Thursday, November 19, 2020

Avoid the Foothills! Eight alternative bike rides in the greater Boise area

Did a Greenbelt ride out to Lucky Peak today. Mostly nice afternoon till the squall came!

Hi all,  

Temperatures have been rising into the mid-40s this week, and often barely freezing at night, and so we're seeing a lot of damage being done to muddy trails in the Boise foothills. 

Trust me, if the temperatures are above freezing, you are going to be damaging foothills trails no matter whether you're hiking, running or biking. Please think about alternatives for your outdoor outings!

One of the best alternatives is to jump on your road bike or mountain bike and do a scenic ride on the Greenbelt Loop, or knock out a road-biking loop. In my outdoor tip this week, I'm recommending eight alternative destinations for biking. 

Before you go, be sure to dress warmly for your hike, run or ride. Dress in layers. Wear a light shell for a jacket for wind protection. I've been wearing a head band this week on my road rides to keep my ears warm, and a light pair of gloves to keep my hands warm.  

On a ride from Municipal Park to Lucky Peak today, I had an awesome tail-wind out to the dam, riding in sunshine the whole way, and then I had a vicious head-wind going back, especially in the canyon by Diversion Dam. A fresh squall started to rain and hail, and I thought, that's life in the mountains! It's November 19th! But I was glad to have my rain/wind shell on to keep me dry inside.

Just to refresh your memory, here are eight Greenbelt and road rides close to home in the Boise area:

1. Municipal Park to Barber Park Loop - Rated easy. 10 miles. Ride time: 1 hour. Start from Municipal Park in east Boise, near Idaho Fish and Game headquarters on Walnut Street. Go east on the Greenbelt 4.2 miles. Turn right and take the path to Barber Park. Follow the paved path to the left of the park entrance and follow that through a number of neighborhoods for several miles. Ride on the detached pathway along ParkCenter Blvd., turn right on River Run Driver, follow the bike lane to the paved Greenbelt access and ride to Broadway bridge. Cross the river at Broadway, turn right, and return to Municipal Park.

Nice afternoon at Discovery Park at the foot of Lucky Peak

2. Municipal Park to Discovery Park (foot of Lucky Peak Dam) - Rated easy to moderate. 9 miles one-way, 18 miles round-trip. Ride time: 1 to 1.5 hours. Start from Municipal Park near Warm Springs and Walnut. Go east on the Greenbelt 9 miles to Discovery Park. It's slightly uphill - 140 feet of gain. But wind will be a much bigger factor on the ride. In the winter, you may ride into the teeth of an east wind on the way out, and zoom back with a tail-wind. In the summer, it's the reverse. Take a breather at the park; do some stretching, have a snack, drink some water, and ride back to Municipal Park.

3. Municipal Park to Hilltop Summit and back - Rated strenuous. 27 miles round-trip. Ride time: 2.5 hours at a recreation pace. Now is a good time to ride to Hilltop because the traffic isn't nearly as heavy as it is in the summer. Watch for mule deer and elk. Start from Municipal Park near Warm Springs and Walnut. Go east on the Greenbelt 9 miles to Discovery Park. Jump on Idaho Highway 21 and climb the grade to the top of Lucky Peak, and keep going to Hilltop Summit. It's an additional 4.5 miles from Discovery Park to Hilltop.

4. Boise Bench Airport Tour - Rated moderate. 21.2 miles. Ride time: 2 hours. This is a good tour of the upper Boise Bench. It can get really windy out on Gowen Road so be ready for that. Start at Municipal Park near Warm Springs and Walnut. Go east on the Greenbelt 6.7 miles and turn right on the Idaho 21 connector to Gowen Road. There is a good shoulder. At the junction, with Gowen Road at mile 10, go straight and beeline to Orchard. Enjoy the tour of the National Guard facilities and the Boise Airport. At mile 14.3, go right on Orchard. Go three miles and turn right on Kootenai, a leafy neighborhood on the bench. At mile 19, go straight on Protest, drop down the hill, follow Beacon over to Broadway. Turn left on Broadway, cross the river, and take the Greenbelt back to Municipal Park.
5. Spin it on Hill Road - Hill Road has a good shoulder, and you can ride as far as you want, going west. Once you get to old Horseshoe Bend Road, head over to Floating Feather Road or Beacon Light Road and continue riding west to Eagle Road, Idaho Highway 16 or Star for the hard-cores. It's 40 miles out and back to Star. Wind will be a factor.
Rural roads are a natural place to "social distance." This is Hubbard Lane.

