Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fall colors are popping throughout the mountains of Idaho; take a drive on our lovely scenic byways

Here's Wendy hiking along Jordan Creek in Silver City
Aspens glowing in the Sawtooth Valley by Ed Cannady
Fall colors in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest (courtesy US Forest Service)
Fall colors in the Sawtooths (courtesy
Wood River Valley (courtesy
Hi all,

The fall colors are just beginning to happen in the Treasure Valley. But in the mountains, the aspen trees are turning yellow and orange, the tamarack needles are turning yellow, the shrubs are turning orange and red, and this weekend would be a perfect time to go for a scenic drive -- and maybe a side-hike -- to enjoy the kaliedoscope of colors.

So where are you going to go? Start by taking a look at the Idaho Scenic Byways web site, providing by our friends at VisitIdaho. There are now a total of 30 official scenic byways that you can explore in statewide. The drives that I'd recommend include:

  • The Sawtooth Scenic Byway - This byway runs from Shoshone to Stanley on Idaho 75. You'll see the cottonwood trees turning color along the Big Wood River, and then things really get brilliant with the aspen trees in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area. Consider a side hike in Adams Gulch on the left side of the road, just north of Ketchum. Check out the Sun Valley web cams for a sneak-peek. Going north, you'll see some beautiful aspen groves in the Boulder Mountains on the right side of the road. And then the byway continues north over Galena Summit, where you'll be treated to a huge view of the Sawtooth Valley, the headwaters of the Salmon River, the Sawtooth Wilderness on the left, and the White Cloud Mountains on the right.
  • The Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway - Follows Idaho 21 from Boise to Idaho City to Lowman to Stanley. You'll see a cornucopia of colors in the Boise National Forest, with a menagerie of yellows, oranges and reds in the shrubs and underbrush below the stately ponderosa pine trees between Idaho City and Lowman. You'll see some pretty groves of aspens as you get closer to Stanley. Stop by Stanley Lake Campground to enjoy the views. 
  • Do a big combination loop by driving the Ponderosa Pine byway to Stanley and then follow the Sawtooth byway to Ketchum/Sun Valley and return to Boise via U.S. 20. Allow a full day to complete this drive, or break it up by staying overnight in Stanley or Ketchum/Sun Valley. 
  • The Payette River Scenic Byway - This is a familiar drive for many from Boise to McCall, but it won't disappoint when it comes to fall colors. On this route, you'll see tamarack or western larch trees turning yellow by the time you reach Smith's Ferry and onward to McCall and Payette Lake. Plus, you'll see lots of colorful shrubs in the Boise National Forest along the way and isolated aspen groves here and there. Check the McCall web cams for a sneak-peek for the lake view. Take a side hike in Ponderosa State Park once you're in McCall. You'll see lots of colors in the park.  
  • The Owyhee Backcountry Byway - This is a more adventurous scenic drive because it involves 85 miles of dirt road between the paved portals of Grand View and Jordan Valley, OR. But it is truly a scenic drive into the Owyhee Mountains and Canyonlands. You'll cottonwoods and aspens throughout the route. Bring plenty of food and water because there are no services along the route. Allow a full day for the drive. Expect to encounter hunters in vehicles and ATV's along the way.  
  • Murphy to Silver City - Wendy and I went hiking in Silver City on Tuesday, and the cottonwoods and aspens were peaking a brilliant yellow along Jordan Creek. It's about two hours from Boise to Silver City. Take Idaho 45 south of Nampa to Murphy, and then watch for a signed turnoff to Silver City east of Murphy. The road is paved for a while, and then it turns to dirt. A high-clearance vehicle is needed to navigate the bumpy, rocky road to Silver City. As you drop down from the pass into Silver City, turn left at a Y-junction by the ATV parking area and rest room, and then proceed through town to a BLM parking area and rest room. Take a walk up Jordan Creek to stretch your legs. Bring your own food and water. The Silver City Hotel may or may not be open on the weekend, and it's closed during the week. 
Couple of things going on this weekend that I recommend:

SWIMBA Member Appreciation Party and Group Ride Saturday from 3-9 p.m. Meet at Joe's Crab Shack at 3 p.m. There will be a bike ride to Mulligans from 3:30 - 5  p.m. It's SWIMBA's 21st birthday party, election of officers, and all of that good stuff.

"Elevation" movie premier at Idaho Mountain Touring, 8 p.m. at Idaho Mountain Touring, 13th and Main, downtown Boise.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Head's up! General deer season opens today, ducks Saturday; here's a few places to avoid the cross-fire

Rifle hunting seasons are kicking in statewide as of today ... 
Hi all,

Well, it's that time of year again ... General deer season opens statewide today, Thursday, Oct. 10, and it runs through the end of the month in many areas, including Unit 39 in the Boise River Mountains area. Duck season opens on Saturday, so if you planned on going for a hike near Swan Falls, be aware that duck hunters might be hiking out there, too, jump-shooting ducks.

Rifle elk season kicks in on Nov. 1-9 in Unit 39, and in some areas, such as in the McCall area, elk season overlaps with a portion of deer season, from Oct. 15 through Nov. 3.

The upshot is if you want to go camping, backpacking, hiking or mountain biking in the backcountry this coming weekend, you should expect to see hunters, hear gunfire, and harvested animals hanging in camp. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, then consider going to places where you won't encounter hunters. See below.
Put some bright colors on your pup, too ... 
At this time of year, from a safety standpoint, it's smart to wear bright colors, like a blaze-orange hat, and a bright-colored coat. If you're taking your dog with you, put some type of blaze orange garment on your pet to prevent a bad accident.

Check the Idaho Department of Fish and Game hunting page to check on the hunting seasons where you are planning a backcountry adventure. The hunting seasons are set up according to big game unit. It'll take a few minutes to figure out the regulations. They are very complicated to say the least, and in general, the seasons are tied to specific animals, such as deer, elk, black bear, mountain lion, wolves, moose, etc. 

Here are a two places where you will not see hunters: 
  • Lower Boise Foothills Trails - Any of the lower foothills trails should be safe, except for the lower trails near Harris Ranch ... those trails are in the Boise River Wildlife Management Areas, and you will see hunters out there. 
  • Idaho State Parks - All of the state parks are closed to hunting. And they're not affected by the federal shutdown.  
  • Boise River Greenbelt - This is a safe bet for the length of the pathway from Eagle to Lucky Peak. 
  • Wood River Trail - The paved Wood River Trail from Bellevue to Ketchum is a safe place to go, too. The colors might be turning in the Wood River Valley, too. 
Places where you will see hunters? All national forests, BLM lands, Owyhee Canyonlands, Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Area, etc.  
Pack the house for Boise Foothills open space concert next Wednesday! It starts at 7 p.m. at the Visual Arts Collective in Garden City. Steve Fulton and Shon Sanders, Bill Coffey and Special Guests will play music. This is a fund-raiser for the open space campaign. Plus, volunteers can get signed up to help with the campaign. Tell your friends. See you there! 
On Saturday, SWIMBA will be doing more work on the super-cool Mahalo Trail on the Boise Ridge. People are meeting at Highlands Elementary School at 10 a.m. to carpool to the trailhead. Bring sturdy shoes, work gloves and a lunch. 

Have fun out there!
- SS