Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Don't miss several must-see paddling, mountain biking events coming up in the next 10 days

National Cross-Country Mountain Biking Championships at Sun Valley (courtesy USA Cycling)

Hi all,

For this week's outdoor tip, I'm highlighting several must-see events coming up in the next 10 days, and suggesting some side trip activities that you can enjoy as well.

On Thursday night, June 28, the new Boise River Whitewater Park will be dedicated from 5-7 p.m., with a few speeches and paddling demonstrations. In this video from KTVB-TV Channel 7, you can watch Emily Dickerson from Idaho River Sports kayak on the main play wave.


Idaho River Sports will be having a paddler's-only raffle for all participants who register and then show up with their boats and SUPs to paddle at the event. No purchase is necessary. IRS is hosting a reception after the dedication is over. There will be free food and Payette Brewing will be serving beer. It's supposed to be a warm evening. Should be a perfect spot to hang out with some of your paddling friends.

The new wave-shaper gizmo that the Boise Parks & Recreation Department had installed in the Boise River is just the first phase of the whitewater park. A second phase for flatwater paddlers will involve tying together Quinn's Pond with two other ponds located nearby as part of the new Esther Simplot Park. That will allow people to peacefully canoe or kayak in the ponds and waterways and paddle a full circuit between the ponds. Given how popular Quinn's Pond has become, when they tie together the other ponds, it will become even more popular, and it will create an extensive stillwater paddling experience for canoeing and flatwater enthusiasts that doesn't really exist anywhere in the valley today.
I'm looking forward to that.

Next weekend, Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade will host the Ford USACK National Championship, which is a kayak freestyle event. The preliminary heats run on Saturday, July 7, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, July 8 from 10 a.m. to noon for the championships. The nation's best freestyle paddlers will be there. It should be quite a hoot to watch them do cartwheels, spins and flips in the middle of a frothing play wave. It's easy to watch because there's a new pathway along the Payette River called The Strand. At 5 p.m. on July 7, Muzzie and Billy Braun will play a free concert, and that will be followed by fireworks. That all sounds like heaps of fun.

If you'd like to get some exercise while you're hanging out in Cascade, check out some of these hiking and biking destinations, including Eagle's Nest Loop, an advanced 13-mile mountain bike ride or the Crown Point Trail, a 6-mile out-and-back beautiful trail along Lake Cascade (great for families and kids). You can go biking and swimming on the same trip. I've heard that the Boise National Forest has built a new trail in the Stolle Meadows area, near Warm Lake, but I have yet to hike it or ride it. Check with the Cascade Ranger District for more details, 382-7400.

If you're more inclined toward mountain biking than paddle sports, the National Mountain Bike Cross-Country Championships will be held July 5-8 in Sun Valley. The Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce puts on a number of recreational rides for us average joe's leading up to the event as part of Ride Sun Valley, and that's a great way to try out some new trails that you may have not experienced before in the Wood River Valley. Check out the whole schedule ... things start happening on Saturday, June 30, and continue through the following week.

In case you haven't heard, you could compete for the Sun Valley All Mountain crown between Saturday and Tuesday, by winning the Galena Grinder xc race, the Super Duper Downhill at Bald Mountain, and the Fat Tire Criterium. Whew! Whoever wins that one is a real stud!

Here's one date to remember ... July 28th is the date for the 4 Summit Challenge in Cascade, a bike race and recreational ride from Cascade to Landmark and back. The ride features approximately 7,500 vertical feet of climbing and descending over 75 miles. Need an incentive to train? There you have it! There's also a family fun ride (less than 10 miles).

Have fun! I'm heading out on the Main Salmon for a week of vacation. You'll hear all about it after I get back.
-- SS

Thursday, June 21, 2012

10 reasons to head for McCall this weekend - hiking, biking, boating, beaching, hanging out

The good ship "Idaho," the new tour boat provided by Payette Lake Cruises. (Courtesy Ellen Ganz)
Bike racing at Jug Mountain Ranch. (Courtesy JMR)

Hi all,

I'm heading for McCall this weekend, and you should too!

In this week's outdoor tip, I'll give you at least 10 reasons to visit McCall. I'll start with Reason #1 -- Beat the Heat! When it hits 90 degrees in Boise, I automatically think about migrating to the lush, shady forests of McCall, where the wildflowers are beginning to bloom, and it will be at least 15 degrees cooler than it is in Boise.

Here's Reason #2Payette Lake Cruises, a brand new tour boat service in McCall just started operation this year. The cruise service has a 65-foot, two-level tour boat named "Idaho" with daily tours of the lake at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., a Sunday brunch tour, private dinner tours and more. Daily 90-minute tours cost $20 for adults and $12 for kids. The Sunday brunch tour includes food for $39 for adults. Sounds like a lot of fun! Not everyone has their own power boat or sail boat to cruise around on Payette Lake.

Reason #3: The Wild Rockies series moves to Jug Mountain Ranch in Lake Fork this weekend. It's the 5th annual Jug Mountain Ranch cross-country race and Super D. The cross-country course is 12 miles long on mostly singletrack with a few two-track sections. That's on Saturday. It's a national qualifying event. The downhill is on Sunday. Plus, there's a trail-running event on Saturday. I've been riding a lot at Jug the last few years. The riding out there keeps getting better as Jug Mountain Ranch, CIMBA and others enhance the trail system by building new xc trails and freeride trails. See the Wild Rockies web site for details about the race this weekend. 
Mountain biking in McCall is totally fab!  

Reason #4: I just reprinted and updated my guide Mountain Biking in McCall with new singletrack at Jug Mountain Ranch, the latest routes and map for Bear Basin Trails, a new meadow loop at Tamarack Resort, and other important updates to reflect logging impacts on trails or washouts (Teapot Mountain Loop in the South Fork Salmon River area is now an out-and-back ride). Some good bets for mountain biking this weekend include Bear Basin (can't go wrong), Tamarack meadow loop (great for all abilities), North Valley Rail-Trail (easy), and Loon Lake (advanced).  All of the local outdoor stores are stocked up on my guidebook, including Gravity Sports, Hometown Sports, McCall Drug, May Hardware, Shore Lodge gift shop, Paul's, Ridley's, the McCall gift shop and Ponderosa State Park. 
Morel mushroom

Reason #5: It's still possible to hunt for tasty morel mushrooms in the forests around McCall. I would look for them above 6,000 feet elevation. Make sure you know how to identify morels. 

Reason #6: Reilly Coyote will be playing Saturday night at the Salmon River Brewery, a very popular hangout in McCall with great food on Colorado Street. 

Reason #7: The snow is melting fast, but according to the McCall Ranger District, the snow level is hovering at approximately 6,700 feet elevation. That means the forest road to Lick Creek Summit is snow-bound at the summit, but you may be able to reach lower elevation trails. Some good bets for hiking would include the Huckleberry Trail at Ponderosa State Park, 20-Mile Trail near Upper Payette Lake, Bear Basin Trails and the North Valley Rail-Trail

Reason #8: It'd be a sweet weekend to paddle the Meanders on the north end of Payette Lake with your sweetheart. Start and finish at North Beach. If you have your own canoe, inflatable kayak or sit-on-top kayak, any of those crafts would work great for the Meanders. It's about 3-4 miles out and back. There also are rental boats available in McCall at North Beach, at The Hub, and Gravity Sports. The trip is featured in my guidebook "Paddling the Payette." 

Reason #9: It's always a good time to lounge on the beach in McCall. Bring your lawn chairs, some beverages and find some beach space to hang out on the south end of the lake (two public beaches), the north end by North Beach, or dispersed sites on the east side of the lake. 

Reason #10: All of the local golf courses are open and ready for play. The McCall city course is really fun and challenging to play ... it has 3 different nines. You also could play Meadow Creek in New Meadows, Osprey Meadows at Tamarack (closed temporarily until June 30), Whitetail by Shore Lodge or Jug Mountain Ranch

Hopefully this gives you a few ideas. I didn't even mention road biking to Secesh Summit,  circumnavigating Payette Lake on your bike (some dirt involved on the east side road) or soaking in the wonderful pool at Burgdorf. I could go on and on. 

If you don't have a place to stay in McCall, try to snag a hotel room, or check with or for a condo or rental home. You can always pitch a tent in the national forest nearby, too! 

Don't forget your bug juice. The mosquitoes will be a factor ... at least in the evenings. 
Have fun! 
-- SS
Steve shares his weekly outdoor tips with Ken and Tim on 94.9 FM The River each Friday morning in Boise at approximately 7:10 a.m. You can hear archived audio segments on River Detailed descriptions and color maps of Steve's hikes, bike rides and paddling trips are available for 99 cents each at, plus the full ebooks and hard-copy guidebooks.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Weiser River Trail Bike Ride; North Fork kayak races; SWIMBA 20th anniversary event ... lots of fun things to do this weekend

Fun underpass section of the Weiser River Trail, north of Council 
There are numerous planked bridges along the Weiser River Trail.
Here's Steve on the Weiser River Trail south of Cambridge ... the upper end is mostly forested. But the southern part is worth riding as well ... plenty of open space along the Weiser River away from U.S. 95. 

Hi all,

This is one of those weekends where you may wish that you could be in two places at once, or even three ... because there are a number of fun events going on, and you'll have to choose which ones work best for you.

There's still time to sign up for the sixth annual Weiser River Trail Bike Ride on Saturday, June 9. This is a fund-raiser of sorts for the Weiser River Trail -- the longest rail-trail in Idaho -- and it's a great cause to support. Plus, you can have fun riding 28 miles mostly downhill on the upper end of the Weiser River Trail!

I've ridden the Weiser River Trail multiple times over the years. It runs for 84 miles from Rubicon, a few miles west of New Meadows, to the city of Weiser, along the Weiser River. The surface is compacted gravel for most of the route. The upper end is the most scenic and fun, in my opinion. After you pass by the Evergreen sawmill, the trail winds along the upper Weiser River canyon, and you can really crank up the speed through here, with the aid of gravity. You'll pass by occasional meadows and ranches in a forested setting.

The tour stops for lunch near a WRT trailhead by Starkey Hot Springs. You will have traveled 18 miles by this point, and have 10 miles to finish. Once the downhill section ends, the final push to Council is mostly flat through a tranquil valley away from U.S. 95 most of the way.

The event starts at 9 a.m. Saturday in Council, where you can register, pay fees, get a T-shirt and board a shuttle vehicle to the start of the tour. Volunteers with Friends of the Weiser River Trail will take good care of you. The bike ride costs $35 for members, and $45 for non-members. Be sure to join the Friends of the Weiser River Trail and support this wonderful trail!

You can register at this online link, or for more information, contact Ride Coordinator Ed Allen at or call 208-630-4836. Be sure to dress warm if you go ... it might be quite chilly on Saturday morning at the top end of the trail.

Another can't-miss event this weekend is the North Fork Championship on Friday evening and Saturday on the world-class North Fork of the Payette River. On Friday evening, starting at 5 p.m., a ton of expert paddlers will race downriver from Otter's Slide Rapids to Banks, a distance of about three miles, in an all-out downriver sprint. The top five finishers will join 30 pre-selected elite paddlers who will compete in a slalom course on Class 5+ Jacob's Ladder and Golf Course rapids beginning at noon on Saturday.

Jacob's Ladder is the gnarliest and steepest rapid among the many Class 5 drops on the famed North Fork. Jake's flows into Golf Course, named so for its many "holes" (recirculating frothing reversal features). Racers will have to maneuver around four gates on the course through Jake's and Golf Course. There will be time penalties for hitting the gates or missing them. Ultimately, the winner will be crowned "King of the North Fork," along with a cash prize.

Map of the mighty North Fork and its many Class 5 rapids  from my book "Paddling the Payette"
I'm planning on going up to watch both events. It will be a total rush to watch the downriver race on Friday evening, and see local paddlers like Jim Grossman, Jared Alexander, Tyler Allyn, Will Parham, Joe Carberry and many others vie for those five spots to compete on Saturday. On the "Lower 5," the paddlers will negotiate Otter's Slide, Juicer and Crunch, all Class 5 drops. The North Fork is running around 2,000 cubic feet per second, which will be plenty of water for the competition.

Beyond the paddling competition, there will be lots of fun stuff going on in Crouch in terms of food and drink. Check out these videos to get a sense of the kind of rapids these guys will be running.

On Sunday, the Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA) will be turning 20 years old. Wow! Some of you may not realize that I was the founding president of SWIMBA, so this anniversary is especially meaningful to me.

We formed SWIMBA in 1992 to protect our access to trails, maintain trails in Hulls Gulch (this was before Ridge to Rivers existed), build new trails and work on mountain bike manners and etiquette. The group has thrived over the years, and gotten stronger through the Fat Tire Festival and significant funds generated through that event. My proudest moment was working on the Boise Foothills Open Space Campaign and winning 60 percent of the vote, securing $10 million to preserve open space, build new trails and bring some existing trails into public ownership.

Anyway, there is a group costume ride Sunday morning at 11 a.m. Need a costume idea? Well, what were you wearing 20 years ago on a mountain bike ride? There's a bike and gear swap from noon to 5 p.m. in Hyde Park by Joyride Cycles, and there will be beers and burgers happening at Harry's.  Sounds like a blast to me!

If you're hungry for more bike events, the Boise Bicycle Project is sponsoring Pedal 4 the People June 9-23. See the event calendar for details. There's a whole bunch of cool stuff planned.

- SS