Thursday, December 22, 2016

10 bomb-proof ideas - Christmas gifts for the outdoorsy him and her

Hi Ho Hi Ho -

Christmas is coming in a few days, so it's time for my annual last-minute Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her. I'm calling this a list of 10 "bomb-proof" ideas because you can't go wrong with these gift ideas! They're proven to please!

We've got a true white Christmas this year not only in Boise but especially in the mountains all around us, so your friends and family will need to be properly outfitted for cold weather and playing in the snow!

Remember to support your local family-owned outdoor shops, too! All of these items can be purchased locally.

Here we go:

  1. Snowshoes - It takes a lot of time and money to master the art of skiing or snowboarding, but just about anyone who can walk can strap on a pair of snowshoes and do great! It helps to bring a pair of ski poles for balance. There are many different brands available. Price range: $50-$150 for snowshoe-pole combo sets.  
2. Ski gloves - It's nice to have several pairs that work for various tasks such as driving, xc skiing or snowshoeing (thinner weight), and alpine skiing (warmer). Another reason to have several pairs is because we all tend to lose gloves and mittens. Just part of life. I have found some of my favorite gloves for xc skiing and lightweight use in the work glove section of the hardware store.
3. Winter hats - Can't go wrong in this department, but it's always nice to find a winter hat that has personality! Similar with gloves, it's nice to have different winter hats for situations when it's relatively warm or you're working up a sweat (thinner weight), and when you need a bomber warm hat that keeps you warm in single digits or sub-zero weather. Remember that wool ultimately rocks in the warmth department. Another helpful item is a facemask for the really cold days on the mountain. I also love the smart-looking ballcap-style hats they make for women. 
4. Headlamp - For outdoorsy folks, it's about as easy to lose a headlamp as it is to lose a pair of socks. Especially if you're a family of outdoorsy folks ... everyone borrows your headlamp and it never comes back! You can snag a headlamp for $25-$50, and it has great value for your camping trips, night hiking, river trips, backpacking, even for use around the home! My favorite brands include Petzl and Black Diamond. Get a bright one and you'll appreciate it! My latest Black Diamond model runs on 4 AAA batteries and it's really nice and bright. 

5. Lift tickets, tubing tickets - Surprise your friends or loved ones with a free lift ticket or a date to go tubing at Bogus or the Activity Barn in McCall. Lift tickets everywhere are getting more expensive, especially at destination resorts, so it's a much-appreciated gift. Tubing costs $15 at either location ($18 at the Activity Barn on holidays). At Bogus, the tubing hill requires advance reservations so you really have to plan ahead. Smart thing to do at this time of year. 

Wendy at our cozy cabin in McCall. 
6. Rent a cabin or a yurt for a gift - Backcountry yurts are hard to get on winter weekends already, but there are still mid-week dates available. See my latest yurt roundup story in the Statesman for where to go and how to make reservations. You also could rent a cabin in Garden Valley, Cascade, McCall or Sun Valley for a romantic getaway. Check for rentals at vrbo.comAirBnB and Wendy and I rent our Cozy Cabin in McCall for weeks and weekends. Best price in town at $110/night! Sleeps 6. More information on my web site and You also could check on a Forest Service cabin rental through, or a state parks cabin at the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation

7. Capilene tops, long underwear - For any outdoorsy person who's active, getting out and exercising several days a week, you can quickly run short of tops and bottoms after they get pitted out and pitched into the laundry. So it's nice to have a deep supply of different tops especially ... lightweight, midweight, expedition weight, etc. These items typically run $25-$75. REI and Patagonia make gear with lasting value. Take a look at smart wool, too. 

8. Bike light or bike lock - Help your sweetheart get properly geared up for bike commuting. It gets dark so early that bike lights are often needed for a safe and legal ride home after work. You can find a variety of bike lights at a reasonable price. You can find blinking red rear lights for less than $10. The front lights are more expensive. Get a bright one for a better ride and visibility. Bike lights are one item where the cost keeps coming down and the performance keeps getting better. I thought this Electra LED model looked pretty cool ... $29.95 retail. 

9. Hydro Flask - Previously known as a water bottle, the hydro flasks available today can be used for drinking coffee on the go, taking a long a nice hot cup of tea or hot chocolate on an outdoor outing, or actually packing plain old water. Hydro Flask is a brand by itself, but there are many other brands that make quality stainless steel insulated cups and containers. Pricing is in the $10 to $25 range or more. 

