Thursday, January 21, 2021

Take a trip to Hagerman to see eagles, Box Canyon and soak in hot springs

Gordan Hardcastle photo of bald eagles in Hagerman. Hardcastle takes high-quality photographs
of birds and waterfowl. You can see his work on Facebook.  

Hi all, 

I'm going to switch gears this week from winter activities in the mountains and suggest a road trip to Hagerman and the Thousand Springs area on the Snake River to see bald eagles, maybe visit Box Canyon for a nice, scenic hike, and you could top it off with a visit to Miracle or Banbury Hot Springs. I don't know about you, but I miss the hot springs! 

I checked with Thousand Springs State Park and there's about 50 bald eagles hanging out on the eagle tree -- as it's become to be known -- behind the West Point Restaurant on 1500 South. The eagle is on private property, but you can get a great view of our national bird by bringing binoculars, a spotting scope or a telephoto lens. The tree is located on private land, so please do not trespass. 

Here's a link to a blogpost I did about visiting the eagle tree for Southern Idaho Tourism several years ago. Not much has changed~! Except there's more eagles there right now. 

Finding the eagle tree might be easiest by following your maps app to the West Point Restaurant or the Box Canyon Trailhead. Basically, you take I-84 to the Wendell exit. Turn an immediate right. Take the Hagerman highway west toward Hagerman, then a left on 1500 South, and follow that for several miles to the West Point Restaurant. 

BTW - West Point is a great place to eat or p/u supplies. You might drive around the area toward the Snake River to see more raptors perched on pivots or in other trees. 

Ducks photographed by Hagerman WMA. (Courtesy Gordan Hardcastle)

If you're interested in more information about birding in the area, the latest issue of "Windows to Wildlife" by Idaho Fish and Game has some detailed information about birding at the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area, located nearby. 30,000-40,000 ducks winter in the area on the Snake River and in the Hagerman WMA ponds. Quite a sight!  

Box Canyon

The trailhead for Box Canyon, a unit of Thousand Springs State Park, is very close to the restaurant. You'll park up on a flat (make sure you have a statewide park pass or pay the $7 fee) walk one mile over to an overlook of Box Canyon, and there's a nice foot trail that winds down to a 20-foot waterfall and the Snake River. 

Thousand Springs State Park Manager Dave Landrum points to Box Canyon below. (Courtesy SITA) 

Box is the 11th largest freshwater spring in the United States, pouring out of the basalt cliff at 180,000 gallons per minute. The Caribbean-like turquoise water is so clean and pure, it's absolutely mesmerizing. The spring is part of a huge complex of natural pure-water springs in the Thousand Springs region. Visiting the different state park units in the area, including Niagara Spring and Minnie Miller Spring, will give you a great sense of the grandeur of the springs.

Box Canyon in the lower part of the canyon, close to the Snake River (Courtesy SITA) 

Many of the springs in the area have been tapped for aquaculture or hydropower by Idaho Power. The pure spring water with a constant 55-degree temperature is highly prized for raising trout. You might have heard that Clear Springs Trout operates the world-largest rainbow trout facility, raising fish for restaurants nationwide. 

If you have questions to be addressed to Thousand Springs State Park, the number is 208-837-4505. I got current information from a person who was manning the phones today. 

Miracle Hot Springs/Banbury Hot Springs    

If you haven't visited these hot springs, you definitely need to make the trip. Banbury is a big pool that a group of kids would really enjoy, or lap swimmers, and Miracle has smaller general pool areas in a more intimate setting. Private pool rooms are available as well. 

  This is a video I did for Southern Idaho Tourism on Miracle and Banbury Hot Springs. 

On your way home, considering topping off your trip with a meal at the Snake River Grill in Hagerman. The restaurant is famous for it's exotic menu and excellent food!

For more information on exploring interesting outdoor venues in the Magic Valley, go to Southern Idaho Tourism or visit their beautiful Visitor Center by the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls.  

- SS 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Boise Foothills trails are wet and slurpy - 7 alternative destinations where you can avoid the mud!

It's fun to look for birds, ducks and waterfowl at the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve in west Boise. 

Hi all,

Well it's been wet and soggy in Boise lately, and even though we're going to be drying out over the next week to 10 days under a High Pressure weather system, most of the Boise Foothills trails will continue to be muddy in the afternoons when temperatures rise well above freezing into the mid-40s.

