Thursday, August 17, 2017

Some last-minute tips for how to maximize on the Solar Eclipse 2017 in Idaho

A sneak-peek at what we'll see ... (Courtesy Astronomy Magazine) 
Eclipse path through Idaho ... the red line is the bull's eye (screenshot from NASA Interactive Eclipse Map) 
Hi all,

I remember experiencing the last solar eclipse to occur in the Pacific Northwest in 1979, and I can tell you it wasn't nearly the big deal they're expecting it to be this year in Idaho and the U.S.

I was going to college at the University of Montana at the time, and a friend and I drove east toward Great Falls to see the eclipse in the best place possible under the "Big Sky." But we didn't really "see" the eclipse, because of course, that would have ruined our eyes. So upon the advice of experts, I fashioned a box with a pinhole to watch the moon block out the sun entirely. I don't remember how long it lasted, but because I couldn't watch it with a pair of super cool eclipse glasses, it wasn't really that spectacular ...

This time around, it should be more interesting ... I've got my eclipse glasses ready to go, and I'm hoping to see the eclipse from a mountain top in the prime zone where you get to view a 100 percent total eclipse.

The question many people have had, I'm sure, is where to see the eclipse? How to avoid the masses? Or is that possible? I'm providing tips for this question and more below.

On the question of where to see it, I would refer you to the NASA Interactive Eclipse Map. Zooming into the map, you can see where the 100% eclipse path is located across Idaho, and it spans from Weiser to Stanley to Rexburg, and then Jackson Hole, Wyo. What a cool deal to have this happening so close to home!

Cross-reference the Interactive Eclipse Map with your topo and Google Earth mapping sources to zero in on potential camping areas and landing spots for you and your group.

I think it's pretty obvious that it's going to be super crowded in Weiser and Stanley, where 15,000 to 30,000 people are expected. The Redfish Lake camping areas and Redfish Lake Lodge have been sold out for weeks. I wonder how many people will be backpacking in the Sawtooths and White Clouds? Probably quite a few ...

  • Pick a spot that's off the beaten path where you can camp/stay for several days. The worst traffic jams are expected to be on the morning of the eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, and after the eclipse. 
  • Leave at least a day early (if not sooner) to pick your spot for the eclipse and don't try to drive home until Tuesday. 
  • Check road conditions anytime on ITD's 511 site
  • Wear approved eclipse glasses with the proper ISO rating. I got mine from the Boise State Physics Department when they presented at the Idaho Environmental Forum. 
  • Take enough food and water with you for several days. 
  • Be ready to watch on Monday morning ... The eclipse begins at 10:10 a.m., with the total eclipse starting about 11:25 a.m. and running about 2 minutes. The eclipse ends about 12:48 a.m.
  • Call ahead and check with the Forest Service to double-check access to trails, camping areas and roads. Call the local ranger districts for the best information closest to where you plan to go. Here's a general USFS web site that leads to specific national forest web sites. 
  • Can I take a photo of the eclipse with my mobile phone? I've seen varying answers to this question ... and some experts say that taking a photo of the eclipse could cause lasting damage to your phone. If you have a way to filter the brightness, that makes it safer. See here for more info. 
I hope everyone has a great time watching the eclipse! 

See more information at the Boise State eclipse web site, which also has links to NASA web sites ...

Here's another link to 25 facts that you should know about the eclipse  from Astronomy Magazine before you go ... 
- SS 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Come walk, run or bike in McCall for the Mountain Pathways Celebration on Saturday

Hi all,

Valley County Pathways and St. Luke's McCall are teaming up on a new event, the Mountain Pathways Celebration, on Saturday, Aug. 5th, from 8 a.m. to noon. Please come if you're in the 'hood! 

This is a family friend, kid-friendly non-competitive event with a Bounce House at the Start/Finish and live music from a local DJ pro. 

We want to celebrate pathways in the greater McCall, Valley County and West Central Mountains region by hosting an event on McCall city pathways and the North Valley Trail. You can walk, run or bike for 1, 2.5, 5 or 10 miles. Entry fee is $5/person. You can pre-register online. Same-day registration is OK, too.  

For the 5-mile course, we'll shuttle people out to the south end of the North Valley Trail in the outskirts of McCall, so they can experience the full sweep of the beautiful trail along the tree-lined old railroad line, pass by the Activity Barn, McCall Airport and Smokejumper Base, and then cruise into downtown McCall on city pathways to the Start/Finish area behind City Hall. 

The event is a fund-raiser for Valley County Pathways, a non-profit group that's been working on developing a system of valley-wide trails that would connect the communities of Cascade, Donnelly, Lake Fork and McCall. 

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes 
We all know how cool it is to experience long-distance pathways in beautiful settings such as the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes in North Idaho, the Boise River Greenbelt, and the Wood River Trail from Bellevue to Ketchum/Sun Valley. 

In the early- and mid-2000s, when I was working in government affairs for Tamarack Resort, I joined a number of citizens who wanted to put together a plan for long-distance trails in Long Valley. We wrote the first Master Plan in 2005. Since February of this year, I've been working on updating the Master Plan, with a new map and fresh priorities. The plan was approved by Valley County P&Z in March, and Valley County Commissioners in July. Big milestone for VC Pathways! We had 108 letters of support! 

The West Central Mountains' America's Best Community campaign asked us to update the Master Plan, and they see further pathway development as a big priority for the region in a 21-point economic revitalization plan. Now that our plan is approved, we can move forward with working on future pathways in high-priority areas throughout the valley. 

Back to the Mountain Pathways Celebration event ... the trail is nearly flat the entire way with a couple of short uphills and downhills. Very kid friendly for all ages. Seniors too!

We want folks to have fun at this event! Costumes are encouraged. We'll have music at the 
Start/Finish area, coffee, fruit and muffins. We'll have multiple aid stations with fun activities or treats. Scavenger hunts are planned for kids. 

