Thursday, February 28, 2013

Time to dust off the road bike and go for a spin in the countryside around Boise

Cartwright Road ... excellent hill-climbing adventure (courtesy Lactic Acid)
The Greenbelt is a good place to warm up ... 

Out in the hinterlands in SW Boise, there isn't much traffic ...
good place to avoid cars and trucks.
The Cartwright 3 Summits loop starts  by Bogus Basin Road,
heading east you climb over 3 summits, pass by Hidden Springs and the landfill, and
return to the start on Hill Road. Pierce Park is an early bail-out option as needed. 
Several options here for Greenbelt riders, going from Municipal Park
to Discovery Park and back, or doing a Boise River - Federal Way loop ... 
Hi all,

It's the first weekend of March, and Saturday is supposed to be a gorgeous day, with temperatures in the high 50s. It's a perfect time to dust off the road bike and go for a nice long ride!

For my tip of week, I'm recommending a mix of road rides to get your cycling legs in shape. Mountain biking in the foothills is tempting, but many of the trails are muddy and not suitable for biking, hiking or running right now. Check the Ridge to Rivers web site for the latest details. 

Why ride?

  • It's a great workout. 
  • It's a rush. With skinny tires, road bikes zoom down the road really fast. 
  • Pause and feel the warm sunshine on your face. It feels wonderful. 
  • Get a few friends together and make it a social outing. 
Here's an incentive to get psyched about road biking this spring. How about training for the BLUE CRUISE of Idaho? It's sponsored by the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health, among others, and they have distances for any ability -- 15 miles, 30, 50 and 100. I'm hoping to do the 50-miler or the century ride. The ride occurs on Saturday, June 22.

The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health will give back to the community with proceeds from the BLUE CRUISE by working with the Boise Bicycle Project, Boise Parks & Recreation and ProHelmet to give away 125 bikes and helmets to kids in need who are 12 and under. That's another reason to participate! 

Here's a mix of road biking suggestions for this weekend and beyond from my Boise Road Cycling Guide:
  • Start out nice and easy - take the Greenbelt out to Discovery Park from Municipal Park near Idaho Fish and Game's Nature Center. It's 9 miles one-way, 18 miles out and back. If that seems too far, try going from Municipal Park to Eckert Road by Lucky 13, and loop back via Barber Park and ParkCenter. That one is 10 miles total.
  • Spin it on Hill Road - Saw a ton of riders on Hill Road last Sunday as I was coming back from McCall in the late afternoon. Hill Road has a good shoulder, and you can ride as far as you want, going west. From Boise, you can ride west to Eagle, or keep going to Star for those who have been riding all winter. It's 40 miles out and back to Star. Wind will be a factor.
  • City to Farm Loop - This is a cool ride starting at Overland & Five Mile and exploring Boise's agricultural roots, golf courses and subdivisions in Southwest Boise. This one is 16.2 miles and takes about an hour. You go south on Five Mile to Lake Hazel, turn right and go to Cloverdale, go south on Cloverdale to Columbia, right on Columbia for one mile, then south on Eagle to Hubbard, right on Hubbard for one mile, right on Locust Grove for two miles to Lake Hazel, go right and cut over to Five Mile, and go north on Five Mile to the start/finish.
  • City to Farm modified - I rode a 25-mile version of City to Farm yesterday from the same starting point. The great thing about riding in this area is that there is almost NO TRAFFIC. I took Five Mile south to Lake Hazel, turned right on Lake Hazel for one mile to Cloverdale, Cloverdale south to Hubbard, left on Hubbard to Ten Mile, and rode that beautiful open valley to South Cole. Then I went south on Cole to Kuna-Mora, right on Kuna-Mora to Cloverdale, and retraced my tracks back to the start/finish. The NW wind was a real bear yesterday for the way back, but I don't think it's going to be that windy on Saturday. 
  • Cartwright - Three Summits Loop - Once you've worked in your legs (and butt) on the flats, it's time to climb. This loop is about 18 miles and takes about 1.5 hours at a recreational pace. It's also fondly called the "Dump Loop," because it goes by the Ada County landfill. It features several in-your-face steep climbs on Cartwright. It's easier to ride clockwise, than counterclockwise. Start at Hill and Bogus Basin Road. Go west on Hill to Seaman's Gulch. Go right and climb Seaman's Gulch past the landfill over to Hidden Springs. Turn right on Dry Creek Road and enjoy a spin through that valley and then climb the first big hill on Cartwright to Pierce Park. Go left and climb the next hill (short but kind of steep), and then enjoy a really fast downhill past the Owyhee Motorcycle Park. Gear down for the last hill to the initial Cartwright summit, and zoom down past the LDS church to Bogus Basin Road, turn right to the start/finish.
Here are a couple of bonus rides (with video) for consideration:
  • Lake Lowell Loop - 26 miles. It's a pretty easy ride with no significant hills (380 feet of verticle climbing the whole ride), and you circumnavigate Lake Lowell and enjoy the bird life. Start and finish at the Lake Lowell Boat Ramp. See the Boise Road Cycling Guide for directions.
  • Big Freezeout - Little Freezeout Loop. This one is about 40 miles, and it involves more than 1,000 feet of climbing/descending, but none of the hills are steep, just kind of rounded. Starts and finishes in Star. Because of the heavy commuter traffic on Idaho 16, I'd only do this one on a Saturday or Sunday. Beautiful tour of the Emmett Valley.
A quick word about the Boise Road Cycling Guide if you haven't seen it. It's a full color, two-sided foldout map with Olympian Kristin Armstrong on the cover. The map features more than 30 rides in the Boise Valley. It's waterproof and tear-proof. It costs $12.50, and it's available at nearly all of the cycling stores in town, and it's available on my web site, It's the only road biking map available for the Boise area.

