Thursday, December 17, 2015

10 items for Stueby's annual Christmas gift list for the outdoorsy him & her

Hi all,

Christmas is coming upon us quickly ... it's essentially a week away! Do you have all of your shopping done? I've been doing a little checking around to see what's popular this year with regard to outdoor clothing, outerwear and toys, what's new and different, etc. Remember, buy local as much as possible when you're shopping to support Boise's quality outdoor stores.

Here's my 2015 Christmas outdoor gear list for the outdoorsy him and her:

1. First of all, we have to celebrate all the fresh snow that's fallen across Idaho in the last month or so. All of the Idaho alpine and xc resorts are open and all the tubing hills are open with a solid base of snow -- just in time for everyone to enjoy playing in the snow over the Christmas holidays! Raise your cup to the snow god Ullr and send a happy howl to the stars.

2. Headlamp - You can use them for hiking, reading, camping, cooking ... you name it, headlamps are an essential outdoor item. And they seem to mysteriously disappear around our house all the time. But there's so many brands to choose from ... where do you start? Outdoor Gear Lab recently compared 28 different headlamps and ranked them. Black Diamond headlamps dominated the top 5, and the Coast HL7, came out No. 1. It retails for only $30 online. I think it pays to spend a little more, say $50-$60, and get a brighter lamp.

3. Bike lights - I wrote a blog about biking and hiking lights recently after the time changed in the fall. See my recommendations there. Lights have gotten so much better and brighter for less cost.

"We're selling lights for 1/5th of what they sold for 5 years ago with five times the brightness," says Chris Haunold of Idaho Mountain Touring. A Light and Motion bike light at IMT with 350 lumens sells for $60 with a rechargeable battery. Five years ago, "it would have cost $500," Chris says.

4. Knives - OK, this is more of a "guy" thing than a women's item, but let's face it, a nice sharp folding knife is great to have handy at all times. Wilderness Today ranked 10 pocket knives in their survey. See what kind you want and then head over to Boise Army Navy in Garden City to buy a pocket knife.

5. Gloves - I like to have at least one set of light gloves for xc skiing, a heavier warm glove for alpine skiing, and some medium-weight gloves for other uses. Many outdoor retailers in Boise have a great selection of gloves. Backcountry Pursuit has some screaming deals on gloves and mittens at their store on Capital next to FedEx Kinkos.

Luci lantern
6. Luci Lux Inflatable Lantern - I've seen these in use at friends' houses, and I wish I had one of my own. Retail price is $19.95. How can you go wrong?

7. At Boise REI, Fischer S-Bound Backcountry Skis with the EZ Skin System are proving to be popular this holiday season. The skis have a notch for the skins, and they're easy to take on and off. Check with Boise REI on pricing.

8. Hydro flasks and stainless bottles - These are proving to be a popular low-cost buy ($10-$30) at IMT and Boise REI. Many brands are available, including Hydro Flask, New Wave, and others.

9. Patagonia Black Hole Duffle Bags - These look really nice and durable, and they only cost about $100. I saw these at IMT. They collapse into a small compact bag when empty, nice for travel, and they hold lots of gear. Larger models are in the $130-$160 range. The thing that's nice about buying Patagonia is that if anything falls apart, there's a lifetime guarantee.

10. Snowshoes - OK, maybe you're just breaking into the winter recreation scene, or you prefer to snowshoe vs. xc skiing. Snowshoes are great because if you can walk, you can snowshoe! A pair of poles for balance is a great accessory. There are multiple models and brands available, including Atlas, Tubbs and MSR. Cost is in the $140 range. One other interesting alternative is to buy a pair of Yaktrax for your boots. They're like traction devices you can strap to a pair of hiking boots. Here is Backpacker magazine's list of top snowshoes for 2015. Review the list and buy local!

And last, but certainly not least, there are Steve's outdoor guidebooks! For hikers and trail-runners, Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home is the ticket. Retails for $19.95. The Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide is still very popular with hikers, mountain bikers and campers. It has 55 hikes and bike rides in the Owyhees, plus a detailed guide to the 100-mile Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway.

The Boise Road Cycling Guide is the only road-biking map available in the Boise Valley. The two-sided, full-color, tear-proof and waterproof map retails for $12.50. Mountain Biking in McCall is the only mountain biking guide for the McCall Area. It features 40 rides, from easy trails to epic day-long journeys and multi-day rides.

In a special book-signing event for the Christmas Holiday, I'll be signing books this Saturday, Dec. 19, at the Capital City Market Holiday Annex in Vista Village, 1036 S. Vista Ave. in Boise, beginning at 11 a.m. The event will run to 1 or 2 p.m., depending on demand.

