Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hike & camp by Crooked River or tackle the Silver City Skyline Tour for Labor Day

Fishing Crooked River
Leo Hennessy, Jerry Quick and Doug Lawrence near War Eagle Mountain.
Jim Young enjoys the views on the Silver City Skyline Tour 
Hi all,

I've got a couple of last-minute ideas for Labor Day weekend, places where you could go for a hike or a bike ride and camp nearby -- Crooked River near Idaho City or the Silver City Skylline Tour, starting and finishing in Silver City in the Owyhee Mountains.

The weather will be on the cool side in the mountains on Saturday, Sunday and Monday for Labor Day weekend, with temperatures in the 60s forecast in McCall, Stanley and Ketchum/Sun Valley, but to me, that's a bonus. Love the cool temps that come with fall weather! If you stay in town, it's supposed to fall into the high 70s, which sounds pretty fab for Boise, too!

The Crooked River Trail is featured in my Boise Trail Guide - 75 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. The easiest way to access the trail is via the Edna Creek Road off of Idaho State Highway 21, northeast of Idaho City and Mores Creek Summit. You'll see a highway sign for the Edna Creek Road and Atlanta, turning right off Idaho 21, about 60 miles east of Boise. There is a pull-out for the trailhead on the Edna Creek Road in the first half-mile from the highway. You can either hike or bike from here.

The trail is a moderate hike, but a little more challenging as a mountain biking trail because it is all singletrack, and that makes the riding a little trickier and technical. The trail runs downhill along Crooked River, but remember, you will have to climb back to the trailhead. About 4 miles down the trail, it becomes more sketchy with downfall, and you may want to turn around. The trail is supposed to extend all the way to the North Fork of the Boise River (10 miles one-way) but it needs much more clearing and maintenance to make that trip doable for Joe 6-Pack. 
Crooked River map. Click to enlarge. 
Bring a fishing pole if you like to fish. It's a beautiful creek with nice deep holes, and it's in a beautiful pine and fir forest setting. Be sure to bring a lunch with you to enjoy the scenery. 

Camping nearby: There are many unofficial camping areas on the Edna Creek Road in the first few miles after you turnoff of Idaho 21, and there's an official campground called Willow Creek about five miles up the road. There also are many self-support camping areas along the North Fork of the Boise River on the way to Deer Park. 
Silver City Skyline Tour map 
Now, if the notion of tackling the Silver City Skyline Tour in the Owyhees sounds appealing, I'll provide some basic directions for this 16.8-mile mountain bike ride, but I'd recommend buying my guidebook for the best details. I rated it strenuous/advanced in The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide. It features 2,750 feet of vertical gain. I loved the ride because it provides a rooftop tour of the mountains surrounding Silver City, and it's nifty that you start and finish in downtown Silver City. Be sure to bring plenty of food and water. After the ride, there are lots of places to camp just outside of Silver City or along Jordan Creek, you make the call. 
Back in downtown Silver City after the ride. Wa-hoo!
Doug Lawrence on the left, and Paul Hilding. 
Directions: Drive to Silver City and park off to the side of Main Street near the old hotel. To get there, go south of Nampa on ID 45 to Murphy. Watch for signs for Silver City on ID 78 as you're heading for Murphy, and follow the paved and dirt road to the historic mining town. 

Mile 0 - Ride back toward New York Summit from Silver City. 
Mile 1.2 - Turn right on BLM Road F483. This is your main route for the first half of the ride.
Mile 2.4 - Bear right on Road F483 at Y junction and climb.
Mile 4.7 - Reach junction with service road to the top of War Eagle Mountain. It's a short, but steep sidetrip to check out the summit. Check out the old buldings and mine shafts at the Poorman Mine near this junction ... it's a short sidetrip.
Mile 5.9 - Back at War Eagle junction. Bear right on Road F483 and cruise on your middle ring to the ridges and mountains to the south.
Mile 6.7 - Bear right at Y junction next to livestock watering area. Bear right again shortly afterward and climb a steep hill with lots of mobile rocks.
Mile 7.9 - Come to sweet overlook to the left of the main road. Cruise over to the trees to enjoy views looking out toward Triangle and the big wide open country of the Owyhees.
Mile 8.4 - Pass through barbed-wire gate.
Mile 9.2 - Bear right.
Mile 9.4 - Ignore trail going downhill on the right. Stay on the ridge.
Mile 9.6 - Pass through barbed-wire gate.
Mile 11.1 - Bear right and pass through gate. Going downhill now on ATV track.
Mile 11.8 - Come to 4-way junction. Take a hard right and climb super-steep ATV trail to a saddle at 12.6. Parts of the climb are rideable; some parts not. Go left at the junction and climb a little more until trail flattens out.
Mile 14.0 - Come to 4-way junction. Turn right and descend into Long Gulch on a jeep trail. It's a fun descent back to Silver City. There are a number of creek crossings.
Mile 16.8 - Arrive in downtown Silver City. You made it!     
Have you heard of the Idaho Smoke 'n Fire 400? A friend of mine, Scott Frey, told me about it at Tour de Fat, and it sounds totally amazing. It's a self-support mountain bike race starting on Wednesday, Sept. 10th in Boise, and god knows when riders will finish. They will be carrying their own overnight gear -- call it "bikepacking" -- as they ride an incredibly arduous course from Boise toward Anderson Ranch Dam to Ketchum to Stanley via dirt roads and trails to Bear Valley, Deadwood Reservoir, and then back toward Placerville before climbing over the Boise Ridge back to town. Wow! 

