Thursday, August 2, 2018

Get your costume together for Boise Goathead Fest and Pedal-Powered Parade Saturday

Monster Mash is the overall dress-up theme 
Hi all,

The smoke from all of the fires burning in the West is already getting tiresome here in the Boise Valley, but we should not let that prevent anyone from participating in the Boise Goathead Fest on Saturday. There are already more than 1,000 people signed up! Let's see if we can surpass 10,000 or more!

In case you haven't heard about this, the Boise Goathead Fest is a new twist on a previous super-popular event called the Fat Tire Festival ... New Belgium Brewing created the Fat Tire Festival concept, and they partnered with local bike-advocacy groups in multiple communities including Boise to host bike festivals and raise funds for the non-profits to improve bike trails and facilities.

Boise peeps came out strong in support of the Fat Tire Festival in the past. One year, 16,000 people rode in the Fat Tire Parade. I rode in several of them, and they're just plain fun ... having the streets closed to cars, and checking out everyone in their costumes. For one small moment in time, BIKES RULE!

On Saturday, I think it's important for everyone to come out in force to support our local bike community in the Boise Goathead Fest, an  event powered by the Boise Bike Project and other non-profits like the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, SWIMBA, Dirt Dolls mountain bike club for women, Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance and more.

So get your costume together for the Pedal-Powered Parade on Saturday (starts at 11 a.m.; on-site registration is at 10 a.m.). Suggested registration cost is $5. You are encouraged to register online because it's much easier! Go to Boise Goathead Fest and do it! It took me about 2 minutes to register Wendy and me.

Jimmy Hallyburton of the Boise Bike Project said people can help support the Goathead event in two ways -- sign up to volunteer at the event (easy to do on the web site) or pre-register for the parade online.

Show up at the parade, pedal around a 2-mile course downtown, and then have fun in the afternoon at Cecil D. Andrus Park by the Statehouse. This year, there are more activities for kids and more options for beverages other than beer, although 6 local breweries are participating. There will be live music throughout the afternoon and different activities going on. One of the stages will feature people cranking electric generators with pedal-power to show the potential of pedal-power ...

The parade route runs from the Statehouse down Jefferson Street to 14th Street, then back on Bannock to 2nd Street, and then back to the Statehouse.

If you're coming with a group from work or a group of any kind, you're encouraged to dress up in the same theme. The overall dress-up theme is "Monster Mash." You remember that song, right? "They did the mash ... the Monster Mash! They did the mash ... It was a graveyard smash!"

Ultimately the festival is about transforming Boise into the Bicycle Capital of America, and supporting your favorite nonprofits, but there's also been a side benefit, and that's to get rid of goat heads in places where we like to ride ... not only on bike trails but also in alleys and neighborhoods. Jimmy said in the month of July, there was more than 3,500 pounds of goat heads pulled by people in our community. That's fantastic!

Hope to see you at the Goathead Fest! There's also a pre-launch party Friday night at Cecil Andrus Park from 4-10 p.m.



Another alternative this weekend is to head up to Bogus Basin for Music on the Mountain and all of the fun activities available up there for you, your friends and your family. Johnny Boy Kunk with Sam Gates, Shot Glass and special guest are playing on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.

At Bogus, you also can go hiking and biking on a multitude of trails, check out the bike skills park, ride the chairlift to start your ride or hike from the top of Deer Point, ride the Glade Runner mountain coaster, tubing, climbing wall, bungee trampoline, and more kids activities. See Bogus' summer activity page for more information and fee schedule.

Next week, I'm heading off to float the Salmon River, so you won't hear from me next Friday ... I'll be off the grid! 
- SS 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Paddle the Middle Fork Boise, Upper South Fork Payette or Arrowrock to stay cool

Middle Fork Boise River upstream of Arrowrock (courtesy John Keys)
Middle Fork Boise (courtesy John Keys) 
Swirley Canyon on the South Fork Payette River would be a good alternative to Cabarton this weekend. 
Upper South Fork Payette River near Grand Jean hot springs 
Hi all,

It's been piping hot this week in the Boise Valley, and if you were thinking about trying to head out of town into the mountains this weekend, you might want to head toward Idaho City, Lowman or Stanley given the uncertain nature of Idaho 55 with the Mile Marker 73 wildfire burning next to the highway.

Check the ITD 511 site for the latest conditions. As of Thursday afternoon, ID 55 was limited to one lane with a pilot car. You can only imagine what kind of traffic back-up that might look like on Friday or this weekend. If you're heading for McCall, U.S. 95 was closed as of Thursday night in the Midvale area because of the Keithly wildfire ... geez!

Cascade Raft & Kayak is hosting a live music event tomorrow at 5 p.m. with Bread and Circus at their boating headquarters, so watch their Facebook page for the latest on highway conditions as well. If they get ID 55 opened up to two lanes, you could go raft/kayak the Payette River in the afternoon and then hang out for the live music event afterward.

