Thursday, August 27, 2015

Five high-elevation hiking destinations guaranteed to please close to home

View looking south from Observation Peak (courtesy 
View of Baron Peak from the top of Observation Peak (courtesy 
Hi all,

Well, the weather forecast looks pretty fab this weekend for hiking! Temps should be in the 70s in the higher elevations in the afternoon on Saturday, so it seems like a perfect weekend to bag a peak or hike to a high mountain lake.

Drawing from my recently updated Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home (Spring 2015), here are five high-elevation hiking destinations guaranteed to please close to home:

  • Observation Peak (9,151 feet), Sawtooth Wilderness - This is the only peak in the Sawtooth Mountains accessible by an actual trail. The view of the Sawtooth Range from here is truly SPECTACULAR! The route from Grand Jean is 12.5 miles ... you can go out and back in a day. Travel time is 5-7 hours. Difficulty: Strenuous! (Over 4,000 feet of gain!) How to get there: Go to the Grand Jean trailhead in the Sawtooth Wilderness, east of Lowman, and take the Trail Creek Trail to Observation Peak. After climbing several miles, go left at the junction with the Trail Creek Lakes trail and climb to a saddle, At a three-way junction, go left to climb Observation Peak. Bring a lunch and enjoy your time on top! Retrace your tracks to the trailhead. 
    Jennie Lake 
  • Hike to Jennie Lake, northeast of Idaho City - It's 9 miles out and back to Jennie Lake, with 1,950 feet of elevation gain. Bring your backpack and camp at the lake if you have the time. Hiking time is 2.5-3 hours one-way. It's a beautiful pine-scented hike to Jennie Lake. Good one for kids over 8 years old, too. Getting there: Take Idaho 21 past Idaho City and Mores Creek Summit to Edna Creek Road (USFS Road #384). Turn right and follow #384 for over seven miles to the trailhead. When you get to some hairpin turns, watch for a spur road on the left leading to the trailhead. Follow Trail #197 to Jennie Lake. 
    Tripod Peak Lookout 
  • Hike to Tripod Peak on West Mountain, near Smith's Ferry - It's almost 12 miles out and back to Tripod Peak. The hike is rated strenuous, featuring 3,160 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead. Travel time is about 5-6 hours out and back. West Mountain Trail is shady in the lower elevations, and then you break into the open in the last mile or so to the peak. Once on top, you can enjoy 360-degree views of Long Valley and the country north of Emmett to the west. Getting there: Take Idaho 55 to Smith's Ferry. Turn left on USFS Road #626 toward Sagehen Reservoir. Follow the dirt road about three miles to a signed trailhead on the right for West Mountain Trail. This is your route to the top of Tripod. 
    Huck likes Around the Mountain just as much as I do ... 
  • Hike the Around the Mountain Trail at Bogus Basin - Enjoy a cooler, forested environment at Bogus on this wonderful loop around Shafer Butte. It's probably even more fun to bike this route than to hike it, but it's a great hiking loop, too. It's 9.2 miles to do the loop, with 2,440 feet of elevation gain. Hiking time is approximately four hours at a robust pace. You'll enjoy multifaceted views of the Boise National Forest from the trail as it wraps around the mountain. Bring plenty of food and water. Getting there: Park at the lower lodge. Take Deer Point Trail #91 uphill about a mile or so to a junction with the Around the Mountain Trail. Follow the well-marked trail as it loops around the mountain. When you emerge at the Pioneer Lodge, you'll have several options for the final descent to the lower lodge. Take your pick. 
    Blue Lake! 
  • Hike to Blue Lake - This is the easiest hike by far of the group I'm recommending this week. I call it the "Blue Lake Family Special" in Boise Trail Guide. It's only 1.3 miles round-trip to the lake and back from the Snowbank Road. The trail descends .65 miles to the lake. Hang out at the lake, go swimming or fishing, and then hike back. Bring a lunch and some drinks to enjoy your time at the lake. Getting there: Take Idaho 55 to the Cabarton Road turnoff, next to Clear Creek Station, several miles north of Smith's Ferry. Follow Cabarton Road to USFS Road #435, the road to Snowbank Mountain. Drive 10.5 miles to the trailhead/parking area for Blue Lake.
There you have it!
Couple of other tidbits:
  • McCall is hosting a mountain bike festival this weekend, Saturday and Sunday! There will be group rides, shuttles, BBQ, beer and family fun. See the 2015 Festival Program. This is a great opportunity to learn about riding opportunities in McCall.  
  • The Owyhee Mountains are closed to public use inside the burn zone until next year. BLM officials said they're asking the public to stay out of the burn zone so they can work on rehabilitation efforts and for public safety. This includes the Wilson Creek area and Jump Creek area. The Soda fire area is the nation's top priority for rehab work according to the BLM National Director, Neil Kornze, who was in Boise yesterday. Succor Creek and Leslie Gulch were not affected by the fires. 
  • Ridge to Rivers is looking for volunteers to survey foothills users Sept. 19th and 26th. You can sign up online here.  
  • There's still time to participate in the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance's Goathead Contest. See details at their Facebook page. Basically, you post a picture of the largest goat head plant you've pulled, and the whole pile of goat head plants you've pulled and you could win a growler of beer, bike decals, a bike bell and more! Plus, bragging rights of course! 
Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Super fun biking events coming up! Tour de Fat Saturday! Food and wine road ride, too!

