Thursday, June 30, 2022

10 must-see, must-do outdoorsy ideas for the 4th of July holiday and Summer 2022

If you've got a suitable 4x4, truck camping in hard-to-reach places can be gratifying! 

Hi all, 

The 4th of July long weekend is coming up! Many people have already made plans, but in case you haven't and need some inspiration, I am recommending 10 must-see, must-do activities not only for this weekend, but for the whole summer season:

1. Float a river (day trip) - we're blessed with so many options here, but the summer season is now open on the Boise River! See details about floating the Boise River, renting a raft, etc. Warm summer weather also gets people jazzed about floating the Payette River, either the Main Payette, South Fork Payette or Cabarton run on the North Fork. Check with Cascade Raft & Kayak, Bear Valley RaftingIdaho Whitewater Unlimited and the Payette River Company about guided trips. The Payette's calmer sections are great for stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), sit-on-top kayaking and canoeing. See my post about 10 premium locations to go kayaking or SUP'ing in SW Idaho. 

Float a river! This is on the Cabarton stretch of the Payette River. 

2. Climb a mountain - The pinnacle is to climb Mount Borah, but there are so many other options in Idaho, with dozens of peaks over 10,000 feet and 8 peaks over 12,000 feet. See Idaho mountain expert Tom Lopez's list of recommended mountain peaks. McCall mountain expert John Platt also has an extensive list of peaks and mountains that he's climbed. 

3. Ride the ski lift to the top of Bogus BasinBrundage Mountain, Tamarack Resort or Sun Valley and go hiking or biking from there.

4. Take your kids fishing - See the list of Idaho Fish and Game's Family Fishing Waters to find some great recommendations close to home.

5. Go backpacking in the Sawtooths, White Clouds, Pioneers or Big Lost Mountain Range. Snow levels are at roughly 7,500-8,000 feet in the Sawtooths, creek crossings are high and hazardous, See Michael Lanza's recommended hikes in the Sawtooths in his blog, the Big Outside. See a recommended major loop in the White Clouds in Backpacker mag. For a great hike in the Pioneers, see my blog post about hiking Broad Canyon. For the Big Lost range, see this overview in Summit   

6. Sleep under the stars in a dark sky venue like Bear Valley in the Boise National Forest, the Owyhee Canyonlands or outside of Stanley.

Catch a trout on the Middle Fork Salmon River. 

7. Fly into the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and go fly-fishing for native cutthroat trout. Air taxi services in Boise, Cascade or McCall can take you into the Middle Fork in less than an hour. All fishing is catch and release.

8. Go mountain biking on a classic loop trail like Fisher-Williams in the White Clouds, Loon Lake north of McCall or Around the Mountain at Bogus Basin. 

Climbing up a short hill to finish the Fisher-Williams Loop (courtesy Salsa cycles)

9. Go SUP'ing, boating or swimming in a refreshing, natural Idaho mountain lake like Payette Lake, Redfish Lake, or Priest Lake. See my post on 10 perfect paddling destinations for kayaking and SUPs in SW Idaho for ideas. 

10. Go car camping in the Middle Fork Boise River area, North Fork Boise River area, the Middle Fork of the Payette River area or Bear Valley. There are some reservable fee campgrounds and some dispersed camping areas. See the Boise National Forest, Payette National Forest or Sawtooth National Forest web sites for more information. 

For further enrichment on Idaho bucket list trips, see an Idaho bucket list post from Boise State radio, and a post that I did listing another 30 bucket list trips that they didn't cover. 

Remember: Be smart about Fire Safety this weekend ... we put out a post yesterday from Recreate Responsibly Idaho reminding folks that no fireworks are allowed on public lands, no exploding shooting targets, and be sure to put out your campfire before you leave the site ... make sure it is completed out, cold to the touch. 
- SS

Thursday, June 16, 2022

North Fork Championships this weekend; plus Brundage, Tamarack and Bogus Basin open for summer season!

A kayaker paddles through a giant frothing hole/wave on the North Fork Payette River.
Photo by SS 

Hi all, 

I stopped by the North Fork of the Payette River today on my way down to Boise from McCall, and I had a chance to watch a number of kayakers participating in the North Fork Championships practice the slalom course in Jacob's Ladder Rapids, the largest and steepest Class 5 drop on the North Fork. 

It's just amazing to stand by the North Fork and feel its thundering power - especially at the top of Jake's! It scares me just to stand there and watch boaters go through the expert-only super-challenging rapids! 

The first slalom gate comes immediately following the first steep drop into the rapids. Competitors have to fly into an eddy on river left as they make the drop, do a quick 180-degree turn, paddle upstream, go around the slalom gate, and then dig in the paddle and carve into a ferocious eddy turn into the center of the raging river, where the kayakers can get churned up in the major turbulence or best case, make a clean entry and zip to the next slalom gate. 

These are some of the nation's best Class 5 kayakers, and they're here kayaking on the North Fork of the Payette River for the North Fork Championships. The event started on Thursday, June 16, and continues through Saturday, June 18, for the North Fork slalom event. I think it's well-worth watching! 

Hang on to that brace buddy! Photo by SS

On Thursday, there was an expert downriver race in S-turn Rapids, just above Big Eddy Campground, on the North Fork. Friday, there's a downriver Boater X race, also in S-turn Rapids, starting at 12:30 p.m. 

