Thursday, February 18, 2021

Go do a Boise road bike ride in honor of Mike and Tom retiring from George's Cycles

L-R, Carol Severa, Tom Platt, Mike Cooley, and Joyce Sulanke

Hi all, 

Some of you may not have seen the media coverage on Mike Cooley and Tom Platt selling George's Cycles to Nathan and Linda Lloyd this week, so I'd like to share those stories. 

As a long-time Boise resident and active cyclist, I have a keen appreciation for what Mike and Tom did in building George's into a real dynasty over 40 years, not only with their bike shops, but also big community events like the Ore-Ida Women's Challenge, Boise Downtown Twilight Criterium, Bogus Basin Hill Climb, Cascade 4 Summits Challenge, Lyle Pearson 200, George's Tuesday-Nighters, etc. 

I thought it'd be fun to write a long-form feature about the whole history of George's growing up from scratch, beginning in 1971, 50 years ago this year. I've been getting great feedback on that story, and people said they enjoyed the history ...

So here are the story links: 

In honor of Mike and Tom moving on, everyone should hop on their road bike and go for a ride in the desert south of Boise. This is the area where George's did their "Tuesday-Nighters," timed races out on country roads.

In my Boise Road Cycling Guide, a two-sided color bike map for Boise rides ... I feature one of the classic courses ... it's a 27.5-mile ride overall. Ride time: 1.25 hours at race pace; 1.75-2 hours recreation pace; Vertical gain: 1,050 feet. 

Start/Finish: Pleasant Valley Road and Gowen Road. Park off to the side of the road. 

Mile 0 - Go south on Pleasant Valley and climb the hill to Ten Mile Creek Road.
Go right on Ten Mile Creek Road
Mile 7.1 Left on South Cole
9.5 Right on Kuna Mora Road
12.5 Right on Cloverdale
16.5 Right on Hubbard
22.5 Left on Pleasant Valley
27.5 Back to Start/Finish.

Have fun out there! It's always windy, and you'll get a workout! Promise!

Natural social distancing out on the country roads in Southwest Boise


Thursday, February 11, 2021

A hodgepodge of outdoorsy ideas for President's Day weekend - Big snow coming + Boise River hikes

Hi all, 

I've always been one of those people who goes with the flow when it comes to blending weather with outdoor activities, if you haven't noticed that yet ... 

And this weekend, if you're a snow person, you probably already know that we've got somemajor snow storms coming through Tuesday of next week. My post for the Idaho Daily Snow is headlined "Gonna be a Snowy President's Day weekend!" 

Look at these snow maps! Not all of this snow is going to come at once ... it's going to be 5-10 inches per day, depending on location, and it's going to keep coming every day through Tuesday, with a possible break between storms on Sunday.

Downhill skiers/riders should make their reservations online in advance if they haven't done so already. Here are the links to Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain, Tamarack Resort, and Sun Valley. Soldier Mountain, Magic Mountain or Pomerelle could be other options ... Magic and Pomerelle are forecast to be in the cross-hairs of the storm systems this weekend, with nearly 3 feet of snow expected by Monday. 

Snow forecast for the next 10 days ... 

Max snow quantities possible through next Thursday, Feb. 18 (Courtesy Weatherbell and 

Backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing should be excellent as well. Here's my post from a few weeks ago with more than 15 destinations on where to go for those activities. 

Please be safe out there and heed any avalanche warnings that may occur as the storms play out. The Sawtooth Avalanche Center will be a good source of information for the Wood River Valley, Stanley, Galena Summit, and the South Hills. Consult the Payette Avalanche Center for conditions in the West Central Mountains. 

And a little backcountry powder skiing footage from Sargant's Mountain near McCall ...

If you're not a snow person, it's going to be kind of rainy weekend in Boise, but there will be gaps in between the rain, especially on Sunday. 

So I'm also recommending a couple of walks along the Boise River. The R2R Trails will be muddy; please stay away! See R2R Facebook page for the latest conditions. 

Here's the map for the nature trail loop. Start at either Bown Crossing
or the East ParkCenter Bridge or by Barber Park in East Boise.

Barber Park -  Marianne Williams Park Loop

Many people have been aware of the nice gravel natural trail on the south side of the river that runs from Barber Park to the ParkCenter Greenbelt (three miles total one-way). The trail is a great place for wildlife-watching in general and eagle-watching in the winter, and it's a quiet place to go walking or running because the trail is not paved, and no bikes are allowed.

With the creation of the new Marianne Williams Park in East Boise, there is now a nature trail on the north side of the river as well. It also is lined by cottonwood trees the whole way, and the trail passes by a series of wetlands that will be chock full of bird life in a couple of months. About a mile from Eckert Road, the natural trail in Marianne Williams Park merges with a new section of paved Greenbelt and continues west to the East ParkCenter Bridge and continues west.

The nature trail loop on both sides of the river is a little less than 4 miles total. It takes at least an hour and a half at a casual pace. If you're watching for birds, it might take more like 2 hours. After you're finished, you can head over to Bown Crossing and have lunch, dinner or a beverage of choice at several different establishments including Flatbread Pizza and the Tavern. You're also close to Lucky 13 if you park at Barber Park off of Eckert Road.

If you want to go farther, keep going west under the East ParkCenter Bridge and continue another 2 miles or so to the big orange ParkCenter pedestrian bridge. Longer-distance runners may prefer to take the longer route.

Eagle Greenbelt Loop

Start either on the west end of the route and park by Bardenay or Nancy Merrill Park, or start over by Glenwood and park on the southeast side of the Boise River in the large parking lot next to the Greenbelt. 

It's 4.6 miles from Eagle Road to Glenwood Bridge, or about 9 miles round trip if you go the whole way. With the pedestrian bridge located about half way along the route, you can do a loop from there. Watch for wildlife during your walk! Beautiful area. 

Another option from Nancy Merrill Park is to cross the pedestrian bridge and take a walk upstream on Eagle Island. You can go for several miles in that area now. Pretty to talk by the river.

Here are some species you might see on your walk ... bring your binoculars for a better view:

    Wood duck 
  • Great blue herons. There's a large heron rookery on the south side of the river, just east of Bown Crossing. There must be about 15-20 nests in the rookery. The birds are beginning to move into the nests right now. You are virtually assured of seeing herons on your walk. Herons are fish-eaters.  
  • Kingfishers. You'll hear the tell-tale rat-tat-tat call of kingfishers as they dart across the Boise River. 
  • Red-winged blackbirds. You'll see the blackbirds moving into the wetland areas in the coming weeks. They love the cat-tail wetlands. 
  • Kestrels. I have seen many kestrels on the nature trail in recent weeks. They are pairing up, mating and establishing a cavity nest. See my video about our backyard kestrel nest box. Kestrels are the smallest member of the raptor family. Also known as "sparrow hawks." 
  • Red-tailed hawks frequent the area. They are a very common hawk in the Boise Foothills and the Boise Valley. They like to eat mice. I think there are several red-tailed hawk nests in the vicinity of the nature trail loop. 
  • Great-horned owls. There are several owl nests in the nature trail area on the south side of the river. These birds are very predatory in nature.
  • Wood ducks. The males are very showy in coloration. Watch for them on the river.  

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Early February means raptor courtship flights begin in SW Idaho - 5 places to see them!

Golden eagles engaged in courtship flight (courtesy

Hi all, 

I was out on a walk the other day near the Boise Foothills, and I looked up to see two red-tailed hawks engaged in courtship flight while a crow was trying to hassle them at the same time. 

And I thought about that for a moment, and it's like OK, we've turned the page into February, and courtship flight for birds of prey typically begins on Feb. 1 and thereafter. 

So when you're out on a walk in the foothills or the Snake River canyon, be sure to look up in the sky for hawks and eagles ... and watch for this spectacular phenomenon at this time of year. Essentially the male and the female are trying to impress each other during the acrobatics involved in courtship flight. They might be getting together to mate for the first time. 

Golden eagles typically mate for life, and they often use the same nest year after year where they have had nesting success -- raising chicks for the next generation. Red-tailed hawks -- a frequent site in SW Idaho -- are thought to be monogamous and may mate for life, according to National Geographic. 

