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 inidaho.com, vrbo.com, 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