Thursday, May 19, 2022

Morels are beginning to Pop in the forests of SW Idaho!


Wendy was excited about our mushroom haul ... 
Hi all,

For me, it's always exciting to go hunting for morel mushrooms in the forest. 

When you see the trilliums beginning to bloom, you know morels are beginning to pop! 

Then, it's a matter of finding them amidst all of the downed trees, brush, moss, wildflowers, and rotting logs. You really have to focus your eyes on the forest floor at a very small scale! It takes a lot of staring at nothing, patience and persistence!  

Weekend weather is going to feature high temps in the 60s in Boise, and cool in the mountains, with highs in the low 50s. But the sun has been shining enough lately to allow things to grow on the forest floor. 

When it warms up more next week, the mushroom crop might be better than it is now, but there's only one way to find out, right? 

Maybe you have your favorite morel-hunting spot. If not, go morel hunting in forested areas that have burned in recent times. The disturbance of fire tends to lead to the growth of fungi and mycelia. You can look up burns from previous years on this site

No permit is needed to hunt morels. You can explore in the Boise or Payette National Forest, state parks or on Idaho Department of Lands property open to recreation. 

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

Morels are fun to pick because they're very distinctive ... they have a conical shape, kind of like a Christmas tree, but with honeycombs inside. My suggestion is to walk very slow through the woods, and stare at the ground, looking for morels. Once you see some, you'll find more. 

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

If you stay in the Boise Valley this weekend, it should be great conditions for hiking and biking outings. I'd also recommend:
Have fun!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Weather drying out in the Bruneau Desert this weekend; Three trips worth exploring!

Courtesy Roots Rated web site CKnowles. 

Hi all, 

What an amazing week it's been! The freak snowstorm on Monday dropped 18" of new snow at Bogus Basin, and backcountry skiers flocked to the ski area to enjoy the fresh *pow.*

I found myself cutting up giant tree limbs and branches that fell off big maple trees around our house for the next 2 days! Did 4 runs to the Ada County Landfill on Tuesday morning. All of the tree services were booked out for weeks! Got 'er done! 

The weather looks wet in the mountains in this weekend (more backcountry skiing?), but there should be some weather windows to enjoy the Boise foothills trails at least by Sunday, when a high temperature of 82 degrees is forecast. 

I rode the Cartwright 4 Summits road ride yesterday (the dump loop), and the bitterbrush was beginning to bloom with some sunshine in the afternoon. Arrowleaf balsamroot is blooming everywhere as well along with some lupine and other flowers. 

Courtesy Roots Rated site/CKnowles

I'm not seeing any rain in the forecast in the Bruneau or Grandview areas this weekend, and they may see a high temp of 85 degrees on Sunday, so I'll share a few ideas to try in that direction.  

1. BLM Shoofly Oolite Interpretive trail - This is a great spot for young kids and families and anyone who'd like to explore some cool rock formations and learn more about the region's geology (ever heard of the ancient Lake Idaho?). How to get there - Go to Grandview, go left on ID 78, then right on the Owyhee Backcountry Byway. The Oolite site is 10.3 miles up the byway, on the right-hand side of the road. 

West Fork Shoofly Loop

2. West Fork Shoofly Quick Loop - This is a little discovery hike that I pioneered when researching the Owyhee book. Click on the link to an earlier blog post with all the details. The trailhead is located 18 miles off of the Owyhee Backcountry Byway, turning left off the main road onto a two-track road (AWD vehicles OK) that leads over to a trailhead in the Little Jacks Wilderness. Distance: 5.5 miles; travel time: 3 hours; 850 feet of vertical gain. The hike requires some navigation so be sure to print out the map before you go. 

3. Bruneau Overlook - If you've never been to the Bruneau Overlook, it's a spectacular sight to behold. Definitely worth the trip. Click on the link for driving directions. It's easy to get there, and you don't need a 4WD vehicle to navigate the good gravel road. Bring a lunch and plenty of water and enjoy the views. You can walk along the rim to see more of the canyon if you want. 

BTW - For trip-planning purposes, you might want to know that the weather gods are expecting that we will have continued wetter-than-normal weather, and cooler-than-normal weather in May.


Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Middle Fork Payette-Garden Valley hikes opening up for spring!

Station Creek winds through ponderosa pines on the way up a long ridge. 

Hi all, 

Wendy and I thought we'd hike the lovely Station Creek Trail in Garden Valley last Saturday to enjoy a 6-mile day hike in a forested setting. 

We were delighted to see the lower-elevation mountains in Garden Valley greening up for springtime recreation. We didn't encounter any snow on our hike up Station Creek Trail to the initial high point and saddle, or on the way up to Bald Mountain - another mile farther and an extra 500 feet of elevation gain. 

We dodged small squalls that were happening from time to time, but generally, it was a perfect day for spring hiking, with cool temps in the high 40s to low 60s, depending on the moment. 

If Station Creek Trail is in prime shape for hiking, then I'd also recommend two other nice hikes nearby - One Spoon and Lightning Ridge Trails. I've blogged about all three before. 

Steve and Huck on top of Bald Mountain ... elk sign everywhere! 

So that's my outdoor tip of the week - go check out any one of those three trails and enjoy hiking in a forested setting with creek water flowing below, wildflowers and shrubs beginning to bloom, and maybe even some morels popping up if you're lucky! 

The Trailhead for Station Creek is directly across from the Banks-Lowman Highway from the Garden Valley Ranger Station. It takes about an hour to get there from Boise. You can stop at the Garden Valley Chevron for any last-minute supplies before you head for the trailhead. 

Travel time on the Station Creek is about 5-6 hours, out and back. It's shorter if you just go to the initial high point about 2 miles up the trail. I rate the hike "moderate to strenuous" because there are some short, strenuous pitches.

Lunch on a big slab of granite near the top of the One Spoon hike with Wendy, Mark and Laurie. 

One Spoon Trail - Click on a previous post where I wrote about hiking One Spoon, including a map and driving directions, and also tips on floating the Middle Fork Payette River, Tie Creek section. The hike is 6 miles round-trip with up to 2,600 feet of vertical gain. You'll walk through ponderosa pine trees and see lots of cool big granite rocks along the way.  

Lightning Ridge affords vast views of the Boise National Forest

Lightning Ridge Trail - Wendy and I hiked Lightning Ridge Trail last spring. This trail goes for quite a ways, so the distance is kind of up to you. We went about three miles up the trail to an initial high point, turned around and came back to the trailhead. 

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

Driving directions: Take ID 55 to Banks. Go left in Banks and take the Banks to Lowman Road to the Crouch turnoff. Head up the Middle Fork Payette River Road (USFS #698) to a marked junction with USFS Road #611, the Lightning Creek Road, on the right. Follow the dirt road about five miles to the trailhead where an earthen barrier prevents further vehicular traffic. 

Have a great time exploring these trails! Bring a lunch and plenty of water for your day trip.   

Both Station Creek and One Spoon are featured in my guidebook, "Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home." 

- SS 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

2022 Idaho River Season looks promising as mountain snowpack continues to improve

Sturgeon fishing with Hammer Down Jet Boat Excursions

Hi all,

I worked on a story about the upcoming 2022 River Season for the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association (IOGA), published this week on the IOGA Outdoor Adventure blog.

With 2-3 feet of new snow falling in the Idaho mountains since April 1, it's been quite a comeback! 

Chalk Basin, Owyhee River 

See KTVB story and Idaho Press story. 

Mountain snowpack has been trending up in all of the river basins that count for kayaking, rafting and scenic trips since April 1. See snowpack as of April 21 below. The Salmon River has come up over 10 points to 90% of average, Clearwater is 103% of avg, and the Bruneau River is 75% ... might have season after all!  

For those of you who have river trips planned this spring/summer, all of these extra snowflakes and raindrops will increase water levels, lengthen the season, and improve the overall fun factor this summer. 

Read my post here: IOGA Outdoor Adventure blog

Idaho Whitewater Association Gear Swap at Maravia on Saturday, April 23 

Here's a link with details about the event. Starts at 9 a.m. You can take your used gear over there on Friday if you have something you'd like to sell. 

If you'd like to buy a raft, kayak, SUP, touring kayak, inflatable kayak, this is a great way to get into the sport for less money. Highly recommend it!   

