Thursday, May 31, 2012

New version of Mountain Biking in Boise aims to please with new rides for everyone

Ride the Memorial Bench on the Mahalo Trail 
Roberto, Mark and Jim take a breather at Eagleson Summit
Zooming down Hard Guy is too much fun 
Summit of Stueby's Death March
Hi all,

Ah, mountain biking in Boise, is a wonderful thing, isn't it? I've been riding in the Boise Foothills for more than 25 years -- to date myself just a little -- and I always find it invigorating. Between the top of Shafer Butte, Stack Rock and the Boise River, we've got over 200 miles of trails to explore. We are truly blessed.

Mountain biking is one of my favorite things to do because each ride has so many benefits -- fresh air, blue sky thinking, fitness, socializing with friends, running the dog, etc. With more than a dozen trailheads to choose from between the Eagle Cycle Park and Harris Ranch at the edge of the foothills, we can hit the trails just minutes from home and go exploring. 

I rode one of my favorite loops today - I call it the "Sidewinder-Fat Tire Connector-Trail #5 Loop. This 11-mile ride became doable when Ridge to Rivers built the Fat Tire Connector Trail in 2010, a trail connects Sidewinder with the Trail #5-Trail #6 ridge to the east. That trail opens up a lot of new opportunities that didn't exist before. And it was built with Fat Tire Festival beer money. How about that! Here's some video.

You start at Camelsback Park, ride up to Crestline via Kestrel, climb Crestline to Sidewinder and take that to the top, and then cruise over to Trail #5 via the Fat Tire Connector. From there, it's a fun zoom down the ridge to Military Reserve, and then back to Camelsback via the Military Reserve connector.

A cool variation on that loop, adding another 600 vertical feet of climbing, is to climb go left and climb Trail #5 from the Fat Tire Connector to Trail #6, climb some more to the Trail #4 junction, and then take Trail #4 back to Sidewinder. This ride is a pleasant variation to what I call "Stueby's Death March" in my guidebook, Mountain Biking in Boise. It's much more pleasant because the old route involved climbing Trail #5 up the backbone of a steep ridge through deep sand. Fat Tire Connector allows you to avoid that nasty climb, and still reach the upper part of Trail #5.

My friends Glenn Oakley, Mark Lisk and I used to do Stueby's Death March all the time. Glenn compared it to Bataan Death March, which is probably where the ride got its name. We dreaded the climb especially in the heat of July, but the ride always told me what kind of shape I was in, and it felt like a great accomplishment later. Now I do the same ride frequently except I go up there via Sidewinder and Fat Tire Traverse.

This variation on Stueby's Death March is one of 65 rides in my latest version of Mountain Biking in Boise. This brand new 6th edition is hot off the press. The 184-page book contains all of the favorite rides in t12he Boise Foothills such as Watchman and Far Tire Traverse, all of the popular rides near Bogus Basin such as Freddy's Stack Rock Trail, Mahalo, and Eastside, a number of rides out at Avimor and in the Eagle Foothills, and much more.

My guidebook complements the Ridge to Rivers maps by providing mileage, distance, travel time, and many, many variations on typical mountain bike loops.

Here are several other rides from the book that you'll enjoy:

  • Deer Point Trail - Mahalo - Boise Ridge Road Loop. Distance: 12.6 miles. Travel time: 2.5-3 hours. 2,590 feet of vertical gain/loss. Difficulty: Advanced. Strong intermediate riders should be able to complete the ride by taking plenty of rest stops, as needed. Drive to the Bogus Basin parking lot. Ride Deer Point Trail #91 to the Sidewinder saddle. Turn right and ride over to Deer Point and a gate by the Boise Ridge Road. Go left on the ridge road and cruise downhill to Forest Road #275C on the left. Go left, go over the gate, and watch for the beginning of Mahalo Trail on your right. Mahalo is a fun singletrack built by SWIMBA in coordination with the Boise National Forest. The trail is all singletrack, winding through the forest for about 4 miles in some tight switchbacks, roots, rocks and various obstacles, plus some smooth and fast trail. Once at the ridge road, turn right and head back to Bogus and ride Deer Point downhill to the parking lot. One variation that strong riders do is finish this ride by going down the Dry Creek Trail after completing the Mahalo Loop
  • Chris' favorite lunch ride. Distance: 9.1 miles. Advanced. Travel time: 1 to 1.5 hours. This one was contributed by Chris Haunold, owner of Idaho Mountain Touring. If he's got a little over an hour, this is the ride he likes to do to get a good workout in the footies. From Camelsback Park, he rides up Red Fox and Chickadee Ridge Trails to Hulls Gulch, then he climbs Hulls to the Crestline junction, takes Crestline downhill to Sidewinder, and climbs to Sidewinder Summit, and takes Trail #4 back down to Crestline, and takes Red Cliffs and Owls Roost back to Camelsback. That's a good, quick workout with 1,277 vertical feet of climbing and descent.
  • Do you feel like king of the mountain? Are you feeling strong and eager for a challenge? Try Tom Patek's 3-hour Tour. This is more like a full-day ride for me. 26.8 miles. 6,843 feet of climbing/descent. Start at Camelsback. Ride Red Fox and Hulls uphill to the motorcycle parking lot. Climb Corral's Backwards. Climb Scott's Trail to 8th Street. Take 8th Street to Eagleson Summit. Go downhill to the Dry Creek turnoff, and ride Dry Creek downhill toward Bogus Basin Road. At the Dry Creek junction with Hard Guy, climb over to Hard Guy, descend to the Corrals Trail, and ride to Corrals Summit, and downhill over to motorcycle parking lot and downhill on Hulls back to Camelsback. I swear, anyone who can clock that ride in 3 hours is super-human. 
  • How about something a little easier? Try Leo Hennessy's Howling Coyote Ride from Quail Ridge to Polecat Gulch. Distance: 11 miles. Travel time: 1.5 hours. 2,050 feet of climbing/descent. Strong intermediate to advanced. From Hill Road, climb to the top of the Quail Ridge subdivision, go to the water tank, climb over the step-over, and take the ridge north over to Polecat Gulch trails. Drop over to Quick Draw, climb to the Polecat Ridge, and climb the Polecat Loop trail to Doe Ridge. Descend Polecat Loop trail to the Polecat Gulch area, and then climb back to the ride leading to Quail Ridge to finish the ride. 
  • Here's a fun intermediate ride - Jumpin' Jeepers Figure 8 Loop. Distance: 6.75 miles. 1+ hours travel time. Start/Finish in Military Reserve Park. Climb the Toll Road Trail to Central Ridge to Shane's Junction. Climb to Shane's Summit and complete Shane's Loop. Take Bucktail downhill back to Military Reservoir Park. This is a super fun descent on Bucktail. Finish along Freestone Creek or Central Ridge trail back to the trailhead. I call it Jumpin' Jeepers because of the potential of getting spooked from gunfire at the police firing range when you're on Bucktail or descending to Freestone Creek. But it's a fun and fast ride.
Well, there's a little bit of sneak peek at the new book. You'll still see Ian Fitzgerald of Eagle flying through the air at the Eagle Cycle Park on the book cover.

The rides in Mountain Biking in Boise  (detailed descriptions and trip maps) also are available for 99 cents at and the entire book is available in full color as an ebook. The hard-copy guidebook retails for $14.95. 

In my experience, a lot of people ride the same trails over and over again. But diversity is the spice of life, right? With 65 rides, there are enough ideas in Mountain Biking in Boise to keep you busy for several years. 

Have fun! 
- SS

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Some suggestions for Memorial Day weekend

The Crooked River trail starts from the Edna Creek Road, north of Idaho City.
On top of Bogus Basin, looking north to Mores Mountain 
North Valley Rail-Trail in McCall 
Hot springs may be the ticket this weekend ... this is Kirkham near Lowman 

Hi all,

After all of this beautiful, warm weather we've had in May, it's too bad that Memorial Day weekend is starting off wet and cold.

Checking on the forecasts, I see McCall is supposed to have highs in the low 50s, and a 50 percent chance of rain or snow until Monday. In Stanley, it's supposed to be colder, with 60 percent chance of rain or snow. In Idaho City, it may hit 60 by Sunday, and a 40 percent chance of rain. Geez isn't that inspiring!

But hey, last year at this time was WAY worse. There was a lot more snow at low elevations, and the weather was horrible all weekend. My recommendations could be summed up in one sentence: "Party under the tarp."

Those sage words of advice will hold true again this weekend. If you're going camping, I'd recommend choosing a location that's in the lower elevation zone to avoid getting buried by snow. Definitely bring a good tarp. Pack a ton of firewood; keep it covered and dry. Dress warm.

The Idaho Statesman outdoor staff had a great roundup in today's edition on camping conditions in  Southwest Idaho. If you haven't tried it yet, you might look for a Forest Service cabin rental or an Idaho State Park cabin rental for the weekend. That would be warm and cozy.

In the meantime, I'll suggest a couple of hiking and biking trails that may be good bets for this weekend:

  • Bogus Basin Contour Tour - This is a moderate hike or mountain bike ride. It's 5.75 miles start to finish. You circumnavigate Bogus Basin ski area by taking Deer Point Trail #91 to Elk Meadows Trail #94. Take Elk Meadows around the backside of Bogus to Lodge Trail, return to the Pioneer Lodge area, and then descend on Sunshine Trail and Shindig Trail back to the main parking lot. See my previous blog on this loop for details.  
  • Two Trails that start with the letter "C" - Crooked River and Cottonwood Creek. Both of these trails are in the Boise National Forest. Crooked River is between Idaho City and Lowman, and Cottonwood Creek is near Arrowrock Reservoir. See my previous blog on these trails for details. 
  • Station Creek Trail - I'm taking my kids hiking on this trail on Sunday. My 14-year-old son is going to be working on a trail crew this summer, and he needs to get his boots broken in. The Station Creek Trail is located directly across from the Garden Valley Ranger District office, on the Banks to Lowman Highway, just east of the town of Garden Valley. The hike is about 4.5 miles long. As an optional addition, you can hike to the top of Bald Mountain. That's what we're going to do. 
  • Bear Basin or North Valley Rail-Trail - If you're in McCall, these are two low-elevation options close to town that are guaranteed to please. These two hikes/rides are featured in my book Mountain Biking in McCall. Click on the free sample rides for details. The Bear Basin Trails are in the Payette National Forest and the North Valley Rail-Trail runs south of McCall on the old railroad right of way. Both trails are kid-friendly. 
If you're camping in the Garden Valley or Idaho City areas over the weekend, one thing you could do is to watch the Exergy Tour stage race on Sunday. It's a 60-mile race from Garden Valley to Idaho City. It starts at noon, and it's expected to finish around 3 p.m. in Idaho City. It's called the "Queen's Tour."

On cool and wet weekends like this, another great alternative is to hang out at a hot springs. I expect that Gold Fork, Burgdorf, Baumgartner, Bonneville, Kirkham and others will be popular spots.  

Try to stay warm and dry, and above all else, have fun! 
- SS

Steve shares his weekly outdoor tips with Ken and Tim on 94.9 FM The River each Friday morning in Boise at approximately 7:10 a.m. Here's the audio from this blog topic. You can hear archived audio segments on River Detailed descriptions and color maps of Steve's hikes, bike rides and paddling trips are available for 99 cents each at, plus the full ebooks and hard-copy guidebooks.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Have you ever wanted to ride across America on a bike or a horse? Here's some inspiration ...

Wayne, left, Frosty and Howard upon arrival at Chris Brady's in Boise
Hi all,

I had the pleasure of meeting two extraordinary gentlemen last week who are in the midst of riding their bicycles across America. They're brothers -- Frosty Wooldridge and Howard Wooldridge. They're retracing the route that Howard followed in 2002 on his pinto paint horse from Savannah, Ga, to Newport, Ore. -- a distance of about 3,100 miles. Howard called it "Misty's Ride."

Howard Wooldridge on his horse Misty
Frosty says about 350-500 people ride bikes across America every year. But Howard is "definitely the only guy to ride both a horse and a bike across the country," he says.