The main event, the elite North Fork slalom race in Jacob's Ladder, starts at 1 p.m. Saturday. The kayaker with the fastest time and clean slalom runs wins the race (best of two runs). There are men's and women's elite divisions; a total of 150 kayakers will be participating. 

If you can get up there early and stake out a spot on the North Fork to watch the races, it will be a spectacular thing to see!   

With the warmer weather this week, it seems like summer is finally kicking in! 

Steve Jones amid the flowers in Ponderosa State Park. 

The snow is finally melted around McCall. Hiking and biking trails in Ponderosa State Park are in great shape. The campers are beginning to filter in! Lots of people are hiking and biking at Jug Mountain Ranch as well as on trails around McCall, like the North Valley Rail-Trail, McCall Greenbelt, and Spring Mountain Ranch bike trails.  

Brundage Mountain Resort opens their mountain bike trails this weekend, plus people are encouraged to ski/ride off the top of the mountain as well. Ha! That's kind of a hoot! The Bluebird Express will be running all day Friday-Sunday, plus food and beverage services at the base area. See their announcement about opening weekend, beginning on Friday, June 17, and about future events. The Brundage concert series starts on July 8, plus there's a 4th of July music fest. 

Plenty of snow still at the Brundage summit.

Tamarack Resort's
mountain bike park and Tam Express chairlift begin operating this weekend as well on Friday, June 17, and then Tam will remain open seven days a week through the summer season. Riders can enjoy 1,700 vertical feet of downhill riding on the Tam downhill trails, plus there's xc trails worth exploring at the Tamarack base area. There's also zipline tours, waterfront services with boat rentals, and food and beverage. 

Bogus Basin also will be opening for 7-day-a-week operations on Friday. People can ride the Deer Point or Morning Star chairlifts, ride gravity mountain bike trails, ride the Mountain Coaster, go hiking. or engage in other activities in the base area. Food and Beverage as well.    

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


Thursday, June 9, 2022

Grand Ronde River still worth visiting post-fire ... plus Idaho Free Fishing Day and Boise Mountain Bike Festival!

Wendy is happy to be on the Grand Ronde River! 

Hi all, 

Boy, rivers all over the Pacific Northwest have been bursting with life - more like peaking! - in the last week or so. The Salmon River was running higher than 55,000 cubic feet per second, and the Boise and Payette were roaring with big spring runoff, all precipitated by bursts of warm weather and plenty of rain. 

The Salmon seemed too high for our taste, so we checked on the Grand Ronde River in Eastern Oregon. It was rising to more than 11,000 cfs last week. And I thought, Dynamite! I'm going! I've run it at that level before, and it pretty much remains a Class 2-3 FAST whitewater experience in a solid raft. 

We put together a quick 5-person two-boat trip and set off for La Grande, OR, last Thursday afternoon. We stayed with our friends Russ and Mary West at their ranch in Imbler the night before launch, and that worked out great since it stormed all night.   

We awoke to sunshine and partly cloudy skies Friday morning, and launched on the river by 11:30 a.m. We had four days of wild river bliss to look forward to, floating from Minam to Powatka Bridge, a distance of about 35 miles. 

Our main concern was dodging rain storms in the forecast. Nearly every day had a good chance of rain. But with the river ripping at more than 10 mph, we covered the miles with ease. (My friend's Strava feed recorded our max speed at 13 mph! Ha!; raft speed at summertime flow = 3-5 mph) Our strategy was to make camp early, get the tarp set up, and be prepared for the inevitable rain storms. 

My tarp covers the whole kitchen area plus room for lawn chairs 

I've got a Cascade Outfitters deluxe 16' x 20' foot rain tarp, and that kept us dry all weekend.  

I love the expression on Wendy's face ... 

With the weather drying out somewhat here on June 9, the Grand Ronde should be a fabulous destination for multi-day river trips in the next month and beyond ... it is so verdant and gorgeous in the canyon right now! 

We saw a lot of yellow lupine on the river banks ... a rare treat! 

One thing to keep in mind is that the Bureau of Land Management is restricting camping on the Grand Ronde from Bear Creek 13 miles downstream due to a 23,000-acre wildfire that burned last July. That takes a lot of primo campsites out of play during your trip. So plan accordingly. 

We like staying high in the canyon and laying over at nice camps in the forest. You can still do that. 

Fire perimeter map

After floating through the burn zone, we thought it must have been a pretty fast-moving burn. The land seems to be recovering quickly judging from all of the regrowth we saw everywhere! 

Typical views of the fire from last year. Seemed like a positive mosaic burn. 

We saw quite a few green ponderosa pines that survived the fire. 

To learn more about floating the Grand Ronde River, go here. It's a National Wild and Scenic River, and deservedly so. 

Also going on this weekend ... it's Free Fishing Day in Idaho! You can go fishing on a pond, lake, stream close to home, use free fishing gear in selected locations and teach your kids how to fish! 
Here's a post from Recreate Responsibly Idaho about Free Fishing Day in Idaho! 

At Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, the Boise Mountain Bike Festival will be happening on Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. The main trails that are open right now are accessible from the Morning Star quad. Bogus has a detailed listing of what trails are open on Saturday. 

Weather looks good this weekend through Saturday to do just about anything outdoors. And then the temperature drops over 20 degrees Sunday, and a chance of showers is forecast ... so you might try to get out on Saturday for sure! 

Have fun! 
- SS