Thursday, December 21, 2017

15 last-minute Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her ...

Happy Holiday to all!  
Hi all,

Christmas is sneaking up on us! It's just four days away! Time for my annual outdoorsy Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her.

Before I get into the gifts, we received an early Christmas gift from the snow god Ullr! A solid winter storm hit the McCall area this week with 8 inches of new snow. That will improve the Nordic skiing at Bear Basin, Ponderosa State Park, Jug Mountain Ranch and the North Valley Trail/Activity Barn trails. Just in time for the holidays! Plus, Brundage Mountain Resort will open the bluebird quad tomorrow (Friday) for top-to-bottom skiing. They've got 14 inches at the base and 35 inches at the summit. That's where I'm heading tomorrow morning!   

The other resort news is that Bogus Basin is opening the Glade Runner alpine mountain coaster tomorrow (Friday)! The coaster travels 4,330 feet through the woods at speeds up to 25 mph. You can ride by yourself or with another passenger. Riders control their speed. Tickets are $15 for singles and $25 for doubles. Season pass holders get $5 off on their first ride. This is a much-anticipated opportunity for people to enjoy Bogus even if they're not skiers or riders. I can't wait to try it! 

Tamarack Resort also will be opening top-to-bottom skiing tomorrow (Friday) with man-made snow at the bottom. They're reporting snow depths of 10 inches at the bottom and 38 inches on top. Sun Valley is opening more terrain as snow allows, and the Nordic skiing in the upper Wood River Valley is stellar. 

Now, on to the gifts!

1. Have you heard about these new Anon M2 goggles? The lenses wrap around your eyes in a big way, and the lenses can be swapped out easily with rare earth magnets holding them to the frame. They look really cool, and the cost is on par with other high-end pair goggles, $239.95. Take a look at the new technology with all brands!

2. Luci Lights. These solar-powered wonders are popular! Great for the back deck, camping, ambiance, you name it!  Prices range from $19.95 for a Luci outdoor light to $35 for a build-your-own kit. 

3. A warm, cozy Carhartt vest from D&B Supply, or a Patagonia down vest from Idaho Mountain Touring or Boise REI

4. 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 May Hardware in McCall or the local Maverick service station.

5. 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. 
6. 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.
7. 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. 

8. 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 be sure to plan ahead.

Wendy at our cozy cabin in McCall. 
9. 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. 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

10. 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. 

11. 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. 

12. 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
13. 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!

14. Go Pro Hero 5 - It's smaller and more compact but it's got more bells and whistles than ever. See the Go Pro web site for more detail.

15. Pick up a pair of xc skis to expand your winter repertoire. The most versatile set up is a pair of class xc skis with fish scales. Usually you can buy a combination set with skis, boots and poles. If you're more ambitious, invest in a skate skiing set up. Great winter workout! Visit Idaho Mountain Touring, Greenwoods or Boise REI to check on their package offerings.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
- SS  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Where to go, if you'd like to play in the snow - xc skiing, tubing & sleigh rides in SW Idaho

Fair weather skiing at Targhee means you get to enjoy big views of the Tetons! (Courtesy Grand Targhee)
Grand Targhee has the best, and most snow in the region right now. 
Brundage is offering sleigh rides at the Activity Barn in McCall for the first time this year! 
Hi all,

I've been cursing this blasted high pressure weather pattern that's been deflecting winter storms away from us for quite some time now. A small storm moving through on Friday is supposed to blow the inversion out of the Treasure Valley, with any luck at all. Let's hope!

But in the meantime, it's possible to find places where you can go play in the snow! I've got some recommendations on where to go downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, tubing or on a sleigh ride!

  • Best downhill skiing right now - Ski the man-made groomers at Sun Valley or hit the road and ski Grand Targhee! Look for pre-Christmas season lodging deals at Sun Valley via a ski-and-stay package. Or, pick a few days when you can break away to visit Grand Targhee, and stay overnight on the mountain. They've got the best snow in the region, with a 62-inch base at the summit, 52 inches at the base area. 
  • Cross-country skiing close to home - The Nordic Lodge and limited Nordic trails at Bogus Basin are open. You also could xc ski at Bear Basin in McCall or on limited trails at Ponderosa State Park in McCall. Bear Basin is reporting a 12-inch base, recommending classic skiing. 
  • Best cross-country skiing - Go to Ketchum/Sun Valley and ski the North Valley Trails, Prairie Creek Loop, Harriman Trail or the trails at Galena Lodge. The xc trails in the Wood River Valley have the most kilometers open and best conditions for skate skiing or classic skiing.
    Tubing at Bogus Basin 
  • Tubing - Bogus Basin's tubing hill is open on Saturday and Sunday this weekend, and Brundage Mountain is opening the tubing hill at the Activity Barn in McCall on Friday, Dec. 15, for the holiday season. Check the web sites for hours and pricing. You need advance reservations to go tubing at Bogus, so you need to plan ahead! 
  • Sleigh rides - Brundage is offering sleigh rides at the Activity Barn for the first time this year. It's a 90-minute ride in the outskirts of McCall with fetching views of the surrounding countryside. The sleigh holds up to 15 people. Cost is $30 for adults, and $12 for kids 17 and under. Be sure to dress warm! They have hot chocolate and coffee in the yurt. 
    Hap and Florence Points elk-viewing sleigh rides 
    • Another great option is going on a winter sleigh ride with Hap and Florence Points in Donnelly to see elk and enjoy the mountain scenery. The Points Ranch has been offering this service for many years! Call 208-325-8783 for pricing.
    • Sun Valley offers one-hour sleigh rides and also dinner tours to Trail Creek Cabin. Pricing is $20-30 for the one-hour ride, depending on dates, and $129 to $169 for the dinner tours. Contact Sun Valley for more information. 
    • It appears that Bogus Creek Outfitters is no longer in operation. Their phone is disconnected. 
      People have been skating on Little Payette Lake for a week. 
  • Ice skating - If you like to go ice skating, and you plan to be in McCall, locals have been skating on Little Payette Lake, which has been smooth as glass, perfect conditions! Things may change after it snows, so try to get there soon! There may be skating on ponds in the Boise Valley, but be careful! You also can go skating at Idaho Ice World, the Manchester Ice Center in McCall or Sun Valley. 
Hope you enjoy the snow! 
- SS 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Plan a snowmobile adventure to Burgdorf Hot Springs, plus more hot springs to visit

Burgdorf Hot Springs - an Idaho classic north of McCall (courtesy of Brundage Mountain)
Hi all,

My outdoor tip this week is about visiting some of the best hot springs in SW Idaho. I wrote a hot springs roundup for the Idaho Statesman's Outdoors section this week, and I'm sharing the link to that here in my blog.

We are blessed to have these natural wonders right here in our own backyard.

Also, tonight I'll be signing copies of Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home, and the Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide at the City Peanut Shop in downtown Boise for First Thursday! There will be beer and peanut pairings to enjoy as well.

This is a great chance to get autographed copies of my guidebooks for gifts! Hope to see you tonight!

Have fun, and dress warm! 
- SS

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Three kid-friendly pre-winter hikes - Browns Canyon, Eagle Island Park, Polecat Gulch

Browns Canyon in the winter sun ... not much light in the canyon! 
We took Huck to Browns Canyon when he was a puppy
Drew did great on the Browns Canyon hike 
Redrock canyon, sagebrush and aspens 
Hmmm, where do we go now? 
Hiking the two-track back to the trailhead out in the open Owyhee country
Hi all,

These semi-cloudy cold days with temperatures in the low 40s don't seem all that appealing for outdoor recreation -- at least on the surface. But actually, once you get moving on a hike, a run or a bike ride, you'll warm up inside and enjoy your outing.

It is important to dress properly in layers and bring a warm hat and gloves/mittens so you stay comfortable, and peel layers as necessary as you warm up inside.

For this week's outdoor tip, I'm recommending three kid-friendly hikes -- Brown's Canyon in the Owyhees, Eagle Island State Park and Polecat Gulch in the Boise Foothills. Get the kids dressed up in appropriate clothes and take them out to explore the great outdoors in SW Idaho. Pack a lunch, snacks and bring plenty of water.

