Thursday, October 9, 2014

Big game rifle seasons open in SW Idaho on Friday; a few tips on where to avoid hunters

Deer season opens Friday in many parts of Idaho. 
Hi all,

Head's up to hikers, trail-runners, mountain bikers and campers ... General deer season opens Friday, Oct. 10 in many parts of Idaho, and will remain open through the end of the month. Then, elk season will be following Nov. 1-9, and there are a multiplicity of hunting seasons that will be running through the fall, including upland bird hunting, duck hunting next to the rivers, and more.

If you're planning to go for an outing in the woods, be sure to wear bright colors -- hunter orange is pretty darn bright and effective! -- and put a hunter orange vest on your dog.

If you'd like to check out the hunting regulations to know the exact dates for the various hunting seasons, check out the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's web site for more information.

In the meantime, here are a few suggestions on where you might avoid hunters:
  • Ridge to Rivers trails in the Boise Foothills. The lower foothills trails would be best. There will be road hunters on the Boise Ridge Road, Rocky Canyon Road, Bogus Basin area, and in the Boise River Wildlife Management  Area, north of Harris Ranch. BTW, sheep were seen on the upper Three Bears trail yesterday; they are moving west for the next couple of weeks in the mid-foothills. 
  • October is a great month for visiting the Idaho Bird Observatory on top of Lucky Peak. I noticed that the public is invited to help the bird observatory crew work with owls on the 10th and 11th of October this weekend. See this web site for more information. Here's a video about the operation up there. Great chance to see birds of prey as they move from the Boise Foothills to points south. 
  • Trails in the Owyhee Front would be a good place to go without seeing very many hunters. Check out my book, The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Adventure Guide for specific ideas. I would recommend Succor Creek State Park, Leslie Gulch, Sage Creek, Browns Creek, Toy Pass and Between the Creeks as great places to explore this time of year.
  • Trails in the Hailey, Ketchum Sun Valley area such as Greenhorn Gulch, Hyndman Creek, Adams Gulch, and Galena Lodge area. 
  • Trails close to McCall such as Ponderosa State Park or Jug Mountain Ranch.    
  • Tamarack Resort Trails close to the resort. There are a bunch of short singletracks that are fun for hiking and biking like Pelican, Kestrel and Wild Turkey.  
  •  Anywhere you go in the Boise, Sawtooth or Payette national forest, you are likely to see hunters, so be aware of that. 
As I have done for a number of years, I am going to take a break with my outdoor tips during the fall hunting season, and start them up again after the snow flies. Have fun out there!
- SS    

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Idaho Hot Springs mountain biking route proves to be a big hit with cyclists

Looking out the double doors in the hot springs behind
the Mountain Village Hotel in Stanley.

Looking over at Redfish Lake from a White Clouds singletrack trail. Wowsa!  
Riding through an old Idaho burn in Central Idaho.
Camping by Washington Lake in the White Clouds. 
Hi all,

We're in the heart of the fall season, and the weather is pretty much perfect for biking. It's a good time to tackle some challenging high-elevation rides because of that wonderful cool, crisp mountain air.

I wanted to recommend the Idaho Hot Springs Route, as something to consider this fall -- not necessarily the whole thing (the route is over 500 miles) -- but maybe there are chunks of it that you'd like to ride before the snow comes, whenever that may occur.

The Hot Springs Route is a brand new mountain biking route, the brainchild of Casey Greene, an avid rider and a cartographer for Adventure Cycling in Missoula, Mont. Casey came up with the idea after doing a 10-day bike tour across North Idaho and Montana when he and some friends biked to a different fire lookout tower every night. "At the end of the tour, I thought this whole concept of having a destination where you end up each night was kind of cool ... basically, destination mountain biking," Casey said.