Here's another reason to come ... we have some great raffle items from McCall businesses, including:  
  • Hala Hoss SUP $1,100.00 value, donated by River Gear, a paddle shop in Cascade. 
  • Yeti cooler, $199 value from May Hardware
  • Cheap Thrills ½ day Wave-Runner rental $175 value
  • Four passes to open skating at Manchester Ice Center
  • Two gift certificates for three movie rentals at Sunset Video
  • Two ½-day SUP rental from McCall Sports Exchange
  • Two $25 G.C.’s to McCall Jewelry 
  • Lift tickets to Tamarack Resort
  • Ski tune packages from Kurt Wolf 
  • Full-day mountain bike rental from Gravity Sports
We'd also like to thank our event co-sponsors Mida Gold and McCall Parks & Recreation for their support.

Prizes: Bring a prize to share at the event ... toys or stuffed animals for kids, used recreation gear, hats, whatever you think someone else might want!

To make things go smooth on the course, we plan on starting the walkers/runners first, and the cyclists afterwards. 

Bring your own water bottle, please! You can refill at our aid stations. 

For more information, go to  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Try floating the Lower Salmon River, a perfect trip for kids, SUPs and everyone!

Plan on lots of beach time on the Lower Salmon 
My son Drew loves camping on the Salmon River in the summer. Huck likes it too! 
Hi all,

Every year, we private boaters put in applications to get a permit to run the Middle Fork of the Salmon or the Main Salmon River, maybe even Hells Canyon or the Selway, but this year, my friends and I came up empty.

Last year, I was invited on two Middle Fork trips in July, so I wasn't really looking to do a Middle Fork trip this year. I was quite satisfied to go on a Lower Salmon River with a number of good friends from Boise, some new friends from Coeur d'Alene and new friends from California.

The Lower Salmon is a great option when you come up empty on the permits. There is only a self-issue permit required from the BLM, so really all you need to do is plan a trip with friends who have their own boats (or go with an outfitter). The Lower Salmon features many of the same amenities that you'd experience on the Main Salmon, River of No Return -- beautiful huge white sandy beaches, fun rapids, peace and quiet, and then great Dutch oven meals and desserts, bocce ball, volleyball or just sitting in the shade and reading a book.

When our kids were little, they actually liked the Lower Salmon more than the Main Salmon because of the beaches. They played in the sand for hours by the river's edge, making elaborate sand castles or whatever, and they'd take turns burying each other in the sand above the river.

Whitehouse Bar ... one of the most popular camps on the Lower Salmon. 
This year, we launched on the Lower Salmon at Hammer Creek near Whitebird on July 10th, a Monday. I must say, I love how much easier the logistics are in doing the Lower Salmon. You can leave Boise early in the morning, and put on the river the same day. To reach the Main Salmon at Corn Creek, it's a huge all-day drive to sleep at the put-in the night before. We left Boise at 7 a.m., and I was blowing up my boat at 10:30 a.m. at the Hammer Creek boat launch, and I couldn't believe it, there was no one there! 

Apparently people were worried about Slide Rapids, which is a very dangerous and formidable rapids above 20,000 cubic feet per second flow. (It gets bigger with flow). The day we launched, it was about 17,500 cfs and dropping. The summer season had begun, and we were on the leading edge! That meant we got to snag all of our favorite campsites along the way -- really premium camp sites with big beaches and perfect swimming holes. With temperatures in the 90s and warming to 100 by the end of the trip, we swam a lot. Maybe 50 cold-plunges a day ... I don't know I lost track.

Thick pork chops for dinner from Jeff Hennessy
We had four rafts in our group, two people paddling inflatable kayaks, and two people paddling Stand Up Paddle Boards. At 17,000 cfs, the rapids and the swirly nature of the rapids below the main drops made it impossible for the guys paddling SUPs to make it through without falling at the end, but who cares? They get a nice cool-off swim, climb back on their boards and keep paddling.

The higher flow also meant that we were on the river for a few hours each day, and we'd be at our next campsite by noon, creating the feeling like it's almost a layover day with all afternoon to do whatever you want. It was so cool to have the whole canyon to ourselves! Definitely not the typical experience in July, when it is usually quite popular, and it's best to get on the water early to snag your favorite campsite.

We scouted Snow Hole Rapids, but it wasn't that big of a deal at the higher flow ... the rocks were all submerged underwater and the middle chute was the place to go. The SUPs took a pass on that rapids, but one of our crew members, Kirk Keogh had quite a rodeo in the IK in Snow Hole ... you could see his feet kick up as he hit the hole, but he continued to ride the hole in his boat until it finally capsized and spit him out. That was the high point of Kirk's trip, doing such a great job of riding the hole.

Jeff, Dave and Butch ... the kitchen crew for Night #2 
On our last day, we ran Slide, in Blue Canyon, the last of four distinct canyons, and it was still a factor. We rowed up to it, and we could see a series of standing waves. The first one wasn't that big, but the second one had a big collapsing crown, and you had to hit it perfectly square with as much momentum as possible. Our first boat through made it fine, and I ran second, and it felt like we were climbing a skyscraper on that second wave, it swallowed the full length of our 16-foot boat, and we hovered on the precipice for a split-second as I pushing on the oars as hard as I could. We popped over the top finally and made it through for a thrilling ride. A solo boat party was watching us in the eddy, but unfortunately, they didn't get any pictures.

Below Slide, you run a few rapids and you arrive at the confluence with the Snake River in Hells Canyon. We often will meet a jet boat at the confluence to take us back to Pittsburg Landing. But this year, we went about 3 miles downriver and camped in Hells Canyon for our last night, giving us plenty of time to de-rig our boats at our leisure until the jet boat came to pick us up the next morning. The jet boat shuttle saves time, but it is kind of expensive ... I think it was about $1350 for our group. We feel it's worth it to reduce the drive time home. But you can float down to Heller Bar and then you'll be driving home from Lewiston. Either way works!

