Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wild & wacky weather calls for creativity, good shelter

(Image courtesy Cunyadenki)

Hi all,

I'm sure a lot of people already have their Memorial Day plans carved out, but a few may not, so I've got a few suggestions.

The weather looks pretty iffy this weekend, and the forecast looks pretty wet and unstable for at least the next 10 days (I hope I am wrong!), so I'd like to provide some suggestions that may work for this weekend and the coming weeks.

I ran across one event that's going on this weekend that sounds pretty neat -- the Sun Valley Wellness Festival at the Sun Valley Inn. It starts on Friday and runs through Monday. It's all about blending mind, body and spirt. There will be 11 movement classes touching on things like pilates, yoga and belly dancing. Jamie Lee Curtis is the keynote speaker, and Grammy winner Colbie Caillat will play in the Sun Valley Pavilion, a beautiful place to take in a concert.

Click on the links to review lodging specials recommended by the Ketchum-Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce and InIdaho for the Wellness Festival.

On Saturday, general fishing season opens in Idaho. Check out this brief article in the Statesman that talks about how to find family friendly fishing waters and other details. The rivers and creeks will be roaring with high water, so you might try taking your kids to a pond.

Chinook salmon season is open on the Salmon and Snake rivers. People are catching lots of fish already! Catching a chinook salmon may be just as thrilling as catching a steelhead, if not more so. Click on this web site to get information on outfitters, hotels and fishing in Riggins. The Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association also has a good listing of outfitters who fish for chinook.

If you'd like to get out of town, but you'd like to stay dry, you might look for hot deals for a cabin or condo rental in McCall. The Woodsman Hotel is offering queen rooms for only $39/night (sorry, doesn't include holidays) during slack season. Visit the McCall Chamber for information about what to do and see when you're in McCall.

Pssst ... if you've ever thought about buying a second home in Cascade or McCall, the pricing for homes and cabins has declined to the point where a ton of properties are affordable today that weren't affordable two years ago. You'll be amazed! Contact my friend Steve Jones for more information about second homes in McCall.

Another option is to book a Forest Service cabin in the Boise National Forest or other national forests you like to visit. I particularly like the Forest Service cabins in the Middle Fork of the Boise River area, Middle Fork Payette area (Boiling Springs cabin), the North Fork of the Boise River or near Bear Valley. Some names include Beaver Creek Cabin, Barber Flat, Deer Park and Elk Creek Cabin. Click here for more information.

Or, you might want to reserve a yurt near Idaho City in the Park 'n Ski area and go hiking or biking near the yurt. The snow is slowly receding at 6,000-foot elevation, and many of the roads and trails are getting clear. You can choose from at least three different yurts in that area including Skyline, Banner Ridge and Elkhorn. Click here for web site information on how to make reservations.

If you do go camping, be sure to take a good tarp this weekend. Boise Army Navy and D&B Supply are two places that carry heavy-duty tarps that should keep you dry.

- SS

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Some camping ideas for the Owyhee Canyonlands

Hiking into the W. Fork Bruneau River canyon (in bike shoes)

Hidden caves can be found in the Owyhees (courtesy BLM)

Big Jacks Creek (courtesy BLM)

Hi all,

When I touted running the rivers in the Owyhee Canyonlands several weeks ago, Ken Bass asked if I could recommend some car-camping ideas in that country. So here you go. I love to car camp in the Owyhees and go hiking or mountain biking during the day. It's a great place to find plenty of solitude in the big wide open desert, which also has many hidden canyons and nifty places to explore.

The only problem is that it has been a very WET spring, so it's important to use caution when venturing into the unmaintained dirt roads in the Owyhees. Lots of rain can turn the side roads into quicksand-like mud bogs that can sink a 4WD rig to its axles. Going out there this weekend, for example, might be dicy in places. Call Owyhee County to check on road conditions, 208-495-1143, and if you need more information on destinations, check with the BLM Owyhee Field Office, 208-896-5912.

You'll notice that I didn't recommend any camping in Silver City ... that's because it's still snowed in.

I also need to point out that there are NO SERVICES in the Owyhee Canyonlands, so you'll need to have plenty of gas in your vehicle and be prepared to cope with any breakdowns. Take a sturdy rig with four-wheel-drive that has good tires. Bring your own water and, of course, all of your camping stuff. Make sure you pack out what you pack in and leave no trace.

Here are several places to explore that won't disappoint:

1. Take a scenic drive on Mud Flat Road, aka the Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway, and pick your spot to camp. The road is 103 miles long, criss-crossing the Owyhees between Grand View, Idaho, and Jordan Valley, Oregon. I suggest starting from Grand View, drive south on the byway, go over the first pass, and then begin looking for your own spot from there. You can access Little Jacks Creek from the byway, and there are some nice primitive campsites near Deep Creek or Triangle. Be sure to bring some good maps with you to assist with exploring.

2. The North Fork Owyhee River Campground is a good bet for people who like to camp by established rest rooms and fire pits. It's the only developed campground managed by the BLM along the byway. Take U.S. 95 south to Jordan Valley, Oregon, and then follow signs to the byway from there. The campground is 27 miles south of Jordan Valley. There are places to hiking and biking nearby. The 15.7-mile Grave Creek-Cottonwood Creek Loop is featured my book, Mountain Biking Idaho.

3. Big Jacks Creek. Go south on Idaho Highway 51 south of Mountain Home, go past the little town of Bruneau for about 25 miles, and turn right on the Wickahoney Road (unmarked dirt road) to reach the Parker Trailhead at the edge of Big Jacks Creek Canyon. Click on the Big Jacks link to see more information and driving directions from the BLM. Here's an interactive map of the Jacks Creek area. This is one of the new wilderness areas that was created as part of the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness last year.

4. Sheep Creek and Bruneau River plateau. Go south of Bruneau on Idaho 51 to Grasmere (the little roadstop town is signed). Turn left on the Grasmere-Rowland Road and cruise toward the upper reaches of Sheep Creek canyon. There are some campsites here, and tons more farther down the road. The Grasmere road goes all the way to the Nevada border, and you also can access the West Fork of the Bruneau River Canyon, a very cool place to explore. You won't see many people down in the deep recessses of this country, and there are a ton of two-tracks you can explore on a mountain bike, and it's fun to hike into the canyons.

5. Take the gravel road south of Bruneau toward Murphy Hot Springs and explore. You can reach the upper Jarbidge River canyon from this route, and high desert portion of the Idaho Centennial Trail. You can check out the Bruneau River canyon overlook from this route, and as you travel south, there are numerous two-tracks to explore.
6. Camp near Reynolds Creek canyon via the Wilson Creek Road. You can hike or bike from your campsite on the China Ditch Trail and check out the ruby red vertical walls of Reynolds Creek. Here's a BLM map that shows how to drive in there. My book, the Boise Trail Guide, has a detailed description to the trails in this vicinity. Mountain Biking Idaho has a guide to what I call the Mini-Moab Loop in the same area.

Have fun!

- SS

Thursday, May 13, 2010

New edition of Mountain Biking in McCall is packed with great rides for everyone

Hidden Valley Trail, Brundage Mountain

Bluebird Express, Brundage Mountain

View from Osprey Point, Ponderosa State Park

Payette Rim Trail

View from Bear Pete Trail looking west

Hi all,

The all-new 3rd edition of Mountain Biking in McCall is hot off the press.

The book is jam-packed with 40-plus rides for all abilities, including 8 beginner (easy) rides, 18 intermediate rides and 15 advanced/expert rides. It retails for $12.95, the same cost as the previous editions. The book is available at all of the outdoor/bike/book shops in Cascade, Donnelly and McCall. Ditto in Boise. Pick up your copy now to research what rides you'll check out on your next trip to Cascade, Donnelly, McCall or New Meadows.

Right now, while there is still a ton of snow in the mountains surrounding McCall, the best rides are the North Valley Rail-Trail in McCall, the Weiser River Trail, Rapid River near Riggins, Hard Creek near New Meadows and Ponderosa Park in McCall. These are all lower-elevation rides that should be free of snow or you may encounter a few patches of snow.

Quite frankly, McCall is my favorite place to ride in the world. I've ridden mountain bikes in Hawaii, Switzerland, France, Moab, California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Idaho and many other places, and I just love to ride in McCall. Part of it is being able to ride in the deep woods, being able to ride to high mountain lakes without quantum miles of hike-a-bike, sweet singletracks, the challenge of many rocks and roots in some areas, and cool, shady cool forest conditions. And did I mention hot springs? The list goes on.

If you're from Boise, riding foothill trails is great training for McCall, but you'll find that the 90% of the trails around Boise are much smoother than they are in the Payette National Forest. You'll need to build endurance to handle steep uphill sections where you'll need to thread around rocks or yank upward on your handlebars to ride over a huge tree root or a series of roots. On trails like Loon Lake, East Fork of Lake Fork, Goose Creek, Bear Pete and even the Huckleberry Trail in Ponderosa State Park, you'll encounter "true mountain conditions" that require strong biking skills. That's part of the fun.

Here's a link to an article I wrote in this week's Boise Weekly about the Loon Lake Loop.
But it's not all gnarly. The 8 easy rides include the Crown Point Trail, a beautiful wide dirt trail that parallels Lake Cascade for six miles out and back, and the North Valley Rail-Trail, which Valley County Pathways just opened last weekend. It's 10 miles out and back, but a very easy 10 miles on a mostly flat surface. Having been involved with VC Pathways since the beginning (2003), it was particularly gratifying for me to open that trail.

Check out the Mountain Biking in McCall page on my web site and see if it's your cup of tea.

I might add that while you're in McCall, there is a host of great places to eat and many places to stay. Check out the McCall Chamber of Commerce web site for more information.

Have fun!

-- SS