Thursday, March 26, 2020

Just as spring comes to Idaho, we're told to stay inside ... If you go outside, please practice social distancing ...

Hi all,

In several outings recently, I've been watching the shrubs and trees beginning to bloom, the showy blossoms of fruit trees leading the way.

Spring is about new life and renewal, but with the coronavirus spreading throughout Idaho and the world, everyone is concerned about potentially catching the virus or even dying from it.

If you are not a believer that COVID-19 is real threat, read the op-ed by Dr. Brett Russell of Ketchum, who caught the virus and felt its impact in a severe way. He is recovering, but he told his story so well. Very scary situation.

Our best strategy is to shelter in place, cocoon at home with your loved ones, and try to keep the contamination rate to a minimum. Gov. Little has announced a statewide shelter-in-place order effectively immediately.

Fortunately, we can go outdoors, but try to avoid the popular and crowded areas. Keep a safe distance of at least 6 feet, and avoid large groups.   

Wendy and I went on a Greenbelt ride yesterday, and I saw this sign posted next to the pathway near the Plantation pedestrian bridge.

"Stay Safe" - Do your part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Link to state COVID-19 page.
  • If you are sick, go home
  • Follow social distancing recommendations and stay 6 feet apart.
  • Avoid group gatherings 
  • Wash and sanitize your hands often. 
"Failure to adhere to these guidelines could lead to closure of City of Boise parks and trailheads."

OK, so let's all do our part to hunker down and beat this damn virus.

I am not going to recommend any particular destination this week. Our neighboring counties have issued orders advising people to stay away. I have seen those messages from Owyhee County and Valley County. We need to respect their wishes as much as possible.

Find ways to enjoy the outdoors close to home. Get a breath of fresh air. Avoid popular parks and trailheads. Time your trips to avoid crowds. Go early in the day. Late in the day. Mid-week. Keep your social distancing to safe levels. Let's beat this thing!
- SS  

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Go for a walk, run, hike, bike ride close to home to refresh the soul!

Cool granite rock formations can be seen on the way to Mt. Kepros, one of the Boise Grand Slam Peaks.
Leslie Gulch  in the Owyhee Canyonlands
Hi all,

It's pretty surreal to realize we are in the midst of a global pandemic with the coronavirus (COVID-19). Many forces outside of our control are affecting our lives and communities for coming weeks, months -- no one knows how long. All of the health and safety advice to lay low, stay close to home, avoid large groups of people, etc., seems wise.

We are fortunate to live in Idaho, where we have lots of open spaces, public lands, public access, and extensive trail systems close to home. In a way that perhaps we have never really thought about before, these places should be safe refuges from not only the coronavirus but any other contagious diseases for that matter. 

My recommendation at this time is to maybe spend some of your extra free time to invest in your personal health and fitness and mental well-being right now by getting out on a walk, a hike, a bike ride, maybe even an early spring camping trip to get some fresh air and Vitamin D from pure sunshine. These options seem like healthy choices to me if you go with your friends and family in small groups of less than 10 people.

The Idaho Statesman featured an outdoors article this week recommending the same thing with doctor's approval. 

Mt. Cervidae affords great views of Lucky Peak Reservoir and the Boise National Forest
Where to go?  

My local hiking guidebook, Boise Trail Guide, features 95 hikes and trail-runs close to home. Everyone has their go-to favorite places to hike, but Boise Trail Guide helps you branch out and try something new.

The book also is organized by challenge and difficulty, starting with over 15 flat Greenbelt sections from Eagle to Lucky Peak and other flat walks. And then we increase the fitness challenge with a wide variety of 15+ "Easy Mountain Trails," 25+ "Moderate Mountain Trails," 25+ "Strenuous Mountain Trails," and 5 "Epic Mountain Trails."

Most of the trails in the book are snow-free, but the higher-elevation trails would be places where you could go snowshoeing or backcountry skiing.

Two of the Boise Grand Slam Peaks would be great choices right now when the trails are dry -- Mt. Cervidae and Mt. Kepros. See previous posts for details. Keep a leash handy for your dog because there could be deer or elk in those areas in the greater Boise River Wildlife Management Area.

Talk about social distancing ... the Owyhee Canyonlands, by definition, are remote with solitude pretty much guaranteed. My guidebook on The Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide details 55 hiking and biking day trips in the Owyhees, plus ideas on camping and tips on roadside points of interest along the 100-mile Owyhee Backcountry Byway.

Snake River canyon looking down at Swan Falls Dam, a key access point
The Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Area, Swan Falls Dam and Celebration Park would be excellent choices right now for hiking, biking, sight-seeing and just hanging out looking for birds during the spring nesting season.

I wrote about some choice mountain bike rides last week, but another perfect choice is to simply get out and ride the Boise River Greenbelt ... maybe try some sections that you haven't done before or go back to some of your favorites. The Eagle Greenbelt loop is one of my favorites this time of year because of the opportunity to see bald eagles, great blue herons and cormorants in a large rookery near the Boise River Wastewater Treatment Plant on the south side of the river.

Cartwright 3 Summits Loop always delivers!
To up the ante, try jumping on your road bike and start building your mileage for the spring/summer riding season. I've actually been sneaking in road rides mainly on the Cartwright 3 summits loop all winter long, logging that ride maybe once a week in between trips to the mountain for alpine skiing. Biking makes for stronger ski legs, and skiiing top-to-bottom thigh-burning runs makes for stronger biking legs. All good!

My full color road cycling map for the Treasure Valley, the Boise Road Cycling Guide, provides details on more than 30 road rides throughout the valley, plus some a la carte Canyon County rides such as the scenic Lake Lowell loop and the Gem County ride, Big Freezeout-Little Freezeout Loop. 

Other helpful map resources include the Ridge to Rivers interactive trail map and the Boise Trails online site. My books/maps are available at Bandanna (Boise Trail Guide), Idaho Mountain Touring, Boise REI,, and

This is a time when you can do more exploring on your own with these information resources close at hand. Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, March 12, 2020

My outdoor tip: 5 mountain bike rides sure to please, plus fresh powder this weekend

Central Ridge trail, Military Reserve

Bitterbrush in full bloom, Military Reserve Park, Boise Foothills
Entering Reynolds Creek canyon, courtesy MTB project
Hi all,

I'm sharing my outdoor article in the Idaho Press on five rock-solid mountain bike rides in the Boise area as my tip of the week.

The weather shows it's going to be mostly rainy this weekend and beyond, however, so please save the mountain biking ideas until the trails dry out after the storms.

In the meantime, you might want to go powder skiing this weekend. There's a good chance of up to 6 inches of new snow at Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain, and Sun Valley. Pomerelle might really get belted with more than a foot ... you can see the latest snow forecasts at Idaho Daily Snow.

Have fun!
- SS  

Thursday, March 5, 2020

R2R gives green light to lower foothills trails, spring skiing and Snake River canyon

Two adorable children playing in the sand by Red Cliffs Trail on Thursday.
Walkers and bikers sharing the trails on Red Cliffs Trail ...
Love this view looking down into lower Hulls Gulch from Red Cliffs ...
Bikers: Remember to slow down as you enter congested areas ...
Hi all,

Many peeps who love the Boise foothills trails have been out in force, enjoying this latest string of uncommonly warm weather, with highs in the 60s in the afternoons and close to 70 (?) on Friday. Wow! 

I rode my mountain bike to Sidewinder summit on Tuesday night, and it felt like June out there with the trail being bone-dry, and Huck was overheating. Today, I went for a stroll on lower Hulls and Red Cliffs to take pictures, and I was blown away how warm it felt! Sure feels good after a great ski season to hit the trails! My climbing legs feel pretty good considering it's early in the season. 

Checking on the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page, we have as close to a "green light" to use the lower foothills trails below mid-elevation as we're going to get this time of year. There's a good chance of rain in the valley on Saturday afternoon, so keep an eye on the R2R reports and abide by them, please!!!

Quoting from their post on Thursday, March 6:

"Overall, it appears that trails below the mid and upper elevations in the foothills are mostly good to go right now. Conditions above are still the ones in question. It is a good time to work on doing more traversing in the lower foothills from one trail to another or using 8th St. or Rocky Canyon Rd. if you are going to be doing some significant climbing. ...

As the trail crew has been working on both Crestline and Sidewinder for the past few days, both of these trails and also Red Cliffs, Kestrel, and Lower Hulls all remain good to go right now. If you are getting up higher into the foothills over the next couple of days, please think about posting some reports of your own to help others get a better idea of what is going on out there. With rain in the forecast this Saturday, it's a great time to get out and enjoy these next couple of days. Just do it in the right locations! Happy Trails!"

