Thursday, June 1, 2023

Spring green up and wildflowers are spectacular right now! Three hikes where you'll enjoy nature's beauty in Boise

Quinn Stuebner on the trail to Mt. Kepros, lit up by lupine and arrowleaf balsamroot. 

Hi all,

After the super long and cold winter, the spring green up and wildflower display in the hills surrounding the Treasure Valley has been spectacular! 

I hope you've been out to see it! If you're looking for more destinations with flowers in bloom, here are six suggestions close to home in the Boise area: 

  • 5 Mile - Watchman Loop, Boise Foothills - 6-10-15 miles. Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. Hiking time: 2.5-3 hours if you hike up 5 Mile to Watchman and drop out back to Rocky Canyon Road by the 5 Mile parking area on the Three Bears spur. It's a beautiful walk with water in 5 Mile Creek for the puppies. 

  • Watchman - Three Bears bike rideThis is still one of my all-time favorite rides in the Boise Foothills. After you make the initial climb to Watchman, when you come around a corner into the next draw, the whole mountainside is blooming with arrowleaf balsamroot. Gotta see it. 
  • Start and finish at the bottom of Rocky Canyon Road for the 10-mile version of this ride. Or start from Military Reserve Park for a longer version that clocks in at 15 miles. Vertical gain 2,500 feet. Rated advanced. Travel time: 3 hours. Start in Military Reserve. Take the Mountain Cove Trail along Freestone Creek to Ridgecrest #20 and climb to Central Ridge Trail. Climb Central Ridge to the Bucktail junction. Go straight, climb a short distance and then contour over to Rocky Canyon Road on Shane's. Climb Rocky Canyon Road to the Five Mile Trail and Creek. Climb Five Mile to Watchman. Follow Watchman across the foothills and go left at the junction with Three Bears/Curlew Ridge/Trail #6 and follow Three Bears down the spine of Curlew Ridge (super fun downhill with one technical section) back to Shane's Junction. Descend back to the bottom of Military Reserve however you like ... I always have to ride Bucktail and cruise the super-cool GS turns.

    Courtesy Matt Clark 

  • Station Creek Trail, Garden Valley - This is also one of my all-time favorite hikes in SW Idaho. Just saw some pics on Facebook from Boise friend Matt Clark, and the green meadows under the Ponderosa pine trees are aglow with color with multiple wildflower species in bloom! The Station Creek hike is featured in my book, the Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home. I rate it "moderate" in terms of difficulty. It's a sweet singletrack that climbs 1,300 feet over several miles to the top of the ridge overlooking the broad valley. It's a 4.5-mile hike round-trip. Travel time is 2+ hours. Pack a lunch for the top. If you have time, I highly recommend climbing Bald Mountain, located just above the ridge. You'll add maybe 45 minutes to an hour to the trip, round-trip. Plus, always better views from the top of peaks. 

    The trailhead is about 1:15 from Boise on the Banks to Lowman Road. Take ID 55 to Banks, turn right to Garden Valley. Proceed past the town of Garden Valley to the Garden Valley Ranger Station. Station Creek Trail is directly across the road from the station. There's parking there but no rest room. 

    On the way down from Mt. Kepros peak ... the trailhead is way the heck off to the south! 

  • Hike Mt. Kepros, one of four Boise Grand Slam peaks. It's a 10-mile, moderate to strenuous hike, but worth the effort. Travel time: 4-6 hours. Doing the hike in May and early June, the flowers are spectacular! Trailhead is off of Black's Creek Road, east of Boise on the freeway. See details on directions and highlights along the way in my post on hiking Mt. Kepros.   

Outdoor notes:

Noteworthy events going on this weekend:

  • Big water blowout on the Salmon River in Riggins, Saturday, June 3. The Salmon is running 47,000 cfs as of Thursday at Whitebird. Gonna be big! 
  • Eagle Rec Fest at Eagle Island State Park, Saturday, June 3. Free entry to the park! Great place to take the kids for some fun activities! Plus there's 5 miles of trails at the park, ponds and other things for the kids to play on. 
  • Snake River Raptor Fest - Saturday, June 3, 12-5 at the Indian Creek Winery in Kuna. 
Have fun! 
- SS 

Friday, May 26, 2023

Always blessed to float the Owyhee River!

Floating by Pruitt's Castle and Chalk Basin with Liz and Wendy in the bow. 

Hi all, 

We managed to escape for 4-day trip on the Lower Owyhee River two weeks ago under mostly sunny skies. Felt lucky to be out there in one of my favorite spots with my partner Wendy, my son Quinn rowing his own raft, and several other friends, Liz Paul and Norm Nelson. 

We launched on a Thursday morning, so it wasn't too busy at the boat ramp in Rome. There must have been at least 200 vehicles in the parking lot, though, so clearly, the Owyhee River has been popular this spring season! 

Because of deep snow in the Owyhee and Jarbidge-Bruneau river basins last winter (285% of normal snowpack in the Owyhee and 268% in the Bruneau watershed as of April 20), this spring offered a rare chance to float those rivers for a longer window of time than normal when the water is high enough to go (March - June). If you don't have your own raft and whitewater gear, consider going with an outfitter. 

I'd recommend Far & Away Adventures, Wilderness River Outfitters, Barker River Expeditions, and ROW Adventures. Please see a press release and blogpost that I wrote for the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association.

Wendy enjoys the Owyhee River canyon at our campsite below Montgomery Rapids. 

Closing in on Memorial Day weekend, the Owyhee River has dropped to 1,600 cfs and it's continuing to slowly decline, so the window for rafting the river is closing over the next few weeks. Once it drops below 1,000 cfs, it's very rock and slow. The Bruneau River, however, is still running high at more than 2,000 cfs, so the window of time to run that river will extend well into June.  

One of the big advantages of floating the Lower Owyhee is that you follow a paved road (U.S. 95) to the boat-launch site in Rome, Oregon. To float the upper forks of the Owyhee, you have to drive for many miles on unimproved 4WD dirt roads that turn into major quicksand-like gumbo after lots of rain. So we had no worries about being able to reach the river last week, even though it had been wet. 

We took four days to float 48 miles to the Birch Creek takeout, upstream of Owyhee Reservoir. At a flow of 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), with hardly any wind, it was not too hard to make our river miles. 

The weather turned a bit on Day 4 with clouds and cooler temps in the morning.

I watch the weather closely for our trips on the Owyhee because when it's nasty out there, it's not fun. I've encountered driving rain, headwinds, thunder and lightning in previous trips. But we nailed the nice weather window this time around. Grateful for that!  

At 3,000 cfs, many of the rocks were covered with cushy flows. From a whitewater perspective, it's a pretty easy and mellow level with good current and fun waves.

The Lower Owyhee has mostly Class 2 rapids, with a few Class 3's and one Class 4, called Montgomery. I would rate that Class 3+ personally. Montgomery is not that hard. You have to pull away from a left-side wall as the current races around a left-hand bend. It's a pretty straight-forward maneuver, compared to Class 4 rapids that require multiple maneuvers around rocks or holes.

Quinn cooked up a feast of eggs, sausage and blueberry pancakes on the morning of Day 2. 

We had four major highlights on our trip:

1. Birds of Prey were everywhere! Golden eagles, kestrels, northern harriers, prairie falcons and red-tailed hawks were flying around the cliffs, diving toward the water and nesting in the cliffs. Plus, we saw pairs of geese on virtually every corner, some with goslings, a few pairs of mergansers and some mallards.

2. Volcanic rock formations on the Lower Owyhee are spectacular. The types of rock spans from black basalt lava similar to the Jordan Craters, to rhyolite red cliffs, basalt cliffs and many spires, hoodoos and other formations. It's fun to just stare in awe at these features and feel small.

3. Deep snow and April rains made the desert landscape the deepest shade of green imaginable. We must have caught the green-up at its peak. But the flowers were just starting to pop. Arrowleaf balsamroot was blooming everywhere.  