I don't know about you, but I've always dreamed of riding a bike across America. I've just never taken the time. I could have done it after finishing college, but I was broke and wanted to get a newspaper job in the worst way and start a career in journalism. And I did. Now I'm up to my ears in work, kids and family. But someday, I really hope to do the ride. Frosty and Howard are my inspiration and maybe yours too. They're not average Americans by any stretch. These guys take life by the horns and go BIG!

Frosty taking a roadside break 
Frosty Wooldridge has pedaled 100,000 miles around the world and covered six continents. He's the author of many books, including How to Live a Life of Adventure. This is the 6th time he's riding his bike across America, mainly to accompany his brother Howard on his quest to fulfill an item on his bucket list, and talk to the media about his cause -- overpopulation.

Unchecked immigration is a huge problem, Frosty says. "We've got 46 million people living on food stamps in America right now. We must create 95,000 jobs every month to take care of our legal obligations to immigrants coming into America. I call it slow-moving national suicide."

Frosty doesn't believe our nation can possible take care of all of the legal immigrants, much less the illegal ones, plus he worries about the impact of overpopulation on our natural resources. But none of our nation's political leaders will touch the issue, he says, calling their lack of action "thundering silence."

Howard's cause is fighting the prohibition of illegal drugs. He's an ex-cop and a lobbyist on
Capital Hill who feels that it's a big waste of money to continue the war on drugs. His organization is called Citizens Opposing Prohibition or COPS. The T-shirt he rides in says "COPS SAY LEGALIZE POT. ASK ME WHY." His feeling is that the war on drugs/drug prohibition has been the "most destructive, most dysfunctional and most immoral policy since slavery and Jim Crow."

Working in Washington D.C. is tough these days, Howard says, because everyone in Congress is bought by special interests. The true needs of the nation are ignored while special interests run the show. "I come home from work every day covered with slime," he says. "I have to take a shower to try to get rid of it."  Howard says he's going to retire in the next year or so because he can't stand being around the corruption much longer. Kudos to him for working on the cause, nevertheless.

Now, back to their cross-country ride. They're riding on a pace of about 50-65 miles a day, depending on terrain to stay on track for a timetable of completing their ride in 9 weeks. They're operating on a budget of about $15/day. They're carrying about 60 pounds of gear, and they camp out on most nights.
Cycling across America takes "true grit" Frosty says 
A third man, Wayne, is riding with them. Wayne is 70 years old, Howard is 60 and Frosty is 65. They're all happy and fit as can be.

One reason that fewer than 500 people ride bikes across America each year is that it's hard! "You gotta have true grit," Frosty says. "It takes a lot of toughness. Nature will throw all kinds of s--- at you and you've got to deal with it -- wind, rain, sleet, hail, heat, you name it."

But the benefits are big. "Bicycle touring will show you that you're alive in a grand way," Frosty says. "It's a spiritual zen experience. It makes you peaceful, happy and purposeful. We all have a powerful exploratory urge if you open your mind to the possibilities. It's in our human DNA to explore."

Penny-Farthing bike. Very easy to sail over the handlebars and land on your head.
Frosty and Howard are inspired by other people's stories, too. Consider the guy who rode a penny-farthing bicycle from San Francisco to New York in 29 days! Those are the one speed bikes with a big front wheel. Thomas Stevens of England was the first person to ride around the world on a bike (a penny-farthing) in 1884-1886. "Think how primitive things were at that time -- that guy could have died in a thousand ways!" Frosty notes.

Cross-country riders often are inspired to make the big trip because of some kind of adversity that has struck their lives. "Divorce and death are a catalyst to doing extraordinary things," Howard says.

One of the biggest rewards of riding across the country is how friendly people will come to your aid time and time again. Howard has experienced it on his horseback ride and on a bicycle. Frosty has experienced it all over the world. "I've been invited into hundreds of homes," Frosty says. "People figure that you have to have character and integrity to ride a bike across the country."

"The world conspires to help you succeed," Howard says.