Anyway, consider a Lower Salmon trip sometime to enjoy a week of river bliss. Once you do that, you'll keep coming back again and again.
- SS

Thursday, July 6, 2017

OMG it's hot!!! My Top 10 picks for cool, refreshing paddling adventures in SW Idaho

SUP'ing below Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade (photo by Gary Ertter)
It's not everyday you can paddle underneath 212-foot Shoshone Falls!
(photo courtesy VisitIdaho) 

Hi all,

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July holiday, and you're finding ways to beat the heat! It seemed like summer was just barely coming into the picture, and then suddenly it's hitting triple digits in the Treasure Valley. 

Time to cool off!!!! With the Boise River still closed, and Quinn's Pond overwhelmed with hundreds of people who want to SUP, swim, kayak or whatever, you might be wondering about some alternative places to go for a paddling adventure. 

Join the nation's fastest-growing water sport - Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) - or grab your kayak, inflatable kayak, pack raft or canoe and head for these first-rate paddling destinations ... My list comes from my guide, Paddling the Payette - A Guide to 24 paddling trips in the Payette River Basin, and other sources ...  I have laminated Payette River maps available online for each paddling trip on my web site if you need one. They cost $2.95 each.   

My Top 10 picks: 

1. Paddle the Mid-Snake to Shoshone Falls -- The trip starts from Centennial Park in Twin Falls and goes upriver to a portage around Pillar Falls and then to Shoshone Falls. Allow 5-6 hours for the journey. Many of you went down to see Shoshone Falls flowing in all of its glory this spring. It's one of the most unique paddling trips in Idaho to paddle under the Perrine Bridge, where you might see base jumpers launching into the canyon, and paddle upstream on the Snake to a point just below Shoshone Falls. There is very little river flow and current in this reach in mid-summer, allowing you to travel upstream. See my blog post for Southern Idaho tourism for more information.  

2. Visit Thousand Springs State Park and paddle around Ritter Island - This is another sweet destination along the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway, east of Hagerman. Put your craft in below Minnie Miller Springs, paddle out to the Snake River, cruise around Ritter Island, and then cut back into the pure spring channel to do it again, clockwise. The pure spring water in Thousand Springs is gin-clear, something to behold. And it's in the mid-50s ... refreshing! See my blog post for Southern Idaho Tourism for details.

3. Main Payette River - Beehive Bend to Horseshoe Bend - This is the stretch where Cascade Raft takes their beginning kayakers to learn about river dynamics. It's mostly a flatwater run, with current, and one small rapids. Park at Beehive Bend, and shuttle a vehicle to the dirt pullout next to ID 55 on the north side of Horseshoe Bend. 5-mile trip. Be sure to wear a life jacket! 

4. Payette River - Montour section - This is a 3.5-mile flatwater water reach that is really wide and braided. You can easily do a bike shuttle for this one (leave your bike at the top of Black Canyon Reservoir, the takeout). The put-in is next to the Montour Wildlife Management Area, managed by Idaho Fish and Game. Take the highway west of Horseshoe Bend and follow signs to the Montour WMA. The put-in is next to the Payette River bridge. 

SUP'ing on Lake Cascade 
5. Middle Fork Payette River - Tie Creek section - This is a fun trip, north of Crouch. Starting from Tie Creek Campground, it's about 9 miles of floating back to Crouch (leave a shuttle rig there). The water is still running at about 500 cfs, so that's a decent flow. It will likely be too low to float in a few weeks. The float is an interesting tour of the cabins and people along the Middle Fork. Allow a couple of hours for the trip. 

6. Cascade to Cabarton on the North Fork Payette River - This is a favorite float trip for canoeists who would rather not run any significant rapids. It's table-top slow-moving flatwater with current for 9 miles. The BOR has the river roped back to only 900 cfs as of today, but I'm sure it'll go back up any day ... 1,500 to 2,000 cfs is typical for summer time flows, and Lake Cascade is plum full of water! Put in your craft next to the ID 55 bridge coming into Cascade from the south. Shuttle a vehicle to the Cabarton Bridge boat launch site. Allow several hours for that trip. The river meanders through the valley, with great views of West Mountain, open space and cattle pastures. 

7. Kelly's Whitewater Park - Kelly's is a great place for more accomplished SUP'ers and folks who want to become proficient in SUP'ing whitewater rapids and rivers. Kelly's offers whitewater SUP classes, too. If you're on a kayak, no big deal! You can float the 2 mile stretch from one end of town to the other in Cascade, or just paddle around the different rapid features and play waves at Kelly's. 

8. Upper arms of Lake Cascade - The main reservoir is huge and can get very choppy in the wind. But the upper arms of the lake are great for kayaking, canoeing and SUP'ing. You can go from Smiley Bridge down to Tamarack Falls on the North Fork arm, or paddle from Tamarack Falls over to Tamarack or Gold Fork on the upper reservoir. The Boulder Creek arm is a sweet place to go as well or start from the Donnelly beach on Dawn Drive. 

North Fork Meanders 
9. McCall to Hartsell Bridge - North Fork Payette River - This is a sweet float that hardly anyone ever does, but it is getting more popular over time. Put-in at Sheep Bridge in McCall across from the Smokejumper's Base and float down to the Hat Ranch on a slow, meandering river that's refreshingly cold and clear. It's about 8 miles total. The river winds around in the meadows south of McCall, so allow for plenty of time to do the float. Leave a vehicle at Hartsell Bridge at the takeout. 

10. North Fork Meanders - North Beach, McCall - This is a super-cool location and a favorite with McCall locals. The put-in is at North Beach, on Warren Wagon Road north of McCall. And you can go out and back in the Meanders for several miles in a beautiful forested setting. There are some resident moose, so please give them plenty of space if you see them. Rentals are available at North Beach. 

