Thursday, December 16, 2010

Here are 10 Christmas gift ideas for the Idaho outdoorsy guy

Hi all,

Guys can be a tough nut to crack when it comes to buying Christmas gifts for them. Some guys just do a poor job of communicating what they want. Others can't even articulate one idea. But don't worry ... if they're an outdoorsy guy, I have some suggestions that will work. Here are 10 ideas that are bound to be winners.

1. Gloves. Guys can never have enough gloves. We need gloves for hiking, biking, running, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, paddling in cold water conditions, hunting, driving, etc. etc. I often use the same gloves for biking, cross-country skiing and raking leaves, so a lighter pair has multiple benefits. Shop around for some nice ones that will last.

2. Capiline undergarments are awesome. Zip T's, long underwear and crew neck shirts are all a necessary part of the get-up to go skiing, hiking or biking in the cold weather. They come in different weights and sizes. I like to have a mix of lightweight capiline stuff, as well as medium-weight and expedition weight stuff, so that I have the perfect set of undergarments for that day's weather and activity. Patagonia stuff is expensive, but it lasts forever. REI brand capiline is reasonably priced for the budget shopper. You can't ever have enough capiline undergarments. My favorite ones are always in the wash when I need them.

3. GoPro helmet cam video cameras are very cool. The new GoPro HD camera has unbelievable quality for such a small and surprisingly affordable camera. The GoPro HD cameras retail for $299. They are available at most Boise outdoor stores. A very nifty extra would be to also buy your man some video editing software to go with the camera, especially if he's a PC user. If your man is into water sports, he'll love the waterproof case that comes with the camera. I have been using one of these since last fall, and I've gotten some pretty cool footage on my bike and on the river. Now I'm using it for skiing.

4. A knife. Guys like knives. They are useful for many things. Some guys carry a little knife in their pocket every day, or they wear it on their belt. So give your man a knife. Try a Swiss Army knife, or a Buck knife, like the one pictured. Or, maybe he needs a river rescue knife. Whatever, you can't go wrong if you give him a knife.

5. Hats and headbands are a close second in my book to a nice pair of gloves. You just can't ever have enough of them. Especially when it comes to headbands. I tend to lose them, or my significant other steals them. Whatever, you need a bunch of them in your hat stache for the winter. Lighter-weight hats are great for cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing and to go under the helmet for biking. A really warm hat will keep the ears warm in McCall or Sun Valley when the temperatures are in single digits or below zero.

6. Maybe your man needs a ski helmet? Helmets are a great way to reduce the risk of head injury when skiing. I lost a very good friend to a ski injury several years ago, and now I wear a helmet. You can buy helmets with built-in earphones, and some helmets come paired with a perfect set of goggles to go with them. A few stickers would be helpful to go with the helmet, but you might want to leave that up to him ... unless you know that he'd like a certain sticker for sure.

7. Is your guy a river runner? Perhaps he needs a new lifejacket, a rescue rope, a dry bag, a paco pad, or a decent beer holder for the raft frame. If you know he needs some river gear, but you're not sure what to get him, consider a gift certificate to Idaho River Sports, Cascade Outfitters or Boise Army-Navy. Let him decide.

8. Cycling shoe covers for winter riding is another great gift idea. These run $40 to $60, depending on the brand and model. They're a great way to keep his feet warm when he's out night-riding or pedaling in cold weather.

9. Winter boots. Maybe your man needs a new pair of Sorels. Maybe he's never had a pair in the first place! These are deluxe winter boots with a wool interior liner, leather outer and fur-lined to boot! Look for a great selection of winter boots at D&B Supply.

10. Here's a real splurge. Buy him a steelhead fishing trip in Riggins or Orofino. Buy him a trout-fishing trip on the South Fork of the Snake, Silver Creek or the Henrys Fork. Reserve a yurt for you and your friends this winter. Think of a really cool trip that he'd like to do, or a trip that you've always wanted to do together and book it!

If none of these ideas sound good, consider buying him one of my hiking, biking or paddling books. They're available at Boise outdoor recreation stores and On my web site, you can buy a digital all-color book as a pdf, or a hard-copy. You also can buy individual hiking, biking and paddling trips for 99 cents each. You be the judge.

There you have it! If you try one of these ideas, and he still doesn like it, blame it on me. I'll take the heat :)

- SS

Steve Stuebner's outdoor tips can be heard every Friday morning on 94.9 FM The River in Boise at about 7:10 a.m. You can hear the audio from the weekly outdoor segments at

Thursday, December 9, 2010

IDPR adds Stargaze Yurt to its quiver of six yurts in the Idaho City Park n' Ski Area

Stargaze Yurt, courtesy IDPR
Map of trail to Stargaze Yurt (click to enlarge), courtesy IDPR

Hi all,

Now that hunting season is pretty much over and winter is upon us, it's time to crank up Stueby's weekly outdoor tips for the winter season.

And I have fresh news to share! The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has added a sixth yurt to the hut system in the Idaho City Park n' Ski Area -- it's called the Stargaze Yurt.

The 20-foot diameter yurt is accessed from a new Park n' Ski parking area at Beaver Creek Summit, just a mile or so farther than the Banner Ridge parking lot, located about 25 miles east of Idaho City toward Lowman.

Leo Hennessy, IDPR non-motorized trail coordinator, picked a perfect mountain knob at 6,600 feet elevation for the new yurt. "It's a cool spot with excellent slopes for telemark skiing on the north, east and west slopes," Hennessy says. "You can see 360-degree views of all of the surrounding mountains. It's a beautiful location."

The best part of all: IDPR isn't taking reservations for the Stargaze Yurt until Jan. 4 because the early dates in December were reserved for 60+ volunteers who donated approximately 2,500 hours of labor to build the yurt, set up trail signs and cut six cords of firewood, among other things.

So ... for people who like to stay at yurts that means you should stay tuned on the IDPR web site for yurt reservations and be ready to reserve the Stargaze Yurt as soon as IDPR starts taking reservations on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 4. The other five yurts in the Idaho City area already are booked 95 percent of the time for this winter, so Stargaze may be your best chance to get a yurt reserved for you and your friends.

Judy Ditto oversees the yurt program for IDPR if you have questions, but she does NOT take reservations. Her phone number is 514-2418, and her email is Reservations can be made on the IDPR web site or by calling Reserve America at 1-888-922-6743.

A couple of friends of mine were part of the volunteer force that worked on the Stargaze Yurt. They've already been up there enjoying the snow and the view.

"We highly recommend it for first-time yurters," says Barb Cochran. "It's not too far or steep, and it's brand spanking new!"

All of the Idaho City Park n' Ski Trails have been rolled, and they're in the process of being groomed as we speak. More snow is expected Friday. Snow depths are in the 3-feet range or more, depending on elevation. "We've got a good base, and we're expecting 6-10 inches of more snow in the next week," Hennessy says.

I highly recommend the Park n' Ski system for snowshoeing, traditional cross-country skiing (kick and glide) and backcountry skiing (telemarking or alpine touring/randonee). The access points are located directly adjacent to the ski/snowshoe trails, so the fun begins as soon as you're booted up and ready to go. There are 50 miles of trails to explore in the whole Idaho City ski/snowshoe trail system, so there's no excuses!

Be sure to purchase a $25 Park n' Ski Pass for your vehicle, which is required for parking at the Park n' Ski lots. If you don't expect to get out much, a three-day $7.50 parking pass is available as well. Most of the outdoor shops in Boise carry the Park n' Ski passes. Remember, buying a parking pass is a great investment in the future of the Idaho City Park n' Ski System. These dollars are what pays for the trail-grooming up there.

BTW: There is a snow line for information on grooming and snow conditions: 208-514-2423.


Steve's outdoor tips can be heard each Friday at approximately 7:10 a.m. on 94.9 FM The River in Boise.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Be Outside campaign in Idaho has great tips for getting your kids outdoors

Drew's "Over the Hedge" project in our backyard

Quinn's first fish at age 4

Quinn and Dad on the Salmon River

Quinn and Dad on the summit of Council Mountain


Drew loves camping "in the middle of no where"

Hi all,

I'm sure everyone knew that this past week was "Take a Child Outside Week," which was observed Sept. 24-30 this year. Just kidding, but actually, it's true, and the Indian Summer weather we've been having in Idaho has been utterly fantastic. So how could you find a better time to get your kids outdoors? Try starting with this weekend.

As an outdoorsy Dad, even I struggle sometimes with my kids to join me on outdoor pursuits. But because I like to play outdoors a lot, my kids often don't have a choice. I tell them we're going rafting, camping, hiking or mountain biking or whatever, and they might try to put up a fuss, but when they say, "Do I have to?" They know the answer is going to be "Yep."

A lot of other parents may struggle with knowing how to get their kids outdoors or having enough ideas to excite them about doing something outdoors. Keep reading for some great ideas.
Five years ago, Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, raised our collective consciousness about the brewing concern that our children were turning into indoor zombies, focusing too much time on video games, computers and TV. His concerns were spot-on, and his book inspired a national movement.

A number of great people in Idaho rose to the challenge and formed the Idaho Children-in-Nature "Be Outside" project, which led to a beautiful web site created by Drake Cooper agency. The Be Outside web site, hosted by the Idaho Travel and Tourism Bureau at, has 101 tips for parents and kids to consider. That's a great place to start looking for fresh ideas to get your kids outside.

The web site also lists events throughout the state, organized by region, and it has hot links to the Idaho Children in Nature Facebook page and YouTube channel. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, one of the partners in the Be Outside project, has produced a ton of inspiring videos about great kid activities -- frog pond, fishing, gardening, composting, story-telling, snow science and many more. Click on the YouTube channel to view the videos. You'll get lots of cool ideas that your kids will enjoy.

The main point is to give your kids some time to enjoy the outdoors without necessarily having to do any one particular thing. It's called unstructured time. Just let them roam around the edge of a river or in a mountain meadow, and they'll use their natural curiosity to find things to do. It might just be playing in the mud, throwing rocks, skipping rocks, looking a tree leaves, watching the clouds roll by or whatever. Get your kids outdoors, and the rest will follow quite naturally.

In Idaho, we are blessed with a multitude of outdoor resources right outside the back door, whether it's an urban pathway where you can go biking, a river where you can go fishing or skipping rocks, or a park where they can play on the playground. It's really easy for us to go play outdoors because we have great amenities close to home. Be sure to take advantage of that and your kids will never forget.

My son Quinn, 12, had a really busy summer playing on the North Boise Little League all-star baseball team that went to the Northwest regional championships in California. It totally consumed his whole summer. The day after he got home from that tournament, junior high football practice started. He never had any down time. So the following weekend, I took Quinn and my other boy, Drew, camping and fishing in the Boise National Forest.

On the first night, we pulled into a campsite next to the North Fork of the Boise River, got a fire going, and kicked back in our lawn chairs. And Quinn said, "Dad, I'm really glad you got us out of town. It's nice to have some time to chill." The next day, he took a nap for 2 hours in the afternoon. He never does that at home.

And I like the fact that there is no wifi or cell coverage in the BNF. The kids had time to just be kids.

Here are a couple of other things that you might want to do with your kids this fall:

1. Visit the Idaho Bird Observatory on the top of Lucky Peak. Raptor experts catch and band birds of prey as they are migrating south, and if you're lucky, they'll let you release the birds. It's a super-cool experience, and it's a rare chance to see birds of prey up close and personal.

2. Take your kids fishing at one of the ponds in the Treasure Valley that Idaho Fish & Game stocks on a regular basis. These are called Family Fishing Waters.

Have fun!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mahalo Trail is a great fall destination

Nick Raganit's mother expresses her appreciation

Former SWIMBA President David Thomas rides the memorial bench

Mahalo Trail profile (click to enlarge)

Mahalo Trail map (click to enlarge)

Hi all,

The Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA) had a trail-dedication Sunday for the brand new Mahalo Trail near Bogus Basin, so I thought it'd share some information about it.

I rode the trail today (see helmet cam video), and it was totally beautiful up there on the Boise Ridge, with the fall colors (yellows and reds) kicking in big-time. I really enjoyed the trail -- it has some challenging rock features, fun switchbacks with banked corners, and lots of twisty singletrack through the woods.

SWIMBA trail-building leaders Dan Meeker, Mike Edwards and SWIMBA volunteers have put 2,000 hours into creating this trail. It's been a huge effort. These are the same guys who brought you the Eastside Trail, Mr. Big and Sinker Creek Trail near Bogus Basin. If you like these new trails, do your part and join SWIMBA to contribute to the cause.

Stephanie Church from the Mountain Home Ranger District of the Boise National Forest has been instrumental in assisting with the trail-creation effort, Edwards said. Thanks to Stephanie and the BNF!

How to get to the Mahalo Trail:
1. Drive to the trailhead: Take Bogus Basin Road about 12 miles toward the ski area. Turn right on Forest Road 275 next to a pullout. This is the Deer Point service road which connects to the Boise Ridge Road. Shift into 4WD, drive toward Deer Point, and at the Deer Point junction (gated), bear right and go .8 miles to the trailhead at Forest Road 275C. Ride on 275C past a gate .03 miles to the Mahalo Trailhead. The loop is 4.7 miles. 1 hour travel time for average riders. (See map above)

2. Do the loop from Bogus Basin. Park at the Simplot (Lower) Lodge. Take Deer Point Trail #91 about 2 miles to the top of Deer Point, then peel left to the Boise Ridge Road and go .8 miles past the gate to Forest Road 275C. Go left and proceed .03 miles past a gate to the Mahalo Trailhead. Ride the Mahalo Trail and circle back on the Boise Ridge Road to Deer Point (all uphill) and return to the lower lodge.

3. Incorporate Mahalo Trail as part of a Hard Guy-Dry Creek loop ride. Climb Hard Guy to the Boise Ridge Road. Go left and climb to Forest Road 275C. Turn right and ride the Mahalo Loop. Go left at Peace Rock Junction and watch for the Dry Creek turnoff on the right in the next mile. Descend Dry Creek (6.8 miles) to Bogus Basin Road and return to Boise.

It was really neat to see the photos of the SWIMBA trail dedication on Sunday posted by Dan Meeker on Facebook. Mike Edwards created a really nice memorial bench out of a ponderosa pine tree for the late Nick Raganit, who was a very dedicated SWIMBA ride leader and volunteer. Nick was a great guy who'd always help out the slowest riders or those in need. He used to come to many of my REI presentations to add helpful information to newcomers in Boise. You can see from the photo of his mother (above) that she was so grateful for the wonderful tribute to Nick.

It should be noted that even though the Mahalo Trail was built by mountain bikers, it's open to hiking, biking, running. It's a non-motorized trail, and there are several trail barriers/step-overs to ensure that it stays that way.
See if you can get out there and enjoy the new trail before winter sets in. You'll be glad you did.
- SS

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail is a sweet treasure close to Boise

Upper Hulls Gulch ... the trail is at the bottom of the draw

Watch for wildlife along the way

Main trailhead 3 miles up 8th Street

Hi all,

Lower Hulls Gulch is probably the most popular trail in the Boise Foothills, a place where people go hiking, biking, jogging, dog-walking, bird-watching, you name it.

But 3 miles up the hill is the best part of the Hulls Gulch, and you'll rarely see anyone up there. It's called the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail, and it's also known as the Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail because of the educational signs about geology and nature that you'll see along the way. It's great for kids and families, and really, just about anyone.

The BLM developed the trail many years ago, and it was closed to mountain biking in the late 1980s to set a QUIET tone for the upper watershed, where hikers, runners and school kids can tour the area without fear of confronting speeding cyclists.

There are three ways to experience the trail, all with different mileage and experience:

1. Standard route - Drive 3 miles up North 8th Street after it turns to dirt and you'll come to a large parking area with rest rooms. This is the primary trailhead for the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail. It's a 6.5-mile hike to do the full tour of the trail to the upper watershed of Hulls Gulch, where the trail loops around the headwaters, passes by a waterfall (most impressive in the spring), and and returns to the trailhead. You should allow 2.5-3 hours for the trip (not including the drive). Mary Beth Anderson did a nice job detailing this route in her blog.

2. Upper Trailhead - Go past the main parking area and drive several more miles up 8th Street to the Upper Trailhead, which is well-marked. The road is rough with big holes and water dips. You'll need a high-clearance 4WD rig to make it up there. The upper loop is 2.5 miles to the tour the upper watershed. Here's a nice little description about that section from This hike would take about an hour and a half.

3. Lower and Upper Hulls Gulch Trail - Strong runners and hikers will enjoy this approach, which I detailed in my guidebook, Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. It's 11.5 miles from the Hulls Gulch Trailhead by the Foothills Learning Center to the top of the Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail and back. Hiking time would be about 5 hours; running time 2.5 hours.

While you're out on the trail, watch for wildlife, songbirds, hawks flying overhead and animal tracks. See if your kids can identify tracks and scat.

A fourth option would be to shuttle a vehicle if you have young children or seniors along who may not be able to climb very well. You could start at the Upper Trailhead and work your way downhill to the main trailhead. This trip would be about 3 miles downhill.
FYI - If you don't have Boise Trail Guide, you can download a detailed description and map of Hulls Gulch National Recreation Trail for 99 cents at

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Looking for friends for outdoor trips? Consider joining Idaho outdoor clubs

The Hash House Harriers know how to have fun!

(photo courtesy Joyce Fabre with Boise Women's Hiking Network Yahoo Group)

Hi all,

When I'm out giving an outdoor program about biking, hiking, paddling or whatever, a common question often comes up: "I'm new to town, and I wondered if there are any hiking or biking clubs that I could join to meet people and car-pool to outdoor outings?"

The answer is yes, there are a number of outdoor clubs in the Boise area. Some are more organized than others. But there are actually quite a few groups. I'll talk about some groups that I'm most familiar with here in this week's column, and if people know of other good clubs that I overlooked, please let me know in the comments section below the blog.
  • Idaho Outdoors Yahoo Group - This is an active group whose 1,800 members often request friends to accompany them on hiking, biking, skiing or snowshoe outings in SW Idaho. Owen Jones does a fine job of moderating the group. Anca Stamm is leading a day trip to Sawtooth Lake on Sunday, Sept. 12. See the group posts for more details. All you have to do is get a Yahoo login, if you don't have one already (no cost), and you can join Yahoo groups and post. Leo Hennessy, non-motorized trail coordinator for Idaho Parks & Recreation, leads lots of trips for the Idaho Outdoors group. Leo knows his stuff and he's very well traveled in Idaho. The group also meets on First Thursdays in Boise to get to know each other a little better while strolling through art galleries and drinking wine. Once you join the group, you'll get a daily digest of message posts.

  • Idaho Whitewater Yahoo Group - Idaho Whitewater is a little bigger than Idaho Outdoors with 2,288 members, and it's very active as well. People post information and pictures about their trips, which can be very helpful when you're planning a river trip and want to check on water levels and conditions (trees across the river, changes in rapids, etc.). A lot of experienced whitewater boaters like Ted Day, who also is very knowledgeable about river levels in Idaho as an employee of the Bureau of Reclamation, frequently post information to the group. Many members of the Idaho Whitewater Association are members of this group as well, so you can keep tabs on IWA's projects.

  • Idaho Mountain Recreation - This is a relatively new club in the Boise area, and they have a solid following. Their next trip is "Peak Bagging in the Lemhi Mountains," on the weekend of Sept. 10-12. It's an overnight trip. Idaho Mountain Recreation has monthly meetings with guest speakers (I have been one of them), and they do a lot of fun trips. Colleen Back is the current president. She's a pilot, hiker, skier and fly fisher, among other things.

