Thursday, April 24, 2014

Get your kids outside to play! It's Unplug and Be Outside Week, plus used paddling gear sales!

Take your kids hiking before they even know they're hiking ... 
The foothills trails may be wet this weekend because of all the rain;
see alternative recommendations below. 
Hi all,

Every year, I tout the Unplug and Be Outside Idaho events because they're a great opportunity to get your kids outside and away from the trappings of their computers, ipads, cell phones, video games, Xbox's, Play Stations, Wii's and more.

Consider this: Over the past 30 years, the obesity rate in children 6-11 years old has quadrupled. There is a connection between the number of hours spent in front of the TV and childhood obesity. The average American child spends more the 30 hours a week in front of the screen (TV, computers, and video games). The impact of TV and other screen-time can have a harmful effect on a child’s health and well-being.

Get them outside and let them be kids! 

This year, the weather forecast is kind of wet -- in fact it's downright soggy! -- so the "Healthy Kids Day" events at the Treasure Valley YMCA locations on Saturday, April 26, may work out just great. The YMCA opens the doors of its facilities to the public for free from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. You can go swimming, play basketball, dodge ball, racquetball, use the weight machines, ride the spin bikes, enjoy the waterslides in the pools ... the list goes on and on. The Nampa Recreation Center also is opening their doors for free from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., with many of the same amenities inside.

Unplug and Be Outside Idaho events have been running through this week, and they end on Saturday.

More events that sound fun for kids:

  • Earth Fest at the MK Nature Center at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's state office headquarters on Walnut Street in Boise. Runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Earth Fest includes kid activities, games, crafts and kite-making workshops. All free.  
  • Dance, cheer and tumble at the Motions Dance Studio in Meridian, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Take a walk on the Story Trail at the Foothills Learning Center on north 8th street in Boise. Wander the 1/4-mile trail with your kids, look for plants and animals, and read "Hoo, Hoo ... Lives in Hulls Gulch?" 493-2530.  
  • Kids golf clinics at Lakeview Golf Club in Meridian. 2-3 p.m. for kids aged 5-9, and 3-4 p.m. for kids aged 10-16. Phone number is 888-4080. 
  • Free large bucket of range balls at Ridgecrest Golf Club and Centennial Golf Course in Nampa. 
  • Take Me Fishing trailer provided by IDFG will be parked at Ed's Pond in Emmett. They offer all the fishing gear you need and provide tips on the right kinds of fishing lures to use to catch fish. 
  • Speaking of fishing, IDFG has recently stocked many of the ponds in the valley. Take your kids fishing and catch some fresh trout for dinner! Here's a list of family fishing waters in SW Idaho. 
Normally, I'd recommend a list of kid-friendly hikes in the local area that you can enjoy. But because of the weather forecast, I'd stay clear of foothills trails until they dry out. Some alternatives for walks include any portion of the Boise River Greenbelt, the Eagle Greenbelt on the north side of the river or Rocky Canyon Road.
For future reference, here are five kid-friendly hikes that I recommended last year ... and here is a list of family friendly hikes that Ridge to Rivers recommends. 
On Saturday, there are two used paddling gear sales happening in Boise that offer great deals on life jackets, kayaks, whitewater rafts, canoes, SUP's and much more! If you're a paddler in need of gear, go to these sales and go early to find the best selection. Plus, if you have stuff to sell, you can do that too! 
  • The annual used equipment sale at Idaho River Sports benefits the Idaho Whitewater Association. IRS is located on the new Whitewater Boulevard near the Boise River, Greenbelt and the whitewater park.  
  • Alpenglow Mountainsport also is hosting a used equipment sale, one they do every year. The sale promises to be bigger than ever, shop officials say, and they also announced that their shop is now an official AIRE dealer. AIRE craft are very affordable, and AIRE has a bomb-proof guarantee in case any repairs are needed. Alpenglow is located in the McU Sports Highlands store on Bogus Basin Road.   
This also is the weekend of the annual Leslie Gulch campout, led by Leo Hennessy. A lot of people are bailing out because of the lousy weather forecast, but Leo said he'll be there at Leslie Gulch all weekend, starting tomorrow and running through Saturday and Sunday. I would recommend waiting until Saturday, because tomorrow there is 100% chance of rain. 

If you want to go, just drive out to Leslie Gulch and look for Leo at the Slocum Creek campground, near the boat ramp on Owyhee Reservoir. How to get there: Take I-84 to the last exit in Nampa. Take ID 55 to Marsing. Go through Marsing, then turn south on U.S. 95 and follow that for a number of miles to a signed turnoff for Leslie Gulch. Follow signs on the gravel road to Leslie Gulch. It's a beautiful area with many unique rock formations. More information can be found in my guidebook Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide.  

Have fun!
- SS 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Primo family hike! Station Creek in Garden Valley; top it with a float on the Payette River

Mule deer like the open south slopes right now ... 
Station Creek Trail - Courtesy Living in Idaho blog 
Grassy open slopes are typical on the way down ... 
GPS tracks of the Station Creek hike ending up at the Alder Creek Bridge 
Hi all,

Antsy to get out of town and stretch your legs? One of my favorite spring hikes in SW Idaho is the Station Creek Trail, a primo family hike in the pine-studded mountains that loom above the South Fork of the Payette River in Garden Valley. You could double-up the activities for the weekend by camping in the Boise National Forest nearby and go boating on Sunday on the South Fork, Middle Fork or Main Payette Rivers.

The weather forecast looks pretty darn fab for a weekend in April ... high in the mid-70s on Saturday, and mid-60s on Sunday. I say go for it!

The Station Creek hike is featured in my book, the Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home. I rate it "moderate" in terms of difficulty. It's a sweet singletrack that climbs 1,300 feet over several miles to the top of the ridge overlooking the broad valley. It's a 4.5-mile hike round-trip. Travel time is 2+ hours. Pack a lunch for the top. 

The trailhead is about 1:15 from Boise on the Banks to Lowman Road. Take ID 55 to Banks, turn right to Garden Valley. Proceed past the town of Garden Valley to the Garden Valley Ranger Station. Station Creek Trail is directly across the road from the station. There's parking there but no rest room. 
Trip map from Boise Trail Guide (click to enlarge)

The trail winds through neatly spaced ponderosa pine trees and climbs at a moderate pace to an initial ridge at mile 2.1. You'll notice a right-hand turnoff on the way up for a short loop. Ignore that one unless you have really young kids and can do only a short hike. At the top of the ridge, you'll see a sign directing you toward the downhill loop toward the Alder Creek Bridge, which crosses the South Fork of the Payette River. Take the left fork to walk a series of ridges back to the highway bridge or circle back toward the trailhead. As my book notes, the downhill trail fizzles out as you leave the top of the ridge, but you can see the valley below the whole way, so you can just enjoy a ridge-walk downhill.

As an alternative, at the top of the ridge (mile 2.1), you can go right and follow the trail to Bald
Mountain for a bigger view. It's worth the extra work to get there. Return to the ridge junction and cruise back to the trailhead or the Alder Creek Bridge.
After the hike, you can hit a local hot springs and/or have a burger in Crouch at the Longhorn Saloon. There are many places to camp in the area, particularly along the Middle Fork Payette Road north of Crouch, or you could stay at a Bed & Breakfast, the Garden Valley Hotel, or rent a private cabin. Check out the Garden Valley Chamber of Commerce web site for more information.

Most whitewater boaters know that the "surf's up" on the Payette River. It's cranking at about 4,400 cfs in Horseshoe Bend, according to the USGS. The South Fork "Staircase" section will be at a great level this weekend, and ditto with the Main Payette and the Middle Fork. It's still a little chilly out there, and the water is very cold, so dress accordingly. Wear life jackets. 
The Middle Fork Payette River 
If you're more of a canoe-type person who favors slower water, I highly recommend the Tie Creek section of the Payette River. It's an 8-mile reach from Tie Creek campground, north of Crouch, to the town of Crouch. The water level is plenty deep right now, and the current will be strong. There are no rapids along the way, just small chop and eddies along the shore. The Middle Fork is best floated in a canoe, inflatable kayak, raft or kayak. It'd be a real sporting run for a strong and experienced SUP'er.

Shuttle a vehicle to Crouch on the way to the launch. 

The thing I like about floating the Middle Fork is that you float by a whole bunch of private cabins along the way ... it's kind of interesting to check out the cabins -- some of them are curious-looking shanti's -- and say hi to the people as you float by.

Boise National Forest officials say all of the campgrounds in the Garden Valley and Middle Fork areas are closed this weekend. Tie Creek and Hot Springs will open on May 2, and more will open up after that, officials said. However, there are lots of places you could set up a self-support camp along the Middle Fork Road or in the Boise National Forest.  

After the hike, you can hit a local hot springs and/or have a burger in Crouch at the Longhorn Saloon. There is lodging in the area if you'd like to stay at a Bed & Breakfast, the Garden Valley Hotel, or rent a private cabin. Check out the Garden Valley Chamber of Commerce web site for more information.

Have fun!
- SS 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring road biking season is here! Bike events, great spring rides to inspire your participation

Riding to Swan Falls, Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area 
Riding on Cartwright Road, a hilly country road in the Boise Foothills 
Boise River Greenbelt
A pack of roadies on Hill Road 
City to Farm ... no traffic! 
Hi all,

The cool and sunny spring weather has been fantastic for doing just about anything outdoors ... and the weekend forecast looks great. It's a perfect time to shake the cobwebs off the road bike and get out and ride!

Let's review the roadie bike events coming up this summer, and then I'll suggest some nice spring roadie rides.

Key events coming up ... 
  • Boise Bike Week - Set for the week of May 13-18, Boise Bike Week already has a bunch of activities scheduled on the calendar. Activities include fun rides, kids rides, women's rides, road rides, mountain bike rides, tips on bike maintenance, ride to work day, etc. Thanks to the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance and Boise Weekly for co-sponsoring this fun-filled annual kickoff to the biking season in our communities.  
  • Bob LeBow Blues Cruise - The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health is teaming up with Terry Reilly Health Services this year to create a bigger and better Bob LeBow Blue Cruise. The ride will be on Saturday, June 28. There will be courses for all abilities and distances, great aid stations and a big lunch to follow the ride. 
  • Four Summit Challenge - Set for July 26, there's plenty of time to train for the popular Four Summit Challenge in Cascade. The main course follows Warm Lake Road over Big Creek Summit to Warm Lake and then up to the top of Landmark Summit to the end of the paved road, before turning around and cycling back to Cascade. This event is getting bigger and better every year. I'm hoping to do it this year. 
  • Ride Idaho - Scheduled for Aug. 2-9, Ride Idaho will tour the Magic Valley area, including scaling the road to Pomerelle Ski Area, touring the scenic Thousand Springs region, lower Wood River Valley, Carey and Declo. Ride Idaho carries your camping gear and you ride 400 miles in a week with 350 riders to tour parts of Idaho that perhaps you've never seen before, at least not from your bike. 
Here are some spring rides to get your legs in shape (all of these are drawn from the Boise Road Cycling Guide by yours truly, the best and only road-biking map available for roadie rides in SW Idaho):
  • Boise River Greenbelt from Municipal Park to Lucky Peak - 9 miles one way, 18 miles out and back. About 1 hour travel time. Surface is flat most of the way, with a few short hills here and there. You may have a tailwind going out, but you'll pay for that on the way back. Wind is always a factor. 
  • City to Farm Loop - 16.2 miles; ride time is about 1 hour. Fun tour of the transition zone between the city of Boise and rural agricultural lands in the outskirts of SW Boise, with many ranchettes along the way. Riding surface is mostly flat. Wind will be a factor. Start at Five Mile and Overland Roads. Go south on Five Mile, right on Lake Hazel, left on Cloverdale, right on Columbia, left on Eagle, right on Hubbard, right on Locust Grove, right on Lake Hazel, left on Five Mile and return to the start. 
  • Country Ride - Feel more ambitious? This one is 35 miles, and 2-plus hours. Start at Cloverdale and Lake Hazel. This one tours the country side in SW Boise and skirts around Kuna before returning to the start. Go south on Cloverdale, right on Poen, right on Swan Falls, left on Kuna Cave, right on Robinson, right on Bennett, straight on King, left on Cloverdale and return to the start. 
  • Cartwright Three Summits Loop - 17.7 miles, 1.5 hours. This is one of my favorite rides cuz it's close to my house. You'll climb and descend 1,591 feet along the way. This one is much more challenging because of the steep hills. Start at the junction of Bogus Basin Road and Hill Road. Climb Bogus Basin to Cartwright, go left and climb Cartwright over the first little hill, and then a second huge wall of a hill, and then ride through the Dry Creek Valley and the Hidden Springs area before climbing over Seaman's Gulch Road to conquer the third summit. Turn left on Hill Road and return to the start. 
  • Hill Road to Eagle or Star - Start at Bogus Basin Road and Hill, or wherever you want to tie into Hill Road, and zip out west to Eagle or Star. It's 40 miles out and back to Star. Wind is a major factor. Ride Hill to Horseshoe Bend Road. Go right, go a mile, then left on Floating Feather. Follow Floating Feather out to Eagle Road, or continue west to Star. Vary your route by going north another mile to Beacon Light. A cool alternative in Eagle: Go north on Eagle Road to the end of the pavement on Willow Creek Road. 
  • Ride to Swan Falls Dam - Start/finish in Kuna. 42 miles, 3+ hours travel time, 1,710 feet of elevation gain/loss. Nice place to ride without much traffic. Take Swan Falls Road south of Kuna (the turn is off of main street in Kuna as you come into town from the west) and go 21 miles to the dam. Besides the hill-climb, the ride features lots of up and down through the giant swells of sagebrush out to the edge of the Snake River canyon. Then you plunge downhill to the dam and grassy picnic area, have your lunch and retrace your tracks back to Kuna. Watch for hawks, eagles and owls. You'll see plenty of ground-squirrels running across the road. 
  • Greenbelt in Municipal Park to Hilltop Summit - 27 miles round-trip. 2.5 hours. 1,214 vertical feet. Take the Greenbelt out to Discovery Park and then jump on Idaho 21 to Hilltop Summit. Wind is always a factor on this ride. But it will work your quads for sure. Nice moderate gradual climb to Hilltop. Watch for deer and elk.     
Be sure to dress in layers and pack a good rain/wind shell. 

