Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Mountains beckon! Go biking or hiking in the pine-scented forests of McCall!

Huck cools off in Loon Lake. 
Morgan Hine cruises to Loon Lake on the sweet singletrack ... 
Wendy on the Payette Rim Trail 
Overlook of Payette Lake from the Rim Trail. 
The new Huckleberry Trail comes within 10 feet of the lake at times ... Very cool! 
Hi all,

As the clock turns forward into June, the summer heat has been turning on in the Boise Valley, which in my mind, means it's time to head up to the mountains of McCall to go hiking, biking or boating.

We were up at our cabin in McCall last weekend, and took the kids rafting on the Cabarton section of the North Fork Payette River on Sunday. Then on Monday evening, I rode the new Huckleberry Loop in Ponderosa Park and hung out with the mule deer, which looked nice and tan in their summer coat. On Tuesday mid-morning, I rode the Payette Rim Trail with a friend, and my, it was riding as smooth as ever!

It's SO nice to sniff the cool mountain air while riding the trails and enjoy the wonderful smells and sounds in the deep woods. You look out through the trees to the azure lakes below, and know you could be swimming there on your way home. Plus, the air temp is 15 degrees cooler than it is in Boise!

This week, I'm recommending several hikes and bike rides in the McCall area. June is less busy in McCall than July and August, so it should be possible to find some lodging deals through inIdaho, vrbo or the local hotels. I'm also including a link from Roger Phillips' story in the Statesman today about biking at Brundage Mountain, Tamarack and Jug Mountain Ranch. All of those venues are excellent as well! See my guide, Mountain Biking in McCall for 40 rides in the area.

1. Check out the new Huckleberry Loop trail in Ponderosa State Park. There's a new singletrack trail along the east shoreline of the peninsula that connects to the old 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. I think the loop is about five miles long in total. It has some steep, technical sections. But overall, I'd rate it strong intermediate as a bike ride. For hiking, I'd rate it moderate. It'd be beautiful to hike it or ride it, whatever your preference might be. Riding time is 1.5 hours. Hiking time is 2+ hours.

Here's a map of the route ...

GPS tracks of the new Huckleberry Loop Trail. There are several variations
that you can enjoy in the southern part of the park on your way out. 
2. Ride the Payette Rim Trail. This loop is best done on a bike. You could hike from the bottom end uphill and go out-and-back to avoid hiking on Bear Basin Road. Distance: 10 miles. Difficulty: Strong intermediate. Rocky sections can be walked. Riding time: 1.5-2 hours. Getting to the trailhead: Take ID 55 north of McCall 1.5 miles to Bear Basin Road. Turn right. Go 1.3 miles to a buck fence parking area by the east side of the Bear Basin Trails. Park. The ride starts here. Proceed up Bear Basin Road. Go straight at the four-way junction. Stay on #451. It gets progressively steeper as you go. At mile 3.1, you'll reach the top of the initial grade, and you'll see a red gate and two-track road on the right. Take this road over to the Rim Trail. It's about 1.8 miles on the two-track to the Rim Trail junction on the right. The turn is marked by a rock cairn. The entrance to the singletrack is rocky and technical but it's gets better. Enjoy the Rim Trail as it winds slightly downhill on a bench above Payette Lake. At mile 6.3, you'll come to a creek crossing. I rode it on Tuesday. Gear down for a steep little climb after the creek. Zoom downhill some more for several miles through the grassy forest, aspen and pine trees. Bear right at a Y-junction and climb abruptly for a short section before zooming along some more on the high bench. This route leads to Bear Basin Road. You'll come to one more junction, and turn right to reach the Bear Basin Road trailhead. The singletrack drops out very close to the parking lot.

3. Ride Jug Mountain Ranch.  See the link to Roger's article above for details. JMR has built a new trail with banked corners called "Berm and Ernie." I can't wait to ride that new trail! See the trail map above. As Roger said, they have the coolest shuttle rig anywhere that'll take you to a point where you can do gravity rides on the trails. JMR is dead east of Lake Fork off of ID 55.
Upper Drain is fast and smooth! 
4. Ride Upper Drain at Bear Basin. If you like to cruise on banked corners, the Upper Drain trail is a hoot! The Bear Basin Trails are close to McCall, and they're built for all abilities. Access is via the Bear Basin Trailhead, north of McCall, off of ID 55. The Upper Drain is a little more challenging because of the banked corners, but I've taken kids there, and they do fine. There are multiple ways to reach the Upper Drain, but one way is to take Baby Bear to Sleepy Hollow and then Blue Ridge Loop to a high point in the forest. Take the Shortcut to the left to Polar Express, and then you'll see a sign for Upper Drain. The trail goes for about 1/2 mile before it goes into the winding corners. Half-way down, you'll come to a junction with Grand Traverse. This goes back to the Bear Basin Trailhead. If you're having fun, continue onto Lower Drain. Then take Westy back to the trailhead. Check out this YouTube video of the Upper and Lower Drain.

Loon Lake route (click to enlarge)
5. Ride Loon Lake Loop. This is one of my favorite rides in the whole state. It's a 10-mile loop (short version), with world-class scenery, a lunch stop at Loon Lake, where you can go swimming, and you might even see a moose! This is a strong intermediate to advanced ride. Take Warren Wagon Road 25+ miles, past the turnoff to Burgdorf, to a signed turnoff for Chinook Campground on the right. Proceed to the Secesh River and Loon Lake trailhead. I recommend doing the loop counter-clockwise. Cross the bridge and grind up a granny-gear climb for several miles to an initial summit and then zoom down to a junction (watch out for other trail users). Turn right, cross the creek, and climb again to a big view overlooking Loon Lake. Enjoy the downhill slalom through the burned snags. Ride across the meadow to Loon Lake (mile 4.5). Have lunch and take a swim. Then ride down to the Secesh River. Cross the bridge, and ride 3.5 miles back to the trailhead. This section is technical and rocky in places ... keep the momentum going and let the bike roll through the rocks!
Don't forget the North Fork Championships are going on Thursday-Saturday. The event is free, and it's totally worth driving up to watch expert kayakers negotiate the mighty North Fork, some of the gnarliest whitewater in the nation. This year there's a BoaterX race with 6 paddlers racing down S-turn rapids all at once. That's tomorrow at 3 p.m. Saturday at 1 p.m. is the big giant slalom event through Jacob's Ladder, the steepest section of the North Fork. Kayakers zip down a steep slide and leap into the river to run the gates in Jake's and Golf Course. It takes phenomenal skill and experience to compete in that event.

Have fun!
- SS

No comments: