Thursday, September 24, 2020

Take a scenic drive to see fall colors bursting in Idaho's Mountains

Caribou-Targhee National Forest, taken on Tuesday.  

Big-toothed maple trees glowing between Soda Springs and Lava Hot Springs 

Hi all, 

This week for my outdoor tip, I'd recommend taking a scenic drive to enjoy fall colors, which are really starting to pop in the higher elevations! 

I had a business trip to Southeast Idaho this week, and I was surprised and amazed how beautiful the colors were, especially as I went from Lava Hot Springs, south of Pocatello, toward Soda Springs. The big-toothed maple trees in the Portneuf Mountains, Bannock Mountains and other ranges in Southeast Idaho are turning deep red. Aspens are turning yellow, and cottonwoods are also beginning to take on a golden glow. The time is now! 

Visit Idaho lists two scenic drives in SE Idaho. I'd recommend the Oregon Trail - Bear Lake Scenic Highway , which goes from Lava Hot Springs to Soda Springs, Montpelier then Bear Lake. All interesting and scenic spots, a bit off the beaten track. 

With fires burning in the South Hills, the City of Rocks to Oakley scenic byway is out of the question. Fall colors may be popping in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area and Stanley. My friend Cheryl Bennett posted a few pics on a horseback ride this week in the East Fork Big Wood area, and the aspens and cottonwoods were turning a brilliant yellow. 

Courtesy Cheryl Bennett 

Here's a post I did last year on five Idaho scenic drives, which features a number of scenic drives in SW Idaho and N. Idaho. 

Clearwater River country 

Here are scenic drives in Southern Idaho ... see for more information.  

Cobb Peak in the Pioneer Mountains, courtesy Cheryl Bennett 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Fall is a sweet time to visit the Middle Fork Salmon River - and other Idaho rivers

Steve and Wendy at a big wall of Native American pictographs on the Middle Fork. 

Hi all, 

Take a long look at the lovely Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and the beauty is so profound, it takes my breath away.

It's gin-clear, giving the sense that you're floating in a glass-bottomed boat, and in deeper spots, the Middle Fork takes on this turquoise blue-green hue that darkens with deepness. I just love looking into those deep, dark pools and marvel at the beauty. It's fun to look for schools of native west-slope cutthroat trout or big bull trout in those pools, too. 

I had the privilege of floating the Middle Fork with a small group of eight people last week, and it renewed my soul, as it always does. We decided to fly our gear into Indian Creek, 25 miles downriver from the official launch point at Boundary Creek, so we could enjoy a leisurely pace and take eight days of wilderness bliss for a quality vacation off-the-grid and away from all of the bizarre weirdness that 2020 has become. 

Dan and Kelly and all of our group will fit into this plane on the flight into Indian Creek.

Floating the Middle Fork in the fall -- after the official control season ends after Labor Day weekend -- is something that a lot of Idaho locals do because it's easier to get a permit at that time of year. My longtime friend Jeff Beaman had snagged the permit earlier in the year. We had six good friends from Boise on the trip, and a super fun couple from L.A. who had done the Selway River with Beaman a few years ago. 

We brought four rafts so we had two people on each boat, plus my pointer Huck. 

My first trip on the Middle Fork was in June 1987, 33 years ago, a higher-water trip that started with snow falling at the put-in, freezing temperatures, then steady rain, followed by 7 days of sunny blissful weather. The Middle Fork cast a spell on me that has lasted a lifetime.     

Ben Nydegger and Kelly in Marble Creek Rapids

The river pours out of the wilderness headwaters in Central Idaho, and it flows for 100 miles to the Main Salmon River. There are natural hot springs to enjoy nearly every day, countless side-hikes to explore, historic sites, Native American pictographs, Veil Cave, Parrott's Grotto, the Impassible Canyon, fun times with friends, Dutch oven dinners, fantastic, consistent trout-fishing, tons of rapids to negotiate and rocks to dodge, and occasionally, a long stretch of calm water when you can put the oars under your knees and stare up at the vertical mountains and canyons to look for bighorn sheep, elk, deer or birds of prey and marvel at the beauty. 

Even though the Middle Fork is close to home, being situated inside the 2.3-million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, I feel that I'm as far away from civilization as I might feel if I'm on a vacation in Baja or Hawaii. After working nose-to-the-grindstone since last January, my oh my was I ready for a quality break! 

The scene at Indian Creek launch point. A little smoky. We didn't see anyone for 5-6 days.

We flew our people and gear into Indian Creek with Gem Air a day before our official launch date, so we actually had nine days of vacation on the Middle Fork. It felt really long, and I felt that we had pretty much soaked up the Middle Fork for all it's worth. Most groups take only 6 or 7 days, for comparison. 

I recommend staying as long as possible because it's such a cool place, and you never really know for sure when you might be back. I've done the Middle Fork more than 30 times, but I certainly never get tired of it. More and more, as time goes on, I feel like it's my home away from home. In the years when I've been able to do two trips on the Middle Fork in July or August, that's really good medicine for my spirit and soul. 

Long-time friends and Ho Hum team-mates Jim Acee and Kristin Nelson

Think about trying to get out on Idaho's scenic rivers in the fall when the weather is still nice. You also can plan a trip on the Main Salmon River, Hells Canyon, South Fork Snake River or sign up for a jet-boat scenic ride or fishing trip on the Salmon or Hells Canyon. If you don't have your own river gear, look for hot deals with outfitters through Raft Idaho. Jet boat trips can be found at the Riggins Chamber of Commerce web site. 

I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking so you can share in the glory of our mostly smokeless Middle Fork trip.
- SS 

Ben, Kelly and I hiked up the switchback trail by Camas Creek on our layover day. 

Steve enjoys the hot pool at Sunflower Hot Springs

Dan and Kelly at Sunflower Hot Springs

Kelly liked the hot springs at Hospital Bar as well ... 

Veil Falls