Thursday, May 26, 2016

Weather looks grand for Memorial Day weekend; Tips on where to go camping!

Classic car camping scenario in the Boise National Forest near Idaho City

Camping along the North Fork Boise River  

Fishing on the Middle Fork is better than the North Fork (Boise NF photo)

Salmon River beach scene - can't go wrong! 
Leslie Gulch is a scenic wonder. Great place to hike and camp. 
Hiking above Succor Creek State Park ... Steve and Drew 
Hi all,

Well, the weather looks great for Memorial Day weekend -- no rain in the forecast -- but it will be on the cool side at night (temperatures near or below freezing), especially in the Stanley and McCall areas, so be sure to bring plenty of warm clothes for the campout.

Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer camping season for many of us. Assuming you're thinking about where to go camping this weekend, here are my recommendations:

  • Developed campgrounds or self-support dispersed camping sites along the North Fork of the Boise River and Middle Fork of the Boise River will be a great location this weekend. Temperatures are forecast to reach into the 70-degree range in Idaho City, so that'll be perfect for hiking, biking, fishing morel-hunting or hanging out in camp! All of the key access roads to reach the North Fork and Middle Fork are open. The Edna Creek Road to Atlanta also was just opened this week. 
  • Salmon River beach camping near Riggins - This is a great spot for hanging out on the spacious white sandy beaches on the Salmon River, upstream of Riggins along the Salmon River Road. Get there early. These spots are choice, so they are popular! Take your kayaks or rafts and do day trips on the Salmon River while you're in the hood. The Salmon River was running 26,000 cfs as of today ... 
  • Camping in the Owyhees or in the Snake River canyon should be great. Places like Bruneau Dunes State Park, Leslie Gulch, Succor Creek State Park, Celebration Park or the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area would all be prime this weekend. See my Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook for details on visiting all of these areas.
  • Stay home and go hiking/riding or running in the Boise Foothills - Trail conditions are perfect in the Boise footies, the flowers are still happening and it's velvety green everywhere. See my Boise Trail Guide for ideas on where to go. 
See the Idaho Statesman's latest camping guide, published on Wednesday, for a rundown on some of their staff members' favorite camping locations in SW and Central Idaho. They also detailed what campgrounds are open or closed at this time of year.

In general, snow levels are at 6,500 to 7,000 feet in the mountains of SW Idaho and Central Idaho. In the Payette National Forest, there is still three feet of snow at Upper Payette Lake campground, and five feet of snow at Lick Creek Summit. Valley County apparently is working on opening the road to Burgdorf Hot Springs as we speak.

In the Sawtooth Valley, the valley itself has been clear of snow for several weeks, but once you get into the forest, you are likely to run into snow quickly. Check with the Stanley Ranger Station 774-3000 if you want more details.

Have a great campout!
- SS  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

May is Prime Time for Morel hunting!

Wendy was really happy to find so many morels! 
This was round one last Saturday morning 

Morels are very distinctive looking, so easy to identify
Chris Florence foraging foraging for morels.
He's a professional who sells morels at Farmer's Markets
Hi all,

For me, it's often hit and miss as to whether I carve out enough time to go morel hunting in May. Timing is everything when it comes to morel hunting, and based on my experience last weekend, I can tell you that morel season is hitting prime time right now.

Looking ahead in the next 10 days, it's supposed to stay kind of wet and cool, which hopefully will prolong the morel hunting season even more.

Wendy and I decided we wanted to get away to our Cozy Cabin in McCall last weekend -- just to get a much-needed change of scenery -- but instead of morel hunting close to town, as we often do, we headed to the burn zone of the Teepee Springs fire, a 95,709-acre blaze that ran from New Meadows to the Salmon River last August.

It's well-known that morels, the fruiting body of the morchella species, love to bloom upon disturbance, particularly from wildfires. "They like areas of disturbance -- that's what causes them to bloom," says Chris Florence, a professional wild food forager whom I wrote about in "Idaho Microbes: How tiny single-celled creatures can harm, and save our world."

"Fires can destroy the root structure of the soil, depending on how hot it burns, and that's when the mycorrhizal layer puts all of its energy into kicking out as many spores as possible to survive," he says.

And from those spores, morels are born.

Teepee Springs fire zone
I checked with the New Meadows Ranger District, asking how best to access the fire zone, and they suggested the Hazard Creek Road. One also could try to access it from the French Creek Road or the Goose Lake Road after more snow melts. The great thing about Hazard is that they'd been logging in there all week, so it wasn't open to the public until the weekend. We were one of the first people in there.

Wendy and I picked around 20 pounds of morels all around burned tree stumps, burned holes in the ground and under burned alderbrush. Some of them were just growing in the fir needles on some moist east slopes.

How to find morels? 

Try to get some intel on what elevation are the morels sprouting? Last week, it seemed to be in the 4,500-5,000 foot range. That means you could go to that elevation above Idaho City, Garden Valley or Cascade in the Boise National Forest. As time goes on, morels will be popping in the Payette National Forest above 5,000 feet. If you see a trillium growing on the forest floor, that's an indication that you might be in the right elevation for morels.

The Clearwater Complex fire zone might be another great place to look for morels.

Forest type: Florence recommends forested areas with fir trees in cooler, moister areas. I've found that east slopes can be better than south and west slopes. Ponderosa pine areas don't seem very productive for morels, in my experience. Look around rotten stumps, old logs, things like that.

Stop and stare: I find that you really have to get low to the ground and look hard for morels. Once you find some, you'll find more. It takes a lot of patience to really go slow and stare at every square yard of soil, but patience and persistence will pay off.

Go with an experienced morel picker: It always helps to go with someone who has a favorite morel-picking spot(s). They can get you started.

How to cook? 

Once you've picked some morels, I recommend sauteing them with butter and garlic and serving on steak, burger, or mixing up a morel and swiss omelette. It's totally deluxe!

Here are some good tips on cleaning and cooking morels.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Boise Bike Week is coming up! Tie into TVCA great biking events for One Sweet Ride!

Thanks to the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance for sponsoring Boise Bike Week! 
Try to ride to work at least one day this week, or all 5 days! 
Go for a co-ed mountain bike ride with the Dirt Dolls on Monday ... 
People might dress up for the Pedal Power parade, much like they do for
the Fat Tire Festival in Boise in August!
Who knows? You might see costume-clad riders on the fun rides! 
Get your kids out for a ride! This is my son Quinn when
he was 7 or 8 years old by the Hulls ponds. 
Larger three-wheeler bikes are becoming more popular ...
This model works great for my son Drew. Check out a
demonstration about adaptive bikes on May 21st. 
Hi all,

It's the month of May, and that means it's time to get on your bike and tie into the many fun biking events coming up during Boise Bike Week, coming up on Monday, May 16 and running through Saturday, May 21! Their theme is "One sweet ride."

Many thanks to the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance and many other pro-bike organizations and businesses in Boise for dishing up a great list of events! You can find the full calendar of events on the TVCA web site.

Boise Bike Week is a time to promote biking in our community. It's also a time when there's so much going on it creates an incentive for you to get off the couch and:

  • Ride to work as many days as possible that week. Get your bike lock set up handy, get ready for work a little earlier than normal, and enjoy the commute to work in the fresh air.  
  • Tie into free mountain bike rides or road rides to try these activities perhaps for the first time, meet new people, and enjoy some beers afterwards. 
  • Learn about bike safety for kids and adults from the pros. It's vital to know how to navigate the streets safely or get tips on how to ride a mountain bike safely in the hills to avoid injuries or worse. 
  • Getting kids more involved in cycling
  • Participate in a bike parade! That's always a hoot, especially when people dress up. 
  • Learn more about finding the right bicycle for you and your kids. 

Some highlights for you and your friends to plug into the fun:

  • Dirt Dolls co-ed mountain bike ride, Monday, 5:45 p.m., Camelsback Park. All abilities welcome. Go for an hour-long ride and hit the beer party, a kickoff for Boise Bike Week, at Highlands Hollow. The party runs from 6-9 p.m. 
  • Intro to Road Biking ride led by Community Bicycle Rides, 6-8 p.m. Tuesday. Meet at Eastside Cycles in Bown Crossing. Several places to eat and drink afterwards in Bown Crossing. 
  • Wandering Wheels Picnic and Gear Swap, Tuesday, 6-7 p.m. Bring a picnic dinner to Catalpa Park in NW Boise and learn about how cyclists pack their bikes for different kinds of rides and tours. 
  • Ride of Silence, 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, to honor those we've lost in our community from vehicle-bicycle accidents. There have been WAY too many of these accidents in our community. More awareness and publicity about safe cycling and safe driving is essential. Ride starts at Camelsback. 
  • Three riding clinics on Wednesday - Youth starts at Fort Boise at 4:30 p.m.; Ladies only road and mountain bike rides will be led by George's on 3rd Street at 6 p.m.; SWIMBA beginning mountain bike clinic starting in Military Reserve by Fort Boise. 
  • National Bike to Work Day breakfast at the Boise Co-op, Friday, 7-9 a.m. Free coffee and danishes for bike commuters! 
  • Adaptive Bike Fair, Saturday, 10 a.m.- 3 p.m., Fort Boise - Try out all kinds of different bikes at the fair, including upright and recumbent hand cycles, trikes, recumbent trikes, tandem bikes and trikes. I just bought my autistic son, Drew, a three-wheeler in April. I wish I had gotten it sooner! He does great on it!
  • Pedal Power Parade to Grand Finale party at Payette Brewing, 6-10 p.m. Saturday at the new location, 733 S. Pioneer Street. Meet at the State Capital at 4:30-4:45. Ride starts at 5 p.m. The parade will follow a three-mile loop and then end up at Payette Brewing. 
I enjoyed outdoor writer Chadd Cripe's article in the Statesman this week about the different kinds of bikes one could choose from these days -- from trikes to recumbents, from cruisers to electric bikes, fat bikes, mountain bikes and road bikes! 

Another thing you might do for Boise Bike Week, if you're an experienced rider, is get out on your road bike or mountain bike and enjoy a nice long recreation ride. Put in some miles! It's good for building up your fitness and endurance, and it's good for your soul!  

If you're looking for ideas on where to ride, consider my Boise Road Cycling Guide, for 30 road rides throughout the Boise Valley, and Mountain Biking in Boise, 65 rides in the local area (available in ebook only right now; new version coming soon.)

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Everyone is going bonkers over wildflowers on Watchman Loop! How to hike it, bike it

Doug and Stueby on Curlew Ridge. We're feeling lucky at this moment. 

Paul Hilding and Doug Lawrence on Watchman
Arrowleaf Balsomroot (courtesy Matt Miller, TNC)
Wendy and Huck on Watchman
Big field of biscuitroot off of Sweet Connie (courtesy Jerry Wiseman)
Lupine (courtesy Marcia Franklin)
Hi all,

I've seen tons of beautiful wildflower and landscape photos being posted in the social media lately, all taken in the Boise Foothills. Indeed, the robust winter we had and copious amounts of precipitation supercharged the soil with moisture, and we're being treated to quite the spring bloom.

The major mega-fauna in the Boise Foothills when it comes to wildflowers is arrowleaf balsomroot, a large native plant found in shrub-steppe plant communities that blooms bright yellow this time of year, alongside long green leaves. Right now, whole mountainsides in the foothills light up bright yellow in the morning or evening light.

The one place where you can see lots of arrowleaf balsomroot in the Boise Foothills is on the Watchman Trail, about half way through the hike, bike ride or trail run, when the trail bends around to a west slope and bam! It's way cool to see.  Be sure to bring your phone/camera!

So in case you aren't familiar with the Watchman hiking, running and biking loops, I'll describe a hiking and running loop starting and finishing at the Five Mile Creek Trailhead, and a longer mountain biking loop that starts and finishes at the end of the pavement on Rocky Canyon Road.
Hiking/running loop starts and finishes at Five Mile Creek trailhead. 

  • Watchman Hiking/Running loop - Distance: Approx. 7 miles; Hiking time: 3-3.5 hours (recreation pace); Running time: 1.5 hours. Rated: moderate to strenuous. Drive up Rocky Canyon Road in East Boise (accessed from Shaw Mountain Road) to the end of the pavement. The Five Mile Trailhead is 2.5 miles up the dirt road from here on the left-hand side. Climb Five Mile Creek Trail along the lovely tree-covered stream to a junction with Orchard Gulch (mile 1.5). Go straight and climb a steeper hill to a creek-crossing and the start of Watchman Trail. Continue on Watchman as it contours around the mountain and climbs to a second draw (wildflower big bang moment!). The trail continues to climb for a half mile, after you cross that creek, and then it's a big descent to the Three Bears-Trail #6 junction. Go left on Three Bears, switchback to the top of the hill and then descend to the Three Bears cutoff at mile 3.8. Go left and descend a steep trail back to Rocky Canyon Road. Go left and return to the trailhead around the corner. 
    Biking loop trip map 
  • Watchman Biking Loop - Distance: 10.2 miles; Riding time: 2 hours or more; Rated: Advanced. A strong intermediate rider could walk technical downhill pitches. Drive up Rocky Canyon Road in East Boise (accessed from Shaw Mountain Road) to the end of the pavement. Park. The ride starts here. Climb Rocky Canyon Road, a bumpy dirt road, for 2.5 miles to the Five Mile Trailhead on the left. Climb the Five Mile Creek Trail along the lovely tree-covered stream to a junction with Orchard Gulch (mile 3.9). Take a breather. Go straight and climb a steeper hill to a creek-crossing and the start of Watchman Trail. Continue on Watchman as it contours around the mountain and climbs to a second draw (wildflower big bang moment!). The trail continues to climb for a half mile, after you cross that creek, and then it's a big descent to the Three Bears-Trail #6 junction. Go left on Three Bears, switchback to the top of the hill. This is a great spot to take a moment to enjoy the views before you start on the big downhill. It's a super-fun singletrack ride down Curlew Ridge. Go straight at the Three Bears cutoff trail (mile 6.3) and follow the trail all the way to Shane's Summit. Between mile 7.5 and mile 8, you'll encounter a steep rocky downhill with multiple routes. Be careful and keep your weight toward the rear! At Shane's Summit, go left, return to Rocky Canyon Road,
    turn right and return to the trailhead. I see many strong runners on the Watchman biking loop, too. 
A couple of trail notes:

  • Be sure to participate in the Ridge to Rivers survey regarding some proposed changes in future trail management. These changes are proposed in a draft 10-year management plan.   
  • The City Club of Boise is hosting a panel discussion on Monday, May 16th, titled, "Hikers, bikers,, horse riders, runners, oh my, can there be civility on the trail?" R2R Trail Manager David Gordon and I will be on the panel along with Drew Stoll, an outdoor consultant who has national and international experience with trail management. 
- SS