If you need to rent SUPs or kayaks, the following businesses can take care of you: 
The Idaho Whitewater Association will host "Safety Saturday" on July 15th in Banks on the Main Payette River. This is a free safety clinic where you can learn or hone your whitewater rescue skills. 

Stay cool out there Amigos!
- SS 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

All about new Bogus Basin summer fun, MTB singletrack around Payette Lake

Photo courtesy Bogus Basin ... take a look at that bermed trail! 
Gem-panning station 
Hi all,

Summer is here and temps are rising into the 90s -- that means it's time to head for higher elevations for hiking and biking, trail-running, backpacking, etc.

As many of you know, Bogus Basin is re-positioning their operations to enhance summer fun and bring more summer visitors to the mountain resort. They are holding a 75th anniversary grand opening this weekend from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., dishing up a ton of activities for everyone to enjoy. The weather will be wonderful up there, and all of the activities are tailor-made for families and kids, including:
  • Deer Point Chairlift running for sight-seers, hikers, runners and bikers. Lift tickets cost $10 for kids 11 and under, and $15 for teens and adults. The lifts will be running Thursday-Sunday all summer long! That's awesome in my book! 
  • Live Music from 1-7 p.m. with DJ Lizzie and Pimps of Joytime. 
  • Summer tubing. People can race side by side down two 300-foot lanes at speeds up to 25 mph.
    You take the magic carpet back to the top. Tickets cost $15. 
  • Rock climbing wall, 32 feet tall, with four climbing routes. $10. 
  • Bungee trampoline. $10 per 15-minute session. 
  • Gem-panning station. Purchase pay dirt for $10 and find your fortune in the Shafer Butte Mining Co. sluice box. 
  • Bike skills park. Free. 
  • New Flow trail. Free.    
  • Disc golf. Free. 
  • Food and beverages. 
  • Coming soon, an Alpine Mountain Coaster, a 3,400-foot track that winds through the woods between the Pioneer Lodge and the Simplot Lodge at the base area. You'll reach speeds of 25 mph and heights of 40 feet in the air. Riders will be able to control their own speed. Can't wait! Projected time of opening for the mountain coaster is late August, according to General Manager Brad Wilson. 
Bogus has package ticket pricing for multiple activities. See their web site for pricing and more information about their opening day and summer season. '

There's also the third annual Boise Front Trail Run scheduled on Saturday starting at 9 a.m. at the Simplot Lodge. It's sponsored by the Treasure Valley YMCA. Distances are 5-6 miles and 12-13 miles. 

While you're visiting Bogus, consider hiking, running or riding the "Around the Mountain" trail, a super-fun 10-mile ride named one of the best mountain biking trails in the state of Idaho. Here's the MTB Project writeup on the ride as well. 

You can also take a counter-clockwise hiking tour of the mountain by riding up the Deer Point chairlift to the top of Deer Point, and then hike north over to Showcase, and take the Elk Meadows Trail around the backside of the mountain under the Pine Creek Chair, bend around the mountain and climb to the top of Shafer Butte (optional) on the service road two-track. From the Superior side of the mountain, Lodge Trail takes you around to the Pioneer Lodge, and then you can descend on the Sunshine Trail or Morning Star Trail. This hike is described in more detail here. 

For those who need a mountain bike, Bogus now has a fleet of 20 Diamondback mountain bikes for rent/demo. 

Have a great time at Bogus!

Fund-raiser for 33-mile Singletrack Trail around Payette Lake 

The second item I wanted to cover this week is a fund-raiser for a new 33-mile singletrack trail around Payette Lake in McCall this Friday night, June 30th, at the Woodlands Neighborhood Commons Building, 634 Brady Drive. The event is being hosted by the Central Idaho Mountain Biking Association (CIMBA), a great organization that does a ton of awesome work in the greater McCall and Long Valley region. CIMBA was responsible for the McCall region of trails being named as a "Silver Ride Center" by IMBA, putting on McCall on an equal footing with places like Sun Valley, Jackson Hole, etc. 

I'm totally stoked about the concept of creating a singletrack trail around Payette Lake. I know a few of the guys who have been scouting it out for several years, flagging potential routes and working on permitting issues. They estimate it will cost $60,000 to pay IMBA Trail Solutions to build the trail. Going with IMBA Trail Solutions is going first class! This summer, CIMBA wants to start Phase 1 by extending the Payette Rim Trail five miles to the north toward North Beach. The project also connects the rim trail to Bear Basin trails and the connector trail from McCall to Bear Basin, so a person could ride from town all the way to North Beach while getting one hell of a workout along the way! 

But imagine how cool it would be to have a singletrack all the way around the lake! No doubt the trail will have lots of cool riding features with banked corners, and berms and such that'll make it even more fun! It'll end up being a go-to ride for mountain bikers everywhere in Idaho and beyond. It'll help with travel and tourism in Valley County and the West Central Mountains region. It's all good! 

I am donating to the project's GoFundMe account today, and I hope you will, too! But if you're in the 'hood, go to the fund-raiser on Friday night! It'd be great way to hear all about the project from the locals in charge! 

Craft beer from Salmon River Brewery  will be served, and there's a silent auction, raffle prizes and a BBQ. Silent auction/raffle items include a cruiser bike donated by Reed Cycle, sunglasses, Dissentlabs compression socks, helmets, biking gloves, messenger bags and more! 

Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer is finally here! Four places to go Mountain Biking in McCall

Huckleberry Trail in Ponderosa State Park is super fun and challenging! 
The trail drops down by the lake in multiple places, providing a place for Huck to cool off ... 
Flowers popping near Osprey Point ... that's Council Mountain with snow in the distance 
Hi all,

It's great to finally see the snow melting off in the higher elevations of the mountains, ushering in the summer mountain recreation season. While the highest elevations are still snow-bound, the lower elevations in the greater McCall area are melted out, and the wildflowers are sprouting everywhere.

