|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)|
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.