6.  City to Farm - 25 miles. Rated moderate. 1.5 to 2 hours travel time. The great thing about riding in this area is that there is almost NO TRAFFIC. Start at Five Mile and Overland. Park in the shopping center parking lot. Take Five Mile south to Lake Hazel, turned right on Lake Hazel for one mile to Cloverdale, Cloverdale south to Hubbard, left on Hubbard to Ten Mile, and ride that beautiful open valley to South Cole. Then go south on Cole to Kuna-Mora, right on Kuna-Mora to Cloverdale, and retrace your tracks back to the start/finish. Caution: Kuna-Nora road is almost always very WINDY! 

7. Cartwright - Three Summits Loop - Climber's special. This loop is about 18 miles and takes about 1.5 hours at a recreational pace. It's also fondly called the "Dump Loop," because it goes by the Ada County landfill. It features several in-your-face steep climbs on Cartwright. You can ride it clockwise or counterclockwise. Start at Hill and Bogus Basin Road. Go west on Hill to Seaman's Gulch. Go right and climb Seaman's Gulch past the landfill over to Hidden Springs. Turn right on Dry Creek Road and enjoy a spin through that valley and then climb the first big hill on Cartwright to Pierce Park. Go left and climb the next hill (short but kind of steep), and then enjoy a really fast downhill past the Owyhee Motorcycle Park. Gear down for the last hill to the initial Cartwright summit, and zoom down past the LDS church to Bogus Basin Road, turn right to the start/finish.
8. Lake Lowell Loop - 26 miles. It's a pretty easy ride with no significant hills (380 feet of verticle climbing the whole ride), and you circumnavigate Lake Lowell and enjoy the bird life. Start and finish at the Lake Lowell Boat Ramp. See the Boise Road Cycling Guide for directions.
A quick word about the Boise Road Cycling Guide if you haven't seen it. It's a full color, two-sided foldout map with Olympian Kristin Armstrong on the cover. The map features more than 30 rides in the Boise Valley. It's waterproof and tear-proof. It costs $12.50, and it's available at Idaho Mountain Touring, Boise REI or It's the only road biking map available for the Boise area.
FYI - The City of Eagle is looking for four people to serve at-large positions on a BLM Advisory Board. Follow this link for more information.  
- SS

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Six destinations near Boise for a boot hike, xc ski, snowshoe in the snow!

Deer Point service road leading to the Boise Ridge Road (taken 11-11-20)

Hi all, 

In less than a week's time, we've had an amazing amount of snow piling up in the Idaho mountains! Wendy and I went for a boot hike on the Deer Point service road on Wednesday afternoon (11-11), and we were amazed to be walking through nearly a foot of snow as we neared the high saddle between Deer Point and the Boise Ridge. 

The Mores Creek snowtel site shows 12 inches of snow at Mores Creek Summit, and there's at least 3-6 inches around McCall and Stanley, depending on elevation. Snow is beginning to build in the mountains, and starting tonight, there's a huge base-making storm descending on Idaho that could dump another 1-2 feet of snow in the Boise Mountains, West Central Mountains and Central Mountains. Woo hoo! 

Read my latest post in that details the weekend storm. 

Our snow hike yesterday just felt really invigorating on a sunny but brisk afternoon. The temperatures were in the low 20s. No wind. The late-afternoon sun created a cobalt-clear postcard sky with heavily snow-flocked trees in the background. Just gorgeous! 

Wendy and I are from the Midwest originally, so we always are eager to get out and play in the snow after the first significant snow storm. The Deer Point road is one of the best places to go boot-hiking, snow-shoeing, or xc skiing to access the Boise Ridge and enjoy a backcountry experience just a few minutes away from Bogus Basin Mountain Resort. The parking area is near mile 13 on Bogus Basin Road. Good place for dogs, too.

My outdoor tip this week highlights five other destinations where you could take a walk in the snow in the greater Boise area.

1. Bogus Basin Nordic Highway and Mores Mountain - The front side of Bogus Basin ski area is off-limits to backcountry skiers/snowshoers (see message here). People are being directed to the Nordic Highway, which is perfect for xc skiing and snowshoeing. Drive to the Nordic lodge to begin your adventure. Backcountry skiers are being steered to Superior, Pine Creek and Mores Mountain. 

New trail leading from BB Road over to Sweet Connie/Stack Rock jct. About 3 miles one-way.

2. New trail to Sweet Connie/Stack Rock - Park at the pullout on Bogus Basin Road (near mile 10) and take the new trail going over to Sweet Connie and Freddy's Stack Rock Trail. Good place for an out-and-back boot hike. Snowshoes will be suitable after the snow gets deeper. Dogs are A-OK.

3. Mores Creek Summit - Take Idaho 21 to Idaho City and continue to Mores Creek Summit, trailhead for Pilot Peak and Sunset Mountain. This is a popular spot for snowmobile riders going up to Pilot Peak and backcountry skiers and snowshoers. Also a fun spot for kids to play in the snow in the parking lot. Both of the snow roads taking off from Mores Creek summit are steep and continuous, but definitely doable. 

4. Idaho City Park n Ski areas - Idaho Parks and Recreation officials said that grooming won't start until December 1st in the park n ski areas, but anyone could still break their own trail at any of the trailheads. After Friday's storm, the park n ski parking lots may not be plowed until Saturday ... you might call the ITD shop in Idaho City to check on status.

5.  McCall/Bear Basin - People are skiing on the McCall Golf Course, and it should be possible to xc ski or snowshoe at Bear Basin as the snow gets deeper after Friday's storm system passes through. If you were thinking about skinning up Brundage Mountain, Brundage officials have specific guidance on skinning hours at the resort (before 9 a.m. or after 4:30 p.m.). See details here.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Still have 1 week of nice weather ahead! Three Spring Hikes that are just as Fine in the Fall!

The initial climb into the canyon. Shoofly Quick Loop 

Station Creek 

Hi all, 

Boy, the afternoons are getting nicer every day, with temperatures nudging the high 60s to even low 70s in the heat of the day. That weather is supposed to hold through the middle of next week, so you might as well try to get out while you can! 

Speaking of weather, I'd like to share my first post of the season for In the post, I talk about the La Nina forecast for this winter, which is great news for skiers and riders in Idaho. In La Nina years, Idaho's mountains average 100-110 percent of normal precipitation, so if that turns out to be true, that means we could have a ton of snow, which bodes well for powder hounds and a great river season in 2021. The long-term temperature outlook favors a cold winter in N. Idaho, and slightly warmer than normal temps in S. Idaho. See my post for the full details and graphics. 

And BTW, in case you haven't heard the radio ads, the BBSRA Ski Swap has been canceled. But McU Sports, Greenwoods Ski Haus, Idaho Mountain Touring and Play it Again Sports will be holding their own used/new ski and snowboard equipment sales in their retail stores, Nov. 6-8. Check with the retailers on the specifics, but in general, you'll be able to bring in used items to sell at the stores, and you'll be able to shop for used and new items, including ski/snowboard gear and clothing. 

Now, for the hikes ... These are some of my personal favorites ... I've written about them before, talked about them before on the radio, and they're in my guidebooks, Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home, and Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide

Station Creek Trail 

1.  Station Creek Trail in Garden Valley - Arguably the nicest hike close to Boise in the Boise National Forest. See this post for details. 

Airplane ridge on the way to Mt. Cervidae

2. Mount Cervidae - one of the Boise Grand Slam Peaks that's really doable almost year-round. See this post for details. 

You'll go by an old cabin at the junction of the East Fork and West Fork of Shoofly Creek.

3. Shoofly Quick Loop - This is a cool adventure hike in the Owyhee Canyonlands. The trailhead isn't too far Grand View. You can check out the BLM Oolite Interpretive Area along the way. See this post for details. 

Interesting plateaus and canyons in that "Between the Creeks" area.  

Shoofly Quick Loop map 

Have fun and be safe out there! 
- SS 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Crisp fall weekend on tap - great time to hike in the Owyhee Canyonlands!

Have you climbed Three Fingers in the Owyhees? 

Hi all, 

Boy, it's getting downright nippy this weekend! Fall is definitely getting a grip on Idaho! I'm seeing a possibility of snow showers in McCall and Stanley on Saturday, and low temperatures in the single digits! Sounds like a great forecast for elk hunting in the mountains. 

But if you were interested in going out for a nice hike, I'd recommend heading for the Owyhee Canyonlands. I'm seeing high temperatures in the 50s for Homedale, which is just 30 minutes from Succor Creek State Park, and a high of 60 in Grand View, at the beginning of the Owyhee Backcountry Byway

Picking just a few of my favorite hikes from my Owyhee Canyonlands adventure guide, I'd recommend Browns Canyon near Oreana, visiting Succor Creek State Park, Climbing Three Fingers near Succor Creek, or visiting Leslie Gulch, one of the most scenic locations in the Owyhee Canyonlands tucked inside the Oregon border. 

Browns Canyon 

1. Brown's Canyon Overland Tour, Owyhee Front, near Oreana. Distance: 5.2 miles. Difficulty: Moderate. Travel time: 3+ hours. This is an interesting hike in the sagebrush and rocks of the Owyhee Front until you come across Brown's Canyon, a hidden jewel. In my Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook, I detail a hike inside the slot canyons of Brown's Canyon, and a hike that goes around the slot canyon (thereby avoiding cold, deep-water pools) but you can still see it from above.

How to get there: Take I-84 East to Simco Road. Turn south on the highway to Grand View. Turn right on Idaho 78 in Grandview and head for the tiny old town of Oreana. There's a sign on the highway for a left-hand turn into town near MP 43. Make a note of your odometer. Drive down the hill straight into town, go past the old church (2.25 miles from the highway) and go straight on the Oreana Loop Road until it takes a hard left. Make the corner and take an immediate right on Alder Creek Road. Follow the bumpy dirt road six miles to a signed right-hand turnoff for BLM Road 700. Proceed down the grade to an old corral at a two-way junction. Park. The hike starts here.

