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

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