Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fun events! Big Water Blowout River Festival; Sheep, Music and Lamb Feed in the Foothills

Now that's one big river hole! (all photos courtesy of the Big Water Blowout)

Music this year is by the "Wasteland Kings"
Hi all,

The weekend forecast looks quite dandy with temps in the high 70s in Riggins, the self-avowed whitewater capital of Idaho, and home to a super-fun annual event aptly called the "Big Water Blowout River Festival."

It's all happening on Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. in Riggins. Meet at Riggins City Park (on the right, on the north end of town, as you're traveling north). Check out the vid.

A big bonus associated with the Big Water Blowout event is that guided river trips are available for only $30, which is less than half the price of a typical guided half-day float trip. So for those folks who don't have their own river gear, it's a great opportunity to go rafting through some fun rapids with the pros, and then have a blast in the whole party scene that follows the river trip, including live music and a Dutch oven cookoff.

If you're a river nut, you've got to go. If you've always wanted to try whitewater rafting, you've got to go. If you think you're a river god or goddess, show up and see how the river trip and the D.O. cook-off shakes out. Dress up! Get the river attitude cranked up!

Here's how the event is described by the hosts in Riggins:

This is an action packed, family fun event with experienced Outfitters and Guides offering discounted raft trips all day. Come paddle HUGE Rapids, and enjoy the magnificent scenery and wildlife in the second deepest gorge in North America. Get your thrill seeking in, and see all the rafts, catarafts, kayaks, and dories go BIG and ride boat munching waves with names like The Pencil Sharpener, The Pancake Wave, The Big Easy and The Haystack.

The Salmon River is running 25,000 cubic feet per second at Whitebird, so it's up, but not at a death-defying  level (could be 75,000+ in a bigger snowpack year). The Salmon probably has peaked, according to the snowpack/river flow experts, so if you're into running big water, seize the day NOW.
Sheep move into the Boise Foothills near the Corrals Trail in April. 
Closer to home, there's a cool event going on Saturday at the Foothills Learning Center. It's called "Sheep in the Foothills." It's a family friendly event, great for kids, to learn about the domestic sheep that graze through the Boise Foothills in the spring as they make their way into the high country in the Boise National Forest.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be herding-dog demonstrations, sheep, sheep camps, sheep-shearing, music by Gary and Cindy Braun, a lamb feast for lunch (my favorite!), wool crafts and more.

Because of limited parking at the Foothills Center, transportation is being provided to the event at no charge. Park at Fort Boise Community Center near St. Luke's. Shuttles begin at 10 a.m. and continue every 30 minutes through 1 p.m.

The event is co-sponsored by Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission, Idaho Wool Growers Association, and Boise Parks & Recreation.
Juicer at 5,000 cfs 
The North Fork Championships are happening again next week, June 6-8, on the world-renowned North Fork of the Payette River, near Banks, Idaho, with an expanded menu of events. Besides the qualifier race on the lower three miles of the North Fork at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 6, and the Elite Race at noon Saturday, June 8th in Jacob's Ladder Rapids, the single-steepest and most challenging drop on the North Fork, there will be a "Boatercross/enduro" race at 5 p.m. Friday, June 7th on S-Turn Rapids near milepost 90 on Idaho 55. Read Roger Phillips column in the Statesman for all of the details. That's a must-see event!

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Last-minute ideas for Memorial Day weekend - Campers: dress warm and bring firewood!

Dress warm for camping this weekend ... and you'll be fine. 
Middle Fork Boise River 
The Morel picking has been hit and miss so far ... 
Wind River pack bridge, trailhead for the Wind River Trail on the Salmon River 
Rapid River Trail in Riggins is a dandy hiking and backpacking destination 
Hi all,

It's expected to be fairly chilly this weekend, particularly in the mountains. But at least there isn't much rain in the forecast. Last year, Memorial Day was pretty soggy in the mountains, and that definitely puts a damper on things. But this year, it should be dry, with temperatures in the low 60s by the afternoon in the mountains, which is nice weather for hiking and biking. Just bring a few extra layers.

[Here is the audio from Steve's outdoor tips re: Memorial Day weekend on the the River Mornings show]

Roger Phillips from the Idaho Statesman Outdoors pulled together a nice summary of the camping, road and trail conditions in the Boise, Payette and Sawtooth national forests in today's paper. The upshot seems to be that trails, roads and campgrounds below 6,000-foot elevation are open for Memorial Day weekend activities, and sites above that elevation are more iffy or closed by snow. Bull Trout Lake is closed by snow, for example, and so are Deadwood Reservoir and the Trinity Mountains.

