might even hit the low 60s by next Monday! That'll get the spring fever going, won't it?
The big swings in temperatures we'll be experiencing next week will freeze our foothills trails at night, and thaw big-time during the day; chances are, they'll be mushy by the afternoon when temperatures rise into the 40s or 50s. I doubt things will dry out yet, so you'll be limited to hiking/running/biking on frozen trails early in the morning.
During times like this, I've always championed going out on Rocky Canyon Road, a place we might call "Old Reliable" because it's a sandy dirt road with relatively good drainage. By using the road, you can't hurt it by hiking, biking or running in any condition. And it's always a good workout going up to the summit or hitting a few side trails or loops.
In case you're new to town, Rocky Canyon Road is part of the locally famous Race to Robie Creek, one of the toughest half-marathons in the Northwest. The section of Rocky Canyon I'm talking about starts at the end of the pavement and climbs 1,728 feet over 4.9 miles to Aldape Summit. Out and back, it's about 10 miles.
Today (Thursday, March 1), I went out to bike up Rocky Canyon in the snow, and it was totally beautiful -- light snow coming down hard, no wind, totally quiet and my tires made no noise in the soft snow. I thought I might have the place to myself, but there were several runners out there with dogs having a blast. See what these women had to say about their outing ...
Last Sunday, Wendy and I took our puppy, Huck, on a hike up the Five Mile Trail. I thought the trailhead would be below the snowline, which it was at the time. The trail is pretty sandy, so it was fine for hiking. After we hiked up the trail a ways, it was covered in snow or a combination of snow and ice to the Watchman/Orchard Gulch junction, where we turned around.
With the fresh snow, the Five Mile-Orchard Gulch Loop should be a beautiful hike or run in the next couple of days. This is a premium side trip in Rocky Canyon. The loop is 5.35 miles with about 1,100 feet of vertical gain/loss. Hiking time is approximately 2.5 hours, but if you're taking an easy-going pace, it might take longer than that. Running time is about an hour or less, depending on how fast you go. The route is featured in my book, Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home.
I don't recommend Five Mile-Orchard as a bike ride right now unless you've got studs on your tires. But later after the trails dry out, this loop is an equally fun and sweet mountain bike ride. When things get warm in the next couple days, Five Mile and Orchard may get quite muddy, so this is another reason I'm not recommending it.
But there's Old Reliable Rocky Canyon ... you can always climb that, and try to reach Aldape Summit for an excellent workout. This can be very challenging this time of year because of snow, ice and slippery conditions, especially for a bike. I made it past the Orchard Gulch turnoff today, and after climbing maybe a half-mile past there, the snow was 5-6 inches deep, and I couldn't get enough traction on the steep road to keep going. I just kept spinning out, and it was about impossible to get going again.
But that's OK! I can come back another day and so can you! In the spring months, I've often been able to make it to Aldape Summit by riding a tight line (usually an icy or snowy tire track), and stay on that bead. Sometimes the best line is right next to the edge of the road. On the way down, it will be slippery and treacherous, but that's part of the fun. Be sure to lower your seat. And if you don't have fenders, you'll get lots of mud in the face and on the butt.
Runners and walkers don't have to worry about that part of it :) The Race to Robie Creek is scheduled for April 21 this year. There's no time like the present to start training. We saw a ton of walkers and runners on Rocky Canyon Road last Sunday. The runners I saw today went up to Orchard Gulch and did the loop on the way back down. They're already in great shape.
There will be some ice and snow to contend with near the summit for at least a month. But once the snow from today melts off tomorrow and Saturday, it should be possible to get there. I'll have to go back and see myself.
How to reach the trailhead: Take Reserve Street north off of Fort Street near the Fort Boise ballfields and St. Luke's Regional Medical Center. Reserve turns into Shaw Mountain Road at the end of the straightaway. Follow Shaw Mountain Road up the winding paved road to a junction with Table Rock Road and Rocky Canyon Road. Go left on Rocky Canyon. It's about 1.5 miles to the end of the pavement. See the maps above for more detail.
Read all about Steve's outdoor trips in Idaho, including hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, camping, trail-running, whitewater boating, canoeing, SUP’ing, skiing and snowshoeing.
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