4. Camping out, campfires, S'mores, great meals and great people. I love camping out in general. Hanging out and relaxing in camp is one of my favorite things. My son Quinn cooked up a feast for a dinner and breakfast; that was nice to have him pitch in like that. He's put a lot of effort into learning new recipes. 

If you go, make sure you have enough time to do some side-hiking. The area around Pruitt's Castle is a great place to hike, Hike-out camp is another sweet hiking spot early in the trip, and below Whistling Bird Rapids, there's a sweet campsite with a way to hike to the top of the rim and enjoy big views of the canyon. From that viewpoint, it's amazing how small you can feel, being a tiny little speck amid the giant Owyhee River Plateau.

All I can say is getting away on an Owyhee or Jarbidge-Bruneau trip is good medicine for the soul. And you know, right at that moment, that you're extremely fortunate to experience it.

Side hiking around Pruitt's Castle

- SS

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Support Valley County Pathways in its quest to build a valley-wide trail system from Cascade to McCall

New "singletrack sidewalk" trail along Heinrich Lane, south of McCall 

Hi all,

On the fourth and final day of Idaho Gives, I'd like to encourage you to support Valley County Pathways, a nonprofit group I've been leading for almost 20 years.  

Our vision is to build a 70-mile, valley-wide trail system from Cascade to McCall and New Meadows, where we could connect to the Weiser River Trail. 

Put another way, our quest is to build a trail system that matches the grandeur of Long Valley.

For this year's Idaho Gives campaign, our goal is $15,000. We've received a pledge from a trail supporter who will match all of our contributions up to $15,000, for a total potential of $30,000. 

Our new video tells our story. 

We are inspired by the Boise River Greenbelt, the Wood River Trail and the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. Those long-distance trails are the pride of their communities, and anyone and everyone can enjoy them. 

My feeling is we have 10 years to get a valley-wide trail system in place in Valley County, or we may never get it done. We need to act now! And that takes money! 

I got started with Valley County Pathways in 2004, not long after the first $10M open space measure passed for the Boise Foothills. I was heavily involved in that open space campaign, and I still feel like it's one of the most important things I've done in my life. It was so cool to be part of a broad grass-roots effort that got embraced by the whole Boise community. 

From that experience, I learned that we can shape and enhance our communities and landscapes with new trails, open spaces and wildlife habitat with a LOT of DEDICATION and HARD WORK! 

I've been trying to walk the talk for 30 years. In 1992, I was the founding president of the SW Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA), when Ridge to Rivers was just getting started. We all wanted to improve our trail systems. SWIMBA partnered with Boise REI and R2R to build Shane's Trail, Sidewinder, Trail #1 over to Bob's, Redtail Ridge, and Seaman's Gulch trails in the 1990s. 

Erin and Ed Roper ride in the grand opening of trails in McCall, a VCP event. 

At the same time, I was producing new trail guides like Mountain Biking in Boise, Mountain Biking in McCall, and Mountain Biking in Idaho (80 rides statewide).  

So I was a pretty well-traveled trail guy when I started working full-time for Tamarack Resort in government affairs in 2003. I knew there was an abandoned railroad line that ran through the middle of the valley, and I saw the abundance of public land along the western shoreline of Lake Cascade. I read that the Bureau of Reclamation recommended a walking/biking trail around Lake Cascade in a resource management plan, and my eyes just about popped out of my head! 

We started Valley County Pathways at a time when the Rails to Trails movement was taking off big-time nationwide. 

Eleanor Putman speaks at the trail dedication in 2006
on the north end of the Crown Point Trail.  

But it turned out that the old rail line from McCall to Cascade had been abandoned in 1979, pre-dating national legislation that gave railroad companies tax incentives to gift rail lines to nonprofit groups for conversion to recreation trails. The old railroad line in Valley reverted to private ownership in many locations, so that has made our work much more difficult. 

A few landowners, including the Putman Family and the Whiteman Family, have gifted old RR line property to Valley County Pathways, for which we're eternally grateful.

Long story short, since 2004, we have built the bookends of a trail system in Cascade and McCall. Now we're working on bridging the gaps in the middle of the valley. 

Hugh Fulton, right, and Damon Yerkes on the Boulder Creek Trail. 

Currently, we are partnering with Valley County Parks and Recreation to craft a 5-year and 10-year build-out plan for the valley-wide trail system. We know the price tag will exceed $5M.      

I'm super excited about the whole thing. 

There's a ton of state and federal money available right now for trail projects. We need private funds to provide match for projects, provide steady upkeep on our trails, and to assist with trail construction. We also partner with our friends with the Central Idaho Mountain Biking Association, the West Central Mountains Economic Development Council, the McCall Chamber of Commerce, the City of McCall Parks and Recreation Department, the City of Donnelly, and the community of Cascade to stretch our trail dollars as far as possible. 

I don't usually ask people to donate to any particular cause in my blog, but this is a case that's dear to my heart. Please do what you can for Valley County Pathways! 

Thank you! 
- SS 
The North Valley Rail-Trail doubles as a xc ski, snowshoe and snow bike trail. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

OMG! Five days of 80 degree weather moving into May! Five outdoorsy ideas for Spring!


Hi all, 

For the first time this spring, we've got a wave of really nice, sunny warm weather coming our way for multiple days in a row! In the Boise Valley, I'm seeing high temps of 80 degrees 5 days in a row from Saturday through next Wednesday. Wow! What a change! 

Now we can stop whining about the long, cold, snowy, icy winter, and look ahead to springtime outdoor activities! 

Here are my Top 5 ideas: 

Arrowleaf Balsomroot beginning to bloom in the Hillside to the Hollow Reserve 

1. Hit the trails! Go hiking! Lower to mid-range trails in the Boise Foothills are stellar right now. See the Ridge to Rivers web site for maps and ideas of where to go. Trails in the Owyhee Front Range and Wilson Creek area in particular would be perfect as well! 

The Owyhee River - Pruitt's Castle 

2. Plan a spring desert river trip on the Owyhee or Bruneau River with friends, if you have experience and your own equipment, or book a trip with an outfitter. Here's a list of outfitters who run the Jarbidge/Bruneau canyon and the Owyhee. 

See my post about the 2023 River Outlook for IOGA. With deep snowpack, this is an excellent year to do a trip on the Owyhee or Bruneau when the season will be longer than usual!      

3. Tackle the Boise Grand Slam Peaks - hike to the top of four mountains nearby - Cervidae, Kepros, Shaw Mountain and Heinen Peak. With this warmer weather ahead, I'd expect the wildflowers to start popping and those hikes should be fantastic! One thing's for sure, they're always a workout! See my post about hiking the Boise Grand Slam Peaks

Leslie Gulch 

4. Go self-support camping in the Snake River canyon, Succor Creek State Park or Leslie Gulch areas in the Owyhee Canyonlands. 

5. Go biking on the Greenbelt, do a nice long road bike ride, or take your gravel grinder bike for a spin on the Owyhee Backcountry Byway. Do something kind of epic and enjoy the sunshine!  

Have fun! Don't forget the sun screen! 
- SS  

Thursday, April 20, 2023

New guidebook features 80 dog-friendly hiking trails, urban walks and parks in the Treasure Valley

Watson on Charcoal Gulch trail in Idaho City.
(all photos courtesy Matt Clark and Diana Burrell)

Hi all,

Boise friends Matt Clark and Diana Burrell have created a new hiking guidebook for dog lovers in the Treasure Valley area.

Titled Treasure Valley Dog Hikes and Walks, the book details over 42 hikes, 14 urban walks and 25 dog-friendly parks within 90 minutes of the Treasure Valley.

This is what Matt and Diana have to say about their new book:

“We love hiking with our rescue dogs, Watson and Berry. We have every hiking guide about trails and urban pathways in and near the Treasure Valley. Generally, the only dog-related information in the guides is whether a trail was on - or off-leash, so we occasionally found ourselves on trails that were not well-suited for our four-footed hiking pals. With the number of dog lovers in our area, we knew we weren’t alone in our search for the best dog friendly trails.

“Watson and Berry inspired the trails, paths, and parks featured in Treasure Valley Dog Hikes and Walks. They made us think about the kinds of wildlife you’ll see, availability of shade, whether the tread is too jagged for paws.

“On hikes, we made notes on whether there’s enough water nearby? Is the access to water easy enough for Watson’s arthritic hips (he’s nearly 14)? Is the hike long enough for Berry to get her zoomies out (she’s part border collie)? We avoided heavily travelled motorized and mountain bike trails (a speeding bike, a blind corner, and an off leash dog can be disastrous for everyone).

We follow Stueby's Outdoor Journal and always appreciate Steve's all-season approach to finding adventures. We wanted to do the same for dogs and their people so they can enjoy outings year-round. Berry and Watson have added their perspectives to many of the trails, paths, and parks in the descriptions. With their help, and after many miles of exploration, we identified 42 hikes, 14 paths, and 25 dog-friendly parks that inspire human-canine bonding and adventure for all ages, energy levels, and seasons.

Matt Clark with the pups on the ParkCenter pedestrian bridge. 

“We aren’t dog trainers or veterinarians, but we have learned some lessons the hard way. Always carry extra water—dogs can overheat quickly. Not all dogs who are off leash should be off leash, and even the best dogs can have bad days. We even learned how to get our 80-pound dog off a mountain four miles from the vehicle when he became lame.

“We hope our tips in this guide will help others from having to learn the same hard lessons. The introduction to Treasure Valley Dog Hikes and Walks includes advice on appropriate dog (and human) gear, safety, and trail etiquette and helpful “in-fur-mational” tips are scattered through the guide.

“Our goal with this book is to help dog lovers and their Best Furry Friends (BFFs) have a “paw-some” time together in nature while being good stewards of the land and respectful trail users. Now grab that leash and get going—your BFF is waiting!

Where to buy the book: Treasure Valley Dog Hikes and Walks is currently available at both Rediscovered Books locations, all three Flying M coffee shops, both Co-Op locations, Boise REI, Idaho Mountain Touring, Shu’s Idaho Running Company, and Telaya Wine Company.

A portion of the sale proceeds from the book will be donated to local organizations that remove dog waste and perform trail maintenance on many of the trails and paths in this guidebook.

Thanks to Matt and Diana for creating  another important information resource for your outdoor bookshelf! 

Diana and Matt out on an Idaho adventure. 

- SS 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Lower Boise Foothills trails finally open for hiking and biking! 3 hikes/rides to explore!

A bearded Steve at the summit of Shane's Trail on an April mountain bike ride.

Hi all, 

With the dramatic turn from winter to spring weather for a couple of choice days last weekend - featuring high temperatures in the mid-70s - the trails in the lower Boise Foothills dried up and now they're ready for hiking, biking and trail-running. Finally! 

In many years, the trails in the Boise Foothills have dried up in late February to early March, but because of the long, cold snowy and icy winter we had in 2022-23, spring is coming late! 

And that's OK! 

Boy, it felt great to get out and ride my mountain bike on Saturday morning! It was still on the cool side, but when I saw that Ridge to Rivers had given the lower trails the green light, I was ready! I rode from Camelsback Park to Crestline and Sidewinder and took Red Cliffs back. The trails were bone-dry the whole way. 

I saw hikers, mountain bikers and runners everywhere. As the day got warmer, I have a feeling that the trails got even more busy! 

Central Ridge trail in Military Reserve

Man, it felt good to climb, get my lungs and heart pumping in the red zone, and enjoy another one of my favorite gravity sports on the way down!  

Remember that it's only mid-April, and we'll be subject to more rain and even some snow.  Pay attention to the Ridge to Rivers trail reports on Facebook if you're in doubt. 

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending three hiking and biking loops in the foothills. After a snowy surprise Thursday morning, it's supposed to be a really nice weekend Friday-Sunday with High Pressure aloft, mostly clear skies and warmer temps each day through Sunday. High temps are 56 degrees on Friday, 65 Saturday and 75 on Sunday. Now we're talking! 

And then the weather goes to hell on Monday-Tuesday of next week. So get out and enjoy it this weekend when you can!

Sharing the trails respectfully with others is important in the foothills. Thank you! 

Before we get into the rides/hikes, a couple of reminders: 

1. Be a good trail ambassador! "Be Kind" when you're out using the trails, share the trails respectfully with others, and smile and say "hi" when you pass by people. A little bit of courtesy goes a long way! 

2. If you're mountain biking, remember that all uphill traffic has the right of way. If you're coming down and you see people coming up, stop, step off the trail and let them pass by, no matter if they're walking, running or biking.

3. If you come up behind someone and need to pass, say something like "coming up" and let them know you're coming so they can step off the trail for you to pass.  

4. Polecat Gulch is changing back to counter-clockwise direction this year. You'll see the signage out there. I preferred riding it clockwise, but oh well. I do like how the one-way direction on Polecat has reduced conflicts and, no doubt, collisions. It's a tight, narrow singletrack in places on steep side-hills without much in the way of sight lines. The one-way trails are safer. 

5. Stay off muddy trails. I already covered that above, but I'm saying it again. If things are wet, go for a road ride or ride the Greenbelt. 

Now for the recommended hikes/rides: 

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

Map of Kestrel-Red Cliffs loop from Steve's book, "Boise Trail Guide" 

2. Best for hiking or biking: 
Jumpin' Jeepers Figure-8 Loop - 6.75 miles. Rated moderate with strenuous sections. Rated intermediate for biking. Hiking time, 2.5-3 hours; running time, 1:20; riding time, 1:10. This is one of my favorite rides in Military Reserve that connects to Shane's Trail. It's an equally nice run or hike. The name comes from the Boise Police Dept. shooting range at the end of Mountain Cove Road. The unexpected blast from a gun might cause you to jump out of your skin! (It's an archery range now, thank goodness!). 

To start, go to the main trailhead on Mountain Cove Road, after the sharp right-hand corner. Take the Toll Road Trail #27A to #20 Ridge Crest and climb to the top of the hill. Turn right on Central Ridge Trail and climb at a moderate pace to Shane's Junction. Take Shane's #26A to the left, and climb to the top of Shane's. You've climbed 1,000 feet over 3+ miles. Give your puppy a drink and a snack. Descend Shane's for less than a mile, turn right on the Shane's Loop and return to the Central Ridge-Bucktail-Shane's jct. Take Bucktail downhill and enjoy the big GS turns as you wind across a big downhill on a large flat. Bucktail drops into the Central Ridge alternative trail. Go right and then left on that and it'll take you back to the trailhead. It's a great view of Idaho's Capital City as you cruise downhill on that sagebrush slope to the trailhead.

Map of Jumpin' Jeepers Figure 8 Loop from Steve's book, "Boise Trail Guide"

3. Best for hiking or biking: Polecat Gulch Loop - NW Foothills. This area was a key new 834-acre open space reserve purchased by the City of Boise in 2002 with funds from the 2001 Foothills Levy. It opened up a great system of trails in an area that had been previously unaccessible because its private land status. The trails in Polecat are more moderate than many in the foothills, so that's another draw. This area also is home to albino mule deer. I've seen them myself!

How to get there: Take Hill Road to N. Collister in NW Boise. Turn north on N. Collister and proceed to the Polecat Trailhead at the end of the road. There is a restroom in the parking lot.

The Polecat Gulch "finger" loop as I call it in my guidebooks, Boise Trail Guide and Mountain Biking in Boiseis approximately 6 miles long. It circumnavigates the whole gulch. I call it a finger loop because the trail snakes around little ridges that extend like a finger from the top of the gulch. It takes about an hour to do the loop on a bike, 1.25 hours for trail-runners, and several hours if you're hiking.

Huck's about to take flight on a windy spring day in the Boise Foothills.

There you have it! 

A couple of other things going on this weekend: 
  • Spring skiing at Bogus Basin. Lift tickets are available online if you don't have a season pass. 
  • Rivers are rising, if you haven't noticed! Experienced kayakers and surfers are enjoying the play waves at the Boise Whitewater Park and the Payette River would be fun, too. The South Fork and Main Payette are definitely running at boatable levels and rising! 
- SS 

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Hike or bike the Snake River Trail and look for eagles, hawks and falcons in SW Idaho

Wendy checks out the scene at Discovery Point with the Snake River Canyon in the distance.

Hi all, 

The weather looks really wet and rainy Saturday and Sunday in the Boise Valley, but Friday looks good with partly cloudy skies and a high of 52 F. 

A lot of people are totally sick of the snow and winter weather, but there will be a number of events going on this weekend with Tamarack Resort holding the Idaho State Pond Skim Championship on Saturday, April 1st. Should be blizzard-like conditions for the event with plenty of music and a hearty party atmosphere. Tam is closing on April 2, but will remain open for a bonus week for Boundless season pass holders and it'll provide discounted lift tickets in the bonus week. Plus people with a season pass to Bogus or Brundage can get a lift ticket at no charge. 

They've had sunshine for the Tamarack pond skim event in the past, but they won't have it this year. 
100 percent chance of snow with 10-16" of new expected. (photo courtesy Tamarack Resort)

Brundage Mountain will be hosting the 2023 BREWlympic Games on Saturday, April 1st. There are relay races in the morning, but the main event happens at 2 p.m. when eight teams of four face off in the Gelande Quaff tournament, sliding huge mugs of beer down a long table to a teammate who catches the mug and chugs the beer. "Strict rules apply and style points are key to victory," Brundage officials said. Gaper Day costumes are encouraged for competitors and spectators alike. 

The forecast Saturday at Brundage is very similar to Tamarack - 10-14" of new snow, high temp of 28 degrees, and 100% chance of snow. Brundage is closing for the season on April 9th. 

Bogus Basin, BTW, will hosting its on pond skim on Saturday, April 15, and closing day is on Sunday, April 16. 

If you're curious about the snowy forecast for this weekend, here's my latest forecast for the Idaho Daily Snow via

View of Swan Falls Dam and looking downcanyon. 

In between rain and snow storms (when will spring ever come!?), I'd recommend going down to the Snake River by Swan Falls and hiking or biking the Snake River Trail downriver to enjoy the sights, look for prairie falcons, a variety of hawks and golden eagles. Wendy and I had a nice hike in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area last Saturday. It was chilly with temps in the low 40s and occasional snow and rain squalls, but we did locate a prairie falcon eyrie in the rocky cliffs with our binoculars and I got a picture. Score!

We also saw golden eye ducks, wood ducks, mergansers, lots of ravens, pigeons, and red-tailed hawks. Wendy could mention more songbirds. 

Prairie falcon guarding the nest ... needed more than a 200 mm telephoto lens.

We hiked on the Snake River River trail a couple of miles and enjoyed seeing the green shoots of cheatgrass sprouting in the canyon (just anything green was nice to see), the sound of the Snake River flowing downriver through small riffles, and the sounds of bird life in the canyon.     

Trail side view of the Snake River canyon. 

Soon, I'm planning to go back after things dry out and ride my mountain bike to Wees Bar and take pics of the Native American petroglyphs on the south bank of the Snake. Idaho Power has created a very nice public walkway at Swan Falls Dam for crossing over the dam to the trails on the other side. I'll be writing about that adventure soon. 

BLM trail sign on the east end of the Snake River Trail. It's about 4.5 miles downriver
to Halverson Lake and Centennial Park.  

 Take I-84 to the Kuna exit at Meridian Road. Go south to Kuna and follow signs to the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Stop at Discovery Point, a BLM interpretive area, on your way to Swan Falls Dam to glass for golden eagles. Once at the dam, go downstream on the dirt/gravel road 4 miles to the trailhead. It's a non-motorized trail, restricted to walking, running and mountain biking. 

For hiking, I recommend wearing trail boots or trail shoes. Bring plenty of water and snacks/lunch for your day trip. Enjoy! 

- SS   

Wees Bar area across the river. Native American Petroglyph site.