This week, for my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending four destinations for mountain biking in the greater McCall area. All of these would work for hiking or trail-running as well. All of these trails are featured in my book, Mountain Biking in McCall, available at most outdoor stores in McCall, some of the bike shops in Boise and on my web site

1. Ride Huckleberry Trail around the perimeter of Ponderosa State Park. Rated intermediate with rocks and roots in the trail. Distance: approximately 6 miles. Riding time: 1 hour. Two years ago, Ponderosa State Park staff greatly enhanced the mountain biking experience in the park by adding new sections of the singletrack Huckleberry Trail. Now you can ride all the way around the perimeter of the park, stop at one of several places to go swimming if you wish, stop at Osprey Point to soak in the view, and then cruise along the west shoreline of the park with great views of the lake.

Huckleberry Trail parallels the lake along the west shore of the peninsula ... 
I just rode the trail today, and it's been cleared of winter blowdown and other debris. I saw several deer, beautiful wildflowers by Osprey Point, and enjoyed the views of the lake along the way. You have to be on your toes when you're riding the trail in terms of negotiating around roots and rocks ... something that's pretty standard on McCall trails, but not something you encounter that much on the Boise Trails.

Note that if you ride your bike into the park from wherever you are staying, there is no entry fee.

2. Ride Bear Basin - Rated beginning and up. Smoother trails than Ponderosa Park. Distance: Up to you. Riding time: Up to you. Bear Basin is the perfect place to take kids biking. It has a variety of singletrack trails to enjoy, and good trail signage for navigation. I recommend Sleepy Hollow, Ditch Witch, Upper Drain, Blue Ridge and more. See map below.

You can reach the Bear Basin trailhead by taking ID 55 west of the city of McCall and following 55 to a right-hand turn right before the Little Ski Hill. Follow the road to the Forest Service trailhead. There is a rest room at the trailhead.

3. Brundage Mountain had a grand opening for the summer season today (Thursday, June 22), so the chairlifts are running on Thursdays-Sundays throughout the summer. There is still too much snow on top of Brundage to ride Elk Trail, but you can still ride a couple of shorter trails at the base area. You also could take the chairlift to the top to enjoy the view and snap a few photos. As the warm weather of the summer kicks in, you'll be able to ride from the top of the mountain in a few weeks. Things are delayed because of the epic winter of 2016-17.

4. Ride Jug Mountain Ranch - The trails at Jug Mountain are mostly lower elevation, so people have been riding there for a few weeks. Jug Mountain Ranch is located directly east of Lake Fork. They've got some of the best trails in the greater McCall area with banked corners, narrow singletracks, opportunities for big air, and just a beautiful setting in a dense forest with huge trees. I recommend riding South Elk Trail, climbing up on South Boundary Road to Jug Reservoir, riding around the lake on Shoreline Trail, and then taking Vandelay downhill to Harpers Hollow and return to the trailhead via North Elk Trail. You've also got to ride Berm & Ernie, preferable downhill. There are lots of different trails to try at JMR!

Check on the best lodging options in McCall via,, and the McCall Chamber of Commerce. I noticed a lot of open camp sites in Ponderosa State Park today, but I doubt that will last long!

Have fun!
- SS

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

With return of cool weather, let's go hiking and biking in Boise & the Owyhees

Back of Beyond Three Fingers Mountain Bike Loop 
Browns Canyon 
Drewby liked the Browns Canyon Overland Tour ... we stayed out of the brush! 
We took Huck on a hike in Browns Canyon when he was 8 weeks old ... 
Hi all,

After a brief blast of heat, bringing many of Idaho's rivers to peak flow, we're going to have some cool weather this weekend, creating ideal conditions for hiking or biking in the low country. There's still a lot of snow up high, and it was a major bummer to see Idaho 21 get closed between Grand Jean and Stanley because of a road-washout ... that will take time to repair! Maybe they'll at least open one lane with a flagger?

This week, I'm recommending one hike in the Boise Foothills, one super-cool hike in the Owyhees, and two fun mountain bike rides in the Owyhees. The window on desert trips is closing soon, so get out and enjoy it. Watch for snakes. All of these trip are drawn from either Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home, or the Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide.

Here are my recommendations:

  • Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail - The creek in Hulls won't be running for too much longer, so
    Wendy in Upper Hulls Gulch 
    now is a great time to hike the trail with live water, which also attracts insects, birds, reptiles and wildlife. Drive up north 8th Street to the motorcycle parking lot. There's a trailhead for the Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail here. The trail is open to hiking only, so you won't have to worry about encountering people on bikes. The trail climbs for several miles, crosses the creek multiple times. When you come to a fork in the trail, go right to see the waterfall in the headwaters of Hulls Gulch ... as long as the creek is running. Rated moderate. Travel time: allow 2 hours or so. 
  • Ride the Wilson Creek Loop in the Owyhees - A lot of people love this ride. Roughly 16 miles. Rated strenuous. About 4 hours riding time, including breaks and stopping for lunch. See details in this blog post.  
  • Hike Browns Canyon slot canyon or overland tour - Two different hikes are detailed in my Owyhee guide. One takes you into the interior of Browns Canyon, where you may encounter stinging nettles, poison ivy and deep water in the creek ... clothing attire can be challenging! But an adventure for sure! The overland tour circumnavigates the slot canyon, allowing you to enjoy the scenery from above and stay dry. The overland tour is 5.2 miles, rated moderate, with 3+ hours hiking time. The slot canyon hike is 2.8 miles, rated strenuous canyoneering, travel time 3+ hours. 
Directions to Browns Canyon trailheadGetting there: Take I-84 west to the Nampa city center exit. Drive into downtown Nampa. Follow signs for Idaho 45 to Murphy. Follow Idaho 45 to Walter's Ferry, cross the Snake River, turn left on Idaho 78 and drive to Oreana. You'll see a signed turnoff to Oreana on the right near Milepost 43. Go right and make a note of your odometer. Drive into town. Go past the church (2.25 miles from the highway) and go straight on the Oreana Loop Road until it takes a hard left. Make the corner and then take an immediate right on Alder Creek Road. Follow the bumpy dirt road six miles to a signed right-hand turnoff for BLM Road 700. Proceed down the grade to an old corral at a two-way junction. Park. The hike starts here. 

