Thursday, June 24, 2021

Why is it getting so hot? Plus, a few notes on fire prevention and safety


Hi all - We all know it's getting hot ... really HOT for June in SW Idaho, and it's going to get even hotter next week ... up to 107 by next week. 

What the heck is going on? It's already been a dry spring ... the last thing we need is a major heat wave before July, when you know it's going to be hot in the low-elevation valleys of Idaho! 

I checked with the National Weather Service experts in Boise. A High Pressure system camped off the Pacific Coast, plus a Low Pressure system off the tip of the Alleutian Islands, are creating a dynamic where the jet stream is moving way north into Canada, and hot air from the Desert Southwest to moving north into the Pacific Northwest, where it may break all temperature records next week! 

In short, we're getting the weather that Vegas and Phoenix typically get. 

The model run pictured above shows the extreme heat in orange and reddish-orange, and you can see how the heat blob is centered right over Idaho ... Damn! This system may persist beyond next week ... so make plans accordingly!

Please be careful during the heat wave, stay hydrated and find places to keep cool however you can! If you go outside, be sure to wear a hat, sun screen, etc., bring plenty of water, and set up a sun shade to stay out of the direct sun.

Here are a couple of my recent beat-the-heat posts that might be helpful: 

Topic #2 this week: Remember the old Smokey the Bear saying, "Only you can prevent forest fires" ? 

Well, this year, that saying is especially true. 

It's already a given that we're in for a long, hot summer. We're in it now! 

But perhaps you didn't know that 80% of all the wildfires we have in Idaho each year are caused by humans. Some of them turn into mega fires ... like the guy who was shooting at exploding targets and started the Sharps Fire over by Bellevue a couple of years ago, which burned more than 65,000 acres ... or the guy who was setting off fireworks by Table Rock and started a fire over there. And on and on. 

So just a wee bit of advice, if you need to have a campfire, be sure to put it DEAD OUT before you go to bed. And definitely before you leave the campsite. Last year, Boise National Forest fire prevention control employees found nearly 400 campfires that had been left burning after they left. 

Here are some pics that the Boise National Forest shared with a social media post about campfires left burning. Be sure to fully extinguish your campfires when you're out camping ... and if it's hot, maybe skip building the fire altogether! 

And remember, no fireworks are allowed on Forest Service or BLM lands. 

Let's be smart and do what we can to prevent wildfires in Idaho. We've all been through smoke-filled summers, and it's no fun at all! Plus, the damage to property and natural resources is something that we must avoid!

For more information about fire prevention and fire safety, go here

- SS

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Snow levels receding, new bear-proof coolers required in the Sawtooth NRA and Brundage Mountain opens for the season!

What's the snow level in the mountains? Depends on location! Pioneers might be a good bet!
Steve, Wendy and Tim Nelson near Goat Lake in the Pioneer Mountains.

Hi all, 

It's been getting hot here in mid-June, and the snow is melting rapidly in the high country. Many people are yearning to go backpacking and camping at high mountain lakes, but that's still a bit iffy in many locations ... tho not far away! 

Backcountry snow report: The good news is that snow levels are receding to the 9,000-foot level in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Trails out of Stanley Lake, Redfish Lake, Atlanta and Big Boulder Creek trailheads are all open ... although you may run into snow at the mountain lakes above. 

The Forest Service reports that there's still snow blocking portions of the Alice-Toxaway Loop in the Sawtooths, but the Iron Creek Trail leading to Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake is open to Sawtooth Lake. The lake itself is still reportedly frozen, but certainly on the melt! 

In the Payette National Forest, you still can't drive over Lick Creek Summit to reach Yellow Pine; snow is blocking the way. If you want to go to Yellow Pine, you can get there via Cascade - Warm Lake Highway to Landmark - Johnson Creek Road to Yellow Pine. The road to Landmark is open, so that means the campsites in that higher-elevation area are open, plus that's another way to reach Deadwood Reservoir. 

North of McCall, the road to Burgdorf and Warren is open. Not sure if Loon Lake Loop is passable yet. Bear Pete Trail from Cloochman Saddle might be snowy in places. 20-Mile Trail would be fine. Snowslide Trail and Box Lake trails likely still have snow. 

Call the local ranger stations closest to where you're thinking of going to get the latest information on snow levels and trail information. 

The Pioneer Mountains might be one of the better choices since that area didn't get as much snow last winter. You can get into the Pioneers via the East Fork of the Big Wood trailhead on Idaho Highway 75 or Trail Creek Road, leading to numerous access points in Copper Basin and the surrounding area. Here's a trip report on a great hike that Wendy and I did to Goat Lake and Betty Lake in the Pioneers. 

Going camping in the Sawtooth NRA? Don't forget your bear-proof cooler! 

FYI - The Forest Service has instituted a new policy regarding food coolers in the Sawtooth NRA area (Sawtooths and White Clouds, outside of the wilderness areas). Here's a link to the "Bear Aware" web page ... if you're picnicking or car-camping in the Sawtooth NRA, you are required to pack your food in a bear-resistant cooler (if left outside), inside your vehicle, inside a building or suspended 10 feet above the ground. The Forest Service is apparently writing tickets about this issue, so be Bear Aware!   

Food storage rules are in effect for this area.

Bogus Basin, Tamarack and Brundage Mountain open for the summer 

I rode Around the Mountain at Bogus Basin two weeks ago when it first opened, and it was outstanding! The creeks were roaring, and the trail wasn't dusty. That will change quickly! Still the wildflowers were spectacular! Quinn and I rode the 10-mile trail together just a week or so after he returned from college. Heading up to Bogus to enjoy a scenic chairlift ride, take a thrilling ride on the Mountain Coaster, go hiking or hang out and have a beer and a sandwich are all good options at Bogus. See the Bogus event calendar for more activities coming up!

Hiking at Brundage on a sun-kissed day

Brundage Mountain
is opening for the summer season on Friday, June 18. Mountain biking and hiking trails are open top to bottom! Hidden Valley bike trails are closed still, but Zorro (double-diamond) is open. See the Brundage link for more information on operating hours in the coming weeks. Brundage also has a new trails conditions page

Brundage also will host a 4th of July Music Fest featuring the Dusty Huckleberries, French, Evans & Barr, and Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs. There's also a TGIF music series starting with West Mountain Takeover on Friday, June 19. See the Brundage events calendar for the whole lineup this summer.

Tamarack Resort is open for the summer season as well with scenic chairlift rides 7 days a week, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., lift-served mountain biking 7 days a week, food and beverage at the base area, zip lines and boat rentals. Chairlifts will be closed this weekend for the Northwest Challenge 3D Bow Hunt event, and on June 26-27 for the Northwest Cup Downhill Bike Races. Otherwise, the mountain is yours! 

Tamarack also is providing a live music series at Crusty's Restaurant in the village on Tuesday nights. See the Tamarack event calendar for the whole summer lineup of activities.

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

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Boise "Crank Queens" pedal 42 miles to Atlanta in a Bikepacking shakedown cruise

Jen (center) rides with Erica Davis (right) and Liz Thurmond (left), all members
of the "Crank Queens", a women's mountain biking group based in Boise.
(photo by Sharon Sell)

Guest column By Jennifer Isenhart
Wide Eye Productions, Boise

Ever since I first heard of the Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire, a 400-mile mountain bike race through Idaho’s backcountry, I’ve been intrigued by bikepacking. Bikepacking is the synthesis of mountain biking and minimalist camping. Bike-packers are fully self-supported, carrying all their food, water, cook stove, sleep system, clothing, tools and supplies in bags mounted in and around their bike frames. 

The Idaho Smoke ‘n’ Fire race course tackles more than 40,000 feet of climbing on backcountry forest roads and singletrack trails, with a few hike-a-bikes thrown in to test your grit. Winning riders finish in fewer than three days. 

For a gal who loves mountain biking more than any other sport, I am intrigued, but not entirely sure I would be up for such a challenge. Luckily, several gals in my women’s riding group are preparing for the Smoke ‘n’ Fire this year, so in May, I joined them for a training ride -- a one night, out-and-back to the historic mining town of Atlanta. It was my first experience with bike packing. I knew I was in for a physical challenge and lots of beautiful Idaho scenery, but what I didn’t expect was a near head-on collision, high mountain Karaoke, “recovery” PickleBacks, and lots of local color.

What's the best bike for getting into bike packing? The one you have.
Here, a hard tail 29er is all geared up for the backcountry. (photo by the author)


Our 84-mile round trip followed the Middle Fork of the Boise River-- from Badger Creek Campground to the historic mining town of Atlanta, Idaho. The Middle Fork Boise Road is a graded, gravel road that is loose in some places, but mostly solid for riding. Conditions can change throughout the year, though. Spring is a good time to ride as recent rains have knocked down the dust.

The Middle Fork Boise River Road winds through steep canyons as it hugs the river
all the way up to the historic mining town of Atlanta. (photo by Megan Hamilton)

Our route is a long, steady climb with a total of about 2,000 feet of elevation gain. The views are cinematic. Yellow arrowleaf balsamroot carpets the lower elevation hillsides. Rocky cliffs rise up from the river. Hidden hot springs give themselves away with puffy clouds of steam. Higher up and closer to Atlanta, the Sawtooth Mountains are still frosted in snow, a reminder that winter isn’t long behind us. 

Route map shows the route the Crank Queens took from Badger Creek CG to Atlanta.


This being my first bike pack, I had to borrow bags for the trip. My husband had a seat pack big enough to carry all my food, tools and repair kit; and a handlebar bag to carry my various layers of clothing. Spring in the mountains of Idaho can dish out just about any kind of weather you can imagine, so I carried a variety of layers, a shell, long pants, long sleeves, short sleeves, vest, hat, gloves, socks and bike shorts. Oh -- and a swimming suit for the hot springs!


A long soak in a hot spring is the perfect prescription for sore muscles after a full day
in the saddle. Here, the Crank Queens soak in Atlanta Hot Springs, just outside of town.


Since our trip was just a one night out-and-back, and because we planned to eat and stay at Beaver Lodge in Atlanta, I didn’t need much else in the way of cooking utensils or a sleeping system. I know, I know, that’s not an authentic, minimalist, self supported trip, but for my first foray into bikepacking, it was just the right combination of adventure and comfort.

Some may call this cheating, but I call it beginner's luck - a cozy one-room cabin
at Beaver Lodge in Atlanta was my 'tent' for the night. (photo by the author)

A few important lessons I learned on this trip:
  • Watch out for vehicle traffic on blind corners! While the Middle Fork Boise River Road cuts through a remote part of Idaho, there is still a fair bit of vehicle traffic on the road. You also could encounter ATVs and side-by-sides on the road. Coming around one blind corner, another rider, Megan Hamilton and I were nearly hit head-on by a truck. He was driving too fast, but we were riding side-by-side and spread out onto both sides of the road. I had to bail into the ditch to avoid getting flattened. It was a scary moment. From then on, we rode single file around blind corners.
  • If you're serious about bike packing into remote areas, take a bike tuning class. One gal on our trip had trouble with her derailleur and I was at a total loss for how to help. I know how to fix simple things like a flat tire or a broken chain, but a stuck derailleur was beyond me. Luckily a few women in our group who were mechanically savvy adjusted the deraillure enough that she managed to make it all the way out.
  • Dust is is a biking buzz kill. If you’re riding on a well-traveled road like the Middle Fork Road, a bandana or Buff is a good idea for covering your face and mouth when the occasional car or ATV flies by.
  • A “PickleBack” is a recovery drink! At least according to Crank Queens member Sherilyn Lindelien. What is a PickleBack, you ask? I had to ask, too. It’s a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice. The salty brine is supposed to help you “recover” from a long day of riding (or at least recover your taste buds from the sting of whiskey!).
  • PickleBacks also help you sing! At least they helped the entire group of Crank Queens file up to the Karaoke stage at Beaver Lodge and sing John Denver’s “Country Roads” to an enthusiastic audience of Atlanta locals!
  • Riding with awesome women is, well, awesome. Thank you Erica Davis for organizing the Crank Queens!
  • If you’re not sure if you need it, you probably don’t. For some great tips on how to dial in your bike pack, visit:
Connie Strand Hendricks takes a break along the way. Connie planned our trip to Atanta! I'm so thankful she included me! 

 Jennifer Isenhart is a video producer and co-owner of Wide Eye Productions in Boise. She is the producer of "Idaho the Movie" available on Amazon.