Photos from the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page tell the story. Come on people!  

Please! If the trail is muddy, try one of my alternative destinations below ... 

My outdoor tip this week focuses on five-plus destinations where you can walk, trail-run or perhaps even mountain bike on all-weather trails in Boise and the Eagle areas. These are trails that have been graveled for winter or mud-season use or they are sandy, graveled trails naturally. All of these trails are featured in my Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. Hint: I will give away a free book on 94.9 FM the River Friday morning with Ken and Deb at about 7:40 a.m.

Overview of one of the ponds at Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve.
The area doubles a stormwater runoff filtering system. 

1. Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve - This is a great walking destination in west Boise off of Chinden and Marigold, McMillan and Maple Grove. Running is OK here, but no bikes or dogs. Wendy and I went there yesterday and counted 20 species of birds and ducks in an hour. You'll hear the familiar call of red-winged blackbirds as you walk into the 44-acre reserve, and there are multiple species of waterfowl in the ponds surrounded by cat-tails and wetland vegetation. We saw Canada geese, northern shovelers, common mergansers, common coots, ring-necked ducks, lesser scaup, buffleheads, and great blue herons in the ponds or on the shore next to the ponds. This is a great place to see wildlife and enjoy a casual walk while doing so. The trails are sandy and graveled for all-season use. Bring your binoculars and camera! Note: No dogs are allowed in the park to benefit the wildlife.    

The trailhead in Eagle Island State Park is by an old dairy farm,
with the Boise Front and Bogus Basin the background. 

Huck sniffs for birds on my walk in Eagle Island State Park. Trails are easy and scenic. 

2. Eagle Island State Park - The river trail along the north and south channels of the Boise River are sandy and rocky, so this is a nice place to go for a walk during mud-season. People are also tubing and boarding on the snowy hill provided in the park for those activities. You can do a 5-mile loop by hiking both channels of the river inside park. Watch for bald eagles, Great blue herons, mallards, geese, kingfishers and other species on your walk. Bring your binoculars. Hopefully you have an annual parks pass ($10 per vehicle per year) to avoid the day use fee! The park is west of Eagle on Idaho 44. Follow signs to the park.

Fabulous quiet place for a walk or trail-run in East Boise. 
3. Bethine Church Riverwalk + walking trail to Barber Park on the south side of the Boise River - Take a beautiful walk going east from the Cottonwood Apartments off of River Run and ParkCenter Boulevard out to Barber Park. It's about 3 miles one-way. You can shuttle a vehicle out to Barber Park or do an out-and-back (recommended). Watch for bald eagles, Great blue herons, wood ducks, mallards, geese, kingfishers and other species on your walk. Keep track of your species. Carry binoculars, a camera, water and snacks.

Nice quiet spot for reading or contemplation.
You can walk your bike through the area, but no biking is allowed. 

Try the all-weather trails recommended by Ridge to Rivers in the Boise Foothills.

4. Mountain Cove Trail in Military Reserve Park. The trail runs for a little less than a mile parallel to Mountain Cove Road, next to Freestone Creek. The trail also connects to Central Ridge, Bucktail, Shanes and more in the Military Reserve complex, but those trails are likely to be muddy right now, so don't count on doing a big loop.     

5. Red Fox - Owl's Roost - a 2.2-mile loop from Camelsback to the Foothills Learning Center, suitable for all abilities. Hulls Grove Trail next to Owl's Roost is another all-weather alternative in that area.

Hulls Ponds from Red Fox Trail near Camelsback Park 

6. Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Trail #19A  (Table Rock/Castle Rock area) Flat and easy trail for all abilities. 

7. Red-Winged Blackbird #35A (Camelsback Park area) - Flat and easy trail for all abilities. It runs from the Hulls ponds to Chickadee Ridge through a wetlands environment. 

Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Idaho's xc ski & snowshoe areas are in great shape - 15 destinations where you can't go wrong!

Sunset on the Boulder Mountains while skiing the Prairie Creek Loop north of Sun Valley.

Hi all, 

I hope everyone had a fun Christmas and New Years with their families, friends and loved ones! 