Given the potential traffic snafu on ID 55, I'm recommending three paddling trips that are accessible via Idaho 21 ... these trips would be doable for folks who have inflatable kayaks, rafts, SUPs, sit-on-top hardshell kayaks or whatever craft might be suitable.

1. Float the Upper Payette River from the Tenmile trailhead area to Helende Campground, upstream of Lowman. This is a Class 2 flatwater run with rocks to dodge and small rapids. This would be a 5-mile trip. This section would be challenging for experienced whitewater SUP paddlers but probably doable. Do a road scout and see what you think.

2. Drive up to Arrowrock Reservoir, find a spot to hang out by the water, put up your sun tarp, and go paddling in the reservoir. A good truck works great for driving down to the reservoir's edge, and there are some camping spots along the Middle Fork road. Take ID 21 to the Spring Shores/Middle Fork Road and drive up-canyon to Arrowrock and find your spot from there. Any flatwater craft would work on Arrowrock, plus motorboats of course.

3. Drive up the Middle Fork Road past Arrowrock to Troutdale Campground or any other spot of your choosing, and float the lower section of the Middle Fork Boise River. This is a mostly Class 2 flatwater run with rocks to dodge and small rapids. A group of people I know ran this section last week and had enough water flow (450 cfs today) to make it through in hard-shell kayaks and inflatable kayaks. Strong SUP paddlers might want to try it. 

There you have it! A couple of other suggestions:

  • Swirly Canyon or the Main Payette would be good alternatives to floating Cabarton, since that super-popular section is closed because of a wildfire. But you might have to drive there via Lowman. 
  • Hiking to Jenny Lake would be a good call this weekend for a cool-off location close to home. 
Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Dan Noakes of McCall just completed the Idaho Centennial Trail in 52 days ... Wow! What an adventure!


Dan and Michelle Noakes at the Idaho-Canada border ... the end of the ICT on the Upper Priest River by a cool waterfall. 
Hi all,

Dan Noakes emailed me yesterday, saying that he had just completed the Idaho Centennial Trail. He shared a video trailer with a few nuggets from the super-challenging 900-mile journey. I took a quick look at the video, and it was a visual feast.

The stream-crossings that he captured on video looked scary and epic, including one where he's doing a belly-crawl across a skinny lodgepole pine tree over the top of a rushing stream. And then there's this segment where he's saying "I'm so cold, I'm so cold," running with his pack on through the forest to avoid hypothermia. Take a look ...



Dan wrote me because I wrote a guidebook about the Idaho Centennial Trail for the Idaho Trails Council in 1998. We didn't have a lot of budget, but it was a first attempt to provide a detailed guide to navigating the trail, albeit with horrible big-picture maps that were scaled to page size and reprinted from BLM and Forest Service maps.

The value of the book is that folks can learn about the history of how the trail was created through the inspiration of ICT pioneers Roger Williams and Syd Tate, who hiked the length of Idaho in the mid-1980s. It was the first time that anyone had done that, to anyone's knowledge, and it served as inspiration to create an official Idaho Centennial Trail route during the Idaho Centennial year in 1990. Williams and Tate took 86 days to complete the journey, hiking at a pace of 14 miles a day. By the end, they each had lost 20 pounds and Tate had a big long beard. "Our legs looked like a weight-lifters and the top half looked like a prisoner of war," Williams said.

Stateline Trail on the Idaho-Montana border
ICT route (courtesy IDPR)
Left route is an alternative
route for motorcyles and bikes
The final ICT route ended up being a little different than the one that Williams and Tate did. It was selected by a committee of ITC people and Forest Service and BLM staffers. But the route overall did fulfill the vision that Williams charted from the get-go -- he wanted it to go through the "Best of Idaho," meaning the Sawtooth Wilderness, the Frank, the Selway-Bitterroot, the Stateline Trail, and the Cabinet Mountains in the Idaho Panhandle.

Noakes, 33, ripped through the 900-mile route in 52 days. He started on May 21 on the Idaho-Nevada border and finished the trek at the Idaho-Canada border on the Upper Priest River trail last week. His wife, Michelle, hiked the last section with him from Clark Fork to the Canadian border. Michelle helped with water and food drops, and Noakes had a friend join him for another segment of the hike. But for much of the route, he hiked alone. Did you know that the ICT hike features 90,000 feet of elevation gain/loss?

Noakes' father got him into backpacking when he was 11 years old. They often hiked the John Muir Trail. "He ingrained in me the spirit of backpacking," Noakes says. "I always wanted to check off a through-hike."

He found out about the Idaho Centennial Trail through a Google search, just looking for big through-hikes. He thought, it's only 900 miles, shouldn't be too big of a deal ... but when he was out in the big wide open Jarbidge and Bruneau desert, hiking the two-tracks next to those big canyons, and realizing how far he had to go, "I realized this was going to be a big deal. It was the real deal."

