Thursday, November 18, 2021

Snow situation looking ahead to Thanksgiving, Christmas tree permits, Steelhead in the Boise River

I took this pic on Tuesday on the River Run side of Bald Mountain in Sun Valley.

Hi all, 

The snow situation leading up to Thanksgiving next week is looking a bit thin, according to the weather forecasts, and on-the-ground conditions in the mountains. 

I did an update last night on the Idaho Daily Snow on opensnow.com, and this was my summary:

"Much-needed cooler temperatures since Tuesday are allowing Idaho's ski areas to make snow in hopes of a Thanksgiving opening. The next storm on Thursday night-Friday offers some glimmer of hope, with 4-7" possible at Tamarack and Brundage, and 6" at Schweitzer, Silver and Lookout. Sun Valley and Bogus Basin are forecast to get 1-2." Another storm next week may bring another 3-8." 

However, the weather/snow forecasts for the Thursday night/Friday/Saturday storm event vary quite a bit, and the quantity of snow associated with that storm event may not be as much as predicted. See the Idaho Daily Snow to see the snow forecast maps and details. There's another snow storm coming next Tuesday, but it may not have much quantity.

The upshot is that the ski areas with robust snow-making equipment will have the best chance of providing some skiing/snowboarding on Thanksgiving Day. Sun Valley and Bogus Basin are planning to open on Thanksgiving. Bogus will have the Mountain Coaster open as well. Other ski areas like Tamarack and Brundage are hoping to open on Friday, Nov. 26, weather permitting. See the Idaho Daily Snow for a full list of ski area projected opening dates. 

Update: Bogus Basin's Hike Park with terrain park features opens Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Access is FREE. Double R Ranch BBQ Smokehouse will be open as well.  

The reality of the situation is that the Idaho mountains had more snow depth two weeks ago than we have now, especially if they depend on Mother Nature for snowpack. The major warm-up that occurred in the second half of last week melted a lot of the mountain snow, unfortunately. Hence, it may be more promising to think about other outdoor activities while we wait to get more snow for xc sking and downhill skiing/riding. 

Fun to get kids involved in picking out a tree in the national forest.

Here are some other suggestions: 

  • Grab a permit from the Boise, Payette or Sawtooth National Forest and go cut your own Christmas tree. Fun activity. The permits are available on recreation.gov. The permits cost $10/tree. The permits stipulate that Christmas tree cutting begins on Saturday, Nov. 20. Be sure to bring a good saw for cutting the tree and some straps/ropes for lashing the tree to the top of your rig, if you don't have a pickup truck. 

    Steelhead photo courtesy IDFG
     
  • Go steelhead fishing on the Boise River. Idaho Fish and Game will be releasing about 250 steelhead into the Boise River today (Thursday, Nov. 18) at the typical spots, Barber Park, Broadway Bridge, Americana Bridge and Glenwood Bridge. Make sure you have a fishing license and a steelhead permit. See IDFG article about the special steelhead season on the Boise River. 
    Snow biking on the Deer Point road, which is a good place to go boot hiking too, early season.

  • Go boot-hiking or fat biking in the snow in the mountains for fun after the snow storm on Friday or hit the Ridge to Rivers trails after they dry out. Be sure to layer up for colder weather. 
  • Road biking or a Greenbelt ride will work great when the trails are muddy as an alternative. I rode the Cartwright 4 summits loop yesterday afternoon, and it always delivers a major workout! 

    Boot hike on the trail to Stack Rock on a previous Thanksgiving Day.

  • Go for a hike in the Owyhees. See my recent post about hiking Sage Creek or another post about three must-do hikes - Black Magic Canyon, Leslie Gulch or Mary's Creek and Sheep Creek canyons.

There you have it! Have a nice Thanksgiving and count your blessings with your family, friends and loved ones.

 -SS

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Oodles of workout tips to get your body ready for ski season!

A powder day at Brundage Mountain

Hi all, 

It's time to be thinking about getting your body tuned up for ski season! We could be xc skiing or snowshoeing by Thanksgiving, perhaps even sooner, and if Mother Nature delivers enough snow, we could be downhill skiing by then as well! 

I found three excellent posts from REI and Outside online with specific recommendations for ski-conditions exercises that I'll share below. 

You'll need to think about working on the muscles that you use most when skiing -- your quads, glutes, hamstrings, hips and lower back. Plus, I find that my arms and wrists can get sore, early in the season, from using my poles when turning ... so doing some light weights with your arms, hands and wrists will pay dividends. 

The bottom line is that if you do some advance ski conditioning, it will reduce the chance of injury. This becomes more important with age, I can vouch for that!  

Lynette Hayes, a Boise personal fitness trainer and owner of Active & Fit, says, "People always think legs, which is of course important, but don't forget the power you need that comes from your hips and core. Also work in some single leg stuff for strength and balance." 

Side activities like cycling or running that boost your cardio will get your heart rate and lungs pumping, and they also add to leg strength, so that's all good in terms of ski conditioning. 

Hip roll exercise ... courtesy REI

Start with these ski conditioning exercises
from REI ... the post has text and video. The exercises are pretty basic, but all doable and not that hard. All of them seem like they'd be really effective in working specific areas of your body. And like many of the exercises described in these routines, you barely need any special workout machines or anything like that ... just you, your workout mat, and a few free weights or kettle bells, and maybe a few props. 

The REI ski workout routine includes hip rolls, working the inner thighs, squats, lunges, lateral ski jumps, core work and more.  

The next two are from Outside.com ... and they're a bit more advanced, but all doable at some level hopefully! 

Here are seven exercise routines from pro big-mountain skier Crystal Wright of Jackson Hole. Again, text and video. Really cool stuff! She covers things like "leg blasters," a combo of lunges and squats, jump lunges and jump squats. And then lateral ski jumps, lower back work, single-leg dead lifts, and finishes off with Jane Fonda leg exercises! 

Lateral ski jump ... courtesy REI

And to finish this out, how about a serious ski workout routine from Lindsey Vonn! This one is called "Killer Workout" with "10 exercises to make you strong, fast and explosive on the hill." Courtesy Outside online.

She covers things like front and side plank, flying like a ski jumper on top of an exercise ball, lying leg rotation, mini-band skate walks, one-legged lateral ski jumps, box jump, squats, hamstring curls with the exercise ball and more. 

I know I feel personally motivated to get ready for this year's ski season. We had such a phenomenal year last year ... really the best ski season for me personally since college! So, I really want to be ready this year! I've been biking and hiking consistently, but need to add ski-specific exercises to hit the slopes "running" or shall we say schussing! Ha!

The Treasure Valley YMCA has a month-long ski conditioning class coming up if you're a member ...

See you on the slopes!
- SS

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Revisiting hiking trails that shine during shoulder season - Sage Creek and Orchard-5 Mile Loop

Wendy enjoys the quiet walk in Sage Creek canyon in the Owyhee Canyonlands.

Hi all, 

Revisiting trails that you love is kind of like getting re-acquainted with an old friend.

For Wendy's birthday, we zipped out to Sage Creek on Wednesday in the Owyhee Canyonlands for a delightful afternoon. Sage Creek canyon is close to Succor Creek State Park. It's accessed by a well-graveled all-weather road. So it's a cool, off-beat place to go in late fall, winter and spring.

I discovered Sage Creek canyon when researching my Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook some years ago. It's a moderate walk into a scenic, incised canyon that's chock full of geologic other-worldly shapes and features. It's always a treat to visit the canyon in my book.

Towering reddish-orange rhyolite spires, fins, caves and phallic-type rocks jut into the sky as you're walking up the draw. You'll see darker and more recent basalt rock features along the way as well.  

Wall of blonde volcanic ash in Sage Creek canyon.

Lots of cool geologic features to explore.

But several miles into the canyon from the trailhead, you come to a unique area that's full of volcanic rock and ash flows. The ash flows are blond-colored, green and chalk-colored, and they're very erosive ... you can carve off outside layers with your fingernail. There are some balance-rock features in the area as well.

To just sit there and observe all of those features is quite breath-taking. Be sure to bring a lunch and plenty of water and snacks. Allow for 3-4 hours to explore. 

