Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Another way to Beat the Heat: Go visit an Idaho fire lookout! Some are available for rent ...


Granite Mountain Lookout near McCall (elevation 8,479 feet) 

Hi all,

I must admit, I've always had a soft spot for Idaho's fire lookouts - especially after I started mountain biking in the mid-80's, mountain-top lookouts were a natural place to go. Typically, there is a 4WD road leading to a lookout, and so you've got dirt road access, and often the climb to the lookout goes for multiple miles with several thousand feet of vertical gain, meaning you'll have a guaranteed workout to reach the summit.

Some lookouts are even more remote and require hiking a trail to the top. I've done both.  

My recommendation is to explore Idaho's lookouts whenever you can, wherever you can, work in a hike or bike ride into the outing for some exercise, and consider making plans to rent a lookout for a weekend with your honey, friends or family.

Why go? Fire lookouts, by definition, are always located on top of a high mountain peak. That's so the Forest Service lookout personnel have a big view of the surrounding countryside and can spot lightning strikes and fire starts. That means the lookout locations have a huge, 360-degree view of the mountains for miles on end -- this is one of the big payoffs.

"There's no finer way to see our state," says Gary Weber of the Forest Fire Lookout Association in a Idaho Public TV program about lookouts. 

"Idaho's Lookouts are doorways to the heavens," narrator and executive producer Bruce Reichert says. "They inspire people to visit these sanctuaries at the edge of the sky."

Lookouts can be a good place to take young kids. If there's a 4WD road to the top, you can drive to the summit and tour the top of the mountain. Mom or Dad can drive, and the other can ride or hike to the top. You know the drill.

One of the biggest benefits, I'd say from personal experience, is to experience a sunrise or sunset from a fire lookout tower. It's absolutely, utterly spectacular! Bring your camera, and pack your binoculars to look for wildlife.

Sunset from Arid Peak Lookout (courtesy Rick Gerrard) 

At one time, there were 8,000 fire lookouts nationwide, and Idaho had about 1,000 of them. Here's a website with all of the original sites. Many of the lookouts have been decommissioned over the years, but there are about 150 lookouts still standing in Idaho. I've noticed a number of sites where the lookouts no longer exist, such as on Packer John Mountain, Red Mountain, Council Mountain, etc. I bet you've seen some, too.  

Here are a few lookout towers to visit near Boise, and some possibilities for rental. Rental rates, by the way, range from $35/night to $50/night:
Scott Mountain Lookout near Garden Valley. 
  • Scott Mountain Lookout - Scott Mountain lords over Garden Valley at an elevation of 8,215 feet. You can get there via the Banks to Lowman Road, heading toward Lowman, and then head north to Scott Mountain on Forest Road 555. You can hike or mountain bike from the Scott Mountain Road junction to the top of the mountain. Be sure to bring a lunch and enjoy the views from the top. 
  • Pilot Peak Lookout - A lot of backcountry skiers know about Pilot Peak because it's an awesome backcountry skiing area. In the summer, there's a great mountain bike ride going up to the lookout, and then descending all the way to Idaho City via Bear Run Road! Plus, it's a nice hike or trail run to the lookout and back (3.5 miles each way) from Mores Creek Summit. You can access the gravel road to Pilot Peak via Mores Creek Summit on Idaho 21, about 10 miles northeast of Idaho City. 
    Sunset Mountain Lookout, 5 miles above Mores Creek Summit. 

  • Sunset Mountain Lookout - It's five miles to the top of Sunset Mountain from Mores Creek Summit. This is a good hike or bike ride. The hiking and trail-running trip to the top of Sunset L.O. are featured in my book Boise Trail Guide. I remember pedaling the baby trailer to the top of Sunset when my son Quinn was about 6 months old; it was definitely doable. Sunset has fabulous views of the North Fork of the Boise River country, and Steel Mountain and the Sawtooths are visible from the distance. 
  • Basin Butte Lookout - This one is available for rent. It's located north of Stanley in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. (need details on the approach). Forest Service Road #432 climbs to the top of Basin Butte. The turnoff is across Idaho 21 from the turnoff to Stanley Lake. Go left on the Stanley Creek road (653), and then after several miles you'll come to a fork. Go left on #432 to reach the top of Basin Butte. It's 6.3 miles and 2,750 feet of gain to the top from the turnoff. Check into rental availability at

    From the inside looking out at Deadwood Lookout ... this could be yours for a weekend! 