Howard recalls riding Misty into the Stage Stop about 10 miles east of Boise on I-84. He needed hay and grain for his horse in that dreadful piece of road between Mountain Home and Boise. A rancher just happened to pull into the service station with fresh hay and grain in the horse trailer. He wouldn't let Howard pay for any of it. The next day, another rancher helped Howard with a broken horse shoe, brought a horse trailer over to haul the horse to their ranch to fix the shoe and fed Howard a hearty meal. "People just come out of the woodwork to help you. It's uncanny."
Go see the country! 
If you want to track Howard and Frosty's adventure, Howard has a twitter handle @cannabiscop where he provides a daily update. You can follow along on Frosty's blog as well. They plan to complete their journey in Savannah, Ga., by the first week of July. Right now, they're on Day 19 in SLC, Utah.

I want to thank my friend Chris Brady for giving me an impromptu phone call, inquiring about the best route for the guys to take from Parma to Boise. That led to a dinner invite at Chris' house last week to meet these characters and learn about their life. Chris has known Howard since they were college students at Michigan State in 1970. They worked at Domino's Pizza together, and have stayed in touch ever since. Ha!

Have a great adventure guys! Wish I could be riding with you.

Two other things of note I wanted to mention this week:

  • Don't forget, next week is Boise Bike Week! Lots of events and activities planned. Try to park your car and ride your bike for work, errands, trips, etc. next week. 
  • This Saturday at Eagle Island State Park, there is a Fishing Paddle Craft Demo Day and Casting Tournament. Runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Over 25 different models of fishing craft that you can demo. Experts and sales reps will be on hand to answer questions about gear.
    - SS

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Here's an easy way to explore the new Big Jacks Creek Wilderness near Bruneau, Idaho

Here's Steve in the Big Jacks Creek Wilderness
Hi all,

It's going to be a bit wet heading into the weekend, but at least by Sunday, the weather appears very favorable for spring hiking.

As part of an ongoing series of sneak-peek blog posts about hikes and bike rides that we'll be including in a forthcoming guidebook on the Owyhee Canyonlands, I'd like to share an easy hike in the new Big Jacks Creek Wilderness, near Bruneau, Idaho.

The BLM has developed a trailhead and a marked trail to access Big Jacks Creek. It's called the Parker Trailhead. The hike is 2.5 miles out and back. There's a sweet campsite at the bottom of the creek, where a group could stay overnight.

Big Jacks Creek is a gorgeous canyon. Go see it and judge for yourself.

Driving map for Parker Trailhead
The hardest part of the whole trip, like many in the Owyhee Canyonlands, is finding the trailhead. A good 4WD vehicle or a high-clearance Subaru is recommended for the drive, once you hit the dirt roads.

How to get there: Take the freeway to Mountain Home. Take the first exit. Follow signs for Idaho State Highway 51 and Bruneau. After you reach Bruneau, take note of your odometer. Stay on Idaho 51 for approximately 25 miles. You'll be watching for a right-hand turn on a good dirt road, called the Wickahoney Road, just past milepost 45. The road is not signed, but it's a BLM public road.

Parker Trailhead 
Follow Wickahoney Road 4.9 miles to a T-junction by Wickahoney Creek. Turn right and go 2.8 miles to the Parker Trailhead. Park and hike from there.
Leo Hennessy follows the Parker Trail into the Big Jacks Wilderness

You'll follow a two-track road over to the rim of the canyon, walk over a barbed-wire fence via a wooden step-over gizmo, and descend into Big Jacks Creek. Take your time, take some photos and enjoy the scenery. There's a foot path going down into the canyon; it's marked by rock cairns along the way.

Once at the bottom, you can explore a little and eat lunch by the campsite area. Return the way you came.
Rock cairns help mark the foot path in Big Jacks canyon 

For more adventurous folks who like to walk down wet creek-bottoms, you might want to try starting the hike at Wickahoney Creek, follow Wickahoney down to Big Jacks, walk down Big Jacks to the Parker Trail and come back. That would be a longer loop, about 7 miles. Big Jacks has water in it in the springtime, so it'd be best doing that hike in Tevas or Chacos, or some kind of sturdy sandles. Flip flops would not work.

Have fun!
- SS

Steve shares his weekly outdoor tips with Ken and Tim on 94.9 FM The River each Friday morning in Boise at approximately 7:10 a.m. If you miss the program, you can hear the segments on 
River Detailed descriptions and color maps of Steve's hikes, bike rides and paddling trips are available for 99 cents each, plus the full ebooks and hard-copy guidebooks.