There you have it! Have a wonderful holiday! As I said, I'm already feeling blessed because of all the powder snow! Count your blessings and hug your loved ones!
- SS

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Weather forecast calls for big *pow* in Central Idaho this weekend; 24-36'' expected

Should be tons of fresh *pow* this weekend. Go get it! (Courtesy Brundage Mountain) 

Hi all,

Well, it's been warm and rainy this week, but now the temperatures are beginning to cool down -- just in time to lay down a fresh layer of powder snow for happy skiers this weekend. Indeed, Christmas is coming early for the powder hounds!

Scott Dorval on KIVI-TV has been tracking the storms and predicting 6-12 inches of new snow from the storms on Thursday, more snow Friday and Saturday, and then 10-18 inches on Saturday night and Sunday. Are you getting excited yet? I am! That's 20-37 inches of new snow forecast from Thursday - Sunday. Woo hoo!

The most snow is forecast for Brundage, Tamarack Resort and Bogus Basin. Sun Valley is supposed to get some new snow, but not more than a couple of inches a day. I heard they had 4 inches of new just this morning.

Brundage will be in full operation on Friday, with all chairs running and 100 percent of the terrain open. Tamarack is opening the whole mountain for the first time on Friday, so there will be lots of fresh snow to ski there. It's not clear what slopes will be open specifically, so check their web site for updates. Sun Valley has been open since Thanksgiving It offers top-to-bottom groomed runs that are guaranteed to burn your quads because the slopes are SO long ... more than 3,000 verts!

Personally, I'm going to head up to McCall because I think there will be the most powder there, and I have a place to stay at our Cozy Cabin in McCall. Look for early-season lodging deals in McCall and Sun Valley. You can pick up stay-and-ski packages for great prices! Sometimes you have to pick up the phone to get the best deals ... especially in McCall.

I'm not sure if Bogus Basin will be open this weekend or not. There is no indication on their web site. I couldn't get an answer on the phone this afternoon. So maybe there will be an announcement on Friday ...

If you're interested in going backcountry skiing this weekend, I'd be cautious about that. Check on avalanche conditions before you go ...

The Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas should be fine for snowshoeing this weekend. No grooming is happening yet, so the xc skiing would be marginal, especially after all the rain mid-week. Monitor the snow conditions line for more information: 208-514-2423.
I've been contacted by quite a few folks who want to buy my outdoor books for Christmas gifts, and they'd like to get their books signed. So, I have set up a special book-signing event on Saturday, Dec. 19th, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Capital City Market Annex in Vista Village. There will be live music and wine-tasting going on at the same time.

I'll have my outdoor guidebooks with me, and I also will have plenty of copies of "Idaho Microbes: How tiny single-celled organisms can harm, or save, our world."

Idaho Microbes is a brand new 268-page full-color book that features 10 chapters, or "eco-adventures," as my editor puts it, taking readers on a virtual journey to learn about a particular big-picture environmental or human health issue, and then learn about how the magical powers of microbes are helping solve the issue or make it worse. The whole project was a really fun learning experience for me.

In the case of the beer chapter, yeast is the magical ingredient that leads to the unique taste of a beer, among other things. In a chapter on "Guzzling Crude," naturally occurring microbes consume an oil spill below a Nampa gas station. In the chapter on white pine blister-rust, I show how the exotic fungus is combining with mountain pine beetles to kill off our whitebark pine trees in the rooftops of the mountains of Idaho. Fortunately, there are solutions to save our whitebark pines.

Anyway, the book is proving to be very popular so far! Idaho Microbes retails for $29.95. It's available at Rediscovered Books, the Boise State bookstore, Discovery Center of Idaho, and,  
-- SS

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Choices for skiing, riding in SW Idaho are increasing as snow gets deeper inch by inch

This is why we go to Grand Targhee ... 
Pomerelle earlier this week ... 
Magic Valley skiers were happy at Pomerelle last weekend ... 
Everyone was all smiles at Bogus, too ... 
Easy Street is groomed and ready to roll at Brundage Mountain. 
Gateway Parks in Eagle over Thanksgiving weekend.
Hi all,

Well, we're still in the transition to full-on winter. We need more snow storms to really get all the ski areas running full-bore and provide deep enough snowpack for excellent backcountry skiing in SW Idaho. That said, it's totally possible to plan a skiing, snowboarding, xc skiing, snowshoe or fat biking adventure this weekend.

Don't forget that the closest place to go play in the snow is right here in the valley at Eagle Island State Park. It's called Gateway Parks. They've got tubing, snowboarding, skiing and a terrain park.

Most of the downhill areas will be open open this weekend, and with a new storm moving in on Friday, there should be a few inches of new snow to enjoy. Check the resort web sites for early-season pricing and lodging deals.

Here's the skinny on the alpine areas:

  • Pomerelle - got 13 inches of snow this week! This is your best pick for *best pow.* They'll be open Friday-Sunday this weekend, with fresh powder for all to enjoy! Plus, more on the way! They're reporting a 21-inch base on the summit, with 13 inches of fresh this week. No one has been skiing there all week!

  • Bogus Basin - will be open Saturday and Sunday, with the Deer Point and Coach lifts running. 17-inch base as of Thursday. The tubing hill will be open as well. Be sure to make advance reservations for the tubing hill. Nordic ski trails and the Nordic lodge will be open Saturday-Sunday.

  • Brundage Mountain - is opening Saturday for a sneak peek. 20-inch base. They'll be running the Bluebird quad, Bear and Easy Street lifts on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. I heard the Activity Barn tubing hill just opened for business as well. Three tubing lanes will be open this weekend.   
  • Sun Valley - has a bunch of groomers open thanks to their robust snow-making capabilities. Go get some thigh-scorching runs on the groomers and get your legs broken in for ski season.
  • Magic Mountain - yes, Magic Mountain in the South Hills near Twin Falls is opening Saturday. It's a cool little homespun resort with about 750 vertical feet of drop. They're reporting a 22 inch base. Lift tickets are cheap!  
  • Pomerelle - got 13 inches of snow this week! This is your best pick for *best pow.* They'll be open Friday-Sunday this weekend, with fresh powder for all to enjoy! Plus, more on the way! They're reporting a 21-inch base on the summit, with 13 inches of fresh this week. No one has been skiing there all week!  
  • Grand Targhee - is a great pick. They're reporting a base depth of 29 inches. Seventy-four of 97 trails are open. A few inches of new snow is predicted over the weekend. It's Global Fat Biking day on Saturday, with free demos. 

  • As for cross-country and backcountry conditions:
    • Mores Creek Summit has 15 inches of snow according to the Snowtel web portal. Backcountry conditions are still brushy, but you could definitely tour up to Pilot Peak or Sunset Mountain on the main roads and then tuck into the backcountry once you reach the higher elevations. After Friday's storm, there could be 4-5 inches of new snow to enjoy.  
    • Bear Basin in McCall has excellent cross-country skiing conditions. Wendy and I skate skied there several days last week. They have a foot of snow and 1 inch of new. Right now, they're the only Nordic destination that's open in Valley County. The annual Snow Ball is Saturday night. Great fund-raiser for Bear Basin and the Little Ski Hill.
    • Wood River Valley - The Blaine County Recreation District has more K's open than any other area for Nordic skiing. Galena Lodge trails, the Harriman Trail, Prairie Creek are all open.  
    • Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas - are reporting 4-8 inches on the lower trails, up to 12 inches at the higher elevations. It's still not enough snow to groom. They've done a little grooming at Gold Fork and on the Banner Ridge Trail. Call the snow line for the latest conditions: 208-514-2423. Might be OK conditions for snow biking, depending on how packed the trails are by human use. 
    There you have it on the snow conditions! 

    With the weather warming up this weekend, it's likely that the Boise Foothills trails will get muddy and gummy in the lower elevations. Please avoid the trails when they're in that condition. Check with the Ridge to Rivers web site or Facebook page to check on the latest trail conditions. 

    Have fun! 
    - SS 

    Thursday, November 19, 2015

    Go play in the snow! Boot-hiking, xc skiing, snowshoeing, snow biking all are doable

    Pic from Grand Targhee parking lot 

    Thanksgiving ski vacation in the Tetons? How can you go wrong? 
    Snow biking to Skyline Yurt last Saturday ... 0-4 inches of snow at that time. 
    Fat biking on the Boise Ridge Road (courtesy Aileen Frey)
    Hi all,

    If you're like me, and you get excited about the prospect of playing in the snow, this weekend looks like a perfect time to do it. The weather gods have been generous lately in providing a new coating of snow in the mountains of SW Idaho. This means you can head out to your favorite sledding spot, or go boot-hiking, xc skiing, fat biking or snowshoeing in the mountains.

    None of Idaho's ski areas are opening quite yet, but Grand Targhee, located just over our eastern border in Alta, Wyoming, is opening on Friday (tomorrow)! Isn't that way cool! I wish I were heading over there right now. Targhee is reporting a 25-inch base with 50 inches of snowfall so far this year.

    Check out Grand Targhee's lodging deals as we look ahead to Thanksgiving week. I saw a 4-day, $85 per night ski-and-stay package ... that's hard to beat! Sun Valley should be opening on Thanksgiving Day with natural and man-made snow. Watch their web site for pre-season deals.

    Remember, it's early season so expect to get your equipment scratched up. Hint: Take the rock skis.

    Closer to home, here are my top recommendations for playing in the snow:

    • Deer Point Service Road - Bogus Basin likes to keep its slopes clear of pre-season skiers/riders but a few miles before Bogus, you can park in a pull-out on the right, and boot-hike, snowshoe or xc ski on the Deer Point Service Road. This is the road that utility trucks take to the top of Deer Point to service cell and radio towers, etc. It climbs at a steady pace for 2 miles to the Bogus boundary, and then a right-hand turn takes you over to the Boise Ridge Road. Bogus is reporting a base of 15 inches, so there should be plenty of snow up there. 
    • Mores Creek Summit - East of Idaho City, you can go snowshoeing or xc skiing on the road tracks to Sunset Mountain or Pilot Peak or points along the way. The Mores Creek Snowtel site shows a depth of 11 inches of snow as of Thursday evening. Might be a good weekend for a nice backcountry tour! 
    • Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas - A little farther east of Idaho City, the snow depths in the Gold Fork area are ranging from 3-6 inches of snow as of Thursday night. Leo Hennessy reported 3 inches of new snow on Thursday. Should be good for boot-hiking, xc skiing, fat biking or snowshoeing with potential scratchy conditions! The trail to Stargaze Yurt should be great, too. 
    • Big Creek Summit - East of Cascade on the way to Warm Lake. You can hit a hot springs on the way home! 
    • Brundage Mountain - Brundage doesn't seem to mind backcountry skiers carving it up before the area opens. I've been seeing great Facebook pics of people skiing at Brundage in the last week with skis and skins. Brundage reported a foot of new snow at the base this week. Awesome! Snow depths are 16 inches at the base and 22 inches on top as of Thursday evening. Watch their web site for information on if/when they may open next week. 
    • Wood River Valley xc trails - A few of the trails are open in the North Valley, particularly the Harriman Trail from Sawtooth SNRA to Galena Lodge and the Prairie Creek Loop. Those are some of my favorite skate skiing areas. See the Blaine County Recreation District grooming report
    One other thing: I wanted to mention that I've revamped my web site at so that it's mobile-friendly. But it has all of the cool content from before ... you can buy hard-copy books and maps on my site, as always, but you also can buy full-color digital books and maps or individual hikes, biking trips or paddling routes a la carte for 99 cents each. Plus there's information about renting our Cozy Cabin in McCall and my PR and Marketing services. Just FYI ... 

    Enjoy the snow!
    - SS

    Thursday, November 5, 2015

    Super-bright night lights can lengthen your outdoor hiking, running and biking season

    Nite Rider Pro 1800 lights up a Greenbelt pathway big-time! 
    Hi all,

    Well, the time changed last weekend, and now it's getting dark pretty early. Officially, the sun will set on the western horizon in Boise today at 5:30 p.m. Man, that is early. And it will get worse until the winter equinox on Dec. 21st. So for the working people of the world, you get home from work and it's dark outside.

    But maybe you'd still like to get out for a workout? For a relatively small amount of money, you could pick up a nice headlamp to go hiking or trail-running at night, and for a little more money, you can pick up a bright light for your bike and go night riding on the Greenbelt or the foothills.

    For example, for $40, you could pick up a Petzl Tikka XP Headlamp, which is pretty bright (160 lumens), and see plenty well to go hiking or trail-running in the dark. For $100, you could buy a Nite Rider light with a brightness rating of 750 lumens at World Cycle. "It's pretty ideal without breaking the bank," says Courtney Yamada-Anderson, a sales rep at World.

    "The beam is amazing," Brian Baker of Shu's Idaho Running Company says of the Petzl headlamp. "Even the fastest runners have a hard time outrunning that light."

    One thing that benefits everyone is that headlamps and night lights are getting brighter and less expensive as time goes on. Think about buying a cool light set to make it possible to go hiking, running or biking in the evenings or early morning.

    Walking, running or biking at night puts a whole new slant on your workout. There's something eerie about the darkness and unknown that makes everything a little bit more exciting and edgy than usual. Biking on foothills trails at night is kind of wild because the whole trail experience is different than riding the same trail in the daylight. Everything looks different in the dark.

    Before I detail the lighting options, remember to wear reflective clothing when you're out walking, running or biking in the dark. This is particularly important when you're out on the sidewalks or streets of Boise at night. "Be seen!" Reflective vests or straps will complement your lights.

    Also, dress in layers for colder weather.

    Hiking and running lights: Basic headlamps can work, but for night-time workouts, it's best to punch it up a notch for the best experience.

    The Princeton Tec Fuel (70 lumens), seen at Bandanna Running & Walking, is a solid, basic walking or running headlamp that's also lightweight. Retail price is $30.

    I saw some Knuckle Lights at Shu's that seemed cool for running or walking. You literally wear the lights on your knuckles.

    On the higher end, Bandanna carries a deluxe Nathan Runners Headlamp (192 lumens), the Nebula
    Fire model, for just $75. That one is even brighter than the Petzl model mentioned above. It also responds to hand motions to change modes from high-beam to strobe or other modes. Cool technology!

    Both Shu's and Bandanna carry inexpensive clip-on lights. Bandanna has Nathan Clip Lights and Nathan Strobe Lights for just $10. Shu's carries another type of clip-on called Amphipods ... they're like a clam-shell and clip onto just about anything.

    Many different brands make good headlamps ... too many to mention here. Visit your favorite outdoor store to find the one that's right for you.

    Biking lights: The lighting and battery technology keep getting better, and the products get cheaper. But here are a few models to consider. Some people recommend using two lights for biking at night -- a handlebar-mounted light, and a light mounted on your helmet. This is for best lighting and safety. If one of your lights cuts out, then you've got a backup.

    World Cycle carries Nite Rider deluxe lights, which run $250 - $300 for the high-end super-bright models, with 1400 lumens or 1800 lumens. "The NiteRider Pro 1800 is the highest scoring bike light we've tested," says Outdoor Gear Lab. "We give it a 10 out of 10 for its beam pattern and brightness. It had the most even beam and by far the greatest maximum distance (a whopping 172 meters) of all 20 lights tested." On the downside, the lights are heavy and difficult to install, the reviewers said. But my oh my, you could light up the trail with one of those! 

    The Nite Rider 750 is mentioned above at $100 retail. 
    Light n' Motion Urban 800

    At Idaho Mountain Touring, they carry Light n' Motion products and Trek lights. There's an Urban 350 model for $100 (350 lumens), and a more powerful Urban 800 fast-charge for $160. The Urban 800 is "simply the lightest, brightest, most compact light in its class," according to the Light n' Motion people.

    The Trek 700 (lumens) sells for $120. On the higher end, they carry the Light n' Motion Taz 1200 Black Raven, which retails for $240. This light is as bright as a car beam, according to Light n' Motion. Men's Journal had this to say: "Taz 1200 has the serious headlight power of 1,200 lumens for when your rides are at their darkest: Thick rainstorms, woodsy shortcuts, moonless nights on unlighted streets. But its 300-lumen low setting is ample for most runabouts too. The light pops on and off of its mount easily for security, and charges via USB."

    Speaking of charging, pay attention to the battery life on the different lights you are considering and how long it takes to charge the unit.

    Don't forget that the Bogus Basin Ski Education Foundation is hosting the 65th annual Ski Swap Friday-Sunday at Expo Idaho. See the web site for details on when you can take your stuff over there to get sold, etc. The swap opens for buyers at 5 p.m. 

    Have fun!
    - SS  

    Thursday, October 29, 2015

    A hodge-podge of outdoorsy notes for Halloween weekend; Vote Yes on Nov. 3rd!

    Vote yes on Nov. 3! 
    Volunteers are needed for a trail re-route project in Harrison Hollow, near Healthwise.  
    Five Mile Creek Trail in the East Foothills would be a good bet this weekend
    if the trails aren't too wet after the expected rain storms. 
    Near the Watchman Trail, one of my favorites, with Huck. 
    Bucktail in Military Reserve has been riding great! This is a levy special!
    Trail access made possible by open space funds! Everyone loves Bucktail!
    Hi all,

    It's looking like a pretty soggy Friday, but Saturday looks much better, weather-wise, at least in the Boise-area, and then more rain on Sunday.

    I'd recommend getting out on Saturday to do some hiking or biking in the Boise Foothills, Boise or Eagle Greenbelt, Stack Rock or Bogus Basin. I recommended several "levy specials" plus a super-cool ride in the Owyhees in a blog post in mid-September, including Sweet Connie from the top, Watchman Loop, Hard Guy-Dry Creek Loop and Polecat Loop. Check on the Boise Foothills Trail Conditions Facebook page to check on trail conditions.

    These local trails are levy-specials because city leaders used funds from the original $10 million levy to create long-term public access to those trails. Remember to vote for the Boise Clean Water and Open Space levy on Tuesday, Nov. 3rd to preserve more open space, public access and wildlife habitat in the future. I will be working the phones on Sunday for the Conservation Voters for Idaho to help the campaign. Tell your friends and family!

    Wondering where to vote on Tuesday? Use the Ada County elections polling locator to find out.

