Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hike the Station Creek Trail in Garden Valley

Trip map

Google Earth GPS map ... do the loop counter-clockwise

Wendy strikes a pose. Typical open slopes with big views.

Bow hunters are in the hills so bright colors are a good idea.

The weather forecast for the weekend looks fabulous, so it should be a perfect time for a hike in the Boise National Forest. I'm recommending the Station Creek Trail in Garden Valley, a sweet singletrack that climbs 1,300 feet over several miles to the top of the ridge overlooking the broad valley. It's a 4.5-mile hike round-trip.

The Station Creek hike is featured in my book, the Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home.

The trailhead is about an hour from Boise on the Banks to Lowman Road, east of Crouch and Garden Valley, and directly across the highway from the Garden Valley Ranger Station. Take Idaho 55 north to Banks, turn right and watch for the trailhead on your left after passing through the little town of Garden Valley and the grass airstrip on the right.

The trail winds through neatly spaced ponderosa pine trees and climbs at a moderate pace to an initial ridge at mile 2.1. You'll notice a right-hand turnoff on the way up for a short loop. Ignore that one unless you have young kids and you can only do the short hike. At the top of the ridge, you'll see a sign directing you toward the downhill loop toward the Alder Creek Bridge, which crosses the South Fork of the Payette River. Take the left fork to walk a series of ridges back to the highway or circle back toward the trailhead. As my book notes, the downhill trail fizzles out as you leave the top of the ridge, but you can see the valley below the whole way, so you can just enjoy a ridge-walk downhill.

As an alternative, at the top of the ridge (mile 2.1), you can go right and follow the trail to Bald
Mountain for a bigger view and a little more exercise. Return to the ridge junction and cruise back to the trailhead or the Alder Creek Bridge.

After the hike, you can hit a local hot springs and/or have a burger in Crouch at the Longhorn Saloon. There are many places to camp in the area, particularly along the Middle Fork Payette Road north of Crouch, or you could stay at a Bed & Breakfast, the Garden Valley Hotel, or rent a private cabin. Check out the Garden Valley Chamber of Commerce web site for more information.

- SS

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nice weekend for a river trip

Rainbow Bridge

Wet Spot

Quinn Stuebner, left, Drew Stuebner and Elena Lansing (Wilson)

The new boat slider at higher water

Just after we finished the ramp

(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)

Hi all,

With temperatures expected in the 80s this weekend, it should be a great time to float the Payette River.

The South Fork is too low to float, and the Middle Fork is done, but North Fork of the Payette River is running about 1,200 cubic feet per second (cfs) elow Cascade Dam, so there's still enough water to run the Cabarton Class 3 section of the North Fork or canoe from Cascade to Cabarton. Both trips are featured in my book Paddling the Payette.

The water will be a little bit low and scratchy on the Cabarton run (normal summer flow is 1,500 to 1,800), but still totally doable. The fishing can get better when the water is a little lower. Visit the Payette River page on my web site to check river flows in the future.

If you're more into a flat-water paddling trip, the 9-mile trip from Cascade to Cabarton is a beauty. The current is slow, and the gradient is table-top flat, so it's a totally low-key canoeing trip through Valley County cattle country and one heron rookery. You'll also likely see kingfishers and ospreys. Bring your fishing pole if you like to fish. This section could be floated in a fishing cat or inflatable kayak as well.

The Cabarton run may be quite popular this weekend because it's "the only game in town," so to speak. Be aware of that. Go early or late to avoid the peak crowds.

I like to take my kids on Cabarton because we can fish, and it's a relatively easy whitewater float. The rapids are rated Class 3, with Howards Plunge, the last and biggest drop on the river, rated a Class 3+. It's the climax to a great day on the river.

If you don't have your own kayak or raft, you can go with several outfitters run Cabarton, including Cascade Raft & Kayak, Idaho Whitewater Unlimited, and Bear Valley River Co. You also could rent rafts or kayaks at Idaho River Sports or Boise Army-Navy.

