Thursday, August 22, 2019

Bogus Basin mountain bike festival, hiking Granite Mountain and house party for Lauren McLean

Riding at Bogus Basin is a pleasant alternative with cooler weather, shade and great trails! 
Hi all,

If you haven't been mountain biking at Bogus Basin this summer, this weekend looks like the perfect time to go.

Bogus is hosting a Mountain Bike Festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Chair #1 will be running to take folks to the top of Deer Point. There are guided rides for men, women and kids, professional riders competing in the "Whip-Off" big air challenge, demo bikes, raffles and more.

The event costs $45 through Friday, and $50 on Saturday. Register here

The goal, according to organizers, is to celebrate mountain biking by "bringing our passion-filled mountain bike community together." Meet new riding friends, meet local shops and services, get out and ride the trails and enjoy what should be a nice cool mountain day. Participating bike organizations and shops include SWIMBA, Central Idaho Mountain Biking Association (CIMBA), George's, Idaho Mountain Touring, Reed Cycles, Boise REI, World Cycle, Eagle Bike Shop, McU Sports, Rolling H Cycles, and Kore North Bicycles.

I love the trails at Bogus. If you haven't gotten to know the trail system up there, you need to. IMBA rated the Around the Mountain Trail at Bogus the best in the state of Idaho! 

Granite Mountain summit and USFS lookout. Elevation 8,500 feet.
Hike Granite Mountain

I went for a fun hike to the top of Granite Mountain last Saturday while I was in McCall. Here's a link to my Facebook pics. I'd rate the hike "moderate." It was 3+ miles to the top of Granite Mountain from the trailhead off the Goose Lake Road. Travel time was about 4+ hours round-trip.

The views on top are fantastic. There's a manned Forest Service lookout tower on top. You can see the Wallowas and Seven Devils to the west, Meadows Valley and the Little Salmon canyon leading down to Riggins, the northwest corner of "the Frank," the Payette Crest off to the east, and Brundage Mountain, and Long Valley to the south.

Granite Mountain is the giant hulk of mountain that looms to the west of McCall when you approach the mountain community. Brundage provides snowcat powder skiing trips on Granite, and I have had some legendary times up there on the mountain.
House party for Lauren McLean 

The political race for Mayor of Boise is under way. I have known Lauren McLean since the first $10 million open space campaign 1999-2001, and she has been a proven champion of open space and trails for the Boise Foothills ever since. I still feel that winning that initial open space campaign was a transformative event for the City of Boise, and now there's huge community support for open space, trails, conservation and water quality.

Mayor Bieter has had four terms to lead Boise, and I think a lot of people feel they are ready for a change.

My partner Wendy Wilson and I are co-hosting a house party on Thursday, Aug. 29, for Lauren at our home at 3209 N. 39th Street in NW Boise. Sam Sandmire and Cary Hattabaugh, Diane Ronayne, Zack Waterman, Nicole LeFavour, Suki and Bill Molina, and Elena Lansing are co-hosting. 

We are inviting folks to come hear Lauren speak about her priorities for the City of Boise moving forward, even if you haven't made up your mind. We are inviting outdoorsy and conservation types. Shiny Shoe Bob is playing music, and we'll have food, wine and beer.

If you're interested in coming to the house party, please RSVP to 

Please see our Facebook invite for more information.    
- SS

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Refresh your soul with a double mountain lake hike to Snowslide and Maki Lakes

Huck looks for fish in Snowslide Lake
Wildflowers were magnificent on the pass on the way to Maki Lake. Edelweiss moment.
Hi all,

My tip of the week is about hitting the high mountain lakes in the premium part of the hiking season in August and September ...

See my article in the Idaho Press about hiking to Snowslide and Maki Lakes off of Lick Creek Road in McCall. The article was published on Wednesday, Aug. 14, in the Idaho Press Outdoors section.

Maki Lake also could be named Hidden Lake ... you won't see it until you arrive ... 

Cool to have both lakes to ourselves on a Saturday in August. 

Looking down at Snowslide Lake from the pass above ... granite granite everywhere! 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Summer vacation is on the wane! Two weekends left before school starts!

Steve backpacking in the Red Mountain Lakes area.
Hi all,

Sad but true, summer vacation is on the wane! There are only two weekends left before Boise Schools start up on Monday, Aug. 19. How have you done on your summer outdoor punch list?

Taking a look back at my many recommendations for summer, let's review your options for what to do!  

1. Float a river (day trip) - we're blessed with so many options here, but have you floated the Boise River? How about the Payette River -- there's the Main Payette, South Fork Payette or Cabarton run on the North Fork. Check with Cascade Raft, Idaho Whitewater Unlimited, Bear Valley or the Payette River Company about guided trips. The Payette's calmer sections are great for stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), sit-on-top kayaking and canoeing.

Float a river! This is on the Cabarton stretch of the Payette River. 
2. Climb a mountain - The pinnacle is to climb Mount Borah, but there are so many other options in Idaho, with dozens of peaks over 10,000 feet and 8 peaks over 12,000 feet. See Idaho mountain expert Tom Lopez's list of recommended mountain peaks. McCall mountain expert John Platt also has an extensive list of peaks and mountains that he's climbed.

3. Ride the ski lift to the top of Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain or Sun Valley and go hiking or biking from there. Bogus is going to give away a free season pass to whoever is the 100,000th person to ride the mountain coaster this weekend. Sounds like a reason to go! Brundage recently opened a new intermediate-level mountain bike trail. They've also got Emily Tipton playing Friday night as part of the TGIF concert series and a Caribbean dinner planned. Hope the Netheker fire burning near Burgdorf doesn't create a lot of smoke! #prayforburgdorf!

4. Take your kids fishing - See the list of Idaho Fish and Game's Family Fishing Waters to find some great recommendations close to home.

Go hiking in the Sawtooths (photo courtesy Michael Lanza/The Big Outside)
5. Go backpacking in the Sawtooths, White Clouds, Pioneers or Big Lost Mountain Range. See Michael Lanza's recommended hikes in the Sawtooths in his blog, the Big Outside. See a recommended major loop in the White Clouds in Backpacker mag. For a great hike in the Pioneers, see my blog post about hiking Broad Canyon. For the Big Lost range, see this overview in Summit 

6. Sleep under the stars in a dark sky venue like Bear Valley, the Owyhee Canyonlands or outside of Stanley.

Catch a trout on the Middle Fork Salmon River. 
7. Fly into the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and go fly-fishing for native cutthroat trout. Air taxi services in Boise, Cascade or McCall can take you into the Middle Fork in less than an hour. All fishing is catch and release.

8. Go mountain biking on a classic loop trail like Fisher-Williams in the White Clouds, Loon Lake north of McCall or Around the Mountain at Bogus Basin. 

Climbing up a short hill to finish the Fisher-Williams Loop (courtesy Salsa cycles)
9. Go SUP'ing, boating or swimming in a refreshing, natural Idaho mountain lake like Payette Lake, Redfish Lake, or Priest Lake.

10. Go see an outdoor concert! See a summer roundup in the Idaho Statesman for a full rundown of outdoor concerts planned in the summer of 2019.

For further enrichment on Idaho bucket list trips, see an Idaho bucket list post from Boise State radio, and a post that I did listing another 30 bucket list trips that they didn't cover.
- SS

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Five unsung off-the-beaten path paddling destinations for kayaks, SUPs + camping tips

The mountains are calling! Find your own Private Idaho at Upper Payette Lake.
Hi all,

It's mid-summer in Boise, and the mid-90ish temperatures definitely inspire us to head for cooler locations and our rivers and lakes in particular.

Last weekend, I floated the Cabarton stretch of the Payette River on Saturday, and it was busy as usual, but the Main Payette was absolutely slammed around Banks and the North Fork Payette also  was super busy with a lot of visiting Class 5 boaters testing their skills on the world-class river.

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending five more off-the-beaten-path paddling and Stand-Up Paddle Board (SUP) locations fairly close to home. Several of these recommendations come from my book, Paddling the Payette, a guide to 24 day trips on the Payette River system.