  • Deadwood Lookout - This one also is available for rent. According to recreation.govDeadwood Lookout is one of the most popular Forest Service rental cabins in Idaho. It's located on Deadwood Mountain, high above Deadwood Campground and the Deadwood River confluence with the South Fork of the Payette River. Take Forest Road #555 north from the South Fork to a junction by a campground at the top of the grade, and take a hard right on Road Road #555EC. It's less than 3 miles from the junction to the lookout.   
  • Whitehawk Mountain Lookout - This is where my son Quinn and I and our dog Huck watched the eclipse several years ago. Whitehawk is located in Bear Valley, north of Lowman. It is not available for rent as it's still manned by the Forest Service to watch for fires. 
  • Bald Mountain - This is a 50-foot-high structure that sleeps four in the Clearwater National Forest in the Hoodoo Mountains. It looks so cool, that it's certainly worth the long drive to get there. You'd want to set aside a day on either side of your lookout trip for travel time. I bet this particular lookout is in high demand because there aren't that many left that sit that high off the ground. Bald Mountain Lookout is accessed from Highway 6, near Moscow, along the White Pine Scenic Byway. There are a number of hiking and biking trails that you can tie into near the lookout. 
    Lookout Butte Lookout, 60 feet high 

  • Lookout Butte - This one also is set on top of a steel tower, 60 feet above the ground, and it's available for rent. Sleeps up to 4 people. Lookout Butte is located in the Nez Perce National Forest, and it offers fetching views of the Selway Crags, Seven Devils, Coolwater Ridge and more. It's 15 miles southwest of Lowell on Forest Roads 223, 470, 286 and 1124. 4WD recommended. There are zillions of Forest Service roads in the vicinity. Looks like a cool place to explore.        
  • Tripod Mountain Lookout - And last, but not least, we come back closer to home to visit Tripod Mountain Lookout, above Smith's Ferry. This one also is featured in my Boise Trail GuideTripod is best reached by trail on foot. You take Forest Road #626, across from the Cougar Mountain Lodge, and take that to the West Mountain Trailhead at a saddle on the road. It's 11.8 miles round-trip to the peak and back. Vertical gain is 3,160 feet. I rate it strenuous. But once you're on top of the ridge, you're glad you did it! 
Want to read/see more? 
A few years ago, I camped at the Arid Peak Lookout in the St. Joe National Forest, and wrote a feature for VisitIdaho about the experience. Highly recommend that location, too! 

Idaho Public Television featured an excellent program called "Eyes of the Forest" about a number of super-cool fire lookout towers in the state. You might watch for the re-run or see if you can watch it via the Idaho PTV web site

Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Stay cool in August heat by GETTING WET early and often! Preferably in the Mountains!

Steve cooling off at North Beach in McCall

Hi all, 

I'm sure it's been a challenge for many to beat the heat lately. But if you've planned some mountain getaways at higher elevations, cooler temperatures, etc., it sure can make a difference! 

I've been impressed to read about some folks doing trips across the length of the Sawtooth Mountains, and I saw that a woman climbed all of Idaho's 12,000-foot peaks in a matter of several days. It's the middle of summer season, and it's prime time to visit the mountains and high country in Idaho! 

Wendy and I spent all of last week at our cabin in McCall. My motto every day was to exercise in the morning - often on my road bike (mountain bike is in the shop) - swim at the beginning of the ride and swim at the end of the ride before heading home. Then I'd work for a few hours in the afternoon to round out the day, and then swim again! 

Warren Wagon Road heading to Upper Payette Lake  

Our cabin is less than a mile away from the Payette Lake, 1 mile from Little Payette Lake and less than a mile from Ponderosa State Park, so it's easy to get in the water. We are fortunate to have our place in paradise! 

