Monday, December 29, 2008

Fun Fun Fun in McCall

We escaped to McCall for a great vacation during Christmas week. We were blessed with tons of new snow, DEEP champagne-quality powder on two separate occasions at Brundage Mountain, and we notched a bunch of Ks skate skiing under the towering pines in Ponderosa State Park.

That's not to mention great times with friends and family, and enjoying the ambiance of our cozy cabin in McCall.

Wendy and I skied up to Osprey Point on the first day we skied at Ponderosa. Because of all the new snow, we had to slog through 5-6 inches of loose unpacked powder for several miles to reach the $1 million view at the top of the peninsula. But as always, it was well worth the grind.

Here's a video I shot on that trip to Osprey Point.

So let us thank the great snow god, Ullr, who brought us the greatest Christmas present of all -- he showered tons of fresh "pow" on our mountains, putting the ski resorts in primo shape just in time for the holidays, and allowing us powder hounds to enjoy the best that winter has to offer. Most assuredly, Ullr has brought wonderful things to all of us who could appreciate that gift. - SS

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sledding at Hilltop Summit

In snow sledding season, sometimes it's great to head out to your own favorite local sledding hill and go for it.

I've often taken my kids to a nice sledding hill near Hilltop Summit, near Lucky Peak Reservoir, about 12 miles east of Boise on Idaho 21. There's a turnout to the left, and you can climb the hill as many times as your legs will allow.

Here's some video of my 11-year-old son, Quinn, on the hill, and a few other characters.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Crown Point Trail worth visiting any time of year

After a snow hike in the morning, we headed back toward Boise on Sunday afternoon, and took a nice break on the Crown Point Trail in Cascade to check out a trailhead project I've been working on.

We showed up about 2 p.m., and it was a gorgeous afternoon for late November. A bit crisp, but only a skiff of snow, and Lake Cascade was absolutely still, making it easy to pick out the few ducks swimming out there. We also watched a mature bald eagle fly across the reservoir at the widest point, what a magnificent sight.

Valley County Pathways, a nonprofit group that is working to turn the old UP RR line between McCall and Cascade into a public trail, is developing a new trailhead on the north end of the Crown Point Trail. It's under construction right now, but it's close to being finished. We also built a post-and-pole fence alongside the trail last summer to keep ATVs out.
The Crown Point Trail can be found near Crown Point Campground next to Cascade Dam. It's about 1 mile of ID 55 to find a very nice getaway just about anytime of year. If there's too much snow, you can ski on the trail.


Snow hike in McCall

We went up to McCall last weekend, and there was more snow on the ground than we anticipated. Mountain biking was out of the question, and snow-hiking was the best alternative.

Wendy and I drove up to the Victor Creek trailhead north of Upper Payette Lake and toured an old clearcut and burn area. Still, a nice hike in 4-6 inches of snow.

It was a beautiful morning, with clear skies, pratically no wind and sunshine. No one around for fricking miles! We had fun identifying animal tracks.

So if you're heading up to McCall for Thanksgiving, be sure to bring your sorrels and go for a snow hike in the Payette National Forest.

- SS

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sweet getaway to Birds of Prey Area via Swan Falls Road

It's been a while since I went out to the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, and I needed to ground-proof travel time and mileage from Kuna to Swan Falls Dam and back on my road bike, so I went for it last Sunday. It's 21 miles each way.

There was a brisk NW wind -- it blew me out to the Snake River canyon in about an hour. I dreaded the headwind on the way back, but I figured if I could average over 20 mph on the way out, maybe I could average 10 mph on the way back. It wasn't that bad, actually, more like 13-16 mph, until the wind kind of dissapated in the late afternoon.

The ride from Kuna to the Birds of Prey area is cool. You'll see hawks soaring along the way, maybe eagles, falcons and hawks along the cliff's edge. From a road riding perspective, the road is nearly empty, so it's a great place to get away from traffic.

The 2-mile descent to the dam is quite steep, so you zoom down, knowing you'll have to climb back out of there on the way back. But it's doable in low gear. Seemed to be a 10 percent grade in places.

Travel time was 3 hours, including a stop at the BLM interpretive site at the canyon rim, a great place for lunch or a snack.

I must admit that during the ride, I thought about my friend Morley Nelson, who was most instrumental in protecting that canyon for birds of prey forever. Congress has been working on changing the name of the raptor sanctuary after Morley, and there is a grade school in Boise that's been named after Morley. I wrote a biography on the man, Cool North Wind, and he left a lifelong impression on me. I feel fortunate to have known him.

