Thursday, April 19, 2018

Participate in BLM clean up at the Snake River Birds of Prey Area Saturday

Spent shotgun shells left out in the birds of prey area ... (Courtesy BLM) 
People using our public lands as a dumping ground (Courtesy BLM) 
(Courtesy BLM) 
Hi all,

The weather forecast looks fantastic for this weekend -- temperatures nudging 70 degrees for three days in a row! Should be great weather to do just about anything outdoors ...

This week, I'm recommending several events on Saturday, and then there's a few tidbits below.

1. The BLM needs volunteers for what they hope to be a record-breaking volunteer clean up event at the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Volunteers should gather at the Boise Wild Horse Corrals, 12466 Pleasant Valley Road, south of the Boise Airport. Volunteers will be broken into groups and directed to locations within the NCA, where they can expect to encounter trash that includes everything from simple litter to discarded appliances. Sign up at or call 208-384-3342.

How about adding a whitewater tripper canoe to your fleet? 
2. Tis the season of used whitewater boating equipment sales! The largest one, sponsored by the Idaho Whitewater Association, will be held Saturday, April 28, at Cascade River Gear in Garden City, 604 E. 45th St. The sale has moved indoors! The whitewater sale is a perfect time to buy a used whitewater raft, canoe, SUP, life jacket, wet suits, dry suits, touring kayaks at affordable prices.  

Pick up a worthy whitewater raft, kayak, inflatable kayak and SUP and you're dialed in for a fun-filled boating season on Idaho rivers for the whole family. 

A few details: Friday check in and register gear from 3-9 p.m. The sale runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. IWA retains 15% of sales for items less than $1,000, and 10 percent for items over that. 

Another outdoor equipment sale will be held at Idaho River Sports this Saturday called the "Woolly Buggers Trout Unlimited Gear Sale." The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Clean out your garage and sell your fishing gear, fishing cats, camping equipment, etc. See IRS link for more information. 

3. Support the Autism Society of the Treasure Valley Run/Walk on Saturday. I'll be there with my son, Drew, and he's participating as part of the STEP Super Heroes. He's going to be Thor from the Avengers. The event is a 5K run and 2-mile family stroll. This is a great cause to support! 

4. I've talked about visiting Shoshone Falls recently in the blog, and I wanted to share a feature story I wrote about that for the Statesman Outdoors section. "Experience the thundering power of Shoshone Falls." I also detailed a waterfall tour of other worthy destinations in the Magic Valley area in that story. 

Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Biking season is coming on! Five easy greenbelt bike rides to shake off the cobwebs

The heron and cormorant rookery along the Eagle Greenbelt is a sight to behold. 
Eagle Greenbelt pedestrian bridge. I took my snow bike out there. 
Drew on his three-wheeler on a greenbelt ride with Dad in west Boise 
Biking on the Greenbelt through Municipal Park 
Here's a fun group pausing for a pic by the ParkCenter pedestrian bridge 
Hi all,

Spring weather is trying to get some traction in the Treasure Valley, but wet and cool wintry weather has made it challenging, even almost half way through April! On Friday and Saturday of this weekend, the weather forecast looks promising for sunshine on Friday with a high of 50, and partly cloudy to cloudy conditions on Saturday, but no real chance of rain, with temperatures hovering around 60. Sunday could be rainy and wet.

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending some easy bike rides as inspiration to dust-off the bike in your garage, wipe off the cobwebs and get that baby into good running condition.

Here are five easy rides that provide a tour of discreet sections of the Boise River Greenbelt from Eagle to Lucky Peak. All of these rides would be great for families and kids, and all ages and abilities. Pick a route that strikes your fancy.

1. Eagle Greenbelt Loop - Distance: About 7 miles. Best bike for the ride: mountain bike or cross bike. Tread: pavement and dirt. Start at the greenbelt parking area by Glenwood and Marigold next to the Boise River. Ride west, taking the underpass at Glenwood, and continue through a housing area next to the river. Stay on the south side of the river at the pedestrian bridge and continue past the gravel pits, Boise Wastewater Treatment Plant and the heron rookery to Eagle Road. Go right on the shoulder of Eagle Road and ride on the paths next to the busy highway. Pick up the greenbelt in several hundred yards and ride east. Cross the pedestrian bridge and then you'll be riding on a paved pathway on the north side of the river. Follow that path through several dirt sections and then on pavement through a couple of subdivisions. Cross the pedestrian bridge to the south side of the river, turn left and return to the start at Glenwood.

2. Glenwood to Esther Simplot Park - Distance: 7 miles out and back. Best bike for the ride: road bike or any kind of bike. Tread: pavement. This ride could be done as a loop if they're able to restore the pedestrian bridge by Plantation, but in the meantime, it's an out-and-back ride on the Garden City side of the greenbelt. Start by the Glenwood and Marigold greenbelt parking area. Ride east on the Greenbelt for a mile to the bridge washout site. Follow the paved path on a detour around some private property on Remington Street and return to the greenbelt going east. You'll pass under the Veterans Parkway bridge and continue another mile to Esther Simplot Park. There's a pedestrian bridge there where you can cross over and tour around the park as you wish. Watch kayakers or surfers on the play wave. Return to Glenwood to finish the ride.

3. Bridge to Bridge Loop - Distance 9-mile loop. Best bike for the ride: road bike or any kind of bike. Tread: pavement. This is cool route because you can ride on both sides of the river for the loop, and enjoy the pedestrian bridges on the book-ends of the route. Start in Esther Simplot Park. Pick up the greenbelt pathway over by the Boise River and pedestrian bridge. Ride either on the south or north side of the river and go east toward downtown. Enjoy all the underpasses and ride along the river to the ParkCenter pedestrian bridge. Cross the bridge and return to Esther Simplot Park.

4. Municipal Park to Marianne Williams Park - Distance: 9.5 mile loop or about 8 miles out-and back. Bike bike for the ride: road bike or any kind of bike. Tread: pavement. This is a pretty route going through Warm Springs Golf Course and riding along the river on the north side, and a tour of residential paths on the way back. Start at Municipal Park and ride east on the greenbelt. In Warm Springs Golf Course, ignore the right-hand spur going over to the pedestrian bridge. Continue on the north side of the river out to Marianne Williams Park. Follow signs for a temporary detour around a pathway that's closed due to construction. Ride over to Eckert Road. Turn right and ride to Barber Park. Go west on the paved pathway through the park and continue going west through a number of subdivisions. Eventually the pathway busts out of the housing and onto the side of ParkCenter Boulevard. Turn right on River Run Drive next to Baggley Park and follow the bike lane along River Run back to the main greenbelt. Keep going west to Broadway. Take the highway bridge across the river and drop into the path going east on the north side of the river to return to Municipal Park.

5. Eckert Road to Lucky Peak - Distance 10 miles out and back. Best bike for the ride: road bike or any kind of bike. Tread: pavement. This ride can be a little more challenging depending on the wind, but it's fun to go out to Discovery Park next to Lucky Peak, and this is the eastern end of the greenbelt. Start in Harris Ranch and park by Lucky 13 or in Barber Park. Take the greenbelt along Eckert Road and then go east on the greenbelt out to Lucky Peak. You'll have to detour around the path east of Idaho State Parks because that pathway is still under reconstruction. Past that area, you'll pass under the huge Idaho 21 bridge, go by Diversion Dam and then cruise along next to the river on the final approach to Discovery Park. It can be windy in this area. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at Discovery Park and retrace your steps to the start.

The whole Boise River Greenbelt and 30 more road-biking routes are detailed in the Boise Road Cycling Guide, a fold-out waterproof and tear-proof map with rides in the Boise Valley, Meridian, Kuna, Nampa and Emmett. Boise Road Cycling Guide is available for retail sales at George's Cycles, Idaho Mountain Touring, Boise REI, Bob's Bicycles and

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Go pond-skimming at Brundage, road trip to Shoshone Falls or hit a hot springs

 Pond skimming at Brundage on Saturday! (Courtesy Brundage Mountain) 

Hi all,

Well, this weekend presents a real quandary because of the wet, warm soggy weather. Snow levels are supposed to be at 7,000-8,000 feet tonight and 9,000-10,000 feet by Saturday in SW Idaho, and there's 100 percent chance of rain on Friday night and Saturday, so hey, break out the umbrella and rain gear and consider a few options.

Option #1. It's going to be wet anyway on Saturday, so why not participate in the Crazy Daze and Pond Skimming at Brundage Mountain?

The Brundage event includes a Treasure Hunt, Poker Run, Beer Relay, Costume Contest before the pond-skimming begins at 1:15 p.m. Dress up and rule the pond!

The Kayak Slush Cup at Bogus was scheduled for Saturday, but it's been canceled, according to the Bogus Basin Facebook page on Thursday night.

Option #2. Take a road trip to Twin Falls to see Shoshone Falls and hit Miracle Hot Springs and the Snake River Grill on the way home on the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway. I mentioned this as a Spring Break option, and it's just as valid this weekend. Shoshone Falls is running at more than 13,000 cfs, a big flow. There's a small fee to get into the park, and there are several excellent viewing platforms for seeing the falls as close as possible.

Easy add-on: While you're on the way home on the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway. stop at the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area and fish the ponds for trout, bass or bluegill.

Option #3. Go soak in a hot springs of your choice. I checked with The Springs in Idaho City, and they're booked to soak in the regular pool all day on Saturday and Sunday. A few sessions in private pools are available.

Kirkham, Gold Fork and Bonneville Hot Springs are some obvious choices.

Option #4: Go kayaking or rafting on the Payette River. The water is coming up, and the main Payette, South Fork Payette and North Fork Payette are runnable. The flows are up to 4,600 in Horseshoe Bend as of Thursday night, and 750 cfs at Lowman on the South Fork. The North Fork is running 2,630 cfs at Banks. Could do an early-season trip on Cabarton, too!

There's no bad weather only bad gear, right?

Otherwise, pick an indoor activity to enjoy this weekend.
- SS 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Early-season tips on hiking in the Boise Foothills and Owyhee Canyonlands

Wendy enjoys the view while Huck sniffs for critters on the top of Hillside to the Hollow 
Walking up the wash in Sage Creek, Owyhee Canyonlands 
My son Drew enjoyed climbing around the rocks in Sage Creek. 
Three Fingers from a distance in the Owyhee Canyonlands 
Hi all, 

The weather has been getting nicer every day this week, and now temperatures are nudging 60 degrees in the heat of the afternoon -- perfect temps for hiking, mountain biking and trail-running in the Boise Foothills and the Owyhees. The high Friday is 65, Saturday 61 and Sunday 63. I say go for it! 

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'll recommend five hiking or trail-running routes in the foothills and the Owyhees:

1. Hillside to the Hollow - This is a nice little gem at the edge of the city that can be accessed from a parking area next to Healthwise off of Bogus Basin Road, Hillside Junior High by the tennis courts, or several other streets off of Hill Road. Start by Healthwise and hike up the canyon known as Harrison Hollow. This is a very gradual hike for a mile to a saddle. Continue going uphill at the saddle and head west toward the high point of the Hillside-to-the-Hollow complex. Once on top, you'll feel as if you can reach out and touch the city below. Great views up there! This is a relatively easy hike done at a relaxed pace. It's about 1.5 miles to the top, and 450 vertical feet of climbing. Rated moderate. Good for kids. 

2. Kestrel - Red Cliffs Loop - This is a great trail for a casual foothills walk with your friends, family, dogs, whatever. You’ll get a nice workout, but you can moderate your speed on the climb up Kestrel according to your preference. Distance: 5 miles. Vertical gain 660 feet. From a running perspective, this is a popular standby. Start at Camelsback Park. Take Owl's Roost Trail, a moderate, slightly uphill cruise to a steeper climb up Kestrel Trail to Crestline. You can crank up the hill as fast as your lungs and legs will allow. After one more steep climb 100 yards after joining the Crestline Trail, the trail levels off for a bit and then it dives downhill to Red Cliffs. At the bottom of Red Cliffs, circle back over to the Foothills Learning Center and retrace your tracks on Owl's Roost back to Camelsback Park. 

Steve with Quinn in the backpack on the Five Mile Creek Trail. 
3. Five Mile Creek-Orchard Gulch - This is a moderate to strenuous loop hiking or running along Five Mile Creek, climbing over a pass, and then descending Orchard Gulch in the east foothills. Distance: 5.35 miles. Hiking time: 2.5 hours; Elevation gain: 1,149 feet. Drive up Rocky Canyon Road 2.5 miles to the Five Mile Creek Trail junction. Go slow and watch out for Robie Creek runners and mountain bikers. Park by the trailhead. It's a beautiful hike up Five Mile Creek on a singletrack trail. There are several creek crossings; some have bridges. Look for animal tracks. It's about 1.5 miles to the Orchard junction (signed). Go right and climb to a small pass, where you'll drop into Orchard Gulch. Follow the trail down several switchbacks and hike back to Rocky Canyon Road. It's 1.2 miles of gradual downhill on the dirt road back to the Five Mile Trailhead.

4. Sage Creek - This is a cool hike out in the Owyhees near Succor Creek State Park. Follow the driving and hiking directions in this blog post. It's 2.5 miles out and back to explore Sage Creek. It's a beautiful redrock canyon with balance-rock formations and several areas with volcanic tuff layers that are chalky white and green. There is no official trail. Just walk up the canyon and enjoy the scenery. Very kid friendly.

5. Hike to Three Fingers Mountain - Three Fingers is an easy hike to the top of a basalt-capped mountain in the big wide open country of the Owyhee Canyonlands. Distance: 2.4 miles out and back. Hiking time: 1.5 hours. Elevation gain: 833 feet. Rated easy to moderate. The hardest part of this trip is getting to the trailhead, and that's not too hard. A 4WD rig is recommended. Follow the directions in this blog post,  which provides driving directions to the trailhead, and also directions on the hike. This hike is located near Succor Creek State Park, so if you feel like taking your car-camping stuff, by all means, do that and stay overnight at the park. There is a rest room in the park and more hiking nearby. This one is also kid friendly.
A couple of announcements for next week: 

1. I will be talking about my new edition of Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home at Idaho Mountain Touring next week during First Thursday. The event starts at 6 p.m. IMT will have beverages and snacks on hand. I'll give a brief presentation, and I'll be glad to sign copies of Boise Trail Guide and Owyhee Canyonlands available for sale at IMT. 

2. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers are hosting a major national meeting in Boise April 12-15. On Friday, April 13, they'll host "Beers, Bands and Public Lands," featuring local breweries and live music in the Grove. There are more than 1,000 people coming to the their North American rendezvous, so it should be a fun time in the Grove. It costs $20 for the brewfest. See BHA Rendezvous web site for more information. 

Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

10 bomb-proof ideas for outdoorsy fun, spunk and adventure on Spring Break

Option #1 Take a ski vacation! This is Jackson Hole, a mountain that makes you feel very small. 
Option #3 Climb one of the Boise Grand Slam peaks. This is Mt. Kepros, the summit off in the distance.  
Option #4 - Go see Shoshone Falls, ski Pomerelle, hit the hot springs and live it up in the Magic Valley. See below.  
Hi all,

It's been a wet March, so it's nice to look forward to sunshine next week in SW Idaho. That's the weather forecast -- blue sky and sunshine for most of the week! Just in time for Spring Break! If you're thinking of staying close to home, the weather looks favorable for spring skiing, hiking, biking or running in the foothills, or heading out to the Snake River canyon or the Owyhee Canyonlands to go camping and exploring.

Temperatures will still be on the cool side -- with highs in the mid-50s and lows near freezing in the valleys. So be sure to dress warm!

Here are 10 outdoorsy ideas to keep you occupied and entertained during Spring Break:

1. Spring skiing should be great at BogusBrundageTamarack and Sun Valley after all the fresh snow that fell in the past week. Brundage is offering FREE skiing to kids 7-14 who might want to sign up for a free lesson with rental gear, a lift ticket and lunch. Open to only 25 kids per day, and the kids need to be residents of Valley County.

2. Take a ski vacation to Grand Targhee, Jackson Hole or Alta, Solitude or Snow Basin in Utah. All of the recent snow should make for excellent conditions at any of those areas.

3. Get a jump on hiking and bag one of the peaks in the local Grand Slam. Try Cervidae Peak or Mount Kepros. Both are rated advanced and strenuous. All four of the Boise Grand Salmon Peaks are featured in my new edition of Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home.  It's a tough, steep hike.

4. Do a home run weekend in the Magic Valley - Go see Shoshone Falls (water flows should last through April), have a top-shelf dinner at Elevation 486, ski Pomerelle and then hit Miracle Hot Springs on your way home and top it off with dinner at the Snake River Grill in Hagerman.

Hiking or camping at Leslie Gulch should be fab. Huck likes the view. 
5. Go camping in the Snake River Canyon or in the Owyhees, close to home. Here are five destinations that are sure to please, including Succor Creek State Park, Leslie Gulch, Bruneau Dunes State Park, and Celebration Park.

6. Try a new loop in the Boise Foothills. One of my favorites is the Five Mile-Orchard Loop or the Five Mile-Watchman-Three Bears Loop. Click on the links to see a description and photos. Good for hiking or biking. The hikes are moderate to strenuous, and the loops are rated advanced for biking. Great for running, too (rated strenuous).

Bruneau Canyon! (Courtesy Visit Idaho) 
7. Go see the Bruneau River canyon or double-up and visit the Bruneau Dunes on the way there or the way home.

8. Dust off the road bike and go for a ride. Here are seven rides to try in Boise for various ability levels. All of the rides are from my Boise Road Cycling Guide, the only guide to road biking in the Boise area.

9. Head into the mountains and go backcountry skiing, snowshoeing or xc skiing in your Hawaiian shirt. Try Pilot Peak, Sunset Mountain, Stargaze Yurt, Gold Fork, Banner Ridge, Copper Mountain, Bull Trout Point, Ponderosa State Park or Bear Basin.

Go for a hike on the Five Mile Creek trail in the Boise Foothills.
10. Take a hike in the Owyhees. One of my favorites is the Wilson-Reynolds Creek Loop, which includes touring the beautiful redrock Reynolds Creek canyon and hiking the China Ditch Trail. See my Owyhee Canyonlands book for 55 hikes and bike rides in the Big Wide Open.

Have a wonderful Spring Break!
- SS

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hit the slopes or the mountains for St. Patty's Day! Lots of fun things to do!

Dress up for St. Patty's Day! (courtesy Liftopia) 
(Courtesy Liftopia) 
You get the idea! 
Hi all,

Last weekend was sunny and warm, and this weekend will be cool and wet. Don't turn your back on winter yet!

Brundage Mountain, Bogus Basin and Sun Valley all got fresh snow this week, and there's more freshies on the way through Sunday this weekend. My recommendation this weekend is to hit the slopes for fun St. Patrick's Day activities or go xc skiing, snowshoeing or snow biking at your favorite mountain getaway. The snow conditions are stellar everywhere! See my latest "Idaho Daily Snow" ski report.

In the Boise Valley, the trails might be muddy and wet with storms forecast Friday-Sunday, so my feeling is you're better off going to play in the snow.

Here's the lowdown on St. Patty's Day activities, Saturday, March 17:
  • Bogus Basin - Dress up like a leprechaun and get a free ride on the Glade Runner mountain coaster. Bogus has received 7 inches of new snow over the last 36 hours. Should be great skiing and riding up there. Bogus will be doing a grand opening of the Double R Ranch BBQ Smokehouse at 11 a.m. You can imagine what's on the menu, and it's located on the Bogus Creek Plaza, outside the main lodge, next to the cozy fire pits. Live music runs from 3-6 p.m. They'll even have free S'mores by the fire pits 4-6 p.m. Free demo skis will be available to try for Bogus season pass holders. Green beer all day long at the Simplot Lodge. To cap it all off, there's a Pot O’ Gold Treasure Hunt -- find the hidden pot of gold on the mountain and win a free 2018-19 season pass.
  • Brundage Mountain - They've receive 2 inches of fresh snow in the last 36 hours, and they're supposed to get more in the next several days. You can start the day by participating in a Treasure Hunt on the ski mountain. You'll be looking for seven Shamrocks hidden in the trees and snow. Winners get a "pot of gold" bag of prizes.

    Then, after lunch at Smoky's Bar and Restaurant, you can try your hand at cabbage bowling. You chuck a cabbage at a set of bowling pins (Guiness cans). Winners get fun prizes. That event starts at 1 p.m. on the deck outside Smoky's. They'll have live music from 2-5 p.m. with Kayleigh Jack, an Idaho musician who plays guitar, violin and mandolin, and she can sing! Sounds fun! 
  • Tamarack Resort - They've had 4 inches in the last 48 hours, with more to come. The 4th annual Brewski event will be happening at Tamarack on Saturday, from 3-6 p.m. inside the Canoe Grill. Tickets cost $15, and it will sell out (only 200 tickets will be sold). The fee covers beer-tasting and a commemorative tasting glass. Participating breweries include Payette, Salmon River, Broken Horn, Crooked Fence, Powderhaus, Sockeye, and County Line Brewing. Live music will be provided by New Transit. Rip some nice long top-to-bottom runs and work up a thirst! Should be a blast!
  • Pomerelle Mountain Resort - Dress up for St. Patty's Day and revel in what is expected to be the deepest powder to come this weekend. A foot to 18 inches of new snow are forecast to fall at Pomerelle between now and Saturday. They'll be celebrating St. Patty's Day with hidden Shamrocks on the mountain, and Pot of Gold challenge. Guess how many pieces of gold are in the pot, and the winner takes the pot of gold. 
  • Pebble Creek Ski Area - I doubt many would drive all the way to Pocatello to see it, but I had to laugh upon seeing that Pebble Creek hosts a St. Patty's Day Monster Dummy Jump event. You build a ski dummy, send it off a big jump on skis or a snowboard, and watch it crash and burn. That'd be pretty hilarious! Top prize is $100. Entry fee is $15. No propulsion devices, no incendiary devices, gravity only. No obscenities. Ha! 
Here's hoping you have a great weekend! 
- SS 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

New, 3rd edition of Boise Trail Guide is HOT off the press! Volunteer to plant bitterbrush for IDFG

On top of Mt. Heinen, part of the Boise Grand Slam, with Joanie, Judy and Jack  
Hi all,

Under the banner of shameless self-promotion, I must tell you about the brand new, third edition of Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. 

Whenever I run out of book stocks, I not only order a new printing of the book, I update the guide based on anything that's changed in the field -- in this case, the Pioneer wildfire certainly roared through some of the trails, and the Crow Inn sadly closed -- and add new trails that have come online.

So the latest edition of Boise Trail Guide has 5 new routes. The new editions are ... two new Greenbelts and Parks trails -- Esther Simplot Park, and Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve, a 44-acre beautiful birding area in the midst of West Boise with hiking/running trails. I added one new route in the Moderate Mountain Trails section, two out-and-back routes via Peggy's Trail. And in the Strenuous Mountain Trails section, I added the full route descriptions and maps for all four Boise Grand Slam Peaks. Now you can see how to climb Mt. Kepros and Mt. Heinen as well as Mt. Cervidae and Shaw Mountain/Lucky Peak. I guess I had to hike all four of the peaks before I could put them in the book. Last year, I finished the slam, and I'll tell you, it's totally worth it!

Where to buy? Boise Trail Guide is available for sale on my web site,, Bandanna Walking and Running in downtown Boise, Idaho Mountain Touring, Boise REI and all have copies of the new book. I will be getting more books distributed to more retailers with time.

We are blessed! Think about how amazing it is that I can publish a book with 95 places to go hiking and running in Boise or within an hour of our capital city. There are tons of trails to explore in the Ridge to Rivers Trail system, BLM lands to the south and in the Boise National Forest to the north and east. People who have bought the book tell me they love having more choices for their hiking and running destinations. Many get stuck in a rut, doing the same routes over and over again. Venture outside your mold and learn about new places to go with Boise Trail Guide.

All of the routes provide travel time for hiking and running. Each route has a description and map, with driving directions and details about what make the route appealing or unique.

The new edition is a little more compact and light because the printer used nicer paper that's thinner than the old paper stock, and the trim size is slightly smaller than 5.5" by 8.5", standard guidebook size. I think you'll like it!

Volunteers plant shrubs to benefit wildlife and the integrity of the soil and watershed. 
Join up with a Idaho Fish and Game volunteer shrub-planting event! 

Idaho Fish and Game has three opportunities in March. They need volunteers plant bitterbrush and sagebrush seedlings for wildlife on March 10, 17 and 24.  Meet at 9 a.m. at the MK Nature Center in Boise on those dates. Alternate meeting locations at the planting sites are available at 9:30 a.m. for volunteers that want to meet at Hilltop Summit.

It's fun to participate in service projects like this. You're doing something to enhance habitat for wildlife, and you'll meet new interesting people. Plus, you'll get plenty of exercise planting all of the seedlings.

Planting locations are located near Highway 21 in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area, home to 6,000 to 8,000 wintering mule deer.  These deer utilize the area during the winter for shelter and feeding in a landscape typically devoid of the deeper snows in the higher mountains, where they spend their summers. Over 4,000 acres of this important wildlife landscape burned in the 2016 Mile Marker 14 Fire.

Sagebrush and bitterbrush play an integral role in the habitat on this landscape, providing shelter from winter storms for wildlife. Shrubs are the main food source for mule deer during the winter.  Due to their deep-rooted nature, the shrubs provide erosion protection for the foothills as well. They also are important habitat for birds and other wildlife species.

RSVP to Michael Young at IDFG:; Questions? Call 208-327-7095

By the way, the skiing and riding is great right now everywhere! I recently took over an online blogpost called "The Idaho Daily Snow," which provides a detailed weather/snow/ski report 5 days a week for the state of Idaho, based on the latest weather data from multiple sources. It also provides details on the latest events at all of Idaho's ski resorts. See my latest post here
- SS  

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Enjoy the fresh powder! Every kind of snow activity will be great this weekend!

Today at Bogus Basin ... 
Today at Brundage Mountain 
Skiing pow at Bogus today (courtesy Rick Gerrard) 
Hi all,

Well, I picked one heck of time to get injured! The ski areas and the mountains are getting doused with multiple coatings of fresh snow, and I'm stuck working on rehabbing the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in my left knee. At least I can walk!

The accident occurred in a hockey game at Idaho Ice World. I play in the men's C league, which you'd think would be mellow and low-key since it's the lowest level available. But unfortunately, the league is full of younger ringers who should be playing B-league, and there's always that testosterone-charged male who loses it going after the puck in the corner. That's what happened to me in a high-speed collision with the boards after this guy checks me from behind, twisting my left leg badly to the outside and tearing the ligament.

So much for my romantic weekend with Wendy at Grand Targhee we had planned over President's Day weekend, and so much for skiing with my son Quinn in early March, when we are booked to visit Waterville Valley, N.H., and spend a long weekend with our cousins. Damn! Wah!

So that's my situation right now. I am approved to do light snow biking or Greenbelt riding, I can hike in a brace, and I am approved to do classic xc skiing. It could be much worse, I know.

My outdoor tip this week is to GO PLAY IN THE SNOW! Even if I can't go powder skiing, you should!

The latest conditions at the SW Idaho ski areas are stellar by all accounts.

  • Bogus Basin - 10 inches of new today, 11 inches in the last 24 hours. I saw some several pics and video of light blower powder on Facebook ... it's been staying cold up there, to keep the snow light. Another foot of snow is expected on Saturday. 
  • Brundage Mountain - 5-7 inches of new today, 19-24 inches in the last week. Cold smoke! 
  • Tamarack Resort - 5 inches of new today, 6 inches in the last 24 hours. Probably more up high. 
  • Sun Valley - 3 inches of new snow today, 2 inches of new in the last 24 hours. 
The good news is that more snow is expected through the weekend. Coleen Haskell, a meteorologist and author of the Idaho Daily Snow blog, says "Computer models are in good agreement through the short term this weekend. I'm expecting a foot of snow between now and Sunday morning, coming in several surges including the one today. It will be closely followed by the stronger wave Friday night and Saturday, while yet another one strikes on Monday."
Predicted snow amounts through Monday, Feb. 26 (courtesy  
This is the forecast for the West Central Mountains. Are you excited yet?

All of the Nordic areas should be in a great shape, too, with fresh snow. The Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas received 6 inches of new snow on top of a firm 24-inch base. Idaho Parks & Recreation is grooming the Gold Fork loop tomorrow as well as the Skyline loop. You can go xc skiing, snowshoeing or snow biking on these trails. "Should be perfect skiing," says Leo Hennessy, non-motorized trail coordinator for IDPR.

All of the McCall Nordic areas are reporting 2-5 inches of new snow with fresh-groomed conditions. This includes Ponderosa State Park, Bear Basin, Activity Barn/North Valley Trail, Tamarack Resort and Jug Mountain Ranch. Don't forget that you can go snow biking at Jug ... probably the best snow-biking trails in SW Idaho in my opinion.

All of the Wood River Valley xc trails are open and skiing great, especially in the upper valley. Being a gimper, I hiked on snow-covered trails in Adams Gulch and Greenhorn Gulch last weekend while Wendy went downhill and xc skiing.

Military Reserve trails had nice packed powder today ... Love this view of the city of Boise! 
Closer to home, with the new dose of snow in Boise, the Foothills are perfect for hiking, snow biking, trail-running and snowshoeing right now. I went snow-biking in Military Reserve this afternoon, and there was a 1-foot wide singletrack with packed powder. Perfect!

Hope you have a fun weekend playing in the snow! I'll be dreaming of skiing powder while I dial it down to do gimper activities and work on my MCL rehab.
- SS

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area turns 25 this year ... Here's how to plug into the raptor channel

Ferruginous hawks on a nesting platform in the NCA. 
Joe Welson of the BLM checks on a golden eagle chick in the NCA. 

Hi all,

I've been kind of a nut about birds of prey since I saw bald eagles swoop down and catch crimson-red Kokanee trout in West Glacier, Montana in college. But ultimately, I owe my love for birds of prey to the late Morley Nelson, the great champion for birds of prey who lived much of his adult life in Boise. Morley touched literally thousands of people in Boise, in Idaho, and many more in the nation and the world via his many films for Walt Disney's Wide World of Color series, his own personal falconry and birds of prey films, and his conservation work with the Peregrine Fund. Many people observed Morley flying birds in his North End backyard as a falconer, he gave countless presentations all over the West with a golden eagle on his fist, and he hosted many boat tours in the Snake River canyon with outfitter Steve Guinn. 

Morley Nelson with a prairie falcon 
Morley personally discovered what is known as the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. I know this because I wrote Morley's biography, titled Cool North Wind: Morley Nelson's Life with Birds of Prey (Caxton Press, 2000). Soon after moving to Boise in 1948, he visited the Snake River canyon for the first time. He saw an incredible diversity of birds of prey flying around, hunting for prey on the sagebrush flats above the canyon, and golden eagles and prairie falcons nesting in the canyon walls. How fortunate it was that a man like Morley, who already was totally passionate about raptors, discovered this wildlife resource that was unique in the world.

Morley always said that it was important to let people "feel a part of the environment" by showing them the magnificent birds of prey in action. He knew the birds would sell themselves if people had a chance to see them in person or in a movie.