  • Boise Women's Hiking Network - Joyce Fabre of Boise leads this Yahoo group, which now has almost 900 members. They do a lot of hiking, biking, backpacking, skiing and snowshoe trips. Good source for women who like to go on outings with women. They also do social gatherings from time to time. Joyce can be reached at
  • Boise Trail Heads has a hiking group with 400+ plus members. They're planning a hike on the Corrals Trail tonight at 8:30 p.m. Mike Needham runs the group. Click on the Boise Trail Heads to learn more about the group. The group is run through, a Facebook affiliate.

  • SWIMBA - The Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association leads mountain bike rides primarily in the Boise Foothills and in other locations in SW Idaho on a regular basis. The club is very well organized, being led at the present time by president Margie Rosenberg. Planned outings this weekend include the Sawtooth bike trek on Sept. 11 and a ride from Baker Lake to Norton Creek Sept. 12. See the SWIMBA web site for more details.

  • Mountain West Outdoor Club - I couldn't find their web site, but the group has existed for about 15 years. They do low-key non-competitive outings such as hikes, bike rides and other activities. Call 208-854-1139 for more information.

  • Singlesteps of Boise - This is a group led by Leslie Harned of retirees and others who have flexible schedules to do hikes and other outings during the week. Leslie is currently leading two hikes per week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting at 9 a.m. The group has a calendar on its web site, and others are welcome to lead outings. They also go to movies, play golf and go bowling. Contact Leslie at 321-0134.

  • If you like to do trail-running, Greenbelt running or running in general, there are a number of clubs specifically focused on running, including the Y Striders (runs start and finish at the downtown YMCA), Hash House Harriers (running and beer drinking or vice versa :) ), Boise Aggies, and Boise Run/Walk. Two running stores, Bandanna Running and Walking, and Shu's Idaho Running Company, offer weekly outings as well.

  • Many of Boise's bike shops also offer regular weekly outings or sponsor riding clubs. If you have a favorite bike shop, ask them about weekly rides. Idaho Mountain Touring sponsors the Lactic Acid Cycling Club, which has a strong following. George's Cycles sponsors the Boise Cycling Club. Bob's Bicycles sponsors road and mountain bike teams but there are no weekly rides at the present time. Again, check with your favorite bike shop to see if they have regular rides.

  • If you have kids who might want to ride bikes competitively, the Boise Youth Rider Development Squad, BYRDS, is the place to go. BYRDS is led by Douglas Tobin, a very experienced cyclist and fitness expert. BYRDS helps kids learn how to ride road bikes, mountain bikes and cycle-cross. They have several rides every week. Contact Tobin for more inforation,
  • Both Idaho River Sports and Alpenglow Mountainsport provide regular paddling outings, often low-key canoe and kayak float trips. IRS is leading a trip on the North Fork Meanders, starting at North Beach on Payette Lake on Sunday, Sept. 12. Alpenglow is promoting a competitive event at Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Again, if I've overlooked your club, please chime in, in the comments section below, to let people know what you offer and how to hook up. I'll touch on ski clubs this winter.

Thanks! - SS

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Try bagging Hyndman Peak or Thompson Peak this fall for awesome summit views

Hyndman Peak (courtesy

Looking back at Redfish from Thompson summit (courtesy

Thompson Peak (courtesy

Hi all,

September is upon us, and it's one of my favorite months of the year. The weather is cooler, and usually, high pressure prevails for clear blue skies -- creating ideal conditions for outdoor adventures.

Most people have made their Labor Day plans by now, so I'm suggesting that you try to carve out some time in September to climb 12,009-foot Hyndman Peak in the Pioneer Mountains or 10,751-foot Thompson Peak in the Sawtooth Wilderness.

Thompson is the highest peak in the Sawtooths, so it attracts a fair bit of attention, and Hyndman is the 9th highest peak in Idaho, and the highest point in the Pioneers. So you can count on fantastic views from either summit.

Details on climbing both mountains can be found in Tom Lopez's guide, Idaho: A Climber's Guide, available on There also are excellent detailed reports about climbing both mountains on and

An adventuresome friend of mine, Steve Townsley, took his two boys to the top of Hyndman Peak when they were 10 and 12. Steve says the rapid elevation gain involved in climbing to Hyndman was hard on the boys, giving them headaches and making them nauseous. If you're planning on taking kids, even most 12-year-olds would have a hard time climbing Hyndman. The kids -- and you -- need to be in good shape, and highly motivated to make it to the top.

It's a good idea to camp at the base of Cobb and Hyndman Peaks the day before, and acclimate to the elevation before heading to the summit. Hyndman is located in the East Fork of the Big Wood River drainage. You head up the East Fork, past Triumph, then go left on the jeep trail heading up Hyndman Creek to the trailhead. Follow directions on the Idaho Summits web site on approaching Hyndman Peak. There is a yurt platform in the trees at the base of the mountain peaks where it's ideal to camp.

Thompson Peak is best accessed from the Redfish Lake Trailhead near Redfish Lake, Stanley and Idaho Highway 75. It's 6.5 miles to the summit and 4,200 feet of elevation gain. Again, it's best to hike into the base area of the peak the day before heading for the summit to acclimate to the elevation and to give yourself some time to enjoy the spectacular scenery.

The key when heading to the summit of Thompson is to corkscrew in a counter-clockwise direction toward the west and south portions of the rocky peak so you don't get cliffed out. This is the best way to approach the summit for the easiest but still difficult walk-up route.

Enjoy! - SS

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Trying exploring two trails that start with "C"

Crooked River Trail (courtesy tiffanyrooprai at

Crooked River (courtesy of dauw at

Crooked River Trail map

Hi all,

I was up in the Idaho City area camping with my kids last weekend, and I was reminded how cool it was to go hiking or biking on the sweet singletrack along Crooked River near Idaho City in the Boise National Forest.

In this week's outdoor tip, I'm recommending exploring two excellent trails that start with "C" -- the Crooked River Trail or Cottonwood Creek Trail, both of which are about an hour from town and are featured in my Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home.

It's supposed to be quite chilly this weekend, but in my view, that's great weather for hiking or biking. Sounds like Saturday is going to be the best bet. Sunday may be wet. Dress accordingly and dig deep in your drawer for a few extra layers.

First, Crooked River. The easiest way to access the trail is via the Edna Creek Road off of Idaho State Highway 21, northeast of Idaho City and Mores Creek Summit. You'll see a highway sign for the Edna Creek Road and Atlanta, turning right off Idaho 21, about 60 miles east of Boise. There is a pull-out for the trailhead on the Edna Creek Road in the first half-mile from the highway. You can either hike or bike from here.

The trail is a moderate hike, but a little more challenging as a mountain biking trail because it is singletrack, and that makes the riding a little trickier and technical. The trail runs downhill, but remember, you'll have to climb back to the trailhead. About 3-4 miles down the trail, it becomes more sketchy with downfall, and you may want to turn around. The trail is supposed to extend all of the way to the North Fork of the Boise River (10 miles one-way) but it needs more work to make that trip possible for Joe 6-Pack.

Bring a fishing pole if you like to fish. It's a beautiful creek with nice holes and it's a beautiful roadless setting. Bring a lunch to enjoy the setting.

The Cottonwood Creek Trail is one of the closest singletrack trails in a roadless setting to Boise. The trailhead is found on the road to Lucky Peak, Spring Shores and Arrowrock Reservoir. Turn left on Forest Road #377 and go three miles to the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead on the right.

The hike or bike ride is typically out-and-back. It's a 10-mile uphill pull to the top of Cottonwood Creek and another mile to Thorn Butte Lookout. So most people go up a few miles, have lunch, turn around and go back.

It's a beautiful singletrack trail amid tall ponderosa pines. I've also called it a "wet shoes" hike because of many creek crossings, so be aware of that.

Serious mountain bikers or really strong trail runners can tackle the 21.75-mile Thorn Butte Road-Cottonwood Creek Loop. You ride or run up Forest Road #203, a 4WD road to the top of Thorn Butte (elevation 7,515) and then cruise downhill on the Cottonwood Creek Trail #189. That's a good day's workout for sure!
- SS

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Last chance to run the South Fork Canyon is this weekend; Climb a peak close to home

Lone Pine Rapids, South Fork Payette Canyon

This is the kind of thing you may see at the Fat Tire Festival

Blue Lake on West Mountain

Hi all,

Eeek! Summer is rapidly slipping away! The kids start school on Wednesday of next week, at least if you're in the Boise District. So here are a few ideas for some outdoor fun for the weekend.
1. Last chance to run the South Fork "canyon" section
on the Payette River. Water authorities will be cutting off the flow on the Deadwood River after Aug. 22, so this weekend is the last chance to run the canyon, arguably one of the best and most action-packed whitewater day trips in Idaho.

The South Fork Canyon is a kick-butt, challenging whitewater adventure. It contains six Class 4 rapids, and a portage around Big Falls, a huge waterfall that's in the middle of the trip. There also is a hot springs to soak in along the way, and chances to see wildlife. I've seen black bears in there several times.

If you have your own gear, and you have solid Class 4 experience, then you should try the canyon. I have maps of the South Fork Canyon on my web site, and the whole run is detailed in Paddling the Payette.

No gear? Go with an outfitter. Cascade Raft & Kayak, Bear Valley River Co., Idaho Whitewater Unlimited and the Payette River Company all run the canyon section frequently and safely. They provide a fun-filled day-long adventure in the canyon, plus lunch.

2. Climb a mountain peak close to home. I've got a couple of recommendations here, and if you're not sure if you're in good enough shape to climb a peak, you can always ride a chairlift to the top of Baldy in Sun Valley or Brundage Mountain in McCall and hike down. You also could drive toward Snowbank Mountain near Cascade and hike .65 miles downhill to Blue Lake. This hike is rated "easy" in my Boise Trail Guide.

