Thursday, April 25, 2013

Make a special effort to engage your kids in outdoor activities for Unplug Be Outside

Avimor is hosting the Boise Bird Festival on Saturday with the who's who of the bird community
Just taking your kids to the Boise River would allow them to skip rocks and look for bugs  
Hi all, 

It's going to be a gorgeous weekend, so it's a perfect opportunity to capitalize on Unplug and Be Outside week and get your kids engaged in outdoor activities. There is quite an array of easy things to do close to town via going to the Unplug and Be Outside web site.

The whole point of  Unplug and Be Outside week is to get your kids outside (leave the headphones and cell phone at home, please), and discover the wonders of nature. When you're out doing whatever activities you choose this weekend, look for little "teachable moments" when you can teach your kids little tidbits about nature. Maybe you can identify a wild flower, a shrub, a plant or a tree. Show them how to remember that species.

Here are some recommendations for Friday-Sunday: 
  • EarthFest at the MK Nature Center on Saturday - A celebration for the entire family from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free activities and crafts will be offered throughout the day at our POLLEN-nation garden site, as well a guided greenbelt walk (10 am), movies shown in our auditorium (11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.), guided streamwalk tours (12pm and 1 p.m.), and the INPS Native Plant Sale will be going on as well. Local Muesli Bars & Granola will be available to benefit Boise’s refugee community. Get off the couch and come be outside with us! For more information, call the MK Nature Center, 334-2225. Location: 600 S. Walnut St., Boise, ID 83712.
  • Plant a tree for Arbor Day on Friday - On Friday, free Colorado blue spruce seedlings will be available at Home Depot and FedEx Office stores in the Treasure Valley as well as the Boise Co-op courtesy of the Idaho Forest Products Commission. Go pick up a free seedling and plant a tree with your kids. More information at the Forest Products Commission
  • Go to Avimor and participate in the Boise Bird Festival on Saturday, a new event that's designed to teach kids and families about birds in SW Idaho. There will be short bird walks, tips on bird identification, backyard feeding and wild bird photography. Here's a slide show of birds you might see. It runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the who's who of the bird community participating, including the Peregrine Fund, the Idaho Bird Observatory, Ducks Unlimited, Idaho Camera, and more.
  • Free golf at Ridgecrest Golf Course in Nampa, starting at noon Saturday. The Wee-9 is open for kids 17 and under, or kids can hit one free bucket of balls anytime on Saturday.
  • Sierra Trading Post is sponsoring a fun run in Settlers Park in Meridian starting at 6 p.m. on Friday. Participants will win cool prizes from Sierra Trading Post. There's also a camping expo at Sierra Trading Post on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • YMCA Healthy Kids Day on Saturday at the Downtown YMCA. That means your kids can play at the Y for free and take part in such activities as basketball, dodgeball, climbing wall, scavenger hunt, or partake in a hacky sack clinic by former women's freestyle champion Sunny Freeman. See the Unplug and Be Outside Calendar of Events for details.
  • Go for a kid friendly hike in the Boise Foothills with your family and friends. See my blog post from last year about 5 kid friendly hikes close to home.
  • See the Unplug and Be Outside Calendar of Events for oodles of other options on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  
The most important thing is that you get your kids out of the house and engaged in some type of outdoor activity. Even just taking your kids for a walk or a bike ride along the Boise River Greenbelt would allow them to check out the Boise River, skip rocks, throw sticks for the dog, climb trees, look at weird bugs, whatever. 

Meridian Cycles Ladies’ Night!
Friday April 26th from 6:30 to 9:00 pm.

Hey, if you'd like to check out some cool and comfy bike clothing or look around at mountain bikes, cruisers and road bikes, Meridian Cycle is hosting reps from Pearl Izumi, Club Ride, Terry, and Felt Bicycles as well as Dani Lassiter from Goldilock’s Ride and Shauna Brookshier of EpicCycling. 

Former professional mountain bike racer and current USA Cycling National Events Director Kelli Lusk will be attending with Scott Montgomery of Club Ride!

Meridian Cycles will have fruit, chocolate and beverages on hand. And, they'll have drawings for bike swag throughout the evening for those in attendance!  
Have fun! 
- SS

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Go explore Big Jacks Creek canyon in Owyhee Wilderness; plus new full-color plant guide

Big Jacks Creek ... a hidden crack in the desert
Succor Creek State Park
Big Hart Creek Canyon
Hi all,

The weather looks dicy Friday, but much better Saturday afternoon and Sunday for a sunny hike in the desert. For my tip of the week, I'm recommending three primo family friendly hikes in the Owyhee Canyonlands:

Click on the links above to get the details and maps for each trip.

