Thursday, September 25, 2014

Give back to the earth on National Public Lands Day; volunteer to improve the land

Hi all,

Do you ever think about how wonderful it is to live in a state like Idaho that's richly endowed with public lands? I do. I've spent a lifetime trying to explore Idaho's national forests, state parks, state lands, BLM lands -- hiking, biking, camping, boating, skiing, backpacking, fishing, hunting, etc. etc. All of those adventures are what we live for. They give us a rich quality of life. Friendships. Hardship. Tons of fun! Thus, we should take a moment to cherish our public lands this weekend in observance of National Public Lands Day on Saturday, Sept. 27.

Trail volunteers assembled for a similar project in the Big
Jacks Creek Wilderness last year. 
One way to do that is head out for an adventure. Another is to give back. The weather looks crummy, so you might consider giving back. There are a number of volunteer opportunities going on in SW Idaho as part of National Public Lands Day. 

My #1 pick is to help out with finishing a BLM trail into Shoofly Creek and Between the Creeks in the Little Jacks Wilderness, near Grand View. You can either camp out Friday night or meet up Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at the Poison Creek picnic area on Mud Flat Road, south of Grand View. The Idaho Trails Association is a project co-sponsor along with Boise REI and the Idaho Conservation League.

This year, the NPLD theme is to recognize and celebrate the 50th anniversaries of the Wilderness Act and Civil Rights Act. There will be speakers there to talk about both. 

Getting there: Take I-84 east of Boise to Simco Road. Turn right and drive to Grand View. At the T-junction in Grand View, turn left and drive to the signed right-hand turnoff for Mud Flat Road, the Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway. Follow Mud Flat on pavement and dirt until you seen the Poison Creek picnic area on the right. It's good gravel road for any 2WD to reach this point. 

Bring your rain gear. The BLM is serving breakfast and lunch. 

For more information, contact Dave Draheim, at the Boise BLM 208-384-3358 or 

  • Volunteer to help enhance the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge for wildlife and visitors. Meet at the Deer Flat Visitor Center at 9 a.m. Saturday. For more information contact Kacey Kai at 467-9278.
  • The BLM is leading a project to plant sagebrush seedlings on Kuna Butte near Kuna. There also will be birds of prey on display at lunchtime, a swainson's hawk, great-horned owl and gold eagle. For more information, contact Barb Forderhase of the BLM, 384-3485 or
Looking for a used Stand up Paddle Board? I saw that Idaho River Sports is having a September blowout sale ... they're calling it, SUPtember. IRS actually has a whole bunch of sweet deals going on through the end of this month, including half-price SUP rentals and great discounts on SUPs, canoes and other gear. Check it out! 

Have fun!
-- SS 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fall colors are starting to turn! Head to Idaho City for three day hikes in the colorful forest

Gotta love the old-fashioned charm in Idaho City! 
Long views of the Sawtooths from Pilot Peak 
Hi all,

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler, causing the fall colors to unleash their beauty in the Boise National Forest. This week, I'm recommending three hikes in the Idaho City area in the Boise NF where you are likely to see some colorful changes in the shrubs, ground vegetation and maybe some aspens and alders.

The weather should be fabulous for a mountain outing this weekend, with temperatures in the 80s in Boise, and 70s in the mountains. It'll be chilly in the mornings.

All three of these hikes are featured in my book, Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. Remember that bow season is open so you may see some people covered in camo pursuing deer or elk in the woods. You also may see bird hunters going after forest grouse. You could combine your hiking adventure with a stop at The Springs in Idaho City to enjoy a nice soak in the hot springs. Note to self: Reservations are required.
My guide suggests a full loop including the Centerville Road
but that's mainly for runners; don't recommend it for hiking 
Hike #1 - Charcoal Gulch in Idaho City - Distance: 4 miles out and back. Approximately 2 hours travel time. Vertical gain: 1,100 feet. Rated moderate. You could combine this hike with a little tour of the rustic old mining town, visit the museum and maybe get a bite to eat.

Getting there: From Boise, take Idaho 21 east to Idaho City. Turn left on main street and follow that several blocks to a junction with Bear Run Road on the right and Centerville Road on the left. Turn left on the Centerville Road and follow that for one-quarter mile to Buena Vista Road on the left. Turn left and follow Buena Vista, past the Idaho City Airport, to the parking area and trailhead for Charcoal Gulch and Airport loop trail. Park.

The hike: Head west out of the parking lot and take the ATV-type trail along the base of the mountain for a half mile to the junction with Charcoal Gulch Trail. Turn right and climb Charcoal Gulch 1.5 miles to the top. Take a break on top and retrace your steps to the trailhead.
The route to Pilot Peak. 
The Pilot Peak Lookout seems to have a different
function these days than a fire lookout.
Photo courtesy Ron Kemnow
Hike #2 - Mores Creek Summit to Pilot Peak Lookout - Distance: 7.9 miles up and back. Hiking time: 3.5 hours or more. Vertical gain: 2,043 feet. Rated strenuous.

Getting there: From Boise, take Idaho 21 east to Idaho City. Continue east on ID 21 to Mores Creek Summit. There is a large parking area and rest room on the right side of the road. 