Noakes planned to hike at least 20 miles a day; sometimes more if he felt he could go farther. He carried a light-weight pack of just over 30 pounds with all of his gear -- clothes, cook stove, food, water, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, etc. He wore Altra Timp hiking shoes, and went through several pairs during the big adventure.

To plan the trip, Noakes ran across Clay Jacobson's web site, Idaho Centennial Trail.org, which provides a ton of useful information, including the names of the people who have done the thru-hike in recent years. Thomas Ord told him where to do the water drops in the desert section. Another hiker gave him the complete GPX file to the ICT, the trail tracks for the whole route.

There's still just a handful of people who have completed the trail since it was designated in 1990. It's not that well-known, or heavily publicized, and the difficulty level is pretty extreme in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness because of heavy blowdown and trail-finding. That's a sad commentary, compared how things were 30 years ago, when the trails in those wilderness areas were some the most well-maintained anywhere in the state.

Fortunately, Noakes had a good GPS that had the ICT route built-in, and he forged ahead, knowing he was going in the right general direction. He hoped to rejoin the trail when it became visible again. "I lost the trail many, many times," he says. "The trail is non-existent at some points."

Segments of Marble Creek, upper Kelly Creek and Windy Creek had a lot of downfall, but at least things improved after a few hours of walking, he said. The Idaho Trails Association and Frank Church-Selway Bitterroot Foundation have been working on opening up Marble Creek for several years. But once he got into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness section, he said, the route-finding and hiking were miserable.

"That section was the hardest for me. Every day, it was cold, rainy and wet, and the blowdown trees were epic. The challenges in the Selway would make a grown man cry. But what makes it so great, is that after you get through there, you think, dang, I did this. You feel a real deep sense of accomplishment."

Michelle met him at Wilderness Gateway Campground on U.S. 12 next to the Lochsa, and Dan must have been SO happy to see her! Imagine how that experience may help in other aspects in life, when he'll feel his patience tested by whatever, and he'll know that he's experienced far more difficult things on his ICT hike. "I was in pain pretty much the whole time," he says.

When Noakes arrived at Moose Creek Ranger Station in the middle of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, he sniffed a campfire burning and went directly to it. Some pilots were hanging out by the airstrip, and they warmed him up. That was one of his favorite moments of the hike.

He also really enjoyed the Stateline Trail between Idaho and Montana, going north from Hoodoo Pass to Wallace. "The could be some of the greatest backpacking in that area," he says. "But when I was there, I was walking on snow most of the time." He took a break in Wallace, wandered into the public library in town, and ran across my ICT guide. He hadn't seen it before the trip. He loved reading about Syd and Roger's vision and adventure.

In terms of wildlife, Noakes saw a big wolf on a hillside on a stormy day. He wasn't able to get any pics or video. He saw a lot of wolf tracks along the way, a few elk, 1 moose and 1 bear. He heard from another ICT hiker that the guy had gotten charged by a black bear. That would be scary.

Noakes, who's a professional video animator for his company, Motifize.com, plans to release a new video segment about his big adventure each Monday until he's exhausted his video from the trip. The first segment will run on Monday, July 23, on his YouTube channel and continue each week. I know I'll be watching.

"There's something magical about the Idaho Centennial Trail," he says. "I think if you experience it, it might change you for the better. For a lot of people, it could be a life-changing experience, and here it is, right in our backyard."

Kelly Creek country ... it's located in a roadless area that is not official wilderness, but wilderness just the same.
When I did the ICT book, I suggested that every Idahoans should consider making it a lifetime project to experience all the segments of the ICT. Not everyone can do it in one fell swoop, especially if they're working a full-time job, raising kids, etc. Noakes agrees. "Everybody needs to experience the ICT at some point in their lives."

While other long-distance trails can be tackled as well, such as the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail. But the ICT is probably one of the most challenging and primitive thru-hikes anywhere in the U.S. You won't see many trail signs. You'll frequently lose the trail. You'll have to deal with a ton of blow-down timber across the trail. You'll have to navigate  super-challenging stream crossings. But it will make you a more skilled outdoors person, and perhaps a better and stronger person overall.

I am hoping to do it in the next 5 years while I still can! Hope you can plan a trip on the ICT too! Thanks to Dan Noakes for the inspiration!
- SS

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Plan a trip to Wallace to ride the Route of the Hiawatha and Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes

Inside the St. Paul tunnel well-illuminated by good night lights! (Courtesy Spokesman-Review)
The Route of the Hiawatha is surrounded by green trees in the St. Joe National Forest. Note the high trestle in the distance.
Hi all,

I've always felt that the Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail near Wallace, Idaho, is one of the neatest rail-trails imaginable. I've ridden it several times since it was opened in the mid-1990s, and I even had the opportunity to do an early test ride on the trail before it was open to the public. Every time I ride it, it's an invigorating and beautiful biking adventure.

The reason it's so cool is you ride through 10 unlit tunnels, including the 1.7-mile-long St. Paul Pass tunnel on the Idaho-Montana border, and seven high trestles as part of the 15-mile trail. If you take a shuttle, the ride is completely downhill, and it's totally family friendly.