I felt blessed to be with my family over the holidays in McCall, and I also felt very fortunate to see all of the snow storms dumping fresh powder in the Idaho mountains in recent weeks. Snow depths in the Boise Mountains and Central Mountains have vaulted from less than two feet of snow in early December to the 50- to 60-inch range here in the first week of January. That means the mountains are totally "in shape" for backcountry travel, xc skiing and snowshoeing. 

On Monday late afternoon in McCall, I was xc skiing at Bear Basin with Huck. There was 3-4 inches of new snow on the trail. There was only 1 other car in the parking lot at 3:30 p.m. The Christmas crowds from the valley had gone home. 

Snow was falling lightly and steadily as I was kicking and gliding on the trail. I turned off on Camas Trail to climb over to Mack's Loop, and when I reached the top of the Camas hill, it seemed so quiet and magical. I had the whole place to myself. It's such a beautiful scene to watch the snow fall in the midst of a cathedral of snow-flocked fir and pine trees.  

These are the kinds of moments that I cherish in McCall in the winter-time. But you can experience the same feeling wherever you might want to go for a xc skiing or snowshoeing outing in the Idaho mountains. You just might have to work a little harder to find solitude like I had on Monday.   

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'll recommend a number of key destinations for xc skiing/snowshoeing right now, and provide the latest information on snow conditions: 

Bogus Basin Nordic trails - Packed powder conditions with 7 inches of new snow in the last 24 hours, 9 inches in the last 48 hours; 37Ks of trails open for xc skiing and snowshoeing. Go to the Bogus Nordic site for for a trail map, rental gear information, etc. Day tickets are $12 for a half day, $18 for a full day. Purchase tickets at the Frontier Point Lodge. No advance reservations are required. 

Kelley and Kirk Bachman, left, and I xc skied at Bogus on a stellar bluebird day. 

  • Idaho City Park n Ski Areas - 55-inch base in general, based on the snotel site at Mores Creek Summit. Snow depth at Mores Creek has increased from 35 inches on Dec. 15 to 45 inches on Dec. 31 to 55 inches today (Jan. 7). Make sure you have a Park n Ski pass to use the Idaho City Park n Ski trails. The parking passes can be purchased at IDPR or at the Sinclair gas station in Idaho City (recommended). 

    For the latest grooming information on the Park n Ski trails go to the IDPR Non-Motorized Trails Facebook page. 
    Thanks to Danny Tappa at NRCS Snow Survey for this graph ... so far, we're tracking pretty much right on the average median line for snow water equivalent (SWE) at Mores Creek Summit.
    Basin-wide, snowpack levels are 95 percent of normal in the Boise Basin. 

    FYI: Please stay away from the Mores Creek Snotel site and snow pillow. 
    Human tracks around the snow pillow can adversely impact snow measurements. 
    Thank you. 
    • Gold Fork-Skyline parking area - Best for xc skiing, snow-shoeing and snow-biking. The trails are getting groomed weekly, including this week, according to IDPR.  
    • Whoopum Up - Best for snowshoeing (no grooming). 
    • Banner Ridge - Best for xc skiing, snowshoeing and snow-biking. 
    • Summit Trail - Connects Skyline trails with Banner Ridge Trails. This trail is being groomed on a weekly basis this winter. 
    • Stargaze at Beaver Creek Summit - Best for snowshoeing (no grooming) or backcountry skiing. 

      FYI - All of the Idaho Park n Ski yurts are booked solid every weekend through June. Some mid-week dates are available in April. Watch for any last-minute cancelations mid-week. 

      Breaking trail to Stargaze Yurt, near Beaver Creek Summit. 

  • McCall Nordic trails 
    • North Valley Trail - 6-8 miles (North Valley Trail and Activity Barn trails combined) of groomed xc ski trail open to snowshoeing and fat biking as well. 15-inch base freshly groomed on Jan. 7. 2 inches of new snow. New loop trail climbs from the North Valley Trail around the top of the Activity Barn tubing hill and then descends to a flat meadow and circles the meadow before returning to the North Valley Trail. Nice new loop to try this year. No trail fee. 