You'll notice that Leslie Gulch was not on the list. That's because about 90 people are heading there this weekend for a big campout and lots of hiking with the Idaho Outdoors Yahoo Group. If you're not part of that group, you might find the whole scene a little overcrowded. You make the call.


The second thing I wanted to highlight this week is a new Backpack Guide to Idaho Range Plants by the University of Idaho Rangeland Center and the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission. I bought one at a conference earlier this spring.

I like the full-color, 173-page guide because it provides a way to identify native grasses, including different types of bunchgrasses we see in the shrub-steppe ecosystem in the Boise Foothills, Snake River Plain and the Owyhee Canyonlands. It also details the kinds of native shrubs, forbs (wildflowers), and trees you'll find in the state of Idaho.

I've got several wildflower guides, but I've always wanted a plant guide that provides more detail about plants! You can buy one online at this web site for $15, plus shipping.


The first of two used whitewater equipment sales coming up is happening this weekend at Alpenglow Mountainsport a.k.a. McU Sports Highlands store at the junction of Bogus Basin Road and Hill Road. The used equipment sale occurs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. If you're looking for a used kayak, raft, Stand-up Paddle Board, check it out!

The following weekend, the Idaho Whitewater Association is putting on a used equipment sale at Idaho River Sports. This sale is typically the biggest one in the local area, and it will have some great deals as well on kayaks, rafts, SUPs, canoes, clothing, and parts.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Join SWIMBA Saturday to work on trails in Avimor; consider a donation for ST-240

On the way to Sheep Rock at Avimor with Kenn Hardin 
Mountain biking at Avimor ... lots of elbow room.
Scott Perryman of SWIMBA gives a thumbs up to the ST-240 trail-cutting machine. 
Hi all,

This week I'm giving a shout-out to the Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA). They've got a trail work day planned on Saturday at Avimor, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and they're also working on a capital campaign to purchase a trail-cutting machine for building more singletrack trails in SW Idaho.

I'd encourage mountain bikers to throw your support behind SWIMBA as much as you can. That's because SWIMBA has been very effective in creating new mountain biking opportunities in SW Idaho for 20+ years, and the organization is only getting stronger over time! Now that's a really good sign for a nonprofit group.

As a disclaimer, I must tell you that I'm totally biased in my support of SWIMBA because I was the founding president in 1992, and I am a lifetime member. OK, nuf said on that.

Anyone who wants to volunteer for the trail work day on Saturday should wear closed-toed shoes (preferably boots), bring gloves, a hat and water. There's a 40% chance of rain on Saturday, so it'd be a good idea to bring your rain gear. SWIMBA will have a BBQ for volunteers after the work day, and if the weather cooperates, some people may go for a ride.

How to get there: Trail-volunteers should drive to the main entrance of Avimor off of Idaho 55, drive toward the main trailhead straight ahead, and then look for the SWIMBA banner. That'll be the meeting place. SWIMBA's Scott Perryman said they will be working on some improvements to the "Shooting Range" trail and also starting on "Upper Bovine," if enough volunteers show up.    

SWIMBA has adopted Avimor as a place where they're doing trail development because the community has been supportive of hiking, biking and trail-running since Day One, and they've always indicated that their trails are open to public use, no matter if you live in the community or not. In addition, Marc and Gina Grubert, who have been active with SWIMBA for a number of years, were some of the first residents to build a home at Avimor. Marc showed me around on their trails a number of years ago, and things just keep getting better.

I'll include a couple of maps of mountain bike rides that I really like at Avimor from the latest edition of my guide, Mountain Biking in Boise. Here's a link to a comprehensive trail map created by Avimor and SWIMBA.
Everyone loves the downhill singletrack along Spring Valley Creek 
The hills and mountains surrounding Avimor are key because someday, the trails there could be linked to trails at Stack Rock near Bogus Basin, and they also could link to the Dry Creek Valley and Hidden Springs. The area is very strategic from that perspective.

Now, about SWIMBA's capital campaign for a new trail-cutting machine. The group has been working on raising $105,000 for a ST-240 and trailer. It's a mini-bulldozer of sorts that is perfectly designed for rough-cutting singletrack trails. "ST" stands for singletrack, those sinewy dirt trails that we all love to ride. Here's a brief video about the machine.