I donated to BBP to get that nice Double D bra at Tour de Fat 

Elena, right, looks charming in her flower hat 
Hi all, 

Imagine 20,000 bicycle wheels rolling down the streets of downtown Boise for the 2014 Tour de Fat parade. Were you there? I was dressed up as Captain America with a red cape and not much else. Ten-thousand cyclists -- all dressed up in some kind of wild and wacky costume, some of them quite clever -- showed up and set a record for the biggest participation in the Tour de Fat event in Boise since it started 14 years ago. 

Now here's your chance to make the 2015 Tour de Fat even bigger than ever! The goal is to have at least 12,000 participants in the parade and raise $90,000 for your favorite cycling non-profits -- Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance, Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA) and Boise Bicycle Project (BBP). Get your costume together, drag your friends and everyone in your household down to the parade, and partake in the state's largest bike event! Do this while sporting a really big grin, show off your cool costume and drink plenty of beer to help the cause.
One of the many cool things
you'll see at Tour de Fat 
Bicyclists for as far as you can see in the Tour de Fat parade ... that's so cool! 
Spending $$ on beer = $$ for better cycling opportunities in our community. The funds go directly to new trails, cycling-advocacy activities, bike donations to children and families in need, and bike education. Over the last 14 years, the event has raised approximately $400,000 for the non-profits mentioned above. That's HUGE people. Let's keep growing this event! 

See the 2015 Tour de Fat web site for the music lineup and event details. Hint: The parade starts 
at 11 a.m. at Ann Morrison Park. Have fun!

Also on Saturday, the 43rd annual Bogus Basin Hill Climb is happening for ambitious road cyclists. Start time is 9:30 a.m. You can register online. Not sure who's showing up, but the really strong riders can ride to Bogus in roughly an hour or less. Total animals! My best time in my 20s was 1 hour, 20 minutes. It's always a great workout to ride to Bogus, and it's a hoot to ride back downhill! 

Here's a bike-racing calendar in case you'd like to plan for future events. 

I'll be in Coeur d'Alene on Saturday, picking up my packet for a week of road rides in the Idaho Panhandle courtesy of RideIdaho. This is the first year I've participated in RideIdaho. It's a fully supported ride that covers about 400 miles in a week. This year's route starts and finishes in Coeur d'Alene, doing a big triangle across the Panhandle into Western Montana, and then up to Moyie Springs and Bonner's Ferry before going south to Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene. 
Hope we don't run into too much smoke from the fires! 

The Treasure Valley Food Coalition is sponsoring a 50-mile food and wine ride called "Fruitful Fields" on Sunday, Sept. 20th in SW Idaho. The loop ride will begin at Hat Ranch Winery on Plum Road at 9:00 a.m. and take cyclists on a tour of farms and wineries throughout Canyon County. Along the way, you will taste fresh, local fruit, grilled (lamb) merguez sausage, grilled fingerling potatoes, local cheese and crackers, and sample some of Idaho’s award-winning wines.  