The Snake River canyon was where Morley worked on "Ida, the Offbeat Eagle," for Walt Disney, a movie that required 12 trained golden eagles for various scenes. He took Marlin Perkins to the canyon to film a Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom segment about golden eagles and sheep. He put an 8-pound weight on one of his golden eagles, and they filmed the bird trying in vain to leave the ground. This was proof positive for all the sheep ranchers to see that there was no point in killing eagles for fear they might cart off a newborn lamb, a frequent assumption at the time.

Morley doing the "hero" shot with
a golden eagle on his fist. His first wife,
Betty Ann, is holding a prairie falcon.  
In the late 1960s, Morley worked with Bureau of Land Management officials to catalog all of the golden eagle nests in the canyon with help from University of Idaho graduate students. They confirmed 25 active nests in 1968 and 36 active nests in 1969. The BLM recommended a protective withdrawal of 26,255 acres that would provide rim-to-rim protection for the area in 1971. Rogers Morton, the Interior Secretary at the time, signed it. Over the next two decades, numerous research projects laid the ground work for protecting the "dinner table" for birds of prey that nested in the canyon. In 1993, the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area was created, protecting 485,000 acres of land and 81 miles of the Snake River between Walter's Ferry, south of Nampa, to Bruneau. It was a remarkable achievement backed by all of Idaho's political leaders, particularly the late Gov. Cecil Andrus, Rep. Larry LaRocco,  Sen. Larry Craig and the late Sen. Jim McClure.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the original designation of the birds of prey area. And the BLM has put a HUGE amount of effort into creating a year-long celebration to commemorate the original achievement and pay tribute to the many people who made it possible, including Morley.

"A lot of people don't understand the incredible resource we have here at the NCA," says Amanda Hoffman, area manager for the BLM. "It's the largest and densest population of nesting raptors in North America, if not the world (approximately 800 pairs of nesting birds of prey). The rich history of people caring so passionately about this area is important, and what we're trying to do is recognize the people who were involved in the designation, and introduce the NCA to a whole new set of people who might not have been familiar with it before."

This would include school kids in the Treasure Valley. Through Feburary and March, there will be multiple presentations about the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area at branch libraries throughout the valley. On Friday, there is a presentation at the Boise Public Library branch at Cole & Ustick at 4 p.m. On Saturday, there's a presentation at the Nampa Public Library at 11 a.m., and another presentation at the library branch in Bown Crossing at 11 a.m. Go see them! You'll see educational birds of prey up close, learn about the NCA, and about more events coming up this year.

I would strongly encourage everyone to participate in the events coming up this year. The BLM wants to create Idaho's Largest Trash Cleanup event on Saturday, April 21st. Sad but true, a lot of people see the edges of the birds of prey as a place to dump old furniture, tires, appliances, building materials and more ... Let's get hundreds of people out there to help! Let's break the record! To inquire and sign up, contact Cory Coffman at the BLM, or call 208-384-3485.

Northern saw-whet owls nest in the NCA.  
There will be guided hikes, raptor identification classes, raptor identification field trips, interpretive trips to learn about biological soil crusts, reptiles, insects, plants and geology. You can go out and help band ferruginous hawk chicks! See the event flyer online or contact Cory for more information.

On Saturday, June 2nd, there will be a Snake River Raptor Fest hosted by the Birds of Prey NCA Partnership at the Indian Creek Winery in Kuna from noon to 5 p.m. There will be live birds of prey, presentations, live music and interactive activities for all ages. I am definitely planning to attend.

In August, they will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the NCA with a panel of speakers. There will be more interpretive hikes and activities continuing through the fall.

Watch the Birds of Prey NCA Partnership Facebook page for the latest information as the year progresses.

Joe Siratnak of the BLM led a volunteer planting effort at
Kuna Buttle last year. Hundreds of people helped out.
You can sign up to volunteer this year as well! 
It's my personal opinion that the Birds of Prey NCA needs more love. The habitat out there has been degraded by numerous wildfires, and when things burn more than once, the sagebrush shrub component gets burned up, annual grasses like cheatgrass and noxious weeds take over the landscape, and the birds of prey and their prey base suffer. Approximately 50 percent of the habitat out there is rated in "poor" condition, according to BLM experts.

So let's do our part to help make things better. The BLM has been marshaling volunteers for planting  sagebrush, native perennial plants and forbs, all of which are important for the habitat structure out there. Watch for opportunities to participate in planting efforts to make the habitat better. Again, contact Cory for more information, or call 208-384-3485.

For people who might want to try to see all the birds of prey in the NCA, here's a list of birds to identify:  

Nesting raptors: Prairie falcon, American kestrel, golden eagle, red-tailed hawk, ferruginous hawk, 
Swainson's hawk, northern harrier, osprey, great-horned owl, burrowing owl, barn owl, short-eared owl, long-eared owl, northern saw-whet owl, western screech owl, turkey vulture. 

Non-nesting/wintering/pass-thrus during migration: peregrine falcon, bald eagle, merlin, northern goshawk, Cooper's hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, rough-legged hawk, gyrfalcon (very rare winter visitor). 

BTW, my biography on Morley Nelson, Cool North Wind, is still in print. I've heard people say it's a good read! And probably the most complete history of the creation of the NCA from soup to nuts. I will be giving some presentations about Morley and the book in the coming year. Stay tuned! 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Hike the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve or dust off the road bike for a weekend ride

Ducks on the pond! There are some large, scenic ponds in the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve and lots of habitat for waterfowl. 
Hi all,

I've been working on updating Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home for the next printing, and I wanted to share a sweet hiking and birding spot in West Boise that I'll be featuring in the next edition of the guide. With weather projected to be in the mid-50s this weekend, this would be a nice low-key outing.

It's called Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve. It's a hidden gem located near the junction of Maple Grove and McMillan. The 54-acre reserve has large ponds and wetlands areas that have the dual purpose of filtering stormwater runoff and serving as a home to large numbers of birds, waterfowl and small critters.

There are more than 10 interpretive signs in the reserve.
The park is set up perfectly for birding -- for pros and amateurs. There’s a pathway in the upper bench of the park where you can look down on the ponds with your binoculars, and there are places where you can get much closer, depending on your preference.

Managed by Boise Parks & Recreation, the park was dedicated in 2012. The Hyatt Family donated 22 acres of the property to the city, and the rest was acquired. In December 2008, the Boise Public Works Department received a $1.3 million EPA grant to create an innovative stormwater treatment pilot project at the site. The project has turned out to be a great success from a water-quality and wildife-enhancement standpoint, so hat’s off to the city and its partners. It's my understanding that ACHD and Nampa-Meridian Irrigation District also were involved in the project.

This is also a place to learn ... there are multiple interpretive sites that provide educational information about stormwater, wildlife habitat, wetlands as nature’s filtering systems and more. Please note that there’s no fishing, boating, swimming, wading or bikes allowed in the park to protect wildlife.

The Golden Eagle Audubon Society will be participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count at Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve on Monday, Feb. 19 from 10 a.m. to noon. This would be a good opportunity to learn about birding from the pros.

The Hike: Start from either the parking area next to Marigold or McMillan. There’s a main loop that tours the ponds below, and an upper trail that connects back to the main loop. If you travel both trails, you’ll cover about 1.5 miles. Hikers and runners who want to do more mileage can double or triple the loop. There's a long sidewalk along Maple Grove to Marigold that can be added to your loop.

Another tip for the weekend would be to dust off your road bike and go for a ride on the Greenbelt, Hill Road, City to Farm Loop in SW Boise, Swan Falls or any number of rides that you do in the Boise Valley.

Check out my Boise Road Cycling Guide, which has 30 detailed rides for beginners, intermediates and experts in the valley. It's a two-sided, color, waterproof map that you can find at most any bike shop in Boise and Boise REI. The rides include routes in Emmett, Meridian and Nampa as well as the Boise area.

At Bogus Basin, there's a fun event going on Saturday called the Goggle Tan Tour. The beer starts flowing at 11 a.m. Bogus Basin will have a BBQ going on the patio by the lower lodge as well. Entry is free. It's a traveling show, and this is their fourth stop. There will be live music, ski beach games, "badass give-aways" including goggles from Smith Optics, and beer.

Brundage has Diva Day happening on Saturday, with $30 discounted lift tickets for women 18 and over, free yoga practice, live music, and Happy Hour giveaways in Smoky's Bar & Grill. Sounds fun, too!

Have a great weekend! Go Patriots!
- SS

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Fresh snow in the forecast every day this weekend - perfect for McCall Winter Carnival!

One of the highlights of the McCall Winter Carnival is the professional snow sculptures.
Experts travel from throughout the region to win the contest! 

I thought this snow sculpture was phemonenal ... built at the Hunt Lodge several years ago. 
Marti Gras Parade! 

Hi all,

It should be a fabulous weekend to head up the McCall Winter Carnival. Brundage Mountain has received more than 2 feet of snow in the last week, 6 inches last night, and more than 15 inches are forecast through the weekend. It'll be great conditions for downhill skiing, xc skiing, snowshoeing, snow-biking, sleigh rides and tubing at the Activity Barn, among other things!

On Friday, Jan. 26, the McCall Winter Carnival comes to life for 10 days, and the options for fun expands multifold with fireworks, snowshoe golf, ice skating, checking out the snow sculptures, the Marti Gras parade on Saturday, beer garden, monster dog pull, beard and hairy legs contest, snow tubing, a snow bike race and so much more. See the event schedule for details. This year's theme is "Snow Place Like Home."

Here's an Outdoor Idaho program on the Winter Carnival from Idaho Public TV.

If you don't have a place to stay in McCall, yet, try the McCall Chamber,, or for lodging options. Things fill up pretty fast for winter carnival, so get on that quickly if you haven't already. The area hotels may have rooms available, too.

While you're in the hood, you can escape the crowds in McCall and ski or ride Tamarack Resort. You'll get more of a private Idaho experience at Tamarack, and that means more powder for you! Tamarack also may have lodging available.

Closer to home, downhill skiing, xc skiing or snowshoeing at Bogus Basin should be great this weekend. They've been getting a little bit of new snow practically every day this week. They had 5 inches over the last 24 hours. I skied there last Saturday, and they had solid coverage in most places. With more fresh snow during the week, the conditions should be great this weekend as more storms pass through.

Skiing or snowshoeing in the backcountry should be fab this weekend, too. Try starting from Mores Creek Summit above Idaho City and scale Pilot Peak, Freeman Peak or Sunset Mountain. I bet it'll be fantastic conditions up there.

The Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas should be getting in decent shape as well. I tried the grooming hotline, 208-514-2419, but I couldn't get through ... but due to all the storms we've been having lately, I would bet that the Gold Fork, Skyline, Banner Ridge and Stargaze trails are all in good shape for xc skiing or snowshoeing.

Hope you have a fun wintry weekend in the mountains!
- SS