It's about 4 miles or so to explore the full interior of Sage Creek while you're climbing along the creek-bottom on a general incline. It's an easy kid-friendly, out-and-back hike even if you go only a couple of miles into the canyon. If you have plenty of time, you can try to cover the whole canyon experience. The upper canyon ends when you approach the McIntyre Ridge Road.

Huck flushed a couple of chukars in the canyon.

How to get there:
Take I-84 to the ID 55 exit in Nampa, heading west toward Marsing. After about 5 miles or so on ID 55, turn right on Chicken Dinner Road to Homedale Road. Go left on Homedale Road and follow that into the town of Homedale. Follow State Highway 19 west of Homedale, and then Highway 201 in Oregon, to a signed turnoff for Succor Creek State Park on the left. Head south on the dirt road. It's about 12 miles to the unsigned right-hand turnoff for the Sage Creek Trailhead. There is a lone scrubby cottonwood tree at the turnoff. If you have a 4WD rig, follow the primitive two-track road over several creek-crossings to the trailhead .9 miles from the Succor Creek Road. Or just park and hike that portion. Either way works. 

You may need muck boots or just your hiking boots for the hike. If it's wet and the creek is running with water, you'll want your muck boots. Yesterday, our hiking shoes worked well. 

Selfie with Steve and Wendy on the descent into Five Mile Creek canyon.

Another good shoulder-season hike in the Boise Foothills
is to do the Rocky Canyon-Orchard Gulch-Five Mile Creek loop. This is a moderate to strenuous 5.5-mile hike in the NE Boise Foothills. The trails are pretty sandy, and once winter comes, they become covered with ice or snow, and still hikeable. 

Wendy and I hiked that loop last Sunday, and the leaves were still golden in many places ... but that will change in the coming weeks as fall transitions to winter. 

Getting there: Take Shaw Mountain Road by Fort Boise to Rocky Canyon Road, and follow Rocky Canyon Road to the end of the pavement. Go up the dirt road about about four miles to the trailhead for Five Mile Creek. Park.  

Hike uphill on Rocky Canyon Road for a long mile to the trailhead for Trail #7 in Orchard Gulch. Follow that trail about 2.5 miles to the junction with the connector trail over to Five Mile Creek. All of the climbing is done now. Hike down to Five Mile Creek Trail, go left and return to the trailhead and your vehicle. Hiking time is 2.5-3 hours.

------------------------------------------------

BBSEF Ski Swap is this weekend, Nov. 5-7! The giant ski equipment and clothing sale is being run for the 70th year!!! Opens at 1 p.m. on Friday at the Expo Building Fairgrounds. Entry fee is $5. 

The Land Trust of the Treasure Valley is looking for volunteers to plant sagebrush and other plants in the Harrison Hollow area on Friday at 10 a.m. Sign up here

- SS

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Fleeting fall colors in Idaho; Mountain Snow coming next week; Ski Swaps coming up

Colorful scene in upper Dry Creek on a quiet mid-week afternoon. 

Hi all, 

It's been a treat to watch the fall colors ablaze throughout Idaho in recent weeks after the hot and smoky summer. But starting tomorrow, Mother Nature is about to turn the page to winter and mountain snow in the high country, and continue into next week. 

The weekend ahead looks pretty rainy in the valleys, but in the breaks between storms, maybe you can take a hike, run, bike ride or scenic drive to enjoy the fall colors perhaps at their peak right now, before the storms below the leaves off the trees and the tamaracks in Valley County lose their golden needles. 

As a reminder, here are some recommended trails in the Ridge to Rivers trail system for seeing fall colors ... (please stay off muddy trails when they're wet!): 

  • Watchman Trail 
  • Shingle Creek Trail 
  • Dry Creek Trail 
  • Freddy's Stack Rock Trail 
  • New connector trail to Stack Rock 
  • Peggy's Trail - Chukar Butte 

(Courtesy RidgetoRivers.org)

In McCall and Sun Valley, the colors have been peaking as well. Last week when I was in the Sun Valley area, the cottonwoods around Adams Gulch were brilliant! Farther up the valley toward Galena, the leaves had already fallen and the color show was over. 

