Thursday, April 28, 2022

Middle Fork Payette-Garden Valley hikes opening up for spring!

Station Creek winds through ponderosa pines on the way up a long ridge. 

Hi all, 

Wendy and I thought we'd hike the lovely Station Creek Trail in Garden Valley last Saturday to enjoy a 6-mile day hike in a forested setting. 

We were delighted to see the lower-elevation mountains in Garden Valley greening up for springtime recreation. We didn't encounter any snow on our hike up Station Creek Trail to the initial high point and saddle, or on the way up to Bald Mountain - another mile farther and an extra 500 feet of elevation gain. 

We dodged small squalls that were happening from time to time, but generally, it was a perfect day for spring hiking, with cool temps in the high 40s to low 60s, depending on the moment. 

If Station Creek Trail is in prime shape for hiking, then I'd also recommend two other nice hikes nearby - One Spoon and Lightning Ridge Trails. I've blogged about all three before. 

Steve and Huck on top of Bald Mountain ... elk sign everywhere! 

So that's my outdoor tip of the week - go check out any one of those three trails and enjoy hiking in a forested setting with creek water flowing below, wildflowers and shrubs beginning to bloom, and maybe even some morels popping up if you're lucky! 

The Trailhead for Station Creek is directly across from the Banks-Lowman Highway from the Garden Valley Ranger Station. It takes about an hour to get there from Boise. You can stop at the Garden Valley Chevron for any last-minute supplies before you head for the trailhead. 

Travel time on the Station Creek is about 5-6 hours, out and back. It's shorter if you just go to the initial high point about 2 miles up the trail. I rate the hike "moderate to strenuous" because there are some short, strenuous pitches.

Lunch on a big slab of granite near the top of the One Spoon hike with Wendy, Mark and Laurie. 

One Spoon Trail - Click on a previous post where I wrote about hiking One Spoon, including a map and driving directions, and also tips on floating the Middle Fork Payette River, Tie Creek section. The hike is 6 miles round-trip with up to 2,600 feet of vertical gain. You'll walk through ponderosa pine trees and see lots of cool big granite rocks along the way.  

Lightning Ridge affords vast views of the Boise National Forest

Lightning Ridge Trail - Wendy and I hiked Lightning Ridge Trail last spring. This trail goes for quite a ways, so the distance is kind of up to you. We went about three miles up the trail to an initial high point, turned around and came back to the trailhead. 

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

Driving directions: Take ID 55 to Banks. Go left in Banks and take the Banks to Lowman Road to the Crouch turnoff. Head up the Middle Fork Payette River Road (USFS #698) to a marked junction with USFS Road #611, the Lightning Creek Road, on the right. Follow the dirt road about five miles to the trailhead where an earthen barrier prevents further vehicular traffic. 

Have a great time exploring these trails! Bring a lunch and plenty of water for your day trip.   

Both Station Creek and One Spoon are featured in my guidebook, "Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home." 

- SS 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

2022 Idaho River Season looks promising as mountain snowpack continues to improve

Sturgeon fishing with Hammer Down Jet Boat Excursions

Hi all,

I worked on a story about the upcoming 2022 River Season for the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association (IOGA), published this week on the IOGA Outdoor Adventure blog.

With 2-3 feet of new snow falling in the Idaho mountains since April 1, it's been quite a comeback! 

Chalk Basin, Owyhee River 

See KTVB story and Idaho Press story. 

Mountain snowpack has been trending up in all of the river basins that count for kayaking, rafting and scenic trips since April 1. See snowpack as of April 21 below. The Salmon River has come up over 10 points to 90% of average, Clearwater is 103% of avg, and the Bruneau River is 75% ... might have season after all!  

For those of you who have river trips planned this spring/summer, all of these extra snowflakes and raindrops will increase water levels, lengthen the season, and improve the overall fun factor this summer. 

Read my post here: IOGA Outdoor Adventure blog

Idaho Whitewater Association Gear Swap at Maravia on Saturday, April 23 

Here's a link with details about the event. Starts at 9 a.m. You can take your used gear over there on Friday if you have something you'd like to sell. 

If you'd like to buy a raft, kayak, SUP, touring kayak, inflatable kayak, this is a great way to get into the sport for less money. Highly recommend it!   

- SS

Thursday, April 14, 2022

It's been snowy, rainy and wet! Five rock-solid ideas for all-weather hiking trails this weekend!

Bruneau Dunes State Park

Hi all, 

It's been quite the rebound to winter-like conditions in the Boise Valley and greater Southwest Idaho in the last 10 days, plus plenty of spring rain, hail and graupel. That's an awesome thing for our water supply! 

It should be obvious that many of the Ridge to Rivers trails are wet and soggy, and thus it's best to search for alternatives. Stay in tune with the latest conditions on R2R Trails here.  

Looking ahead to the weekend, the weather forecast looks sunny and cool on Friday, rainy on Saturday, and sunny and cool on Easter Sunday. 

New snow (1-3") is forecast at Bogus Basin for a special bonus day on Saturday. Sun Valley is operating 7 days a week through Sunday, April 17.  

So if you're itching to make a few more turns, the skiing/riding conditions should be great at Bogus and Sun Valley. If you venture into the backcountry to go snowshoeing or backcountry skiing, you're likely to encounter DEEP snow, with over 20" of new snow that's fallen in the last 10 days, depending on location. Could be some of the best skiing of the season!   

For the valley-dwellers, I'm recommending 5 rock-solid ideas for all-weather trails that would be doable this weekend ... all of these trips are featured in my Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home: 

1. Bruneau Dunes State Park. Pure sand. Located about 1.5 hours east of Boise. 

2. Eagle Greenbelt from Eagle Road to Glenwood. 4-6 miles one-way. You can do a loop by crossing the pedestrian bridge across the Boise River, if you wish. 

3. Snake River Trail, accessed from Celebration Park, south of Nampa. Very sandy trail to Halverson Lake or stay on the river trail to a cool old rock cabin.  

4. Harrison Hollow all-weather trail. Trailhead is by Healthwise and Highlands Hollow restaurant off of Bogus Basin Road. 1.5 miles out and back. 

 5. Walking path from River Run to Barber Park. Good all-weather surface mostly. 3 miles one-way. Start/finish in Barber Park. 

There you have it! 
- SS 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Idaho Hot Springs shine during mud/shoulder season and wacky spring weather

Main pool at Gold Fork Hot Springs, near Donnelly.

Hi all,

It's always great to cap off a ski day or a workout with a dip in a natural hot springs pool.

Truth be told, I've been hanging out in McCall this week, doing client work at my cabin and skiing Brundage in the last week of their season ... they close on Sunday, April 10. Bogus Basin and Tamarack Resort closed last Sunday.  

The skiing at Brundage has been absolutely FANTASTIC! A bunch of my friends have been skiing daily, so it's just a blast to ski the mountain with those guys. High-speed big carving turns on the groomers, and fun skiing in the fluff and soft bumps. Brundage got 5" of new on Monday, another inch Tuesday, morning, so we're finishing off the season with a bang up there. 

On my way back to Boise this afternoon, I zipped over to Gold Fork Hot Springs, south of Donnelly, to take a dip after a super-fun ski day and cap things off correctly! 

I haven't soaked at Golf Fork since the covid pandemic hit. They were closed for a time, and reopened last summer. They're open 6 days a week (closed Tuesdays), and they require vax cards or a cell phone photo of same, plus I.D. No big deal for me! Happy to oblige. Entry fee is $10 for adults. 

Main pool is fed by a natural hot springs. Really soothing beautiful water, about 102-104 degrees.

Gold Fork was practically empty today 4/7, but I'm sure it'll get busier as the spring progresses. Be aware the dirt road to Gold Fork is soft, bumpy and chock full of pot holes. Take your time! 

Hitting Idaho's hot springs at this time of year can be a great call when the weather is acting kind of "in between" seasons, like it will be in the next week, after a really warm day tomorrow (Friday), with a high of near 80! Later this weekend, the high temp will be in the high 40s! That's what April is supposed to be like! 

Anyway, think about hitting Gold Fork, The Springs in Idaho City (online reservations required), Zims in New Meadows or visit a natural hot spring in the region. See a statewide listing on the Idaho Hot Springs site.  

Lower pool is a bit cooler and shallow, good for young kids. 

More pools below ... looking out to Gold Fork River 

Entrance yurt is separate from changing rooms yurt now. More room for people to change
into swim suits. 

The Springs, Idaho City 

Zims Hot Springs pool 

Have fun! 
- SS