Huck is Mr. Airplane ears on a windy day at Corral's Summit
Other lower Boise foothills trails worth visiting right now would include:
  • Military Reserve Trails 
  • Camelsback Trails 
  • Table Rock trail itself
  • Highlands to the Hollow
  • Corrals Trail 
  • Highlands Trail 
  • Polecat Gulch
  • Seaman's Gulch
Here are some spring skiers getting into the party mode! (Courtesy Arapahoe Basin)
 Two other suggestions for Friday and this weekend:
  • Spring Skiing! Bogus Basin, Tamarack, Brundage and Sun Valley all have lots of snow. Spring skiing on Friday should be amazing everywhere in SW Idaho because of the warm temps approaching 50 degrees at Bogus tomorrow and mid-40s elsewhere! Wow! Break out the spring skiing garb and have fun with it! 
    • Also could go backcountry skiing at Pilot Peak/Sunset Mountain/Freeman Peak or up toward Stanley on Copper Mountain. 
    • Xc skiing and snowshoeing is another possibility at the Idaho City Park n Ski Areas or in McCall or Sun Valley. 
  • Hiking/biking in the Snake River Canyon - Head south of Kuna or Nampa to visit the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. A friend told me that the birds of prey are doing courtship flight down there, so you can hang out and watch the cliffs for birds with your binoculars or do some hiking or biking at Celebration Park or by Swan Falls Dam. The ride to Wees Bar is one of my favorites. 
    Golden eagle on the cliffs in the Morley Nelson Snake River BOPA 
Have a great weekend!
- SS

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Start making plans to run the Owyhee and Bruneau Rivers - snowpack looks good!

Cave Draw is only accessible from the river
Hi all,

We had a big crowd for my River Talk on Tuesday night, sponsored by Idaho Rivers United, at Idaho River Sports, where I shared some of my experiences in running the Jarbidge-Bruneau River and several forks of the Owyhee River.

Here's my slide show if you want to take a peek:

Wendy's favorite is the East Fork of the Owyhee River 
Back in the day, intel about these rivers was considered kind of a closely-guarded secret among those in the know, but that's changed quite a bit some 30+ years after I started running them in the 1980s. Early-day  "river rats" were really the first to explore the Owyhee and Jarbidge-Bruneau rivers back in the day in the 1970s with primitive river gear and craft. Nowadays most people know about the opportunity, but it's not easy to access the rivers in many instances (rough roads, muddy roads, need a big 4WD truck, etc.), and you might not have your own boat.

This spring will be a good one to float the Owyhee or the Bruneau Rivers because we are looking at more than 100 percent of normal snowpack. It's just a question of when things begin to melt.

If you've never done one of our desert rivers, it's a good time to book with an Idaho outfitter. Four companies lead trips on those rivers every year, including:
All of those outfitters are rock-solid. Check with the individual outfitters on pricing, style of trip, etc. 

Dad and Drew on the Lower Owyhee
Here are some highlights from my presentation:

1. The Owyhee and Bruneau River systems are spring rivers. There are no upstream storage reservoirs. You have to watch the snowpack and the river flows to get a sense of when you need to plan a trip out there. In general, Owyhee River season is March-May, and Bruneau is May-June. The biggest limiting factor is weather and road access.

2.  The Lower Owyhee River is the easiest fork of the Owyhee River system to access and the easiest river to negotiate in terms of the rapids. But you still need a solid 4WD rig to get out of the canyon at Birch Creek.
  • Logistics ... 48 miles from BLM Rome put-in west of Jordan Valley, OR, to BLM Birch Creek takeout. Put in is about 2+ hours from Boise. 
  • Allow 3-5 days for the trip. A longer trip provides more flexibility for layover days and side hikes.  
  • Dress in cold-weather gear on your trip. There can be extreme headwinds in the spring, bone-chilling NW winds, blizzards or driving rain. I've had all of those things in one trip. 
  • Lower Owyhee has Class 2-3+ rapids ... experienced Stand Up Paddle (SUPs) boarders do well on that trip. Also good for rafts, IKs, skilled whitewater canoeists.
East Fork Owyhee near "The Tules"