Have a great ride!
- SS

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Take a 4-mile nature walk with your sweetheart or your family along the Boise River in E. Boise

Here's the map for the nature trail loop. Start at either Bown Crossing
or the East ParkCenter Bridge or by Barber Park in East Boise. (Click map to enlarge)
The scene on the nature trail just east of the E. ParkCenter Bridge. 
The new natural trail. 
Hi all,

Well, it's a little past Valentine's Day, but I wanted to share a cool new walking loop that I've been enjoying with my sweetheart, Wendy, and our dog, Huck, as the weather begins to slowly warm up in the Boise Valley. It's a lovely place for an easy-going stroll (no hills) and a great place to see wildlife.

It's supposed to snow Friday night, so if you're inclined to go skiing, snowshoeing or whatever, by all means, head for the mountains and enjoy some fresh powder.

But you have to check out this new hiking opportunity that's been made possible by the construction of the new Marianne Williams Park near Bown Crossing in E. Boise and property donations by the Harris family.

Many people have been aware of the nice gravel natural trail on the south side of the river that runs from Barber Park to the ParkCenter Greenbelt (three miles total one-way). The trail is a great place for wildlife-watching in general and eagle-watching in the winter, and it's a quiet place to go walking or running because the trail is not paved, and no bikes are allowed.

With the creation of the new Marianne Williams Park in East Boise, there is now a nature trail on the north side of the river as well. It also is lined by cottonwood trees the whole way, and the trail passes by a series of wetlands that will be chock full of bird life in a couple of months. About a mile from Eckert Road, the natural trail in Marianne Williams Park merges with a new section of paved Greenbelt and continues west to the East ParkCenter Bridge and continues west.

The nature trail loop on both sides of the river is a little less than 4 miles total. It takes at least an hour and a half at a casual pace. If you're watching for birds, it might take more like 2 hours. After you're finished, you can head over to Bown Crossing and have lunch, dinner or a beverage of choice at several different establishments including Flatbread Pizza and the Tavern. You're also close to Lucky 13 if you park at Barber Park off of Eckert Road.

If you want to go farther, keep going west under the East ParkCenter Bridge and continue another 2 miles or so to the big orange ParkCenter pedestrian bridge. Longer-distance runners may prefer to take the longer route.