A few notes from our week: 

  • The greater McCall area is very busy right now. Lots of campgrounds are full. Payette Lake is busy. Even Upper Payette Lake was busy. Be sure to make a camping or lodging reservation before you go. That said, once you get outside of the center of McCall, it's less busy.
    Upper Payette Lake boat ramp was quiet on a Friday morning. 

  • The Meanders, a primo place for stand up paddle-boarding was busy. The North Beach parking area seemed crushed all week long. But people were still staking out their spots next to the water and having a great time! 

    The Meanders by North Beach in McCall .. primo SUP destination. 

Jim Young takes us on a Friday evening post-dinner boat ride on Payette Lake for a swim. 
Having impromptu gatherings with friends is one the great things about being in McCall. 

On Saturday, we topped off the week with a fund-raiser event with live music for Valley County Pathways and Torin Oberlindacher's 50th birthday, a trail friend. The Dusty Huckleberries were a great warm-up band, and then we had GRATEFUL - A Tribute Band in the evening. We had a big crowd, made some bucks for VC Pathways, and danced to our favorite Grateful Dead tunes. Great times! 

The Boise-based Grateful Dead tribute band will play at Brundage Mountain on Aug. 12. I highly recommend it! 

There are so many other things to do in the McCall area, including golf, backpacking, peak-bagging, fishing, mountain biking/hiking at Brundage Mountain, mountain biking/hiking/ziplining at Tamarack Resort, mountain biking/hiking at Jug Mountain Ranch, hiking/biking/swimming/camping at Ponderosa State Park, camping at Lake Cascade State Park, and exploring the Payette and Boise National Forests. Plus, floating the upper North Fork of the Payette River below McCall, below Cascade, or Cabarton. The list goes on!   

Here's Steve guiding a group through Howard's Plunge on the Cabarton reach of the Payette River. 

Don't let the summer run away without visiting McCall and the West Central Mountains
- SS 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Revisiting the Bitterroot Valley a welcome treat for this Montana Griz alum - 40 years later!

Top of St. Mary's Peak, 9,321 feet above sea level 

Hi all, 

Wendy and I decided to take an outdoorsy vacation in the Bitterroot Valley last week. It's only a day's drive there from Boise via Lost Trail Pass, north of Salmon or the Lochsa River corridor, north of  Grangeville. It took us 6.5 hours from McCall, driving along the Lochsa River.

The Bitterroot Valley is a gorgeous place with the Bitterroot River drawing S-curves through the center of the valley, the Bitterroot Mountain Range running north-south to the west and the Saphire Range  bookending the views to the east. 

Even though I'm a Montana griz alum, to be honest, I haven't spent much time in Western Montana since I graduated from the UM Journalism School in 1981, 40 fricking years ago! Not to date myself at all! 

The Bitterroot River with Don, Huck and Wendy

The Bitterroot Valley was literally a key part of my old stomping grounds in the five years I went to UM. My friend Don Lewis, a Journalism School classmate and I used to throw Don's aluminum canoe on top of his VW bug, and we'd zip down to Florence or Stevensville and float and fish the Bitterroot River. 

We hiked as many of the Bitterroot drainages as we could, and we bagged a number of the peaks, including Trapper, Lolo, St. Mary's and more. Truth be told, you could easily spend a whole summer in the Bitterroot Valley and still just scratch the surface of all the outdoor opportunities in the area.

For our base camp, Wendy and I rented an inexpensive yurt via AirBnB at the foot of Blodgett Canyon, west of Hamilton. The yurt was literally 1.5 miles from the Blodgett Canyon trailhead. Most evenings, we went up to the trailhead to see the steep vertical canyon walls glow at sunset.  

On a Tuesday, we met up with former Idaho Statesman chief photographer Tom Shanahan, who lives in Stevensville, MT, and we climbed St. Mary's Peak. It's a relatively easy climb to the top with a well-engineered moderate grade leading you to the 9,321-foot summit in 3.5 miles.

Tom Shanahan with Huck

Tom and I caught up on old times hiking on the trail, while my pointer Huck chased squirrels and birds and Wendy looked/listened for songbirds. 

We reached the lookout and summit in less than 2 hours. The views on top were absolutely glorious! St. Mary's Peak is in the north end of the range, so you can look 50 miles to the south at all of the Bitterroot Peaks, plus peer into the vast interior of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. We soaked up those views, and enjoyed a wonderful cool breeze for at least an hour on top, while eating lunch, etc. 

Looking south, down the Bitterroot Mountain Range  

On the hike down, Tom and I continued to chat while we cruised down the trail. And then, suddenly, I tripped on a rock with my left foot and I fell face-down in a microsecond. I managed to soften the blow of the fall with my arms and right shoulder, avoiding any face/head injury, but unbeknownst to me, I hit a watermelon-sized granite rock really hard with my right thigh/quad muscle on the way down. I could barely feel my right leg! 

I sat down, took a breather, and Tom fed me some cold water. I tried to walk a bit. Thank goodness I had trekking poles with me. I could kind of walk half-speed without too much pain. I limped down the trail the rest of the way, taking half steps and babying my right leg. We figured if I could walk on it, I hadn't broken the bone. It would be too painful to walk on a fractured femur.

So hey, the lesson here is to watch your step and take your time on mountain trails! 

I iced the heck out of my leg when we got back to the yurt, took some pain killers, and drank merrily in the evening. Could have been worse. 

Lake Como (courtesy 

On Wednesday, we visited Lake Como, a sweet spot in the Bitterroots just to the south of Hamilton. You can camp by Lake Como, plus you can go boating there, swimming, SUP'ing, canoeing and kayaking. There's a large beach as you approach the lake by a large dam that creates the lake. Wendy went for a long swim while I read my book and stayed off my sore leg. 

While in the south end of the valley, we drove by the Chief Joseph Ranch in Darby, the movie set of the hit TV series "Yellowstone." We gawked and took pics.  

Yellowstone Ranch near Darby. They were filming new episodes, so no entrance allowed. 

Our friends Don and Sue Lewis drove down from their home in Whitefish to meet up with us Wednesday afternoon at the yurt. They brought their AIRE 14-foot raft for floating the Bitterroot River on Thursday. 

We had dinner at the Edge in Hamilton that evening. They have a full menu, plus cocktails, beer and wine. I had seared Ahi and a salad. Great food and drink, I thought.       

On Thursday, we floated the Bitterroot River from the Stevenville bridge to the Florence bridge, an 11-mile stretch. There are many sections of the Bitterroot that you could float, depending on the objective. See fishing/boater access map. 

We had another postcard-clear day to enjoy on the river. We stopped and fly-fished in a number of places by braided gravel bars with multiple water channels to fish and wade. Just a beautiful river, running quite clear. We saw a fair bit of dry fly activity on the water surface, but did not land any fish. It's fair to say that we did not hit it very hard, since we had dogs in the boat, plus Wendy and Sue. 

Bitterroot River is mostly class 1-2, with lots of wood to dodge in the channel. 

These were the core activities that we did in the Bitterroot Valley. We headed home via Lost Trail Pass and Salmon. We hiked the xc ski trails a bit on Lost Trail Summit just to stretch our legs, and went swimming on the Salmon River, east of North Fork, before over-nighting in Salmon and then driving home to Boise.

We really enjoyed our time in the Bitterroot Valley. Hope you do too someday. 
- SS   

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Beat the Heat! Five alternative, off-the-beaten path destinations for SUP'ing and kayaking in SW Idaho

Low-key SUP adventure at Discovery State Park 

Hi all,

The weather is heating up, and we'll be hitting 100 degrees in Boise several days in a row next week! 

Time to cool off in the river! Where to go? 

Everyone will be flocking to Barber Park to float the Boise River or to Quinn's Pond to go Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP), hanging out on the beach or kayaking. 

Quinn's Pond has been the go-to destination for SUPs in Boise, and often times, it's challenging to even find a place to park at Esther Simplot Park to get easy access to Quinn's Pond. However, the old Bob Rice Ford parking lot is a great alternative, with plenty of space and a new and improved boat launch from that side of the pond. 

To find a little more elbow room, here are some suggested alternative destinations to go SUP'ing, canoeing or kayaking.

You also can inquire with the experts Idaho River Sports and Alpenglow Mountainsport (both of whom have tons of SUP and kayak rentals available) for ideas, or consult my guidebook, Paddling the Payettewhich has more than 15 fantastic flat-water and moderate, swift-water destinations for SUPs and kayaks. 

Be sure to wear life jackets, helmets and safety gear on rocky moving water like the Boise River and Payette River. Stay away from the river banks when possible as well to avoid getting caught in debris, downed trees, etc. 

1. Discovery State Park - Located at the foot of Lucky Peak Dam, Discovery Park is a great place to paddle in the Boise River below the dam. The shady park is a great place to hang out, so bring a picnic, and there is a great spot for off-leash dogs to run around. You can paddle towards Diversion Dam, or just paddle around next to the park. 

Paddling SUPs at Discovery Park. 

Arrowrock Reservoir near full pool. 

2. Arrowrock Reservoir - Quiet and uncrowded. Lots of places to launch by campgrounds or other dispersed sites along the west side of the reservoir by the Middle Fork Road. Could be windy in the afternoon, so be aware of that. 

3. Mores Creek arm of Lucky Peak Reservoir. Put in at Robie Creek Park. Quiet and relatively uncrowded.

Video courtesy Idaho Caller 

4. Payette River - Montour reach near Sweet. Moving water but no rapids. Multiple sand bars as the river level drops. Put-in at the Montour IDFG Wildlife Managemennt Area by the river bridge. Easy bike shuttle possible by planting a bike at the beginning of Black Canyon Reservoir. 3.5 miles. 

5. Centennial Park to Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls. World-class paddling experience in the giant Snake River Canyon. See post in Southern Idaho Tourism for details and directions! Fabulous trip!(Video courtesy Southern Idaho Tourism)

Have fun and stay cool close to the water! 

- SS 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

10 must-see, must-do outdoorsy ideas for the 4th of July holiday and Summer 2022

If you've got a suitable 4x4, truck camping in hard-to-reach places can be gratifying! 

Hi all, 

The 4th of July long weekend is coming up! Many people have already made plans, but in case you haven't and need some inspiration, I am recommending 10 must-see, must-do activities not only for this weekend, but for the whole summer season:

1. Float a river (day trip) - we're blessed with so many options here, but the summer season is now open on the Boise River! See details about floating the Boise River, renting a raft, etc. Warm summer weather also gets people jazzed about floating the Payette River, either the Main Payette, South Fork Payette or Cabarton run on the North Fork. Check with Cascade Raft & Kayak, Bear Valley RaftingIdaho Whitewater Unlimited and the Payette River Company about guided trips. The Payette's calmer sections are great for stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), sit-on-top kayaking and canoeing. See my post about 10 premium locations to go kayaking or SUP'ing in SW Idaho. 

Float a river! This is on the Cabarton stretch of the Payette River. 

2. Climb a mountain - The pinnacle is to climb Mount Borah, but there are so many other options in Idaho, with dozens of peaks over 10,000 feet and 8 peaks over 12,000 feet. See Idaho mountain expert Tom Lopez's list of recommended mountain peaks. McCall mountain expert John Platt also has an extensive list of peaks and mountains that he's climbed. 

3. Ride the ski lift to the top of Bogus BasinBrundage Mountain, Tamarack Resort or Sun Valley and go hiking or biking from there.

4. Take your kids fishing - See the list of Idaho Fish and Game's Family Fishing Waters to find some great recommendations close to home.

5. Go backpacking in the Sawtooths, White Clouds, Pioneers or Big Lost Mountain Range. Snow levels are at roughly 7,500-8,000 feet in the Sawtooths, creek crossings are high and hazardous, See Michael Lanza's recommended hikes in the Sawtooths in his blog, the Big Outside. See a recommended major loop in the White Clouds in Backpacker mag. For a great hike in the Pioneers, see my blog post about hiking Broad Canyon. For the Big Lost range, see this overview in Summit   

6. Sleep under the stars in a dark sky venue like Bear Valley in the Boise National Forest, the Owyhee Canyonlands or outside of Stanley.

Catch a trout on the Middle Fork Salmon River. 

7. Fly into the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and go fly-fishing for native cutthroat trout. Air taxi services in Boise, Cascade or McCall can take you into the Middle Fork in less than an hour. All fishing is catch and release.