Drewby liked Browns Canyon 

The Hike
: Go west on BLM Road 700 and climb a moderate grade over to a bluff that overlooks Browns Canyon. At mile 1.4, bear right on a two-track and drop down to the Browns Creek draw. This is a pretty area that's full of shrubs and aspens. The first slot canyon with blondish rock begins at mile 1.7. Cross over to the left side of the draw, as you go downstream, and walk overland through the blond rocks staying above the canyon. You'll break out into an open sage flat at mile 2.0. When the next slot canyon begins, climb up the slope to the left until you reach the top of the rim, and then hike along the rim as close as you feel comfortable to check out the slot canyon as you move along. In a half mile, the canyon breaks open by a draw, and you'll need to lose elevation. Hike into the bottom of the gully and climb back on top of the rim. There's a nice overlook when you reach the top again at mile 3. Continue on the left side of the canyon until you come to the dirt road crossing, and then turn right onto the dirt road at mile 3.6.  Follow the road to mile 4.0 at a two-way junction. Turn right again at a fence gate, and follow the two-track road (BLM Road #710)  back to the trailhead. Feel free to explore Antelope Springs along the way. It's another tight canyon.  

Wendy at Succor Creek 

2. Visit Succor Creek State Park - Succor Creek State Park lies in the bottom of an incised canyon, surrounded by cool rock features left over from rhyiolite and basalt lava flows that occurred many millions of years ago. There aren't many official trails in the area, but cross-country hiking is a great way to explore it. Kids will enjoy the caves, in particular, and playing around by the creek.

We started our outing with a casual walk along Succor Creek. We walked a half mile downstream before we got cliffed out and had to turn around. Near the pedestrian bridge that goes across the creek in the campground, there is a small slot canyon you can explore. There's also a jeep trail that climbs above the slot canyon and provides a nice view of the campground below. We could peer into the slot canyon and walk along the top of the rim as far as we wished. Up on top, you could climb much higher if you wanted to get a huge view of the Owyhee Mountains.

We saw at least 10 different caves that one could explore. A very large cave lies next to Succor Creek Road. It has a big dirt floor and there were some small animal bones and such that we found inside.

How to get there: Take I-84 to the last exit in Nampa. Take ID 55 west toward Marsing. Turn right on Chicken Dinner Road, then left on Homedale Road, and go to Homedale. Follow State Highway 19 west of Homedale, and then Highway 201 in Oregon, to a signed turnoff for Succor Creek State Park on the left. Follow the good dirt road to Succor Creek State Park, it's about 20-30 minutes to the park from the highway. 

Hike to Three Fingers 
The dirt road access for Three Fingers is a few miles south of Succor Creek State Park. A good all-wheel-drive vehicle with high clearance is recommended for this trip, but it's not that gnarly of a road (when it's dry). A Subaru Outback should be fine, too. Watch for a right-hand turn after climbing the grade south of Succor Creek State Park. Turn right on the primitive road, and continue 3.9 miles on the dirt road to "the trailhead" for Three Fingers, a high point in the road. You'll see a steep two-track headed to the west over a hill. There is a fiber optic cable post across the road at this spot. I parked my Ford F-250 in a pullout and hiked from there.

It's about 1.2 miles to the top of Three Fingers from the trailhead, or 2.4 miles total. Bring a lunch and some water to enjoy on the summit. You can't see Three Fingers from the trailhead, but you'll see it on the dirt road as you're approaching it. It's a basalt cap on top of a grassy knoll with three distinctive knobby fingers.

From the trailhead, we followed the two-track ruts to the top of the first ridge at .3 miles. From there, a grand view of the Owyhee Plateau opened up before our eyes. The two-track bends to the north toward Three Fingers. We cruised over there, and then followed footpaths toward a gap behind the rock between the first finger and the second finger. Sure enough, it was possible to scramble to the top from there. I had to lift my puppy over a few steep spots, but a dog should be fine on the hike.

Once on top, we could see for more than 50 miles in all directions. We discovered several unexpected pleasures on our trip. First, my friend Norm spied a gold eagle nest on the backside of Three Fingers. With the binoculars, he could see an eagle chick in the nest. There might have been more chicks in the nest, yet to hatch.

Bones for Huck to sniff 

The second thing was that someone has placed a silver canister at the summit of the first finger containing a number of notebooks inside. Several summit journals contain people's thoughts over the last 10 years. That's pretty cool. I made a few notes in one of the notebooks.

