Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring a perfect time to visit Leslie Gulch

In the late afternoon, the sun casts a golden glow on the beige and rouge spires that rise dramatically from the gentle sagebrush hills in Leslie Gulch. I always feel like I'm in southern Utah there, and yet, it's really eastern Oregon, just 1.5 hours from Boise.

Leslie Gulch is an awesome place for hiking honeycomb canyons, fishing or boating on Owyhee Reservoir, and mountain biking on desert two-tracks. It's also a great place to car camp. I've even done a short backpack in a honeycomb canyon ... go get lost in the magical rocks, surround yourself with beauty, bask in the serenity.

For the Tip of the Week, I recommend that you go hiking and camping in Leslie Gulch. My hiking and trail-running book, Boise Trail Guide, suggests a 5.5-mile hike to the summit of the Yellow Jacket peak, a stunningly beautiful rock formation that lords over Leslie Gulch. The peak is about 900 vertical feet from the valley floor. I'll attach a map.

Park at the Juniper Gulch trailhead on the right side of the gulch. Hike uphill on a winding creek bottom for 1 mile, enjoying the volcanic tuff-rock walls and Swiss-cheese-like formations in the canyon. After the canyon opens up, look for a left-hand draw where you can scramble to the top of the ridge, and the top of Yellow Jacket. Return the way you came.

When it's a wet spring, like the one we're experiencing now, many of the dirt roads in the Owyhee Mountains can be impassible One advantage of going to Leslie Gulch is that the roads are heavily graveled and thus, more dependable.

Come prepared for a self-supported camping experience in Leslie Gulch. Bring your tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, kitchen stuff, water, even your own firewood, come equipped for cold weather, and you'll have a great time. There are several vault toilets in the gulch. There also is a great deep-draw boat ramp for launching your craft.

Directions to Leslie Gulch: Take I-84 west to the ID 55 exit in west Nampa. Go south on ID 55 18 miles to Marsing. Drive through Marsing and then watch for a turnoff to U.S. 95 south on the left. Take U.S. 95 south about 16 miles until you come to a BLM sign. Turn right on the gravel road and follow signs to Leslie Gulch. It's 22 miles to this springtime wonderland.

- SS

Thanks to the Malheur Agricultural Experiment Station for their web photos.