    Also on Saturday, the Land Trust for the Treasure Valley will be doing a trail-reroute project at the top of Harrison Hollow in Boise. Sign up to help if you'd like. The trail project runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    Some other notes of interest:
    • Due to a large amount of rainfall, the BLM road to Leslie Gulch is CLOSED for the time being until repairs are made. Stay in touch with the Vale District of the BLM to find out when it reopens. 
    • The Idaho City District of the Boise National Forest is planning a big timber-management project in the same area where the Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas are located. It's called the Becker Integrated Resource Project. This project will affect road and trail access to the Park n' Ski yurts, so I recommend that you read up on the project and recommend that they keep the two-track roads open in the summer to Skyline and Stargaze yurts. 
    The Forest Service is recommending a springtime seasonal closure of these roads to benefit Rocky Mountain elk during the calving season. Alternative C would close the roads year-round. See Leo Hennessy's take on this project in  Idaho Outdoors. I think it's important to keep the two-tracks open to Stargaze and Skyline so people can pack water into the yurts for summer use, and young children and the elderly can enjoy the yurts by reaching them by a vehicle. Comments are due by Nov. 9th.

    Have a great Halloween weekend! 
    - SS 

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

    Try these five scenic, kid-friendly fall hikes in the Boise National Forest close to home

    Peace Rock Roadless Area, north of Garden Valley

    Peace Rock Trailhead. The trail also is open to mountain biking and motorcycles. 
    Cottonwood Creek Trail in the higher elevations ... 
    Wendy on Station Creek Trail 
    Bald Mountain, optional high point from the Station Creek Trail. Well worth it! 
    Hi all,

    The weather looks fabulous for just about anything outdoors this weekend, with highs in the mid-60s and lows around 40 in the Garden Valley or Idaho City areas, so I am recommending five scenic hikes in the Boise National Forest that you'll enjoy.

    Remember that rifle deer season is still open in the Garden Valley and Idaho City areas, so wear bright colors and put bright colors on your dogs as well.

    My top five hikes for this weekend:

    1. Peace Creek Trail, Peace Creek Roadless Area, north of Crouch - This is a little-known gem near the Silver Creek Plunge. The Boise National Forest has a little blurb and map on the hike. I'd rate the hike moderate at the beginning and strenuous overall. It's five miles from the trailhead to a high point, and five miles back for a total of 10 miles. Vertical gain is over 3,000 feet to the top. Peace Rock Roadless Area is a wilderness study area. It's very scenic with big white granite slopes and rocks everywhere, mixed with big ol' ponderosa pine trees and aspens. Great place to go if you don't run into hunters. Getting there: Take Idaho 55 to Banks. Turn right and go to Garden Valley. Take Forest Road #698 north of Crouch along the Middle Fork Payette River to a junction with Forest Road #671, heading for Silver Creek Plunge, a hot springs resort. Go just past the resort, and you'll see the trailhead for Peace Creek. Take a Boise National Forest map or a Topo map with you. It used to be possible to hike from the high point in this hike back down to the Peace Creek Valley but that trail has fallen off the grid. So it's an out-and-back hike. Pack a lunch and bring plenty of water. Good for kids 8 and older. Stop at Silver Creek Plunge for a nice soak after your hike. Bring your swim suits.
    Trip map for Peace Creek hike (Click to enlarge)

    2. Cottonwood Creek, near Arrowrock Reservoir - This hike is in my book, Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running  Routes Close to Home. Rated moderate for a casual out-and-back hike along Cottonwood Creek. It's 10 miles one-way to Thorn Butte Lookout on the Cottonwood Creek Trail, so it's generally too far to hike for a day trip, so just head up the Cottonwood Creek trail as far as you want and enjoy the day. Bring a lunch and water. Getting there: Take Idaho 21 toward Lucky Peak Reservoir. Turn right after crossing the Mores Creek bridge. Drive 15 miles along the bumpy dirt road next to Lucky Peak and Arrowrock. Turn left on Forest Road #377 and go three miles to the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead on the right. FYI: The trail crosses the creek multiple times on the hike, so be ready for that. The creek is running low, so the crossings shouldn't be a problem. Feel free to take the kids on this one.