3. East Fork Owyhee River is one of the most challenging rivers to do because of challenging access at the start and the end, but one of the most scenic and secluded.
  • Logistics ... 43 miles from Garat BLM put-in west of Duck Valley Indian Reservation to Crutcher's Crossing BLM takeout. Put in is about 4+ hours from Boise. 
  • Allow 5-6 days for the trip. A longer trip provides more flexibility for layover days and side hikes.  
  • Dress in cold-weather gear on your trip. There can be extreme headwinds in the spring, bone-chilling NW winds, blizzards or driving rain. I've had all of those things in one trip. 
  • High-clearance 4WD required.
  • Portage at Owyhee Falls required. Many Class 2-3 rapids. Portage at Eye of the Needle may be required, too.
  • Go with someone who's been there before. 
  • Watch for snakes after things warm up.
Whitewater canoes double as camp table on the East Fork.
4. Three Forks to Rome section of Owyhee River is also super challenging and remote, but it's a favorite of hard-core whitewater rafters because of the potential to run or portage Widowmaker. Other challenging Class 4+ rapids include Ledge, located less than a mile from the put-in, and Halfmile, about half way through the trip.
  • Only experienced and skilled boaters should go on this section. 
  • 37 miles ... allow 3-4 days for the trip 
  • Put-in at Three Forks (unimproved dirt road); takeout at Rome.
  • High-clearance 4WD required.
  • Be sure to scout Widowmaker to plan portage or run the rapids.  
Steve feeling the #Private Idaho experience in the Bruneau Canyon.
5. Bruneau River is one of my all-time favorites. It's a super scenic canyon.
  • Logistics ... 41 miles from Hot Springs put-in south of Bruneau and the Bruneau Canyon. Put in is about 4.5+ hours from Boise. 
  • Allow 3-5 days for the trip. A longer trip provides more flexibility for layover days and side hikes.  
  • Dress in cold-weather gear on your trip. There can be extreme headwinds in the spring, bone-chilling NW winds, blizzards or driving rain. I've had all of those things in one trip. 
  • High-clearance 4WD required to reach the put-in at Hot Springs. Very, very rough road.
Steve on his first Bruneau River trip in a Maravia Espirit new self-bailing raft. Circa May 1987.
6. Jarbidge River is very challenging for skilled kayakers. Lots of Class 3-4-5 rapids. Multiple portages. Go with someone who's been there before. Need a strong crew. Be safe!

You will need to shuttle your rigs from the put-in to the takeout with a shuttle service or do it yourself. The BLM and other sources have a list of shuttle services for the desert rivers. Make sure you have your invasive species permit!

There you have it! Have fun!
- SS          

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Discover scenic Sage Creek canyon in the Owyhee Canyonlands

Ready my story to learn more about the unique geology in Sage Creek canyon.
One of several waterfalls that you'll encounter in Sage Creek canyon.
Hi all,

My outdoor tip of the week is about a super scenic and secluded discovery hike in Sage Creek canyon, near Succor Creek State Park, just west of Homedale, Idaho, in Eastern Oregon. Wendy and I visited Sage Creek canyon about 10 days ago. It's one of our favorite early-season Owyhee hikes because it's readily accessible from a well-graveled dirt road.

Here's my trip report as detailed in an outdoors feature story for the Idaho Press. The trailhead is about 1.5 hours (driving-time) from Boise.

February is not too early to be thinking about hiking and exploring the Owyhee Canyonlands. In general, wait for a few days of dry weather before going out there to avoid muddy roads, etc. See more in my book, The Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide. 

The scene as you approach the bottom of Sage Creek canyon.
Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, February 6, 2020

OpenSnow Insiders Guide to skiing/visiting Sun Valley

Signature scene looking up at Bald Mountain in Sun Valley (Courtesy Sun Valley)
Hi all,

My outdoor tip this week is sharing an Insiders Guide to skiing/visiting Sun Valley that I wrote for

My feature story includes tips on skiing Bald Mountain and the many off-piste activities you can enjoy while you're in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area, including 200K's of world-class xc skiing, ice skating/pond hockey on a free public rink in Ketchum, spa services at Sun Valley Lodge, heli-skiing, snowmobile-assist skiing, snowshoe and soup at Galena Lodge, and more.

See my post for details ...

If you haven't noticed, the West Central Mountains, Idaho Panhandle, Brundage Mountain and Tamarack Resort got hammered with big *pow* this week. See my Idaho Daily Snow post for more details of what to expect this weekend.

Have fun!
- SS