Gold Fork with Quinn and Drew
10. Book a trip to the Springs in Idaho City or Gold Fork Hot Springs near Donnelly - The Springs is much more upscale, with massage serves available, pool-side cocktails and food, and even overnight accommodations. Still, it costs only $16 to go soaking at the Springs. Go there after a day or xc skiing or snowshoeing. Advance reservations are required. Gold Fork Hot Springs is open six days a week except Tuesdays, and you can just show up and soak. The road into Gold Fork can be icy so take a good snow-worthy vehicle when you go. It costs $8 for adults and $6 for children to soak at Gold Fork. Always a good time!

*Bonus item: An outdoor guidebook from Stueby! Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home, Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide, Boise Road Cycling Guide, the only road biking map available for the Boise Valley, Paddling the Payette, guide to 24 day trips on the Payette River, are all available on my web site and at most outdoor stores in the valley. My most popular guide, Boise Trail Guide, is discounted just for Christmas at $15.95. Let me know if you want to meet up and get a book signed! 

Hope everyone has a great Christmas and New Years holiday season!
- SS

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Here comes the snow! Yee-haw! Where to go downhill skiing, xc skiing and snowshoeing

Big storm coming our way today and thru the weekend (courtesy NOAA) 
Brundage forecast today and tomorrow Winter Weather Advisory Woo-Hoo! 
Targhee has gotten a ton of snow in the last week ... 
Pomerelle Mountain Resort near Declo is opening on Friday
Anthony Lakes is looking good! They open Friday to season pass holders,
and on Saturday for the general public. 
Hi all,

I was watching the weather on the 10 p.m. news last night, and I heard Scott Dorval with KIVI-TV say that we should get 1-3 feet of snow in Idaho's Central Mountains in the next week! That put a smile on my face, I'll tell you what! It's been a bit of a slow start to the ski season, but now things are catching up! Bring it on!

Here's the latest information as of Thursday, Dec. 8th on ski area openings and conditions:

First, here are the resorts that are open now or plan to open this weekend:
  • Sun Valley is open for top-to-bottom skiing on man-made and natural snow. Tickets are cheaper now than they will be all season. 16-inch base at the top and bottom with snow coming down as we speak. 
  • Pomerelle Mountain Resort near Albion is opening Friday and will continue operations Saturday-Sunday with at least 80 percent of their terrain open for skiing and riding. Reporting a 12-inch base at the bottom and 16 inches at the top, with more snow coming today, tonight and tomorrow. 
  • Anthony Lakes near Baker, OR, is opening Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for season pass holders and then it opens Saturday and Sunday for the general public. Reporting a 30-inch base. 
  • Bogus Basin is opening Deer Point Chair and Showcase slopes Saturday, plus the beginner chair. They will open more terrain as new snow allows. Reporting a 21-inch base, and it's snowing as we speak. 
  • Brundage Mountain is opening it's beginning hill, Easy Street, and the Bear Chair on Saturday, and may open up more terrain as new snow allows. Lots of backcountry skiers have been climbing Brundage to ski fresh *pow* while they wait for the Bluebird and Engen lifts to open the rest of the mountain. Reporting 13 inch base at the bottom and 16 inches on top, with lots of snow on the way. 
  • Gateway Parks in Eagle Island State Park opens on Friday. They've got plenty of snow and lots of park features for folks to enjoy. 
  • Grand Targhee opened last week, and they've been getting a ton of snow ever since. "Over 5 feet in 7 days," is the headline on the front page of their web site. If you've got it, you might as well flaunt it! Reporting a 60-inch base. 
Gateway parks at Eagle Island State Park opens tomorrow. 
Boise is supposed to get several inches of snow today, so I'm sure people will be out playing in the snow locally. Snow biking on foothills trails will be excellent until it warms up and starts raining tomorrow. 

Dog owners will be pleased to know that Ann Morrison Park and Esther Simplot Park are official off-leash areas for the winter months. See the off-leash dog areas on the Boise Parks & Recreation web site for more locations. 

You could go snowshoeing at Bogus Basin, Idaho City Park n' Ski Areas,
Ponderosa State Park or Bear Basin in McCall 
As for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing: 
  • Bogus Basin is opening the Nordic highway on Saturday, and Sappers and other Nordic trails will be groomed for xc skiing. Stay tuned on snow bike trails. It may take a little more time to get those ready to roll. 
  • Idaho City Park n' Ski area parking lots were plowed in the past week, so you could go xc skiing or snowshoeing in the Park n' Ski areas. The trails to Banner Ridge and Stargaze are best-marked, according to Idaho Parks and Recreation officials. As previously reported, none of the xc ski trails will be groomed this year because of the Pioneer Fire. 
  • Pondersosa State Park in McCall has rolled a few of their trails including the dog loop and other trails near the trailhead. Park officials report they need another 9 inches of snow to run their groomer and open all of the terrain. But people are out xc skiing and snowshoeing today. 
  • Bear Basin trails near McCall are open and signs are going up to prepare for the weekend. They're reporting an 8 inch base prior to the storms coming today, tomorrow and this weekend. 
  • For people who like to go tubing, the Activity Barn in McCall will be opening on Friday, Nov. 9 in McCall. They'll have one tubing lane open on Friday, and more will open as snow permits. 
Enjoy this early Christmas gift of wonderful snow snow snow! Have fun!
- SS 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Where to play in the snow? Sun Valley is ready to roll, plus more ideas for the weekend

Carve the groomers at Sun Valley! Available now! 
Hi all,

We're starting to get just enough snow to go play in the mountains, but it's still not enough for most of the ski areas to open quite yet. Sun Valley is the exception with its world-class computerized snowmaking system. They opened top-to-bottom skiing yesterday -- that's 3,400 vertical feet of downhill skiing on man-made groomers to get your legs in shape. How about it?

If this sounds interesting, check out Sun Valley's lodging and specials page. I saw that they're offering a 25 percent discount on lodging and lift tickets between now and Dec. 15. I also saw that you can save 20 percent on lift tickets if you purchase them 7 days in advance ... that's $71 instead off an early-season rack rate of $89/day. Over the Christmas season, lift fees will be $133 without discount. Wow! Get there early and enjoy the discounts! Stay at the Sun Valley Lodge and soak up the history.

Before I go into more recommendations for the weekend, I wanted to recommend stopping by Idaho Mountain Touring in downtown Boise this evening (Thursday, Dec. 1) for their 32nd annual anniversary party, featuring the crew of Wide Eye Productions and Tim Woodward who will sign copies of "Idaho the Movie 2;" Kevin Everett, who will be signing copies of a new running guide; and I'll be there selling Boise Trail Guides at a Christmas-season discount price of $15.95, 20% off the normal price. The event runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. with free beer and snacks. Conservation groups will be there this evening as well.

Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home, features tons of trails close to Boise, the Owyhee Canyonlands, and Boise National Forest. It'll keep you busy for several years of hiking, with a huge selection of easy, moderate, strenuous and epic hiking/running adventures. See you there.

Back to alpine skiing, Bogus Basin (9 inches at the base) and Brundage Mountain (20 inches at the summit; 12 inches at the base) are hoping for more storms before they can open. Hopefully we get hit hard this weekend. Bogus is making snow to accelerate the opening. Tamarack Resort (18 inches at the top) reported that they're opening their bunny hill this weekend, operating Saturday and Sunday. They also have snow-making machines.

While we wait for more snow, you might want to go find your own adventure in the mountains:

  • Toss your snow boots, snowshoes or xc skis in the car, go up to the snow in the Boise, Payette or Sawtooth National Forest (above 5,000 feet) and go boot-hiking, snowshoeing or xc skiing, depending on depth of snow.  
  • I saw a lot of people goofing around on 6 inches of snow on the way to Bogus in the last week ... some were sledding, others snowboarding and skiing. 
    Fat biking on Deer Pt. Service Road 
  • Go fat biking in the snow. I'd recommend the Deer Point Service Road on the way to Bogus, the Boise Ridge Road, Middle Fork Payette River Road, forest roads around Idaho City, and areas outside the fire-closure area between Idaho City and Lowman. Even the Eastside Trail might work between Bogus and the trailhead on a fat bike. Other areas around Tamarack or Brundage would work, too. Jug Mountain Ranch has the best fat biking trails in Valley County but I'm not sure if they have enough snow yet. 
  • Go hiking/biking/running on Boise Foothills trails. There was almost a traffic jam in Military Reserve today. Everyone seemed to have the same idea to get out for a lunchtime run, bike ride or hike on the dirt. The low- and mid-level trails in the foothills are clear of snow. Dress in layers for cold weather. 
    Check out the deep pow at Targhee! Pic taken today. (courtesy Grand Targhee)
  • Make your reservations to ski/ride Grand Targhee. They opened today with a 55 inch base at the summit. Look at how much powder they had today! Oh baby! 
  • Bruneau Dunes State Park would be a great place to hike around on a weekend like this when it's cool. 
  • I saw a nice outdoor feature story on staying at rental cabins at Three Island State Park in the Twin Falls Times-News. Check it out! 
  • I also saw a great summary of Soldier Mountain's new offerings in the winter of 2016-17 under new ownership. They're having a season pass party tomorrow night. Check it out!
I also wanted to mention a first-time event happening in mid-December at Brundage Mountain ... it's a world-class mountaineering event called the “Northwest Passage Ski Mountaineering Race,” co-sponsored by the McCall Winter Sports Club and the United States Ski Mountaineering Association on Dec. 16-17. 

On Friday, Dec. 16, racers will compete in a 520-meter "vertical race," starting at 4:00 pm at the base of Brundage's 45th Parallel ski run and finishes at the top of Engen. This event is open to local skiers and elite racers.  

On Saturday, Dec. 17, elite racers will tackle a 12.9-mile uphill/downhill course that includes six climbs covering a total of 6400 vertical feet. Recreational racers will compete in a 7.3-mile route with four climbs and 3860 feet of elevation gain. Both courses begin at the base of Brundage Mountain with an uphill climb to the Lakeview Bowl area, which will be the site of the first transition to downhill skiing. From there, competitors will climb back out of the Lakeview area, and leave the ski area boundary en route to the summit of Sargents Mountain. There, racers will complete additional climbs and descents in the Sargents bowl before finishing at the base of Hidden Valley.
If you'd like to sign up for the Northwest Passage Ski Mountaineering Race, go to the Brundage web site.  Volunteers are needed to help with the race as well. Contact Jim Pace if you'd like to volunteer at
Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Try Death Valley as a winter destination to explore unique canyons, dunes and peaks

Mosaic Canyon ... getting into the marble zone 
Red Pass is down where our white pickup truck rental is parked.
On our way to Thimble Peak. 
Thimble Peak 
On the summit. We got out early and beat the heat. 
Titus Canyon 
Hi all,

I took Wendy to Death Valley National Park recently for a quick 4-day getaway, and I was impressed. I'd never been there before. I had heard that it's a great winter destination -- the ideal time to visit a place that has temperatures in the 130s in mid-summer. In early November, we experienced lows in the 60s and highs in the 80s in the afternoons. It's even cooler in December and January.

We stayed at the Furnace Creek Ranch for about $150/night. We liked that spot quite a bit. There's a large swimming pool for ranch guests to use, plus tennis courts and a bacce ball court. Wifi was kind of lame, but you're supposed to be on vacation. There are three restaurants and a general store in Furnace Creek where you can find suitable eats and supplies. There also are many different campgrounds in the national park where you could park an RV or tent camp.

Here are a few places that I'd recommend visiting:

  • Mosaic Canyon - There are some neat rock formations in Mosaic Canyon -- really old limestone rock that dates to 700 million years old is overlain by much more recent compacted sediment and gravel that occurred just several thousand years ago. The old limestone rock eventually changed to dolomite and then marble over the years. About 1 mile up Mosaic Canyon, you get into the smooth marble rock in the canyon walls, and the canyon narrows as you hike upstream. Continue up the canyon, the views and geology keep getting better. 
    Golden Canyon above the valley floor 
  • Golden Canyon - We really liked Golden Canyon. It's close to Furnace Creek, and it's a beautiful hike into Golden Canyon in the morning or evening when the low-elevation light punctuates the topography. The geology in the Golden Canyon area is more fine silt, sand and ash-flow tuff layers from volcanic eruptions. It's a mixture of beige, tan and much older rocks above the silt and tuff layers. You can do an out-and-back hike in Golden Canyon, climb to Zabriskie Point or do a 5-mile loop with a vehicle shuttle. 
    View from Zabriskie Point as the sun was going down 
  • Zabriski Point - This is a super-cool point of interest off the main highway leading into Furnace Creek. It's a very short walk to a gorgeous overlook of the Golden Canyon area. If you go there at sunrise or sunset, the colors are spectacular. We got there near sunset and took a lot of pictures as the sun went down. 
    Loved the twilight from Zabriskie Point 
  • Badwater Salt Flats - Given that this is the lowest point in North America (282 feet below sea level), it's worth visiting Badwater Basin just to say you've been there. It's a salt flat with a trail that goes out into Badwater Basin in the middle of Death Valley. Perfect for a selfie photo. 
    Badwater Salt Flats 
  • Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes - The dunes near Stovepipe Wells Village are quite extensive, a larger dune complex than Bruneau Dunes State Park. We didn't explore the dunes but they looked like fun to explore when the temperatures are moderate. 
  • Titus Canyon - Thanks to some friends, we got a cool tip to go climb Thimble Peak off of Red Pass as part of doing a big driving loop. The canyon is so tight that the whole route is one-way. We drove the Daylight Pass road from Death Valley into Nevada (about 30 minutes), and then drove a dirt road up to Red Pass to start our day hike to Thimble Peak. We climbed up a ridge to a shorter mountain (6,100 feet elevation) and then scaled Thimble Peak (6,500 feet). The 360-degree view was totally spectacular up there. We climbed back to our rental pickup truck, and then drove down Titus Canyon back to Death Valley. You go through an old mining area on the narrow two-track road. Glad we had a high clearance rig! Highly recommend doing that drive and then taking some side-hikes along the way. 
There are many other canyons and peaks to explore in Death Valley. This was just our first trip. But I'd recommend visiting the area in the winter and enjoy a vastly different experience than other canyons and peaks in the West.

FYI - We took a direct flight from Boise to Vegas on Southwest Airlines, rented the pickup truck from Enterprise Rental, and were in Death Valley by around noon. Very easy to get there from Boise, we thought. Many people drive down in their camping rigs so they can camp out and enjoy the area in that fashion. I've heard that when it gets windy down there, camping isn't much fun because of the blowing sand. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

10 outdoorsy ideas to pursue on a beautiful November weekend in SW Idaho

Boise River Greenbelt in the fall (courtesy LifewithLolo)
Paddling to see fall colors on Payette Lake (courtesy Pete Zimowsky) 
Leslie Gulch would be a great call this weekend 
Fall biking is all the rage right now ... perfect riding conditions
Fisher-Williams Trail in the White Clouds 
Steelhead fishing is hot now! 
Hi all,

The weather looks fab for the weekend, with temperatures in the 60s and a very small chance of rain in the Boise and SW Idaho area on Saturday morning ... It's amazing to have this kind of weather in November, but it looks like this will be the last weekend of warm temps before things turn to cooler and wetter weather next week, so you might as well get out and enjoy it!

This week, I'm throwing out some outdoorsy ideas close to home to appeal to folks who like to hike, bike, run, paddle, camp or fish ...

1. Go for a sunny walk, run or bike ride on the Boise River Greenbelt. Wait for the weather to warm up in the afternoon and enjoy it! Make a point to stop by the new Esther Simplot Park near the Whitewater Park and check out the many pathways and trails in the park.  

2. Go hiking/running/biking in the Boise Foothills and enjoy the last remaining fall colors. Going to the creeks and gulches is where you'll see the colors in the shrubs and trees. I recommend Polecat Gulch, Dry Creek, Corrals, Hulls Gulch, Hulls Gulch Interpretive Trail, Military Reserve Park, Five Mile Creek, and Orchard Gulch. My book, Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home, would be a handy reference for any of these trails.

3. Go kayaking/rafting/SUPing on the Payette River. Banks to Beehive would be the best bet. Wear a wetsuit if you're SUPing.

4. Go steelhead fishing on the Salmon, Snake or Clearwater rivers and catch a monster steelhead ... See a new blog post I wrote for VisitIdaho about this fall ritual.

5. Go fall mountain biking! I wrote about five of my favorite rides statewide in a new blog post for VisitIdaho. The blog features Around the Mountain at Bogus, Loon Lake Loop in McCall, Fisher-Williams Loop in the White Clouds, Gold Hill Switchback Special near Sandpoint, and Farragut State Park north of Coeur d'Alene.

It's all fun riding the China Ditch Trail in Reynolds Creek canyon
Pictured here are Paul Hilding, Mark Anderson, Steve Schneider and Jim Giuffre 
6. Ride the Northwest Passage Loop in the Wilson Creek area in the Owyhee Front. This is a 16.2-mile ride that takes about 4 hours to complete. Be sure to take your time, pack a lunch and enjoy the scenery. My blog post has all the details. The ride also is featured in my book, "The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide."

7. Top off the tires in your road bike and go for a nice long afternoon ride. I'd recommend: a) Hill Road to points west (Eagle or Star). Loop it with Floating Feather or Beacon Light Road. b) Ride to Hilltop Summit and back; c) Cartwright Loop; d) City to Farm. All of these rides and more are detailed in my road guide, "Boise Road Cycling Guide."

Wees Bar petroglyphs (nice pic by SummitPost) 
8. Hike/run or ride to Wees Bar on the Snake River by Swan Falls. It's 12.2 miles out and back to Wees Bar, where you can see Native American petroglyphs on big boulders on the banks of the Snake River. Trailhead is across Swan Falls Dam. The route is detailed in Boise Trail Guide

9. Hike or ride from Mores Creek Summit to see how the Pioneer Fire may have affected your favorite backcountry ski lines on Pilot Peak or Sunset Peak. Go to Idaho City and continue on Idaho 21 to Mores Creek Summit to reach the trailhead. I'm hoping to do this myself very soon!

10. Go hiking or camping at Succor Creek or Leslie Gulch. It's a perfect time to visit these destinations in the Owyhees. Take U.S. 95 south from Marsing to a signed turnoff for Leslie Gulch. Succor Creek is best reached via Homedale. Both areas are detailed in my Owyhee Canyonlands guide.

Trail note: SWIMBA is hosting a trail-work day at the Eagle Bike Park to work on a re-route of Treasure View Traverse. See this link for details.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, October 27, 2016

New Esther Simplot Park adds yet another precious pearl in Boise's Ribbon of Jewels

Inlet from Quinn's Pond connects to Esther Simplot Park 

New Pathway next to Esther Simplot Pond I 
Greenbelt through the park was open today (Thursday). Park does not
officially open until next Wednesday. Entrance roads won't open till next week. 
Primitive trails next to Esther Simplot Pond II will remain primitive. Cool! 

Greenbelt split by Veterans Pond ... this has been closed for 1.5 years
Greenbelt spur next to Quinn's Pond and Esther Simplot Park
Greenbelt comes over to the park from the 36th Street pedestrian bridge 
Hi all,

I live in Northwest Boise, so the new Esther Simplot Park is located close to home. I used to walk my dog around the old gravel pit ponds that have been enhanced with grassy mounds, picnic shelters, pathways and waterways, and I must say, I am IMPRESSED!

The Grand Opening for Esther Simplot Park, 614 N. Whitewater Blvd., in Boise, will occur at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 2nd. Hope to see you there!

The 55-acre park, generously funded by the Simplot Foundation, officially opens on Wednesday. They had the Greenbelt open through the park today, so you can get a sneak peak if you happen to be walking or biking in the 'hood.

For dog owners, one immediate reason to visit the park is that they will have an off-leash policy in effect from Nov. 2 through March 31 to keep the geese at bay. Make sure your dog has a city dog license. Pets still have to be leashed in the parking area. Make sure you pick up after your pet.

New pathways - There must be several miles of paths that wind through the park, including the more primitive paths that circumnavigate the pond farthest to the west, so it will be a popular place for walkers, runners and bicyclists. Plus, the pathways connect to the Greenbelt and nature trail in Veteran's Park, so really, it'll be possible to do 5-mile loops in that area no problem.

Park features map courtesy Boise Parks & Recreation (click to enlarge)
Great paddling - It's also going to be way cool to paddle around the different ponds that are all in close proximity to the park or in the park, starting with Quinn's pond, and then Esther Simplot Pond 1, and Esther Simplot Pond II, and Veteran's Pond. Hope we can link them all up someday. Not the greatest weather for paddling right now, but you can bet some hard-cores will be out there next week on SUPs, kayaks or canoes.

Esther Simplot Park is located along Whitewater Park Boulevard between State Street and Main Street in Boise. There is a fair amount of parking inside the park, but it'll be best to walk there or bike there if possible. It's immediately accessible from the Boise River Greenbelt by the 36th Street pedestrian bridge.

It's also next door to our friends at Idaho River Sports, where folks can rent or buy SUPs, kayaks or canoes, and accessories. They've waited for this day to come for a long time. Heck, we've all waited for this day to come ... construction began in February 2015.

Many thanks to the Simplot Family and Boise Parks & Recreation for creating a beautiful park. Esther Simplot Park is yet another pearl in the Ribbon of Jewels, Boise's wonderful series of parks that border the Greenbelt as it winds through the city.
- SS

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Try camping in an Idaho fire lookout tower - "Sanctuaries at the edge of the Sky"

Full moon, a warm place to sleep and a nice campfire ... how can you go wrong? 
Hi all,

I wrote a story that was published today by VisitIdaho about camping at an Idaho fire lookout. Two friends and I backpacked into Arid Peak Lookout in the St. Joe River Country, near Avery, Idaho, in September. We had a great time!

I was inspired to write this story by a great program on Outdoor Idaho about Idaho fire lookouts that have been restored by volunteers and made available for public rental.

If you'd like to rent a fire lookout, go to and look for an Idaho lookout of your choice. There are about 10-12 of them available to rent statewide. Act early because they book up all summer long!

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fall is the perfect time to tackle five advanced mountain bike rides in SW Idaho

Mark Anderson and Jim Giuffre on Bear Pete Trail 
Steve riding at 8,000 feet on Bear Pete Mountain in the Payette National Forest.
Coming down on Bear Pete ... yay! 
Elk Trail at Brundage Mountain winds through the trees like a snake. Very fun! 
Watchman in the spring 
Get a group together and tackle these fall rides! 
Dry Creek Trail 
Heading off to climb the Boise Ridge 
Dry Creek
Hi all,

Well it's been kind of warm mid-week, but it's supposed to cool off into the 70s by Saturday and Sunday. Personally, I love the cool weather in the fall ... it's really the best time of the year for active outdoor adventures. You don't sweat nearly as much on the climb, and it's a beautiful time of year to enjoy fall colors.

This week, I'm recommending five advanced and strenuous mountain bike rides in Boise and McCall. Everyone has been riding all spring and summer, and the fall is a great time to push your legs perhaps farther than they've gone this year and knock off some big rides. Get some friends together and go get 'em!

1. Watchman Loop - This is still one of my all-time favorite rides in the Boise Foothills. The creeks are mostly dried up now, but the colors are happening, and the unique skyline tour of the foothills that Watchman provides is always worth the price of admission. Distance: 15 miles. Vertical gain 2,500 feet. Rated advanced. Travel time: 3 hours Start in Military Reserve. Take the trail along Freestone Creek to Ridgecrest #20 and climb to Central Ridge Trail. Climb Central Ridge to the Bucktail junction. Go straight and climb a short distance and then contour over to Rocky Canyon Road on Shane's. Climb Rocky Canyon Road to the Five Mile Trail and Creek. Climb Five Mile to Watchman. Follow Watchman across the foothills and go left at the junction with Three Bears/Curlew Ridge/Trail #6 and follow Three Bears down the spine of Curlew Ridge (super fun downhill with one technical section) back to Shane's Junction. Descend back to the bottom of Military Reserve however you like ... I always have to ride Bucktail and cruise the super-cool GS turns.

2. Dry Creek - Hard Guy - Dry Creek Loop - For advanced rides, Dry Creek is a favorite destination. You just need some time to ride it! It's a tough climb up Hard Guy but the payoff is big riding down Dry Creek and the new bridges, etc. Distance: 20 miles. Vertical gain: 3,500 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous climb). Travel time: 3-5 hours. Start at the Dry Creek Trailhead on Bogus Basin Road. Climb Dry Creek through the rocks to a creek crossing and junction with the trail spur to Hard Guy about 1.5 miles up the trail. This portion of the trail has been improved recently. Climb Hard Guy to the Ridge Road. Take your time and conserve energy. Take a break on top! Go left and ride 2 miles to the Dry Creek junction. Turn left off the Ridge Road on a singletrack that wraps around a ridge and hairpins into the densely timbered headwaters of Dry Creek. Stay right at the Shingle Creek junction. Proceed with caution. There can be downfall and various hazards on the way down the trail. It's 7 miles of fun and adventure descending Dry Creek. Ride through the rocky features and return to Bogus Basin Road. Whew! Time for a beer!

3. Corrals-Scott's-8th Street-Ridge Road-Trail #4-Sidewinder-Crestline-Red Cliffs Loop -Here's another big foothills tour that'll take you to the top of the Boise Ridge climbing via Corrals, Scott's and 8th Street, and then descending on the wide, sandy, dished-out Trail #4 motorcycle trail until you reach Sidewinder, and then it's a fast and smooth downhill from there. Distance: About 18 miles. Vertical gain: 3,600 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous). Travel time: 2.5-3.5 hours. Ride up Bogus Basin Road or the Highlands Trail to Corrals. Climb Corrals to Scott's, go left, and climb the steep singletrack to 8th Street. Ride another 1.5 miles on 8th Street to a junction for Trail #4 on the right. Follow Trail #4 connector over to Trail #4 and hang on for the tricky descent. Keep your weight back and plane through the sand! Trail #4 eventually returns to Sidewinder summit. Descend on Sidewinder to Crestline and then go right on Red Cliffs to complete your ride. Take Red Fox and Chickadee Ridge to Camelsback and you're done! Again, time for a beer!

4. Bear Basin-Brundage Lookout-Elk Trail-Growler-488 Road Loop - We're moving on to the McCall area now. I did this ride a couple of weeks ago and it worked out splendid! This is a cool tour of the Bear Basin area on a climb to the top of Brundage Lookout, then you descend Brundage ski area on Elk Trail, and then take a trail and a road back to Bear Basin. Great tour! Distance: 18.2 miles. Vertical gain: 2,600 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous in places). Start by taking Bear Basin Road about 1.5 miles to a wooden fence by the east portal to the Bear Basin non-motorized trails. Park. The ride starts here (by all means, ride from town if you want!). Climb Bear Basin Road 9 miles to the top of Brundage Mountain. The road gets pretty soft and sandy near the top. Just grind out the climb. Once at the lookout, ride over to the Bluebird Chair and pick up the top of Elk Trail. Descend Elk Trail about 6 miles to a point near the bottom of the ski area. You'll see a trail on the left at a split called Growler. Go left on Growler and climb the singletrack through open slopes and deep woods until you climb a super-steep section in the woods and pop out into the open on Temptation. Take Growler across the grassy trail and then bear right as the singletrack continues to climb. You'll see an unmarked two-track road taking off laterally from the ski area. This is Forest Road #488. It's downhill all the way back to Bear Basin now -- enjoy it! Watch for tight corners in a few spots, but generally, you can let it rip on the wide gravel road. Head into McCall and grab a burger and a beer!

5. Bear Pete Trail - The McCall locals always do at least an annual pilgrimage to tackle Bear Pete Trail, and I often gather up some buddies to do the same thing. Everyone loves the ride because it does test you, makes you work hard, and sometimes hike-a-bike is required! The cool thing about Bear Pete is that it starts at a high elevation and after you make the big climb to the top of Bear Pete Mountain, you'll be riding at 8,000 foot elevation on the mountain for a number of miles, going up and down, with huge views off to the west (French Creek) along the way. Distance: 17.5 miles. Vertical gain: 2,500 feet. Vertical gain: 3,500 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous). Travel time: full day. Bear Pete Trail is located north of McCall via Warren Wagon Road. Past Upper Payette Lake, watch for a turnoff to Cloochman Saddle. This road takes you to the trailhead. You also should plant a vehicle at the north end of Bear Pete, north of Burgdorf Hot Springs, if you don't want to ride a long dirt road slog back to your vehicle at the trailhead. At the saddle, climb trail #142 Bear Pete and grind for a couple of miles to the ridgetop. You'll ride up and down along the high mountain ridge for several hours. There are a few junctions but stay on the main trail. On the north end, the trail plunges downhill to Forest Road #246, the road to Burgdorf Hot Springs. You made it! Bring your swimsuits and take a soak at Burgdorf after the ride! Always a good call! There are a number of places where you could camp along the Brundage Road, if necessary.

Have fun!
- SS