The light bulb for the hot springs route went off when he was soaking at a hot springs in Pole Bridge, Mont. He was thinking that Idaho had the highest concentration of hot springs in North America, so why not try to connect the dots? He started evaluating the situation from looking at maps, plotting the hot springs, looking at connecting routes, and came up with a tentative route. Then he ground-proofed them to see if it would work. Last summer, he rode the whole route that's connected by dirt roads, all 517 miles of it, and he also logged a number of singletrack routes that add spice to the whole experience.

Adventure Cycling published a set of two maps -- the main route and the singletrack routes (227 miles), and rolled them out in February. Turns out Casey had a pretty hot idea! The maps are selling like hot cakes and they've already done three printings in the last eight months. The first version came out in February 2014.

Lots of people are trying the route, and they're really enjoying it, Casey says. Dylan Gradhandt of Boise rode the entire dirt road route with his brother-in-law in mid-June. "It was a blast, I'd do it again," Gradhandt says. "In bicycle touring terms, I'd give it a huge "approved for all audiences" rating. It's actually super doable for the average cyclist, in my opinion." 

It took them 11 days of pedaling to cover the whole 517-mile route. They resupplied every 2-3 days. They included one rest day. They did the whole route without vehicle support and traveled very light with special bike packs. 

You can see the pack set up on the bike and a very lightweight tent ...
photo courtesy Dylan Gradhandt
The timing of the hot springs route was great because the whole sport of "bike-packing" is becoming quite popular, and the hot springs route is tailor-made for either bike-packing or riding with vehicle support, Casey says. "Bike-packing is like the new hot thing right now." 

Plus, cyclists from all over the nation are realizing that there's a lot more to Idaho than just potatoes. "The hot springs are like the big enticement, but once people come to Idaho, they are blown away by the scenery, the people, and the rugged mountains," he says.

The main hot springs route follows dirt roads.
It's a big loop from Boise to Ketchum to McCall
and back. 
The main hot springs route provides access to 41 hot springs along the way. Because it follows dirt roads, Greene says you could do the route with light-weight bike-packing gear, more traditional panniers, or Bob trailers. You also could do it with vehicle support, and take turns driving the support vehicle.

The optional singletrack routes feature a number of popular mountain singletracks such as the Bear Pete Trail near Burgdorf Hot Springs, Eagle's Nest Trail near Cascade (both featured in my Mountain Biking in McCall book) and some of the sweet singletracks in the White Clouds and the nifty Willow Creek trail along the South Fork of the Boise River near Featherville. The singletrack optional route provides access to another 10 hot springs.

Optional singletrack trails on the Hot Springs route. 
You'll need to order the two-map set to get all of the details. They cost only $29.50. You can order the maps on the Adventure Cycling web site.        

If you decide to stay overnight on the singletrack trails, Casey recommends going light and using the new bike-packing set up. Check out the images here. You will be doing some hike-a-bike on the singletrack trails, and if you have panniers or a Bob trailer, your equipment will get hung up on trees, brush, rocks or roots.

This is what it's all about. Daryl Gradhandt photo.
Casey said they've heard from some flatlanders who have tried the route and didn't expect to encounter the challenges you'd find on rugged mountain singletracks. But many Idaho riders know what to expect cuz they've been riding these trails for years.

One of the silver linings of the hot springs bike route is that small communities like Atlanta, Featherville, Stanley, Cascade and McCall are noticing how many cyclists are discovering Idaho via the hot springs route. The small cafes and restaurants appreciate the business! "I can't believe how many riders came through McCall this summer specifically because they were doing the hot springs tour," says Gregg Lawley, owner of a bike shop in McCall next to Paul's Market.

Lawley decided to venture out on his own bike-packing adventure in the White Clouds last week. "It was one of the coolest trips I've ever done," he says.

Just casual checking indicates that a few Idaho people have tackled the entire hot springs route already, including Gradhandt and his brother in law, and more cyclists are making plans to ride it next year. I'd recommend buying the maps, downloading the GPS tracks and dreaming big about a unforgettable bike ride next year with your friends.

Thanks to Casey Greene for showing us the way!
- SS