Upon returning to Hat Ranch Winery, you will be treated to a catered luncheon from Three Girls Catering, featuring local meats and produce while Hat Ranch pours wine for tasting. All participants will receive a reusable jute shopping bag filled with local produce, tokens to use at the Boise Farmer’s Market, and coupons for the Boise Co-Op.

The bike route will take you along the Snake River, past Lake Lowell, and through the rolling farmland, vineyards and orchards of Canyon County. Three rest stops along the way will provide tastings, water, medical reserve corps volunteers and pink porta-potties! The event costs $65. Register on the Treasure Valley Food Coalition web page. 

Have fun and have a great ride!
- SS 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Family Reunion recreation tips from Stueby - Our Fabulous Experience in McCall

Wendy and Ellie on the beach 
Steve and cousin John cruising around on Payette Lake 
L-R, Theo Coonen, Haiti and France, Peter Damon, L.A., John Damon, R.I.
Greg and Sandra Coonen, Andora on the Stueby raft 

Back of the boat: Steve, Drew and Jack Damon  

My sister, Kathy, Minnesota, Nolan and Andrew Stuebner, Maine  

Jonesy at the helm

Hi all,  

Almost 40 Stuebner relatives from all over the globe flocked to McCall last week for seven days of non-stop fun. Our family members just RAVED about the beauty in McCall, and thoroughly enjoyed the mix of structured outdoor activities and hang-loose time as well. 

I wanted to share our experience in terms of the recreation activities, rental toys and rental homes that we lined up in case this might be useful for other folks planning a reunion in McCall. Just to give you a flavor, we had a welcome dinner Sunday night, I took folks mountain biking on Monday morning and then Burgdorf Hot Springs in the afternoon, we did a 4-hour horseback ride with Yahoo Corrals on Tuesday, we went whitewater rafting on Cabarton Wednesday, and capped things off with a catered dinner Thursday night. Friday was an open day for lake activities and beach time, and then folks departed on Saturday.  

First and foremost, the McCall location has it all -- big Payette Lake right there front and center, Ponderosa State Park so close by, top-flight lodging at Shore Lodge, the Payette National Forest all around town, Bear Basin Trails 5 minutes from town, the Payette River down the valley, lift-served activities at Brundage Mountain, great trails and shuttles at Jug Mountain Ranch, ditto at Tamarack, Paul's Market and Ridley's -- both big grocery stores -- plus, excellent outdoor stores, restaurants, shops, ice skating, and many rental properties for lodging.

So, I had confidence that McCall would blow people away with its stunningly beautiful scenery and amenities. We set up a full week for the reunion, July 27-Aug. 1. I encouraged family members to come for the whole time ... and almost everyone did. They all flew into the Boise airport, rented cars and zipped to McCall. We did try to car-pool to the maximum extent possible with our fleet of vehicles.   
Kathy Damon, R.I., Sandra Coonen, Andora, Kathy Stuebner, my sister,
Bryn Stuebner, Mountain View, CA, in the big log cabin in Luck's Point.  
Key things to pin down early: 

1. Rent a lakefront home or several lakefront homes six months in advance or more. I knew my cousins from Rhode Island, Los Angeles, France and Andora would want beach-front access. My Mom rented a beautiful lakefront home a stone's throw from Ponderosa Park. We got lucky on another place, renting a large log cabin in Luck's Point, which had private beachfront space and a boat slip for our use 24/7. The more reasonably priced homes go fast! Expect to pay $500/night or more for lakefront. Check with and for options. 
18-foot Bayliner from RBK Power Sports Rentals rocks! 
2. Rent a power/ski/tube/surf boat that you can use 24/7. Having a powerboat at your disposal with lakefront property and a dock is positively LIVING LARGE in McCall. I tried to rent local in McCall but the vendors up there wouldn't let me keep the boat overnight. So I kept looking and found RBK Power Sports Rentals in Nampa. They have a nice 18-foot Bayliner with a 4.3-liter inboard/outboard engine for $250 a day. I put a 50% deposit down on the boat in the spring, and paid the balance when I picked it up on July 27. I towed the boat to McCall with my truck. Very smooth ride. We had so much fun on that boat -- tubing, water skiing and touring around the lake. 

3. Book early at Shore Lodge for the July time period, which is super high summer season. My aunt and uncle stayed there, plus my brother Jim and his wife, Bryn, stayed there to enjoy some alone time on the week of their anniversary. Getting a tee time was tough for my aunt and uncle but they did play one day on the Whitetail course and loved it. They also enjoyed playing golf at Jug Mountain Ranch.
Group shot in a tall-grass meadow 
Chloe, Peter, Drew, Liz, Tristan and Bridget  

Riding into the meadow 
4. Horseback riding with Yahoo Corrals. We had a large group, thinking initially that we'd have as many as 29 people going on the horseback ride. As it turned out, we had 20. I booked our trip early, and they didn't require a down payment. That was cool since everyone in our group would pay their way on the ride. It was $110/person for a 4-hour horseback ride plus BBQ dinner. Great value for the cost! 

And boy, they took us on a sporting horseback ride! We started at Yahoo Corrals on the west side of Warren Wagon Road, and rode right out onto trails from there. We rode up some steep uphills and downhills, requiring you to lean way forward on the saddle on the uphills or putting all the weight on the stirrups on the downhills. I was so proud of my son, Drew ... it was his first horseback ride and he rode like a champion for 4 hours! Half way through, we rode into a gorgeous mountain meadow and took pics of the group on horseback. Very cool! 

In retrospect, I thought a 2-hour ride would have been plenty, but I didn't want to short my sister, Kathy, Wendy, or my niece, Liz, all of whom love to ride! My only complaint with Yahoo Corrals is that they didn't provide optional beer/wine with dinner. We had to zip back to town to take care of that! No biggie! We were mighty thirsty after the ride! 

5. Finding guides and boats for whitewater rafting. We had 25 people to take rafting, but instead of calling an outfitter, I tried to organize the trip by using my own raft, borrowing more rafts, and persuading my whitewater friends to bring a boat or guide one of them. You have to start early pinning down river guides because they're often busy doing more important trips during the summer 
months. I was fortunate to get Steve Jones, Doug Lawrence and Howard Miller to be our guest guides. Top flight! Wendy and I were the other guides, and it all worked great! The shuttle vehicle situation was too complicated to pull off in one fell swoop, but oh well. Everyone had a great trip on Cabarton. Some of my family had never rafted before. We used all paddle rafts, except Jonesy rowed an oar raft, which are perfect for taking young kids on the river. 

If you don't have your own stuff, try Cascade Raft & Kayak, Bear Valley, Idaho Whitewater Unlimited or Tamarack for booking a Cabarton trip. 

6. Reserve a great spot for a special catered dinner as a grand finale for the guests. We booked a beautiful spot behind the Ponderosa Park Visitor Center. The shelter is shaded. It looks out onto a spacious lawn, large trees and Payette Lake. The cost was about $200.00, very reasonable for a large group. We used Incahoots BBQ as the caterer. They served Tritip and wild salmon, scalloped potatoes, vegetables, salad, and brownies and cobbler for dessert. Yum! 

As the sun set faded into a rouge glow over the distant treetops that evening, my sister Kathy led us all in some wonderful songs with her angelic voice and folk guitar to cap off a memorable evening. 

I must confess that I was unexpectedly emotional as I stood up to give a toast to all of the Stuebner/Damon/Coonen/Salzman relatives that evening. The deep love I have for McCall and everything around it merged with the deep love I have for my family, and I guess it was a little overwhelming. But it was just so cool and gratifying to me that everyone came to McCall, and had such an awesome time. 

Ultimately, at family reunions,it's about the family, renewing bonds and friendships, and catching up on everyone's lives. Quality time! If everyone hadn't shown up, it wouldn't have been the great success that it was. Everyone in my family shows up! And they do it consistently. I love that! 

I'm looking forward to the next reunion! Who knows where it'll be! But I will be there! 
-- SS