      Snow biker hamming it up on North Valley Trail 

    • Ponderosa State Park - Ponderosa has a great variety of xc trails and snowshoe trails. 20-inch base. Trails are being groomed daily. My favorite loop is to xc ski out to the top of Osprey Point via Fox Run and come back next to the lake. Daily ski passes cost $5. You'll need a pass for your vehicle too (I buy the statewide park access pass when I register my vehicles ... that gives you free admission to any state park in Idaho; awesome deal). Generally, no dogs are allowed except on Rover's Roundabout, a 1.5-mile loop. 

      Looking across at Brundage Mountain from Ponderosa Park before the lake froze ... 

    • Bear Basin - We love Bear Basin because they have more than 10Ks of groomed trail and they allow dogs on all of their xc ski and snowshoe trails. Day pass costs $12. Our favorite circuit is to ski Polar Express, Mack's Loop and Lyle's Loop and then return over Moon Ridge to the start. 
    • Jug Mountain Ranch - There's a 15-inch base at Jug with 3 inches of new snow today. JMR  trails are groomed on a regular basis. Trails are open to dogs, xc skiing, snowshoeing and snow biking. Daily trail fee is $10. Allow for enough time to climb up to JMR Reservoir and take a nice tour through the trees on your way back. Jug is generally not as busy as the park or Bear Basin if you want plenty of elbow room.   

      Freshly groomed xc trail at Jug Mountain Ranch 

    • Tamarack Resort - Meadow and forest trails are groomed on Mondays and Fridays each week. Rentals are available at the Sports Dome. Trail map.   
  • Blaine County Winter xc and snowshoe trails -  You must make the drive to Sun Valley and check out the Blaine County Nordic trail system because it's absolutely world-class in all respects. The trails are groomed daily, and they're extensive - 160Ks of xc ski trails and 36Ks of snowshoe trails. Trail fee is $18/day. You can buy a trail pass from most outdoor ski shops in Ketchum. 
  • Galena Lodge is on the north end of the Blaine County Winter Trail system. Galena has a super-extensive system of Nordic trails and snowshoe trails, and they have a great lodge where you can buy soup and sandwiches and hot beverages.  
There you have it! 

Please be courteous and use basic covid-19 precautions and mask-up in parking areas or in areas where you can't socially distance. 
- SS   

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Stueby's Christmas recommendations - Outdoorsy gifts for him and her

Hi all, 

Christmas is just a week away! It's time for my annual Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her.

This year's list includes recommendations for our friends at Idaho Mountain TouringBoise REI, and McU Sports about the latest popular and trendy items.

Now, on to the gifts!

1. Covid-approved neck gator for skiing/riding at ski areas. There are quite a few styles and colors available. I have several in my quiver, and you should, too. Here are some face masks from Hoo-Rag ... you can buy 4 of them for $31.

See these mask options from IMT - Outdoor Research and Airband Masks with filters + for active users, cycling ,running etc. 

2. A warm, cozy Carhartt vest from D&B Supply, or a Patagonia down vest from Idaho Mountain TouringBoise REIGreenwoods Ski Haus or McU Sports.

3. SocksLots of color, designs and patterns, Smart Wool comfort made in the USA. Everyday Compression to support people standing on their feet, and it doesn't take 3 men and gorilla to put your socks on. 

4.  Lights for your campsite. REI recommends Revel Gear Trail Hound lights ($25) - it's a 30-foot string of colored LED lights that could provide a festive feel for your campsite.

5. Lights for your bike, your head or your body. The Bontrager Ion 200-1000 human light ($100) looks like it could light up the trails as if you're on a professional movie set.

6. Ski gloves - It's nice to have several pairs that work for various tasks such as driving, xc skiing or snowshoeing (thinner weight), and alpine skiing (warmer). I have a pair of the Hestra Heli-Insulated gloves pictured here ($155), and man are they nice! Always keep my hands warm! Mine are mittens with a trigger finger. For xc skiing and lightweight use, look in the work glove section of May Hardware in McCall or a local Maverick service station.

7. Snowshoes - It takes a lot of time and money to master the art of skiing or snowboarding, but just about anyone who can walk can strap on a pair of snowshoes and do great! It helps to bring a pair of ski poles for balance. There are many different brands available. Price range: $50-$150 for snowshoe-pole combo sets. You might be able to find a new or used pair at the Boise Outdoor Gear Exchange. Chris from IMT recommends these super-light TSL snowshoes with Boa closures. They're made out of carbon fiber. Prices range from $69 and up. Nice gift for a serious snow-shoer, but they also have kids models priced right at $39.95.

Women's Apt. 9® Herringbone Cadet Hat8. Winter hats - Can't go wrong in this department, but it's always nice to find a winter hat that has personality! Similar with gloves, it's nice to have different winter hats for situations when it's relatively warm or you're working up a sweat (thinner weight), and when you need a bomber warm hat that keeps you warm in single digits or sub-zero weather. Remember that wool ultimately rocks in the warmth department. Another helpful item is a facemask for the really cold days on the mountain. I also love the smart-looking ballcap-style hats they make for women.

9. Patagonia trucker hats - Chris at IMT: These are Red Hot!- every age loves them -- men, women and kids.

10. Headlamp - For outdoorsy folks, it's about as easy to lose a

headlamp as it is to lose a pair of socks. Especially if you're a family of outdoorsy folks ... everyone borrows your headlamp and it never comes back! You can snag a headlamp for $25-$50, and it has great value for your camping trips, night hiking, river trips, backpacking, even for use around the home! My favorite brands include Petzl and Black Diamond. Get a bright one and you'll appreciate it! My latest Black Diamond model runs on 4 AAA batteries and it's really nice and bright.

11. Dog accessories from Ruffwear. How about an insulated coat for your pup? $79.95. Those things are so danged cute!

12. Guidebooks! - Ha! Always a thoughtful item in the stocking or under the tree ... my guides are available of course, from Boise Trail Guide, Owyhee Canyonlands, Paddling the Payette, updated for SUPers, and Boise Road Cycling Guide, plus my biography on the great champion for birds of prey Morley Nelson, Cool North Wind, in memory of all of his achievements related to the creation of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Plus I recommend Matt Leidecker's guides for the Sawtooths, White Clouds and Middle Fork Salmon River.

13. Capilene tops, long underwear - For any outdoorsy person who's active, getting out and exercising several days a week, you can quickly run short of tops and bottoms after they get pitted out and pitched into the laundry. So it's nice to have a deep supply of different tops especially ... lightweight, midweight, expedition weight, etc. These items typically run $25-$75. REI and Patagonia make gear with lasting value. Take a look at smart wool, too. 

14. Buck knife or Swiss Army knife - These items also have a way of disappearing. But especially guys appreciate having a knife handy for all sorts of things. A single-blade Buck knife is really sleek and cool, and the multi-tasking Swiss Army knives are always a hit. Boise Army Navy has a great selection of knives.

15. Hydro Flask - Previously known as a water bottle, the hydro flasks available today can be used for drinking coffee on the go, taking a long a nice hot cup of tea or hot chocolate on an outdoor outing, or actually packing plain old water. Hydro Flask is a brand by itself, but there are many other brands that make quality stainless steel insulated cups and containers. Pricing is in the $10 to $25 range or more. 

16. River Gear - Pick up some accessories or a new SUP, hard-shell kayak, inflatable kayak, canoe or raft at Idaho River Sports, Cascade River GearAIRE in Meridian,  or Boise Army-Navy.

It's probably safe to say that we're all ready to bid 2020 goodbye because of the Covid-19 pandemic. So thankful to see vaccinations coming online for our health care workers and all of us who will need that ASAP. Gives me hope that things could return to "normal" sometime next year. It may be months before the vaccines are available to the average person. 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
- SS  

Steve talks about his weekly outdoor tip on 94.9 FM The River on Friday mornings with Ken and Deb at about 7:40 a.m. Please listen in!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Tamarack to host grand opening on Friday, big snow coming next week and more ...

Time to shred at Tamarack!

Hi all, 

For downhill skiers/riders who want plenty of elbow room, Tamarack Resort has always been a well-kept secret among those in the know. 

On a powder day, the freshies will get shredded in about 1.5-2 hours at Bogus Basin or Brundage Mountain. But at Tamarack, with fewer people on the slopes, you can find fresh turns all day long.

That's one of the key benefits of skiing/riding Tamarack Resort. In the 2020-21 ski season amid the covid-19 pandemic, the importance of feeling comfortable and having enough personal space is something that matters to skiers and riders. So that will be another plus this year at Tamarack, where you can find your own Private Idaho. 

Skiing pow at Tamarack with Lake Cascade and Long Valley below (Courtesy Tamarack Resort)

Tamarack is having a grand opening tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 11), opening its slopes and alpine village to the general public for the first time this ski season. The resort has been open to season pass holders and resort guests over the last few weekends. From this point forward, they'll be operating 7 days a week. 

Daily lift tickets, Boundless All-Season Passes, and Express Passes are all available online. Standard covid restrictions are in place. Bring your face-coverings to protect yourself and others from the virus.

The Tamarack and Summit express lifts will be running along with the Discovery beginner chair. (No Wildwood yet). You'll be able to ski top-to-bottom, all 2,800 vertical feet, on groomed slopes like Serenity, Showtime and Waltz. See the Tamarack snow report for a run down on the slopes open at this point.      

Speaking of snow, we're supposed to get hammered with lots of *pow* in the next 15 days leading right up to Christmas Day. My OpenSnow post this morning said we've got "Big pow coming with a roar." We need it! 

The Reserve Bar in the Village - it opens tomorrow (courtesy Tamarack Resort)

Scott Turlington, who last summer was named president of Tamarack Resort, said the resort has been working hard to get the new Village at Tamarack ready for the ski season. People who haven't visited for a while will be surprised to see fewer domes at the base area, and more services available on the ground floor of the Village. 

"Man, it's night and day to see the village now," Turlington says.  

Yes, the Village buildings that were wrapped in Tyvek for many years following the 2007 bankruptcy are seeing new life. It's so great to see Tamarack under new ownership revitalizing the resort, finishing unfinished business, and now they've got condominiums in the Village for sale.

"In many ways this will be a season unlike any other, and the Tamarack team is committed to ensuring our guests can safely experience the joy of winter recreation along with the delight in discovering a new favorite in The Village,” Turlington said. 

The Village at Tamarack has a whole new look! (courtesy Tamarack Resort)

On Friday, Tamarack is opening The Reserve upscale bar and restaurant. Other options for food and drink include an outdoor beer garden, Mountain Bites food truck, Clearwater Coffee and the Village Market, which has grab-and-go sandwiches and drinks. In general, skiers/riders should use their vehicle as the "day lodge" due to covid restrictions. 

Later in December, Tamarack will open the Rendezvous food court, where you can choose from four different food venues in one large space -- the Triple B Diner, Crusty's Pizza, Summit Bowls and El Pueblo Taqueria. Turlington says the Triple B will be the work-horse restaurant, similar to the Canoe Grill, but better. Many peeps in McCall love Crusty's, and I recommend it, too. Nice to have more food options! 

Unless you want a year-round pass, the Tamarack Express pass could save money on lift tickets, which cost $100 for adults this year. It comes pre-loaded with a single day ticket, and then skiers and riders can visit as many times as you like with a $15 discount/per visit. See more about lift tickets and passes online.

One unique offering is that Tamarack has special Pickup Boxes for getting your Express pass or other pass. You buy the pass online, scan the QR code at the Pickup Box, and then the box issues your pass on the spot. Then, you can head directly to the lift and start skiing.  

Heading up the Tamarack Express for another run with Jughandle Mountain in the background.

Some of you may recall that I worked in government affairs at Tamarack from 2002-2007. A big part of my job was mapping and exploring the backcountry for the guided snowcat skiing program, guided snowmobile tours and summer recreation activities. I used to call the areas to the north and south of Tamarack's ski area boundary as "my office." 

Another benefit of skiing at Tamarack are the out-of-bounds opportunities for skiers and riders just outside the ropes. Many people take a bunch of turns out of bounds and then vector back to the ski area to catch the lift. You also can pack skins and go for a tour over toward Wildwood Bowl or Lone Tree Mountain to find more Private Idaho. 

I've had some legendary powder days out there, and there's plenty more to come! 

To check on lodging options at Tamarack, go to: 


A few other outdoor notes: 

Brundage Mountain is opening the Activity Barn, a super fun tubing hill near McCall on Friday. The Activity Barn is open Fridays from 2 to 6 pm, Saturdays from 10 am - 6 pm and Sundays from 10 am - 4 pm. During the winter holiday, hours expand considerably. The Activity Barn plans to be open every day from December 18 - January 3. More details and reservations are available at

I've been ripping groomers at Brundage for several weeks. Maybe you've seen my Facebook posts. The snow has been holding up amazingly well! Quinn and I skied there Tuesday for his 23rd birthday on a gorgeous sunny spring-like day. We had plenty of elbow room on the deck as we had a great lunch from Smoky's (big juicy burrito) and some beers while basking in the sun.  

