Thursday, April 25, 2019

Try floating the Owyhee River with friends or an outfitter - it's spectacular!

My son Drew is ready to roll at the Rome put-in for the Lower Owyhee River.
Bonnie, Rico, Kelley and Lawrence enjoy hanging out in camp on the afternoon of Day 3, below Montgomery Rapids.
Spectacular spot for our camp on night 3.
Hi all,

I managed to get out of town last weekend for a 4-day trip on the Lower Owyhee River. We launched on the warmest day of the year last Friday, when the mercury hit 80 degrees, and amazingly enough, there were a ton of parties launching on the river as well! Imagine that!
Because of deep snow in the Owyhee and Jarbidge-Bruneau river basins last winter, this spring offers a rare, and great chance to float those rivers when the water is high enough to go (April - June). If you don't have your own raft and whitewater gear, consider going with an outfitter. I'd recommend Far & Away Adventures, Wilderness River Outfitters, Barker River Expeditions, and ROW Adventures. Please see press release that I wrote for the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association.
One of the big advantages of floating the Lower Owyhee is that you follow a paved road (U.S. 95) to the boat-launch site in Rome, Ore. To float the upper forks of the Owyhee, you have to drive for many miles on unimproved 4WD dirt roads that turn into major quicksand-like gumbo after lots of rain. So we had no worries about being able to reach the river last week, even though it had been wet.

Dad and Drew are bundled up on the morning of Day 3.
We took four days to float 48 miles to the Birch Creek takeout, upstream of Owyhee Reservoir. At a flow of 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), it should have been quite easy to make our river miles. But that isn't how things turned out. After a beautiful, warm and tranquil day on Day 1, we had driving rain, headwinds, thunder and lightning on Day 2. High temperatures were probably in the 40s. Then we had big headwinds on Day 3, but luckily, the skies were clear -- just a cutting Northwest wind. Good thing we came ready to dress very warm!

At 4,000 cfs, the river is comparatively wide and most of the rocks are covered. So from a whitewater perspective, it's a pretty easy and mellow level with good current and fun waves.

The Lower Owyhee has mostly Class 2 rapids, with a few Class 3's and one Class 4, called Montgomery. I would rate that Class 3+ personally. Montgomery is not that hard. You have to pull away from a left-side wall as the current races around a left-hand bend. It's a pretty straight-forward maneuver, compared to Class 4 rapids that require multiple maneuvers around rocks or holes.

We had four major highlights on our trip:
1. Birds of Prey were everywhere! Golden eagles, kestrels, northern harriers, prairie falcons and other hawks were flying around the cliffs, diving toward the water and nesting in the cliffs. Plus, we saw pairs of geese on virtually every corner, some with goslings, a few pairs of mergansers and some mallards.
2. Volcanic rock formations on the Lower Owyhee are spectacular. The types of rock spans from black basalt lava similar to the Jordan Craters, to rhyolite red cliffs, basalt cliffs and many spires, hoodoos and other formations. It's fun to just stare in awe at these features and feel small.
3. Recent rainfall and good snowpack made the desert landscape the deepest shade of green imaginable. We must have caught the green-up at its peak. But the flowers were just starting to pop because it's been such a late spring. 
4. Camping out, campfires, S'mores, great meals and great people. I love camping out in general, and we brought a bunch of firewood for a campfire every night in my fire pan. For the night I cooked, I brought all of the key ingredients for S'mores, and everyone really enjoyed that. I got to bring my son, Drew, along for the trip, and he's really turning into an excellent river camper. Great bonding time for Dad and Drew.

Cool nooks and crannies to explore.
If you go, make sure you have enough time to do some side-hiking. The area around Pruitt's Castle is a great place to hike, Hike-out camp is another sweet hiking spot early in the trip, and below Whistling Bird Rapids, there's a sweet campsite with a way to hike to the top of the rim and enjoy big views of the canyon. From that viewpoint, it's amazing how small you can feel, being a tiny little speck amid the giant Owyhee River Plateau.

All I can say is getting away on an Owyhee, Bruneau or Jarbidge-Bruneau trip is good medicine for the soul. And you know, right at that moment, that you're extremely fortunate to experience it.
A few notes on happenings this weekend:
  • Idaho Whitewater Association used equipment sale 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday at Cascade River Gear.  
  • Sheep in the Foothills - A band of sheep is moving through the Boise Foothills as we speak for the next week or so. Watch the Life on the Range Facebook page or Ridge to Rivers Facebook page for sheep locations. 
The sheep were north of the Corrals Trailhead and Miller Gulch Trailhead on Wednesday, April 24.

- SS

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Go spring skiing on last weekend at Bogus, Brundage or try Wilson Creek in the Owyhees

Cottonwood Creek jumped out of its banks and washed out Rocky Canyon Road.
ACHD is working to restore the road before the Race to Robie Creek next Saturday. 
Hi all,

With all the incessant rainy weather we've been having in the Boise Valley and beyond, I've been thinking that, hey, I can always recommend Ol' Rocky Reliable - my term for Rocky Canyon Road - as a good alternative for hiking, trail-running and mountain biking when the foothills trails are wet and muddy.

That's what Wendy and I did last Sunday to take our dog Huck on a short walk. If we'd gone up the road 3.5 miles, we would have run into a major washout on Rocky Canyon Road. Take a look at the video above ... ACHD is in the midst of working to repair the road today (Thursday, April 11), and so they have closed Rocky Canyon Road to public use to allow heavy equipment operators and engineers restore the road. The road is closed until repairs are completed. No time estimated has been given as yet.

The Race to Robie Creek is coming up next Saturday, April 20, so all of the walkers and trail-runners are surely itching to continue training for the "toughest half-marathon in the Northwest." This year's theme is the "Birth of the Wonder Toad." It's always a hoot!

So anyway, I can't even recommend Ol' Rocky Reliable this week. Fortunately, the weather is supposed to dry out on Friday, and Saturday looks like the best day of the weekend for a little outdoor exploration. High temperatures are forecast in the low 60s in the Boise Valley and full sun is expected all day. Really? Sunday looks like rain and crapola.

So here are my recommendations:

Pond-skimming at Bogus Basin (Courtesy Bogus Basin) 
1. Enjoy the last weekend of operations at Bogus Basin or Brundage Mountain and go spring skiing. High temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-40s with sunshine at Bogus on Saturday, and 40 degrees at Brundage with partial sunshine. Bring your own BBQ if you want for a little tailgate action!

Bogus Basin is hosting a pond-skimming event from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, and a Boxzilla event from 11:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m. on Saturday, a raffle for a Morning Star 2-person classic chair on Saturday, and a  PBR Ribbon Hunt until Sunday, along with live music from High Pine Whiskey Yell. Bogus closes for the season after the ski day on Sunday.   

Brundage has a Gelande Quaff beer-catching and drinking event on Saturday, and the Dodgy Mountain Men are playing live music that day. Brundage closes on Sunday at the end of the ski day at 4:30 p.m.

Both mountains have plenty of snow for AT and Tele skiers who will be climbing for their runs in the coming weeks.
Harrison Hollow all-weather trail is a great choice in inclement weather. 
2. Go hiking, trail-running or biking on Boise Foothills trails if they dry out. Refer to the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page for the latest conditions and recommendations. I went hiking in the Harrison Hollow area last night with Huck, and the high winds dried out the trails amazingly quickly. Please tread lightly and don't damage the trails. If mud is sticking to your shoes or your bike tires, please turn around.

As an alternative, here's my post from March that recommended a number of excellent destinations with all-weather trails, including Eagle Island State Park, Hyatt Hidden Lakes, Harrison Hollow,

3. Go hiking or biking in the Wilson Creek area in the Owyhees on Saturday. The weather looks best for doing the Wilson Creek-Reynolds Creek hiking loop on Saturday. The loop is 7.5 miles, starting from the Wilson Creek Road trailhead, south of Nampa, on the south side of the Snake River.

Here are directions and a description to the hike: You take ID 45 south of Nampa toward Murphy. Cross the Snake River, turn right and head for Marsing. Watch for Wilson Creek Road on the left. Take Wilson Creek Road to the BLM trailhead for Trail #300 on the left side of the road. Park. The hike starts here.

Follow Trail #300 over to a junction with a dirt road. Go left on Road #410 and follow that over to the China Ditch Trail #600 in Reynolds Creek canyon. This is the best part of the hike. Go upcanyon on Trail #600 and enjoy the redrock canyon of Reynolds Creek. Good place for lunch. When the canyon opens up, you'll see a junction with Trail #510, which heads back over to the junction with Trail #400. Take that trail back to the parking lot.

Reynolds Creek canyon is a gorgeous spot, no matter if you're hiking or biking. 
Robie Creek Runners would enjoy doing that loop as a trail-run, and for more elevation, they could do the Wilson Creek Mini-Moab route that I pioneered with my mountain bike years ago for the Mountain Biking in Idaho guidebook. That loop is 15.6 miles. It's detailed in my Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook as well. You basically start at the lower Wilson Creek Trailhead and follow the main Wilson Creek BLM dirt road 6.5 miles uphill to a left-hand turn on a primitive road to the top shoulder of Wilson Peak, about 2,000 feet of vertical from the start. You follow the rocky primitive road around the east side of Wilson Peak and drop down to a valley that intersects Trail #400 and Trail #300 returning to the Wilson Creek Trailhead.
- SS

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Go see thousands of snow geese at Ft. Boise WMA, pond-skimming at Brundage or biking

(Courtesy Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

Hi all,

It appears that we have a rainy weekend ahead, at least that's the forecast for Friday and Sunday. There's only a 20 percent chance of rain on Saturday, so there may be a few breaks in between storms or squalls where you can get out and do something fun outdoors!

I'm recommending three things for my outdoor tip of the week -- go to Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Parma to see thousands of snow geese, go pond-skimming at Brundage Mountain or dash out on your bike between rain storms.

What a thrill to see the snow geese flying around in this giant wetland preserve and cottonwood forest where the Boise River meets the Snake River near the Idaho-Oregon border.

This is the same area where trappers stopped in to trade wares at Fort Boise. After 1835, they could stop and visit with post master Francois Payette, who was a very successful trapper (see historical chapter in my Paddling the Payette book) who arrived in Idaho and the Northwest in 1818 at the dawn of the trapping era. He also had a hand in mapping the region, hence, all of the rivers and lakes bearing his name.

But think of the rich fish and wildlife resource that existed there at the time -- salmon and steelhead, sturgeon, trout, all kinds of ducks, deer, moose and maybe even elk. Payette traded with many different Native American tribes, stole horses from them and vice-verse, and he took a few Native American women as his wives. Several Indian children emerged with the last name of Payette.

Here's a link to the Fort Boise WMA web page, which has directions to the refuge and an excellent list of birds you may see there.

Here's a brave lad giving it a go! (Courtesy Brundage Mountain)
McCall Realtor Lolo Nelson has won the
contest in the past wearing a prom dress.  
2. Go pond-skimming at Brundage Mountain. Brundage is poised to receive a batch of new snow on Saturday-Sunday (up to 9 inches are expected), and you could participate in the Crazy Daze pond-skimming competition on Saturday, starting at 1:15 p.m. There's also a beer relay, poker run, photo scavenger hunt and a costume contest.

Temperatures are forecast to freeze Friday night, with a low of 27 degrees, and there's new snow forecast Saturday, Saturday night and Sunday. Watch my forecasts for the last details. 

Look for lodging deals in McCall by checking with the McCall Chamber or Maybe even Shore Lodge or the Holiday Inn Express?

3. Go for a bike ride in between the rain storms. I'm talking road biking because the Boise foothills trails will be wet after the rain we get this weekend.

  • Take a long ride on the Greenbelt and plan a stop at a favorite spot for coffee, lunch or a beer.  
  • Do the Cartwright 3 Summits Loop. 
  • Ride out to Eagle and back on Hill Road and Floating Feather. 
  • Ride to Hilltop Summit above Lucky Peak. Wendy and I did that last Saturday. We started at Municipal Park and rode to Hilltop and back, enjoying the new pavement that Ada County Parks and Waterways put in between IDPR headquarters and Diversion Dam. That ride is 27 miles round-trip, with 1,214 feet of elevation gain. 
  • Ride a loop somewhere close to your house so you don't get wet! Ha! 
  • Pick up a Boise Road Cycling Guide, a full-color waterproof map of the best road bike rides in the Treasure Valley.
All downhill from here! A bearded Steve at Hilltop Summit. 
Have fun! 
- SS