Thursday, April 29, 2021

Just when you're feeling cocky on the bike, try these 5 tough climbs to test your legs and lungs!

Stueby's Death March with Chris and Quinn (after they've caught their breath)

Hi all, 

We're all loving the spring hiking, running and riding conditions right now, with wildflowers bursting with color in the lower portion of the Boise foothills and the head-high bitterbrush blooming and casting an ever-sweet aroma all around the trails. 

I've been trying to ride several times a week on my mountain bike, weather permitting, and I've been feeling pretty comfortable with mid-foothills rides lately. So today, I thought I'd crank it up a notch and do the upper part of Stueby's Death March (from Mountain Biking in Boise) from the Fat Tire Traverse junction over to Trail #4. 

My original plan was to ride Crestline-Sidewinder-Fat Tire-Trail #5 loop, approaching from the Military Reserve side, so starting the ride with that nasty little connector trail that climbs from Military Reserve to Crestline. I felt good on the climb to Sidewinder and the cross-mountain cruise on Fat Tire Traverse over to the Trail #5 ridge, so I turned left and decided to go for it! 

This is how you really feel after that gut-buster climb.

For those unfamiliar, Stueby's Death March typically started in Military Reserve and you climb the super-steep Trail #5 from the bottom. But it's nicer to approach from Sidewinder and Fat Tire Traverse. Bless you if you can clean that first, nasty Trail #5 hill. Anyway, to complete the Death March, you continue climbing Trail #5 above the Fat Tire jct., clean a couple of reasonable hills, and bear left at the jct. with Fimrite's Trail #6. Now you're going to climb 300 yards on a gravely slippery rocky sandy trail over to Trail #4. It's hard enough that it's quite steep, and then slippery to boot! Gotta stay on your line while you're gasping for air! 

Today, I managed to clean that baby without spinning out or falling off my line. It was a gorgeous day, and I was feeling strong and focused. So that was my little victory for the day. And then the payoff is a fun swishy downhill on Trail #4 back to Sidewinder, and then pick your way down from there. Fast and fun! I took Trail #4 down to Crestline and cruised on the Freeway back to the Military Reserve connector trail, and finished out my loop ride in about two hours total. 

The ride features about 2,000 feet of vertical gain. About 12+ miles the way I rode it today. 

Stueby's Death March map

 Some other challenging rides in the Boise Foothills that will test your legs and lungs include: 

  • Climbing Hard Guy to the Boise Ridge Road
  • Scaling the south side of Table Rock (junior training hill)
  • Ride up Hulls from Camelsback to the motorcycle parking lot, ride over to Bob's and climb Corral's backwards, finishing out on Corrals and Highlands Trail.
  • Homestead Trail over to Trail #11 and back to Council Springs trailhead 
  • Highlands-Corrals-Scott's-8th Street then down on Trail #4 or down Hard Guy, Shingle or Dry Creek

If you'd like to see more classics out of my library, my last version of Mountain Biking in Boise is available via ebook on

Cool jumble of granite rocks in the eastern Boise Foothills near Trail #11

Remember to follow the new trail regulations in the Boise Foothills, featuring one-way trails. It's all detailed on the Ridge to Rivers web site.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Grand Ronde River rocks as a springtime alternative to the Owyhee River

Steve Schneider, left, and Jim Giuffre soak up the scenery of the Grand Ronde River canyon.

Hi all, 

I watched the weather and the Owyhee River flows like a hawk in March and early April, and dang, the Owyhee was amazingly elusive this year! The flows rose a bit when it started to warm up, and then it'd crash with major cool-downs, rise again a bit, and then suddenly, it was gone, well below 1,000 cubic feet per second, a minimum level for rafting. 

On the heels of the ski season, I had a major itch to get out on a spring river and go camping for at least a couple of nights. I normally head over to run the Grand Ronde River in May, but last week, I saw the flow was running over 5,000 cubic feet per second. Bingo! I made a few calls, pulled together a great little group of friends -- friends who also have their own boats and gear -- and we made plans on launch on Sunday, April 18 and takeout on Wednesday, April 21. 

Our layover camp

A 4-day trip would allow enough time for a layover day at one of my favorite campsites that often features bighorn sheep and an excellent ridge hike to a spectacular viewpoint on top of the 1,000-foot-deep canyon. 

Plus, the river rose to 6,500 cfs while we were on the trip, making it super easy to make miles when needed. At some points, we were averaging 7-8 mph floating downriver on Day 4. Yee-haw! 

Overall, the Grand Ronde River trip is a 38-mile scenic jewel. Put-in is at Minam State Park east of Elgin and La Grande, and the takeout is at Powatka Bridge. The Minam Store by the river-launch site will run your shuttle for $125/vehicle. A self-issue BLM permit can be filled out before you launch. 

Paved roads to the put-in. I like how you can drive the freeway and paved highways from Boise to the Minam launch in about 3.5-4 hours via La Grande. 

Looking down at rock cliffs on a hike above camp.

Floating the Grand Ronde is kind of like going home for me, as I lived in La Grande in my first newspaper job out of college for three years to start my journalism career. I loved living in La Grande. It was also the first river where I learned to row a raft. It's a good beginner river, with mainly Class 2 rapids. The Grand Ronde River draws from the snow in the mountains above La Grande as well as the Wallowa Mountain range and Eagle Cap Wilderness. 

My friends thought the river was similar to the Middle Fork in the section, say, below Indian Creek, without as many rapids. And I agree. It's an official National Wild and Scenic River. The top portion of the Grand Ronde canyon is designated as a Wild river, and the bottom, below Powatka Bridge, is Recreational. The upper canyon has dozens of beautiful forested campsites, where you can spend more than one night, if you wish. 

Steep hike to the ridge out of camp

If you go, be sure to practice the same pack-it-in/pack-it-out camping practices that you observe on Idaho's permitted rivers -- things like burn your fire in a firepan, pack a toilet for human waste, and leave nothing behind when you leave camp. 

On this particular trip, I enjoyed having my good ski and biking buddies Steve Schneider and Jim Giuffre in the bow of my raft. We have been having a blast shredding powder in McCall all winter long. Now the calendar is turning to mountain biking and rafting! 

We also had Dan Popkey on the trip, a former Statesman political columnist and reporter with whom I used to float lots of rivers back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was fun to do a trip with Dan again, and it was also special to have Rocky Barker with us, too, on Dan's raft. Rocky and I have done a lot of trips together and worked together as journalists on projects dating back to the 1990s.  

Eric strikes a pose on top of the ridge

Friends Eric Straubhar and Kirk Bachman rounded out our crew. Eric and Kirk and I have done a number of Middle Fork trips and other trips together in recent years. But they'd never done the Grand Ronde. We all have the gear needed for a river trip, so it's pretty easy to put a trip together. Those guys are awesome hands on the river or anything outdoors for that matter. 

We had chilly mornings and sunny afternoons. It was key to bring plenty of firewood for warming fires in the morning and evening. Both of the camps we stayed at had plenty of surplus wood, just behind camp, too.

Just a lovely afternoon on top of the ridge ... barely a whisper of wind

Other spring rivers
: As things warm up, the Payette River and Salmon River will be great choices moving forward. The Lower Salmon will be doable as long as it's below 20,000 cfs at The Slide (dangerous rapids above that level). The South Fork and Main Fork of the Payette are starting to come up, and the North Fork will be running soon. See Idaho river flows USGS site for real-time flows. 

The Riggins day stretch or Vinegar Creek to Spring Bar are several other good spring river trips. And the mighty Lochsa should be cranking big-time with the best snowpack in the state. Looks like it's already running close to 5,000 cfs this week.

Iphone doesn't do it justice, but these rams were impressive!

Hells Canyon and the Hagerman section of the Snake River are a couple of other spring river options. This is still pre-permit season in Hells Canyon BTW.
- SS    

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Final weekend at Bogus, new R2R trail regulations in the Boise footies and sheep!

Lower Hulls Gulch will be switching to odd/even day management on April 28.
See below for details.

Hi all, 

We've got another fabulous bluebird weekend weather coming to the Boise Valley and beyond this weekend, with high temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s and no chance of rain. It'll be a great weekend to do just about anything outdoors!

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm highlighting and recommending three things:
  • Final bonus weekend at Bogus Basin for season pass holders and anyone else who wants to go! Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Here's an online link for a lift ticket, if you don't have a season pass. Should be fab soft snow by late morning. Follow the mountain around to the north if you feel the snow is too soft on other aspects. Dress up and have fun!
  • Watch the sheep crossing on Idaho 55 at Beacon Light on Saturday morning. The sheep should be crossing at approximately 9:30 a.m. Please be respectful and stay to the side of the road during the sheep drive and take pictures.  
    • Remember to leash your dogs if you encounter sheep on the Boise Foothills trails. Also if you ride into sheep, dismount from your bike and walk through the sheep herds. 
  • Steve's take on the new 2021 pilot project/trail regulations coming later this month for R2R trails in the Boise Foothills and Around the Mountain at Bogus Basin. 

On Wednesday afternoon, I rode the Polecat Loop counter-clockwise to practice for the new regs kicking into gear on Wednesday, April 28. They will be in effect through Nov. 1. Print this out and post it on your fridge so you have a handy reference to remember how this is going to work moving forward.

The 2021 pilot management strategies are being implemented with a focus on directional and separation of use opportunities, according to the City of Boise. 

Bucktail Trail will become a downhill one-way trail on April 28.

“Use has tripled on Ridge to Rivers trails since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and we are interested to see how these management strategies provide the experience in the foothills users of all kinds want to see,” said Doug Holloway, Boise Parks and Recreation director. “We appreciate everyone’s patience as we test these new strategies, and we will continue to listen to users as we work to meet the needs of our growing recreation community.”

My take on the pilot project is that it's worth trying this year to see how it works with all-time record-high recreation use happening on our trails. I think it makes sense to separate use when possible, and one-way trails should lead to less conflicts. 

That said, try to be a good trail ambassador when you're out hiking, running or biking. Take the Happy Trails pledge on the R2R web site, be friendly and courteous to your fellow trail users when you're out on the trails, and just chill out a bit when you're out on the trails. Remember that we're blessed with an awesome trail system. We're all in this together. 

I will add that trail etiquette and promoting responsible, shared use of trails in the Boise Foothills have been super important since we started to see increased use in the 1990s. As the founding president of SWIMBA, our first course of action in 1992 was to support the creation of the R2R trail system, and a promote responsible, shared use of trails with new riders. I preached it in all of my Mountain Biking in Boise guidebooks. Our advice in general was to slow down and yield to hikers/walkers on the trails when you pass by. That's still my advice. 

Here are the details of the new regs, courtesy of R2R: 

  • Lower Hulls Gulch Trail #29 – On even numbered days of the month, the trail is closed to all downhill bike travel (open to hikers and equestrians to travel in both directions and open to uphill mountain bikers) for the duration of the pilot. On odd numbered days of the month, the trail is only open to downhill bike traffic (closed to all other users) for the duration of the pilot. Don't go hiking uphill on Hulls on odd days!
  • Polecat Loop Trail #81 – All trail users are required to travel one direction (counter-clockwise) throughout the duration of the pilot. The first half-mile of the trail from the Polecat Trailhead on Collister Drive will remain multi-directional to provide an out-and-back experience at Polecat Reserve.
  • Around the Mountain Trail #98 – All trail users are required to travel one direction (counter-clockwise) throughout the duration of the pilot. This trail is jointly managed by Ridge to Rivers and Bogus Basin.
  • Bucktail Trail #20A – A new pedestrian-only trail will be constructed between Central Ridge and Bucktail Trail. The existing Bucktail Trail will be modified and open to downhill mountain bike travel only. Uphill mountain bike access will be via Central Ridge Trail. 

The management strategies outlined above received support from a majority of users who participated in the Ridge to Rivers 2021 trail user surveys.

Ridge to Rivers and Bogus Basin staff will be adding new signage throughout the trail system in 2021 and the pilot program is expected to formally start on Wednesday, April 28. Trail rangers and Ridge to Rivers team members will focus on visiting the four trails included in the pilot program to educate users about changes, and to answer any questions. 

Please be mindful of and courteous to all users as these pilot management strategies are implemented. 

Buena Vista trail. Cool and scenic spot.

BTW - I did a quick bike ride in the Hillside to the Hollow area yesterday afternoon, and the whole south-facing hillside along the Buena Vista Trail was lit up with bouquets of arrowleaf balsomroot. Nice place to go hiking, running or biking with big views of the city of Boise. 

Have a great weekend!
- SS

Thursday, April 8, 2021

20 Fun Outdoor Activities To Do At Home - Guest blog

Blowing bubbles in the backyard with friends! (Courtesy
By Lorena Romo

Banish boredom and create a backyard paradise in one fell swoop. These fun outdoor activities that you can do at home will leave your family sun-kissed and happy.

You’ve been dreaming of warmer weather, and now it’s finally happening. Whether you’re trying to entertain picky kids, wrangle the family together for some outdoor bonding, or looking for a DIY new backyard project, you’ve come to the right place. Let the good times roll with these fun outdoor activities! 

Between video games, Tik Tok challenges, and a smorgasbord of binge-able TV shows, getting your kids outside can be a real struggle. Fear not – we’ve got ideas a-plenty for keeping your offspring outdoors and entertained.

Go on a scavenger hunt - Scavenger hunts build problem-solving skills, teach teamwork, and they’re easy to customize to your child’s age. Start by writing down clues, or use one of many free online scavenger hunt templates to get ideas if you’re stuck. Hide the clues and little treasures around the backyard. If you don’t have tiny treasures lying around the house, head to the dollar store for fun trinkets your child will have a blast hunting for.

Get wet with water games - Water games are a saving grace in the dog days of summer when it’s too hot for other outdoor activities. You can choose simple games — turn on the sprinkler and let your kids go ham, or load up on water balloons for an epic battle. For more challenging games, lay down a plastic sheet or tarp, and lay it under your sprinkler — the kids will love slipping and sliding and splashing around. Water limbo is another family favorite — have one person hold the hose while others shimmy underneath. If you feel a cold spray of water, you’re out ’til the next round.

Perform on a summer stage - Do you have a burgeoning actor or musician in your midst? Set up a summer stage where your young thespian or rock star can come up with one-acts, skits, or concerts. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pull out the wood planks and drill (unless you want to). Use a picnic blanket, flattened cardboard boxes, or interlocking foam tiles for the platform and sticks strung with Christmas lights to border the stage. Your kids can create their own backdrops using a large dry-erase board or by coloring on cardboard boxes.

Build a box fort - We all remember the magic of playing in a fort. How markers, tape, and a sprinkle of imagination can turn a fine box into a fantastical wonderland filled with superheroes and villains. Playing make-believe is important for child development, and your kid will love exploring worlds in their new fort. Save all your boxes, and one day, when they’re bored as all get-out, have your kids take them outside and start taping them together. Help them make doorways and windows with a knife or scissors, then let them go wild with decorations. Solar-powered fairy lights, markers, crayons, paint — the possibilities are endless.

Playing in the dirt comes totally naturally to kids (courtesy

Play in the sandbox -
Kids love sandboxes, and it’s an activity that will keep them outdoors — and occupied — for hours. One trip to the hardware store is all it takes for an easy DIY sandbox. Fill up a kiddie pool — the sturdy plastic kind — with sand. How many bags you’ll need depends on the size of your sandbox, but make sure you get dust-free or non-silica sand, as they’re the safest types for your little one to play in.

Make art on an outdoor chalkboard - If your kid loves playing with chalk but having a chalkboard wall indoors creates too much mess, consider building an outdoor chalkboard. All you need is a piece of plywood, some sandpaper, and a can of chalkboard paint to make a chalk wall where your child can draw to their heart’s content. Secure your chalk wall to a fence, the back of the garage, or lay it flat on the ground.

Climbing Wall - Kids love to climb and explore, so why not give them a place they can do it without ruining the furniture? An outdoor climbing wall is exactly what you need. Build a climbing wall by installing climbing handles on your fence, a blank wall, or a sturdy tree trunk then let your kids have at it.

Do it Yourself (DIY) outdoor activities for adults

Summertime means less time spent indoors and more time spent outside. If you’re in need of some outdoor inspiration, look no further. Level up your backyard game with these creative DIY activities for grown-ups only — as long as you get a babysitter, otherwise, the kids will want in on the fun.

Getting all of the trimmings ready for the Tiki Bar (courtesy

Sidle up to the tiki bar -
Get out the cocktail umbrellas, make a pitcher of margaritas, and call your friends because things are about to get tropical. Want to build your own tiki bar? Bring a slice of paradise to your backyard using an online tutorial. If you’re looking to keep it simple, snag a few tiki torches and colorful string lights to deck out your patio, tiki-style. Plastic palm trees and Hawaiian shirts are optional but recommended.

Fire up the backyard fire pit - Drinking beer with the neighbors or roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories just aren’t the same without a fire pit. You can buy a fire pit or build one yourself — there’s a world of options no matter which way you choose to go. The simplest way to DIY a fire pit is to dig a hole, lay down some quick-setting concrete, and surround it with a wall of cement blocks. Check your city’s ordinances to make sure they don’t have any special rules or regulations for fire pits then go forth and burn, baby, burn.

Soak in a hot tub - Is there anything better than a relaxing soak in your backyard hot tub? Hot tubs are the pinnacle of luxury and a delightful way to unwind after a long day. They come in tons of shapes and sizes so no matter what your backyard situation is, there’s a hot tub for you. The best part is that you can enjoy your hot tub all year round. Hang lights around your tub — or make night lamps (below) — to create a cozy seating area, and have a hot tub party.

Set out night lamps for ambiance - Make use of your up-cycled jar collection and line your patio or sidewalk with DIY night lamps when you entertain. Decorate the jars with paint or decoupage tissue paper, then fill them with LED tea lights or a string of fairy lights. These are fun and easy project that the whole family can participate in.

Swing in a hammock - Picture yourself lounging in a colorful woven hammock, reading a book, and sipping lemonade in the sunshine. Feeling relaxed? Us, too. Adding a hammock (or two) will transform your backyard into an oasis and you’ll find yourself wondering how you ever spent a summer without one.

Outdoor activities for the whole family

Looking for a way to get the whole family involved? Make your backyard entertainment a family affair and create new memories that’ll last a lifetime with these fun outdoor activities.

We know something about outdoor dining on the deck, right? (Courtesy
It's just about an every-day occurrence at the Stuebner-Wilson household.

Install an underground trampoline -
Underground trampolines are more aesthetically pleasing than above-ground trampolines, and they’re easier for kids (and adults) to get onto and off of. Whether you choose to DIY your underground trampoline or have a company install it is up to you. Either way, trampolines are a fun and wonderful way to encourage your kids to get outside and get some exercise.

Set up a backyard movie theater - Lights, camera, action! Why pay to go to the movies when you can create a movie theater in your own backyard? Pull out the red carpet (or a picnic blanket, whatever you have on hand) and make some snacks for a summer screening experience the whole family will enjoy. Use your laptop to stream a movie outside, or grab your projector and a large white sheet to create the ultimate outdoor movie night.

Go backyard camping - Get out the tent and sleeping bags for a backyard camping trip. Your kids will love this idea, and you may find that it becomes a regular summer activity. Backyard camping gives you the best of both worlds – you get to make s'mores, tell spooky stories, and stargaze — all without having to dig a hole just to go to the bathroom. And if it rains in the middle of the night, a safe, dry haven is just feet away.

Dine al fresco - Having dinner on the patio a few nights a week is a simple way to enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of your backyard. Fire up the grill, and make all the summer favorites — ribs, corn on the cob, hot dogs charred to perfection — and savor them against a backdrop of sunsets and flowers in full bloom.

Picnic - There’s no better way to spend a beautiful day than by having a picnic. You don’t even need to leave your house to enjoy this outdoor activity. Prepare an array of tasty treats and take them outside for a backyard feast. Make an afternoon of it by bringing a board game and a few pillows to lounge on in the shade.

Forest bathe - Take a “bath” in the sounds of Mother Nature. Forest bathing is a soothing Japanese practice to balance and recenter yourself. Venturing out into the forest isn’t necessary to take a forest bath — simply lay out a blanket in the yard, and allow your mind and body to be still as you take in the sounds of nature through your senses. If you live in a very urban area, you can still forest bathe — just focus on the sounds of birds and the wind, and feel your body relax in the fresh air, relaxing your mind and reinvigorating your spirit.

Swing! Bring the playground to your backyard with a swing set. Swing sets come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges so you’re sure to find something that suits your family’s needs. Swing sets aren’t just for kids, though. Create a romantic getaway on your patio with gorgeous macrame swings that’ll leave you feeling like you’re on a tropical retreat, or sit a spell on a porch swing, just like an old-timey date.

Create and watch a wildlife feeder - Butterflies, bees, and birds, oh my! Become a modern-day Snow White by setting up wildlife feeders in your backyard. Birdbaths, hummingbird feeders, butterfly puddling stations, bee gardens – research the animals native to your area and decide which ones you’d like to attract. Building feeders is an easy project that your kids will love, too.

Lorena Romo is a marketing content specialist for Porch in Seattle. Steve is open to running occasional guest columns in Stueby's Outdoor Journal. Inquire with Steve if you have a cool idea to share.