8. Go mountain biking on a classic loop trail like Fisher-Williams in the White Clouds, Loon Lake north of McCall or Around the Mountain at Bogus Basin. 

Climbing up a short hill to finish the Fisher-Williams Loop (courtesy Salsa cycles)

9. Go SUP'ing, boating or swimming in a refreshing, natural Idaho mountain lake like Payette Lake, Redfish Lake, or Priest Lake. See my post on 10 perfect paddling destinations for kayaking and SUPs in SW Idaho for ideas. 

10. Go car camping in the Middle Fork Boise River area, North Fork Boise River area, the Middle Fork of the Payette River area or Bear Valley. There are some reservable fee campgrounds and some dispersed camping areas. See the Boise National Forest, Payette National Forest or Sawtooth National Forest web sites for more information. 

For further enrichment on Idaho bucket list trips, see an Idaho bucket list post from Boise State radio, and a post that I did listing another 30 bucket list trips that they didn't cover. 

Remember: Be smart about Fire Safety this weekend ... we put out a post yesterday from Recreate Responsibly Idaho reminding folks that no fireworks are allowed on public lands, no exploding shooting targets, and be sure to put out your campfire before you leave the site ... make sure it is completed out, cold to the touch. 
- SS

Thursday, June 16, 2022

North Fork Championships this weekend; plus Brundage, Tamarack and Bogus Basin open for summer season!

A kayaker paddles through a giant frothing hole/wave on the North Fork Payette River.
Photo by SS 

Hi all, 

I stopped by the North Fork of the Payette River today on my way down to Boise from McCall, and I had a chance to watch a number of kayakers participating in the North Fork Championships practice the slalom course in Jacob's Ladder Rapids, the largest and steepest Class 5 drop on the North Fork. 

It's just amazing to stand by the North Fork and feel its thundering power - especially at the top of Jake's! It scares me just to stand there and watch boaters go through the expert-only super-challenging rapids! 

The first slalom gate comes immediately following the first steep drop into the rapids. Competitors have to fly into an eddy on river left as they make the drop, do a quick 180-degree turn, paddle upstream, go around the slalom gate, and then dig in the paddle and carve into a ferocious eddy turn into the center of the raging river, where the kayakers can get churned up in the major turbulence or best case, make a clean entry and zip to the next slalom gate. 

These are some of the nation's best Class 5 kayakers, and they're here kayaking on the North Fork of the Payette River for the North Fork Championships. The event started on Thursday, June 16, and continues through Saturday, June 18, for the North Fork slalom event. I think it's well-worth watching! 

Hang on to that brace buddy! Photo by SS

On Thursday, there was an expert downriver race in S-turn Rapids, just above Big Eddy Campground, on the North Fork. Friday, there's a downriver Boater X race, also in S-turn Rapids, starting at 12:30 p.m. 

The main event, the elite North Fork slalom race in Jacob's Ladder, starts at 1 p.m. Saturday. The kayaker with the fastest time and clean slalom runs wins the race (best of two runs). There are men's and women's elite divisions; a total of 150 kayakers will be participating. 

If you can get up there early and stake out a spot on the North Fork to watch the races, it will be a spectacular thing to see!   

With the warmer weather this week, it seems like summer is finally kicking in! 

Steve Jones amid the flowers in Ponderosa State Park. 

The snow is finally melted around McCall. Hiking and biking trails in Ponderosa State Park are in great shape. The campers are beginning to filter in! Lots of people are hiking and biking at Jug Mountain Ranch as well as on trails around McCall, like the North Valley Rail-Trail, McCall Greenbelt, and Spring Mountain Ranch bike trails.  

Brundage Mountain Resort opens their mountain bike trails this weekend, plus people are encouraged to ski/ride off the top of the mountain as well. Ha! That's kind of a hoot! The Bluebird Express will be running all day Friday-Sunday, plus food and beverage services at the base area. See their announcement about opening weekend, beginning on Friday, June 17, and about future events. The Brundage concert series starts on July 8, plus there's a 4th of July music fest. 

Plenty of snow still at the Brundage summit.