Another possibility is to hike the Station Creek Trail in Garden Valley. The Station Creek Trail is rated "moderate" in my Boise Trail Guide. Once you reach the Station Creek ridge, you keep going to the top of Bald Mountain (elevation 5,122 feet). The trailhead is about 55 minutes from Boise, directly across from the Garden Valley Ranger Station.

For a more strenuous climb to a higher spot, hike West Mountain Trail to the top of Tripod Peak in the West Mountain chain. Tripod is featured in the Boise Trail Guide.
The hike is rated "strenuous." It's about 12 miles out and back to hike up to Tripod (elevation 8,186 feet). The trailhead is west of Smith's Ferry and Cougar Mountain Lodge.

3. OK, maybe you're stuck in Boise for the weekend because of various commitments or kids activities. But that doesn't mean you can't participate in the Tour de Fat and Fat Tire Festival at Ann Morrison Park on Saturday. Festivities begin with the annual parade in funky costumes at 10 a.m., and the beer drinking begins at 11 a.m. at Ann Morrison Park. There is music and fun stuff to watch, including your friends in goofy get-ups. The event lasts until 4 p.m.

Even though the kids go back to school, there are still plenty of great times to look forward to in September, when the cooler temperatures and Indian summer kicks in. Be sure to reserve some time for outdoor adventures, looking ahead to one of the best months of the year for this kind of activity.

BTW and FYI: My guidebooks are now available as e-books and individual digital files ... so if you want to buy a certain hike or bike ride or paddling trip, you can get them for 99 cents each, or 10 for $5, etc., on
- SS

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Backcountry 4WD roads provide great access to Central Idaho spectacular high country

Loon Creek, clean and pure

View looking down Loon Creek from our campsite

Grouse Creek open-pit gold mine ... never got very far

Black bear feeding on berries in the creek bottom

Near Loon Creek Summit. The General is on the left.

Small rainbow amid black sky

Crater Lake, just 1,500 verts downhill from Railroad Ridge

Wendy loved all of the flowers, as did I

I love my truck!

The road to Railroad Ridge was definitely a 4WD low-range type of road

My partner Wendy had knee surgery recently, so we decided to take a different approach to accessing the high mountains of Central Idaho -- we took the truck to the top.

Normally, we'd be backpacking into the high country at this time of year, but Wendy's physical therapist would have given her hell if she tried to put in 15+ miles on a rugged backcountry trail with a full-on backpack.

So we packed up my 1990 Ford F-150 4WD, which has traveled many super-gnarly rock-strewn roads in Owyhee County, and headed out for Railroad Ridge in the White Cloud Mountains. We also planned to drive a twisty single-lane 4WD road from Yankee Fork into the headwaters of Loon Creek, if we had time, over a three-day weekend.

Why go? We yearned to see mountain wildflowers at their peak, fly fish for trout, and camp in the high country, where it's nice and cool, even in August. Most of all, we needed to get out of town and get a change of scenery!

Idaho has a great roster of backcountry byways. Those routes typically include excellent access to food, lodging and services. More primitive trips like the two I'm going to describe here are just that, primitive. You're traveling into the backcountry where there are zero services. It's a pack-in, pack-out situation. We brought 10 gallons of water, our camp cook stuff, food, fishing stuff, tent and sleeping bags, etc.

Railroad Ridge. We left on a Thursday night after work, camped in a meadow near Stanley, and headed up to Railroad Ridge on the east slope of the White Clouds the next morning. It's such a long drive to the trailhead (4 hours) that it's great to do part of it the night before.

Getting there: Take Idaho 21 to Stanley, and Idaho 75 past Yankee Fork and Clayton to the turnoff for the East Fork of the Salmon River Road. Head up the paved East Fork Road about 10 miles to Big Boulder Road #667. Go right on #667 and proceed to the Livingston Mill. A Forest Service sign indicates the turnoff for the more primitive single-lane 4WD road to Railroad Ridge. You, no, the truck, must climb from 7,200 feet to elevation 10,600 feet, 3,400 feet of gain over just a few miles of steep road.

The 4WD road to Railroad Ridge is very narrow with almost zero pullouts. I just put it in 4WD low-range and cruised up the road at a slow speed, careful to not pop the tires on sharp rocks and slowly navigate big water dips and large boulders. It took us, no, the truck, less than an hour of climbing and we were cruising up the backbone of Railroad Ridge, which was absolutely smothered with multiple layers and colors of wildflowers. We hit it at the peak! Sweet!

Perched at 10,600 feet, it was so cool to look at eye level with 10,000-foot peaks in the Sawtooths to the west, and the Frank Church Wilderness to the north, while the higher Lost River Range and Lemhi Mountains lorded over the eastern side of the state.

I hiked down to Crater Lake to fly fish, just in time for a thunderstorm to hit and lightning bolts to land around the edges of the lake. We had a great evening watching a storm hammer the Lemhi's and the Borah Peak area, and then we pitched the tent because the storm ended up hitting us pretty squarely by 10ish. Our REI river tent fared pretty well on that windy ridge ... should have brought the NorthFace VE-25, but it was August!

It was clear as a bell the next morning. Wendy saw 40 head of elk on Railroad Ridge to the east, and spotted a lone mountain goat on a peak nearby. Very few birds were visible in the area except for a few red-tailed hawks.

Yankee Fork to Loon Creek: On Saturday morning, we noted the storm clouds gathering quickly in the White Clouds again, so we headed for the Loon Creek Trailhead, 25 miles from Bonanza, up the Yankee Fork Road.

Getting there: We were already in the 'hood. We took ID 75 to the Yankee Fork road, drove north on Yankee Fork to the dredge, turned left on the Jordan Creek-Loon Creek Road #172, and cruised over a tall summit to the Loon Creek trailhead, just past the Diamond D Ranch.

We got there in the early afternoon. I didn't waste any time getting my fly rod set up to fish the turquoise stream. Last time I was there, photographer Mark Lisk and I hammered the cutthroat trout with Dave's Hoppers in 90-degree heat. This time around, the fish were more choosy, but I still had some action.

There is a nice hot springs about 4 miles up the Loon Creek Trail, but Wendy couldn't quite hike that far (8+ miles round-trip), so we pulled over after a while and hung out at a deep pool, taking a swim every so often to cool off (after I was done fishing, of course).

If one were nuts about backcountry roads and could take the bumpy ride for hours on end, we could have driven to the top of Pinyon Peak (9,942 feet), a remote Forest Service fire lookout on the edge of the Frank Church Wilderness. That lookout is accessible from the Loon Creek Road or from the Beaver Creek road system, north of Cape Horn.

On our way back, we stopped at the top of Loon Creek Summit, and hiked out the shoulder of a mountain to the west and had a great view of the General, a big 10,000-foot peak, and the old Grouse Creek open-pit gold mine, not to mention all of the other mountains in Central Idaho.

We were a bit dizzy from all the twisty road by the time we got back to the paved Idaho 21, but we had covered a lot of country and taken lots of great photos. We figured the trip was good practice for when our knees or hips are worn out in our late 70s or 80s. :)
- SS

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Easy paddling adventures near Boise

Deadwood Reservoir

Cascade to Cabarton ... nice views of West Mountain

Hi all,
In several presentations that I've given about paddling adventures in Idaho this summer, I've found that lots of folks are looking for easy, flat-water paddling experiences. No scary rapids, thank you very much. Just easy-going gentle conditions in a river or lake setting.
Fortunately, we have many flat-water paddling options to choose from close to Boise and the Treasure Valley. Plus, there also are several paddling groups and clubs that go out on regular outings.

Let's start out with a couple of group outings coming up soon:
On Tuesday, July 27, Denny Mooney from Alpenglow Mountain Sport (Hill and Bogus Basin Road) will lead an outing on the Boise River, a fun section from Glenwood Bridge to Eagle Road. They are meeting at D& B Supply at 5:30 p.m. For more information, call 331-2628.
The Idaho Canoe Club, which is affiliated with Idaho River Sports, is leading an overnight camping and paddling trip to Deadwood Reservoir on Aug. 7-8. Click here for details. Deadwood Reservoir is a scenic location in the Boise National Forest. The trip is detailed in my guide, Paddling the Payette. The reservoir is six miles across. There are multiple places to camp around the lake and hiking trails nearby. You can get there either from the Banks to Lowman Road or via Cascade and the Warm Lake Road.
Here are several other sweet options for flat-water paddling adventures; all are featured in Paddling the Payette:
  • Cascade to Cabarton - 9 miles, 3-5 hours. Beautiful flat-water section of the North Fork of the Payette River. Moving water, but zero rapids. Good fishing. Launch your craft from the south bridge in Cascade on Idaho 55 and take-out at Cabarton Road boat launch (accessible via Cabarton Road).
  • Garden Valley Scenic Tour - 6 miles, 1.5 - 2 hours. Beautiful slow-moving turquoise water on the South Fork of the Payette River. No rapids. Launch at Hot Springs Campground or Alder Creek Bridge and take-out at the Deer Creek boat ramp.
  • Horseshoe Bend to Montour - 10 miles, 3-4 hours. This run is a little more sporting. Longer trip with a couple of Class 2 rapids below Horseshoe Bend. Launch at the south bridge in Horseshoe Bend. Take-out on Montour Road via ID 52. The main Payette River flows more swiftly than the North Fork in Cascade to Cabarton because the main river has more flow, but as the summer goes on, the hydro project in Horseshoe Bend diverts a fair bit of the river's flow for a few miles.

Be sure to pack a lunch and beverages in a small cooler, take your time and enjoy the float. The rivers are flowing at friendly levels now in mid-summer, so it's very user-friendly. All of the above trips are suitable for canoes, touring kayaks and inflatable kayaks.