This trail is closed in the spring because of sage grouse lekking activity nearby. 
DirectionsGo west on BLM Road 700 and climb a moderate grade over to a bluff that overlooks Browns Canyon. At mile 1.4, bear right on a two-track and drop down to the Browns Creek draw. This is a pretty area that's full of shrubs and aspens. The first slot canyon with blondish rock begins at mile 1.7. Cross over to the left side of the draw, as you go downstream, and walk overland through the blond rocks staying above the canyon. You'll break out into an open sage flat at mile 2.0. When the next slot canyon begins, climb up the slope to the left until you reach the top of the rim, and then hike along the rim as close as you feel comfortable to check out the slot canyon as you move along. In a half mile, the canyon breaks open by a draw, and you'll need to lose elevation. Hike into the bottom of the gully and climb back on top of the rim. There's a nice overlook when you reach the top again at mile 3. Continue on the left side of the canyon until you come to the dirt road crossing, and then turn right onto the dirt road at mile 3.6.  Follow the road to mile 4.0 at a two-way junction. Turn right again at a fence gate, and follow the two-track road (BLM Road #710)  back to the trailhead. Feel free to explore Antelope Springs along the way. It's another tight canyon. Camping: If you'd like to stay out overnight, you could camp at the trailhead or near Browns Canyon.  
  • Back of Beyond Three Fingers Loop - This is one of my favorite mountain bike rides in the Owyhees on the Oregon side, near Carlton Canyon and Painted Canyon. The scenery is gorgeous -- you'll see neat canyons, hoo doos and other rock features, similar to what you see at Leslie Gulch. Distance is 22 miles. Rated strong intermediate/advanced. Tread: All two-track roads. Travel time: 3.5-5 hours. Bring plenty of water and a lunch. Getting there: Go to Succor Creek State Park, and continue south 6 miles to an unsigned dirt road on the right at the top of a grade. This is McIntyre Springs Road. Go right and follow the dirt road 3 miles to an unsigned two-track on the left. This is your trailhead. Follow the directions on the map below. The scenery is gorgeous on this ride -- you'll see neat canyons, hoo doos and other rock features. Detailed directions are in my Owyhee book. Bring a BLM map, topo map and a GPS for best navigation.

Trailhead is off the McIntyre Springs Road and near the Three Fingers hike ...  

There you have it! Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Nice weather means it's time to go biking! 5 easy-going road rides for Greenbelt cyclists

Road biking season is upon us! 
Riding buddies out on Hubbard Road ... 
Hi all,

Now that the weather is warming up, it's prime time to go for a bike ride. But alas, one of Boise's most popular biking destinations -- the Boise River Greenbelt -- is mostly closed, so I'm going to recommend five rides, including several from my full-color biking map, Boise Road Cycling Guide.

All of these rides are geared toward a casual Greenbelt rider with a 10-speed. They're all rated easy to moderate, with distances ranging from 10-25 miles. Make sure you bring a patch kit, spare tube, tire irons and a pump in case you get a flat. Carry plenty of water and some snacks.

Ride #1. Wendy and I rode a modified version of what I call "City to Farm" on Saturday, and it was an incredibly delightful ride -- beautiful sunny weather and NO WIND!!! We started from the shopping mall at Five Mile & Overland and rode south on Five Mile and Cloverdale into the rural countryside, where many people have built ranchettes with horses. Then you go left on Hubbard from Cloverdale, and ride alongside cattle grazing on open spaces in the Ten Mile Creek valley.

Take a right on South Cole Road, do a short climb, and then cruise several miles south to Kuna Mora Road. Turn right, and take Kuna Mora to Cloverdale. Along the way, you'll see a big solar farm. Pretty cool! Turn right on Cloverdale and take Locust Grove to Five Mile to return to the starting point. City to Farm is about 20 miles in distance, two hours travel time at a leisurely pace.

The only bad thing about that ride was that I had two flats on my front tire! Geez!!! We had only one spare tube (the spare tube I was carrying happened to be flat from last year), so after my second flat, I hung out and waited for Wendy to finish the ride and come get me. Note to self: Need to replenish bike pack with new bike tube and throw the damn old one away! 

Anyway, here are some other recommendations for easy road rides:

Ride #2. SE Boise Bench Loop - Rated easy. Distance: 10+ miles. Start at Timberline High School. Go east on Boise Avenue to Eckert Road. Go right and then left on Surprise Way. Follow the bike path through Surprise Valley to Idaho 21-Gowen Road connector. Go right and climb hill to East Lake Forest Drive. Turn right and follow East Lake Forest Drive to Yamhill. Turn right on Federal Way bike path and pedal downhill on the bench above the city. Follow Federal Way all the way to Protest. Turn right on Protest, and then right on Boise Ave. and ride back to Timberline. Have an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen!

Ride #3. City to Farm from Boise Road Cycling Guide - Rated moderate, distance 16.2 miles, time travel: 1+ hours. Vertical gain/loss: 158 feet. Start/finish is at the Five Mile & Overland shopping center. Directions: Go south on Five Mile. At mile 3, turn right on Lake Hazel. Go one mile and turn right on Columbia. Go one mile and turn left on Eagle. At mile 6.5, go right on Hubbard. At mile 8.1, go right on Locust Grove. In two miles, go right on Lake Hazel. At mile 13.1, go left on Five Mile and return to the start/finish.

Ride #4. Hill Road out to Eagle and back - Rated moderate. Distance: 20 miles. Start at Camelsback Park at 13th and Heron. Take 13th north to Hill Road. Go west on Hill through Boise, following Hill Road Parkway to Old Horseshoe Bend Highway. Continue west on Hill into Eagle. Go into old downtown for a bite to eat, some coffee, a beer or whatever. Turn around and retrace your tracks back to Camelsback.

Ride #5. Lake Lowell Loop near Nampa - Rated moderate. Distance: 26 miles. Time travel: 1.5-2 hours. See video. This is a nice ride around Lake Lowell, especially on the south side of the lake, when you're riding near the lake along Lake Shore Drive. Start at the Lake Lowell boat ramp on Iowa Street. Go east toward Nampa. Turn right on Middleton, then left on Greenhurst. Go one mile and turn right on Midland. Go one mile and go left on Locust. Go one mile and turn right on Idaho 45. Go two miles or so and turn right on Lake Shore Drive. Follow Lake Shore for almost 10 miles along the south shoreline of the lake. Turn right on Riverside at the west side of the lake and follow that to Orchard. Go right on Orchard and follow that to Indiana and Lone Star and Lake bake to the start.

Interested in bike events coming up this summer? See the Southwest Idaho Cycling Association calendar. Ride Idaho is scheduled for Aug. 5-12 this year. The course starts in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area.

There you have it! Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, May 25, 2017

10 super-reliable camping ideas for Memorial Day weekend! Weather forecast is fantastic!

Dad and Drew at Succor Creek State Park ... that'll be popular this weekend! 
Sitting around the campfire is one of life's simple pleasures 
The Owyhees should be a fantastic place to be this weekend. Painted Canyon. 
It'll be a fabulous weekend for running the Bruneau River ... Surf's up baby! 
Hi all,

Memorial Day weekend is upon us! Typically, Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the summer camping season, and I'm sure there will be tons of people heading into the high country this weekend to their favorite camping destinations.

For once, we're going to have great weather for the weekend! Temperatures are forecast to be in the 70's on Friday and Saturday, and 80s on Sunday and Monday in the valleys. Woo hoo! Enjoy the sunshine! We've been waiting and waiting for that!

Because of deep snow in the high country, the best camping destinations are going to be in the lower-elevation areas this weekend. Think Idaho State Parks -- all of their campgrounds are open. Call ahead for reservations. The Owyhee Canyonlands should be fantastic with wildflowers blooming! Low-elevation campgrounds in the Boise, Payette and Sawtooth national forests will be open, and high-elevation spots will be closed. Here is a great roundup of Forest Service campgrounds from Statesman outdoors.

So here are 10+ last-minute camping recommendations for Memorial Day weekend:
  • Camping in the Owyhees should be excellent. The snakes may be emerging. See my spring camping blog post for suggestions ... places like Bruneau Dunes State ParkLeslie GulchSuccor Creek State Park or the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area would all be good bets. See the spring camping post for more info. Be sure to take my Owyhee Canyonlands guide with you for tips on hiking and biking near your camping destinations. 
  • Morel mushrooms are popping in the Boise and Payette national forests. Morels are delicious and easy to identify. Look for them above 4,000-foot elevation. See last week's blog post on morel-picking near the Pioneer Fire.  
  • Float the Owyhee or Bruneau rivers and go river camping. The Owyhee still has good rafting flows in the 1,750 cfs range, and the Bruneau was running 1,950 cfs today, and probably is coming up with the sunshine melting the snow on Jarbidge Mountain.
  • Go car-camping on the North Fork or Middle Fork of the Boise River. The Rabbit Creek Road is open from Idaho City, so you can access the North Fork Boise River campsites from there. If you want to go to Barber Flats and the Middle Fork Boise River, go up via the road to Lucky Peak and Arrowrock Reservoir. 
  • Salmon River beaches! A great spring camping location is on the sweet white sandy beaches along the Salmon River, upstream of Riggins. There are numerous big beaches up there where you can set up a great camp, hang out by the river, do some floating on the Salmon and/or go hiking. Use caution around the Salmon River, though, because the river is running high and climbing at 65,000 cfs! The hike on the Wind River Trail via the Wind River Pack Bridge about 25 miles upstream of Riggins has a number of switchbacks as you climb higher and higher up the Salmon River canyon. The trail eventually leads into the Gospel Hump Wilderness, but you probably won't get that far. That'd be a great hike right now.
  • Take a day hike on the front side of the Owyhees ... See my Owyhee Canyonlands guide, available at most outdoor stores and book stores. I'd recommend Little Jacks Creek, the West Fork Shoofly Quick Loop, Between the Creeks, Toy Pass hikes, Reynolds Creek, Wilson Creek, Jump Creek Canyon or Wildcat Canyon. 
  • Head up to the Lochsa River and go rafting on the biggest whitewater weekend of the year on the Lochsa.  
  • Stay home and hike/ride/run in the Boise Foothills - It's super green, the wildflowers are out, and the trails are in great shape!  
  • Stay close to home and go for a road bike ride. See my Boise Road Cycling Guide for ideas. 
  • Stay close to home and check out the Memorial Day sales at your favorite local outdoor stores. There are usually some great deals to be had, at up to 50% discounts! 
There you have it! Have a great weekend no matter what you do! 
- SS 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Morel-picking season is upon us! Where to find them in the Boise National Forest

Fresh-picked morels 
Wendy was excited about our haul last year ... we picked in the Teepee Springs fire zone
Hi all,

Finally, a really nice weekend is coming our way weather-wise! Highs are predicted to be in the 70-degree range in Boise and in the lower elevations in the mountains! Blue sky and perfect weather for just about anything!

I've been seeing some pictures of morel mushrooms on Facebook, so clearly the morel-picking season has begun in the lower elevations. Now we'll have some sunshine in the forest for morels and other forest-dwelling fungi, plants and wildflowers to pop! Bring it on!