Here are some ideas for Memorial Day camping and outings:

  • With these cool temperatures, camping in the Owyhees will be warmer than heading into the national forest. See my spring camping blog post from March ... places like Bruneau Dunes State Park, Leslie Gulch, Succor Creek State Park or the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area would all be good bets. 
  • Camping near Idaho City should be great. Take the Rabbit Creek Road into the North Fork of the Boise River or the Middle Fork of the Boise River. There are tons of places to camp along both river corridors.
  • Camping near Stanley should be fine, too, just a little colder. Highs are forecast in the 60s in the afternoons but in the 20s at night. Campgrounds are open at the ever-popular Redfish Lake and vicinity. Can't beat the view!   
  • The Edna Creek road is clear of snow and freshly graded, according to the Forest Service, if you'd like to head up to Atlanta and do some camping or hiking.
  • Morel mushrooms appear to be sprouting (I'm seeing pics of morels on my Facebook friends' pages ... people who live in Valley County), so it might be a good time to check areas that got burned last summer for morels. The Trinity Ridge fire area near Pine and Featherville comes to mind, so would the forest north of Stanley. Some forest roads are closed because of fire rehabilitation, but hopefully you can get into some of the burn areas on foot or bike to pick morels. David Olson from the Boise National Forest reports that as of June 1, no permits will be needed for commercial or private morel picking in the Trinity Ridge fire zone. Apparently so far, the morel crop is a dud. Hopefully, that'll change? Be aware that certain forest roads are closed in the vicinity to work on post-fire rehab.
  • The trails and roads in the Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas are snow-free and open to the public. The yurts are all rented for the weekend, according to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, but you can find other spots for car-camping in the vicinity and go hiking and biking on Park n Ski trails. 
  • Another cool spring camping location is along the Salmon River, upstream of Riggins. There are numerous HUGE white sandy beaches up there where you can set up a great camp, hang out by the river, do some floating on the Salmon and/or go hiking. The hike on the Wind River Trail via the Wind River Pack Bridge about 25 miles upstream of Riggins has a number of switchbacks as you climb higher and higher up the Salmon River canyon. The trail eventually leads into the Gospel Hump Wilderness, but you probably won't get that far. That'd be a great hike right now.
  • If you're in the Riggins area, the hike up Rapid River is a sweet one, too. The trailhead is about two miles south of Riggins. I just saw some beautiful photos from some folks who went backpacking in the Rapid River last weekend. 
  • Camping in Lake Cascade State Park should be dandy as well. If you go to Cascade, the Crown Point Trail is a great family friendly hike or bike ride for all abilities and ages. It's about 3 miles one-way to a temporary dead-end, and 3 miles back. You also can go biking or hiking on the The Strand, a two-mile trail along the North Fork of the Payette River in Cascade. Very pretty spot, and it's next to Kelly's Whitewater Park. 
There are a few ideas to chew on ... Have fun!
- SS  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Seize the day! Bike to Work Day incentives + volunteer work opportunities in ID Wilderness

Courtesy Boise Weekly 
Hi all,

It's Boise Bike Week in case you haven't noticed, and tomorrow morning (Friday) is the official National Bike to Work Day! That means if you've ever had even slightest inclination to ride your bike to work, then by god, this is the day to do it. Get up a little earlier than normal, take your time, take care not to sweat too much on the way to work (or pack your work clothes), and you'll feel refreshed when you get to work.

More reasons to bike to work, from the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance: Number One: You're ONE LESS CAR. I love the T-shirts that say that. It's about making Boise more liveable. It's about reducing your impact on the environment. It's about sustainable living. It's about exercise, community, convenience, freedom and fun. Once you discover the many benefits of cycling, you'll wonder why you didn't start riding sooner.

Plus, there are two very cool incentives for people who Bike to Work Friday ...
  • Whole Foods Market, at the corner of Broadway, Front and Myrtle, is providing a free, hot breakfast for peeps who ride their bike to work. George's Cycles and the Boise Bicycle Project will perform free safety checks and quick tune-ups. That's a sweet gig! Hours are 6-9 a.m. Friday.
  • Boise Young Professionals and Big City Coffee  have teamed up for Bike to Work Day ... they're offering free treats and coffee to bikers while BYP members will staff the table, ready to greet you on your way to work or school. Learn more about the BYP while you're there! Hours are 7-9 a.m. Friday at Big City Coffee, 1416 W. Grove. 