I saw a golden eagle flying low near the canyon rim, hunting at the sagebrush level, and I thought of Morley, knowing that his spirit will soar in the wind above the canyon forever.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Exciting, freezing ride in the snow

Some people were caught off-guard on their bikes by the snow storm on Friday night. I actually went out for a ride on my road bike on purpose! It was exhilerating, but I got coated with lots of ice and snow on a 1.15-hour ride.

I put on warm clothes, rain pants, wool hat and a jacket. But my gloves were too lightweight, I didn't put on long underwear, my feet totally froze, and I wore my Smith sunglasses instead of full-on ski goggles. Even after all these years doing all kinds of things outdoors, I still make mistakes and either underdress or forget stuff. Oh well, it's all part of the fun. :)

I needed to log a loop that I'm going to put in a new road biking guide/map that I'm working on, so I thought, what the hell?

I rode from Municipal Park on the Greenbelt, out to Barber Park (mile 5), and then cut through Surprise Valley to the Idaho 21 connector. The snow kept hammering big flakes, and by the time I hit the Idaho 21 connector, my hands were getting pretty frozen. I climbed to East Lake Forest Drive in Columbia Village, zipped over to Federal Way (mile 10.7), and then rode slightly downhill on that new Greenbelt on the rim.

The only problem was the large amount of traffic coming home from work, and it was quite dark, and I had no bike light. There are some pretty major intersections that cut across the Federal Way Greenbelt, including Amity and Bergeson, and my hands were too frozen to hit the brakes real hard, so I just kind of coasted into to those congested areas, hoping for the best. I couldn't see very well, either, but I basically just bolted across while traffic was paused for a millesecond, and I made it.

At Federal Way and Protest (mile 15), I decided I couldn't stand the pain much longer, so I peeled off Protest and went down the hill to Boise State, hit the Greenbelt to the Broadway Bridge, crossed the bridge to get to the north side, and pedaled back to Muni (mile 17 at finish).

It took my hands about 10 minutes to warm up with the heat going full bore, but even after a hot shower at home (our hot tub is down for repairs; dang!), my feet were still cold (toes were purple). I hadn't experienced that feeling for quite a while, but it reminded me when I used to do a morning paper route in Minnesota, and I'd come home and sit in the tub and watch my toes go from white, to purple and then back to normal, grimacing the whole way.

Oh well, at least I earned my dinner on Friday night. And it's always great to see the snow.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Way to go, proud Daddy!

Wow, Steve's a winner! Brought home a blue ribbon and everything -- I'm so inspired!

Run for Autism 5K was a kick

I've got an autistic boy, so every fall, we try to participate in the 5K Run/Walk sponsored by the Autism Society of America, Treasure Valley Chapter.

This year, I ran the 5K, and my ex Amy Stahl walked with our son, Drew. Last year, I pushed Drew in the Burley trailer as I ran the course, and Quinn rode his bike alongside.

There was a great turnout as usual, and we had beautiful weather on a crisp and clear fall day.

The race course started and finished at Veterans Memorial Park. We ran from the center of the park over to the river and Greenbelt, and then went east on the Greenbelt to the Main Street bridge, turned around, and came back.

Several serious runners took off like a laser at the beginning of the race, so the whole pack started out fast. I knew I couldn't keep up that pace, so I dialed it down as the race progressed. Still, the exhileration of running in the race caused me to run much faster than usual. My pace was 8:03/mile, and I ended up winning first place in the 40-49 age group. Not bad for an old fart!
(L-R, Lena and Monte (co-directors of Read Set Go) and Lindsey)

It was great to see some of the folks at the event who have worked with Drew's language and academic skills since he was only 2 1/2 years old. Now he's 9, he's in 4th grade at Cynthia Mann Elementary, and he's doing well. We're very proud of him.

Drew did great in the 5K walk, and had no problem completing the course.

For more information on the Autism Society, TV Chapter, go here. There are a lot of great resources for autistic kids in the Boise area. Drew has benefitted hugely from these services.

Drew and his mom, Amy Stahl.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Idaho Velopark is awesome

My son Quinn and I rode several trails at the Idaho Velopark last Sunday as part of the Trailpalooza event. It was great to see a ton of people out there at the Velopark, and it's impressive to see all of the new trails that are built and ready to ride - just 6 months after work began this spring.