Have fun!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Just 15 days before Race to Robie Creek! Here are some training tips from Robie Cr. runners

Not far from the start ... (courtesy Idaho Statesman)
Are these guys going the wrong way? 
Near Aldape Summit 
Gotta love the encouraging signs along the way 
Near the finish
Course map, from Boise Trail Guide  (click to enlarge)
Hi all,

There's just a little over 2 weeks to go before the 37th annual Race to Robie Creek on Saturday, April 19. Have you been training? Are you ready?

I'm certainly no expert on long-distance running, so I asked a variety of veteran runners who have raced Robie Creek many times for their tips on training and race-day advice. Hope this helps with your training workouts for the "toughest half-marathon in the West!" I've been seeing a ton of people walking, running and biking on Rocky Canyon Road, getting ready for the big event. This year's race theme is "Killer Queen Robie."

BTW: Rocky Canyon Road is clear of snow all the way to Aldape Summit. There's some snow on the road on the other side of the pass, but I bet that will melt soon if it dries out and warms up.

These tips come from Boise Trail Guide: 75 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home and recent interviews with people in the know:

Mike Carlson, former head coach, Boise Run/Walk
1. The 13.1-mile course climbs 2,100 feet over the first 8.6 miles to Aldape Summit and descends 1,700 feet over the remaining 4.5 miles.
2. Watch where you put your feet: You might find snow, ruts and/or mud spots on Aldape Summit on race day, especially during the first mile of descent.
3. The best way to prepare for any event is to simulate in training what you’ll be doing on race day. So if you’re training for Robie Creek that means you must train on hills. And what better hills to train on than those on the race course!
4. Run long in the hills once a week if you’re accustomed to running hills, or once every other week if you aren’t.
5. Practice good up and downhill running form. Run vertically (no forward lean) uphill and run perpendicularly to the grade on the downhill (slight full-body lean). Take three steps per second to maximize
efficiency and minimize the pounding.
6. Strengthen your inner core, leg muscles and tendons to improve your balance.
7. In April, the weather can vary greatly, but it’s typically fairly warm and often humid. Train in warm conditions—indoors or during the warmest part of the day—to prepare.
8. Good shoes and insoles will serve you well on the descent from Aldape Summit. Make sure your shoes and insoles aren’t worn out, but are broken in.

Andrija Barker-McCurry, formerly of Bandanna Running and Walking
1. Don’t ignore the downhills. Everyone trains for the climb but it seems no one trains for the downhill aspect of Robie Creek. The uphill works your engine, but it is the downhill that beats up your body.
2. Don’t get too technical, thinking you should only train on the course or similar terrain. Boost your maximum oxygen uptake by throwing in interval work. Example: Run 200 meter repeats on your local track. 200 meters moderate to hard followed by 200 meters walk or jog recovery. Also, hill repeats. Run uphill hard for 30-60 seconds, turn around and jog down.
3. Remember nutrition. It is not what you eat the night before, or even the morning of – the weeks leading up to the race are the ones that count.
4. Recognize that Robie is not your local nine o’clock 5k. It is vital to eat enough the morning of to correctly fuel your effort. My favorite is a hearty bowl of oatmeal, a banana, a small glass of juice and a piece of toast. Eat three hours before the race and then have a small snack or a GU 15-20 minutes before race time.
5. Nutrition during the race can be confusing. Glycogen depletion usually begins to take affect when you run over ninety minutes. So, plan on taking a GU or the like and a small amount of liquid if you are running over 90 minutes. If you’re out there over two hours, plan on at least two GU’s plus liquid.