I also would take a moment to plug the Boise Goathead Fest happening Friday, Aug. 2 and Saturday, Aug. 3 at Cecil Andrus Park across from the Idaho Statehouse. This is an important event for bike-related nonprofits, so please try to participate in the parade (pre-register for $5 donation), drink beer, and buy food and merchandise to pump up the sales.

The Upper South Fork Payette River has a beautiful turquoise color.
Now for the unsung, off-the-beaten path paddling recommendations:

1. Upper South Fork Payette River - The upper South Fork just doesn't get very much public use. There's a nice Class 2 section between Eight Mile Creek (just upstream of Sourdough Lodge) and Helende Campground. It's running about 500 cfs right now, perfect low-flow level with some cushion. There's several Class 3 rapids below Helende and Kirkham Hot Springs, and then the river mellows again to Lowman. The Upper South Fork from Bonneville Hot Springs downstream has a number of gnarly and bony rapids at low flow (not recommended). There's a ton of self-support car-camping areas along Idaho 21 along the South Fork, and there's a hot springs in Grand Jean. Lots to do.

Middle Fork Boise River (courtesy John Keys)
2. Middle Fork Boise River - Drive up the Middle Fork road past Arrowrock to Troutdale Campground or any other spot of your choosing, and float the lower section of the Middle Fork Boise River. This is a mostly Class 2 flatwater run with rocks to dodge and small rapids. Good for kayaks, IKs, and skilled SUPs. Bring your camping gear and enjoy the setting along the Middle Fork Boise River. 

Deadwood Reservoir
3. Deadwood Reservoir - It's a long drive, but it's a scenic destination with good fishing, boating and camping in a remote location. Take Banks to Lowman Road to turnoff for Deadwood Reservoir near Little Falls. Go north to the reservoir. At least one developed campground, Cozy Cove, can be reserved through the Boise National Forest. There are lots of options for camping in the area. Deadwood Reservoir is a mile-high elevation-wise, so you can expect cool weather similar to McCall and the West Central Mountains.

North Fork Payette, south of Sheep Bridge
4. Sheep Bridge to Hartsell Bridge/Smylie Lane on the North Fork of the Payette River - The 9-mile float starts at Sheep Bridge, across Mission Street from the Forest Service Smokejumper Base. Leave a vehicle at the takeout at Smylie Bridge. It's a full day on the water, typically six hours, floating through millions of S-curves and meanders on a slow-moving river. Bring a lunch, your favorite beverages and enjoy it. Best for kayaks, canoes, IKs, and skilled SUPs. There's are a couple of log jams on the second half of the float that you'll need to portage. It can be decent fishing in there, too.

5. Upper Payette Lake - This one doesn't get much use either. It's got fishing and paddling in a beautiful setting surrounded by the Payette National Forest and granite mountains. The location is north of North Beach and Payette Lake, about 15 miles from Shore Lodge. Remember to take East Side Drive if you go during the middle of the week. Warren Wagon Road is closed during the day for construction. Upper Payette is 2 miles long and a half-mile wide, and it's got camp sites and picnic areas. Nice spot.

There you have it! Enjoy these unsung destinations and stay cool!
- SS 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Stanley Lake has everything for an easy-going, scenic mountain experience

Stanley Lake with McGowan Peak looming in the background.
Hi all,

We went up to Stanley Lake in Stanley last weekend to do a little camping, hiking, swimming and R&R, and we really enjoyed the trip.

I thought I'd share a few tidbits about our trip in case you might want to visit that popular spot in the future.

Stanley Lake is a gorgeous setting on the northwest corner of the Sawtooth Mountains. But there's a paved road to the campground and day use area, so it does get more traffic than a more off-the-beaten-track destination in the Sawtooths. That said, it's not nearly as busy as the Redfish Lake area.

Drew is a trouper ... did the hike to Bridal Veil Falls no problem.
I took Wendy and my son Drew to Stanley Lake as a cool place to swim on a hot weekend, and a convenient jump-off spot to hike up to Bridal Veil Falls on the Stanley Lake Creek Trail. We also planned to camp in a primitive spot on the way to the lake. I had initially planned an ambitious hike to Observation Peak, but decided that a lower-key trip on the well-maintained trail to Lady Face Falls and Bridal Veil Falls would work best for Wendy and Drew.