Morel-picking for private use is legal without a permit in the national forests in Idaho. Consumption is limited to 5 gallons per day. Commercial pickers are required to pay a fee. In the wake of the Pioneer Fire, the Boise National Forest is asking people who are picking for personal use to carry a brochure and map with them. The map details the locations where people can pick in the fire zone for personal use and for commercial use. There are many areas in the fire zone that will be closed to morel picking as well. Check out the map.

Blue hash marks are for person use, green for commercial pickers. 
Word has it that morels are sprouting around the Lowman area, according to the Boise National Forest. Lowman has an elevation of 3,750 feet. As things warm up, and the snow melts, morels will popping up at higher elevations. They haven't been seen too much around Idaho City yet, but it's still early.

It's also fine to pick morels anywhere else in the Boise National Forest, Payette National Forest or other forests in Idaho.

What's so special about morels? If you like to eat mushrooms, morels are a delicacy. They are positively delicious, especially sauteed in butter and garlic, and mixed with eggs or served with steak, mixed into soups -- there's just all kinds of applications.

Basidiospores at a microscopic level. The spores
fly from one mushroom to start a new fruiting
body nearby in the forest floor. I have a chapter
about the wonders of mycelia and morels in my
book, "Idaho Microbes."    
Morels are fun to pick because they're very distinctive ... they have a conical shape, kind of like a Christmas tree, but with honeycombs inside. My suggestion is to walk very slow through the woods, and stare at the ground, looking for morels. Once you see some, you'll find more. The grow prolifically the spring after a forest fire, but you can get into quite a few of them even several years after a fire.

I seem to find them more under fir trees than pine trees on open ground. If there's a lot of beargrass growing on the slope, it's not a good site for morels. Sometimes you'll find groups of morels popping up underneath the brush. Once you find a fertile area for morels, you'll keep coming back to those spots for more.

This also should be a great weekend for spring camping. Here's a previous post about some spring camping spots I'd recommend. Pick up a copy of my Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide for tips on 55 hikes and mountain bike rides in the Big Wide Open, plus a guide to the Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway.

Have fun!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Five easy Boise Foothills trails for Greenbelt walkers who might dare to try the dirt!

Hiking on Red Fox Trail above the Hulls Ponds 
My son Quinn on a hike in Military Reserve 
You feel as though you could reach out and touch Boise from the Seaman's Gulch Trails 
Hi all,

The weekend weather doesn't look that promising -- it's expected to be unsettled and cool, with a 70 percent chance of rain on Friday, 50% chance on Saturday, and then a slight chance of rain forecast Sunday morning. So Sunday looks to be the best day, but at this time of year, who knows? You have to go with the flow!

With most of the Boise River Greenbelt closed right now, I bet that a lot of walkers and runners are wondering about the best trails to try in the Boise Foothills? For my tip of the week, I'm going to recommend 5 easy trails to consider at a variety of trailheads across the foothills.

All of the routes are featured in my Boise Trail Guide - 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. I organized the book as a step-by-step guide to hiking and running in the greater Boise area, starting with flat Greenbelt sections stretching from Eagle to Lucky Peak, and then stepping it up a notch to Easy Mountain Trails, which have short distances and a small elevation gain. And then after you master those, you step up to Moderate Mountain Trails, which are longer and have more elevation gain. And then you might graduate to Strenuous Mountain Trails -- great workouts that involve some pain -- or Epic Mountain Trails, which would take you to the limit!

Boise Trail Guide is your ticket to discovering the splendor and diversity of the hiking and running opportunities in the SW Idaho region. The guide takes even native Idahoans to trails they've never experienced before ...

So let's get right to it ... 5 Easy Mountain Trails to get you started. All of these are kid-friendly:

  • Eagle Bike Park - A number of the trails at the Eagle Bike Park are open to hiking and trail-running, including Rabbit Run, Junk Yard, D-Chaos and Twisted Sister. These are short, singletrack trails that tour around the west foothills near Idaho 55. Take Old Highway 55 north of State Street to get to the park. It's also a fantastic place to bike, with flow trails, a pump track and big-air opportunities for expert riders, and features for kids to practice and build their skills. 
  • Seaman's Gulch - Located on Seaman's Gulch Road, heading toward the Ada County Landfill, you'll see a trailhead for the Seaman's Gulch trails by a giant water tank on the east side of the road. The short singletrack trails here take you out for a fantastic view of the city. Distance is 1-3 miles. Less than 500 feet of gain. 
  • Harrison Hollow - Take the trail up the draw to get a feeling for Harrison Hollow. It's about 1 mile up the canyon to a saddle with several more trails. There also are trails on the ridges heading back to the trailhead, or you can return the way you came. This is a dog-friendly area. Please pick up after your pets. 
  • Camelsback Park - Owl's Roost - Red Fox Loop. 2.2 miles. Start at Camelsback, pick up Red Fox in the east side of the park and follow Red Fox out to the crossing of 8th Street. Go across the dirt road, and hike past the Foothills Learning Center on Kestrel to a right-hand turn for Owl's Roost. This trail will take you back to Camelsback. Excellent hike for kids in the backpack. There will be lots of people on these trails ... it's a popular area. 
  • Miltiary Reserve - Go to Fort Boise area in Boise and find Reserve Street. Go north into the foothills and turn left on Mountain Cove Road. Proceed about 3/4 of a mile to trailhead after a sharp right-hand turn in the paved road. At this trailhead, you can take Toll Road Trail up to a right-hand turn and creek-crossing. Cross the creek, and pick up Cottonwood Creek trail going back toward the trailhead on the other side of the creek. This is a scenic low-key hike, great for kids and dogs.

Notes: Next week is Boise Bike Week, May 13-20. The Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance and Boise Bike Project always serve up a bevy of events during this time. See their web site or facebook page for details.