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.