    3. Station Creek Trail - This is another one of my favorites, close to Garden Valley. See previous blog post for details. Rated moderate. The trailhead is directly across the Banks-to-Lowman Road from the Garden Valley Ranger Station. There's an optional climb to the top of Bald Mountain when you get to the top of the first ridge. It's worth the extra distance. The hike is kid-friendly for children 8 and over.
    Map for Charcoal Gulch Trail ... The loop
    is best done for biking or running. Best part
    of the hike is in Charcoal Gulch. 
    4. Hike Charcoal Gulch Trail in Idaho City. This one is pretty close to town next to the Idaho City airport, so hopefully you won't run into any hunters on this hike. You might see some road hunters at the top of the hike. Rated easy to moderate. Kid-friendly. Its two miles uphill on the Charcoal Gulch Trail to the top of the hike, and two miles back. Four miles total. You'll hike in a forested setting with views of quaking aspens here and there. Bring a lunch and enjoy the day. Getting there: Take Idaho 21 to Idaho City. Turn left on Main Street and follow it several blocks to a junction with Bear Run Road and Centerville Road. Go left on the Centerville Road, Forest Road #307, for a quarter-mile to Buena Vista Road. Turn left and follow Buena Vista past the airstrip to the parking and trailhead.
    It's possible to bike to Stargaze as well but it's pretty steep! 
    Brenda and Leo on the deck of Stargaze Yurt. Great 360 degree views! 
    5. Hike to Stargaze Yurt - Here's an easy to moderate kid-friendly hike with great views of the surrounding countryside. You'll take Idaho 21 past Idaho City and Mores Creek Summit to Beaver Creek Summit. Park at the summit and follow the Park n' Ski Trail up to Stargaze Yurt and a high point overlooking the Boise National Forest. It's 1.4 miles to the yurt from the road. You'll be hiking in a forested setting with pockets of quaking aspen trees here and there. Bring a lunch and enjoy the day. If you've never stayed at Stargaze, you'll know why it's one of everyone's favorite yurts because of the high perch and good skiing in the winter.

    You'll note that I did not recommend hiking from Mores Creek Summit because it's likely that deer hunters will be ever-present on the Pilot Peak Road or Sunset Lookout Road. Ditto with Banner Ridge trails.

    Have fun!
    -- SS

    Thursday, October 15, 2015

    Tap into great hikes, bike rides and high mountain lakes near McCall in the fall

    Wendy on the new Huckleberry Trail. Great lake views the whole way.

    Views of Payette Lake today from the Huckleberry Trail. 
    Short hike to Josephine Lake.

    Elena enjoyed the hike. 
    Jim Giuffre and Doug Lawrence on Bear Pete Trail 

    Yours truly at 8,000 feet on Bear Pete 

    Riding at Jug Mountain Ranch is a blast! They also have a shuttle. 
    Riding downhill on Elk Trail at Brundage ... always a hoot! 
    Hi all,

    I've been hanging out in McCall this week, doing a little deer hunting in the mornings, working in the afternoons, and getting a few chores done at our Cozy Cabin.

    The weather has been stellar in McCall this week, and there are no issues with smoke or visibility whatsoever. The fall colors are ablaze, with aspens going off in deep yellow, shrubs a deep red, and tamarack trees also are turning as we speak.

    It's worth traveling to the McCall area to do some late-season hiking or biking at any elevation you want -- that kind of opportunity certainly won't last too much longer. Remember that it's hunting season so wear bright colors!

    Here are some ideas for quick get-aways before colder and wetter weather comes soon. There is a 50 percent chance of showers on Saturday afternoon, so try to get up there on Friday to enjoy some sunshine ...

    • Five easy-to-access kid-friendly high mountain lakes close to McCall - Check out this blog from the summer of 2013. Still just as valid today.
    • Hike, ride or run the 10-mile Loon Lake Loop while you still can ... check out my previous blog post on the Loon Lake Loop. It's a beauty!  Cap off the day with a soak at Burgdorf Hot Springs.  
    • Now's a great time to tackle Bear Pete Trail before it snows - it's an expert to advanced trail because of the vertical (3,524 feet) and distance (17.5 miles), some of it hike-a-bike. See my guide, Mountain Biking in McCall for details. Bear Pete Trailhead starts at Cloochman Summit, north of Upper Payette Lake, and ends north of Burgdorf. Allow for a full day for this ride. And then soak at Burgdorf Hot Springs afterwards! 
    • Go biking at Jug Mountain Ranch, Tamarack or Brundage. The lifts at Brundage are closed now, but you can climb the mountain on a variety of trails and then ride Elk Trail back down to the bottom. Or try the "big ride" from McCall by riding Bear Basin Road to the top of Brundage, ride Elk Trail to the bottom, and then ride Growler and 488 back to Bear Basin.  
    • Ride the Huckleberry Trail loop at Ponderosa State Park, ride Bear Basin or the Payette Rim Trail. See my previous blog post from this summer for details on these trails. All of these trails are great for hiking or trail-running as well.  
    If you're stuck in Boise this weekend, consider getting involved with the Boise Water and Open Space Campaign. There's a canvas event going on Saturday with Mayor Bieter at Redwood Park. See the campaign web site for more information. And vote yes on Nov. 3rd!  