And then Friday night, head over to the Riverside Hotel in Garden City for the big block party! Be sure to ride your bike to the event (bring a bike lock w/you). Live music will be playing from Hillfolk Noir and Reilly Coyote, plus the beer will be flowing, friendly vendors will be there and great prizes will be raffled off. Event runs from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Bring your friends! 

FYI: The Boise Bicycle Project is hosting a ride from BBP on Lusk Street to the block party at the Riverside Hotel via the Greenbelt. The theme is tandems and twins. Dress up with your BFF as twins and ride a tandem, then you'll really be stylin'!  

Check the Boise Bike Week events schedule to learn about the cycling events planned for Saturday, the final day of Boise Bike Week. And a big shout-out to the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance, the Boise Weekly  and all of the great organizations that sponsored events during the week. We have a great cycling community!  

Jack Van Valkenburgh (quoted below) is third from the right. 
Old stuff from a backcountry ranch was gathered up by volunteers for the pack-out .
Pack mules sure help when it comes to packing supplies in and out of the wilderness. 
The Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation is looking for volunteers to work on four project areas this summer in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. The projects involve clearing trails of downfall,  trail re-construction, building trail structures and general maintenance work. 

This is an opportunity to see and experience "the Frank" while giving back to the resource. The projects are needed and they have lasting benefits for the many people and pack stock that traverse the many trails in "the Frank." 

This is what my friend Jack Van Valkenburgh had to say about his experience. "I had a great time last summer working trail restoration on Marble Creek (in the Frank). Great people, good food, and the cooking and the heaviest supplies were handled by the backcountry horsemen. A terrific experience in beautiful country! Oh yea! 

Volunteers must provide their own transportation to the trailhead, provide their own personal backpacking equipment, and their sweat equity, and the Foundation provides all project tools, safety equipment, leadership and best of all - delicious meals cooked hot twice a day with a sack lunch for projects.

Take a look at the projects and dates below, and see if it works into your schedule. Contact Eric Melson for more information or to register for one of the trips: 

Here are the four projects: 

1. Upper Yellowjacket Reroute, building of Turnpike/Creek Crossing structure - June 19-26
Open to 6-8 Volunteers
Starting Elevation: 6000ft; Camp Elevation: 6000ft
Mileage: 2 miles to work site
Starting trailhead: Yellow Jacket Creek and FS RD 112

Meet and camp at Yellow Jacket Guard Station deep in the Salmon River Mountains (accessed up FS Road 112 from Panther Creek). Each day, hike 2 miles to the work site and perform work digging new trail and installing a 'turnpike' trail structure over a spring creek. Though this is physically demanding work, we will have time to rest, hike and enjoy the company of the group as well. Trail head camping at guard station, tent camping with access to outhouses, creek water, weekend volunteers are welcome on this project. This project is considered moderate.

2. Lookout Ridge Heavy Trail Maintenance and Reconstruction - July 20-27
Open to 6-8 Volunteers
Starting Elevation: 8500ft; Camp Elevation: 7200ft
Mileage: 4-5 miles to basecamp with the potential of up to 20 miles of travel throughout project.
Starting trailhead: Lookout Mt Ridge at Thunder Mountain

Work on a section of the 900-mile Idaho Centennial Trail, from Thunder Mountain to West Fork Rush Creek junction. This is a challenging and rewarding opportunity to help clear annual blow down, repair trail tread and drainage issues, and re-work a 100-yard section of Idaho’s historic North to South trail. Open to 6-8 volunteers with backpacking experience. Cook and pack stock provided, basecamp camping. This project is considered difficult. 

3. Little Pistol Trail Clearing and Maintenance - Aug. 3-10
Open to 6-8 Volunteers
Starting Elevation: 8900ft; Camp Elevation:  4800ft
Mileage: 7-8 miles to basecamp with the potential of up to 30 miles of travel throughout project
Starting trailhead: Pistol Lake

In the SW corner of the Frank, Little Pistol Ridge is highlighted by an impressive ridgeline and a beautiful alpine lake basin which marks our starting point. Little Pistol is in need of much care and attention with heavy log out expected, tread repair and drainage maintenance also needed. Open to 6-8 volunteers with backpacking experience, trail work experience desired.  Cook and pack stock provided, basecamp camping. This project is considered difficult.