Several years ago, USA Today published an article about the top 10 rail-trails in the United States, and the Route of the Hiawatha was listed as numero uno!

So when you're planning your vacations or long weekend getaways this summer, try to work in a long weekend in the Wallace or St. Maries area and ride the Route of the Hiawatha. The trail is managed by Lookout Pass Ski Resort, located on the Idaho-Montana border on I-90. Lookout Pass provides shuttles, trail passes, etc. The ride is featured in my Falcon Guide Mountain Biking Idaho.
This is the 20th anniversary season for the trail. Amazing how time flies! 

You'll see some interpretive signs along the way about RR history and mining. 
Here's a video about the trail and the railroad history. Believe it or not, former Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, had a big hand in obtaining federal funds to develop the old railroad line into a rail-trail. There was a very progressive recreation officer working for the St. Joe National Forest at the time when the trail was only an idea, and she worked closely with lots of people in Wallace and St. Maries to create the trail and a new tourism draw in a town that was reeling from the decline of the mining industry. It's always sweet to see a dream project become a reality.

You should stay in the Wallace Inn (formerly the Best Western) or other lodging properties in Wallace while you're in the neighborhood, and check out the Oasis Bordello Museum, or you can camp at the foot of the trail by traveling from St. Maries up the placid and scenic St. Joe River (fly fishing is good!) and camp in the national forest. Bring a canoe, kayak or SUP if you'd like to paddle the St. Joe as a side trip opportunity.

Be sure to bring a BRIGHT and POWERFUL light for riding in the dark tunnels, if you have them. Lookout Pass has lights available for rent for $5, plus they have bikes and helmets available for rent, if you don't want to take your own. I've found that night-riding mountain biking lights work great.

Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is beautiful with smooth pavement. 
More experienced bike riders will enjoy the challenge of riding the Route of the Hiawatha from the Pearson Trailhead, near Avery, in the St. Joe drainage. It's 13 miles uphill at only a 2 percent grade, and then 1.7 miles of riding through the St. Paul Pass tunnel on the Idaho-Montana border, for a total of 15 miles. Then you can turn around and cruise downhill back to Pearson, for a 30-mile ride. It took me less than an hour to climb the trail, and about a half hour to zoom down it, pedaling all the way.

While you're in the 'hood, carve out some time to ride the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, a fairly new paved trail along the Coeur d'Alene River. You can access the 71-mile trail in Mullan, just up the hill from Wallace, and ride downriver to Harrison and Heyburn State Park, if you want to ride the whole thing.

If you bring the kids, you have to stop at Silverwood Theme Park, north of Coeur d'Alene, where you can enjoy 65 rides, including roller-coasters, insanely steep and fast rides, and water slides. Silver Mountain in Kellogg also has an indoor water park that the kids would enjoy.

As you can surmise, it'd be easy to spend a week in the Silver Valley-Coeur d'Alene area for a great and affordable Idaho stay-cation. Have fun!
- SS

Friday, July 6, 2018

Here comes the heat! Five primo spots in SW Idaho to take your Stand Up Paddle Board

SUP'ing to Shoshone Falls makes you feel small. (Courtesy Idaho Stock Images) 
Wow! (Courtesy Southern Idaho Tourism and Visit Idaho)
Hi all,

We sure had a nice long spring, but it's July, and here comes the heat! Temperatures are forecast to be in the 90s in the next 10 days, so grab your Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) and go paddling to stay cool!

Here are five primo spots in SW for a SUP adventure:

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. Boise River - Last year, the Boise River was closed in July. Not this year! Float the Boise River from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park or pick a different section of the river that works for you.
Details on floating the Boise River and shuttles are found here at Ada County Parks & Waterways.

3. Quinns Pond and Esther Simplot Park - Very convenient but gets pretty crowded pretty fast and hard to find parking. Rentals available at Idaho River Sports. Get there early!

Cascade to Cabarton ... lovely! 
4. Payette River - Cascade to Cabarton - This is an easy flat-water float with moving water starting from the put-in on the south end of Cascade and float down to Cabarton Bridge. It's a 9-mile float at a leisurely pace. The river is running about 1,500 cfs right now. Bring a lunch and some beverages. Shuttle a rig to Cabarton Bridge before you go or drop one on the way up!


5. Payette River - Montour Section - This is another easy flat-water section of the Payette ... it's 3.5 miles long from the Montour Bridge put-in near Sweet to the backwaters of Black Canyon Reservoir. You can do a bike shuttle, just bring a lock for your bike.

There you have it! All of these trips would be great for sit-on-top kayaking or canoeing as well.

Here are a couple of other links on best SUP spots in Idaho ...

Have fun and stay cool!
- SS

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Heading to Stanley for 4th of July? Five rock-solid ideas for hiking and biking in the area

Group at Bench Lakes (courtesy of Knowles Gallery.) 
Hi all,

I sure am enjoying the cooler weather that we're experiencing right now, and it is expected to stay on the cooler side for the 4th of July holiday if you're planning on heading into the mountains. High temperatures are expected to be in the low 70s in the mountains this weekend (60s on Friday), and continuing into next week for the holiday. Perfect weather for hiking and biking!

I did a post recently on some popular and scenic trails that are open for hiking and biking in the McCall area, and so for this week, I'm recommending 5 rock-solid ideas in the Stanley area. These are mostly hikes and one ride. Overall, I am hearing that snow levels are between 8,500-9,000 feet in the Stanley area, creek crossings are high and hazardous (bring hiking poles and a rope for safety), but the snow is melting quickly. 

As you break out of the trees on the Boundary Creek Trail, the views get more and more spectacular. 
1. Boundary Creek Trail in the White Cloud Mountains - The Boundary Creek Trail rises steeply from the valley floor (trailhead is across Idaho 75 from the Sawtooth Hatchery), and for that reason, the trail affords magnificent views of the Sawtooth Valley, the Sawtooth Mountains and Redfish Lake as you climb the mountain. Here's an online map of the trail. It's about 3 miles to the top, and 2,000 feet of climbing. Rated strenuous but worth the effort for the big view! This trail is best for hiking, but hard-core strong bikers could climb it as well.

Bridal Veil Falls (courtesy of Idaho Campground Review) 
2. Hike to Bridal Veil Falls from Stanley Lake - Roundtrip distance is about 8 miles. Only 570 feet of elevation gain. Rated easy to moderate. This is a popular hike for good reason ... it's very scenic at the falls. Here's a nice writeup on the trip with a short video of the falls. 

3. Hike to Bench Lakes from Redfish Lake Lodge - Take the Bench Lakes trail from the trailhead next to Redfish Lake Lodge and hike to one of the lower Bench Lakes. The uppermost lakes are likely to be snow-bound. There are five lakes overall. Here's a nice writeup from the Outbound Collective. Distance round-trip is about 8 miles, depending on which lake you go to. Rated easy to moderate.

Hell Roaring Lake (courtesy of Idaho Campground Review)
4. Hike to Hell Roaring Lake or Imogene Lake in the Sawtooths - It's an easy 5.5-mile hike to Hell Roaring Lake in the Sawtooths. You'll need a 4WD vehicle to reach the trailhead. The trail is pretty flat, less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain. But the payoff is big with spectacular views of the Sawtooths at the lake, and super cool view of the Finger of Fate. See writeup and pics courtesy of Matt Leidecker, author of excellent full-color guides to the Sawtooths and the White Clouds.

Margie and a couple of teen-age boys loved the Potato Mountain Ride ... Quinn wasn't so sure at the time. 
5. Ride the Potato Mountain Loop near Stanley - This is one of my favorite bike rides. The crossing of Big Basin Creek might be kind of gnarley this time of year, but it sure is fun to do the ride. It's about 13.5 miles to do the loop. It starts out kind of steep but once you get over the hill and drop into Little Basin Creek, you're smiling all the way. The trail runs very close to the creek. See full description on the MTB Project site. I took my son Quinn on this ride when he was about 13, and he whined most of the way, but he survived. Several other teen-age kids went with us. So that's an option if you want to take kids.

Have a great 4th of July holiday!
- SS  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What's on your list for summer fun? Steve's Top 10 must-do, must-see outdoor list

Climb a mountain is one of my recommendations ... this is in the Pioneers near Stanhope Peak. 
Hi all,

Today, June 21, marks the official beginning of summer, and also the Summer Equinox, the longest day of the year. The weather is warming into the 80s in the afternoons, so it's pretty much perfect weather conditions for just about anything outdoors. Welcome to summer!

To celebrate this moment in time, I am recommending 10 must-see, must-do activities for the summer of 2018:

1. Float a river (day trip) - we're blessed with so many options here, but the summer season opens on the Boise River at Barber Park at noon on Friday, June 22. Warm summer weather also gets people jazzed about floating the Payette River, either the Main Payette, South Fork Payette or Cabarton run on the North Fork. Check with Cascade Raft & Kayak, Idaho Whitewater Unlimited and the Payette River Company about guided trips. The Payette's calmer sections are great for stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), sit-on-top kayaking and canoeing.

Float a river! This is on the Cabarton stretch of the Payette River. 
2. Climb a mountain - The pinnacle is to climb Mount Borah, but there are so many other options in Idaho, with dozens of peaks over 10,000 feet and 8 peaks over 12,000 feet. See Idaho mountain expert Tom Lopez's list of recommended mountain peaks. McCall mountain expert John Platt also has an extensive list of peaks and mountains that he's climbed. 

3. Ride the ski lift to the top of Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain or Sun Valley and go hiking or biking from there.

4. Take your kids fishing - See the list of Idaho Fish and Game's Family Fishing Waters to find some great recommendations close to home.

