Thursday, June 25, 2015

Whoa baby! Here comes the heat! Here are 13 tips on how to stay cool close to home ...

Lake Cascade 
Boating at Lucky Peak 
Floating the Salmon River
Floating the Payette River 
SUP'ing on Payette Lake ... Photo courtesy Lolo Nelson 
Redfish Lake near Stanley 
Round the Mountain Trail, Bogus Basin 
Hi all,

Well, I see the summer heat is going to hit us right between the eyes -- all too soon -- here in the last week of June. I just finished a 6-day trip on the Main Salmon - River of No Return, and the temperatures were most pleasant, with highs in the mid-80s to low 90s. But looking ahead to this week, we're going to get hit with temperatures in the triple digits for the next week! Yikes!

Here are 13 recommendations on how to stay cool:

  • Start super early if you'd like to go hiking, biking or trail-running in the Boise Foothills. That means get out before 7 a.m. 
  • Go to Bogus Basin and start your hiking, trail-running or biking trip up there. It should be 15 degrees cooler. Hike or ride the Around the Mountain Trail, Freddy's Stack Rock Trail, Eastside or Sweet Connie. This weekend, Bogus is hosting a trail-running event on Saturday. 
  • Float the Boise River - Put on plenty of sunscreen, wear a big goofy hat, and float the Boise River with your friends and family. See info. at Ada County Parks & Waterways. Take your time, hang out by the water and stay cool. 
  • Go swimming, tubing or water-skiing at Lucky Peak, Arrowrock or Anderson Ranch
  • Go swimming or SUP'ing at a local park or pond. See Boise Parks & Recreation for ideas close to home. 
  • Hire a guide or rent a boat and go float the Payette River. The Main Payette River from Banks to Beehive Bend is best for those breaking into the sport. If you'd like to crank up the adrenaline meter and float the South Fork, put a bunch of friends together and hire a guided service. Bear Valley, Cascade Raft and Kayak, and Idaho Whitewater Unlimited all provide quality guided trips on the Payette River.
  • Go swimming or SUP'ing at a local park or pond. See Boise Parks & Recreation for ideas close to home. 
  • Go camping, fishing, swimming, water-skiing or SUP'ing at Lake Cascade State Park in Cascade or Donnelly.
  • Go swimming, tubing, surfing or water-skiing on Payette Lake. Find a place to stay overnight in McCall or go camping in the Payette National Forest. 
  • Go camping, fishing, swimming or SUP'ing at Redfish Lake or Stanley Lake in the Sawtooths. Go to to make reservations.   
  • Drive to Riggins and hang out on a big beach on the Salmon River. Go swimming, camping and fishing. Get there early. There will be competition for the primo camping spots.  
  • Plan a personal trip on the Salmon River or book a trip with an outfitter, if you don't have your own gear. Here's a few notes from my trip last year on the Salmon. It's a trip-of-a-lifetime to vacation for a week on the Salmon River, but since we live in Idaho, we can do it every year! 
  • Backpack or day hike into a high mountain lake and stay cool in the alpine forest environment. See my blog about five of my favorite kid-friendly hikes near Stanley and McCall for ideas. 

There you have it! Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Mountains beckon! Go biking or hiking in the pine-scented forests of McCall!

Huck cools off in Loon Lake. 
Morgan Hine cruises to Loon Lake on the sweet singletrack ... 
Wendy on the Payette Rim Trail 
Overlook of Payette Lake from the Rim Trail. 
The new Huckleberry Trail comes within 10 feet of the lake at times ... Very cool! 
Hi all,

As the clock turns forward into June, the summer heat has been turning on in the Boise Valley, which in my mind, means it's time to head up to the mountains of McCall to go hiking, biking or boating.

We were up at our cabin in McCall last weekend, and took the kids rafting on the Cabarton section of the North Fork Payette River on Sunday. Then on Monday evening, I rode the new Huckleberry Loop in Ponderosa Park and hung out with the mule deer, which looked nice and tan in their summer coat. On Tuesday mid-morning, I rode the Payette Rim Trail with a friend, and my, it was riding as smooth as ever!

It's SO nice to sniff the cool mountain air while riding the trails and enjoy the wonderful smells and sounds in the deep woods. You look out through the trees to the azure lakes below, and know you could be swimming there on your way home. Plus, the air temp is 15 degrees cooler than it is in Boise!

This week, I'm recommending several hikes and bike rides in the McCall area. June is less busy in McCall than July and August, so it should be possible to find some lodging deals through inIdaho, vrbo or the local hotels. I'm also including a link from Roger Phillips' story in the Statesman today about biking at Brundage Mountain, Tamarack and Jug Mountain Ranch. All of those venues are excellent as well! See my guide, Mountain Biking in McCall for 40 rides in the area.

1. Check out the new Huckleberry Loop trail in Ponderosa State Park. There's a new singletrack trail along the east shoreline of the peninsula that connects to the old Huckleberry hiking and biking trail, and there's another singletrack that takes off from the main beach area and goes north through the huge ponderosa pines to the road to Osprey Point. You pop out on the road just short of the very top. I think the loop is about five miles long in total. It has some steep, technical sections. But overall, I'd rate it strong intermediate as a bike ride. For hiking, I'd rate it moderate. It'd be beautiful to hike it or ride it, whatever your preference might be. Riding time is 1.5 hours. Hiking time is 2+ hours.

Here's a map of the route ...

GPS tracks of the new Huckleberry Loop Trail. There are several variations
that you can enjoy in the southern part of the park on your way out. 
2. Ride the Payette Rim Trail. This loop is best done on a bike. You could hike from the bottom end uphill and go out-and-back to avoid hiking on Bear Basin Road. Distance: 10 miles. Difficulty: Strong intermediate. Rocky sections can be walked. Riding time: 1.5-2 hours. Getting to the trailhead: Take ID 55 north of McCall 1.5 miles to Bear Basin Road. Turn right. Go 1.3 miles to a buck fence parking area by the east side of the Bear Basin Trails. Park. The ride starts here. Proceed up Bear Basin Road. Go straight at the four-way junction. Stay on #451. It gets progressively steeper as you go. At mile 3.1, you'll reach the top of the initial grade, and you'll see a red gate and two-track road on the right. Take this road over to the Rim Trail. It's about 1.8 miles on the two-track to the Rim Trail junction on the right. The turn is marked by a rock cairn. The entrance to the singletrack is rocky and technical but it's gets better. Enjoy the Rim Trail as it winds slightly downhill on a bench above Payette Lake. At mile 6.3, you'll come to a creek crossing. I rode it on Tuesday. Gear down for a steep little climb after the creek. Zoom downhill some more for several miles through the grassy forest, aspen and pine trees. Bear right at a Y-junction and climb abruptly for a short section before zooming along some more on the high bench. This route leads to Bear Basin Road. You'll come to one more junction, and turn right to reach the Bear Basin Road trailhead. The singletrack drops out very close to the parking lot.

3. Ride Jug Mountain Ranch.  See the link to Roger's article above for details. JMR has built a new trail with banked corners called "Berm and Ernie." I can't wait to ride that new trail! See the trail map above. As Roger said, they have the coolest shuttle rig anywhere that'll take you to a point where you can do gravity rides on the trails. JMR is dead east of Lake Fork off of ID 55.
Upper Drain is fast and smooth! 
4. Ride Upper Drain at Bear Basin. If you like to cruise on banked corners, the Upper Drain trail is a hoot! The Bear Basin Trails are close to McCall, and they're built for all abilities. Access is via the Bear Basin Trailhead, north of McCall, off of ID 55. The Upper Drain is a little more challenging because of the banked corners, but I've taken kids there, and they do fine. There are multiple ways to reach the Upper Drain, but one way is to take Baby Bear to Sleepy Hollow and then Blue Ridge Loop to a high point in the forest. Take the Shortcut to the left to Polar Express, and then you'll see a sign for Upper Drain. The trail goes for about 1/2 mile before it goes into the winding corners. Half-way down, you'll come to a junction with Grand Traverse. This goes back to the Bear Basin Trailhead. If you're having fun, continue onto Lower Drain. Then take Westy back to the trailhead. Check out this YouTube video of the Upper and Lower Drain.

Loon Lake route (click to enlarge)
5. Ride Loon Lake Loop. This is one of my favorite rides in the whole state. It's a 10-mile loop (short version), with world-class scenery, a lunch stop at Loon Lake, where you can go swimming, and you might even see a moose! This is a strong intermediate to advanced ride. Take Warren Wagon Road 25+ miles, past the turnoff to Burgdorf, to a signed turnoff for Chinook Campground on the right. Proceed to the Secesh River and Loon Lake trailhead. I recommend doing the loop counter-clockwise. Cross the bridge and grind up a granny-gear climb for several miles to an initial summit and then zoom down to a junction (watch out for other trail users). Turn right, cross the creek, and climb again to a big view overlooking Loon Lake. Enjoy the downhill slalom through the burned snags. Ride across the meadow to Loon Lake (mile 4.5). Have lunch and take a swim. Then ride down to the Secesh River. Cross the bridge, and ride 3.5 miles back to the trailhead. This section is technical and rocky in places ... keep the momentum going and let the bike roll through the rocks!
Don't forget the North Fork Championships are going on Thursday-Saturday. The event is free, and it's totally worth driving up to watch expert kayakers negotiate the mighty North Fork, some of the gnarliest whitewater in the nation. This year there's a BoaterX race with 6 paddlers racing down S-turn rapids all at once. That's tomorrow at 3 p.m. Saturday at 1 p.m. is the big giant slalom event through Jacob's Ladder, the steepest section of the North Fork. Kayakers zip down a steep slide and leap into the river to run the gates in Jake's and Golf Course. It takes phenomenal skill and experience to compete in that event.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Idaho biking events create big incentive for training and fitness; End result is FUN!

Steve's ready to put the hammer down at Banner Summit! 
Jeff Gould was one of our workhorses in the LP 200. He put in 89 miles on Saturday. 
Steve Doud was our chief hill-climber in the LP 200. He's an animal!  
Paul Hilding, left, was not smiling soon after he started as he and Jeff got
buffeted by headwinds and rain between Stanley and Smiley Creek. 
The big climb from Warm Lake to Landmark Summit in the 4 Summit Challenge.
Big pack taking off on the Warm Lake Highway in the 4 Summit Challenge 
Hi all,

I'm flying down the Lowman grade on my Specialized road bike on Idaho 21 at 35-40 mph, my eyes are watering from the wind resistance (even with good sunglasses on), but I'm totally focused on my line around every curve, being careful to retain as much speed as possible.

The 20-mile segment from Mores Creek Summit, above Idaho City, to Lowman was one of three legs that I rode in the Lyle Pearson 200 last Saturday. I practiced the section the week before, so I knew I had to hammer as hard as I could on the downhill to keep my speed up to the maximum possible. Plus, it's a blast to go fast!

This section also featured about 1,000 feet of climbing, but at a pretty moderate grade, so I pushed myself as much as possible before the downhill in hopes of not getting passed and holding up my end of the deal in the LP 200 relay race. And you know what, I didn't get passed!

It was my first year in the LP 200. My friend Paul Hilding put a great team together of 50-something guys who like to ride road bikes -- Paul, Jeff Gould, Steve Doud and me. The LP 200 is a race, but it's pretty much a recreational ride with your team-mates and friends, riding at race pace as much as possible. The main reason you train hard for the event is for personal pride. You feel the pressure to do well in your part of the race for the team! Our team's main goal was to reach Ketchum while the BBQ and beer were still flowing.

Everyone on our team was ready for the big day after three months of training. We ended up finishing 46th out of 70 teams -- not bad for a bunch of 50-something average guys -- and we got to Ketchum at 4:30, when the BBQ was in mid-swing, so we reached our goal. Our team name was Low-X, or Low Expectations. Ha!

In the last two years, I've been doing more road rides as a way to boost my fitness and create an incentive for training and fitness. With every week of training, you will get stronger, you might lose some weight (I burned 3,000-5,000 calories on a lot of my training rides), and when it comes to race day, you know you're ready. Then, you can actually have fun!

We are lucky here in the Treasure Valley because there are a bunch of great biking events during the summer season that can create an incentive for training and fitness. Last year, I trained for the Four Summit Challenge in Cascade in late July. This year, by doing the LP 200 in late May, I'm a full two months ahead of training and fitness, compared to where I was last year. Now I'm ready for any century rides that come up, and I'll be stronger for mountain biking. I'm also signed up for Ride Idaho, a grand tour of N. Idaho this year, in August.

Here's a short list of some fun biking events coming up this summer that you might want to consider. Start out with distances that you feel are doable and work up from there:

  • Great Owyhee Ride Against Hunger  - Saturday, June 21. You can sign up to ride a full century, 50 miles or metric century, 62 miles. 
  • Bob LeBow Blue Cruise - Saturday, June 27. They've got something for everyone in this event ... Distances: Full century, 62 miles, 35-mile City Tour, 25-mile Lake Lowell Tour, 10-mile Upper Dam Tour, and 3-mile Greenbelt Tour. I rode the Metric Century last year to tune up for the Four Summit Challenge.   
  • Four Summit Challenge in Cascade - Saturday, July 25. You can ride the full 4 summit ride (75 miles), 3 summits (60 miles), 2 summits (50 miles), 1 summit (30 miles) or an 8.2-mile family fun ride. Again, something for everyone. I loved doing the Four Summit Challenge last year. Good food and snacks at aid stations. Great BBQ at the finish! Most people camp at Lake Cascade.  
  • Ride Idaho - Aug. 15-22. This is a 7-day ride starting and finishing in Coeur d'Alene. Total mileage is 390 miles spread over that time. Think timbered mountains, lakes, beach time, and scenic beauty. My friend Mark Anderson and I are signed up. Can't wait! The week includes a side trip on the Route of the Hiawatha, near Wallace. That's the ride on an old RR grade with multiple trestles and tunnels. It's a hoot! Ride Idaho carries all your gear to each night's camping area and provides all the meals. 
  • Cascade Gravel Grinder - Sept. 12 - This is a gravel road ride for the peeps who like to grind it out on gravel mountain roads. Distances of 35, 57 or 76 miles.    
  • Bogus Basin Hill Climb - I think this is scheduled for Sept. 5th. Practice during the summer and work on improving your time! 
Want more? George's Cycles has a complete schedule of roadie rides and events on their website. Also check with the roadie clubs such as Lactic Acid, St. Luke's/Lost River, Community Bicycle Rides, and more. Here's the Community Bicycle Rides ride calendar, which has more events than I've listed here. 

Speaking of biking events, the Weiser River Trail ride is on Saturday, June 6th. Distances are 28 miles from the northern trailhead near New Meadows to Council. Optional longer ride is 48 miles from New Meadows to Cambridge. Register at

Big thanks for those of you who voted for Jeanne McFall of Boise for the "Extreme Huntress" contest in Texas. Jeanne was one of the top 6 vote-getters and made the finals. She's a former bike racer and triathlete and avid hunter. I think she'll do well!