The hike: Cross the road to hike up to Pilot Peak. Follow the two-track gravel road as it climbs to a saddle junction 3.2 miles from the trailhead. Take a hard right to climb a little over a half mile to the summit. Retrace your tracks to the trailhead. Bring a lunch and plenty of water. Enjoy the big views of the Boise National Forest from the summit. You can see the backside of the Sawtooths, Steel Mountain and much more. 
Follow USFS Road #316 to Sunset Mountain Lookout. 
Sunset Mountain Lookout is usually manned in the summer months.
Photo courtesy Ron Kemnow
Hike #3 - Mores Creek Summit to Sunset Mountain Lookout - Distance: 9.4 miles up and back. Hiking time: 4-5 hours. Vertical gain: 1,800 feet. Rated strenuous. 

Getting there: From Boise, take Idaho 21 east to Idaho City. Continue east on ID 21 to Mores Creek Summit. There is a large parking area and rest room on the right side of the road.  

The hike: From the parking lot, hike up Forest Road #316 to the top of Sunset Mountain. The 4WD dirt road is not as steep as the hike to Pilot Peak because it has some sections where it flattens out and the gradient is less severe. But it is farther to Sunset Lookout. The lookout building itself is still manned during the summer months for fire reconnaissance. It's a beautiful perch from the summit -- you can enjoy a bird's eye view of the North Fork of the Boise River, the backside of the Sawtooths and Steel Mountain. Be sure to pack a lunch and bring plenty of water. 

There you have it! Enjoy the beautiful fall weather!
- SS 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Try these two hikes/rides close to home: Polecat Gulch and Watchman Loop

Wendy and I ran into Dave Kordiyak on the Polecat Trail,
overlooking the Terteling Ranch. 

Polecat Gulch near Quick Draw junction
There's almost always water for dogs in Five Mile Creek.
These are my boys Quinn and Drew 
New Polecat Gulch Trailhead. Looks pretty snappy! 
Hi all,

I rode the Polecat Gulch Loop on Monday, and I was pleased to see that the City of Boise had completed the new trailhead for Polecast via North Collister off of Hill Road! This will make it much easier to access Polecat Gulch for many people in Northwest Boise. It's also a good reason to talk about the benefits of hiking, running or biking in Polecat Gulch in my outdoor tip of the week.

This week, I'm also going to suggest doing a long hike or ride on the Watchman Loop in NE Boise. The cool weather has been fabulous for foothills recreation this week, and it appears that it will continue this weekend, at least in the mornings. The highs this weekend in Boise are projected to be in the mid-80s in the afternoons.

Both of these hikes/rides are a little off the beaten path because they're not in the Central Foothills where many people go day after day. I'm recommending these hikes/rides close to Boise because the kids are back in school, so it's harder to get out of town for many people. If you can escape, it should be fabulous weather for a high country adventure in McCall, Stanley or Sun Valley.

Let's start with Polecat Gulch. This area was a key new 834-acre open space reserve purchased by the City of Boise in 2002 with funds from the 2001 Foothills Levy. It opened up a great system of trails in an area that had been previously unaccessible because its private land status. The trails in Polecat are more moderate than many in the foothills, so that's another draw. This area also is home to albino mule deer. I've seen them myself!
Polecat Gulch map (click to enlarge)
How to get there: Take Hill Road to N. Collister in NW Boise. Turn north on N. Collister and proceed to the Polecat Trailhead at the end of the road. There is a restroom in the parking lot.

The Polecat Gulch "finger" loop as I call it in my guidebooks, Boise Trail Guide and Mountain Biking in Boise, is approximately 6 miles long. It circumnavigates the whole gulch. I call it a finger loop because the trail snakes around little ridges that extend like a finger from the top of the gulch. It takes about an hour to do the loop on a bike, 1.25 hours for trail-runners, and several hours if you're hiking.

There are shorter loops you can do, too ... For instance, you could hike/ride up the bottom of Polecat Gulch from the N. Collister trailhead, and take QuickDraw to the top of Doe Ridge, and come back via the Polecat Loop trail. That would be about 2.5 miles.

Go visit Polecat from either the N. Collister side or the Cartwright Road trailhead ... you'll like it!

The Watchman Loop is one of the best hikes/rides in Boise IMHO. Starting from the bottom of Rocky Canyon Road, the loop is 10.2 miles long. It takes me a little less than 2 hours to ride it fast. It'd be a much longer trip if you're hiking -- about 4 hours. I rate the mountain bike ride advanced, and I rate the hike strenuous. The route features 1,900 feet of climbing. It's a fairly challenging route, but the views and the countryside you tour make it a four-star experience in my book.
Five Mile - Watchman Loop (click to enlarge)
Directions: Start at the bottom of Rocky Canyon Road at the end of the pavement. Proceed up the dirt road 2.5 miles to the Five Mile Creek Trail on the left. Climb Five Mile to a junction with the Orchard Gulch connector. Go straight and climb the steepest section of the trail for the next quarter-mile. The junction with Watchman comes up after you cross a creek at mile 4.2. The hard part is over!

Watchman Trail contours along Five Mile Creek canyon, offering big views of Rocky Canyon. Then it takes you over to another un-named canyon, and then you zoom downhill to Three Bears and follow Curlew Ridge all the way back to Shane's Summit in Military Reserve. Ignore the right-hand junction with Trail #6 before you hook up with Three Bears.

Bring plenty of water and food and enjoy the day!
I saw two volunteer opportunities coming up that looked fun and important:
1. Volunteers are needed for Greenbelt surveys to be held later in September. Contact Jerry Pugh, or call 608-7617.
2. Volunteers are needed for bike counts on Boise city streets. The Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance is coordinating the effort. Go to their web site to sign up: