Thursday, March 26, 2020

Just as spring comes to Idaho, we're told to stay inside ... If you go outside, please practice social distancing ...

Hi all,

In several outings recently, I've been watching the shrubs and trees beginning to bloom, the showy blossoms of fruit trees leading the way.

Spring is about new life and renewal, but with the coronavirus spreading throughout Idaho and the world, everyone is concerned about potentially catching the virus or even dying from it.

If you are not a believer that COVID-19 is real threat, read the op-ed by Dr. Brett Russell of Ketchum, who caught the virus and felt its impact in a severe way. He is recovering, but he told his story so well. Very scary situation.

Our best strategy is to shelter in place, cocoon at home with your loved ones, and try to keep the contamination rate to a minimum. Gov. Little has announced a statewide shelter-in-place order effectively immediately.

Fortunately, we can go outdoors, but try to avoid the popular and crowded areas. Keep a safe distance of at least 6 feet, and avoid large groups.   

Wendy and I went on a Greenbelt ride yesterday, and I saw this sign posted next to the pathway near the Plantation pedestrian bridge.

"Stay Safe" - Do your part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Link to state COVID-19 page.
  • If you are sick, go home
  • Follow social distancing recommendations and stay 6 feet apart.
  • Avoid group gatherings 
  • Wash and sanitize your hands often. 
"Failure to adhere to these guidelines could lead to closure of City of Boise parks and trailheads."

OK, so let's all do our part to hunker down and beat this damn virus.

I am not going to recommend any particular destination this week. Our neighboring counties have issued orders advising people to stay away. I have seen those messages from Owyhee County and Valley County. We need to respect their wishes as much as possible.

Find ways to enjoy the outdoors close to home. Get a breath of fresh air. Avoid popular parks and trailheads. Time your trips to avoid crowds. Go early in the day. Late in the day. Mid-week. Keep your social distancing to safe levels. Let's beat this thing!
- SS  

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Go for a walk, run, hike, bike ride close to home to refresh the soul!

Cool granite rock formations can be seen on the way to Mt. Kepros, one of the Boise Grand Slam Peaks.
Leslie Gulch  in the Owyhee Canyonlands
Hi all,

It's pretty surreal to realize we are in the midst of a global pandemic with the coronavirus (COVID-19). Many forces outside of our control are affecting our lives and communities for coming weeks, months -- no one knows how long. All of the health and safety advice to lay low, stay close to home, avoid large groups of people, etc., seems wise.

We are fortunate to live in Idaho, where we have lots of open spaces, public lands, public access, and extensive trail systems close to home. In a way that perhaps we have never really thought about before, these places should be safe refuges from not only the coronavirus but any other contagious diseases for that matter. 

My recommendation at this time is to maybe spend some of your extra free time to invest in your personal health and fitness and mental well-being right now by getting out on a walk, a hike, a bike ride, maybe even an early spring camping trip to get some fresh air and Vitamin D from pure sunshine. These options seem like healthy choices to me if you go with your friends and family in small groups of less than 10 people.

The Idaho Statesman featured an outdoors article this week recommending the same thing with doctor's approval. 

Mt. Cervidae affords great views of Lucky Peak Reservoir and the Boise National Forest
Where to go?  

My local hiking guidebook, Boise Trail Guide, features 95 hikes and trail-runs close to home. Everyone has their go-to favorite places to hike, but Boise Trail Guide helps you branch out and try something new.

The book also is organized by challenge and difficulty, starting with over 15 flat Greenbelt sections from Eagle to Lucky Peak and other flat walks. And then we increase the fitness challenge with a wide variety of 15+ "Easy Mountain Trails," 25+ "Moderate Mountain Trails," 25+ "Strenuous Mountain Trails," and 5 "Epic Mountain Trails."

Most of the trails in the book are snow-free, but the higher-elevation trails would be places where you could go snowshoeing or backcountry skiing.

Two of the Boise Grand Slam Peaks would be great choices right now when the trails are dry -- Mt. Cervidae and Mt. Kepros. See previous posts for details. Keep a leash handy for your dog because there could be deer or elk in those areas in the greater Boise River Wildlife Management Area.

Talk about social distancing ... the Owyhee Canyonlands, by definition, are remote with solitude pretty much guaranteed. My guidebook on The Owyhee Canyonlands: An Outdoor Adventure Guide details 55 hiking and biking day trips in the Owyhees, plus ideas on camping and tips on roadside points of interest along the 100-mile Owyhee Backcountry Byway.

Snake River canyon looking down at Swan Falls Dam, a key access point
The Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Area, Swan Falls Dam and Celebration Park would be excellent choices right now for hiking, biking, sight-seeing and just hanging out looking for birds during the spring nesting season.

I wrote about some choice mountain bike rides last week, but another perfect choice is to simply get out and ride the Boise River Greenbelt ... maybe try some sections that you haven't done before or go back to some of your favorites. The Eagle Greenbelt loop is one of my favorites this time of year because of the opportunity to see bald eagles, great blue herons and cormorants in a large rookery near the Boise River Wastewater Treatment Plant on the south side of the river.

