Thursday, August 30, 2018

Here's at least 25 last-minute outdoorsy destinations for Labor Day weekend

Folks could go camping in Stolle Meadows and look for spawning salmon 
Just a faint bit of smoke haze at the top of Brundage today. Beautiful temperature up there! 
Hi all, 

Labor Day weekend is upon us, the typical last weekend of camping in the summer season, so I'm dishing up some last-minute tips for the three-day weekend. 

Before we get into the camping ideas, both Bogus Basin and Brundage Mountain have some fun stuff going on this weekend. 

Mountain bikers ride the Deer Point lift FREE on Friday! On Saturday, Sept. 1, marks the final segment of Music on the Mountain at Bogus Basin for the summer, highlighted by the Aldape Bootstompers and Jeff Crosby. The event feature live music throughout the afternoon in the nicely andscaped base area outside of the Simplot Lodge from noon to 6 p.m. Fun Zone activities, including summer tubing, bungee trampoline, gem panning, and climbing wall, will operate from 11 am to 7 pm., and so will the Deer Point Chairlift.

Bear Valley is a nice off-the-beaten-path spot for camping these days. 
On Friday night, Aug. 31,  Brundage is hosting a free concert with Jeff Crosby and the Refugees. The seafood boil is sold out, but other dinner food will be available during the concert. The Bluebird quad will be running from 10 am to 5 pm Friday through Monday. I saw it running today, but I rode up from McCall! 

Now, on to the camping ideas and other Labor Day ideas ... the weather looks stellar camping, hiking and biking this Labor Day weekend, with daytime highs in the 80s in the Boise Valley, and the 70s in Stanley, Sun Valley and McCall.
  • Close to home, you could work on the Boise Foothills Trail Challenge, essentially work on riding all of the trails in the Ridge to Rivers trail system in one month. People are doing the challenge in memory of Jason Delgodilla, one of the founders of, who died earlier this year.  
  • Also close to home, hike Mt. Kepros or Mt. Cervidae, both part of the Boise Grand Slam Peaks. 
  • Cascade area - Stolle Meadows and Landmark are my favorite camping areas in this neck of the woods. There are tons of primitive car-camping spots in both locations, east of Cascade, off the Warm Lake Highway. Plus, there are hot springs in the vicinity. FYI: There should be salmon spawning in Stolle Meadows this weekend. Take Forest Service Road #427 to Stolle Meadows. Once there, you can take the road south up to a trailhead for Rice Lake and Rice Peak. Nice and easy hike up to Rice Peak, and you can explore ridge tops from there ...  
    Lick Creek area in the Payette National Forest 
  • McCall area - Camping, hiking and backpacking in the Lick Creek area NE of McCall should be fabulous. Some of the nice mountain lakes up there include Box, Snowslide, Duck, Hum, Enos and Thirty-three lakes. Pick up a Payette National Forest map or a McCall Adventure Map to get the details for access. Also, check my blog from earlier this summer on five easy-to-access kid-friendly mountain lakes in the McCall area. 
    Stanley Lake 
  • Stanley area - I'm sure the Stanley area will be hopping with lots of campers at Stanley Lake, Redfish Lake, Pettit Lake and points along the Salmon River. Backpacking in the White Clouds should be dandy, particularly from the East Fork side, being a three-day weekend and all. Don't forget the Marsh Creek Trail as another potential destination ... great hiking and fly fishing spot. Hike up to the junction of Bear Valley and Marsh Creeks, and there's a huge glory hole right there. 
    North and Middle Forks of the Boise River ... car-camping mecca 
  • Idaho City area - The North and Middle Forks of the Boise River work great for car camping. See my post from last week.  
If you're staying in town, I'm hearing that some people will be taking in the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic, going on from Thursday through Sunday. There are supposed to be more than 5,000 balloon launches.

Also, Labor Day weekend is chock full of big sales at your favorite outdoor retailers in the Boise area, places like Idaho Mountain Touring, George's CyclesBoise REI, Greenwood's, McU Sports, Alpenglow Mountain SportIdaho River Sports, and Shu's Idaho Running Companyall have some fantastic clothing and gear on sale right now. Great deals! Go get 'em! 

- SS

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Smoke-free weekend? Sawtooth Salmon Festival or visit South Fork Salmon River

South Fork Salmon River Road is about as wide as a driveway. Great place for a secluded road bike ride.
Caution: Vehicles should go slow around blind corners! 
Chinook spawning on the Salmon River near the Sawtooth Hatchery. Those fish take my breath away!
They travel 800+ miles to reach Stanley from the Pacific Ocean. SS photo.  
Hi all,

Smoke from all the wildfires has been depressing to me, but it appears that we might get a break this weekend! I hope that's the case!

For this week's outdoor tip, I wanted to share a few details about the Sawtooth Salmon Festival going on Saturday, Aug. 25, in Stanley this weekend, and some thoughts about road biking, camping and sight-seeing in the South Fork Salmon River area and Warm Lake area.

The Sawtooth Salmon Festival is a long-standing event, sponsored by Idaho Rivers United, for people to come up to Stanley and see Chinook salmon spawning, learn about how Chinook and sockeye salmon runs are doing right now (not well), enjoy live music, drink beer from Sockeye Brewing, and of course, you can vector off to go hiking, biking or camping in arguably the most scenic part of Idaho.

Tours of the Chinook spawning grounds will occur every two hours at 11 a.m., 1, 3 and 5 p.m. on Saturday. According to the fish counts at Lower Granite Dam, 38,500 Chinook salmon have crossed through the dam and are heading upriver to Idaho. The 10-year average to date is 80,800. There should be some Chinook salmon spawning down below Sunbeam Dam in shallow gravels, where it's easy to see the magnificent fish. About 1,000 Chinook have returned to the Sawtooth Hatchery, a few miles south of Stanley. That's another place where I've seen a lot of Chinook swimming in the gravels, directly below the Sawtooth Hatchery, north of Stanley.

If you go, this is a great teachable moment for your kids to observe salmon spawning and learn about the salmon life cycle. The way the Idaho salmon and steelhead fish numbers have been crashing lately, you have to wonder how long the fish can survive. The lower Snake and Columbia dams cause most of the mortality to our salmon and steelhead runs, in both directions, while we have hundreds of miles of pristine spawning habitat in the Salmon River and its tributaries that are awaiting the adult fish to arrive and spawn the next generation.

To paraphrase what someone once said about this situation, we have a 5-star hotel for salmon and steelhead in Central Idaho -- some of the best habitat remaining in the whole Columbia River Basin. The lights are turned on, but most of the bedrooms are empty. Sad tale, indeed.

Near the top of the climb, the forest has transitioned into an old burn zone. 
Now, on to the South Fork Salmon River ... Wendy and I went over to the South Fork Road from McCall via Lick Creek Road last Saturday to put in some training miles on our road bikes. We're training for Cycle Oregon. The smoke wasn't too bad. The South Fork paved road is exactly 31 miles from Lick Creek to the Warm Lake highway. It's a single-lane paved surface with pullouts, so it's kind of tight for a vehicle, but perfect for a bike.

What struck me during our ride was how quiet, desolate and beautiful it was back there on the South Fork. Perhaps the smoke was keeping everyone closer to home. I'm sure a ton of people were out and about earlier this month during the Yellow Pine Harmonica Festival. But we did not see hardly a soul  back there until we got within a mile or so of Warm Lake.

Deep green pools are visible as you ride along the South Fork 
Before early October, when rifle deer season starts, consider checking out the South Fork for a quiet camping spot next to a beautiful river, go hiking, mountain biking, hot-springing or do a road bike ride. I found the ride to be especially nice in the first 15 miles, where we rode through big green ponderosa pines and Douglas firs, and pedaled close enough to the South Fork that we could see the river. Later, you ride in a giant burn zone, and it seems like a bomb went off back there and stripped away all the forest cover. It's still super raw many years after those forest fires.

I was looking for spawning salmon, but I didn't get out and peer into the deep pools. I stayed on my bike because we had a lot of miles to clock. Our plan was to go over to Warm Lake and back for a 65- mile ride. It took us longer than expected to cover the first 31 miles to Warm Lake. There are several big climbs to Profile Summit, and it's generally uphill going from Lick Creek to Warm Lake. My GPS said I'd burned 2900 calories by the time we reached North Shore Lodge! We were ready for a burger! Seemed like I drank 3 quarts of water during lunch.

A couple of happy anglers at Warm Lake.
The main cafe, cabins and picnic tables by the North Shore Lodge. 
North Shore Lodge is a great destination, BTW. They've got a beach, docks, a place to launch your boat, a bar and cafe, cabins for rent, supplies -- just a great place located there right on the shoreline of Warm Lake. People were having a great time chilling next to the lake, hanging by the beach, having a beer on the outdoor deck of the cafe, or hanging out by the cabin. We sure enjoyed our time chilling there, and topped it off with a big huckleberry ice cream cone.

At that point, our truck seemed like a world away! I knew Wendy couldn't ride all the way back, she had some hot spots on her feet (new riding shoes), and I didn't really feel like doing the whole thing either. Lucky for us, some hot-springers offered to take us half-way down the South Fork, and then we had an easy 16-mile ride mostly downhill to the truck.

Hard-core road riders that do the 90-mile version of the Cascade 4 Summit Challenge ride do most of the South Fork road after they scale Big Creek Summit. If you're super fit, riding the South Fork both directions is totally doable in a day. For more casual road riders, you might try riding one-way from Warm Lake to Lick Creek, it's much easier that way. Place a shuttle rig at Lick Creek Road, or have a friend run a sag wagon and pick you up. Maybe they could soak in a hot springs, go fishing or hiking while you're out on the ride.

If you'd like to explore the South Fork Salmon River area, consult a Boise National Forest and Payette National Forest map to plan your trip. The South Fork actually is split between the Boise and Payette forests. Maybe you have online mapping software. The developed campgrounds back there are Buckhorn, Camp Creek, Poverty Flat, and Penny Spring. From the Lick Creek side, you're only 15 miles from Yellow Pine, which is definitely worth a visit. Salmon spawning season is just beginning on the South Fork, according to IDFG, and if you'd like to see some fish spawning, look for them in the Stolle Meadows area.

I feature a fun mountain bike loop on the South Fork in my Mountain Biking in McCall book. It's called the Teapot Mountain Loop. It's a narrow two-track four-wheeler trail, 11 miles in length that circumnavigates Teapot Mountain. The ride features 2,100 feet of gain. Travel time is 1.5-2 hours. The ride goes from Buckhorn Creek to Jakie Creek and then you circle back on the South Fork road.

Hope we all have a weekend with no smoky skies!
- SS

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Last weekend before school starts! 5 of my favorite car-camping spots in C. Idaho

Need a good 4WD truck to reach Railroad Ridge
Flowers were everywhere ... feeling on top of the world in Central Idaho ... 
Hi all,

Don't panic but this weekend is the last one of the summer vacation before school starts! That is, Boise Schools and Boise State University both start on Monday, Aug. 20. If you're still ginning to go camping, I thought I'd share five of my favorite car-camping spots in Central Idaho. Some have easy access; some of them require driving on gnarly 4WD roads.

But once you arrive at your destination, you'll be perched high on a mountaintop or ridgetop, with beautiful mountains and meadows as far as the eye can see. Or, you'll be hanging out in a lawn chair with the sand sifting through your toes by the Salmon River.

All of these camping spots are excellent for dark sky and stars. But with all of the fire smoke, you never know! BTW, here's a cool interactive smoke map with the latest fires and smoke conditions. 

Here we go, my top five:

1. Railroad Ridge, White Cloud Mountains, near Clayton, Idaho. Getting there: Take Idaho 21 to Stanley, and Idaho 75 past Yankee Fork and Clayton to the turnoff for the East Fork of the Salmon River Road. Head up the paved East Fork Road about 10 miles to Big Boulder Road #667. Go right on #667 and proceed to the Livingston Mill. A Forest Service sign indicates the turnoff for the primitive single-lane 4WD road to Railroad Ridge. You, no, the truck, must climb from 7,200 feet to elevation 10,600 feet, 3,400 feet of gain over just a few miles of steep road. It's WAY COOL! 

It took us, no, the truck, less than an hour of climbing, and we were cruising up the backbone of Railroad Ridge, which was absolutely smothered with multiple layers and colors of wildflowers. We hit it at the peak! Sweet! Perched at 10,600 feet, it was so cool to look at eye level with 10,000-foot peaks in theSawtooths to the west, and the Frank Church Wilderness to the north, while the higher Lost River Range and Lemhi Mountains lorded over the eastern side of the state. We were on the rooftop of Central Idaho! 
I hiked down to Crater Lake to fly fish, just in time for a thunderstorm to hit and lightning bolts to land around the edges of the lake. We had a great evening watching a storm hammer the Lemhi's and the Borah Peak area. The only downside with the spot, is that there's no cover anywhere, no trees for shelter, no rocks, nothing. You are totally exposed. Bring a good tent! 

Stanley Overlook map ... Click to enlarge 
2. Stanley Overlook - South foothills overlooking Stanley, with the Sawtooth Wilderness smack dab right in your face! Getting there: Go to Lower Stanley and take the Nip and Tuck Road (the turnoff is off to the north, kind of hidden), a public dirt road that climbs over to Stanley Creek. There are spur roads that peel off to the left, climbing up to the hilltop overlooking Stanley. 4WD is necessary. 

I've sipped cocktails with friends on that knoll, sitting in a lawnchair on a gorgeous summer evening, taking in the spectacular views, feeling lucky to live in Idaho! In the morning, sandhill cranes echoed from the Valley Creek meadows below. 

The camp is a great jump-off point for day trips around Stanley -- biking the Potato Mountain Loop, Fisher-Williams, riding up to the Basin Butte Lookout, or hiking in the Sawtooths and White Clouds. Be sure to leave some stuff there while you're gone for the day so someone doesn't take your spot. 

Steve loves to ride Bear Pete Trail! 
3. Cloochman Summit - Great overlook campsite north of McCall, next to the trailhead for Bear Pete Trail. You're also in the vicinity of Burgdorf Hot Springs, Loon Lake Loop, etc. Getting there: Take Warren Wagon Road north of McCall, past Upper Payette Lake, to a signed turnoff for Bear Pete Trail and Cloochman Summit, Forest Road #492. It's only about three miles to the summit. 4WD rig is recommended. Chainsaw recommended. There's a couple of pullouts that make for a great car-camping spot right at the summit. One of them looks south over Squaw Meadows, 20-mile lakes, the Payette National Forest peaks, and lots of burned timber from a big forest fire in the early 1990s. Go hiking or biking on Bear Pete Trail ... it's an ass-kicker of a climb uphill from the trailhead, but once you're on top of the ridge, it's a promo skyline trail.  

Having fun on the Salmon River beach scene 
4. Salmon River Beaches - Love those white sandy mansion-like beaches along the Salmon River, upstream of Riggins. Getting there: Turn right on the Salmon River Road as you drive into Riggins. The river road goes for 25 miles past French Creek to the Vinegar and Carey Creek boat ramps. There are oodles of places to camp along the road, particularly on some mansion-like beaches. Go early on a Thursday or Friday to snag a primo spot for the weekend. Potential nearby activities include rafting, kayaking or SUPing on the Salmon River. Launch from your campsite and position a shuttle vehicle downstream. Or go hiking on the Wind River Pack Bridge next to the Carey Creek boat ramp and climb a nice Forest Service trail to the Bullion Mine or beyond. 

Floating Bear Valley Creek (Courtesy Idaho Rivers United)
5. Bear Valley Campground - Great spot for folks who like to paddle a canoe or flatwater kayak. The Campground is located at the junction of Elk Creek and Bear Valley Creek, both of which are excellent for canoeing. Getting there: Take Idaho 21 to Banner Summit, between Lowman and Stanley, and then watch for a left-hand turn on the Boundary Creek Road. Follow the road to Bear Valley Campground. This is an area where you might see elk in the early morning or late evening, and you might hear a wolf howling. The meadows around Bear Valley can be spectacular when the flowers are blooming. You could also go mountain biking on the Wyoming Creek Trail and return via the Fir Creek Trail and Boundary Creek Road. You could fish the streams in the area, or drive over to Dagger Falls and hike the Marsh Creek or Middle Fork trails. 

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Get your costume together for Boise Goathead Fest and Pedal-Powered Parade Saturday

Monster Mash is the overall dress-up theme 
Hi all,

The smoke from all of the fires burning in the West is already getting tiresome here in the Boise Valley, but we should not let that prevent anyone from participating in the Boise Goathead Fest on Saturday. There are already more than 1,000 people signed up! Let's see if we can surpass 10,000 or more!

In case you haven't heard about this, the Boise Goathead Fest is a new twist on a previous super-popular event called the Fat Tire Festival ... New Belgium Brewing created the Fat Tire Festival concept, and they partnered with local bike-advocacy groups in multiple communities including Boise to host bike festivals and raise funds for the non-profits to improve bike trails and facilities.

Boise peeps came out strong in support of the Fat Tire Festival in the past. One year, 16,000 people rode in the Fat Tire Parade. I rode in several of them, and they're just plain fun ... having the streets closed to cars, and checking out everyone in their costumes. For one small moment in time, BIKES RULE!

On Saturday, I think it's important for everyone to come out in force to support our local bike community in the Boise Goathead Fest, an  event powered by the Boise Bike Project and other non-profits like the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, SWIMBA, Dirt Dolls mountain bike club for women, Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance and more.

So get your costume together for the Pedal-Powered Parade on Saturday (starts at 11 a.m.; on-site registration is at 10 a.m.). Suggested registration cost is $5. You are encouraged to register online because it's much easier! Go to Boise Goathead Fest and do it! It took me about 2 minutes to register Wendy and me.

Jimmy Hallyburton of the Boise Bike Project said people can help support the Goathead event in two ways -- sign up to volunteer at the event (easy to do on the web site) or pre-register for the parade online.

Show up at the parade, pedal around a 2-mile course downtown, and then have fun in the afternoon at Cecil D. Andrus Park by the Statehouse. This year, there are more activities for kids and more options for beverages other than beer, although 6 local breweries are participating. There will be live music throughout the afternoon and different activities going on. One of the stages will feature people cranking electric generators with pedal-power to show the potential of pedal-power ...

The parade route runs from the Statehouse down Jefferson Street to 14th Street, then back on Bannock to 2nd Street, and then back to the Statehouse.

If you're coming with a group from work or a group of any kind, you're encouraged to dress up in the same theme. The overall dress-up theme is "Monster Mash." You remember that song, right? "They did the mash ... the Monster Mash! They did the mash ... It was a graveyard smash!"

Ultimately the festival is about transforming Boise into the Bicycle Capital of America, and supporting your favorite nonprofits, but there's also been a side benefit, and that's to get rid of goat heads in places where we like to ride ... not only on bike trails but also in alleys and neighborhoods. Jimmy said in the month of July, there was more than 3,500 pounds of goat heads pulled by people in our community. That's fantastic!

Hope to see you at the Goathead Fest! There's also a pre-launch party Friday night at Cecil Andrus Park from 4-10 p.m.

Another alternative this weekend is to head up to Bogus Basin for Music on the Mountain and all of the fun activities available up there for you, your friends and your family. Johnny Boy Kunk with Sam Gates, Shot Glass and special guest are playing on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.

At Bogus, you also can go hiking and biking on a multitude of trails, check out the bike skills park, ride the chairlift to start your ride or hike from the top of Deer Point, ride the Glade Runner mountain coaster, tubing, climbing wall, bungee trampoline, and more kids activities. See Bogus' summer activity page for more information and fee schedule.

Next week, I'm heading off to float the Salmon River, so you won't hear from me next Friday ... I'll be off the grid! 
- SS