Remember that there's a "Cold Moon," a full moon that's supposed to appear 10%+ larger than normal this weekend, peaking on Saturday night/Sunday morning. It's supposed to appear as a full moon three days in a row -- Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That'll be a treat or maybe the coyotes will make too much noise and keep you up all night ...

For these outings, try to get out on Friday or Saturday morning. That's when the weather will be best. There's a 50 percent chance of rain on Saturday afternoon and Sunday in the valley. Just FYI. Most of these trips would be doable with a good rain coat.

1. Brown's Canyon Overland Tour, Owyhee Front, near Oreana. Distance: 5.2 miles. Difficulty: Moderate. Travel time: 3+ hours. This is an interesting hike in the sagebrush and rocks of the Owyhee Front until you come across Brown's Canyon, a hidden jewel. In my Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook, I detail a hike inside the slot canyons of Brown's Canyon, and a hike that goes around the slot canyon (thereby avoiding cold, deep-water pools) but you can still see it from above.

How to get there: Take I-84 East to Simco Road. Turn south on the highway to Grand View. Turn right on Idaho 78 in Grandview and head for the tiny old town of Oreana. There's a sign on the highway for a left-hand turn into town near MP 43. Make a note of your odometer. Drive down the hill straight into town, go past the old church (2.25 miles from the highway) and go straight on the Oreana Loop Road until it takes a hard left. Make the corner and take an immediate right on Alder Creek Road. Follow the bumpy dirt road six miles to a signed right-hand turnoff for BLM Road 700. Proceed down the grade to an old corral at a two-way junction. Park. The hike starts here.

The Hike: Go west on BLM Road 700 and climb a moderate grade over to a bluff that overlooks Browns Canyon. At mile 1.4, bear right on a two-track and drop down to the Browns Creek draw. This is a pretty area that's full of shrubs and aspens. The first slot canyon with blondish rock begins at mile 1.7. Cross over to the left side of the draw, as you go downstream, and walk overland through the blond rocks staying above the canyon. You'll break out into an open sage flat at mile 2.0. When the next slot canyon begins, climb up the slope to the left until you reach the top of the rim, and then hike along the rim as close as you feel comfortable to check out the slot canyon as you move along. In a half mile, the canyon breaks open by a draw, and you'll need to lose elevation. Hike into the bottom of the gully and climb back on top of the rim. There's a nice overlook when you reach the top again at mile 3. Continue on the left side of the canyon until you come to the dirt road crossing, and then turn right onto the dirt road at mile 3.6.  Follow the road to mile 4.0 at a two-way junction. Turn right again at a fence gate, and follow the two-track road (BLM Road #710)  back to the trailhead. Feel free to explore Antelope Springs along the way. It's another tight canyon.  

2. Eagle Island State Park - There's a nice 5-mile hike in the park that I detailed in Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. This particular hike tours both channels of the Boise River while also cruising around the outskirts of the park. You could easily do a shorter route in the park by just touring the North Channel of the Boise River. Start from the parking area by the pond and circumnavigate the park. I did the hike in a counter-clockwise direction. See the GPS tracks on the map below.

Getting there: Take State Street west of Eagle Road to a signed turnoff for Eagle Island State Park. There is a park entrance fee unless you have a statewide season pass via your vehicle registration. I always buy that pass ... it's a real bargain!

3. Polecat Gulch - Hike a 3-mile loop around Polecat Gulch in the NW Foothills of Boise. The loop takes about 1.5 hours, depending on walking speed. The hike described takes you on a tour of the finger ridges on the Polecat Loop Trail in sage and grassland habitat. You might see mule deer on this hike or even the albino deer! I rate this hike easy to moderate. Trailhead is at the north end of N. Collister, off of Hill Road. Go north on Collister to the trailhead parking area and rest room at the end of the road.

Hike up the main Polecat trail up the bottom of the draw to Quick Draw Trail, climb Quick Draw to the Doe Ridge trail. Go to the top of Doe Ridge (enjoy the views of NW Boise) and follow that trail over to the north side of the Polecat Trail complex. Turn right on to the Polecat Loop trail above the Cartwright Road trailhead and follow the loop trail along a steep hillside above the Terteling Ranch and Cartwright Road. Follow the trail as it wraps around the mountain and then drops back to the Quick Draw-Polecat junction. Go left or down-canyon on the Polecat Trail to return to the trailhead.

Have a great weekend! - SS

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Go see Warren Miller "Line of Descent," then create your own snow adventure

(Courtesy Warren Miller Entertainment) 

(Courtesy Warren Miller Entertainment) 

(Courtesy Warren Miller Entertainment) 
(Courtesy Warren Miller Entertainment) 
Hi all,

In case you haven't noticed, we are transitioning to winter. Are you ready? There's nothing better to get the adrenaline flowing about skiing and snowboarding than the annual Warren Miller ski movie. This year, the move is titled "Line of Descent." It's the 68th film produced by Warren Miller Entertainment, promising downhill thrills, global adventure and a nod to ski instructors ...

"Ride along on a stunning cinematic journey as we travel near and far, descending some of North America’s deepest lines in Jackson Hole, Montana, Silverton, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, and Steamboat," a Warren Miller press release said. "From powsurfer to splitboard, motorcycle, dogsled or snowmobile, watch as athletes chase winter along the Beartooth Pass, the French Alps, New Zealand, British Columbia, and Norway.
“This season, we explore how skiers are shaped by picking up a pair of skis for the first time,” notes Warren Miller’s veteran producer Josh Haskins. “More often than not, it’s family who introduces us to the sport or steers us on the path towards an ongoing passion—be it a ski bum lifestyle, a professional career or simply the desire to pass on the same feeling to the next generation. There is a kinship unlike any other in the ski community, and Warren Miller is the elder, bringing generations of skiers and riders together for 68 years, and this year is no different.”

"Line of Descent" is playing at the Egyptian Theater Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. There are two showings on Saturday, one at 4:30 p.m. and another at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15. See you there! 

After you get pumped up for winter at the Warren Miller movie, you can go play in the snow ... you could go for a snow-boot walk, go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in a "discovery" mode in the backcountry before any of the official trails are open. Places at higher elevation such as Bogus Basin, Bogus Nordic Trail, Mores Creek Summit and Park n' Ski Areas above Idaho City, The Strand and Crown Point Trail in Cascade, North Valley Trail and Bear Basin in McCall, McCall Golf Course, Galena Summit, north of Ketchum/Sun Valley, and Stanley. Snow biking would work in a lot of those places as well! 

Bogus opening a hike-to terrain park at the base area on Friday, Nov. 17, with 11 features ... That's a great idea for people to get out and play in the snow before the lifts are running ... 

I noticed that the Blaine County Recreation District and Galena Lodge have some trails open right now! The Harriman Trail from Prairie Creek to Galena Lodge is open, and several trails at Galena are open. After more storms come tonight and tomorrow, you can bet they'll be opening more terrain. Early season might be a good time to find lodging deals in the Wood River Valley. Galena Lodge is reporting that they'll be open for business starting on Saturday. They have over 12 inches of snow, but that's going to double by this weekend if the big storms come through. 

Bogus recently had its Pray for Snow party last Sunday, and Brundage is hosting a SNOWvember Meet & Greet Pray for Snow party tomorrow night, Nov. 17, at Broken Horn Brewing in McCall, 201 S. Mission Street, near the Smokejumper Base. Sounds like fun! 

One more idea this weekend, the weather is supposed to clear on Saturday and Sunday, and that means the lower Boise Foothills trails could be in decent shape for hiking, biking or trail-running. 
Check the Ridge to Rivers web site and/or Facebook page to get the latest conditions and advice from our trail keepers. It's usually best to visit trails that are sandy and dry out quickly. 

Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Find a killer deal at BBSEF Ski Swap Friday! Vote Yes! for Boise Open Space Tuesday

Hi all,

It's time to gear up for winter! Multiple storm tracks are heading our way according to local reports. I heard Scott Dorval, meteorologist for KIVI-TV, predict that we could receive 2-4 FEET of snow in the Central Mountains the next 10-14 days. Oh baby! Here comes winter! Like it or not!

Especially following such an epic winter from last year, it seems easy to get my juices flowing in anticipation of another banner powder skiing season. I can easily recall so many days of my face hurting from wind and snow coming down like bonkers, and fair weather days too! But I enjoyed the hell out of the whole experience, while carving turns in the luscious powder on my Rossignol Super 7's. Those skis make me feel like a hero!