Sign up if this sounds appealing. Thirty-seven riders have signed up so far, including Scott. There is no entry fee and there are no prizes. Just bragging rights and survival.   
If you do stay in the Boise Valley this weekend, be aware that there are numerous Labor Day sales going on at your favorite outdoor stores -- preseason sales on skiing equipment, and closeout sales on boating, biking, hiking and camping equipment. Great time to buy!

Have fun!
- SS 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Two must-do rides in the White Cloud Mountains that will blow you away

These guys are living large in the White Clouds! L-R, Mark Anderson,
Mack Lyons, Roberto Negron, Steve Schneider and Jim Young.
Woo hoo! Roberto Negron descends into
Chamberlain Basin on a steep series of switchbacks,
with Castle Peak in the background.  
Hi all,

I missed out on a big weekend with some of my mountain bike buddies in the White Cloud Mountains because I was just coming off a Middle Fork Salmon River trip, and couldn't fit it in. But I heard all about it -- "it was totally epic, man ..." -- I've seen the photos, and my friends pretty much were exhausted and exhilarated all at once after the experience.

I'm recapping their experience in my blog this week because the two rides they notched in the White Clouds are some of the best rides in Idaho and the Rocky Mountain West, in my opinion. The scenery is totally spectacular. Very unique. It's pretty rare to ride by high mountain lakes and high peaks like you do in the White Clouds. 
Hanging out on the saddle divide ... 

On Saturday, they rode a huge traverse in the White Clouds from 4th of July Creek Trailhead to the East Fork of the Salmon River. This ride is often referred to as the Castle Divide Trail. They also rode the Big Boulder - Frog Lake - Little Boulder Loop. Both of these rides will be doable until the snow flies in October. September would be a great time to plan to go there. These rides are pretty much advanced to expert cross-country rides because of the endurance and skill set required. 

"Oh man, it was incredible," said Doug Lawrence, a retired school teacher. Noting that the big loop took them 7.5 hours, Doug said, "it was a frickin' workout. But what an incredible downhill from the Castle Divide all the way down Little Boulder Creek. It was 9-10 miles of downhill, and there was cold beer in the rig, so that was perfect."

"I thought the Big Boulder-Little Boulder Loop was fun, but the big traverse was totally awesome," added Jim Young, a retired log home builder. "I'd say that's a bucket-list ride for sure. You've got to do that once in your lifetime."
Remember that the White Cloud Mountains are used by horseback riders,
backpackers, motorbikes, trail-runners, etc.  ... so keep a watch ahead on the
trail for other users and yield accordingly.   
Plus, folks who worry about how the proposed Boulder-White Clouds National Monument would affect these trails will be relieved to know that both of these loops are included in a MOU hammered out by IMBA and the Wood River Bike Coalition with monument advocates. Both loops would remain open under the monument proposal. 

Loop #1 - Big Boulder-Little Boulder Loop - About 20 miles. Riding time: 5.5 hours. Vertical gain: 2,800 feet. Access is off the East Fork of the Salmon River Road. Take the dirt road up Big Boulder Creek to the Livingston Mill area and the Big Boulder Creek Trailhead. Take the Big Boulder Creek Trail to the Frog Lake Trail and descend on Little Boulder Creek. The climb is reasonable on Big Boulder Creek Trail, and the downhill on Little Boulder Creek is rocky and technical in places. Leave a shuttle vehicle at the bottom of Little Boulder Creek. 

Loop #2 - White Clouds Grand Traverse - "Castle Divide" Ride - 25 miles. 5,000+ vertical gain; riding time 6-7.5 hours. Sturtevants in Ketchum runs a regular shuttle service. Call 726-4501 to book it. You can leave Sturtevants in Ketchum at 8 a.m. and be back by 6 p.m. They drop you off at 4th of July trailhead and pick you up on the East Fork. My friends hired a Stanley shuttle service (Sawtooth Transportation) to take them from the East Fork to the 4th of July trailhead, and they camped on the East Fork. 

The Castle Route route is totally amazing ... you start at the 4th of July Trailhead, ride over to Washington Lake, then climb over to Chamberlain Basin, ride a super-steep trail to the top of Castle Divide (on the shoulder of Castle Peak), and then descend on the Little Boulder Trail down to the East Fork. So there are three major climbs and then the long rocky downhill on the Little Boulder Creek Trail. 
All eyes on the map! 
"It's pretty cool to ride through the pine trees, aspens, red rocks and sagebrush until you come to the East Fork," said Mark Anderson, an engineer in Boise. "Because of all the climbing and the stops we made along the way, we only averaged a little better than 3 miles per hour. We were all pretty gassed by the end. One of our guys fell off his bike on Little Boulder, so he was hurting pretty bad by the time we finished."

The folks at IMBA put together this super-cool virtual tour of the Castle Divide Ride. Check it out.

In case you're interested in the monument proposal, and how mountain bikers would be affected, see this press release on the MOU from the IMBA web site
Paul Hilding strikes a pose 
Full disclosure: I personally am in favor of the monument proposal because it would allow nearly all of the key mountain bike trails to remain open in the White Clouds, while protecting the ecological values in the high alpine areas and world-class fish and wildlife habitat. The old wilderness proposal (CIEDRA) would have closed off a number of those routes to biking, but the wilderness bill appears to be dead in our do-nothing Congress. I work for several groups in support of the monument, so I am biased. I'm also a longtime IMBA member. 
Beer-me now! 
Hope you have a chance to experience these rides. You will love it! 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Let's go hiking! Five of my favorite kid-friendly hikes in Stanley and McCall

Hi all,

The summer is fast slipping away! There's only a couple of weeks left before school starts, so time is running short to get the kids and family out of town for some mountain adventure in our state's top scenic locations in SW Idaho -- Stanley and McCall.

For my outdoor tip this week, I'm recommending five kid-friendly hikes in these cool, high-elevation areas:

4th of July Lake (courtesy
1. Short hike to 4th of July Lake and Washington Lake, Stanley area - This one is ideally suited for young kids because it's not a very long hike. It's about 1.7 miles to 4th of July Lake, and 2.8 miles to Washington Lake. Very easy hiking in a beautiful mountain setting in the White Clouds! Access the trailhead by driving south of Stanley to Iron Creek Road on the left side of Idaho 75. Take the road about 10 miles to the trailhead. Bring your flower book.
Drew and Quinn take a breather on the way to Alpine Lake
Gorgeous basin you climb through to reach the lakes 
Alpine Lake, the best spot for camping
Sawtooth Lake ... beautiful but not much flat space for camping
2. Iron Creek Trail to Alpine Lake or Sawtooth Lake, Stanley area - The Iron Creek Trailhead is located a few miles west of Stanley. Follow the Iron Creek Road to the trailhead and park. It's 8 miles out and back to Alpine Lake and 10 miles out and back to Sawtooth Lake. Alpine Lake lies in a shady forested setting. Sawtooth Lake is much higher with open views of the Sawtooth Mountains. It's a hefty hike to either location on a steep mountain trail, but your kids will do great. I also see a lot of young kids backpacking to Alpine Lake on this hike.  

Marsh Creek 
3. Marsh Creek fishing special, Stanley area - Fish for native westslope cutthroat trout on the Marsh Creek trail (single-barbless hooks only; catch-and-release) in this key tributary of the famed Middle Fork of the Salmon River. It's a 5-mile hike one-way from the trailhead to a glory hole at the junction with Bear Valley Creek. It's worth the walk if you're a diehard. Access the trailhead by taking Idaho 21 to the Lolo Campground and Bradley Boy Scout turnoff in the Cape Horn area. Turn left and proceed to the Lolo Campground. The trailhead is just past the campground.

Steve and Drew at Snowslide Lake 
Steep trail to Snowslide!  
Drew catches a little brook trout
4. Snowslide Lake, McCall - It's a steep two-mile hike on a rocky trail to Snowslide Lake, but it's a lovely forested lake with a bunch of small brook trout available for kid fishing. My son, Drew, and I hiked up there with Wendy and Huck last weekend. Had a great time! Took us about an hour to get to the lake at a swift pace.

Huckleberry Trail, Ponderosa State Park 
5. Huckleberry Trail, McCall - Ponderosa State Park built an addition to the Huckleberry Trail late last fall, and hikers and mountain bikers are really enjoying it -- for good reason. The trail runs alongside the east side of the peninsula, providing great views of this quiet side of Payette Lake. The trail starts off of the Fox Run Trail, best accessed from Pilgrim Cove Road. Follow the Huckleberry Trail along the lake for 2-3 miles until you join the main Huckleberry Trail. Continue on if you wish and enjoy a more deep forest setting to the top of Osprey Point.

There you have it!
Have fun!
- SS