4. Summit Trail Clearing and Maintenance - August 27th - September 3rd
Open to 2-4 Volunteers
Starting Elevation: 7200ft; Camp Elevation:  8500ft
Mileage: 5 miles to basecamp with the potential of up to 20 miles of travel throughout project
Starting Trailhead: Snowshoe Summit on FS Rd 447E

This is a “Jack and Jill of all trades” trip with the opportunity to work with a variety of tools and techniques. We will work on Summit Trail from Snowshoe Cabin to Chilcoot Pass with incredible views of the Frank Church as you work along the ridge. Open to 6-8 volunteers with backpacking experience, trail work experience desired but not required. Cook and pack stock provided, basecamp camping. This project is considered difficult.

Have fun!
- SS 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

It's getting hot - time to break out the paddling gear and float your favorite Idaho Rivers

South Fork Canyon "hang on!" 
North Fork Payette River, Class 5 section 
Mixmaster, Main Payette 
Go Left Rapids, Main Payette 
Main Payette, Bennett Rock Rapids  
Hi all,

The mercury is rising as if it's late June, even though it's early May. Temperatures are supposed to be in the mid-80s on Saturday and hit 90 on Sunday. Time to break out the paddling gear and go boating - either flatwater touring or whitewater kayaking or rafting.

I was up on the Payette River on Wednesday, and the water is coming up fast. The main Payette was running 4,350 cfs today (Thursday), the South Fork "Staircase" section 2,400+ cfs, the South Fork "Canyon" 1,620 cfs, the North Fork 1,140 at Banks, and the Middle Fork Tie Creek section 800+ cfs.

That's plenty of water for a good time on any those Payette River sections, plus Cabarton south of Cascade, or one could run the Upper Payette from Grand Jean down to Kirkham Hot Springs. I'm planning on taking some soccer kids on the Main Payette on Sunday afternoon.

If you've got your own gear, you know the drill! Gather up some friends, gear up and go.

If not, you can rent paddling gear from Idaho River Sports, Alpenglow Mountainsport or Boise Army Navy in Boise, or you can book a paddle-boat trip with an outfitter -- both Cascade Raft and Kayak and Bear Valley Outfitters are ready to roll.
Make sure you wear a life jacket
on the Payette River. 

If you rent the gear, and don't know the Payette River very well, consider buying my trusty guidebook, "Paddling the Payette," which provides a detailed guide to all of the rapids on the Payette River and all of the flatwater trips as well. Many people don't realize that there is more flatwater boating on the Payette, than whitewater. My guide tells you where to find 14 flatwater adventures, and 10 whitewater trips. It costs $12.95, and it's available for sale online, or you can buy individual paddling trips for 99 cents each online.

If you like to go inflatable kayaking, but you don't have your own IK, you can rent one, or you can book an IK trip with Cascade Raft and Kayak on Saturdays. They're offering a special on IK trips. Inquire with Cascade for details on rates and times available.

On Sunday, the Idaho Canoe SUP Club, an offshoot of Idaho River Sports, is hosting the ever-popular Mother's Day float on the Middle Fork of the Payette River "Tie Creek" section, upstream of Crouch. This is a beautiful 9-mile float trip on flatwater, with eddies and current. It's suitable for canoes, inflatable kayaks and small rafts. Here's a previous blog entry with photos all about the Middle Fork trip.

If you'd like to go on the Middle Fork trip, and you don't have a boat, IRS is offering a special of $35 for either a canoe or IK rental for the day. You'd need to pick up your craft on Saturday afternoon to do the trip on Sunday. Call 336-4844 for more information. The canoe club group is meeting at the park in Crouch at 10 a.m. to set shuttle vehicles, before heading up to the Tie Creek Campground to launch the trip.
Calling all cyclists! Look ahead to Boise Bike Week next week. Check out a fun-filled calendar of events from Monday through Saturday of next week. At minimum, make an extra effort to commute by bicycle to work or the store next week, and try to attend as many events as possible to support cycling in our pro-cycling community.
The Coyote Classic bike race and fun ride are coming up Saturday at Avimor. If you've always wanted to check out the course, but don't care for racing, they are offering a no-drop group ride on Saturday as well. You'll need to sign up for the event in advance to participate. Avimor has a ton of cool trails to check out, including a number of new trails. This would be a good opportunity to experience them.
In case you were wondering, the North Fork Championships is coming back this year on June 6, 7 and 8. See their Facebook page for more details.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hiking tour of "Between the Creeks" in the Owyhees a great trip for families and kids

Robin Bjork has her field glasses ready to view wildlife 

Amy Haak's dog Pearl dutifully poses for a photo op; West Fork Shoofly in the background

Indian paintbrush 

Dropping into the East Fork of Shoofly Creek ... pretty easy going 

Springtime is the best time for this hike 

Hiking on our way out on the two-track road 

Final approach to the plateau

White splotch on rock indicates perching area by birds of prey
Climbing up to the plateau from the junction of the west fork and east fork
Aerial view of the plateau between the creeks 
Hi all,

This weekend is going to be perfect for taking a hike in the Owyhee Canyonlands. One of my favorite outings is an area called "Between the Creeks," a high plateau full of thrifty buchgrasses and wildflowers near Grand View, Idaho. This area is part of the new Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness, and it's one of the easiest to access about an hour or so from Boise.

The plateau lies in between the West Fork of Shoofly Creek and the East Fork of Shoofly Creek. Both of them are scenic slot canyons, which you can explore while you're there, or just peer into them from above, your choice. While you're hiking on the edge of the canyons, you'll see white-splotched bird perches everywhere. Look for prairie falcons, hawks, gold eagles, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep. Be sure to bring a lunch and plenty of water to enjoy your day trip.
Like many trips in the Owyhees, the hardest part is finding the proper roads to reach the trailhead. And as part of the ongoing series of sneak-peek hikes and bike rides I've shared in my blog while we work on a guidebook for the Owyhee Canyonlands, I will tell you how to get there! The roads to this particular trailhead are not gnarly just a bit soft and lumpy... a Subaru or a vehicle with medium-clearance will work.

How to reach the trailhead: From Boise, take I-84 east to the Simco Road exit. Turn right on Simco Road and follow that to ID 167. Turn right and proceed to Grand View. In Grand View, fill up on any last-minute supplies and head east on ID 78. Watch for a major right-hand turn on Mud Flat Road. Note your mileage as you turn onto Mud Flat. Proceed 7.6 miles to the signed turnoff for Shoofly Cutoff Road. Turn left. Proceed 2.6 miles to an un-named dirt road on the right. Turn right on the dirt road and proceed south toward the Owyhee foothills. It's 9.7 miles to a BLM kiosk and parking area. Ignore side roads and stay on the main road heading for the hills. At the BLM kiosk, park if you have a low-clearance AWD. With a high-clearance 4WD, you can proceed another mile or so and park in a pull-out on the left or right. The road gets increasingly marginal from there.
The red lines are our GPS tracks from the hike. 8.1 miles total loop. Click to enlarge. 

Now the fun begins! I'm including mileage points on the hike, if you are carrying a GPS. Hike upstream along Shoofly Creek on the grassy two-track route to an old cabin at the junction of the east and west forks (Mile .9). Climb over a fence next to the west fork and climb the ridge on an old road bed toward the plateau. Follow the old road cut on a switchback to the top (Mile 1.55). Now you'll feel like you're on top of the world, with grand views of the countryside all around you.

Follow the rim along the West Fork and hike several miles to a high point. Pick your own route as you wish. I like to go back and forth to the rim to enjoy the views. At mile 3.8, you'll come to the top of a big hump that affords a sweet view of Perjue Canyon below. This was our half-way point and lunch stop. From there, we crossed the plateau over to the East Fork and walked that rim. The East Fork canyon is pretty but not as dramatic as the West Fork. Continue on the rim to mile 5.8, where there is a cut in the canyon where you can drop into the East Fork of Shoofly Creek. The walking is best in the crotch of the canyon. At mile 6.5, you'll arrive at the bottom of the East Fork. Walk downstream along the creek to the confluence (mile 7.2) by the cabin. Retrace your tracks to your vehicle (final mileage 8.1 miles). 

It also is nice to bring a plant or flower guide with you on this trip. I wrote about a super-cool new plant guide two weeks ago ... here's the link

For other explorations in the Owyhee Canyonlands, check out other blog entries in Stueby's Outdoor Journal, check out the BLM web site or read a comprehensive report from the Idaho Statesman about some hikes in the Owyhees from Thursday's outdoor page.  

BTW, John Robison of the Idaho Conservation League will be giving a presentation on introductory hikes in the Owyhee Canyonlands at 7 p.m. on May 22 at Boise REI. Go online or call 322-1141 to sign up. 

Some other pointers: 
  • Obtain a BLM map of the area you are visiting for the best results or print out a topo map. 
  • Avoid the Owyhees when it's rainy or wet. The roads can turn into quicksand. 
  • I always feel more comfortable when traveling with another group to remote locations in case one of the vehicles breaks down. 
  • When the weather gets hot, watch out for rattlesnakes. If you see one, walk around it, give it a wide berth, and you'll be fine. Don't try to mess with snakes. That's how most people get bit. 
Have fun! 
- SS