Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring tease opens Boise Foothills to recreation

I went out for my first mountain bike ride of the spring in the Boise Foothills on Friday, March 20, and it was the warmest day (photo courtesy Joshua Roper) of the year so far - just nudging 70 degrees. It had been getting progressively warmer since Wednesday, the 17th, and so I expected the trails would be getting pretty dry.

Once Wendy and I got out there, we realized that everything was bone dry in the lower foothills trails. Cool! We rode Red Fox and Chickadee Ridge over to Hulls Gulch, and then climbed
Kestrel to Crestline, and then rode up to the top of Sidewinder. Again, everything was totally dry.

Yippee, I thought, the recreation season in the Boise Foothills has begun for yet another year of non-stop fun and relaxation. Being the first real warm day of spring, people were out in droves that evening. Hikers, joggers, mountain bikers and dogs everywhere! The creek in Hulls Gulch was running strong. Daylight-savings time already had begun, so it was a fantastic evening. We are so lucky to live in a place with 100 miles of trails at our doorstep.

But this year, we seem to be getting the warm, dry weather in small doses so far. I went for a 5-mile run in the Hillside to the Hollow area on the Saturday after that beautiful Friday, and it was still dry and warm, but a thunderstorm chased me home, and it rained all day on Sunday. On Monday, I did a quick ride after work in Military Reserve, and the trails had dried out by then - I just encountered a few small tiny puddles on Bucktail and Shanes. But the next couple days, it rained hard, and turned things to mush. By Friday of this week, things were drying out again, but more rain was forecast for Sunday.

To make sure that you're not causing any trouble on muddy trails, keep an eye on the dialogue in the Idaho Outdoors yahoo group and the new Boise Front Trails yahoo group. If you're not a member, it's easy to join. All you need is a yahoo login. Both groups have had a lot of dialogue about foothills trail conditions on a daily basis. You also can check trail reports on the Ridge to Rivers web site.

Please remember, if the foothills trails are muddy, just turn around and go for a ride on your road bike or a run on the Greenbelt or wherever you won't cause environmental damage. On weekends, consider heading out to the Owyhee foothills, south of Nampa or Marsing, or the Snake River Birds of Prey area. The trails out there are usually the first to dry out.

Thanks and have fun! - SS

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Eagle Greenbelt bypass for bikers

(Click on map to magnify)

Hi all,

I'm sure a few of you cyclists and mountain bikers out there have been a bit frustrated with the closure along Riverside Village to bikes, making it difficult, if not seemingly impossible to travel from Eagle Road to Glenwood Bridge on the north side of the river. The goal of extending the Greenbelt from Lucky Peak to Eagle Island Park has been the goal for 25+ years, and the Riverside Village closure impedes reaching that goal.

I've been keeping track of Greenbelt additions and improvements for a long time -- over 20 years -- so I was pretty psyched to learn last year that Eagle had built a significant amount of pathway to join the paths between Eagle's jurisdiction and Garden City. The bike closure in Riverside Village is a problem, and it should be fixed in the long-term one way or another.

But in the meantime, we need to know how to get through without riding on State Street.
I went out there on Sunday and found a way through.

It's best to start from Eagle Road, behind Bardenay or the Hilton Inn. The path does extend to the west from that point for 1.7 miles, and a new underpass is under construction underneath Eagle Road. That's a cool thing. But right now, the west trail is a trail to no where unless you live out in that direction.

So, starting from behind Bardenay, you ride east toward Boise on the north side of the river. The trail starts out as a paved trail and gives way to dirt in less than a mile. No matter, it's easily rideable on a mountain bike or cross bike. Continue east for three miles. Inside a new subdivision, the trail turns into a paved surface again, and then you come to a Y-junction.