Go hiking in the Sawtooths (photo courtesy Michael Lanza/The Big Outside)
5. Go backpacking in the Sawtooths, White Clouds, Pioneers or Big Lost Mountain Range. See Michael Lanza's recommended hikes in the Sawtooths in his blog, the Big Outside. See a recommended major loop in the White Clouds in Backpacker mag. For a great hike in the Pioneers, see my blog post about hiking Broad Canyon. For the Big Lost range, see this overview in Summit Post.com.   

6. Sleep under the stars in a dark sky venue like Bear Valley, the Owyhee Canyonlands or outside of Stanley.

Catch a trout on the Middle Fork Salmon River. 
7. Fly into the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and go fly-fishing for native cutthroat trout. Air taxi services in Boise, Cascade or McCall can take you into the Middle Fork in less than an hour. All fishing is catch and release.

8. Go mountain biking on a classic loop trail like Fisher-Williams in the White Clouds, Loon Lake north of McCall or Around the Mountain at Bogus Basin. 

Climbing up a short hill to finish the Fisher-Williams Loop (courtesy Salsa cycles)
9. Go SUP'ing, boating or swimming in a refreshing, natural Idaho mountain lake like Payette Lake, Redfish Lake, or Priest Lake.

10. Go see an outdoor concert! See Michael Deed's column in the Idaho Statesman for a full rundown of outdoor concerts planned in the summer of 2018.

For further enrichment on Idaho bucket list trips, see an Idaho bucket list post from Boise State radio, and a post that I did listing another 30 bucket list trips that they didn't cover. 
- SS

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Five premium mountain bike rides to get your adrenaline and fun meter in the red zone

Flowers are blooming in Ponderosa State Park right now along the super fun Huckleberry Trail 
Lunch break at Loon Lake 
Friends Barb and Paul on Jug Mountain Ranch singletrack 
Hi all,

The weather is supposed to cool off markedly this weekend, particularly on Sunday when it's supposed to hit only 65 degrees as high in the Boise Valley. In McCall, Stanley and Sun Valley, it will be much cooler with rain and snow in the high elevations predicted.

But neverthless, for this week's outdoor tip, I'm recommending five premium mountain biker rides in Boise and McCall that are in good shape and ready to ride as of today ... the McCall trails will get wet this weekend, but the weather is supposed to snap back to warm temperatures by Tuesday and Wednesday. The summer season is upon us, and the kids are out of school!

The rides:


Typical view of Around the Mountain Trail on the backside of Bogus ... super fun! 
1. Around the Mountain at Bogus Basin - Distance 10 miles, riding time 1.5 hours, 1,500' vertical gain. This was voted as the best ride in Idaho by IMBA ... I'm not sure I agree with that, but it's definitely in the top 10. Bogus Basin is open for summer operations. See their web site for more information.

2. Eastside-Stack Rock-Sweet Connie-Chukar Butte to Boise - I'm not sure of the distance of this ride but I'd guess it's close to 20 miles if you end up at in Hidden Springs on Dry Creek Road at the bottom of Chukar Butte. Vertical drop has to be about 3,000-feet plus. This is a huge long downhill that's much improved with the trail-enhancement work that'd been done on Sweet Connie. Shuttle to the Eastside trailhead, ride Entrance Exam to Eastside to Stack Rock then take Sweet Connie downhill to Chukar Butte and go right on Chukar Butte over to Hidden Springs. This is probably one of the coolest downhill rides that you can do in the Boise area.

3. Jug Mountain Ranch, Lake Fork - The trails at Jug are opening up for lots of fun and enjoyment. See the latest list of JMR trails at this link. They've built a new beginner downhill trail called "Doe-Joe." I'm looking forward to riding it. It looks like Doe-Joe connects to Berm & Ernie, which is a super-fun flowy trail with banked corners. Another great loop is to take South Elk over to the South Boundary Road, climb that to Murphy Jct., climb to the Jug Reservoir, ride the Shoreline Trail around the lake, then take Vendelay downhill to Harper's Hollow and finish out on North Elk back to the trailhead.
JMR trail system map (courtesy JMR)
4. Loon Lake Loop - I checked with the McCall Ranger District and the trail has been cleared to the Secesh River. You may encounter a few downed trees on the way back along the Secesh River to the trailhead. Distance: 10 miles. Difficulty: Strong intermediate. Travel time: 2-3 hours. Bring a lunch and enjoy a picnic at Loon Lake. Here's the MTB project writeup on the larger Loon Lake Loop.
Here's a writeup and video on the 10-mile loop in my blog.

5. Huckleberry Trail Loop at Ponderosa Park - Distance 6 miles; riding time 1+ hour; vertical gain, 750 feet, Difficulty: Strong intermediate. Park staff built more singletrack a couple of years ago so you can hike, run or mountain bike around the whole park peninsula. The trail has tree roots and rocks on it, and it has lots of up and down, so it's a good training ride for more challenging national forest rides in the McCall area. MTB project didn't do the whole loop, but they have a description of most of the trail.

BTW, 10 Barrel Brewing is sponsoring a downhill bike race on Sunday, called "Bogus to the Barrel." Cash prizes are at stake. There must be some talent coming into town to compete for the cash! Might be fun to watch somewhere along the course, or to participate in ...

Have fun biking!
- SS

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Snake River Raptor Fest, Big Water Blowout in Riggins and the Grand Ronde River

Steve on the Grand Ronde River last weekend ... 

There are many deluxe camps in the forest along the river. 
Hiking up the mountain behind camp is always rewarding and beautiful. 
Hi all,

The weather has been pretty topsy-turvy lately, with major rainstorms or hail late in the day. But the 10-day forecast for Boise and surrounding areas in the valley looks like summer is coming BIG-TIME! 

Just as we turn the page into June, forecasters are predicting temperatures in the 80s on Saturday, low 90s on Sunday, and mostly 80s through mid-month. Bring on summer!

For my outdoor tip this week, I'm recommending two weekend events and providing some recap notes from our Grand Ronde River trip in Eastern Oregon. 

First, the events ... the Snake River Raptor Fest in Kuna sounds like a lot of fun this year, particularly because of the 25th anniversary of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, a great location at Indian Creek Winery and live music! I'll be manning a table and signing copies of Cool North Wind, a well-regarded biography of Morley Nelson's life with birds of prey. The event runs from noon to 5 p.m. There will be live birds of prey on display and kids activities as well. Hope to see you there. 

This is what one reviewer had to say about Cool North Wind"It is truly an amazing book, and a fun, entertaining, and enlightening read!" American Falconry 

BTW, I'll be on a panel at the Idaho Environmental Forum next Wednesday, June 6th, to talk about Morley Nelson as part of a discussion about the 25th anniversary of the designation of the birds of prey area. Former Congressman Larry LaRocco will be on the panel along with Amanda Hoffman, area manager of the birds of prey area for the BLM. The deadline for signing up for this IEF luncheon program is on Monday. 



The first weekend of June also marks the Big Water Blowout in Riggins ... Take a wild ride with a local outfitter or bring your own raft and try your hand at running some big water on the mighty Salmon River. The Salmon River has been flowing in 50,000-60,000 cubic feet per second range in the last week or so after two peaks over 70,000 cfs. Should be cranking in the 65,000 cfs range this weekend! 

A lot of big water whitewater boaters were at the Lochsa River Memorial Day gathering last week, so they'll be tuned up for some more big water fun in Riggins! 

For a lower-key river adventure, I would recommend running the Grand Ronde River right now. We camped on the river for 4 days last week, Thursday-Sunday, and it was a super fun time. The whole canyon is really beautiful right now, chock full of wildflowers and very green! We picked a campsite that ended up having a resident bighorn sheep herd grazing on the opposite mountain from camp. We hung out and watched the wild sheep in the morning during breakfast and also during the cocktail hour in the evening. There were at least 4 baby lambs that were chasing each other around in the rocks and a small group of about 12 sheep ... really precious to watch! 

With fairly high flows in the 9,000 cfs range, the Grand Ronde scoots along at 7-8 mph. That means you can clock a lot of miles fairly quickly, and then make a base camp. The whole section we typically run is only 35 miles in length. So we went down about 20 miles in 3 hours, base camped for 3 days, and then rowed out 15 miles the last morning. 

The put-in for the Grand Ronde is at Minam, northeast of La Grande on Highway 82 (paved road all the way to the put-in; unusual for some rivers), and the takeout is at Powatka Bridge by the Wildcat Creek road. You do drive a gravel road from the takeout to a point near the little town of Wallowa, where you jump back on the highway. Super easy drive in the whole scheme of things to do a stellar river trip. 

The Grand Ronde is great for kids, side-hiking, wildlife-watching, camping and R&R. I highly recommend it! 

- SS

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Four spring hikes - 2 in the Boise Foothills, 2 in the Owyhees, plus Boise Bike Week!

Jump Creek Falls, near Marsing
Big Jacks Creek canyon as it looks as you're hiking down from the Parker Trailhead. 
Hi all,

After a week of unsettled weather, this weekend looks fabulous with clear skies and temperatures in the mid-70s in the Treasure Valley. There's a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms on Sunday. We've seen that all week, and sometimes the storm happens, sometimes not!

My outdoor tip this week will focus on a couple of handy hikes close to home. But first, I wanted to mention this we are in the midst of Boise Bike Week, sponsored by the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance. Tomorrow is national Bike to Work Day  So if you need a little extra motivation to get your bike lock and gear together for biking to work, there you go!!! Plus, a bunch of coffee shops are offering a free cup of coffee to people who ride to work ... so there's another boost for ya! See Boise Bike Week Facebook page for details.

Now to the hikes. First, a couple in the Boise Foothills:

Lupine going off big-time on the way to Central Ridge Trail and Bucktail Trail in Military Reserve this week. 
1. Jumpin' Jeepers Figure-8 Loop - 6.75 miles. Rated strenuous as a hike or run with moderate sections. Rated intermediate for biking. Hiking time, 2.5-3 hours; running time, 1:20; riding time, 1:10. This is one of my favorite rides in Military Reserve that connects to Shane's Trail. It's an equally nice run or hike. The name comes from the Boise Police Dept. shooting range at the end of Mountain Cove Road. The unexpected blast from a gun might cause you to jump out of your skin! Thank goodness the city finally moved the firing range! The flowers are still popping along the way ... I saw a field of arrowleaf balsomroot and purple lupine on Wednesday. To start, go to Fort Boise and then the main trailhead on Mountain Cove Road, after the sharp right-hand corner heading west. Take the Toll Road Trail #27A to #20 Ridge Crest and climb to the top of the hill. Turn right on Central Ridge Trail and climb at a moderate pace to Shane's Junction. Take Shane's #26A to the left, and climb to the top of Shane's. You've climbed 1,000 feet over 3+ miles. Give your puppy a drink and a snack. Descend Shane's for less than a mile, turn right on the Shane's Loop and return to the Central Ridge-Bucktail-Shane's jct. Take Bucktail downhill and enjoy the big GS turns as you wind across a big downhill on a large flat. Bucktail drops into the Central Ridge alternative trail. Go right and then left on that and it'll take you back to the trailhead. It's a great view of Idaho's Capital City as you cruise downhill on that sagebrush slope to the trailhead.

2. Camelsback - Kestrel-Crestline-Red Cliffs Loop - Distance: 5 miles. Rated moderate for hikers and runners. Rated intermediate for biking. Hiking time, 2-2.5 hours; Running time: 55 minutes; Biking time: 45 minutes. This is a popular loop with hikers, runners and bikers. Start at Camelsback Park off of Heron and 13th Street in North Boise. Head over to the trailhead in the east side of the park, and follow Owl's Roost Trail on the right by the ponds. Follow Owl's Roost to the Foothills Learning Center area. Turn right at the junction with Kestrel, and climb Kestrel to Crestline, it's about .6 miles of continuous climbing. Turn left onto Crestline, climb a short abrupt hill, and then watch for a left-hand junction with Red Cliffs in less than a half mile. Turn left onto Red Cliffs and enjoy a fun descent for over a mile back to Hulls Gulch. Follow Hulls back toward the Foothills Learning Center, cross 8th Street, and take Chickadee Ridge back to Camelsback Park.

Now, a couple hikes in the Owyhees:

3. Jump Creek Canyon, near Marsing - Follow this link to see a write up in the Nampa Press-Tribune about visiting Jump Creek Canyon. They used my Owyhee Canyonlands guide for reference and driving directions. Be forewarned that there is poison ivy on the trail to the falls. Watch your step and keep the kids close at hand through that small section as you approach the falls. Once you arrive at the BLM recreation site, you'll notice that you can explore some extensive trails above Jump Creek Falls. Give that a go if you're up for hiking a greater distance than the quarter-mile trail to the falls.

4. Big Jacks Creek, Parker Trailhead - Big Jacks Creek is a gorgeous canyon. Go see it and judge for yourself.
Driving map for Parker Trailhead
The hardest part of the whole trip, like many in the Owyhee Canyonlands, is finding the trailhead. A good 4WD vehicle or a high-clearance Subaru is recommended for the drive, once you hit the dirt roads.

How to get there: Take the freeway to Mountain Home. Take the first exit. Follow signs for Idaho State Highway 51 and Bruneau. After you reach Bruneau, take note of your odometer. Stay on Idaho 51 for approximately 25 miles. You'll be watching for a right-hand turn on a good dirt road, called the Wickahoney Road, just past milepost 45. The road is not signed, but it's a BLM public road.

Follow Wickahoney Road 4.9 miles to a T-junction by Wickahoney Creek. Turn right and go 2.8 miles to the Parker Trailhead. Park and hike from there.
Leo Hennessy follows the Parker Trail into the Big Jacks Wilderness

You'll follow a two-track road over to the rim of the canyon, walk over a barbed-wire fence via a wooden step-over gizmo, and descend into Big Jacks Creek. Take your time, take some photos and enjoy the scenery. There's a foot path going down into the canyon; it's marked by rock cairns along the way. Watch for snakes. They could be out.

Once at the bottom, you can explore a little and eat lunch by the campsite area. Return the way you came.
Beautiful campsite at the bottom of Big Jacks. 
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The BLM is hosting two events this weekend related to the 25th anniversary of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

1. Join in on a Naturalist Photo Safari of overlooked and underappreciated components of the NCA ecosystem. On Saturday, it's "Insect Day." On Sunday, there's a plant and geology hike in the canyon. RSVP to Cory Coffman at ccoffman@blm.gov. For the full event schedule, go here.

Have fun!
- SS