But the highlight is to see these magnificent birds in action ... and lot of people miss that by not looking around them when they're out on a walk ... a spectacular show could be going on right above you! 

First, let's talk about the birds of prey that you might see in SW Idaho, and then I'll suggest a few places where you might see golden eagles or hawks engaging in courtship flight.

Almost all of these raptor species can be see in SW Idaho. (Courtesy

The birds above include the American Kestrel (#1 and #3), Bald Eagle (#2), Broad-winged Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk (#19), Merlin (#12), Northern Harrier (#11), Osprey (#14), Peregrine Falcon (#17), Red-shouldered Hawk (#13), Red-tailed Hawk (#10), Sharp-shinned Hawk (#7), Turkey Vulture (#6). Did I get that right?

See this web link from Audubon for more information on identifying species.  

Often times when you see hawks soaring in SW Idaho, it's likely a red-tailed hawk or a Swainson's hawk. Ferruginous hawks and rough-legged hawks are less frequently seen. Kestrels are common and they're quite small ... my friend the late Morley Nelson called them "sparrow hawks." 

Prairie falcons are another common bird in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. More than 200 pairs nest in the cliffs. They feed off the ground squirrels on the sagebrush flats above the canyon, and then raise their off-spring in the protective environment inside the basalt cliffs. 

Here's a neat guide to the raptors in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area from the Bureau of Land Management. More than 800 pairs of raptors nest in the birds of prey area - it's an area that's unique in the world. And it's definitely one of the destinations where you can look for eagles and hawks and courtship flight. 

Grab your binoculars and go! More destinations include: 

  • Celebration Park south of Nampa by the Snake River. There are hiking trails and petroglyphs on rocks by the visitor center. Also interpretive signs about the Bonneville Flood. Take a walk upstream and look for birds of prey flying overhead or by the cliffs.
  • Swan Falls - Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. 20 miles south of Kuna. Nice park provided by Idaho Power by the dam provides a good place to have a picnic or hang out. Or you can take a dirt road along the river to access a trailhead farther downstream and look for birds.
  • Discovery Point - On the way to Swan Falls, pull over to the interpretive area on the right and look for birds of prey with your binoculars from the top of the rim.  
  • Grand View - Owyhee Scenic Backcountry Byway (Mud Flat Road) - Take the Owyhee Backcountry Byway into the Owyhees from Grand View, and you'll drive up a gravel road into a canyon. Watch for hawks as you ascend the canyon or look for them on top of the grade. 
  • Succor Creek State Natural Area - This natural canyon is a good place for seeing birds of prey. There's hiking and sight-seeing nearby, caves for the kids to explore, and rest rooms. 

Writing Morley Nelson's biography Cool NorthWind and spending time with Morley made me more aware of watching what birds of prey do when they're flying in the sky. Besides the courtship flight, you also may see birds of prey protecting their nesting territory. 

Morley with a prairie falcon
I was up by the top of the Boise Ridge one time on my mountain bike, and I watched this huge majestic golden eagle flying down the spine of the ridge, cruising along, minding its own business. And then I see a prairie falcon emerge out of now where and start dive-bombing the eagle. It would fly up above the eagle, and then get into a vertical dive, aiming for the eagle. 

Right before the falcon was about to strike,margin-block: 0px; margin-inline: 0px; margin: 0px 0px 25.5px; orphans: 2; padding-inline-start: 0px; padding: 0px; text-align the eagle turned over on its back and barred its talons, ready to take on that pesky bird and defend itself. That falcon made several attempts at attacking the eagle, but eventually it left the eagle alone.

And I thought, wow, that was a pretty great  moment, watching nature in action. Morley would mimmick the eagle's thinking, thinking back to fighting the Germans in World War II, "It's either me or you boy, it's  going to be a fight to the end." 

His eyes were so intense when he made the point. He'd had the eagle's talons drive through his skin before; he knew how powerful they were. 

BTW, I saw that the Peregrine Fund is reopening the World Center for Birds of Prey on Feb. 4. If they start doing their live bird presentations, those are a real treat!
- SS