    There you have it! Have fun! 
    - SS 

    Thursday, October 8, 2015

    General deer season opens Saturday; Try to squeeze in a fall cast-and-blast float trip

    Hunting season is upon us! General deer season opens on Saturday statewide.
    Scott Smay is pictured here on the edge of the Frank Church Wilderness. 
    Put bright colors on your dogs if you take them in the woods
    during hunting season. 
    Rick Gerrard enjoys catching fish while soaking in the grandeur of Hells Canyon. 
    Steve hauls in a fall chinook while Huck inspects the prize. 
    Black bears scout for berries in the hackberry trees in Hells Canyon.
    South Fork Snake River in summer mode ... 
    Wendy on a side hike on the Middle Fork in October ...
    We had the whole river canyon to ourselves for a week! 
    Hi all,

    Well, the endless summer in Idaho is coming to a close as the days get shorter, the temperatures drop more steeply at night, and the calendar clicks into October. Fall general rifle hunting seasons also are kicking in on Saturday, Oct. 10th, with the opening of general deer season in many parts of Idaho, and general rifle elk season will follow close behind on Oct. 15 (McCall unit) or Oct. 25 (Weiser unit) or Nov. 1st (Boise unit). See the Idaho Fish and Game regulations for details.

    Summer-like weather in the afternoons in October can be marvelous, however, so it's tempting to continue your fall hiking, biking, backpacking, and mountain-climbing trips amid the throngs of hunters. Be smart and wear hunter orange and put some bright colors on your puppies to protect yourself.

    I'd also recommend trying to squeeze in a late-season float trip on the Lower Salmon River, Middle Fork Salmon, Main Salmon or Hells Canyon to fish and hunt chukars, if you're so inclined. This has been an annual tradition for me since the late 1980s, and it's always a great time. In Hells Canyon last weekend, the fish were biting big-time, and there were lots of chukars running around on the Oregon and Idaho sides of the river. We caught tons of small-mouth bass and rainbow trout and four members of our group caught a big fall chinook salmon.

    In a matter of days, the steelhead will be running stronger up the Salmon River and Snake River, so you could add these beautiful ocean-going fish to the list of fish you might catch. If you have people in your group who carry big-time fish tackle for sturgeon, that'd be another potential prize to pursue.

    From the standpoint of trip logistics, it's easiest to put together a Lower Salmon or Hells Canyon trip in SW Idaho. For those who live near Stanley, Salmon or Idaho Falls, a Main Salmon trip would be easier to pull off, but it also would take more days to do the 80-mile trip. The South Fork Snake River is another great fall trip near Idaho  Falls, where you can fly fish for trout and maybe find a grouse in the woods above camp.

    Here are some basics on the fall river trips:

    • Hells Canyon - Put in a Hells Canyon Dam and float to Pittsburg Landing, a distance of about 35 miles. This trip is easily doable in three or four days. Take as much time as possible. Only self-issue permits are required, available at the web site. Shuttles can be arranged through Scotty's gas station in Pine, Oregon for $160 cash. They do a marvelous job! 
    • Lower Salmon Canyon - Float from Hammer Creek to Heller Bar or arrange for a jet boat shuttle to Pittsburg Landing from the mouth of the Salmon. It's almost 50 miles from Hammer Creek to the mouth of the Salmon, and the river is running very low (3,500 cfs), so allow for plenty of time to do your float. Fishing is limited to small-mouth bass and steelhead in this section. 
    • Salmon River near Riggins - If you don't have time to do a longer trip, you could put in at Carey Creek or Vinegar Creek and float down to Riggins while fishing for steelhead and hunting chukars. 
    • Middle Fork Salmon - Arrange a fly-in to Indian Creek or Middle Fork Lodge area and float the Middle Fork in October. Pick up a river permit on I've done solo one-boat trip on the Middle Fork in October with Wendy, and also smaller group trips. Fly fishing for cutthroat trout really turns on in the sunny afternoons. Also can hunt chukars. Here's a previous blog post on a late-season Middle Fork trip. Keep an eye out for black bears! A floater got attacked in the last week by a hungry bear! We saw six black bears on our trip in Hells Canyon.   
    • South Fork Snake River - Put in at Palisades Dam for the long version of the float or at Swan Valley and float to the takeout at Heise. The South Fork Lodge in Swan Valley does shuttles.  Check with the experts on what kinds of flies the fish are taking. The cuts on the South Fork get fished very hard by a steady stream of outfitters every day. By this time of year, it's more locals than outfitters. Here's a blog post I did on the South Fork two years ago. The South Fork is also good for seeing moose and bald eagles.   

    Have fun and enjoy the fall!
    - SS