Thursday, October 31, 2019

Dry Creek hike in Boise Foothills reveals neat ice patterns, fall color

Huck had a blast sniffing for birds and perching on rocks 
Patches of ice formed interesting patterns in the creek. 
Hi all,

I went hiking with Huck on the Dry Creek trail this week to see if the fall colors were still happening -- and they were in places. But it was a surprising dividend to see some cool shapes and designs in the ice forming in the creek.

We've had low temperatures in the teens and 20s this week, so Dry Creek was definitely covered with ice in flatter portions of the streams and in the beaver ponds. It's supposed to get a little warmer in the days ahead, so I recommend getting out to hike Dry Creek or do the Shingle Creek-Dry Creek Loop before the snow comes and the trail gets mucky.

That's my outdoor tip this week ... get out and enjoy the Boise Foothills trails while you can!

Some sections of the creek were almost completely frozen. 
I also am looking forward to attending the Bogus Basin Ski Education Foundation Ski Swap Friday-Sunday at Expo Idaho this weekend. See the web site for details on selling and buying equipment.

BTW, if it's ski swap time, that means the Warren Miller annual ski movie is coming up! It's scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 21 through Sunday, Nov. 24 at the Egyptian Theater.

A hiker and a jogger cruising up the trail with their dogs 
Now back to the Dry Creek hike ... starting from the trailhead on Bogus Basin Road, you can hike up the creek as far as you want ... On Thursday (today), I hiked about two miles or so up the trail to the Shingle Creek junction, and came back. Going on a mid-week day, I saw only 2 other people on the trail during my hike.

The Dry Creek trail is kind of steep up and down threading through some cool granite goblin-like rocks in the first 1/2 mile, but after the trail drops down by the creek, it's a very pleasant walk up the draw. There are numerous places where you could stop and have a picnic.
Dry Creek-Shingle Creek Loop map (courtesy 

Remains of a stone house next to a large locust tree that settlers planted.  
Tackling the Dry Creek-Shingle Creek Loop is a much more ambitious endeavor. The route covers 13.8 miles and features 2,221 feet of gain. Nothing too extreme, but it's still a substantial hike with multiple strenuous pitches. That one would take about 5 hours or more, depending on your speed of travel.

Take a walk up there and enjoy the sights! I wondered about the history of a stone house up there ... I would like to know more about the settlers who tried to live up there.

Beaver pond complex was just freezing over. 
Be sure to dress in layers for the hike. You'll warm up and shed most of your layers on the way up the trail, and then cool down for the walk back down. I needed a hat and gloves for my hike. The temperature was in the high 30s, so not all that warm. It is supposed to warm up a bit next week in the afternoons.

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Six all-weather trails in the Boise Foothills when the weather gets wet

Mountain Cove Trail in Military Reserve Park has a new all-weather surface.
Good place to go when things get wet! 
Hi all,

We've been getting some pretty dicy weather lately as we make the transition from fall to winter.

For those in-between days, or times when the trails can get soaked from storms in the Boise Foothills, it's good to know about the all-weather trails available so you can get out on a walk and not worry about causing damage on a muddy trail. You can enjoy yourself GUILT-FREE!

All-weather trails have extra sand and gravel on the surface to absorb moisture and provide a pretty bomb-proof compacted surface. They're all pretty short in distance, and mostly suited to walking, running or a small bike ride.

I noticed the Ridge to Rivers trail crew putting in a new all-weather surface on the Mountain Cove Trail in Military Reserve Park last week. The trail runs for a little less than a mile parallel to Mountain Cove Road, next to Freestone Creek. The trail also connects to Central Ridge, Bucktail, Shanes and more in the Military Reserve complex.   

Mountain Cove Trail is the newest edition to Ridge to Rivers' quiver of all-weather trails. There are five others to consider:

1. Red Fox - Owl's Roost - a 2.2-mile loop from Camelsback to the Foothills Learning Center, suitable for all abilities. Hulls Grove Trail next to Owl's Roost is another all-weather alternative in that area.

Hulls Ponds from Red Fox Trail near Camelsback Park 
2. Harrison Hollow - Slightly less than a mile (one-way), all-weather trail in the hollow behind Highland's Hollow Brew Pub and Healthwise. Super easy trail, very gentle incline.

3. Neighborhood all-weather trails in the Foothills East subdivision off of Shenandoah and Shaw Mountain Road. Beautiful colors in that area right now!

Fall colors are pretty nice in Military Reserve Park right now. 
4. Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Trail #19A  (Table Rock/Castle Rock area) Flat and easy trail for all abilities. 

