Thursday, August 24, 2017

Five fall car-camping destinations sure to please in the Boise National Forest

Top of Whitehawk Mountain with Quinn (elevation 8,500 feet) 
Early-morning fog hovered over the tall -grass meadows in Bear Valley ...
We awoke to a chorus of sandhill cranes every morning ... 
Ah, the Middle Fork Salmon River ... Huck wanted to catch fish
Hi all,

Last weekend was quite the scene for the solar eclipse on Monday ... what a thrill to see that from the top of a mountain like so many others did in Idaho ... I took my son Quinn to Bear Valley to see the eclipse on Whitehawk Mountain (elev. 8,450 feet), which was right in the bull's eye for 100% totality.

We went up to Bear Valley on Saturday morning to get a choice car-camping spot near the lookout road in a tall-grass meadow that's full of sandhill cranes. There weren't hardly any people up there on Saturday, and a few more dribbled in on Sunday. Bear Valley is a sweet spot for car-camping that's only about 1.5-2 hours from Boise. The #582 road from Lowman was freshly graded as of last week. At elevation 6,700 feet, Upper Bear Valley is nice and chilly at night, and warm during the day.

Side trips: You can hike, bike or run to the top of Whitehawk Mountain, or drive to other potential trails in the vicinity. Being close to Boundary Creek, we had to scoot over to the Middle Fork Salmon (45 minutes), visit Dagger Falls and fish the Middle Fork. We spent most of Sunday over there, mesmerized by the pristine beauty of the pure water rolling downriver from Boundary Creek. Almost strange to be there, and not be launching on the river!

On Monday, we biked to the top of Whitehawk Mountain (tough, continuous climb, about 4-5 miles, 2,000 feet of gain). Get into a low gear and grind it out! When Quinn was 12, I dragged him to the top of Whitehawk Mountain on his mountain bike, and he toughed out the climb, stopping for breaks, and made it to the summit. I was really proud of him, because it was his first mountain summit on a bike. Now at 19, Quinn is in top shape. He totally dusted me on the climb to the top, which is fine with me! That's the way it should be!

Anyway, for my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending five fall camping spots for you, your friends and family, including Upper Bear Valley. Even though the kids are back in school, there's still 4-6 weeks of fall camping remaining before the weather turns winter-like in October or November. Gather up your camping stuff and get the kids out in the mountains while you can! Remember to dress warm, and hopefully the Stage 1 fire restrictions will be lifted so you can have a camp fire!

2. Dagger Falls Campground - There's only a few camping spots at Dagger Falls, but most people are camping across the way at Boundary Creek, getting ready for Middle Fork trips. When we visited Dagger Falls last Sunday, there was only 1 party camping there. You can see Dagger Falls Rapids from the campground, and the Middle Fork is just a hop, skip away! Side trip: Go hiking on the Middle Fork or fish the nice holes between rapids in the top 1.5 miles of the river. USFS web site.
Getting there: Take Idaho 21 past Banner Summit to Boundary Creek turnoff on the left. Follow signs to Boundary Creek and Dagger Falls.

3. Deadwood Reservoir - The long drive to Deadwood Reservoir -- many miles of dirt road from the Banks to Lowman Road -- deters a fair number of people from visiting Deadwood Reservoir, but it's a super cool place to go where you can camp on the waterfront, go swimming, fishing, and bring your SUPs, kayaks, blow-up toys, whatever! USFS web site.

This Forest Service video gives you a sense of the setting at Deadwood Reservoir

There are multiple official fee campgrounds around the lake to choose from. Side trips: Several hiking and biking trails vector off from the lake on the west side and south side. Getting there: Take Forest Road #555 from the Banks to Lowman Road to the reservoir. Take your time.

4. North Fork Boise River - This is a car-camping mecca along the North Fork, with potential hiking and biking opportunities in the neighborhood. Black Rock Campground is the main developed campground in the area, but there are scores of primitive sites available for self-support car-camping. Barber Flat is a choice spot, and so is Deer Park, farther to the east. Can't go wrong! Side trips: Fishing on the North Fork, try adjacent logging roads for walking or biking. Getting there: Go to Idaho City and take Forest Road #327 over the Rabbit Creek grade into the North Fork canyon.

Nothing like hanging out by the campfire in the fall! 
5. Middle Fork Boise River - This is another car-camping mecca relatively close to home. The Middle Fork is worth visiting because the fishing is markedly better than on the North Fork. There are many car-camping spots to choose from, plus developed campgrounds such as Badger Creek, Troutdale, and Neinmeyer. Side trips: Fishing, hiking on the Sheep Creek Trail or Cottonwood Creek Trail, explore old logging roads that you may encounter.

With Quinn on top of Whitehawk Mountain the first time we went up there together! 
There you have it! It really already feels like fall if you head into the mountains right now. It can get downright chilly at night! That's a nice break from the 90 degree weather in Boise.

If you'r looking for something to do Friday night, Aug. 25? The Land Trust of the Treasure Valley is hosting their annual dinner and fund-raiser in the Dry Creek Valley in Hidden Springs. I support the Land Trust for all of the benefits that they've brought to our community, including the purchase of Harrison Hollow, easements in Dry Creek and Shingle Creek, and access to Stack Rock. They are a worthy organization to support big-time!
- SS

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