If you've got a copy handy, bring along Roadside Geology of Idaho by David Alt and Donald Hyndman in your day pack. It's a great reference for a hike in the Owyhees. It explains the rhyolite volcanic eruptions and the oozing basalt lava flows that shaped that countryside. It's pretty easy to imagine those events when you're sitting in a catbird seat on Three Fingers, enjoying a quiet moment surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Enjoy the Owyhees! 
- SS 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Take a "Leaf-Peeping" Fall Foliage vacation in New England


Fall colors are beginning to burst from the top of Mt. Kearsarge near New London, N.H. 

Kancamagus Highway, White Mountains, NH (courtesy New England Tourism)

Hi all,

I visited my son, Quinn, at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH, last weekend, and I was hoping that my trip would be well-timed to experience the fall colors building to a peak in New England. 

As things turned out, it was close to the peak! Midway upstate in New Hampshire, where we visited our cousins in Waterville Valley, the leaves were a bit past the peak in the White Mountains. In New London, a bit to the west and south, the colors were beginning to burst with color, but yet-to-peak fully. Still, I felt blessed to experience the grandeur of fall colors while climbing several mountains with Quinn. Always great fun to hang out with Quinn! I also got to see my sister, Sue, who is president of Colby-Sawyer, and take some pretty walks in New London, a charming little town.   

For this week's outdoor tip, I'd like to recommend some popular places to see and go as part of a New England fall folliage vacation. Tuck this idea away for post-Covid life, if that ever occurs! 

If you haven't heard, New England is considered a national tourist destination for fall colors. A unique mix of sugar maple trees, hickories, paper birches and tulip poplars create an amazing kaleidoscope of colors, including varying shades of red, yellow, orange and purple! 

And here's a new one for you ... people who travel to see fall folliage are known as a "Leaf-Peeper." The overall practice is known as "Leaf-Peeping." 

From Wikipedia: Leaf peeping is an informal term in the United States and Canada for the activity in which people travel to view and photograph the fall foliage in areas where leaves change colors in autumn,[1] particularly in northern New England[2][3] and the upper Midwest, as well as the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.[4][5] An organized excursion for leaf peeping is known as a foliage tour or color tour.

Last Friday, Quinn and I climbed Mt. Kearsarge, kind of the local mountain for Colby-Sawyer students, staff and faculty. The college holds a Mountain Day event each fall, where everyone climbs to the top of Mt. Kearsarge (elev. 2,923 feet), and enjoys a picnic aftewards. This year it was an on-your-own version of Mountain Day, and that happened to coincide with my visit with Quinn. It's a steep trail with lots roots and rocks to climb over, but once on top of the granite slabs at the summit, it's a great 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside. 

On Saturday morning, we ventured to Waterville Valley to climb a mountain and visit my cousins who have a ski house in the 'hood. Quinn and I were going to hike a national forest trail to the top of two peaks, but as we neared the trailhead, we saw 200-300 cars parked on either side of the paved road. So we're like, no thanks! We decided to climb the Waterville ski area instead -- a 2,000-foot vertical climb over several miles, hiking up the grassy slopes next to thick and colorful trees.

From the summit of Waterville, it seemed the leaves were just a bit past the peak ... 

Top of Waterville Valley ski area. Nice day for a hike! 

I get a kick out of Quinn wearing his river hat on a hike. It was an uncommonly warm, fall day.  

They actually mow the ski slopes at Waterville presumably to enable them to open as early as possible with natural and man-made snow. But that made the hiking and footing quite nice.

Now, here are some other recommendations for fall foliage destinations/tours:

  • Drive the Kancamagus Scenic Highway in the White Mountains. This route is considered to be one of the best scenic drives for fall foliage in New England. The route is 35 miles long. Find a cool B&B or AirBnb to stay in near the route! 
  • Drive the Mountain Washington Auto Road to reach the highest summit in New England on Mount Washington (elev. 6,288 feet). It's also one of the coldest and windiest spots in the whole region, so plan for that! There are hiking trails nearby from the summt. 
  • Take the cog railway to the top of Mountain Washington. The train climbs the mountain at a 25 percent grade in places. It takes an hour round-trip, according to the web site. 
  • Here's a guide to 15 scenic drives for fall foliage in New England. 

Courtesy Mt. Washington Cog Railway

Hope that whets your appetite! If not, check out these photos! 

Courtesy Great Train Escapes

Courtesy Stellar Travel 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Five fall hikes in SW Idaho that really shine this time of year!

Charcoal Gulch, Boise National Forest (courtesy Visit Idaho) 

Hi all, 

When I see beautiful bluebird days like we've been having lately, I start yearning to visit Silver City in the Owyhees, upper Dry Creek in the Boise Foothills, Charcoal Gulch in Idaho City, and some of my favorite trails around McCall. 