As SWIMBA points out on their web site, they have 30 miles of new trail that needs to be built at Avimor, more trails on the drawing board with the Forest Service in the Lowman District, and potentially many other trails in the future. It would be a HUGE asset for SWIMBA to have a ST-240 to do all of the hardest, back-breaking work involved in cutting a trail tread, and then volunteers come in to do the final upslope and downslope dirt work to polish the tread.

SWIMBA is still working on raising about $30,000 of the project's cost. Go to this page on SWIMBA's web site to donate. Any amount you can afford would be helpful.

Looking back over the years, SWIMBA has been involved in building or funding trails such as Trail #1, the singletrack connector from the Motorcycle Parking Lot on 8th Street to Bob's Trail and Corrals Trail, Sidewinder, Redtail Ridge, Maholo, Watchman, Fat Tire Connector, Eastside, DB Connector, Mr. Big and several new trails at Avimor. SWIMBA is serious about adding new trails to improve our riding experience and increase the fun quotient.

At the most basic level, you can help by becoming a member of SWIMBA if you're not already. Go to the SWIMBA web site and sign up and join the fun! It's pretty neat when you go out on a ride and tell your friends that you had a part in building the trail you're enjoying. It gives you a measure of pride that you're put some sweat equity into making your community a better place. Thanks!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Barking Spider mountain biking, trail-running race a great springtime booster for fitness, fun

Scene at the finish line (courtesy Wild Rockies)
Rider descending "Skateboard Park"
Entering "Skateboard Park" section 
Looking back on climb along finger ridge on Trail #400 
GPS tracks of the Barking Spider course 
Hi all,

It's April and the first Wild Rockies mountain bike and trail-running race is coming up on Saturday, April 6. It's called the 18th annual Barking Spider Bash, which is kind of hilarious. Ever heard a spider bark?

The race is held in the Hemingway Butte area of the Owyhee Front, a place that's normally used primarily by motorcycles and ATV's, but on Saturday, the course is set aside for mountain bikers and trail-runners. Even if you're not a serious racer, Barking Spider is a good warm up for the mountain bike and trail-running season. I've logged the course and provided directions here so if you want to try the course another time, you can do so.

The big highlight of the 9.3-mile course, in my view, is a downhill section called the "Skateboard Park." It's this cool little canyon where you're riding or running downhill inside a canyon and going up on the walls of each side as you descend through tons of S-turns over the space of 3-4 miles.

The rest of the course is challenging even though Wild Rockies says rates it "easy." With lots of sand, rocks, gravel and technical features, one loop around the course will seem like a longer ride than nine-plus miles. I hope it rains in the next couple of days to knock the dust down. Experienced racers will zip through it with ease, I'm sure. In the race, beginners have to ride it around once, Sport-class riders will do two laps, and Expert Pro will do three laps. Whew!

The trail-running courses are broken into a 10K (6.2 miles) and 9.3 miles.

When I logged the loop last night, my GPS indicated that the whole route featured 864 feet of vertical gain/loss. But with four mini loops within the course, you climb and descend on each one. It'll feel like more climbing than the elevation gain suggests.

Anyway, give it a shot! Race begins shortly after noon on Saturday. You can register online. Sandwiches will be provided by Paul's Markets and beer is provided by Ninkasi Brewing Co. in Oregon. Food and drink are provided as part of the registration package.

How to get there: Go west on I-84 to Nampa. Take the Franklin exit and follow signs into downtown Nampa. Follow signs for Idaho 45 or 12th Avenue South and go south of Nampa on ID 45 to the Snake River. Cross the highway bridge, and go left at the Y toward Murphy. Turn right on Reynolds Creek Road, go past the feedlot, and pull into the BLM Hemingway Butte trailhead.

If you don't do the race, visit the Hemingway Butte area in mid-week, preferably when the course is still marked, and enjoy the the ride when the OHV traffic isn't that heavy. BLM officials do not recommend trying to mountain bike or run in the area on weekends, when the OHV traffic is heavy.

See the course map on the Wild Rockies photo page.

Spring cleanup opportunity: Volunteers are needed to pick up litter along the Snake River near Celebration Park on Saturday. Contact Idaho Fish and Game, Dennis Hardy, 465-8465, if you'd like to participate. Meeting time will be 9 a.m. at Map Rock and the project should be complete by noon. Ask Fish and Game for directions.

Have fun!
- SS