Thursday, June 26, 2014

Pioneer Mountains, Copper Basin offer great camping, hiking, fishing in scenic splendor

On the divide above Goat Lake 
Betty Lake with Standhope Peak looming above 
Views from the rooftop of the Pioneers 
Steve and Wendy by Betty Lake 
Awesome campsite at the trailhead 
Trip map (click to enlarge)
Hi all,

I wanted to share some highlights from a sweet camping, hiking and fishing trip that we did several weeks ago in the backside of the Pioneer Mountains. Mid-week, I was already in the neighborhood, working on a story about several ranchers doing some progressive stuff in the Pahsimeroi Valley, so I came into the Pioneers from the Mackay side of Trail Creek Road. My friends Norm and Tim Nelson carpooled from Boise with Wendy and drove up via Sun Valley and Trail Creek Road to the East Fork of the Big Lost River. We met at the Broad Canyon trailhead in Copper Basin.

As I drove up East Fork, the Pioneers looked stunningly impressive and beautiful, and as always, I was excited about exploring a new spot in the Idaho backcountry. Previous to this trip, I had only explored the Pioneers from the Hailey side of the mountains.

The allure of the Pioneers is that they're generally off-the-beaten path, and the steep-faced mountains and peaks are not only super spectacular, but lofty! Many of the giant peaks in the Pioneers are in the 11,000-12,000-foot range, meaning that you have the chance to climb to the rooftop of Idaho! In the Sawtooths and Frank Church Wilderness, the tallest peaks are in the 10,000-foot range.

Broad Canyon turned out to be an excellent pick because it's got a great base camp at the trailhead, we had the whole place to ourselves for a 2.5-day weekend, and the snow was clear enough that Wendy and I were able to hike a circuit from the trailhead to Betty Lake, Goat Lake and Baptie Lake. Tim also bagged Standhope Peak (11,878 feet) from the rocky divide between Betty and Goat lakes.

The loop hike to the high lakes covered about 12 miles and featured 3,500 vertical feet of climbing and descending, so it's a BIG day to pull that off. It took us about 9 hours, including rest stops and lunch. We met Tim at the divide above Goat Lake and hiked back to camp together.

If I'd do it again, I'd backpack to Baptie Lake on Day 1, make a base camp, and then hike up to Goat Lake and Standhope Peak the next day, and walk out on Day 3.

There are many other hiking, camping and fishing trips in the East Fork and Copper Basin area. Here are several:

  • Take the Lake Creek Trail to a high basin with multiple lakes -- Big Lake, Rough Lake, Round Lake and Long Lake. Looks intriguing. It's about 4.5 miles from the trailhead to Big Lake. 
  • Explore Bellas Canyon to Bellas Lakes. It's about 3 miles to Bellas Lakes from the trailhead. This would be a good one for the kids. 
  • Camp in the Copper Basin area and ride mountain bikes on the Copper Basin loop road. This would be a 23-mile loop on a gravel road with 1,200 feet of gain. 
  • Fly fish the East Fork, North Fork or Main Fork of the Big Lost River. There are some nice cutthroat trout in there, plus some rainbows, cutbows, and grayling. Stop in Lost River Outfitters in Ketchum on your way to learn what flies/nymphs work best. 
  • Wildhorse Canyon is a fairly popular destination. The drainage takes you up to the backside of 12,009-foot Hyndman Peak.  
Events coming up this weekend: 
  • Ride Sun Valley Festival - June 27-29. Great chance to check out Sun Valley-area trails with experienced ride leaders, plus a women's clinic with Rebecca Rusch, racing events, movies, beer parties and more. See the event schedule for details. 
  • Terry Reilly/Bob LeBow Blue Cruise - Big road biking event that benefits several charities. Distances of 3, 10, 25, 35, 62 and 100 miles.
  • Pedal 4 the People - Huffy toss and log pull Friday night, grand finale party Saturday night at Crooked Fence Barrel House.  
There you have it! 

- SS

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cool events happening this weekend - Payette River Games, Pedal 4 the People

Courtesy Payette River Games 
Courtesy Payette River Games 
Courtesy Payette River Games 
"Bare as you Dare" event is Saturday night ... 
Belle of the Ball Crawl cross-dressing event 
Hi all,

There are a couple of great events going on this weekend -- the three-day Payette River Games extravaganza kicks off Friday morning in Cascade with SUP sprint races, men's and women's kayak xcross time trials and more; and Boise Bicycle Project's Pedal 4 the People starts Thursday night with a kickoff party at 10 Barrel Brewing, and continues for 9 more days of cycling, partying, wacky costumes, cross-dressing and more. How can you go wrong?

The Payette River Games offer a dizzying array of recreation competitions -- from SUP sprint and xcross events, to kayak xcross and freestyle events, music and entertainment, raft cross, disc golf, beach volleyball, lumberjack competition, bocce ball, horseshoes, yoga, dog fetch and more. Some of the lower-key activities like bocce ball are low-key bring-your-own bocce ball set, and have fun with your buddies in a bocce ball court provided by Kelly's Whitewater Park.

The purse for the SUP Elite race is $10,000 for the men's and women's winners. Wow! There are $3,000 purses for the winners of the kayak events. The list goes on. The prize money should up the ante for competition. Should be really fun to watch, if you're not competing. Here's an event schedule.

Last year, there were 350 athletes entered in the Payette River Games; this year, there are 500 athletes entered so far. It promises to be a highly entertaining weekend at Kelly's Whitewater Park in Cascade, plus live music on Friday and Saturday nights in the amphitheater. Should be a blast.

The lineup of events for Pedal 4 the People is too lengthy to detail here, but some of my favorites include:

  • Pedal for the Pint, Friday evening, a costumed bike parade and party at Wise Guy Pizza. Starts at 6 p.m. at Julia Davis Park and the ride goes to Wise Guy Pizza. All riders get a free beer. There are raffles and prizes. 
  • Bare as you Dare Saturday evening, starts at 9:30 p.m. at Camel's Back Park. Ride to the State Capitol in your "barely there" costume and party down at Bitter Creek Ale House afterwards. Should be fun to see how far people go to bare almost everything without breaking the law. 
  • Belle of the Ball Crawl next Thursday starting at the Lift Bar & Grill on West State. This is a costume party, and cross-dressing is encouraged. Last year's photos look hilarious!
  • Check out their events calendar and plan accordingly! Thanks to BBP for their energy and creativity! 
If you're going to be in Cascade for the Payette River Games, and you're looking for some hiking and biking opportunities nearby, I'd recommend Eagle's Nest mountain bike loop (download the free ride description and map from my Mountain Biking in McCall web page) for strong intermediate to advanced riders, the Crown Point Trail for kids and families, the Strand, a 2-mile trail along the Payette River next to Kelly's Whitewater Park for all abilities, or hiking/biking to Rice Lake, near Stolle Meadows and Warm Lake. This is a moderate hike of about 5 miles round-trip.

There you have it! Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, June 12, 2014

No blog this week but check out the North Fork Championships on the Payette River!

Hi all,

I'm rushing out of town this week for a story, so I'm not doing a detailed blog this week, and I won't be on the radio Friday morning.

But if I were you, I'd consider checking out the North Fork Championships on the Payette River today through Saturday. It should be really entertaining to watch, especially the slalom course on Jacob's Ladder Rapids -- the single steepest and toughest rapids on the North Fork -- on Saturday. Go early to get a great spot next to the river!

Here's the schedule of events.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Try out the new trails at Jug Mountain Ranch, Ponderosa Park in McCall

Jug Mountain Ranch has true freeride trails! 
JMR has tons of sweet singletrack trails ... 
Click to enlarge 
Ask about the shuttle service! 
Harper's Hollow Trail 
Here's Steve enjoying the JMR trail system ...  
Hi all,

I went up to McCall last weekend to do some maintenance at our cozy cabin in McCall, and also to participate in the CIMBA-SWIMBA Spring Fling trail-work day last Saturday at Jug Mountain Ranch.

They had an awesome turnout of at least 50 people, many of them from Valley County, and the various trail crews accomplished a ton of work! Our group worked on tread, upslope and downslope shaping on the newly cut-in North Elk Trail. We rode the trails in the mid-afternoon (they're a bit lumpy but they'll be great once they're burned in), and then came back to the JMR Clubhouse for beers and a barbecue. Great time had by all!

For this week's tip, I highly recommend visiting Jug Mountain Ranch, just south of McCall east of Lake Fork, for a great hiking or biking experience with the family or friends. I'm sure a lot of Treasure Valley folks are heading to McCall now that the kids are out of school. The JMR trail system has been enhanced repeatedly in recent years with the assistance of CIMBA volunteers to the point where the densely forested mountains are laced with many sinewy singletracks between Upper Jug Reservoir and the Clubhouse trailhead.

In the early editions of my guide, Mountain Biking in McCall, I detailed a lower loop and an upper loop. That was in the mid-1990s and later. Nowadays, there are multiple trails to enjoy between Upper Jug Reservoir and the Clubhouse, including the Vandelay Trail, Harper's Hollow, Rolling Rock, Stitches Freeride Trail, Double Shot Freeride Trail, North Elk, South Elk and more. JMR has nice signs marking the various trails, and it has large trail maps at big junctions. This is all a HUGE improvement! Thanks to JMR owner David Carey and CIMBA for all of the stellar work! It's impressive!

It's especially fun to ride the area with locals who really know the trail system. So if you can attend one of the CIMBA work/ride days in the future, that'd be a bonus.  

In the meantime, here's a couple of loops that I'd recommend:

  •   Ride #1 - From the Clubhouse, take South Elk, a fun and moderate singletrack on a cool tour of the lower JMR foothills to the South Boundary Road. Turn right and climb South Boundary Road, a two-track dirt road, to the Reservoir Junction. Ride over to the reservoir and do the Dam Loop. Enjoy the views. Take Vandelay, a really fun twisty singletrack, downhill over to Harper's Hollow Trail and take that singeltrack back to North Elk and return to the Clubhouse.   
  • Ride #2 - Ride Mainline uphill to the Landing. Ride uphill on Vandelay to the Reservoir, take the Dam Loop over to the north, and pick up a downhill trail that takes you back to the Landing. Take Rolling Rock and North Elk back to the trailhead. 
  • Ride #3 - Try out the Freeride Trails if you're so inclined ... they're really the only true freeride trails in the McCall area. Check 'em out and you be the judge.  

New trails also are getting cut-in at Ponderosa State Park! There's a new singletrack trail along the east shoreline of the peninsula that connects to the Huckleberry hiking and biking trail, and there's another singletrack that takes off from the main beach area and goes north through the huge ponderosa pines to the road to Osprey Point. You pop out on the road just short of the very top. We also rode a new trail that went from the beginning of the new Huck Jr. trail out so the south boundary of the park.

Here's a map of our tracks ...

The thing I love about the new trails at Ponderosa Park is that the trail system there has been pretty static for quite some time. They have lots of land to work with to provide more trails for the public to enjoy. Thanks to IDPR for making this happen!
Other noteworthy things going on this weekend:

  • Big water blowout in Riggins on Saturday. Tons of white-knuckle fun in big whitewater on the mighty Salmon River. 
  • Weiser River Trail Bike Ride on Saturday - Ride the most fun and scenic part of the trail, the upper 28 miles from New Meadows to Council. The ride is mostly downhill. 
Have fun! 

- SS