Cartwright 3 Summits Loop always delivers!
To up the ante, try jumping on your road bike and start building your mileage for the spring/summer riding season. I've actually been sneaking in road rides mainly on the Cartwright 3 summits loop all winter long, logging that ride maybe once a week in between trips to the mountain for alpine skiing. Biking makes for stronger ski legs, and skiiing top-to-bottom thigh-burning runs makes for stronger biking legs. All good!

My full color road cycling map for the Treasure Valley, the Boise Road Cycling Guide, provides details on more than 30 road rides throughout the valley, plus some a la carte Canyon County rides such as the scenic Lake Lowell loop and the Gem County ride, Big Freezeout-Little Freezeout Loop. 

Other helpful map resources include the Ridge to Rivers interactive trail map and the Boise Trails online site. My books/maps are available at Bandanna (Boise Trail Guide), Idaho Mountain Touring, Boise REI,, and

This is a time when you can do more exploring on your own with these information resources close at hand. Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, March 12, 2020

My outdoor tip: 5 mountain bike rides sure to please, plus fresh powder this weekend

Central Ridge trail, Military Reserve

Bitterbrush in full bloom, Military Reserve Park, Boise Foothills
Entering Reynolds Creek canyon, courtesy MTB project
Hi all,

I'm sharing my outdoor article in the Idaho Press on five rock-solid mountain bike rides in the Boise area as my tip of the week.

The weather shows it's going to be mostly rainy this weekend and beyond, however, so please save the mountain biking ideas until the trails dry out after the storms.

In the meantime, you might want to go powder skiing this weekend. There's a good chance of up to 6 inches of new snow at Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain, and Sun Valley. Pomerelle might really get belted with more than a foot ... you can see the latest snow forecasts at Idaho Daily Snow.

Have fun!
- SS  

Thursday, March 5, 2020

R2R gives green light to lower foothills trails, spring skiing and Snake River canyon

Two adorable children playing in the sand by Red Cliffs Trail on Thursday.
Walkers and bikers sharing the trails on Red Cliffs Trail ...
Love this view looking down into lower Hulls Gulch from Red Cliffs ...
Bikers: Remember to slow down as you enter congested areas ...
Hi all,

Many peeps who love the Boise foothills trails have been out in force, enjoying this latest string of uncommonly warm weather, with highs in the 60s in the afternoons and close to 70 (?) on Friday. Wow! 

I rode my mountain bike to Sidewinder summit on Tuesday night, and it felt like June out there with the trail being bone-dry, and Huck was overheating. Today, I went for a stroll on lower Hulls and Red Cliffs to take pictures, and I was blown away how warm it felt! Sure feels good after a great ski season to hit the trails! My climbing legs feel pretty good considering it's early in the season. 

Checking on the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page, we have as close to a "green light" to use the lower foothills trails below mid-elevation as we're going to get this time of year. There's a good chance of rain in the valley on Saturday afternoon, so keep an eye on the R2R reports and abide by them, please!!!

Quoting from their post on Thursday, March 6:

"Overall, it appears that trails below the mid and upper elevations in the foothills are mostly good to go right now. Conditions above are still the ones in question. It is a good time to work on doing more traversing in the lower foothills from one trail to another or using 8th St. or Rocky Canyon Rd. if you are going to be doing some significant climbing. ...

As the trail crew has been working on both Crestline and Sidewinder for the past few days, both of these trails and also Red Cliffs, Kestrel, and Lower Hulls all remain good to go right now. If you are getting up higher into the foothills over the next couple of days, please think about posting some reports of your own to help others get a better idea of what is going on out there. With rain in the forecast this Saturday, it's a great time to get out and enjoy these next couple of days. Just do it in the right locations! Happy Trails!"

Huck is Mr. Airplane ears on a windy day at Corral's Summit
Other lower Boise foothills trails worth visiting right now would include:
  • Military Reserve Trails 
  • Camelsback Trails 
  • Table Rock trail itself
  • Highlands to the Hollow
  • Corrals Trail 
  • Highlands Trail 
  • Polecat Gulch
  • Seaman's Gulch
Here are some spring skiers getting into the party mode! (Courtesy Arapahoe Basin)
 Two other suggestions for Friday and this weekend:
  • Spring Skiing! Bogus Basin, Tamarack, Brundage and Sun Valley all have lots of snow. Spring skiing on Friday should be amazing everywhere in SW Idaho because of the warm temps approaching 50 degrees at Bogus tomorrow and mid-40s elsewhere! Wow! Break out the spring skiing garb and have fun with it! 
    • Also could go backcountry skiing at Pilot Peak/Sunset Mountain/Freeman Peak or up toward Stanley on Copper Mountain. 
    • Xc skiing and snowshoeing is another possibility at the Idaho City Park n Ski Areas or in McCall or Sun Valley. 
  • Hiking/biking in the Snake River Canyon - Head south of Kuna or Nampa to visit the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. A friend told me that the birds of prey are doing courtship flight down there, so you can hang out and watch the cliffs for birds with your binoculars or do some hiking or biking at Celebration Park or by Swan Falls Dam. The ride to Wees Bar is one of my favorites. 
    Golden eagle on the cliffs in the Morley Nelson Snake River BOPA 
Have a great weekend!
- SS