5. Red-Winged Blackbird #35A (Camelsback Park area) - Flat and easy trail for all abilities. It runs from the Hulls ponds to Chickadee Ridge through a wetlands environment. 

All of the all-weather trails are mostly flat because they're most suitable for the sand-and-gravel compacted treatment, explains David Gordon, manager of the Ridge to Rivers trail system. Steeper trails wouldn't work - they'd be too subject to erosion. 

So keep this list in your hip pocket when needed! 

In the meantime, you might have noticed that Ridge to Rivers has put out some signs related to Happy Trails! The signs are symbolic of a recent campaign by the R2R to encourage trail users to smile and be friendly out on the trails, Gordon says. 

"Realize that you're out on a shared-use trail system, so smile at your fellow trail users and be nice!"

From the etiquette section of Steve's early
mountain bike guides. 

I'm all for it, personally. I think if you're trying to be a good trail ambassador anywhere, you show good trail etiquette and say hi to folks and be friendly when you pass by. For mountain bikers, it helps to slow down and show the walkers and runners respect as you pass by. They appreciate it! 

Here's the R2R web page on Happy Trails for more information and etiquette tips. You can actually take the Happy Trails Pledge! I did it! It took about 15 seconds.  

In the early editions of my Boise Foothills mountain bike guides, I paid an artist to create a drawing (right) to encourage folks to be friendly and courteous on the trails ... Some things are timeless even if they're a little dorky! :) (circa 1992)

- SS 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Fall colors are bursting in the mountains! Time for a scenic drive in Idaho!

The tamarack trees are peaking in Smith's Ferry and Valley County! This photo was taken Wed., Oct. 16. 
Hi all,

I've been burning up the highways in Idaho lately, mostly for work, but I can tell you that the colors are really starting to peak along Idaho 55 between Boise and McCall.

The same is true in North Idaho on scenic U.S. 12 between Lewiston and Missoula, and I'm sure the colors are peaking on the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway between Boise and Stanley, and on the Sawtooth Scenic Byway as well. The colors along the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway between Hagerman and Twin Falls are happening, too!

Along Idaho 55, the tamarack trees are peaking this week! The shrubs are going wild as well with lots of brilliant yellows, crimson reds and bright orange hues as well.   

Even if the weather is crummy this weekend, particularly on Saturday, I'd recommend you take a scenic drive when you get a chance to enjoy the brilliant fall colors Idaho-style! Plus, you can bet that the big front moving through on Saturday is going to blow a lot of the leaves off the trees, so there's a bit of an imperative to get out to see the colors when you can!

Here are my recommendations - click on the links to see the scenic byway detailed descriptions via VisitIdaho:

North Fork Payette River near Banks 
1. Payette River Scenic Byway - Take Idaho 55 north to McCall to enjoy fall colors along the North Fork of the Payette River and in the Boise and Payette National Forests. Even making a shorter drive from Boise to Smith's Ferry would yield big dividends right now. The colors are magnificent around Banks and the North Fork, and in Smith's Ferry, there are lots of tamarack trees to view.

2. Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway - Idaho 21 and the Banks-to-Lowman Highway should be promising, but you don't have to go all the way to Stanley. You could take an out-and-back cruise to Idaho City, or maybe make a reservation at The Springs to take a leisurely hot springs soak. You also could drive a big loop by taking ID 55 to Banks, take the Banks to Lowman road to Lowman, and then circle back to Boise via Idaho City on Idaho 21. Might be a little snow at Beaver Creek Summit!

Fall colors bursting from trees near Lowell, Idaho 
3. Sawtooth Scenic Byway - Take U.S. 20 to Fairfield and head for Sun Valley when the weather gets better. The colors in the Wood River Valley and the Sawooth Valley should be fantastic, but you may not have that much time left, particularly after the weather hits this weekend! Stop for lunch in Ketchum. There are many great restaurants to choose from. I personally like the Pioneer, Whiskey Jacques, and Lefty's.

Selway River, near Lowell 
4. If it might work for your schedule, try the scenic drive on U.S. 12 from Lewiston to Missoula, the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway. It roughly follows the historic route of Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery. I was up there last weekend, and the colors were brilliant along the Clearwater River and along the Lochsa River.

Fall colors lighting up Box Canyon (courtesy Southern Idaho Tourism) 
5. Thousand Springs Scenic Byway - Follow U.S. 30 from Hagerman to Twin Falls. Potential side trips include Hagerman fishing ponds, Miracle Hot Springs, Hagerman Fossil Beds museum, Snake River Grill and more! Click here for details. Here's a post about three other scenic drives in the Magic Valley.