Taken today, 10-21-21 in downtown McCall

The tammies are the main feature in Long Valley right now ...
 
Looking across at the Needles peaks and Lake Cascade

For those of you who like to play in the snow, the beginning of the winter season is coming with a series of snow storms forecast in the mountains. Looking at opensnow.com, I'm seeing the brunt of the storm coming to the Big Wood Basin and Sun Valley, where 8" of new snow is possible through next Wednesday, Tamarack Resort, 9-12", Brundage, 18-26" through next Wednesday, and Bogus Basin, 4" through Wednesday. 

The main event appears to be Monday and Tuesday. But at least in the McCall area, the snow storms start on Friday in the mountains and continue through next Wednesday. We'll see how it plays out. 


    

So if the winter storms might get you thinking about the upcoming ski season, if you're in need of more ski gear, ski swaps are a great way to save money and get the kids and family geared up. 

There's a new Boise Community Ski Swap going on this weekend, Friday-Sunday, at the old Shopko location on Broadway near I-84 in Boise. 

The BBSRA Ski Swap is scheduled for Nov. 5-7 at Expo Idaho. So that one is still a couple of weeks away. 

I'm stoked to see some wet weather coming in! Let's hope we get nailed and the snow sticks to start the accumulation of mountain snow for the winter of 2021-22!
- SS

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Two must-do hiking trips in the Owyhee Canyonlands, plus Black Magic Canyon near Shoshone

Leslie Gulch - an otherworldly place! (photo by SS)

Hi all, 

It's been cold this week and snowy in the mountains, but it's warming up this weekend with high temperatures forecast in the high 60s in the valleys, maybe low 70s in the middle of the afternoon. 

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommend three must-do desert hiking trips destinations in SW Idaho - Leslie Gulch and Mary's Creek/Sheep Creek in the Owyhee Canyonlands, and Black Magic Canyon near Shoshone. 

All three of these destinations should be perfect this weekend. 

1. Black Magic Canyon is a totally unique experience in a incised basalt canyon formed by the Big Wood River below Magic Reservoir. The jumble of black rocks inside the canyon have formed interesting shapes from wind, water and time. 

The Twin Falls Times-News provides an excellent write-up about visiting the canyon along with some great scenic pics by photographer Drew Nash and video. 

Fall and winter are the best times to visit this gem when it's dry. In the spring and summer months, it fills with water runoff and the unique rock formations are not visible.  

Photo by Drew Nash, Fly Photography


Please see the Times-News article for directions to Black Magic Canyon. Coming from the Treasure Valley, you'll want to take I-84 to the Gooding exit and take US 26 to Shoshone. Then, head north on US 93 and following the directions from there.

Southern Idaho Tourism also has a write up on the canyon as does Trip Advisor


We did a hike after a recent small burn ... interesting contrast! (photo by SS)

2. Leslie Gulch is a popular destination on the Oregon side of the Owyhee Canyonlands because it's one of the most scenic areas in the whole canyonlands complex. There are camping areas and rest rooms in Leslie Gulch, several different hiking opportunities and a hot springs near the boat ramp on Owyhee Reservoir. I detailed one hike in my Owyhee Canyonlands book that goes up Juniper Gulch to great overview on Yellowjacket mountain. It's 5.5 miles out and back. 

The area features a lot of rock formations that might remind you of Southern Utah -- redrock spires, hoodoos, honeycombs and more. It's just a cool place to see and explore. If you want to see less people, go during the work week. 

Here's a previous post on Leslie Gulch with details on how to get there and more. 

3. Another worthy destination this weekend would be to visit Mary's Creek and Sheep Creek Canyon, south of Bruneau. Sheep Creek canyon would be dry or maybe you'd see a few puddles right now. So that means you can hike down the canyon and explore. Mary's Creek and Sheep Creek are tributaries of the Bruneau River. They also are part of the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness. 


Mary's Creek in the springtime. See my truck by the trailhead?

Sheep Creek canyon in the springtime.

Here's a previous post that I did about this hike with driving directions to the trailhead. Enjoy! 

Map of Mary's Creek hike to trail dropping into Sheep Creek canyon. It's possible to drive that two-track jeep trail to the canyon rim if you've got a good 4WD high-clearance vehicle.

- SS

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Ever tried a Rim-to-Rim hike in the Bruneau Canyon? Four ways to experience the Bruneau River Canyon in SW Idaho

Bruneau River Canyon at low water (courtesy Joanie Fauci)

Hi all, 

A cooler weekend is coming our way here in October, following a bit of rain on Friday. High temperatures near 60 degrees are forecast in Boise, and it'll be much cooler in the mountains. I'm seeing highs in the low 50s in Stanley and lows in the teens! 

Cooler temperatures in the fall always make me think about heading out into the Owyhee Canyonlands for a nice hike, bike ride or scenic drive.  

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending three hikes and a scenic drive in the Bruneau River country. 

The Rim2Rim hike is only doable in the fall, when the water is low.

A friend, Joanie Faucie, recently posted some pics of her Rim2Rim Bruneau Canyon hike going from the west rim to the east rim on the Roberson Trail, and I thought that was worth sharing for sure! The road to the east rim of the Roberson Trail is quite rough, so if there's a smoother alternative, it's worth checking out! Plus, we've all heard of people doing the more epic Rim-to-Rim hike in the Grand Canyon. 24 miles one-way, 6,000 feet of descent and 4,500 feet of climbing, and then retrace your tracks back to the start. 

I haven't heard often of people doing the Bruneau Canyon Rim-to-Rim hike! Joanie said it took her only two hours total round-trip! The hike features more than 600 vertical feet of drop into the river canyon, and almost 700 feet on the way up to the east rim. Actual hiking distance is a short. little over 2 miles to descend and ascend the canyon, from rim to rim, and 2 miles back, or 4 miles total. 

Courtesy Summit Post

Joanie is in good shape and an experienced hiker. If you don't mind braving the primitive roads out in the Bruneau desert with a solid 4WD, you could give this one a try. 

To reach the west rim, go south from the town of Bruneau on Idaho Highway 51 and then turn left on Broken Wagon Flat Road. Follow that road across the desert about 10 miles to the edge of the rim and trailhead. Ignore minor ranch roads along the way. Two wooden posts mark the trailhead by the rim. 

Joanie said the river was really shallow at the trail-crossing. About ankle-deep or so. 

Courtesy BLM

Bruneau Overlook 

To reach the Bruneau Overlook, follow the Hot Springs Road south of town to the Hot Springs junction. Bear left on the Cover-Three Creek Road and climb up onto a sagebrush plateau. The signed turnoff to the Bruneau Overlook is about 15 miles from the town of Bruneau. You'll go another three miles over to the viewpoint at the rim, where you can park, have a picnic and enjoy the spectacular views!  

Best time to visit is in the spring when everything is green and blooming. But it's totally spectacular year-round, quite honestly.

Rim to Rim option 2, East Rim to West Rim

From the Bruneau Overlook, go back toward the main road and then go right on a rough secondary 4WD road for several miles to the Roberson East Trailhead. Some people have hiked 4 miles from the overlook to the Roberson Trail or rode mountain bikes. Here's a description in All Trails. They rate the out-and-back as being "moderate" and note the trail was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. 

Map to Roberson Trail East

Summit Post
describes the option of hiking cross-country from the Overlook along the rim over to Roberson Trail East.

I also describe the Roberson Trail East hike in my Owyhee Canyonlands guide. 

There you have it! 

Remember that general deer season will be opening on Oct. 10 statewide. Be sure to put bright colors on you and your dog when head outdoors!

Have fun!
- SS

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Still 2 weeks left to ride the Wallowa Lake Tramway, visit Wallowa Mountains in NE Oregon

Atop Mt. Howard ... spectacular views in all directions!

Hi all,

Wendy and I took a little vacation to the Wallowas in NE Oregon last week, just as cooler fall weather was kicking in and the fire smoke from Oregon and California disappeared. That made for a perfect time in this quiet corner of Oregon, 3.5-4 hours away by freeway from Boise. 

After doing a 6-mile hike on Hurricane Creek in the Eagle Cap Wilderness on the first day, we decided to take the Wallowa Lake Tramway to the top of Mount Howard the following day. 