Erv Olen, 65, who ran the Race to Robie Creek 22 times (My friend Erv died of cancer in 2008, very sad deal)
1. Start training at least four months before the race (January 1st).
2. Run hills one day every other week. Start with 6 miles (3 up, 3 down), and work up to 12+ miles. I suggest running on the Robie Creek course.
3. Gradually increase weekly long runs to 16 miles.
4. Include weekly speed work. Alternate the following workouts: Start with 4 each 400 meters on a track at 5K pace with 200 meter slow jog in between. Build up to 6 each 1/2 mile intervals at 5K pace. Do hill sprints about 300 meters each. Start with 4 and work up to 8. Let heart rate get down to 100 beats per minute before repeating.
5. Every other week, do tempo runs. Start with 3-4 miles, work up to 6-8 miles. Run pace should be 15 seconds per mile slower than 10K pace.
6. Stretch well before and after workouts. Do easy runs in between hard days. It helps to do weight work 2 or 3 days a week. One rest day a week is a good thing.

Marguerite Lawrence, a frequent Race to Robie Creek participant
1. When training on Rocky Canyon Road, I recommend for the longer runs (8-10 miles), running a shuttle part way up the hill so you don’t have to run all the downhill on your way back.
2. For safety reasons, I don’t recommend running solo on weekdays in Rocky Canyon; however, on weekends in March and April, there are many other runners out there.
3. I run the summit two weeks before the race.

Mike "Shu" Shuman, owner of Shu's Idaho Running Company.
Race-day tips:
Shu in action 
1.  Carry your own water. Yes, there are water stops, but if you have trained carrying water it certainly will not hinder you. There have been many times while running Robie that I have wanted a drink or needed to Gu and not been anywhere near a water stop. Remember, when running Robie Creek you are pitting yourself against the mountain and she isn't forgiving. Therefore, you need to be as prepared as possible, so Carry Water!
2.  Take off your rings before leaving home. One of the most common things I hear from people that are in the "pack" is that their hands swell.  Mine always do. So, get rid of the jewelry!  If your hands do start to swell keep them above your head for awhile.  If you are a walker this seems to happen more often so
remember to keep your arms bent and in a pumping position instead of letting them hang at your sides so your blood doesn't pool in your hands.
3.  Wear gloves. The temperatures on Robie can go from one extreme to the other. Regulating your temp by putting gloves on or taking them off is a very easy thing to do.  I have had to put them on and off several times in the same race!
4.  If you get to the point to where you feel like you can't take another step running or walking (and you will get to that point) turn around and walk backward for a little while. It really helps because you are using different muscles and you give others a little time to rest. Another benefit to doing this is people will ask you what in the world you are doing.  Then you can tell them. Just by taking your mind off how you feel and talking to someone helps because you aren't so focused on your pain. This is a physical and mental break!
5. Be Rocky!!!  As you head up Shaw Mountain Rd. at about the 5th turn there is a family that always plays
the Rocky theme. Enjoy it while you are still fresh enough to do so! Laugh, dance and have fun.
6.  One of the best tips I would give to anyone about running Robie Creek is Don't Be Shy!!! Talk to the
other people around you. Just think, those people near you have covered the same distance you have in
about the same amount of time you have so they are probably feeling about the same way you are. Start a
conversation. Ask how they trained for the event. Share about how you trained. Conversation helps the
time go by faster and make the running easier because you aren't thinking about it.  Besides, you might just
learn something from that person and they could be a potential running partner some day.
7.  Send a change of clothes up in the Toad Mobile. The finish line and party are very crowded and it is
difficult to find people at times.  You want to change when you get there, not look for the person that has
your clothes. Put in clothes for warm and cold weather. You never know what it will be like at the
park.  Pack extra shoe and socks and a pair of sandels can feel great too. Be sure to mark you bag in a way
that will make it easy for you to find it.  ALL BLACK BAGS LOOK ALIKE!  Put bows on it or something!
8.  Enjoy yourself!  The memories of the pain does fade. Guess what? You'll get hooked and wonder what
you are doing back there next year!

What did we forget? Do you have other tips or suggestions? Please provide in the comments, section.

Have a great Race to Robie Creek!
- SS