For my outdoor tip this week, I'll recommend five fall hikes below. All of these hikes are in my two hiking guides, Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home or Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide

The weather looks absolutely stellar for the next 7-10 days in the Boise area and Central Idaho! Cool nights -- freezing cold in the high-mountain elevations -- warm afternoons in the 70s and low 80s, and comfortable evenings while it's still light. Nothing better! 

Before you go, for fall hiking, remember to pack a few more things such as a good rain/wind coat, a few extra upper layers, a good hat, skull cap? water, snacks and camera (your phone) and hiking poles. 

The Mountain Coaster! (Courtesy Bogus Basin) 
And now, for the hikes: 

1. Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area - It's the last weekend at Bogus where they'll be operating lifts, food and beverage. You can hike Deer Point to Elk Meadows and do a 5-mile around the hike or do the full 10-mile Around the Mountain hike, or something less or more. 

2. Charcoal Gulch, Idaho City - Take a drive to Idaho City and go for a nice colorful hike on the Charcoal Gulch Trail, just on the outskirts of town. Find the trail by the Idaho City Airport (ever been there?) on the south side of town. There's a little trailhead on the north side of the airport. Take the Buena Vista Trail along the edge of the mountain, and then you'll see the junction for Charcoal Gulch. There are aspens and pines along the way, plus a small creek.  

Silver City 

3. Silver City Sawpit Mountain Loop - It's an 8-5-mile loop that circumnavigates a timbered mountain with a bald pointy cap that looms over Silver City in the high-elevation community in the Owyhees. It's rated moderate to strenuous. The fall colors in Silver City should be starting to happen anytime! I wrote about this hike last fall for Idaho Press Outdoors. Please see my story for directions and details. 

4. Freddy's Stack Rock Trail - Stack Rock is a signature granite pyramid-shaped rock on a timbered ridge to the west of Bogus Basin Mountain Resort. It's a 9.5-mile hike or bike ride from the trailhead to do the loop around Freddy's Stack Rock Trail. I would rate the hike/ride as moderate to strenuous because of a number of continuous uphills along the way, the distance and 2,600-vertical-foot gain/loss. You're walking/riding in the pines throughout the route, except when you get to Stack Rock, so that makes it scenic and intimate. Take a lunch to enjoy on Stack Rock. 

Image result for stack rock
Photo courtesy of Tom Lopez

Backstory: Approximately 1,300 acres of the Stack Rock area came into public ownership courtesy of a $1 million donation by Boise resident Fred Alleman and additional funds from the Boise Foothills Levy Committee. The land was purchased from the Terteling family in December 2009 for $1.32 million to make it available for public use. 

Directions: Park in the Forest Service parking lot and take the new trail over to Stock Rock/Sweet Connie junction to get started. Watch for the big parking lot on the right about Mile 12. 

You'll see a number of nifty bridges on the Dry Creek Trail ... keeping your feet dry.

5. Dry Creek out and back, Boise Foothills - Dry Creek is always a pretty hike, but especially right now, it should be great. The trailhead is off of Bogus Basin Road, several miles up from Boise, on the right side, as the road begins a series of hairpin switchbacks. You'll see other cars at the trailhead. It's a big day to hike to the top of the Boise Ridge via Dry Creek (7.5 miles, 2000+ vertical feet), so just take your time and go as far as you want. 

Have fun!
- SS 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Take a scenic drive to see fall colors bursting in Idaho's Mountains

Caribou-Targhee National Forest, taken on Tuesday.  

Big-toothed maple trees glowing between Soda Springs and Lava Hot Springs 

Hi all, 

This week for my outdoor tip, I'd recommend taking a scenic drive to enjoy fall colors, which are really starting to pop in the higher elevations! 

I had a business trip to Southeast Idaho this week, and I was surprised and amazed how beautiful the colors were, especially as I went from Lava Hot Springs, south of Pocatello, toward Soda Springs. The big-toothed maple trees in the Portneuf Mountains, Bannock Mountains and other ranges in Southeast Idaho are turning deep red. Aspens are turning yellow, and cottonwoods are also beginning to take on a golden glow. The time is now! 

Visit Idaho lists two scenic drives in SE Idaho. I'd recommend the Oregon Trail - Bear Lake Scenic Highway , which goes from Lava Hot Springs to Soda Springs, Montpelier then Bear Lake. All interesting and scenic spots, a bit off the beaten track. 

With fires burning in the South Hills, the City of Rocks to Oakley scenic byway is out of the question. Fall colors may be popping in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area and Stanley. My friend Cheryl Bennett posted a few pics on a horseback ride this week in the East Fork Big Wood area, and the aspens and cottonwoods were turning a brilliant yellow. 

Courtesy Cheryl Bennett 

Here's a post I did last year on five Idaho scenic drives, which features a number of scenic drives in SW Idaho and N. Idaho. 

Clearwater River country 

Here are scenic drives in Southern Idaho ... see for more information.  

Cobb Peak in the Pioneer Mountains, courtesy Cheryl Bennett 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Fall is a sweet time to visit the Middle Fork Salmon River - and other Idaho rivers

Steve and Wendy at a big wall of Native American pictographs on the Middle Fork. 

Hi all, 

Take a long look at the lovely Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and the beauty is so profound, it takes my breath away.

It's gin-clear, giving the sense that you're floating in a glass-bottomed boat, and in deeper spots, the Middle Fork takes on this turquoise blue-green hue that darkens with deepness. I just love looking into those deep, dark pools and marvel at the beauty. It's fun to look for schools of native west-slope cutthroat trout or big bull trout in those pools, too. 

I had the privilege of floating the Middle Fork with a small group of eight people last week, and it renewed my soul, as it always does. We decided to fly our gear into Indian Creek, 25 miles downriver from the official launch point at Boundary Creek, so we could enjoy a leisurely pace and take eight days of wilderness bliss for a quality vacation off-the-grid and away from all of the bizarre weirdness that 2020 has become. 

Dan and Kelly and all of our group will fit into this plane on the flight into Indian Creek.

Floating the Middle Fork in the fall -- after the official control season ends after Labor Day weekend -- is something that a lot of Idaho locals do because it's easier to get a permit at that time of year. My longtime friend Jeff Beaman had snagged the permit earlier in the year. We had six good friends from Boise on the trip, and a super fun couple from L.A. who had done the Selway River with Beaman a few years ago. 

We brought four rafts so we had two people on each boat, plus my pointer Huck. 

My first trip on the Middle Fork was in June 1987, 33 years ago, a higher-water trip that started with snow falling at the put-in, freezing temperatures, then steady rain, followed by 7 days of sunny blissful weather. The Middle Fork cast a spell on me that has lasted a lifetime.     

Ben Nydegger and Kelly in Marble Creek Rapids

The river pours out of the wilderness headwaters in Central Idaho, and it flows for 100 miles to the Main Salmon River. There are natural hot springs to enjoy nearly every day, countless side-hikes to explore, historic sites, Native American pictographs, Veil Cave, Parrott's Grotto, the Impassible Canyon, fun times with friends, Dutch oven dinners, fantastic, consistent trout-fishing, tons of rapids to negotiate and rocks to dodge, and occasionally, a long stretch of calm water when you can put the oars under your knees and stare up at the vertical mountains and canyons to look for bighorn sheep, elk, deer or birds of prey and marvel at the beauty. 

Even though the Middle Fork is close to home, being situated inside the 2.3-million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, I feel that I'm as far away from civilization as I might feel if I'm on a vacation in Baja or Hawaii. After working nose-to-the-grindstone since last January, my oh my was I ready for a quality break! 

The scene at Indian Creek launch point. A little smoky. We didn't see anyone for 5-6 days.

We flew our people and gear into Indian Creek with Gem Air a day before our official launch date, so we actually had nine days of vacation on the Middle Fork. It felt really long, and I felt that we had pretty much soaked up the Middle Fork for all it's worth. Most groups take only 6 or 7 days, for comparison. 

I recommend staying as long as possible because it's such a cool place, and you never really know for sure when you might be back. I've done the Middle Fork more than 30 times, but I certainly never get tired of it. More and more, as time goes on, I feel like it's my home away from home. In the years when I've been able to do two trips on the Middle Fork in July or August, that's really good medicine for my spirit and soul. 

Long-time friends and Ho Hum team-mates Jim Acee and Kristin Nelson

Think about trying to get out on Idaho's scenic rivers in the fall when the weather is still nice. You also can plan a trip on the Main Salmon River, Hells Canyon, South Fork Snake River or sign up for a jet-boat scenic ride or fishing trip on the Salmon or Hells Canyon. If you don't have your own river gear, look for hot deals with outfitters through Raft Idaho. Jet boat trips can be found at the Riggins Chamber of Commerce web site. 

I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking so you can share in the glory of our mostly smokeless Middle Fork trip.
- SS 

Ben, Kelly and I hiked up the switchback trail by Camas Creek on our layover day. 

Steve enjoys the hot pool at Sunflower Hot Springs

Dan and Kelly at Sunflower Hot Springs

Kelly liked the hot springs at Hospital Bar as well ... 

Veil Falls     


Thursday, August 27, 2020

Smoke is supposed to clear by Sunday ... Big cool-down coming ... Bow season starts Aug. 30 in many locations

Hi all, 

Quite honestly, I don't have a lot to say this week. It's been really smoky for much of the last 5 days, and that sure puts a damper on my interest in going outdoors for a hike or a bike ride. Idaho DEQ has been recommending laying low mostly this week to avoid damaging your lungs. Swimming is a little better to at least cool off. 

I took advantage of a brief window of opportunity Wednesday morning and went for an early-morning bike ride. The brief rainstorm Tuesday night seemed to push the smoke out of the valley a bit. It remained pretty clear that morning to feel safe for an outdoor outing.

The good news is that a frontal system is supposed to move through Idaho Saturday night, and drop temperatures about 15-20 degrees by Sunday. The high temperature in Stanley is forecast to be 68 degrees F on Sunday, and 66 degrees F in McCall.

Hence, Sunday should be a great day to get out for a walk, run, hike or bike ride in the cool weather. If you head out camping this weekend, make sure to bring some warm clothes for Sunday morning! 

Another tip is that Sunday (Aug. 30) is the beginning of big game archery season in many parts of Idaho, depending on the big game unit. That means there will be a lot of people in camo and face paint out roaming the woods on foot, by truck or ATV/UTV. Just a head's up that you are likely to run into bow hunters for the next 30 days, following by rifle seasons. Consider putting something bright on your dog if you're going out in the woods. 

Here's a link to the NOAA Smoke Map

Otherwise, let's hope the skies stay clear for a few days, with more of a Northwest flow vs. a Southwest flow, which has been pushing smoke from California and Oregon into Idaho.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Try a scenic chairlift ride at Brundage Mountain or other Idaho ski areas while you still can ...

Hi all,

I've been hibernating in our cabin in McCall this week, blasting away on some writing and work projects, while trying to get out once a day for a hike, bike ride and/or a swim. I love how easy it is to do all of those things close to our cabin! 

On Wednesday, I thought it'd be neat to take my younger son, Drew, on a chairlift ride to the top of Brundage Mountain, and then hike down. We usually take Drew on hikes from the bottom of the mountain at Bogus Basin, and he does great climbing the mountain with us and doing a big loop to enjoy the 360 degrees views and the surrounding countryside. 

For Drew, a high-functioning autistic lad, this was his first chairlift ride. He doesn't like the thought of skiing, so we go snow-shoeing instead. But I thought, what a perfect thing to do for kids with disabilities to take them out of their comfort zone a little, and let them enjoy the thrill of getting a free and safe ride to the top of the mountain on a super smooth chairlift -- in the summer when it's warm! 

It might not be that big of a deal to us, but it's a BIG deal to them! 

Brundage operates its lifts Wed-Sunday. The one-ride lift ticket cost us $15 each. I wanted to take my pointer so he could get some exercise, but no dogs are allowed on the chairlift (understandable!), and no dogs are allowed on the Brundage trails. So we left Huck at home. 

The nifty thing about scenic chairlift rides with detachable quad chair systems is how easy it is to load and unload. The chairlift slows down to a crawl as you get on the chair, and it does the same at the top, decelerating as you approach the lift station. A sign says, "Keep your feet up!" when approaching the landing platform.  

At the bottom of the Bluebird Express lift, Drew walked right up to the loading platform with me and loaded on the chairlift like a champ. We took off our day packs and held them in our lap so our backs were free to lean against the back of the chair. We lowered the safety bar as soon as we were launched, and then Drew could see he was safe and sound. 

"Whew!" he said after we lowered the bar. "I sure don't want to fall off this thing. It's a long way down!" 

"But don't you feel safe now with the safety bar down?" 

"Yeah, I think so. I just don't want to fall off," he said. 

I talked about looking for deer and elk in the trees on the way up (we see tons of deer around our cabin), and we could see lots of wildflowers growing under the chairlift on the way up. Tall red paintbrush were in full bloom. 

The sky was kind of hazy on Wednesday because of some new lightning-caused wildfires in the Payette National Forest, and also fire smoke blowing into the area from Oregon and California. So we couldn't see the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon ... but Drew didn't really mind.

To hike down from the Brundage summit, they recommend taking hiking trails over by the Lakeview chair, and you can walk down the Growler xc trail over by the long Temptation ski run. You also can take the South Lodge access road down from the top, if you might prefer walking on a dirt road vs. a singletrack trail where you might encounter bikes. 

The views from the Lakeview chair area are splendid! Drew noticed Payette Lake, the city of McCall, and the McCall Airport. We saw lots of colorful wildflowers on the way down, quite a few chipmunks and squirrels, a goshawk cruising the treetops for a meal (bonus), and only one other hiker. 

Brundage, Bogus, Tamarack Resort and Sun Valley will be running their lifts through Labor Day weekend, and then it'll be up to your human power to reach the ski area summits. I highly recommend taking the lift to the top for a fun hike or bike ride on the way down. 

After we finished our trip, Drew said, "I'll never do that again," as he often says after the first time he does something new. But I promise you, it won't be his last chairlift ride. If anything, I wondered why it took me that long to take him on a chairlift!
- SS