Tamarack Resort's
mountain bike park and Tam Express chairlift begin operating this weekend as well on Friday, June 17, and then Tam will remain open seven days a week through the summer season. Riders can enjoy 1,700 vertical feet of downhill riding on the Tam downhill trails, plus there's xc trails worth exploring at the Tamarack base area. There's also zipline tours, waterfront services with boat rentals, and food and beverage. 

Bogus Basin also will be opening for 7-day-a-week operations on Friday. People can ride the Deer Point or Morning Star chairlifts, ride gravity mountain bike trails, ride the Mountain Coaster, go hiking. or engage in other activities in the base area. Food and Beverage as well.    

There you have it! Have a great weekend! 
- SS 


Thursday, June 9, 2022

Grand Ronde River still worth visiting post-fire ... plus Idaho Free Fishing Day and Boise Mountain Bike Festival!

Wendy is happy to be on the Grand Ronde River! 

Hi all, 

Boy, rivers all over the Pacific Northwest have been bursting with life - more like peaking! - in the last week or so. The Salmon River was running higher than 55,000 cubic feet per second, and the Boise and Payette were roaring with big spring runoff, all precipitated by bursts of warm weather and plenty of rain. 

The Salmon seemed too high for our taste, so we checked on the Grand Ronde River in Eastern Oregon. It was rising to more than 11,000 cfs last week. And I thought, Dynamite! I'm going! I've run it at that level before, and it pretty much remains a Class 2-3 FAST whitewater experience in a solid raft. 

We put together a quick 5-person two-boat trip and set off for La Grande, OR, last Thursday afternoon. We stayed with our friends Russ and Mary West at their ranch in Imbler the night before launch, and that worked out great since it stormed all night.   

We awoke to sunshine and partly cloudy skies Friday morning, and launched on the river by 11:30 a.m. We had four days of wild river bliss to look forward to, floating from Minam to Powatka Bridge, a distance of about 35 miles. 

Our main concern was dodging rain storms in the forecast. Nearly every day had a good chance of rain. But with the river ripping at more than 10 mph, we covered the miles with ease. (My friend's Strava feed recorded our max speed at 13 mph! Ha!; raft speed at summertime flow = 3-5 mph) Our strategy was to make camp early, get the tarp set up, and be prepared for the inevitable rain storms. 

My tarp covers the whole kitchen area plus room for lawn chairs 

I've got a Cascade Outfitters deluxe 16' x 20' foot rain tarp, and that kept us dry all weekend.  

I love the expression on Wendy's face ... 

With the weather drying out somewhat here on June 9, the Grand Ronde should be a fabulous destination for multi-day river trips in the next month and beyond ... it is so verdant and gorgeous in the canyon right now! 

We saw a lot of yellow lupine on the river banks ... a rare treat! 

One thing to keep in mind is that the Bureau of Land Management is restricting camping on the Grand Ronde from Bear Creek 13 miles downstream due to a 23,000-acre wildfire that burned last July. That takes a lot of primo campsites out of play during your trip. So plan accordingly. 

We like staying high in the canyon and laying over at nice camps in the forest. You can still do that. 

Fire perimeter map

After floating through the burn zone, we thought it must have been a pretty fast-moving burn. The land seems to be recovering quickly judging from all of the regrowth we saw everywhere! 

Typical views of the fire from last year. Seemed like a positive mosaic burn. 

We saw quite a few green ponderosa pines that survived the fire. 

To learn more about floating the Grand Ronde River, go here. It's a National Wild and Scenic River, and deservedly so. 

Also going on this weekend ... it's Free Fishing Day in Idaho! You can go fishing on a pond, lake, stream close to home, use free fishing gear in selected locations and teach your kids how to fish! 
Here's a post from Recreate Responsibly Idaho about Free Fishing Day in Idaho! 

At Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, the Boise Mountain Bike Festival will be happening on Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. The main trails that are open right now are accessible from the Morning Star quad. Bogus has a detailed listing of what trails are open on Saturday. 

Weather looks good this weekend through Saturday to do just about anything outdoors. And then the temperature drops over 20 degrees Sunday, and a chance of showers is forecast ... so you might try to get out on Saturday for sure! 

Have fun! 
- SS