Great blue heron 
While you're walking or running, watch for the following wildlife species. Bring your camera and binoculars. Teach your kids how to identify these species:
  • Great blue herons. There's a large heron rookery on the south side of the river, just east of Bown Crossing. There must be about 15-20 nests in the rookery. The birds are beginning to move into the nests right now. You are virtually assured of seeing herons on your walk. Herons are fish-eaters.  
  • Kingfishers. You'll hear the tell-tale rat-tat-tat call of kingfishers as they dart across the Boise River. 
  • Red-winged blackbirds. You'll see the blackbirds moving into the wetland areas in the coming weeks. They love the cat-tail wetlands. 
  • Kestrels. I have seen many kestrels on the nature trail in recent weeks. They are pairing up, mating and establishing a cavity nest. See my video about our backyard kestrel nest box. Kestrels are the smallest member of the raptor family. Also known as "sparrow hawks." 
  • Red-tailed hawks frequent the area. They are a very common hawk in the Boise Foothills and the Boise Valley. They like to eat mice. I think there are several red-tailed hawk nests in the vicinity of the nature trail loop. 
  • Great-horned owls. There are several owl nests in the nature trail area on the south side of the river. These birds are very predatory in nature.
  • Wood ducks. The males are very showy in coloration. Watch for them on the river.  
Wood duck 
In case you missed it last fall, here's a GoPro video of the new Greenbelt pathways in Marianne Williams Park. It'll give you a feel for the size of the park. It's big! 
The Boise Bike Swap is happening on Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a great opportunity to pick up a quality used road bike or mountain bike, bike wheels or parts It's being held at the Westgate Shopping Mall, 7670 W. Fairview. It costs $3 to get in. Get there early! The event is free for kids under 10. Sellers show up at 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on Saturday to sell their used bike stuff.
In case you haven't heard any of the ads, this is the magic week when you need to renew your Bogus Basin season pass for the best price available. The passes are $229 plus tax for the 2013-2014 season. It's a great deal, and it's important to support your local community ski area. Act quick because the offer expires on Feb. 24. 
Idaho Fish and Game needs volunteers to plant bitterbrush beginning on Saturday, March 2. More planting will occur on subsequent Saturdays through March. Transportation and tools are provided. Volunteers should wear sturdy shoes, bring gloves and dress for the weather. 

To sign up, contact IDFG volunteer coordinator Michael Young, or 327-7095.  For more information go to:

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, February 14, 2013

New hot springs pool opens in Idaho City; explore new section of the Greenbelt "out west"

The Springs pool (courtesy The Springs)
The Trey McIntyre Project paid a visit (courtesy The Springs)
Looks wonderful! 
Hi all,

There is still some decent cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing at the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas, Pilot Peak, Freeman Peak and Sunset Mountain northeast of Idaho City, but you will have to hunt much harder than usual for fresh powder.

We haven't had any significant new snow in several weeks. But it's still going to be kind of warm and sunny this weekend, particularly on Saturday, so it'd be fun to head out for a little snow adventure, and then come back to Idaho City and hit the new hot springs pool called "The Springs" on the way home.

The Springs just opened on Thursday. Pool hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and closed on Tuesdays. Pool fees are $16 for adults, $8 for children under 12. Be sure to make reservations before you head out for your recreation outing. A lot of people are stoked to try out the pool; there will be a lot of competition to get in (they're going to control the numbers). The main pool is 80 feet by 40 feet, and it's kept in a range of 98 to 100 degrees F. And the hot tub adjacent to the pool is kept at about 104 degrees F. Sounds fun!
Big heron rookery near the Boise Wastewater Plant ... the birds are starting to move in! 
Something else you might enjoy doing this weekend is heading out on a brand new "secret" section of the Boise River Greenbelt on the south side of the river, downstream of Glenwood. You could start at Veterans Park, Willow Lane, or at the parking area next to the Glenwood Bridge near the Fairgrounds. Be sure you're on the south side of the river when you head west of Glenwood.
Thanks to Don Stockton and everyone who worked on the pathway project 
The paved pathway on the south side used to go about 1.5 miles west of Glenwood and fizzle out. Last fall, the Foundation for Ada/Canyon Trail Systems (FACTS) paved a long extension on the south side that goes for several more miles. I rode it Thursday afternoon on my mountain bike. I continued when the pavement ended, and rode a two-track and singletrack dirt path that took me all the way to Eagle Road!
Dirt pathway goes by some nice wildlife ponds 
Go check it out, you won't believe how nice it is. You'll get a scenic tour of the old gravel pits, the Boise Wastewater Treatment Plant, a big heron rookery, lots of ponds and wildlife habitat areas, and more!
Boise River splits below here into the North and South channels ... 
The trails in the Boise Foothills are really muddy right now in the afternoons. Please stay off those trails and go for a Greenbelt adventure. You won't be disappointed.

Steve talks about his outdoor tips every week on Friday mornings about 7:10 a.m. on 94.9 FM The River with Ken and Tim. Here's the audio from this week's program. 
- SS