Thursday, September 24, 2015

Explore five hikes in the Owyhee Mountains; Colors should be fab in Silver City!

Wendy and Huck in  a January hike in Brown's Canyon 
Wendy soars in a brisk wind on top of a mountain above Toy Pass
Great skyline views from the mountains above Toy Pass
The quakies should be golden in Silver City 
High on the saddle overlooking Silver City and surrounding area ... 
Sheep Creek canyon ... you'll have it to yourself. 
Gearing up for our ride in Silver City. 
Hi all,

It looks as if it's going to be a beautiful late September weekend in SW Idaho, with daytime highs in the low 80s and night-time temps in the high 40s or low 50s, depending on elevation. It'll be a great weekend for hiking, biking or camping in the Owyhee Canyonlands.

I've been thinking a lot about the Owyhees lately because of the 285,000-acre Soda Fire, and the subsequent recreation closure of multiple trailheads in the Owyhee Front. I also am giving a REI clinic on exploring the Owyhees next Wednesday at 7 p.m. (still openings available at press time), and I've been checking into the extent of the burn zone to share with folks who want to know!

So for my outdoor tip this week, I'll detail five places to go outside of the burn zone. Keep these in mind for the coming weeks in October as well. All of the trips are drawn from The Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide. 

Also, Avimor is hosting their fall Demo Days event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. There will be show-me rides, food, music and beer. The event provides a great chance to demo various new mountain bikes on the market. George's peeps said that demo trucks from Trek and Specialized will be there with 2016 models for people to test out. Idaho Mountain Touring, Ridgeline Sports, Broken Spoke, Kore North and Boise Bike Wrench will be there with more bikes to demo as well!

Now, back to the Owyhees ... See the burn map below for a big-picture view of the Soda Fire burn zone (click to enlarge):
Soda fire perimeter
Generally, the Owyhee Front between U.S. 95 and Reynolds Creek Road all lies inside the burn zone and the Bureau of Land Management is asking for recreationists to stay off these lands this fall. These areas include Jump Creek Canyon, Wildcat Canyon, Squaw Creek, and Wilson Creek. Areas around Silver City were left unscathed.

In Eastern Oregon, the fire spread to points east of the Succor Creek Road, but none of it crossed Succor Creek itself or the road, leaving everything to the west in good shape, including Three Fingers, Sage Creek, Painted Canyon, Carlton Canyon, the Honeycombs, Leslie Gulch, etc.

So here are my 5 recommendations for the weekend:
1. Hike or bike in Silver City - Try the Silver City Sawpit Peak Loop (8.5 mile hike; strenuous) or the Skyline Mine Tour (16.8 miles; advanced). Travel to Silver City via Nampa; take Idaho 45 to Walter's Ferry. Go left at the fork after crossing the Snake River and watch for the signed turnoff for Silver City on the right. It's about 20 miles to Silver City on paved and dirt roads. A high-clearance 4WD vehicle is best for the last 5 miles or so to the old mining burb. Even if the hike or ride sound like more than you'd like to bite off, go to Silver City and enjoy the yellow aspens and walk around town. You can take a hike up Jordan Creek south of town for several miles and climb to the ridge on two-track roads to a great overlook. This is the route for the Sawpit Peak Loop, but then it continues to wrap clockwise around the big mountain, descending back to Silver City via Sawpit Gulch. See detailed instructions in the Owyhee guidebook. There are multiple car-camping opportunities just north of Silver City.

2. Brown's Canyon Overland Tour - This is a nice, new 5.2-mile loop that circumnavigates the slot canyon hike in Brown's Canyon. You can look into the slot canyon without having to navigate the poison ivy, nettles, deep-water pools and thick brush. The hike starts and finishes in the Oreana area, west of Grand View. Rated moderate; travel time: 3+ hours. Getting there: Take I-84 to the Simco Road exit. Turn right on Simco Road and proceed to the state highway. Turn right at the highway and proceed to Grand View. Turn right on ID 78 in Grand View and then take the second left-hand turn to Oreana. Make a note of your odometer. Drive through the little town and go past the old church on the Oreana road until it takes a hard left. Make the corner and then take an immediate right on Alder Creek Road (no sign). Follow the road six miles to BLM Road 700. Turn right on 700 and drive to an old corral at a two-way junction. The hike  starts here. Continue west on BLM 700 and climb a moderate grade to a bluff that overlooks Browns Canyon. At mile 1.4, bear right on a two-track and drop into Brown's Creek draw. Walk down the draw until it begins to closeup in a blond slot canyon. Work to the left side of the draw and walk overland on the blond rocks staying above the draw. The canyon opens up at mile 2.0. Walk down the draw until the canyon closes up again, and then walk on the left rim of the canyon above the slot canyon. Walk around the small canyon when you come to that, and stay on the left rim until the slot canyon ends. Turn right on the dirt road at the end of the canyon at mile 3.6. Follow the road to a two-way junction at mile 4.0, turn right at a fence gate, and follow the two-track road BLM #710 back to the trailhead. Ending mileage is 5.2 miles. This hike would be great for kids and family. Bring sturdy shoes, plenty of water and a lunch.

3. Toy Pass - Two optional hikes take off from Toy Pass in the Owyhee Front, starting at 5,875 feet. Perfect for the fall! One hike is 5.3 miles exploring the mountain to the east of the pass, and the other is 4.5, exploring the small knob on the west side of the pass. Take I-84 to the Simco Road exit. Turn right on Simco Road and proceed to the state highway. Turn right at the highway and proceed to Grand View. Turn right on ID 78 in Grand View and then take the second left-hand turn to Oreana. Drive through the little town and go past the Basque church, then bear right on the signed Bachman Grade Road. Follow the well-maintained dirt road to the top of Toy Pass (about 13.5 miles). Park at the pass, and decide which mountain you'd like to climb from there.

4. Mary's Creek Canyon, south of Bruneau - Follow directions in a previous blog post on finding the Mary's Creek trailhead. This area is part of the Sheep Creek Wilderness on BLM land. The full loop is 8.75 miles, walking along the rim of Mary's Creek Canyon, dropping into the Sheep Creek Canyon, and then looping back to the trailhead. Travel time: 4-5 hours. You could do this as a backpacking trip and camp in Sheep Creek canyon. Be sure to pack your own drinking water and plenty of food.

5. Big Jack's Creek - The hike into Big Jack's from the Parker Trailhead is well east of the Soda burn zone, and it's a quick and easy way to get into the Big Jack's Wilderness, south of Bruneau. The directions, map and photos for this hike can be found in a previous blog post. It's 2.5 miles out and back. Rated moderate to strenuous (steep downhill into canyon; steep back out). Good hike for hikes and families.

Have fun!
- SS

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