Check out the Velopark web site for a new trails map.

Two You Tube videos of the park riding experience are really fun to watch, too. Dual Slalom. Pumps and Jumps.

Do what you can to support the Idaho Velopark project and contribute funds if you can. The web site has information on how to donate.
There's an REI - Velopark trail project going on next weekend.

REI Trail Day
When: 9 a.m. -3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 27.
Where: Idaho Velodrome & Cycling Park.
What: REI employees and their affiliates will build a new trail at the cycling park. The public is welcome to join in. You can sign up at REI, or call REI, 322-1141.
I found the photo at


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Loon Lake video link is cool

Check out this video on You Tube about mountain biking the Loon Lake trail by Kevin Mullin of Boise. It's got great flow ... just like the ride itself.

I rode the Loon Lake loop with my friend Mike from McCall on Saturday afternoon, and it was positively sweet!

Gorgeous colors springing forth, deep reds and yellows starting to pop. Really fast after the first long climb ... can't get too out of control, tho, got to watch out for other trail users. And on the Loon Lake Trail, you WILL run into other people on the trail - hikers, backpackers, motorcycle riders, mountain bikers, horses, Boy Scouts, you name it, I've seen 'em on that trail. On Saturday, tho, just a few hikers and bikers.

Loon Lake glistened in the afternoon light, surrounded by mountain splendor. Last year's fire opened up some country, but really didn't spoil the view of the lake whatsoever ... now there's new green growth coming up under the blackened forest.

We watched for spawning salmon in the deep dark-green recesses of the Secesh River as we pedaled back to the campground/trailhead, slaloming around the rocks, roots and creek-crossings. Didn't see any fish but I know they're in there.

Topped it off with soak at Burgdorf. Yee haw.

- SS

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fun Fun Fun on the Salmon River

We floated the Lower Salmon River Gorge in a 4-day trip over Labor Day weekend.

The weather was wonderful, and we all had a great time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hope Bay a gorgeous spot on Lake Huron

Wendy's family has been going to Hope Bay for summer vacation since the 1920s. Her grandfather built a sturdy green house called "Creaky Anteaky," and that's where we stayed. The house did literally creak in the wind and weather, but it was a beautiful piece of old carpentry work that still survives to this day. Many of the roof ribs are visible -- they're true 2x4s, and they are still in great shape. Wendy and I got to sleep in the crow's nest, which is surrounded by open windows with screens (critical in mosquito country). The cool evening breeze of the north country reminded me of my Minnesota childhood.

For the last five years, Wendy has been trying to convince me to fly my boys to Detroit, drive 6 hours north across the Canadian border into Ontario, Canada, to Hope Bay, and stay for at least a week. This year, we planned for it, and went for it. It was a fabulous vacation.

I thought I'd mention this in case you haven't heard of the Bruce Peninsula, a vacation-zone gem that is surrounded by Caribbean-like Lake Huron on both sides. The Peninsula stradles the Niagra Escarpment, a Limestone-Dolomite rock formation that extends from Niagra Falls to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. Up there, the escarpment forms cliffs surrounding the bays, and there is a fantastic, well-managed and well-signed long-distance trail that spans the length of the peninsula. We day-hiked several sections of the Bruce Trail, and saw a number of long-distance backpackers and rock climbers. The trail is marked by paint stripes on trees, and there are many side trips provided as well. Kind of reminded me of the Appalachian Trail.

Perhaps the best part of the trip for me was to enjoy a ton of quality time with my family, and Wendy's extended family, in a relaxing setting that felt a world-apart from Idaho.

Rosie is doing great

I wanted everyone to know that Rosie has made a full recovery, and she's doing great.

As many people know from awesome media coverage provided by all four of Boise's TV stations and the Idaho Statesman, Rosie got lost while Wendy, my friend Norm Nelson and I backpacked into the Vanity Lakes on July 19-20. We were catching up to friends who already were camped in the lakes basin, northwest of Stanley. Rosie is an English setter, and she tends to roam, normally circling back to us. This time, she didn't circle back.

Wendy spent the weekend scouring the backcountry for Rosie, but she didn't turn up. We had to drive away from Vanity Summit on a Sunday afternoon with a bad feeling in our gut, hoping she would be found ... we placed some posters on trees, indicating that Rosie was lost.