Just in time, as we're getting stoked about winter, the Bogus Basin Ski Education Foundation Ski Swap is opening on Friday at 3 p.m. and running through Sunday at 3 p.m. Get there Friday afternoon to find the best deals, but rest assured that there are a TON of skis, ski boots, and snowboards to choose from at the swap, not to mention tons of other winter gear like ski poles, snow boots, coats, gloves, mittens, ski suits, on and on! Used backcountry skis and Nordic stuff are usually in the shortest supply, so it's especially important to get there early if you're interested in that gear.

Personally, I'm hunting for more Rossi Super 7's or Soul 7's if I can find any on the rack ... also like to get a new pair of backcountry ski boots. I also could use a new/used pair of Nordic skate skiing boots.

Good luck finding what you need!

My second topic this week is to encourage Boise residents to vote for the Open Space and Clean Water levy in the Boise City Election on Tuesday, Nov. 7. You might wonder, why do I need to vote for a levy I already voted for two years ago?

Yes. Good question. Voters approved the $10 million levy in 2015 by a 75% vote. But due to a clerical error, Ada County didn't assess the tax. The mistake had something to do with the city filling out a form improperly, but the City Council has put controls in place to make sure the form will be filled out correctly next time. Plus, let's hope someone picks up the phone and double-checks that all is good with the Ada County Assessor's office before the tax year begins ...

So the actual ballot measure reads like thus (from Ada County Elections sample ballot): 

On November 3, 2015, Boise City voters approved a temporary override levy with 74% of the vote to protect clean water and drinking water, wildlife habitat, critical open space, and native plant species, and enhance recreation opportunities and trails through the purchase of property and improvement projects in areas such as the Boise Foothills and the Boise River. Due to a clerical error, the approved levy was not assessed in the first fiscal year. To ensure that the will of the voters is preserved, shall the City of Boise, Idaho be authorized to revise the assessment period of the previously-approved temporary override levy to the two fiscal years beginning October 1, 2017 and ending September 30, 2019? If approved the final total amount collected through this override levy will remain equal to ten million dollars, as was originally approved by voters in 2015. None of the money will be spent on administrative costs and there will be oversight by a citizens' advisory committee and annual audit.

Please vote Yes! for Open Space and Clean Water. The existing open space account has less than $1 million remaining, so a fresh dose of dollars for open space is needed. Remember that in the previous go-round, the City of Boise did a stellar job of spending the first $10 million wisely, acquiring more than 10,000 acres of open space including key new trails and open space areas such as Polecat Reserve, Freddy's Stack Rock Trail, Bucktail connection to Shane's Trail in Military Reserve, Hillside to the Hollow, and much more!

We need to keep the momentum going! Vote Yes!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Caution: Big game hunting seasons are open, and it's prime time for Cast & Blast

Hunting season is upon us! Be sure to wear bright colors as Wendy and I did in the Silver City area. 
Fall trips provide great opportunities to see wildlife. We've seen multiple black bears in Hells Canyon. 
Fall chinook on the line! 
Hi all,

Head's up folks! It's that time of year when Idaho and out-of-state hunters are heading into the mountains to pursue big game. General deer season opened on Wednesday, Oct. 10th, pretty much statewide, including Unit #39 in the Boise River Mountains. Elk season will be coming soon on Nov. 1 in Unit #39, but it opens sooner than that in many units.

During hunting season, it's important to wear bright colors if you're going to be out hiking, biking or trail-running in the Boise River Wildlife Management Area, the Boise, Payette and Sawtooth National Forests or out in the Owyhees. Put bright colors on your dogs, too. Remember that you should expect to see hunters in some of your favorite recreation areas, and share the resource. If you don't want to see hunters or hear gunfire, stick close to home in the lower part of the Boise foothills.

If you're interested in learning more details about hunting seasons in various parts of Idaho, check out the Idaho Big Game regulations booklet online or pick one up anyplace where hunting licenses are sold. If you're ever thought about going hunting yourself, the big game regs are the go-to source for deciding what species to hunt, when the seasons occur, etc.

Speaking of hunting, now is the perfect time to be thinking about doing a cast-and-blast fishing and bird-hunting trip ... Watch the weather for the best experience, but I'd recommend trying to squeeze in a late-season float trip on the Lower Salmon River, Main Salmon or Hells Canyon to fish and hunt chukars. This has been an annual tradition for me since the late 1980s, and it's always a great time.

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. Plus, you're likely to see moose and bald eagles.

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. 
  • 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. 
One more thing, there's a new closure on the Boise River Greenbelt to note: From the Idaho Parks and Recreation state office and Shakespeare theater entrance to Diversion Dam will close on Oct. 25 and remain closed for repairs until June 22, 2018.

Have fun and enjoy the fall!
- SS

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Ride the Weiser River Trail in memory of Shirley Atteberry, plus fall scenic drives

Shirley Atteberry, Queen of the Weiser River Trail, died earlier this week. It's time to ride the trail in honor of Shirley.
(Photo courtesy Craig Kjar) 
Shirley, middle front, with friends at the Council terminal for the WRT (Courtesy Irene Saphra) 
Hi all,

In the fall of 1997, I remember being summoned to a meeting at the old Red Lion Riverside by Yvonne Farrell, former director of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. A railroad line from New Meadows to Weiser was being abandoned by Union Pacific Railroad and gifted to a new nonprofit called Friends of the Weiser River Trail. When Yvonne calls you in person, you go.

Yvonne invited lots of trail people to the meeting. She wanted to know how each and every one of us were going to step up and help the Friends group get rolling with turning the old railroad bed into a user-friendly recreation trail. I found myself fidgeting in my chair.

I was vice president of the Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association (SWIMBA) at the time, and also the president of the Idaho Trails Council. My first child was going to be born in 2 months. I felt like my plate was more than full.

But then Shirley Atteberry, a retired professional surveyor from Cambridge, stood up and told everyone how excited they were about receiving the gift of the old railroad line.  But she didn't know anything about running a trails organization or managing an 84-mile-long trail. The railroad ties were still sitting there in the rail bed, and the trail surface would be rough as hell after they were removed.

Shirley came across as a genuine sweet woman with a warm voice who had a lot of empathy for the rural corner of Idaho where she lived. She saw the trail as a potential godsend for Adams and Washington counties. All of the towns along the course of the trail were struggling -- and still are to some extent -- New Meadows, Council, Cambridge, Midvale and Weiser. "If we can turn that line into a recreation trail, I can see how it would provide an economic benefit to retail stores, gas stations and hotels, and there would be potential for new business to be created," she said.

Everyone in the room could envision that potential reality if sufficient numbers of people flocked to the trail. We went around the room and everyone there offered to do something to help Shirley get started. But as things turned out, she wouldn't need much help from us do-gooders. She became so committed to the cause, spent countless hours building the organization, and by god, they went to work. And they got 'er done.

Friends of Weiser River Trail had to redeck all of the trestles that cross the river so they're smooth and suitable for biking. 
The Weiser River Trail has been a great trail to enjoy via hiking, biking, running or horseback riding once they opened it up for the public to use in 1997. They almost should call it "Shirley's Trail." Certainly she's the Queen of the WRT. She built Friends of the Weiser River Trail into an organization that has 650 members today. It's a successful nonprofit that's financially sound and has a lot of things going for it because of Shirley's commitment to the cause. She also had a number of other really hard-working locals were with her nearly every step of the way, including her sister, Patti Heldt, Dick Pugh and many others.

Shirley Atteberry died this week. That's why I'm writing about her and the Weiser River Trail. There's a supported two-day bike ride going on this Saturday on the Weiser River Trail, but registration is closed, and there is no day-of registration available. But even so, I encourage all of you to consider visiting the Weiser River Trail this fall or next spring to enjoy the ride. And think of Shirley. Get some friends together and do your own van-supported ride. Stay overnight in Cambridge, and go to Mundo Hot Springs for a soothing soak after the long day. They have some lodging, too!

I like doing the ride in two parts of roughly 40 miles each, starting from the north end, just west of New Meadows, and pedaling downhill. Hard-cores could do the whole thing in a day. Casual riders can do much shorter sections as they wish. The downhill grade is not steep enough to coast except in the section between the Evergreen sawmill and Fruitvale area ... that's one of my favorite parts of the trail. But what's surprising is you'll experience some remote canyons away from U.S. 95 where you're cruising along the river in a quiet and remote place, where the only sounds you'll hear might be chukars in the sagebrush, geese on the river, the wind in the cottonwoods, or just the sound of flowing water in the river.     

Below, see a story I wrote about Shirley in a 2002 edition of the Rails to Trails magazine. It's titled "Tenacious Trail Builder." Sorry, it's not online. Also, for a more detailed narrative about the Weiser River Trail, see my story that appeared in VisitIdaho last year.

If you might be interested in donating funds to WRT on behalf of Shirley, please contact the Idaho Community Foundation or Friends of Weiser River Trail.

One other tip this week, I was in McCall last weekend, and I noticed that the colors are changing everywhere. And then a friend posted a pic of a kaleidoscope of colors framing the Rainbow Bridge, north of New Meadows. It's a perfect weekend for a scenic drive!

Here's my blogpost from last fall, recommending five scenic drives in SW Idaho -- the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, Sawtooth Scenic Byway, Payette River Scenic Byway, Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway, and the road to Silver City out and back. The colors are popping best in the higher elevations right now.

Rails to Trails Magazine – Fall 2002 Issue

Shirley Atteberry: Tenacious Trail Builder


Sitting by a fireplace in the couple's lovely, but unfinished, 4,000-square-foot log home in Cambridge, Idaho, Shirley Atteberry's husband, John, says Shirley "just lives for the trail.

"We’ve been married 39 years, and I've never known her to be this passionate about something.”

"This house is not finished because of the trail,” she admits with a grin. But the image of a rail-trail winding along the Weiser River has captured her imagination, her energy and her dedication since the mid-1990s when she heard that Union Pacific Railroad was going to shut down an Idaho railroad line between New Meadows and Weiser.

What a wonderful trail it would be. Launching from an alpine forest near New Meadows, elevation 5,500 feet, the 84-mile corridor snakes across a series (rock-terraced and grassy canyons, wind through farm country and passes wild sections of the Weiser River before ending about a half mile above sea level in Weiser. The entire trip follows a moderate downhill grade, making an enticing destination for bicycle gravity-riders.

“It was real easy for me to see what could happen,” says Shirley Atteberry, A former land surveyor who bubbles with enthusiasm. "The railroad line ran through four economically depressed towns and two counties. If we could turn that line into a recreational trail, it would provide an economic benefit to retail stores, gas stations and hotels, and there would be potential for new businesses to be created.”

For 30 years, Atteberry and her family lived in Roseville, Calif, near a nifty five-mile pathway along two creeks. She used it for jogging with her collie, Lady, and outings with her two children. That pathway has often come to mind during the years Atteberry has worked to create another fine trail, almost from scratch, near her rural Idaho mountain community.

When Atteberry and a group of civic-minded citizens decided to pursue a recreational trail on the rail line, they quickly realized it would be a challenge. They hoped that Washington and Adams counties would work with Union Pacific Railroad to acquire the right-of-way and develop a trail.

But in this sleepy and politically conservative corner of southwest Idaho, the notion of convening a rail line into a trail was a tough sell. Opponents presented a petition against the trail to the county commissioners. So in July 1996, advocates formed Friends of Weiser River Trail, a nonprofit membership organization. Atteberry joined the board, and currently is Friends’ treasurer.

First, Friends had to negotiate with Union Pacific to acquire the right-of-way for the trail. Through a federal program, the organization could railbank the corridor, preserving it for future railroad use and allowing it to serve in the interim as a trail. Friends forged a complex agreement with Union Pacific whereby the railroad would donate the corridor and Friends would develop and manage the right-of-way as a trail.

Only a few nonprofit groups in the United States have succeeded in convening and operating a rail-trail. Though the railbanking program was structured to allow trail organizations to negotiate with the railroads, the process most often handled by states and municipalities u 1' t: budgets and fleets of attorneys. But Atteberry never wavered in her determination to help build the trail.