As things turned out, the hike was great ... it's a 9-mile jaunt round-trip to Bridal Veil Falls, so it's still a substantial hike. It took us several hours to get up there, including a substantial creek-crossing, and about 1.5 hours back. Drew was right on my heels or walking ahead of me the whole way ... it was a good distance for him. Vertical gain is about 500 feet. The trail gradient is very easy until the last mile or so to the falls.

Very well-maintained trail going up Stanley Lake Creek.
Be sure to take the side trip to Lady Face Falls on the way. You can get quite close to that rushing steep rapids, much closer than you can get to Bridal Veil Falls. There is no trail to Bridal Veil, BTW, so it's best to view that from a distance. I hadn't been up to Bridal Veil in more than 20 years, so it was fun to see that water rushing down the mountain from the Hansen Lakes and the peaks above, roaring over the rocks in the image of an arched, white bridal veil.

Last Saturday afternoon, even though we were at 6,500-foot elevation, it was pretty hot in the afternoon. Stanley Lake was a welcome sight after our hike. Time to set up the lawn chairs, go swimming and hang out at the lake! We did that on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, and really enjoyed hanging out by the water. The water temperature was still quite cold, so Wendy couldn't exactly swim across the bay, like she often might do.

Large beach area for swimming, SUP'ing, hanging out ...
We saw people Stand Up Paddle Boarding on the lake, kayaking, fishing and canoeing. There were maybe one or two power boats on the water ... There are ample areas where you can hang out by the lake on the beach. The Forest Service has moved the campground to the south end of the lake, and converted the north side to day use. There are parking areas and rest rooms for both the Stanley Lake Creek Trailhead and for the Stanley Lake day use area. Both parking lots were full and overflowing last weekend, but there was still plenty of elbow room on the beach.     

Drew and Steve
Watch out for bugs! We had plenty of bug dope, but the no see 'ems seem to have gotten the better of us we noticed after the trip. Little tiny red welts everywhere, and they itch like crazy for a couple of days! Forest Service officials at the Stanley Ranger Station report that bugs have been pretty major by all of the Sawtooth major lakes. Mosquitoes and horseflies are out in force as well. Wearing long sleeves and pants can help! Bring plenty of your favorite insect repellent.

Camping at Stanley Lake - There are several places where you can car camp in self-supportive primitive spots on the way into Stanley Lake. We prefer to do that since we are still tent-campers, and we have all of the self-support camping stuff handy from our river trip gear. These areas are all marked as such by the Forest Service. For camping at the official Stanley Lake Campground, contact to check on availability and make reservations. Grabbing a camp spot directly on the lake would be premium and worth the extra bucks! Camping fees are $18-$36/night.

Photo courtesy IWA High-siding at Howard's Plunge
everal related articles I've seen this week:

The Idaho Whitewater Association is hosting "Safety Saturday" this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Main Payette River. Sign up at Banks at 10 a.m. on Saturday. See Facebook event page for details ... I highly recommend participating if you need to sharpen up your river safety skills -- always a good thing to stay sharp!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The high country beckons! Three kid-friendly mountain hikes near McCall

Bear Pete Trail at the Josephine Lake overlook.
We ski-daddled along the snowy Bear Pete ridge in our hiking boots.
Hi all,

Summer is kicking into high gear, with temperatures now in the 90s in the Boise Valley. And the snow is melting fast in the mountains, so it's time to head into the high country for hiking and summer fun.

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending three hikes in the greater McCall area (elevation 5,000 feet). All of these hikes would be suitable for kids and families.

Be sure to pack plenty of water, snacks/lunch, rain coat and bug spray. Also, it's a good idea to bring a Payette National Forest or McCall area Adventure map to stay on track. Most of these areas are out of cell range except Boulder Lake.

Jim Pace takes a gander at Buckhorn Mountain off in the distance at Boulder Lake.
1. Hike to Boulder Lake - Rated easy to moderate. Distance: 4 miles - 2 miles out, 2 miles back. Vertical: 700 feet of gain. This is a scenic hike that offers a little more mountain "wow" factor than the trails in Ponderosa Park and Bear Basin. Nice place to swim, go fishing or have a picnic. Trailhead is off Elo Road by Boulder Mountain Reservoir. See details on Payette National Forest web site. Bring a lunch and enjoy the setting! 

You walk by multiple meadows on the 20 Mile Trail ... old burn areas and some mature forest that didn't burn.
2. 20 Mile Trail - This is more of a forested hike into a beautiful glacial-sculpted canyon. Much of this area burned years ago, but the lodgepole pines are growing back as thick as dog hair. Rated easy. Distance 5.5 miles to 20 Mile Lakes junction and back. Vertical: 260 feet of gain. The 20 Mile trail is in great shape. No downfall. That makes things super pleasant. If you want to go farther, go uphill on the trail to 20 Mile Lakes for a bigger view of the surrounding mountains. Getting to the trailhead: Take Warren Wagon Road north past Upper Payette Lake and watch for 20 Mile Trailhead on the right side of the road.

Looking up the canyon toward Lick Creek Summit.
For an even bigger adventure, leave a shuttle vehicle at the 20 Mile trailhead and get a ride to the Duck Lake Trailhead by Lick Creek Summit. You can do a through-hike from Duck Lake down the full length of 20 Mile Trail ... it's only 10.5 miles! 710 feet of gain and 1,640 feet of descent. Plan for a full-day to do the shuttle and hike.  

Wendy walks through a gallery of dead whitebark pines on the way up the mountain.
3. Bear Pete Trail to Josephine Lake overlook - Hiking this route is a quick way to get into the alpine zone from the trailhead at Cloochman Summit, not far from Secesh Summit. Rated moderate. Short strenuous climbs in a few spots. Distance: 5.5 miles out and back. Vertical: 1,400 feet of gain. Drive north of McCall on Eastside Drive to North Beach area, then continue north on Warren Wagon Road past Upper Payette Lake to a signed left-hand turn to Cloochman Saddle. High-clearance vehicle recommended. Park at the trailhead by the saddle. Hike uphill on Bear Pete Trail and enjoy the rainbow of wildflowers as you climb through alpine meadows to an overlook of Josephine Lake at just over 8,000 feet. Big views looking into French Creek, Bear Pete Mountain, and the Payette Crest. The full length of Bear Pete Trail is 17.5 miles ... I have mountain biked it both directions. Hard-core trail runners would love doing the whole thing. 3,125 vertical!

Bear grass coming on!

The Grand Opening for the new Payette Lake singletrack trail is on Saturday, from 2-8 p.m., sponsored by the Central Idaho Mountain Biking Association (CIMBA). Burgers, dogs, and Salmon River Brewery will be pouring beer. This is a fund-raising event. CIMBA does a ton of great things for trails in the greater McCall area, including overseeing the development of the new trail on the west side of Payette Lake. Here's a link to the new trail on MTB Project.

- SS

Thursday, June 27, 2019

10 perfect paddling destinations in SW Idaho for SUPs and kayaks

SUP'ing on the Boise River near Discovery Park is a less-crowded place to paddle below Lucky Peak Dam.
Hi all,

The weather is warming up, the Boise River float season kicks off next week, and that means it's time to get your boating gear together for summer paddling adventures -- if you haven't done that already!

This week's outdoor tip is for people who are enjoying the fast-growing sport of Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP), as well as sit-on-top kayaks and other flat-water craft.

Quinn's Pond has been the go-to destination for SUPs in Boise, and often times, it's challenging to even find a place to park at Esther Simplot Park to get easy access to Quinn's Pond (the old Bob Rice Ford parking lot is a great alternative, however, with plenty of space).

So I thought I would dish up some alternative locations close to home for flat-water SUP'ing, canoeing or kayaking.

I spoke with the experts at Idaho River Sports and Alpenglow Mountainsport (both of whom have tons of SUP and kayak rentals available) for ideas, plus my guidebook, Paddling the Payette, has more than 15 fantastic flat-water and moderate, moving-water destinations for SUPs and kayaks. You also can buy waterproof Payette River maps on my web site.

Be sure to wear life jackets, helmets and safety gear on rocky moving water like the Boise River and Payette River. Stay away from the river banks when possible as well to avoid getting caught in debris, downed trees, etc. 

1. Boise River - Just because of its sheer popularity and convenience, thousands of people are drawn to float the Boise River ... sometimes 10,000 a day! The Boise River is expected to open next week after the Boise Fire Department does a safety sweep of the river on Friday. Watch the Ada County Parks & Waterways web site or Facebook page for information on the official opening day. All of the fun starts at Barber Park. SUP'ing the Boise River can be challenging because of the diversion drops and moving water, so you might not necessarily want to go there first. Plus, the water is VERY COLD! My step-daughter broke off the back fin of her SUP last year at a diversion drop, just saying. 

Beautiful evening by Discovery Park on Wednesday. These two paddlers were the only ones on the water. 
2. Discovery State Park - Located at the foot of Lucky Peak, Discovery Park is a great place to paddle in the Boise River below the dam. The shady park is a great place to hang out, so bring a picnic, and there is a great spot for off-leash dogs to run around. You can paddle towards Diversion Dam, and then paddle back in the eddies along the reservoir.

3. Arrowrock Reservoir - Quiet and uncrowded. Lots of places to launch by campgrounds or other dispersed sites along the west side of the reservoir by the Middle Fork Road. Could be windy in the afternoon, so be aware of that. 

4. Mores Creek arm of Lucky Peak Reservoir. Put in at Robie Creek Park. Quiet and relatively uncrowded.

Video courtesy Idaho Caller 

5. Payette River - Montour reach near Sweet. Moving water but no rapids. Multiple sand bars as the river level drops. Put-in at the Montour IDFG Wildlife Managemennt Area by the river bridge. Easy bike shuttle possible by planting a bike at the beginning of Black Canyon Reservoir. 3.5 miles. 

6. South Fork Payette River - Garden Valley reach. Slower-water section of the South Fork between Hot Springs Campground and Deer Creek launch site. Beautiful setting in Garden Valley. 6-mile trip.

7. Centennial Park to Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls. World-class paddling experience in the giant Snake River Canyon. I've written about the trip for Southern Idaho Tourism. Fabulous trip!(Video courtesy Southern Idaho Tourism)

The Meanders where it flows into Payette Lake. 
8. North Fork Meanders, North Beach, north of McCall.This is one of the sweetest places to SUP, kayak or canoe anywhere in Idaho. Stillwater experience, with deep pools and a winding river winding through forests and meadows. Watch for the resident moose! The float is up to 4.5 miles long, depending on your preference. Be sure to take Eastside Drive to North Beach and the Meanders during the week; Warren Wagon Road is closed for construction during weekdays.

Payette River below Kelly's Whitewater Park
9. Cascade to Cabarton, North Fork Payette River - Put in by the ID 55 south bridge as you pull into the town of Cascade. Flat moving water on the North Fork with no rapids. Long trip, 9 miles of meandering river through cattle pastures on your way to Cabarton Bridge. West Mountain looms off to the West. Be sure to bring a lunch.  

Courtesy Stanley chamber/Visit Idaho
10. Redfish Lake - Hey, if you're in the Sawtooths, how can you go wrong? Word for the wise: watch out for winds! Spectacular setting with the Sawtooths framing your paddle adventure the whole time. 

Need instruction? Idaho River Sports offers a wide assortment of SUP classes - they also have SUP Pilates and SUP Yoga classes. See IRS web site for details.

Steve talks about his outdoor tip of the week on Friday mornings at 7:40 a.m. on 94.9 FM The River with Ken Bass and Deb Courson Smith. Please tune in!   

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Go see the North Fork Championship, plus a high country condition report

A kayaker cuts hard-left to go around the gate behind the rock near the top of Jake's. (Courtesy Canoe/Kayak) 

Hi all,

Many of the best kayakers from around the world are coming to Idaho this week to compete in the North Fork Championship on the mighty North Fork of the Payette River. KTVB-TV reported that 180 athletes from 18 countries will compete for the $5,000 top prize.

I highly recommend that you go watch the main event on Saturday! It starts at 1 p.m. on Jacob's Ladder, one of the most challenging sections of gnarly Class 5 whitewater in North America. These paddlers will be not only surviving the churning whitewater, but also running gates in the middle of Jake's, and that's when things can get interesting!

Take a look:

(Video courtesy Outside mag)

Jacob's Ladder is located about half-way from Banks to Smith's Ferry on one of those rare places in the north-bound lanes where there's a passing lane on a long uphill. That's the spot! Find a place to pull over on the shoulder, or bring a bike and find a better place to park and hang out when the race is over.

I find it totally invigorating just watching the expert kayakers trying to navigate the big and bold features on the North Fork at an incredibly fast speed. The whitewater is ferocious! It seems to eat people until they emerge on the other side of the wave or hole and keep on paddling. It's just totally impressive!

On Thursday night, June 13, they're showing a series of whitewater films at the Egyptian Theater. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. Raffle items will be given away from NRS, Immersion Research, Astral, Dagger Kayak, Werner paddles, GoPro's, and many others. I'm sure the footage will be amazing! 

Speaking of rivers, you might have noticed that river-boating season is upon us! Time to dust off the kayaks, rafts, SUPs, etc., and go paddling! 

The North Fork of the Payette River was running just under 3,000 cfs at Banks on Thursday, so the rapids on the Cabarton section of the North Fork would be really fun right now. There'd be plenty of current to SUP the North Fork from Cascade to Cabarton, and the South Fork and Main Payette are rocking as well! Now that it's getting hot, it's time to hit the rivers! The Salmon River was running 31,000 cfs at Whitebird on Thursday. That'd make for a big ride in Riggins! Here's a link to all Idaho river flows.  

Need info. on Payette River flat-water and whitewater trips? See my guide, Paddling the Payette, which has details descriptions and maps to 24 day trips on the Payette River. 
Tuesday evening in Ponderosa State Park at the top of the Huckleberry Trail.

Osprey Point in Ponderosa State Park is my happy place, overlooking Payette Lake. 
High-country condition report: I spent a few days in McCall this week, and it's absolutely gorgeous in Long Valley right now, with tall green grass flowing in the breeze, flowers popping, and the snow receding in the mountain tops. 

I checked with the Boise, Payette and Sawtooth national forests to get an idea on snow level. I'm hearing snow levels are generally in the 7,000-8,000 range, but in the north slopes and shadows, it would be much lower than that.

  • Low-elevation trails in the McCall area are all in great shape right now, and ripe for the plucking. This includes trails at Ponderosa State Park, Payette Rim Trail, Jug Mountain Ranch and Tamarack. The North Valley Trail is in perfect condition, too. 
  • Brundage Mountain is opening this weekend. There's too much snow at the summit to allow top-to-bottom mountain biking. People will be able to ride both directions on bike trails from the base area, in the meantime. There's a Father's Day Brunch on Sunday. See web site for details. 
  • Some tidbits from the Sawtooth NRA
    • Alice Lake-Toxaway Loop is snowed in. 
    • 4th of July Trailhead is snowed in. 
    • Iron Creek trail may be clear to Alpine Lake, but not Sawtooth. 
    • You can't get to Bridal Veil Falls from Stanley Lake because of a high water creek crossing. 
    • Mosquitoes are reportedly numerous. 
  •  Tidbits from the Payette National Forest - The county plowed the road to Burgdorf, Secesh Meadows and Warren, so that should be open. Lick Creek Summit is still snow-bound. Most high lakes may be snow-bound. Little-used camp sites and campgrounds on the South Fork Salmon River are recommended ... they are lower-elevation.
  • I didn't get any intel from the Boise National Forest, so you might check with a ranger district if you're heading that way. 
Steve talks about his weekly outdoor tip with Ken Bass and Deb Coursen Smith on 94.9 FM The River at approximately 7:40 a.m. on Fridays. 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sign up for the Boise Trails Challenge! Ride all of the Boise R2R trails in 30 days!

Nick Smith riding near the Boise Ridge - He's ridden all the R2R Trails in a month 3 years in a row ...

Nick Smith and a friend out riding the trails. 
Hi all,

Have you heard about the Boise Trails Challenge? 

I heard about it off-hand in a few casual conversations, and then I saw it on Facebook the other day. The idea is to ride 158 miles, covering 83 trails and 193 trail segments, including nearly all of the Ridge to Rivers trails, in one month. It's a friendly race against the clock. Hook up your Strava device to the Boise Trails Challenge, pay a modest registration fee, and join the fun, all brought to you by

This year the event is being held from June 21-July 21, so you have a little time to get plugged in! Three-hundred mountain bikers are signed up already! I think the event is open to runners and hikers, too.

Boise realtor Nick Smith, 40, has done it three years in a row, two of them before it became a real event. "My brother and I thought it'd be cool to ride all of the trails as fast as possible in a month," Smith says.

Last year, he did all of the trails in 18 days over 16 rides, covering 281 miles and more than 50,000 vertical feet. Wow! Who needs to go to Moab when you can absolutely work your body riding the rich variety of trails and landscapes right here at home! Smith hit all the trails while balancing his work life and raising three kids.

Apparently, some absolute hard-core competitive racers knocked out the course in several days. Can you imagine?

"I love mountain biking -- it's my favorite thing to do," he says. "I think we're spoiled with the quality of trails that we have in Boise."

What kind of rides have you been doing, lately? Riding Sidewinder-Fat Tire every time you ride? Corrals Loop? Watchman? Let's face it, a lot of people are stuck in a rut, and they're not necessary trying anything new ...

"How many of Boise’s amazing trails have you tried? The Boise Trails Challenge is an annual month-long challenge to complete as many of Boise’s trails as you can during a single month. You’ll discover new favorite trails, break out of your routine, test your endurance, and compete for prizes!"

I see this as a great way to celebrate our trails ... people can sign up, even if they don't think they can do every ride as an incentive to just see what you're capable of!

Smith thinks that strong intermediate riders could do it. He's got a buddy who has mountain biked for for only two years, and he completed the Boise Trails Challenge in 30 days.

The cool thing about participating in the challenge is that the Strava app will sync with the interactive trail map on the web site, and it'll track your progress, and keep you informed as to what trails you have left to cover. After each trail is ridden, the trail segment will fill with a different color than the interactive map to show you're done that one.

I asked Smith about his strategy. He recommends sitting down with a hard copy of the Ridge to Rivers map, and plan out your rides to try to be efficient and avoid duplication. "I sat down and planned when and where I was going to ride," he says.

He tried to vary his rides between super-challenging long hard climbs and easier trails with less climbing. This was Day #1 for him: a 45-mile ride, starting in Camelsback, up Hulls to the motorcycle parking area, down Trail #1 to Bob's, then up Highlands Trail to Corrals, then up Hard Guy to Sheep Camp to Dry Creek, then up Sweet Connie to Eastside, part of Around the Mountain Trail and down the ridge road back to Boise ... I might have missed a few things in there, but man, that's one heck of a day's ride!

"It's a fun way to explore Boise," Smith says. "I just want to improve on my time from last year. I'm competing pretty much against myself."

Prizes: All participants will receive wool Boise Trails socks ($18 retail value), and finishers and winners will get even more stuff, and there are random prizes and drawings, too.

I highly recommend the Boise Trails Challenge! I personally would like to try it, and even if you don't want to try to do all the trails in a month, set your own goal and try to cover all 158 miles at your own pace. Just to knock out all the trails in one summer season would be impressive as well!

Sometimes it takes a big goal to improve your fitness, get stronger, maybe lose some weight, and earn it the hard way by taking on the mountain! The mountains don't care, I notice, how fast you go or how you're feeling that day. They are the great equalizer!
- SS