Tom Hickey and his friends and family from Meridian hiked into the Vanity Lakes on the following Friday, and encountered Rosie at the downhill edge of the lakes basin. They were a little bit lost, and seeing Rosie above led them to the lakes. Tom said, "It was by the grace of god that she led us to the lakes, so we called her Gracie."

Tom and his group nursed Rosie back to health, wrapping her bleeding pads, and feeding her 8 trout over the weekend. She was physically exhausted and a sack of bones. Then Tom's son, the studly dude pictured above, and his friend, physically carried Rosie out of the woods.

When I met up with them on Sunday night, it was really emotional to see Rosie alive. I called Wendy, who was in Ontario, Canada, and she was incredibly thrilled and relieved, as were the rest of our family.
So anyway, many thanks to Tom Hickey's backpacking party for saving Rosie. We will be eternally grateful.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My favorite trail-running route close to home

I live on N. 39th in NW Boise, near Hill Road, 36th Street and Hillside Junior High, so it's really convenient to go hiking, biking or trail-running in the Hillside to the Hollow foothills open space area. I had a small window of opportunity at lunchtime today, so I went for it.
It's a 5-mile 55-minute run from my house. I head up to Hill Road to the 32nd Street entrance to the Hillside to the Hollow area, and then I climb the heinous 32nd St. ridge to the top of the mountain (500 feet of gain). Puff-puff. A contour trail takes you downhill to a saddle, where you can take a hard right above a big white water tank, and then contour back toward Hillside Jr. High. It's a gentle downhill grade for quite a ways, and then you have to climb again to the 32nd St. ridge, and then a higher ridge above Hillside. Once on top, it's a steep downhill (take small steps) to the junior high, and then a mile back to my house.
The thing I love about this run is that it spanks your butt on the steep climb up to the top, and then you have awesome views on the way back, overlooking the city. It's like you can reach out and touch it. And then you have a second steep climb back to the Hillside ridge at the end. You will get a workout on this run.
Anyway, in case you haven't heard about it, there is a citizens group called the Hillside to the Hollow Coalition that's working on preserving the area by calling on the Boise Foothills Levy Committee to strike a deal with the private landowners in the area and purchase the last, best foothills open space area close to Boise.
Please see for more information.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sweet day on the river

River trips evoke emotions in people, especially in the rapids. On the Cabarton section of the Payette River on Sunday, the river experience felt like nirvanna the whole way for me.

Light downstream breeze. Perfect river flow (medium-high). Perfect temperature. Not a single cloud in the sky. Ospreys. Eagles. Good friends.

A perfect day in a mountain paradise.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Loon Lake Loop trail is in great shape

I got a late start on Saturday afternoon, but I couldn't wait to mountain bike the 10-mile Loon Lake Loop from Chinook Campground in the Payette National Forest (20 miles north of McCall) and check out the setting after a 215,500-acre wildfire burned hot and long last summer.

Turns out it was a gorgeous late-afternoon ride. The mushroom pickers were out in force, combing the countryside for fresh morels, and I ran into a trio of horseback riders, several groups of mountain bikers, a group of backpackers heading up to Loon Lake, and a group of llama-packers, who were camped in the penstamin-covered grassy meadow just before Loon Lake.

The wildfires had burned in a "mosaic" type of random pattern through the countryside, sparing some meadows and mountainsides, darting through others, and blackening whole slopes. Judging from a map of the lightning-strikes associated with the Zena-Loon wildfire, there had to be scores of small blazes burning amid the big one.

The fire's impacts on the Loon Lake Loop were insignificant, thanks to the efforts of the Payette National Forest trail crew and a high amount of use by commercial pickers due to the morel-money-making potential. My feeling is that forest trails on sustainable grades often smooth out when they're getting lots of use.

So going over to Loon Lake on the Victor Creek Trail #081, the trail was buttery-smooth, and FAST! But you couldn't let things get too out of control because there's always those unforeseen rock formations, or other people on the trail. I was zooming along, and then I saw a guy on horseback coming up a steep grade, just as I was about to banzai down there. I managed to slam on the brakes and avoid a collision.

I climbed the multiple grades to a point where you reach a mini-perch and can see the big meadow approaching Loon Lake. Now, after the fire, you can see Loon Lake through the trees. That's kind of a cool new feature of the scenery. Overall, the fire has cleared out a thick lodgepole pine forest canopy and opened up the views. Nice secondary benefit.

I saw fire impacts all the way to the Secesh River and then back along the Secesh to Chinook Campground. Along this section, you'd ride in and out of the fire impact area throughout the ride.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The North Fork Payette that's overlooked

We went back to one of my favorite flat-water river trips on Friday the 4th and paddled the North Fork of the Payette River in between McCall and Hartsell Bridge, north of Lake Cascade. I included this little-traveled section of the Payette in my book Paddling the Payette but it's been slow to catch on ... which is just fine.

It is a beautiful float by any definition -- there is bird life galore ... herons, kingfishers, ospreys everywhere, bald eagles soaring overhead, and many different types of songbirds -- we found some frogs on shore, the fishing is quite good, and many white-tailed deer hang out in the riparian zone along the river.

Some of the challenges associated with this trip is that it's a day-long paddle, 5-6 hours, with stops, at low water, you need to set up a shuttle before you go, and you need to portage around some big logs that block the river about two-thirds of the way along the journey.

But all of these obstacles are easily overcome. Damon Yerkes at West Mountain Gear & Grind in Donnelly arranged a shuttle driver for us, and we rented a hard-shell Jackson Sports Little Tripper for Ellie, Wendy's 14-year-old daughter, so she could paddle her own boat. The portage isn't that bad, if you take the right channel and scout your path from a perch above the river bank so you can find the easiest way through the maze.

Wendy and I paddled our 16-foot Mad River Explorer, which is a perfect boat for this river section. At 250 cfs, the river was low, but there was enough cushion to make it through small riffles. You did have to pay attention to your lines through the riffles to stay in the deepest water (usually part of the tongue).

We stopped several times so I could cast in the deep dark pools for rainbow trout, and I caught a bunch. Unfortunately, I lost a big one when the fish leaped at least three feet out of the water to toss the hook. It looked like at least an 18-inch fat fish, and I tried to get it to bite again, but mature wiley rainbows are normally too smart to get hooked a second time in the same hole.

Anyway, it was a good time had by all. Our arms were tired of paddling by the time we reached Hartsell Bridge, and we were hungry for dinner. It's only an 8-mile trip, according to the USGS topo map, but with all of the oxbows and goose necks in the river, it seems like twice that long. I'll have to bring my GPS next time to confirm the distance.

Check out this unsung section of the North Fork sometime when you have a full day of time and good weather. It's a treat.

Precious Moments on the Huck

We got to our cabin in McCall Thursday evening just in enough time to head over to Ponderosa State Park and ride a quick loop on the Huckleberry Trail on our mountain bikes before dinner.

The low-angle evening light was beautiful on the thriving, velvety green vegetation in the park, and there were quite a few white-tailed deer scampering about in the woods.

We took the singletrack near the park entrance over to Pilgrim Cove, and then took the shady two-track trail to Fox Run Trail, and climbed Fox Run to the fast downhill before heading off on “the Huck.”

I love riding the Huck because even though it’s relatively short, it has many features – technical tree root sections, steep climbs, narrow tree-openings and basalt rocky sections – that one might encounter riding anywhere in a Central Idaho national forest. It call it “true mountain conditions.”

Wendy and I slalomed through the Huck and then we rode over to Osprey Point to check out the fabulous view of Payette Lake at the north tip of the peninsula. A few boats were out and about, water skiing or just crusing around, but mostly it was quiet – the calm before the storm on 4th of July weekend.

On the way back, we zipped down the main dirt road back toward the park beach and rode along the lakeshore to the park entrance, enjoying the scent of the forest and fresh wildflowers. To top off the day, I saw twin fawns that must have been just a couple days old, with their mom, hanging out by the edge of the trail. We paused to look at the cute newborns, their brown coats speckled with white dots, and it was precious.

Simple reminders about how much we love being in McCall.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Running on the Boise Greenbelt

I took a break from work today and went running on the Boise River Greenbelt, from my workplace at Drake Cooper, to the Anne Frank Memorial near Capital, to the ParkCenter walk bridge, and then back on the ParkCenter and BSU side of the river. It was a delightful run, but given that it was going to hit 95 degrees today, it was already quite hot at 12:15 p.m.

Still, despite the balmy temps, it reminded me that it was great to work near the Greenbelt, and have a shower at my workplace, so I could cram in a 5-mile run inside of an hour. And the river is always there, if you get too overheated. The Boise River is like 55 degrees! Quite refreshing.

To beat the heat, get out early. But even getting out at noon is a far cry better than not getting out at all.

- SS