At the put-in at Cabarton Bridge, you'll notice a new boat ramp. We got a whitewater license plate grant two years ago to pay for the building materials, working through Valley County. They were a great partner for that project. The Idaho Whitewater Association also has been working on putting in a new rest room this year at the Cabarton put-in.

Little trivia: The name Cabarton comes from a logging boss named C.A. Barton who worked for the Boise-Payette Lumber Co. in the vicinity many moons ago.

Check out the river maps and photos and have fun! I'll see ya there.

- SS

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tour the Snake River wine region by bike

(Click on map to enlarge)

I recently learned about a new 53-mile backcountry byway in southwest Idaho called the Snake River Canyon Backcountry Byway. The byway was recently recommended by the Idaho Travel Council as a great place to take a scenic drive to enjoy fall colors, fine wine, fresh home-grown produce, history and more.

The Snake River Canyon byway is unique because it tours a number of secondary roads in Canyon County on the north side of the Snake River, and thus, would be an outstanding venue for road biking. But the real bonus is that it passes by a number of great wineries in a very close proximity to each other, making it a perfect destination for biking and wine-tasting. The wineries include Bitner, Koenig, Sawtooth, Ste. Chappelle, Hells Canyon and more.

So ... to take a page from the Provence region of France, I'd recommend doing 70-mile road-biking tour that passes by many great wineries from Kuna to Parma. Ideally, you should start the ride in Boise, so you get some exercise for 20 miles before the wine-sipping begins in Kuna. It'd be best to do the trip in two days -- while staying in a bed & breakfast or hotel along the way in Melba, Nampa or Caldwell -- so as to maximize on the wine-tasting and provide enough exercise in between each wine-tasting stop so you can pace yourself and enjoy the whole experience.

Options for lodging include a new Bed & Breakfast at the Bitner Vineyards, the Snake River Log B&B in Melba, Mrs. Hood's B&B in Caldwell, or a number of hotels in Nampa and Caldwell.

Watch for a detailed map on my web site in the coming weeks to provide a road-biking guide to the Snake River wine region in Ada and Canyon counties.

- SS

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Some ideas for Labor Day Weekend ...

Wah Hoo Review

The Big Hitch

I'm sure a lot of people already have plans for Labor Day, but here are some ideas in case you're still on the fence about what to do:

It's going to be crowded in many popular outdoor locations this weekend, so you might as well dive into the crowds in Ketchum/Sun Valley to experience the Wagon Days Celebration. This is a great outing for families. The Blackjack shootout is at 7 p.m. Friday on main street in Ketchum and the Big Hitch parade on Saturday begins at 1 p.m. The parade is billed as the largest non-motorized parade west of the Mississippi. Your kids will love seeing the covered wagons and people decked out in pioneer garb.

Check out the Ketchum/Sun Valley Chamber web site to look for the best deals on hotels, or you can camp out north of Ketchum or even in the Stanley area. Here's the calendar of events for the weekend.

On Friday and Saturday night, the "Wah-Hoo! Review" puts on a knee-slappin' foot-stompin' Wild West performance at the Sun Valley Opera House. You can do a BBQ and performance, or just the performance to save a little money. The performance costs $20 for adults and $15 for kids; BBQ and show costs $40 for adults and $30 for kids. Reservations: 208-622-2135.

While you're in Ketchum, you can ride the chairlift to the top of Bald Mountain and take a l-o-n-g gravity ride down the Cold Springs or Warm Springs trail on your mountain bike. Here's my writeup in Mountain Biking Idaho. It's 11 miles downhill the Warm Springs Trail or the Cold Springs route. If you don't bike, you can hike down. The descent is more than 3,000 vertical feet, so you'll get big views of the Pioneer and Smoky mountains and the Big Wood River Valley.

If you'd like to go mountain biking or hiking in the Wood River Valley, check out this web site for some trail ideas.

Some other possibilities: