Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cooler weather means it's time to explore the Owyhees! Little Jacks and Silver City!

Wendy enjoys the views of Little Jacks Creek from a high point
by the mouth of Little Jacks canyon. 
Little Jacks is choked with vegetation. Very difficult to hike upstream. No trail. 
Little Jacks Wilderness 
The views along the Silver City Skyline Ride are spectacular! 
Jim Young and Leo Hennessy 
Doug Lawrence and Paul Hilding in Silver City. Ready for a beer! 
Hi all,

What a great cool-down we've had last weekend and this week! With cooler weather in September, it's a perfect time to go hiking or biking in the Owyhee Mountains!

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending a scenic hike in the relatively new Jack's Creek Wilderness and a super-cool mountain bike ride in Silver City. All three of these trips and many more are featured in my guide, The Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide. The book features 55 hiking and biking routes in the Owyhees and a detailed description to the 100-mile Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway.

Now, let's go hiking and biking!

1. Little Jacks Creek - There are several hiking opportunities in Little Jacks. In the book, we recommend two hikes from the BLM trailhead. I'll recommend an easy 3.5-mile hike that provides a cool overview of the yawning, basalt-canyon. The hardest part is getting to Little Jacks. A high-clearance 4WD vehicle is recommended.

Getting there: From Boise, take I-84 east to the Simco Road exit. Turn right on Simco Road and follow that to ID 167. Turn right and proceed to Grand View. In Grand View, fill up on any last-minute supplies and head east on ID 78. Watch for a major right-hand turn on Mud Flat Road. Note your mileage as you turn onto Mud Flat. Proceed 7.6 miles to the Shoofly Cutoff Road. Turn left. Proceed 2.6 miles to an un-named dirt road on the right. Turn right on the Halfway Gulch dirt road, cross cattle guard and proceed south toward the Owyhee foothills. Ignore minor roads on the left or right. After traveling 7.6 miles, you'll come to a Y-junction. Go left to reach the Little Jacks Trailhead. It's 4 miles of rougher road to the upper Little Jacks trailhead. In 1.7 miles from the Y-junction, take the right fork in the road for a smoother ride through a wash. You'll come to a BLM wilderness kiosk at the lower trailhead. You can park here if you have a low-clearance vehicle, or keep goUning to the main trailhead at the mouth of the creek (serious 4WD high-clearance road).

The hike: Unfortunately, the vegetation is too thick to hike upstream in Little Jacks Canyon.To start, take the gravel trail that drops into Little Jacks Creek. There are several suitable spots for crossing the creek. Follow the trail uphill on the other side of the creek, and climb to a junction with a jeep trail that goes south into Little Horse Basin Gap (mile 1.3). Go about 1/2 mile on the jeep trail, then peel right and hike cross-country to the high butte that overlooks Little Jacks Creek canyon. Climb to the top of the butte, and walk along the ridgetop toward Little Jacks. The high point directly above the mouth of the canyon provides the best views up-canyon (mile 2.6). This would be a great lunch spot if it's not too windy. Descend from the ridge back to the trail however you see fit, and retrace your tracks back to the trailhead. This route takes about 2 hours.

2. Silver City Skyline Mine Tour - This is an advanced mountain bike ride that provides a skyline tour of the Silver City area. You basically do a big climb up to War Eagle Mountain and then hold your general elevation as you circumnavigate the whole Silver City area. Great ride!

The Ride: It's a steep climb from Silver City to War Eagle Mountain to start the ride, but once you've made it to about 8,000 feet elevation by War Eagle, the rest of the ride is mostly up-and-down on ridgelines, providing huge views of the Owyhees and the surrounding countryside. The route includes a short side trip to the Cumberland Mine, which features some nice stone and rock work, some cool old mine shafts and cabins at the Poorman Mine near War Eagle, and numerous choice overlook spots along the way. On the way down Long Gulch, you'll pass by several old mine buildings, shafts and mills. After the ride, be sure to have a cold drink at the Silver City Hotel. Ideally, it's best to camp overnight in Silver City before or after the ride. There are camp spots just outside of town in Silver City, at New York Summit or at Linehan Flat. Be sure to carry lots of water and food for the ride, you'll need it.    

Directions: To start, take the main road out of Silver City and head for the pass you drove over to reach the town. Spin easy gears and conserve energy on the steep uphill for the next several miles.

Mile 1.2 - Turn right on BLM Road F483. This is your main route for the first half of the ride.
Mile 2.4 - Bear right on Road F483 at Y junction.
Mile 3.5 - Turn right on an unmarked secondary road that leads to the Cumberland Mine. Reach the mine at 4.0. Check out the rock work.
Mile 4.1 - Continue on secondary road and it merges with Road F483. Climb to War Eagle junction.
Mile 4.7 - Reach junction with service road to the top of War Eagle. It's a short, but steep sidetrip to check out the summit. Check out the old buldings and mine shafts at the Poorman Mine near this junction ... it's a short sidetrip.
Mile 5.9 - Back at War Eagle junction. Bear right on Road F483 and cruise on your middle ring to the ridges and mountains to the south.
Mile 6.7 - Bear right at Y junction next to livestock watering area. Bear right again shortly afterward and climb a steep hill with lots of mobile rocks.
Mile 7.9 - Come to sweet overlook on the left of the main road. Cruise over to the trees to enjoy views looking out toward Triangle and the big wide open country of the Owyhees.
Mile 8.4 - Pass through barbed-wire gate.
Mile 9.2 - Bear right.
Mile 9.4 - Ignore trail going downhill on the right. Stay on the ridge.
Mile 9.6 - Pass through barbed-wire gate.
Mile 11.1 - Bear right and pass through gate. Going downhill now on ATV track.
Mile 11.8 - Come to 4-way junction. Take a hard right and climb super-steep ATV trail to a saddle at 12.6. Parts of the climb are rideable; some parts not. Go left at the junction and climb a little more until trail flattens out.
Mile 14.0 - Come to 4-way junction. Turn right and descend into Long Gulch on a jeep trail. It's a fun descent back to Silver City. There are a number of creek crossings.
Mile 15.6 - Approach old cabin and old mine shaft. Check 'em out if you want.  
Mile 16.8 - Arrive in downtown Silver City. You made it! 

Directions to Silver City: From Boise, take I-84 east to the Franklin Road (City Center) exit in Nampa. Go left and follow Franklin into downtown Nampa. Follow signs for State Highway 45 to Murphy and take 12th Avenue south, which eventually turns into Highway 45. Go south to the Y-junction after crossing the Snake River. Turn left on Idaho 78 and head for Murphy. About five miles past Murphy, turn right at the signed junction for Silver City. It's about 20 miles to Silver City. The first half is paved, and then it turns to an uneven, rocky dirt road. Allow two hours travel time from Boise. As you descend into Silver City, find a place to park near the Long Gulch Road. The ride starts and finishes here.

Have fun!
- SS

No comments: