Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lots of things to do over Labor Day weekend; What sounds best for you? Avoiding the smoke Part III

Fire/smoke map from NASA dated Aug. 28, 2012
Hi all,

We've got a three-day weekend coming up for Labor Day weekend, and there are lots of fun things going on in SW Idaho. With three major wildfires burning well over 100,000 acres each, the big challenge still is trying to avoid the smoke. We might call this week's post "Avoiding the Smoke - Part III."

Two weeks ago, I recommended Priest Lake, N. Idaho bike trails and McCall. Last week, I recommended some spots in the West Central Mountains and provided a number of useful, if not critical resources for determining where it may not be as smoky in SW Idaho and Central Idaho.
Here's Irene on the summit of 12,140-foot Mount Breitenbach
Thanks to Facebook, I am noticing that a lot of people are boldly going where they want to go regardless of the smoke! Watch for an upcoming column soon on Irene Vogel, who is climbing all of the 12,000-foot peaks in Idaho in one field season! I think most, if not all of those peaks are in the Pioneer Mountains and the Lost River Range. Her pictures look kind of smoky, but the high peaks appear pretty clear. She's going for the summit of Leatherman Peak this weekend to finish off her journey. Go Irene!
Fires burning slowly on the bank of the Salmon River ... no big deal! (courtesy Ted Kielley) 
I also saw that Ted Kielley did a week-long trip on the Main Salmon in various amounts of smoke and haze, but he felt that it was a trip of a lifetime! I put out a news release for the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association last week, pointing out that Middle Fork trips are still happening without incident, the road is still open to Boundary Creek, and outfitters like Mystic Saddle Ranch is still offering horseback trail rides in the upper Wood River Valley and the Sawtooths, and guests are happy! 

"We are fully open for our trail rides, and there are no fires burning in the Sawtooths," says Deb Bitton, co-owner of Mystic Saddle Ranch. "I was at our corrals in the upper Wood River Valley yesterday, and it was a glorious day with no smoke in the air. There's still a lot of good fishing to be had in the high mountain lakes."

I think the main thing to remember is that "Conditions are changing on a daily basis." 

Leo Hennessy, who is a trip leader for the Idaho Outdoors Yahoo Group, has been traveling to different places every weekend for the last month. "I'm trying to thread the needle of smoke and haze between Sun Valley, Stanley and McCall, and all I can say is, "It changes day to day. It seems to be the most clear around McCall and Lick Creek, and that's where I'm going this weekend." 

Leo is going with a group that's backpacking into the Prince Lakes. It's very steep and challenging, trip leaders forewarn. If you'd like to tag along, see the invite on Idaho Outdoors.

He Devil Peak (courtesy Summit Post)
Pete Zimowsky asked four guidebook authors for their recommendations on high alpine lakes to explore this fall in the Statesman, and those folks recommended a number of hikes in the Bighorn Crags, Sawtooths, Seven Devils and Pioneers. Smoke-wise, I think the Seven Devils might be the best bet this weekend.
Smoke considerations aside, all of the popular campgrounds at Redfish Lake are open. See the Sawtooth National Recreation Area web site for a full report. Another good spot might be the Bear Valley and Elk Creek areas north of Lowman. That's a great spot for camping,  canoeing and wildlife-watching.  
Blue Lake near Snowbank Mountain (courtesy Dave Williams, from Boise Trail Guide)
Another option this weekend might be to go camping in the Lake Cascade area and take in the bluegrass festival in Round Valley nearby. You also could go hiking to Blue Lake or on the high ridge by Snowbank Mountain (you can drive to the top), go biking on the Eagle's Nest Trail (get free sample  trail/map download from my book Mountain Biking in McCall), or go boating on the Cabarton stretch of the North Fork Payette River. 

Well, hopefully these ideas will provide inspiration this weekend. If  you're stuck in town, I bet a ton of people will go to the Barley Brothers beer fest in Meridian Friday and Saturday. And plus, there are a number of great Labor Day sales at Boise's outdoor retailers. Idaho Mountain Touring, Boise REI, Greenwood's, McU Sports, Alpenglow Mountain Sport and Idaho River Sports all have some fantastic clothing and gear on sale right now. Great deals! 

Have fun! 
-- SS 

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