Early in negotiations with Union Pacific, she turned to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (R'I'C) for information and support. RTC staff toured the proposed trail corridor and offered suggestions for how to develop it. On a pro bono basis, a former RTC staff member, attorney Charles Montange, took on the railbanking legal work for Friends. Montange told Friends they might convince the railroad to donate the corridor if they could demonstrate strong community for the rail-trail. Atteberry developed a fact sheet detailing the community benefits the Weiser River Trail would bring.
Armed with her fact sheet and considerable charm, she went to work. She got an immediate endorsement from the Cambridge City Council and chamber of commerce. Since Cambridge is a gateway to Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, these folks understood the value of tourism. But in the farming town of Weiser, Atteberry had to convince more than 50 percent of the 147 chamber of commerce member businesses to support the trail.

“I contacted every single business owner to gauge whether they would support, oppose or stay neutral," she says. “Finally, I got a majority of them to support it.” Atteberry assembled all the letters of support, and in June 1997 Union Pacific donated the rail corridor to Friends. Local trail opponents went to court to challenge the legality of the railbanking procedure and corridor ownership. Angry owners of land along the trail blocked the path with large boulders and fences. Friends won two lawsuits, but some landowners continue to trespass. Often Friends calls on Atteberry to deal with these problems. “Nobody wants to have to tell a landowner that he's put an illegal gate across our trail and it's got to go," says Dick Pugh, board secretary of Friends. "But Shirley is always willing to take that on. She's really tough."

The first 12 miles of the Weiser River Trail officially opened to the public on June 6, 1998. Today, more than 50 miles of the trail are open. When all 84 miles are complete, the Weiser River will be the longest rail-trail in Idaho

Atteberry’s dreams of creating an income-generating destination are coming true. Her eyes light up when she talks about recent trail events, including a three-day wagon-train trip and the third annual Idaho Endurance Ride. She'd like to spend more time planning events to draw visitors to this spectacular trail and the area, but her slate is full juggling trail management and development responsibilities. Atteberry commonly spends more than 50 hours a week on trail administration issues. The Friends board hopes to raise enough money to hire a full-time executive director.

Meanwhile, Atteberry goes full steam ahead. “It can be hard," she admits "But people will really enjoy the trail. And I can't quit when we've got 450 members out there who are counting on us to get it done.”

Idaho freelance writer Stephen Stuebner has ridden frequently on the Weiser River Trail since it first opened. He looks forward to riding all 84 miles of the trail in the near future."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fall is the time to push your limits on the mountain bike - 5 rides suited to the task

Doug Lawrence on Bear Pete Trail at 8,000 feet. Bear Pete is a classic fall ride. 
Looking south deep into the Owyhee Canyonlands from the Silver City Skyline Tour, above Silver City  
Hi all,

I love the cool weather in the fall ... it's really the best time of the year for active outdoor adventures of any kind. 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, Silver City 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. 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!

Dry Creek has multiple bridges installed for crossing the creek. Courtesy Idaho Statesman. 
2. 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!

3. Silver City Skyline Tour in the Owyhees - It's rated strenuous/advanced in my book, The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide. Distance: 16.8 miles, 2,750 feet of vertical gain. I love the ride because it provides a rooftop tour of the mountains surrounding Silver City, and it's nifty that you start and finish in downtown Silver City. Be sure to bring plenty of food and water. The old hotel in Silver City might be open (on weekends) for drinks after the ride. After the ride, there are lots of places to camp just outside of Silver City or along Jordan Creek, you make the call. 

Directions: Drive to Silver City and park off to the side of Main Street near the old hotel. To get there, go south of Nampa on ID 45 to Murphy. Watch for signs for Silver City on ID 78 as you're heading for Murphy, and follow the paved and dirt road to the historic mining town. 

Mile 0 - Ride back toward New York Summit from Silver City. 
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 and climb.
Mile 4.7 - Reach junction with service road to the top of War Eagle Mountain. 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 to 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 16.8 - Arrive in downtown Silver City. You made it!     

Riding Elk Trail at Brundage Mountain ... great views of nearby Granite Mountain! Courtesy Visit Idaho
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!

Mark Anderson above Josephine Lake.
Almost there! 
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.

The Idaho Whitewater Association is looking for helpers for their 2nd annual ID 55 highway cleanup effort on Oct. 7th. See their Facebook event invite for more information.

Have fun!
- SS