Sun Valley has some great ski-and-stay deals prior to the Christmas holiday season and following the Christmas-New Years holiday. See the Sun Valley lodging deals page for more information. 

Idaho Park and Ski trails have not been groomed yet. Waiting for more snow. And that should be coming this week! 

Have a great week ... next week's blog will be on last-minute Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her.
- SS

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Tips to "know before you go" downhill skiing in Idaho

Steve is masked-up for the next run.

Hi all, 

If you've seen my social media posts in the last week or so, you know that I'm pretty stoked about the opportunity of getting out and playing in the snow! 

When Brundage Mountain, Sun Valley and Bogus Basin opened last week for downhill skiing, people were delighted to go lift-served skiing again after the season was abruptly brought to a halt last March because of the coronavirus pandemic. I personally wasn't ready to stop skiing! 

Last weekend, I skied Brundage three days in a row with my son, Quinn, and Wendy joined us on Sunday. Quinn and I snow-biked on Saturday and skied Brundage in the afternoon. The groomers were super fun, and because the hill was open to season pass holders only, it wasn't very crowded! That was a bonus!   

However, two of the people who pulled up in a vehicle beside us did not know that Brundage Mountain was open only two season pass holders last Friday. They had driven up from Eagle. Their kids had passes, but mom and dad expected to buy day tickets. Whoops!

Steve, Wendy and Quinn at Brundage on Sunday.   
The whole ski experience has changed a bit because of Covid-19 rules and guidelines. The biggest thing that skiers/riders need to remember is to check on the web sites of the ski areas they are visiting before they go. Check on covid protocols, check on ticket availability, and more.

"Know before you go," says Susan Saad, director of community and customer relations for Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area. 

"Don't just jump in the car and head up the mountain," she said. "Check our website, watch social media, call our office, and/or watch for emails for unexpected operational updates or changes due to COVID-19."

Some other reminders: 

  • Masks are required when getting into the lift line at the bottom of the hill, and you need to mask up when you get off the lift at the top of the hill. Ski patrols or lifties will ensure you have a face-covering on before you get in line to get on the lift. No exceptions. 
  • The neck-gator type face coverings work great for skiing. I have purchased several of them. One of them is wool for colder, windy days, and one is lighter-weight when it's warmer outside. When you approach the lift line, stop and pull up your mask, before you get in line.
  • No indoor seating is provided at ski lodges. Bring your own food and drink, and think of your vehicle as the "ski lodge." 
  • Brundage and Bogus are selling day tickets now. People are encouraged to buy them in advance online. There's a limit on how many day tickets will be sold/day. 
  • Maybe pack a small BBQ in the back of your truck and pack your BBQ fixings in a cooler ... we'll probably see a lot of that this year. Don't forget the lawn chairs.
  • Right now, it's early-season conditions. Watch out for hazards when you're skiing/riding. If you've got a new pair of skis or a snowboard, wait until there's more snow to deploy it.

All of the covid-related restrictions are designed to prevent the spread of the virus and allow us to keep skiing! Let's hope we can ski all winter-long! 

Where's the snow? Winter started off with a bang in early November, and now we're in a lull, with a high pressure system parked over the Northern Rockies. The high pressure ridge is currently blocking storms from moving into Idaho, and instead, they're diverted to the north or south. It appears we'll be in a holding pattern with dry, cold and clear weather until late next week. See my latest post on Enjoy the sunshine. 

No grooming yet on the Idaho City Park n Ski Trails. Grooming is supposed to start next week for the Park n Ski Trails. There's still good snowshoeing to be had on the trails and backcountry skiers have been climbing to make their own turns at Mores Creek Summit, east of Idaho City. Watch for updates here on Facebook.

All of the Park n Ski yurts are booked solid for the season, according to Idaho Parks and Recreation. So if you were thinking making a reservation for one of those yurts, don't bother! 

I'll write about some of the other yurt/hut systems you could visit this winter in a forthcoming column. 

Have fun and be safe out there!
- SS

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