Thursday, October 29, 2015

A hodge-podge of outdoorsy notes for Halloween weekend; Vote Yes on Nov. 3rd!

Vote yes on Nov. 3! 
Volunteers are needed for a trail re-route project in Harrison Hollow, near Healthwise.  
Five Mile Creek Trail in the East Foothills would be a good bet this weekend
if the trails aren't too wet after the expected rain storms. 
Near the Watchman Trail, one of my favorites, with Huck. 
Bucktail in Military Reserve has been riding great! This is a levy special!
Trail access made possible by open space funds! Everyone loves Bucktail!
Hi all,

It's looking like a pretty soggy Friday, but Saturday looks much better, weather-wise, at least in the Boise-area, and then more rain on Sunday.

I'd recommend getting out on Saturday to do some hiking or biking in the Boise Foothills, Boise or Eagle Greenbelt, Stack Rock or Bogus Basin. I recommended several "levy specials" plus a super-cool ride in the Owyhees in a blog post in mid-September, including Sweet Connie from the top, Watchman Loop, Hard Guy-Dry Creek Loop and Polecat Loop. Check on the Boise Foothills Trail Conditions Facebook page to check on trail conditions.

These local trails are levy-specials because city leaders used funds from the original $10 million levy to create long-term public access to those trails. Remember to vote for the Boise Clean Water and Open Space levy on Tuesday, Nov. 3rd to preserve more open space, public access and wildlife habitat in the future. I will be working the phones on Sunday for the Conservation Voters for Idaho to help the campaign. Tell your friends and family!

Wondering where to vote on Tuesday? Use the Ada County elections polling locator to find out.

Also on Saturday, the Land Trust for the Treasure Valley will be doing a trail-reroute project at the top of Harrison Hollow in Boise. Sign up to help if you'd like. The trail project runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Some other notes of interest:
  • Due to a large amount of rainfall, the BLM road to Leslie Gulch is CLOSED for the time being until repairs are made. Stay in touch with the Vale District of the BLM to find out when it reopens. 
  • The Idaho City District of the Boise National Forest is planning a big timber-management project in the same area where the Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas are located. It's called the Becker Integrated Resource Project. This project will affect road and trail access to the Park n' Ski yurts, so I recommend that you read up on the project and recommend that they keep the two-track roads open in the summer to Skyline and Stargaze yurts. 
The Forest Service is recommending a springtime seasonal closure of these roads to benefit Rocky Mountain elk during the calving season. Alternative C would close the roads year-round. See Leo Hennessy's take on this project in  Idaho Outdoors. I think it's important to keep the two-tracks open to Stargaze and Skyline so people can pack water into the yurts for summer use, and young children and the elderly can enjoy the yurts by reaching them by a vehicle. Comments are due by Nov. 9th.

Have a great Halloween weekend! 
- SS 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Try these five scenic, kid-friendly fall hikes in the Boise National Forest close to home

Peace Rock Roadless Area, north of Garden Valley

Peace Rock Trailhead. The trail also is open to mountain biking and motorcycles. 
Cottonwood Creek Trail in the higher elevations ... 
Wendy on Station Creek Trail 
Bald Mountain, optional high point from the Station Creek Trail. Well worth it! 
Hi all,

The weather looks fabulous for just about anything outdoors this weekend, with highs in the mid-60s and lows around 40 in the Garden Valley or Idaho City areas, so I am recommending five scenic hikes in the Boise National Forest that you'll enjoy.

Remember that rifle deer season is still open in the Garden Valley and Idaho City areas, so wear bright colors and put bright colors on your dogs as well.

My top five hikes for this weekend:

1. Peace Creek Trail, Peace Creek Roadless Area, north of Crouch - This is a little-known gem near the Silver Creek Plunge. The Boise National Forest has a little blurb and map on the hike. I'd rate the hike moderate at the beginning and strenuous overall. It's five miles from the trailhead to a high point, and five miles back for a total of 10 miles. Vertical gain is over 3,000 feet to the top. Peace Rock Roadless Area is a wilderness study area. It's very scenic with big white granite slopes and rocks everywhere, mixed with big ol' ponderosa pine trees and aspens. Great place to go if you don't run into hunters. Getting there: Take Idaho 55 to Banks. Turn right and go to Garden Valley. Take Forest Road #698 north of Crouch along the Middle Fork Payette River to a junction with Forest Road #671, heading for Silver Creek Plunge, a hot springs resort. Go just past the resort, and you'll see the trailhead for Peace Creek. Take a Boise National Forest map or a Topo map with you. It used to be possible to hike from the high point in this hike back down to the Peace Creek Valley but that trail has fallen off the grid. So it's an out-and-back hike. Pack a lunch and bring plenty of water. Good for kids 8 and older. Stop at Silver Creek Plunge for a nice soak after your hike. Bring your swim suits.
Trip map for Peace Creek hike (Click to enlarge)

2. Cottonwood Creek, near Arrowrock Reservoir - This hike is in my book, Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running  Routes Close to Home. Rated moderate for a casual out-and-back hike along Cottonwood Creek. It's 10 miles one-way to Thorn Butte Lookout on the Cottonwood Creek Trail, so it's generally too far to hike for a day trip, so just head up the Cottonwood Creek trail as far as you want and enjoy the day. Bring a lunch and water. Getting there: Take Idaho 21 toward Lucky Peak Reservoir. Turn right after crossing the Mores Creek bridge. Drive 15 miles along the bumpy dirt road next to Lucky Peak and Arrowrock. Turn left on Forest Road #377 and go three miles to the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead on the right. FYI: The trail crosses the creek multiple times on the hike, so be ready for that. The creek is running low, so the crossings shouldn't be a problem. Feel free to take the kids on this one.

3. Station Creek Trail - This is another one of my favorites, close to Garden Valley. See previous blog post for details. Rated moderate. The trailhead is directly across the Banks-to-Lowman Road from the Garden Valley Ranger Station. There's an optional climb to the top of Bald Mountain when you get to the top of the first ridge. It's worth the extra distance. The hike is kid-friendly for children 8 and over.
Map for Charcoal Gulch Trail ... The loop
is best done for biking or running. Best part
of the hike is in Charcoal Gulch. 
4. Hike Charcoal Gulch Trail in Idaho City. This one is pretty close to town next to the Idaho City airport, so hopefully you won't run into any hunters on this hike. You might see some road hunters at the top of the hike. Rated easy to moderate. Kid-friendly. Its two miles uphill on the Charcoal Gulch Trail to the top of the hike, and two miles back. Four miles total. You'll hike in a forested setting with views of quaking aspens here and there. Bring a lunch and enjoy the day. Getting there: Take Idaho 21 to Idaho City. Turn left on Main Street and follow it several blocks to a junction with Bear Run Road and Centerville Road. Go left on the Centerville Road, Forest Road #307, for a quarter-mile to Buena Vista Road. Turn left and follow Buena Vista past the airstrip to the parking and trailhead.
It's possible to bike to Stargaze as well but it's pretty steep! 
Brenda and Leo on the deck of Stargaze Yurt. Great 360 degree views! 
5. Hike to Stargaze Yurt - Here's an easy to moderate kid-friendly hike with great views of the surrounding countryside. You'll take Idaho 21 past Idaho City and Mores Creek Summit to Beaver Creek Summit. Park at the summit and follow the Park n' Ski Trail up to Stargaze Yurt and a high point overlooking the Boise National Forest. It's 1.4 miles to the yurt from the road. You'll be hiking in a forested setting with pockets of quaking aspen trees here and there. Bring a lunch and enjoy the day. If you've never stayed at Stargaze, you'll know why it's one of everyone's favorite yurts because of the high perch and good skiing in the winter.

You'll note that I did not recommend hiking from Mores Creek Summit because it's likely that deer hunters will be ever-present on the Pilot Peak Road or Sunset Lookout Road. Ditto with Banner Ridge trails.

Have fun!
-- SS

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tap into great hikes, bike rides and high mountain lakes near McCall in the fall

Wendy on the new Huckleberry Trail. Great lake views the whole way.

Views of Payette Lake today from the Huckleberry Trail. 
Short hike to Josephine Lake.

Elena enjoyed the hike. 
Jim Giuffre and Doug Lawrence on Bear Pete Trail 

Yours truly at 8,000 feet on Bear Pete 

Riding at Jug Mountain Ranch is a blast! They also have a shuttle. 
Riding downhill on Elk Trail at Brundage ... always a hoot! 
Hi all,

I've been hanging out in McCall this week, doing a little deer hunting in the mornings, working in the afternoons, and getting a few chores done at our Cozy Cabin.

The weather has been stellar in McCall this week, and there are no issues with smoke or visibility whatsoever. The fall colors are ablaze, with aspens going off in deep yellow, shrubs a deep red, and tamarack trees also are turning as we speak.

It's worth traveling to the McCall area to do some late-season hiking or biking at any elevation you want -- that kind of opportunity certainly won't last too much longer. Remember that it's hunting season so wear bright colors!

Here are some ideas for quick get-aways before colder and wetter weather comes soon. There is a 50 percent chance of showers on Saturday afternoon, so try to get up there on Friday to enjoy some sunshine ...

  • Five easy-to-access kid-friendly high mountain lakes close to McCall - Check out this blog from the summer of 2013. Still just as valid today.
  • Hike, ride or run the 10-mile Loon Lake Loop while you still can ... check out my previous blog post on the Loon Lake Loop. It's a beauty!  Cap off the day with a soak at Burgdorf Hot Springs.  
  • Now's a great time to tackle Bear Pete Trail before it snows - it's an expert to advanced trail because of the vertical (3,524 feet) and distance (17.5 miles), some of it hike-a-bike. See my guide, Mountain Biking in McCall for details. Bear Pete Trailhead starts at Cloochman Summit, north of Upper Payette Lake, and ends north of Burgdorf. Allow for a full day for this ride. And then soak at Burgdorf Hot Springs afterwards! 
  • Go biking at Jug Mountain Ranch, Tamarack or Brundage. The lifts at Brundage are closed now, but you can climb the mountain on a variety of trails and then ride Elk Trail back down to the bottom. Or try the "big ride" from McCall by riding Bear Basin Road to the top of Brundage, ride Elk Trail to the bottom, and then ride Growler and 488 back to Bear Basin.  
  • Ride the Huckleberry Trail loop at Ponderosa State Park, ride Bear Basin or the Payette Rim Trail. See my previous blog post from this summer for details on these trails. All of these trails are great for hiking or trail-running as well.  
If you're stuck in Boise this weekend, consider getting involved with the Boise Water and Open Space Campaign. There's a canvas event going on Saturday with Mayor Bieter at Redwood Park. See the campaign web site for more information. And vote yes on Nov. 3rd!  

There you have it! Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

General deer season opens Saturday; Try to squeeze in a fall cast-and-blast float trip

Hunting season is upon us! General deer season opens on Saturday statewide.
Scott Smay is pictured here on the edge of the Frank Church Wilderness. 
Put bright colors on your dogs if you take them in the woods
during hunting season. 
Rick Gerrard enjoys catching fish while soaking in the grandeur of Hells Canyon. 
Steve hauls in a fall chinook while Huck inspects the prize. 
Black bears scout for berries in the hackberry trees in Hells Canyon.
South Fork Snake River in summer mode ... 
Wendy on a side hike on the Middle Fork in October ...
We had the whole river canyon to ourselves for a week! 
Hi all,

Well, the endless summer in Idaho is coming to a close as the days get shorter, the temperatures drop more steeply at night, and the calendar clicks into October. Fall general rifle hunting seasons also are kicking in on Saturday, Oct. 10th, with the opening of general deer season in many parts of Idaho, and general rifle elk season will follow close behind on Oct. 15 (McCall unit) or Oct. 25 (Weiser unit) or Nov. 1st (Boise unit). See the Idaho Fish and Game regulations for details.

Summer-like weather in the afternoons in October can be marvelous, however, so it's tempting to continue your fall hiking, biking, backpacking, and mountain-climbing trips amid the throngs of hunters. Be smart and wear hunter orange and put some bright colors on your puppies to protect yourself.

I'd also recommend trying to squeeze in a late-season float trip on the Lower Salmon River, Middle Fork Salmon, Main Salmon or Hells Canyon to fish and hunt chukars, if you're so inclined. This has been an annual tradition for me since the late 1980s, and it's always a great time. In Hells Canyon last weekend, the fish were biting big-time, and there were lots of chukars running around on the Oregon and Idaho sides of the river. We caught tons of small-mouth bass and rainbow trout and four members of our group caught a big fall chinook salmon.

In a matter of days, the steelhead will be running stronger up the Salmon River and Snake River, so you could add these beautiful ocean-going fish to the list of fish you might catch. If you have people in your group who carry big-time fish tackle for sturgeon, that'd be another potential prize to pursue.

From the standpoint of trip logistics, it's easiest to put together a Lower Salmon or Hells Canyon trip in SW Idaho. For those who live near Stanley, Salmon or Idaho Falls, a Main Salmon trip would be easier to pull off, but it also would take more days to do the 80-mile trip. The South Fork Snake River is another great fall trip near Idaho  Falls, where you can fly fish for trout and maybe find a grouse in the woods above camp.

Here are some basics on the fall river trips:

  • Hells Canyon - Put in a Hells Canyon Dam and float to Pittsburg Landing, a distance of about 35 miles. This trip is easily doable in three or four days. Take as much time as possible. Only self-issue permits are required, available at the web site. Shuttles can be arranged through Scotty's gas station in Pine, Oregon for $160 cash. They do a marvelous job! 
  • Lower Salmon Canyon - Float from Hammer Creek to Heller Bar or arrange for a jet boat shuttle to Pittsburg Landing from the mouth of the Salmon. It's almost 50 miles from Hammer Creek to the mouth of the Salmon, and the river is running very low (3,500 cfs), so allow for plenty of time to do your float. Fishing is limited to small-mouth bass and steelhead in this section. 
  • Salmon River near Riggins - If you don't have time to do a longer trip, you could put in at Carey Creek or Vinegar Creek and float down to Riggins while fishing for steelhead and hunting chukars. 
  • Middle Fork Salmon - Arrange a fly-in to Indian Creek or Middle Fork Lodge area and float the Middle Fork in October. Pick up a river permit on I've done solo one-boat trip on the Middle Fork in October with Wendy, and also smaller group trips. Fly fishing for cutthroat trout really turns on in the sunny afternoons. Also can hunt chukars. Here's a previous blog post on a late-season Middle Fork trip. Keep an eye out for black bears! A floater got attacked in the last week by a hungry bear! We saw six black bears on our trip in Hells Canyon.   
  • South Fork Snake River - Put in at Palisades Dam for the long version of the float or at Swan Valley and float to the takeout at Heise. The South Fork Lodge in Swan Valley does shuttles.  Check with the experts on what kinds of flies the fish are taking. The cuts on the South Fork get fished very hard by a steady stream of outfitters every day. By this time of year, it's more locals than outfitters. Here's a blog post I did on the South Fork two years ago. The South Fork is also good for seeing moose and bald eagles.   

Have fun and enjoy the fall!
- SS