Thursday, May 29, 2014

Stoked for road-biking this year? Training tips, rides and clubs to help you out

Meet new friends by joining a road biking club in Boise ... 
Group rides allow for drafting and fast riding! 
Hill-climbing group rides help you shave minutes off your best times climbing to Bogus 
Hi all,

I'm not sure exactly why, but I've been more inspired and excited to ride my road bike this year. Part of it is that I have a fairly new Specialized Secteur Sport road bike that's really fast, fun and comfortable to ride, and I've set more aggressive fitness goals for myself this year. Plus, I signed up for the Four Summit Challenge from Cascade to Landmark in late July, so I want to make sure I'm in solid road-biking shape for that event. And I may commit to more road bike events before then.

I'm assuming that some other folks may have the road-biking bug, too. Or maybe you're a wanna-be ... you'd like to ride longer distances, but you're not sure where to go, and you'd like to meet some other folks who ride at the same pace and have similar goals.

For this week's outdoor tip, I'm recommending some roadie clubs that you could hook up with to meet new folks, get tips on training, and do regular weekly rides.

First, my mantra is that bicycling should be and must be FUN! Always! If you're working on adding more mileage to your workouts, it's wise to do so in phases versus trying to do it all at once. That will make it easier on your butt, too. Gotta break in your butt for biking!

Jeff Larsen from Community Bicycle Rides recommends that you build your mileage slowly, adding a 10% increase per week. "Take on challenges in bite-sized chunks," he said. "Ease into it."

I totally agree. I do that when I'm trying to up the ante on mountain bike trails or on the road. It's a system that works. Build the mileage gradually, but keep challenging yourself as you get stronger, and keep building on the momentum. Do a few weights and core exercises on off-days to build on your fitness routine. Who needs a personal trainer when you can ride a bike for fitness?

Bike Clubs! What are they? How to get involved? Boise has several road-biking clubs, including Lactic Acid CyclingCommunity Bicycle Rides, and Lost River Cycling. I'm sure I'm leaving out others (please let me know!) All three of these organizations are really solid. They offer regular weekly rides, including social rides and coffee rides. Check out the calendars on their web sites to see what might work for you.

For example, Lactic Acid is hosting a National Women's Day Ride on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. at George's Cycles on Front Street in downtown Boise. They are offering three bike rides, a recreational ride, a road ride and a mountain bike ride. A social hour will follow, along with some swag giveaways.

Lactic Acid focuses on hill-climbing on Tuesday nights, social rides on Thursdays, and no-drop rides on Saturday, typically with a group that goes 40 miles or less, and a stronger, faster group that goes about 80 miles. "No one is left behind," promises Lynn Johnston, social director for Lactic Acid.

If you've never ridden in a group or draft line before, Lactic Acid's experienced cyclists will show you how to ride safely in a group, in terms of how to draft correctly, use turn signals and follow the rules of the road.

A related group is called "Spinderella," offered Wednesday nights at George's for women only. These are beginner/intermediate road rides. Spinderella has a Facebook page with more information.

Community Bicycle Rides (CBR) has a slightly different style for its group rides, Larsen says. Instead of riding in big groups, they give participants maps of the route they'll be riding that particular day, and folks can ride at their own pace. Some cyclists who participate in CBR also are Lactic Acid members or Lost River members, he said.

The CBR ride calendar shows that CBR partners with a variety of bike shops around the valley, to help cyclists learn what these shops have to offer, and offer different locations for the ride starting points, and bike routes.

On Sunday, June 1st, CBR is launching "Bogus for Beginners," in which riders can learn how to climb and descend Bogus Basin Road over a five-week period, gradually building mileage each week. This is led by David Bogie of the MWI Cycling Club. He rides a recumbent. The ride starts in the old Ridley's parking lot on Bogus Basin Road, across from Healthwise.

Lost River Cycling has a great roster of weekly rides as well ... they host a Hump Day Road Ride on Wednesdays, a mountain bike ride on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Jonny Z's Temp Ride on Saturdays.
LRC also offers "the Tourist Group," a Sunday ride done in conjunction with CBR.

Bike shops throughout the valley do ad hoc road rides and mountain bike rides. Check with your favorite bike shop for information about that. Idaho Mountain Touring's racing team, IMT/Rino Rush, has no-drop road rides every Monday at 6 p.m. leaving from IMT downtown; anyone is welcome. The team also will offer a series of clinics and informational videos for new riders. IMT is hosting a women’s bike demo on Saturday at 10 a.m.
All of the roadie clubs link to the SWICA race calendar ... for information on road-biking events coming up all summer. Several rides are coming up in June that sound intriguing:

  • Lemhi Valley Century Ride - 100 miles or 100 kilometers, pick your poison, Saturday, June 21. I love the scenery in the Lemhi River Valley southeast of Salmon. It's a classic mountain valley framed by the Lemhi and Beaverhead mountains with a number of cattle ranches in the valley floor. 
  • The Terry Reilly Bob LeBow Blue Cruise - Saturday, June 28. Lots of distance options on this ride, 3, 10, 25, 35, 62 and 100 mile courses.   
  • Great Owyhee Ride - Saturday, June 21. Distances of 50, 62 or 100 miles, starting in Ontario, Ore., and heading out to Owyhee Dam. 
And then in July, there's more fun, including the Four Summit ChallengeRide Idaho occurs in early August ... Check the club calendars for more details. 

If you'd like to know more about where to ride your road bike in the greater Boise area, check out my Boise Road Cycling Guide, a waterproof and tear-proof fold-out map that features 30+ road rides throughout the valley, and a few bonus rides in Canyon County and SW Idaho. 

Hope I've inspired you just a smidge to get involved in road biking this summer! 
SWIMBA, Central Idaho Mountain Biking Association (CIMBA) and IMBA are hosting a Spring Fling trail work day, ride and party on Saturday at Jug Mountain Ranch. Trail work starts at 10 a.m., the ride at 2:30 p.m., and party at 4:30 p.m. I'm planning on being there ... Great excuse to go to McCall! 
- SS 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

10 rock-solid ideas for camping and outings over Memorial Day weekend in SW Idaho

Always great to get the kids out camping in the mountains 
Time to pull out the Dutch oven! 
We love to camp so we can relax in camp and shoot the bull ... 
Salmon River beach scene! Won't need the sun tarp this time of year ... 
Morels are happening! 
Hi all,

The weather looks pretty darn nice for Memorial Day weekend! Highs in the mid-70s to 80s in the lower elevations, and highs in the high 60s and low 70s in the mountains. Very little chance of precipitation. So, hey, time to load up the rig with all of your camping gear for the official launch of the camping season over Memorial Day weekend.

The Idaho Statesman outdoors team 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 6,500-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 my 10 rock-solid ideas for Memorial Day camping and outings:

  • Camping in the Owyhees should be fine, but be forewarned, the rattlesnakes are emerging. See my spring camping blog post from March ... places like Bruneau Dunes State ParkLeslie GulchSuccor 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 self-support dispersed camping areas in both river corridors. Keep an eye on your kids. The rivers are running high. 
  • Camping near Stanley should be fine, too, at low elevations. Stanley Lake Campground is open. So are the campgrounds at the ever-popular Redfish Lake and vicinity. Can't beat the view!   
  • Morel mushrooms are popping up in the Boise National Forest and Payette National Forest. Morels are delicious and easy to identify. Look for them between 4,500 and 5,500 elevation. Might be good pickings in the Pony and Elk complex fire zones from last summer, but not sure how much of that is accessible to the public.  
  • Another cool spring camping location is on the HUGE white sandy beaches along the Salmon River, upstream of Riggins. There are numerous big 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. 
  • Idaho has lots of great state parks! Visit the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation web site to check out the camping opportunities. I've mentioned Lake Cascade and Bruneau Dunes, but there's also Three Island Crossing State Park, Ponderosa State Park and Thousand Springs State Park to consider in SW Idaho.  
Those are a few ideas to chew on ... Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Try hiking or riding Avimor trails ... moderate, twisting, fun singletracks for all abilities

Lots of trails, blue sky and open space at Avimor 
Mike Edwards, President of SWIMBA, operates the ST-240 trail-cutting machine at Avimor.
Photo courtesy Idaho Statesman

Volunteers buff out the trails at Avimor

Big bridge project turns out very nice! 
Hey all,

It's been fun to watch the new hiking, biking and horseback trails evolve, improve and expand at Avimor, a budding housing development with lots of open space located a few minutes north of Boise on Idaho 55. I went out there last Sunday with John Wheaton, Amy Haak, and Scott Perryman from the Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA) and got a personal tour of some of John's favorite trails and some of Scott's recent handiwork on the ST-240.

When I was updating the latest edition of Mountain Biking in Boise several years ago, I rode a cool short loop featuring a super-fun downhill along Spring Valley Creek, and I also featured the Coyote Classic sport and expert loops at Avimor, and a challenging long loop to Sheep Rock, located several thousand vertical feet above the valley floor. Both of those rides ended up in my book.

Since that time, SWIMBA has been working to expand Avimor's trail system through hundreds of hours of sweat equity, and they have their new ST-240 trail-cutting machine that they've been putting to use as well! Here's an overview map of their trail system with details about each trail.

What I enjoyed about our ride on Sunday was that we stayed in the lower to mid-range foothills the whole time, exploring all kinds of different singletrack trails. The trails we climbed were moderate, not that steep. It seems that the Boise Foothills don't have very many moderate trails except in Military Reserve and Polecat Gulch ... I feel for the beginning and intermediate riders when they complain that all the trails in the foothills "go straight up!"

Last Sunday, we started at the Avimor trailhead by the tennis courts and rode the following circuit:

  • Up Broken Horn Road to Baun's Eye Trail #15 and then Broken Horn Trail #12 and climbed to the saddle above Spring Valley Creek. 
  • Dropped down to the Spring Valley Creek Trail #9 junction (be sure to cross the creek first, and then the trail peels off to the left), and zoomed down Spring Valley Creek Trail. Tons of fun. Be sure to watch for other trail users coming up the trail. 
  • Took Shooting Range Trail over to Bovine Nirvana, rode a new trail yet to be named that Scott had put in recently with the ST-240 and then came back on Shooting Range and Twisted Spring Trail. 
All told, we rode about 12.5 miles over three hours at a leisurely pace. Exploring the trails at Avimor is much easier now because they have trail maps at the clubhouse, and many of the trail junctions are marked with trail signs. I recommend exploring the area if you like to hike or ride horseback, too.

Pack some food, water and sun screen and enjoy the beautiful May weather!

BTW, if you'd like to help SWIMBA enhance the trail system at Avimor, there is a work day planned on Saturday with Broken Spoke Cycling. People are meeting at 8:30 a.m. at the park. Turn left at the T-junction as you come into the community, and park by the tennis courts.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Grande Ronde River is a fantastic springtime getaway; plus Boise Bike Week

It was sunny and warm on Friday ... floated 10 miles in the afternoon before making camp. 
Hiking above the river provides a great perspective on the Grande Ronde canyon. 
Jarod and Vivian with their bird dogs ... they're great fun! 

Spacious campsite on a piney bar 
Doug Lawrence baked Vivian's birthday cake to perfection in the Dutch oven
Wendy enjoyed the moss and the flowers,
and she always likes being on the river!  
We saw quite a few bald eagles 
Hi all, 

Last week, the weather was SO nice that we seized the day and embarked on an impromptu three-day trip on the Grande Ronde River in NE Oregon, floating from Minam (northeast of La Grande) to Powatka Bridge, a distance of about 39 miles. 

It turned out to be a fantastic trip. The Grande Ronde is a great choice in the spring because the countryside is soooooooooooooooooooo velvety green and beautiful, the river flows are high enough to cover the rocks and make navigation really easy, and wildflowers are blooming everywhere. Self-issue permits are easily obtained at the put-in, and there are dozens of sweet campsites to chose from as you float the canyon. 

In terms of difficulty, the Grande Ronde is rated Class 2 - 3, which is pretty low key on the whitewater scale. For our trip, we had 5,500-7,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of river flow. At that flow, we scooted along, clocking river miles with ease. Just put the oars under your knees, kick back and sip a beverage while enjoying the scenery and wildlife along the way. 

We took two rafts and had one hardshell kayaker for a nice, small party of 5. I'd be possible to canoe the Grande Ronde with experienced paddlers and flotation, and it'd be fun to paddle it with an inflatable kayak. You'd just need to wear cold-water gear to be comfortable. 

From Boise, it takes about 4 hours to get to the put-in -- 3 hours via I-84 to La Grande, and an hour on two-lane paved roads to Minam, a little roadstop next to Minam State Park, a gorgeous place to camp the night before you launch, if you wish.

One of the neatest parts of floating the Grande Ronde is staying in those beautiful, grassy riverbank campsites amid ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees. On night #2 of our trip, we stayed in this spacious campsite that was easily as cool as some of the best camps on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. It had a large grassy meadow, a big kitchen area in the trees, a hike up a ridge behind camp, and lots of wildflowers. 

For vehicle shuttles, you can sign up at the Minam put-in ($90 per vehicle), and you can buy BLM river maps there as well. It's no farther to the Grande Ronde put-in than it is to drive to Middle Fork. It just happens to be in Oregon!
Doug Lawrence is ready for his next adventure. 
As the water drops -- it's running at 6,470 this week -- you have to bring your fishing pole. It's a quality trout fishery, and in the fall, it's full-on steelhead fishing similar to the Riggins area in Idaho.

View from the top of Wildcat Grade as we drove away ... 
If you don't have your own rafting stuff, there are three outfitters that offer trips on the Grande Ronde: ROW AdventuresOregon Whitewater Adventures and All Star Rafting and Kayaking. If you have an interest in learning how to row a raft, renting one to float the Grande Ronde would be a great way to break into the sport.
Next week is Boise Bike Week! There are a whole bunch of events going on throughout the week that sound fun. Check out the calendar of events and contribute to the pedal power in our community. The Trail of Beers is my favorite this year. It's a new event where cyclists will ride to different beer pubs, get discounts on beer, and then ride to the next establishment. The official Kick-Off party for Trail of Beers will take place Monday May 12th at Highlands Hollow Brewhouse, following the Twilight Ride that will leave from there at 6:00 p.m. They're going to close down the parking lot and throw a party with a live band starting at 7:30 p.m. featuring members of the Random Canyon Growlers. It will be a great time! 

No radio program this week ... I'll be back on 94.9 FM next week at 7:30 a.m. 

-- SS

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Here are three off-the-beaten-trail spring camping tips in the Owyhee Canyonlands

The Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway can be fun for mountain biking, too ...
Photo courtesy Tad Jones 
Big picture map of the byway
Toy Pass and vicinity ... Silver City is by the snow-packed mountains 
Wendy rides the wind currents on top of the mountains near Toy Pass 
Steve near the mouth of Mary's Creek 
Mary's Creek confluence in Sheep Creek 
You should see wildflowers this weekend ... Bring your plant guide! 
Hi all,

Well, the weather looks positively fabulous this weekend, so a lot of people have been asking me for some good ideas about spring camping in the Owyhees. First, you need to pick up our Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook for the most in-depth information. But here in my outdoor tip of the week, I'll share three ideas from the book that are family friendly and pretty easy to find.

In today's Idaho Statesman, the IdahoOutdoors team highlighted some excellent scenic drives, hiking and camping destinations in the Owyhees, including Leslie Gulch, Succor Creek State Park, and Jordan Craters. The only issue is those places will be pretty popular and busy this weekend, so you might want to try something that's a little more off the beaten path.

Here are three that aim to please:
1. Drive the Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway and find your own custom spot to make camp. I recommend starting on the byway by Grand View, (Gus's gas stop has copies of our Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook), and driving south into the Owyhees to the top of the first summit. Turn left on the dirt road heading over to Little Jack's Creek, and find a cool spot to camp and hike. Be sure to take a BLM map with you so you can navigate the dirt roads. The backcountry byway has many other options for camping such as the Antelope Springs Road, Deep Creek junction, Nickel Creek Table and the North Fork of the Owyhee BLM campsite, the only developed campsite on the 100-mile byway. The byway is suitable for 2WD vehicles. Side roads may require 4WD.

2. Toy Pass - We've got 2 hikes from the Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook that start and finish at Toy Pass. This spot is at 5,875-foot elevation, south of Oreana. You drive to Toy Pass, do a day hike from the pass to the mountains on either side of the road, and then go look for a campsite afterwards. There's a sweet campsite in a pullout on the south side of Toy Pass, and there are other places to camp on the road farther south toward Triangle on BLM land. Again, bring a BLM map with you to navigate the roads. To reach Toy Pass, take ID 78 east from Walters Ferry, south of Nampa, go past Murphy and watch for a road sign for Oreana. Turn right and drive 2 miles into the tiny town. Bear right at Our Lady, Queen of Heaven Catholic Church at the corner, and take the Bachman Grade Road to Toy Pass. It's about 13.5 miles to the top. This road is suitable for 2WD vehicles. Side roads may require 4WD.

3. Mary's Creek/Sheep Creek Wilderness. Mary's Creek is an easy-to-access tributary of Sheep Creek Canyon, which is one of the BLM wilderness areas in the Owyhee Canyonlands. There is a self-support camping area at the "trailhead" next to Roland Road. You could camp there, and then do the Mary's Creek Loop, hiking into the bottom of spectacular Sheep Creek Canyon, and then hike back. You also could backpack into Sheep Creek Canyon and camp there. The full loop detailed in our guidebook is 8.75 miles, with 1,400 feet of vertical gain/loss. Scenic hike and nice spot to camp. To reach Mary's Creek, take ID 51 south of Bruneau about 40 miles to a signed turnoff for the Rowland Road by the old bar and junk yard at Grasmere. Turn left on Rowland Road and follow that 5.2 miles to the Mary's Creek trailhead. There's a BLM kiosk at the trailhead.

Watch for wildflowers while you're out there ... and bring a plant guide to help with identification. Here's one guide that I highly recommend -- the Backpack Guide to Idaho Range Plants.

There you have it! Enjoy the sunshine no matter what you do!