Go straight and you'll pop out onto Sultana Drive. (If you go right, you'll end up at the bike dismount zone in Riverside Village.) Follow Sultana a block, turn left on Ulmer, and follow that to a paved pathway behind Stoneham. You'll follow the path for a short bit, it ends, and then you dump out on Stoneham. Go east on Stoneham to Arney Lane. Turn right, and now you're on a main paved road (with a good shoulder) that connects to Riverside Drive. Turn left at Riverside, and follow that to the fishing pond next to Glenwood.

Here, you can either follow the dirt path around the pond to Glenwood Blvd., ride up to Glenwood (don't take the underpass; this is another trail to no where), turn right, cross the river bridge, and then turn left to pick up the main Greenbelt near Les Boise Park. Now you're home-free on the multiuse pathway all the way to Lucky Peak.

I applaud the bicyclists that banded together to protest Garden City's new ordinance that bans bikes in Riverside Village. This should be changed someday, but we'll have to wait for a new group of elected officials who would support making the change. The other alternative is to have Riverside Village and Garden City apply for a federal grant to build a pedestrian bridge across the Boise River at the beginning of Riverside Village property (approaching from the west), and connect to the paved trail on the south side of the river.

But in the meantime, there is a way for cyclists to get through without going on State Street. That's a start. - SS

Monday, March 16, 2009

Take a tour of Lake Lowell

Hi all,

It was a bit of a blustery day on Saturday, but we decided to tackle the 26.5-mile loop around Lake Lowell anyway on our road bikes. It was a nice ride, especially on the south side of the reservoir, where you ride next to Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, a large cottonwood forest and lots of wildlife habitat.

Jim Hine and I recorded our thoughts on video after the ride, and Jim provided a cool interactive GPS map of the ride.

The Lake Lowell loop is one of 30+ road rides featured in the Boise Road Cycling Guide, a two-sided color waterproof map that provides detailed directions to all of the best rides in the Boise Valley and beyond. I'll be giving a presentation about the guide at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the Boise REI store.

I'm also posting some cool photos that Mike Shipman was kind enough to share. Mike is giving a presentation on his wildlife photography at Deer Flat NWR on Tuesday, April 7, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the Deer Flat NWR Visitor Center in Nampa. His photo business is called Blue Planet Photography.

- SS

Monday, March 2, 2009

Early Spring Hikes Guaranteed to Please

Jumpin' Jeepers Figure 8 Loop,
Military Reserve Park
6.75 miles

Wildcat Canyon Loop,
3.4 miles, south of Marsing

The Bruneau Dunes rise 470 vertical feet.
It's a nice perch lording over the Snake Plain

Jump Creek Canyon

Wow. Monday afternoon nudged 70 degrees in Boise on March 2. Makes you think about spring.

For the tip of the week, we flip-flop from powder skiing to some sure-fire spring hikes that should work great in March and April. All of these are within an hour's drive of Boise.

1. Go hiking above Jump Creek Canyon, south of Marsing on Cemetery Road, Owyhee Foothills.
2. Play in the sand at Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park, south of Mountain Home. Video here.
3. Surprise Valley-Oregon Trail Loop in East Boise.
4. Hillside to the Hollow in the Boise Foothills.
5. Hike to Wees Bar on the south side of the Snake River Canyon, starting from Swan Falls Dam (Follow directions on the Wees Bar link to Mountain Biking Idaho, which has a map and description of the 12-mile out-and-back hike). You also could float down there in a raft and take out at Celebration Park.
6. Hike to Halverson Lake, starting from Celebration Park, south of Nampa.
7. Hike the Wilson Creek - Reynolds Creek Loop, including the China Ditch Trail, in the Owyhee Foothills, near Walters Ferry, south of Nampa.
8. Tour Polecat Gulch in the NW Boise Foothills.
9. Scramble up Wilcat Canyon in the Owyhee Foothills. See map above. Beautiful box canyon loop close to home.
10. Do the Jumpin Jeepers Figure 8 Loop in Military Reserve Park, near Fort Boise. See above.

All of these trips are described in detail, with maps, descriptions and photos, in the Boise Trail Guide - 75 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home by Steve Stuebner, published July 2008.

Have fun!

- SS