Have fun!
- SS

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Brrrrrrr! Feels like Fall! 5 rock-solid Fall Hikes Part 2

Three Fingers Rock (courtesy Summit Post) 
Hi all,

Whoa baby, the Cool North Wind was blowing like a son of a gun today, and it's got me thinking about fall hiking for the weekend.

Pulling a few of my recommendations from a program I gave tonight at Boise REI, I'm recommending five sure-fire fall hikes for my outdoor tip of the week. Consider this Fall Hikes Part 2, following the fall hiking post I did recently. In addition, there are oodles of options to choose from in my guides, the Owyhee Canyonlands - an Outdoor Adventure Guide, and Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home.

This afternoon, Wendy, Elena and I took a walk on Red Fox and Chickadee Ridge, and hiking on the elevated ridge was quite brisk! The rabbit brush was still popping bright yellow, and Huck flushed quail everywhere! Sometimes a quick outing in the super accessible Boise Foothills is a great option when you only have an hour or so.

To that end, we start with:

1. Castle Rock - Table Rock "Foothills on the Rocks" - Distance: 4.3 miles; Difficulty: moderate to strenuous; Vertical gain: 952 feet; Hiking time: 1.5 hours. Start from behind the Bishop's House by the Old State Pen, where there is public parking. Hike Trail #15 to Castle Rock Trail #19 and loop around to the top of Castle Rock. Take a moment to enjoy the view. Continue to the east on Trail #15 and climb to the top of Table Rock. Look out into the city and take a breather. Then descend on Trail #16 and #17, which wrap around the cone of Table Rock, and retrace your tracks back to the start.

2. Marianne Williams - Barber Park Loop - Distance: 3.6 miles; Difficulty: easy to moderate; Travel time: 2 hours; Start either in Bown Crossing or Barber Park. Cap off your trip with some coffee or a beer in Bown Crossing.

Mountain biking on the old Oregon Trail in east Boise 
3. Oregon Trail going out toward Bonneville Point from BLM trailhead on Idaho 21. The trailhead for this hike is just to the east of Surprise Valley off of the Idaho 21 connector to Gowen Road. It's a nice walk to take the trail to the east, climb to the top of the bluff overlooking Diversion Dam and the Boise River, and if you're super ambitious, you could hike all the way to Bonneville Point. But often, I'm just walking the dog and getting some fresh air and an easier out-and-back experience is all I do. I reserve the trip out to Bonneville Point for my mountain bike.

4. Huckleberry Trail, Ponderosa State Park - The colors are turning on "the Huck" and it's a relatively easy walk around the peninsula of Ponderosa State Park. Distance: 5 miles; Difficulty: moderate; Travel time: 2-3 hours. Trailhead is a Ponderosa State Park. If you've got a state trails pass, you can enter for free.

Bear Basin Trails would be another good choice when the snow melts in McCall this weekend, if it melts!

Photo courtesy Carolyn Dickinson of McCall
Norm Nelson takes a breather at the top of Three Fingers. 
5. Climb Three Fingers in the Owyhees - Distance: 2.4 miles; Difficulty: easy to moderate; Travel time: 1.5 hours; Vertical gain: 833 feet. The hardest part about the hike to Three Fingers is to find the trailhead, and that's not that hard. Follow directions in a previous detailed post about hiking to Three Fingers. You should allow 1.5-2 hours to get to the trailhead on the McIntyre Springs Road from Boise. Once you're there, the hike to the top is pretty quick, very kid-friendly, and you'll be amazed at the big views of the Owyhee Canyonlands from the top. You might even see some bighorn sheep.

Be aware that rifle deer hunting season has begins statewide in Idaho on Thursday, Oct. 10, so wear bright colors in your outdoor outings, and put bright colors on your pups.
- SS

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Put on the big boy pants and cap the mountain bike season with a big ride!

Jim Giuffre and Doug Lawrence heading down on the Bear Pete Trail. 
Mark and Roberto on last year's ride to Mark's cabin. 
Hi all,

It's that time of year when it's perfect conditions for fall mountain biking. Cool temperatures keep the sweat factor to a minimum. Fall colors create a beautiful backdrop while you slalom through the forest or the sagebrush. But winter weather is coming soon, so it's important to capitalize on these last sunny days in October for some epic rides.

Many of you have been riding since March or April, you're in great shape, and you're ready to do some big miles on an Idaho classic ride. That's my outdoor tip of the week -- I'm recommending some of my favorite fall Idaho classics. Put on your big boy or big girl pants and go for it!

My post this week is inspired by my plan to do the "Ride to Mark's Cabin" on Saturday, Oct. 5 with a bunch of fun people. It's a 40-mile route starting from Bogus Basin, out the Boise Ridge Road to Harris Creek saddle, down to Placerville for lunch, and then over another mountain range via Ophir Creek to drop into the South Payette via Wash Creek. Mark's cabin is at the bottom of the descent, where plenty of beer and ribs await for dinner! 

It appears we're going to have excellent weather on Saturday, with partly cloudy skies and a high temperature near 60. Sunday should be an even better day for a ride, with highs in the low 70s. 

Here are some other classics to try:

1. Around the Mountain - Eastside - Sweet Connie - Chukar Butte to Hidden Springs. Shuttle Required. I'm not sure how many miles this one is, but definitely 20+ miles. Your legs will feel cooked by the time you reach the bottom of Chukar Butte! This is one of the best downhills in the trail system! See the Boise Trails site for a map of Sweet Connie and the rest.

Nice light on Sweet Connie (courtesy MTB Project) 
2. Corrals- Hard Guy-Dry Creek Loop - This is one of my all-time favorites. It's a tough climb up Hard Guy, but it's one hoot of a good time coming down the Dry Creek trail. Rated: Advanced. Distance: 22 miles. Travel time: 4-6 hours. Tread: dirt road and mostly singletrack. Vertical gain/descent: 3,513 feet. Connect with Corrals Trail 1.8 miles up Bogus Basin Road on the right. Proceed on Corrals to the Hard Guy Jct on the left at mile 3.2. Climb Hard Guy to the Boise Ridge Road. It's five miles of strenuous granny gear climbing on singletrack, some of it sandy and super steep. Turn left on the Boise Ridge Road and ride two miles to the Dry Creek junction (mile 10.3). Descend into Dry Creek on the singletrack and enjoy the shady ride in the trees and water crossings. You'll hit Bogus Basin Road at mile 17.7. Ride the pavement back to town.
Hard Guy-Dry Creek Loop is one of the major primo rides in Boise

3. Five fall rides I recommended in a Visit Idaho post - Around the Mountain, Loon Lake, Fisher-Williams, Gold Hill in Sandpoint and the Lynx Trail in Farragut State Park, north of Coeur d'Alene. See the post for details and photos.

Mark Anderson takes in the views on the Bear Pete Trail. 
4. Bear Pete Trail, near McCall - This is great ride in fall colors. Once you get on top of Bear Pete Mountain, you're riding a singletrack at 8,000 feet and you can see forever! Everyone loves this ride because it does test you, and sometimes hike-a-bike is required! Distance: 17.5 miles. Vertical gain: 3,500 feet. Rated advanced (strenuous). Travel time: full day. Bear Pete Trail is located north of McCall via Warren Wagon Road. Past Upper Payette Lake, watch for a turnoff to Cloochman Saddle. This road takes you to the trailhead. You also should plant a vehicle at the north end of Bear Pete, north of Burgdorf Hot Springs, if you don't want to ride a long dirt road slog back to your vehicle at the trailhead. At the saddle, climb trail #142 Bear Pete and grind for a couple of miles to the ridgetop. You'll ride up and down along the high mountain ridge for several hours. There are a few junctions but stay on the main trail. On the north end, the trail plunges downhill to Forest Road #246, the road to Burgdorf Hot Springs. You made it! Bring your swimsuits and take a soak at Burgdorf after the ride! Always a good call!

Back of Beyond Three Fingers! Gorgeous scenery up-canyon! 
5. Back of Beyond Three Fingers Loop - This is still a little-known super scenic mountain bike ride in the Owyhees, near Carlton Canyon and Painted Canyon. The scenery is gorgeous -- you'll see neat canyons, hoo doos and other rock features, similar to what you see at Leslie Gulch. Distance is 22 miles. Rated strong intermediate/advanced. Tread: All two-track roads. Travel time: 3.5-5 hours. Bring plenty of water and a lunch. Getting there: Go to Succor Creek State Park, and continue south 6 miles to an unsigned dirt road on the right at the top of a grade. This is McIntyre Springs Road. Go right and follow the dirt road 3 miles to an unsigned two-track on the left. This is your trailhead. Follow the directions on the map below. The scenery is gorgeous on this ride -- you'll see neat canyons, hoo doos and other rock features. Detailed directions are in my book, the Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guide. Bring a BLM map, topo map and a GPS for best navigation.

Map for Back of Beyond Three Fingers Loop. After
you do the ride, climb to the top of Three Fingers!

There you have it! Have a great weekend! 
- SS