I've known about the Wallowa Lake Tramway for years, but I had never done it before. It's been open since 1970. Tickets cost $38 per person for adults, $28 for kids under 11. It operates only in the summer months. I thought it was well worth the expense to enjoy giant views of the Wallowas and Eagle Cap Wilderness, the Joseph Plains, Wallowa Lake and the Seven Devils Mountains in Idaho. 

The trip to the top is super quiet inside these cute, 2-person gondola cars (maybe more than 2 people can fit in the cars with small children). You quickly rise 3,700 feet in vertical gain to the top of Mount Howard (elev. 8,250 feet) in a 15-minute ride. Once on top, you can hike around the cone of Mt. Howard to four distinct viewpoints, and each one of them is totally spectacular! 

Be sure to dress warm for the top, depending on the weather and the time of day. Could be 15-20 degrees colder on top than at the base area. 

After a 2.5-mile hike to those viewpoints, you can return to the tramway summit, enjoy a beverage (including Mimosas!), a cup of soup, or a sandwich for lunch. 

Hiking trail on top of Mt. Howard is a Park Service-like well-manicured trail, good for all abilities.

I've spent a lot of time hiking into the various drainages in the Wallowas and Eagle Caps over the last 40 years, so it was cool to look deep into the interior of the wilderness and rekindle memories. Looking into the East Fork of Wallowa Creek, Wendy and I remembered a very memorable backcountry ski trip into Anaeroid Basin, where we had tons of new powder to enjoy for 4-5 days. 

The tall mountains lording over the West Fork and East Fork of Wallowa Creek made for some great backdrops for photos on the top of Mt. Howard. The southern viewpoint looking out at beautiful Wallowa Lake, the Joseph Plains and the Seven Devils mountain range in  Idaho was just as spell-binding, looking out at the patchwork quilt of farm/ranch fields below amongst all the rest. 

Nice pic of Wendy on top with big peaks in the background.

There's just two weeks left to plan a trip to the Wallowa Lake tramway to enjoy this experience.
It closes on Oct. 4. Tickets for youths aged 12-17 are $35 and kids 11 and under can go for $28. If you can't cram a trip into your fall sked, put it on the list for next year. 

There are lots of other things to do in the Enterprise/Joseph area. There's Nez Perce history as this was the home to Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Tribe. You can visit his grave site in Joseph next to Wallowa Lake, and learn about the Nez Perce War and history. You can visit large bronze statues and art galleries in Joseph.

The cute gondola cars provide fetching views of Wallowa Lake and the countryside below.

You can go hiking or backpacking in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. We did an out-and-back hike on Hurricane Creek to the "Slickrock" granite rock formations on that scenic trail. And we did an 8-mile day hike to Maxwell Lake in the Lostine River drainage. The trail to Maxwell Lake was very well-maintained, making for a pleasant approach in the first three miles, and then a steep final approach in the last mile to the lake. The deep turquoise color of Maxwell Lake was absolutely mesmerizing to me. Perfectly gin-clear pure water high in the watershed. 

Maxwell Lake with Wendy ... gorgeous lake!

Another fun activity would be the Wallowa County barn tours ... You can take a self-guided tour of 31 scenic barns in the Wallowa Valley ranch country around the towns of Wallowa, Lostine, Enterprise and Joseph. The Wallowa Valley chamber has an online tour guide and video to show you the way. 


Lodging: We stayed in a recently remodeled condo unit in downtown Enterprise. Very spiffy. The VRBO rental allows pets and sleeps up to at least 6. There are several hotels in the area as well. Both Joseph and Enterprise are centrally located to everything. See the Wallowa Chamber site for ideas and prices on lodging. In the summer, you could book a camping spot at Wallowa Lake State Park. Gorgeous location.

Food: It's nice to be able to make meals at your vacation rental, so you don't have to go out for every meal. We did dinner at two different restaurants that were notable -- Terminal Gravity just outside of Enterprise (outdoor dining available), and the Stubborn Mule Saloon and Steakhouse in Joseph. Both were excellent and very reasonably priced!   

Have fun!
- SS