- SS

Thursday, April 14, 2022

It's been snowy, rainy and wet! Five rock-solid ideas for all-weather hiking trails this weekend!

Bruneau Dunes State Park

Hi all, 

It's been quite the rebound to winter-like conditions in the Boise Valley and greater Southwest Idaho in the last 10 days, plus plenty of spring rain, hail and graupel. That's an awesome thing for our water supply! 

It should be obvious that many of the Ridge to Rivers trails are wet and soggy, and thus it's best to search for alternatives. Stay in tune with the latest conditions on R2R Trails here.  

Looking ahead to the weekend, the weather forecast looks sunny and cool on Friday, rainy on Saturday, and sunny and cool on Easter Sunday. 

New snow (1-3") is forecast at Bogus Basin for a special bonus day on Saturday. Sun Valley is operating 7 days a week through Sunday, April 17.  

So if you're itching to make a few more turns, the skiing/riding conditions should be great at Bogus and Sun Valley. If you venture into the backcountry to go snowshoeing or backcountry skiing, you're likely to encounter DEEP snow, with over 20" of new snow that's fallen in the last 10 days, depending on location. Could be some of the best skiing of the season!   

For the valley-dwellers, I'm recommending 5 rock-solid ideas for all-weather trails that would be doable this weekend ... all of these trips are featured in my Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home: 

1. Bruneau Dunes State Park. Pure sand. Located about 1.5 hours east of Boise. 

2. Eagle Greenbelt from Eagle Road to Glenwood. 4-6 miles one-way. You can do a loop by crossing the pedestrian bridge across the Boise River, if you wish. 

3. Snake River Trail, accessed from Celebration Park, south of Nampa. Very sandy trail to Halverson Lake or stay on the river trail to a cool old rock cabin.  

4. Harrison Hollow all-weather trail. Trailhead is by Healthwise and Highlands Hollow restaurant off of Bogus Basin Road. 1.5 miles out and back. 

 5. Walking path from River Run to Barber Park. Good all-weather surface mostly. 3 miles one-way. Start/finish in Barber Park. 

There you have it! 
- SS 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Idaho Hot Springs shine during mud/shoulder season and wacky spring weather

Main pool at Gold Fork Hot Springs, near Donnelly.

Hi all,

It's always great to cap off a ski day or a workout with a dip in a natural hot springs pool.

Truth be told, I've been hanging out in McCall this week, doing client work at my cabin and skiing Brundage in the last week of their season ... they close on Sunday, April 10. Bogus Basin and Tamarack Resort closed last Sunday.  

The skiing at Brundage has been absolutely FANTASTIC! A bunch of my friends have been skiing daily, so it's just a blast to ski the mountain with those guys. High-speed big carving turns on the groomers, and fun skiing in the fluff and soft bumps. Brundage got 5" of new on Monday, another inch Tuesday, morning, so we're finishing off the season with a bang up there. 

On my way back to Boise this afternoon, I zipped over to Gold Fork Hot Springs, south of Donnelly, to take a dip after a super-fun ski day and cap things off correctly! 

I haven't soaked at Golf Fork since the covid pandemic hit. They were closed for a time, and reopened last summer. They're open 6 days a week (closed Tuesdays), and they require vax cards or a cell phone photo of same, plus I.D. No big deal for me! Happy to oblige. Entry fee is $10 for adults. 

Main pool is fed by a natural hot springs. Really soothing beautiful water, about 102-104 degrees.

Gold Fork was practically empty today 4/7, but I'm sure it'll get busier as the spring progresses. Be aware the dirt road to Gold Fork is soft, bumpy and chock full of pot holes. Take your time! 

Hitting Idaho's hot springs at this time of year can be a great call when the weather is acting kind of "in between" seasons, like it will be in the next week, after a really warm day tomorrow (Friday), with a high of near 80! Later this weekend, the high temp will be in the high 40s! That's what April is supposed to be like! 

Anyway, think about hitting Gold Fork, The Springs in Idaho City (online reservations required), Zims in New Meadows or visit a natural hot spring in the region. See a statewide listing on the Idaho Hot Springs site.  

Lower pool is a bit cooler and shallow, good for young kids. 

More pools below ... looking out to Gold Fork River 

Entrance yurt is separate from changing rooms yurt now. More room for people to change
into swim suits. 

The Springs, Idaho City 

Zims Hot Springs pool 

Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Amazing convergence of perfect weather, water levels makes a guy feel lucky on the Owyhee River

Pruitt's Castle rises from the sagebrush on the Owyhee River. 

Hi all, 

It's a special thing when you can escape to a never-never land like the Wild and Scenic Owyhee River, tune into the nature channel all around you, and enjoy some very special moments that stay with you long after the trip.  

Pulling out of camp, floating on a quiet section of the river, it's mesmerizing to just sit back and listen to the river, the birds, and the bugs, while dipping your oars in and out of the water in a rhythmic motion. 

And then the rapids come up around the corner. You're greeted by a thunderous sound of whitewater in a tight canyon, and it's time to focus on the river!    

Katie Metzger on the sticks in the cataraft; Make and Shane on the SUPs

Over 25+ years of doing spring trips on the Owyhee River, I feel like I've experience such an amazing array of challenging conditions with any combination of stiff headwinds, torrential rain storms, horizontal snow, muddy roads, even medical evacs. 

But in my most recent trip, March 22-25, the stars aligned for the most perfect conditions imaginable - conditions that I'm sure will never happen again! But we had a combination of solid river flows, perfect weather and ... shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh no wind!  

OMG, that never happens on the Owyhee River! 

Bruce and Norm are pumped about the river trip at the put-in ... 

I'd been watching the river gauge daily, and I knew with a flow of 2,000 cfs in mid-March, that flow would not last long with 70 percent snowpack! 

And I'd been watching the weather daily, and the Rome, OR, forecast that week was amazingly nice and sunny with afternoon highs in the 70s. 

So I pulled together a trip in a matter of days. I got commitments from my friends Katie Metzger and Dan Popkey immediately. They both have their own rafts, so that meant we had 3 boats including mine, and our trip was a go! Just had to fill in with passengers. We were really lucky to get a bunch of super fun people together who could take off Tuesday-Friday during the middle of the week. 

Shane and Mark getting into their dry suits at the put-in.

My longtime friend Bruce Reichert, Mr. Outdoor Idaho, jumped at the chance to join us, as did my friend Norm Nelson. Morley Nelson's oldest son, Norm's spirit soars when we see golden eagles, prairie falcons and hawks flying above. Mine does too! We ended up seeing a ton of eagles, falcons and hawks! So special! 

My friend Mark Anderson and fellow SUP expert Shane Preston paddled their SUPs while I carried their gear. And Katie invited her friend Eric, a BSU math professor, to join us and ride in her cataraft. 

Natural hot springs along the way ... 

We had a crew of 8. Everyone took turns cooking. We ate like kings and queens every night. 

The trip: We floated 48 miles from the BLM put-in at Rome to the BLM takeout at the old Birch Creek Ranch. This section is known as the Lower Owyhee. You hire locals to drive your shuttle. It's a pretty gnarly 4WD high-clearance road to go from the Birch Creek takeout back to U.S. Highway 95, so you need a solid vehicle for the river trip. It's all pavement to the put-in. 

Norm does an oil painting of Pruitt's Castle in camp 

Trip map
: BLM river guides are available for all of the forks of the Owyhee River and the Jarbidge-Bruneau river.  

I'm just going to share a few photos from our trip. Not much more needs to be said about the Owyhee River canyon's beauty. The pictures do the talking. 

Bruce works on his Chicken piccata dish with plenty of butter, garlic and morels in the Dutch oven.   

Katie is talented with her magical colored balls at night ... check out the video. 

Many local boaters know about the Owyhee River. But if you don't have your own gear, plan a trip with an Idaho outfitter. There are several that do the Owyhee, including ROW Adventures, Far & Away, Barker River Expeditions, and Wilderness River Outfitters

- SS

Dan made delicious salmon filets on night 3, combined with mushroom
risotto  and salad. Pineapple upside down cake for dessert in the D.O. 

Another angle on that camp ... pretty much paradise to me!