Thursday, September 22, 2022

Super duper weekend ahead! Three local hikes to explore in Boise, plus National Public Lands Day!

Boise Foothills trails are "the bomb" right now! Cool conditions and trails are in great shape! 
Pic of Harrison Hollow by SS

Hi all, 

After a really nice and cool week of September fall weather, it looks like we'll be shooting up into the 80s this weekend in the Boise Valley and 60s-70s in the mountains. Prime time to do just about anything outdoors while the primo fall weather lasts! 

The smoke has cleared from wildfires too in most locations, so that is a bonus! 

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending two hikes in the Boise Foothills and one at Bogus Basin for the weekend. (see below)  

First, a couple of outdoor notes

It's National Public Lands Day on Saturday, Sept. 24. You can visit National Park system properties in Idaho like Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, Craters of the Moon National Monument or City of Rocks for no charge. Volunteers are needed for Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation National Public Lands Day projects at City of Rocks, Castle Rocks, Harriman State Park. Follow the web link to sign up.   

South Fork Willow Creek property ... future open space? 
(Courtesy LTTV) 

The Land Trust for the Treasure Valley just announced today they need to raise $100,000 to acquire 320 acres in the Boise Foothills for protection as open space and wildlife habitat. The property, known as the South Fork Willow Creek property, is east of Avimor and bounded by the BLM on two sides. The property also has potential for recreation and walking and biking trails. If you'd like to donate, go here! 

My boater friends would appreciate the latest outdoor dispatch from Steve Dent with KIVI-TV about a group of experienced whitewater paddlers and firefighters who paddle-rafted the entire North Fork of the Payette River from top to bottom. They broke up the 15-mile continuous Class 5 white-knuckle run into sections. They completed their goal without suffering any major injuries - not to say they didn't have an occasional swimmer! Kudos to them for doing it safely! 

Courtesy Steve Dent, KIVI-TV YouTube channel 

Now, the hikes! All of these hikes are featured in my book, "Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home." 

Table Rock trail (courtesy Outdoor Project) 

1. Castle Rock - Table Rock "Foothills on the Rocks" - full tour, 4.35 miles; Hiking time 1.5 hours; Vertical gain: 950 feet. Start/finish at the Old Pen parking lot next to the Bishop's House in East Boise. 

Take Castle Rock Trail #19 and climb .5 miles to the top of Castle Rock, a spiky basalt rock cap overlooking Quarry View Park. Turn right at the top and take the Quarry Trail along the edge of the rocks and pick up Trail #15 and cruise over toward Table Rock. The trail gets progressively steeper as you approach the south face of the mountain butte. Once on top, head over to the cross to check out the view of the Boise Valley. 

Circle back on Trail #16, a singletrack trail around the edge of the Quarry bear right on Trail #17. Thread through the giant boulders and rejoin Trail #15 to retrace your steps to the Bishop's House trailhead. 

Hiking to the top of Bogus Basin with Wendy and Drew 

2. Quickest Way to Heaven at Bogus Basin - This is the name of a fun hike at Bogus in my Boise Trail Guide. It literally is the fastest way to the top on foot. Distance: 3 miles; hiking time, 1.5 hours; vertical gain: 750 feet. 

Drive to the Pioneer Lodge. Climb to the top of Morning Star chairlift and turn left on Lodge Trail #140. Follow the two-track around to the Superior side of the mountain. After one mile, you'll come to a junction where a right-turn takes you to the summit of Bogus, Shafer Butte, elevation, 7,582 feet. Bring a lunch and favorite beverage to enjoy the moment on top! 

Wendy and I went hiking last Sunday afternoon at Bogus, and we were pleased to see the BBQ is open by the lower lodge, with burgers, beers, and more! They were open till 5 p.m. Perfect way to cap off a fun day on the trails at Bogus!   

Courtesy Michelle Parsons 

3. Polecat Gulch Finger Loop - See a previous post with directions, pics and a map of this 6-mile moderate and scenic hike. Access is via N. Collister or Cartwright Road. Please note that the direction of travel for the full Polecat Loop is clockwise. R2R's has signs indicating the proper direction. From the N. Collister trailhead, you'll climb an initial hill to the top of a ridge, and then you'll see a left-hand turn for the Polecat Loop. The whole trail is narrow singletrack hiking, biking and running trail, following a series of finger ridges in the Northwest Boise foothills. One-way travel for the whole loop. 

Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Dodging the fire smoke could be a challenge in the Idaho Mountains! Silver City in the Owyhees might be a good call?

Screenshot of fire/fire smoke situation Thursday afternoon via
Hi all, 

It seems challenging at best to plan a trip to the mountains with the fire smoke issue being a moving target throughout the state of Idaho. 

Above, you can see the latest smoke map from airnow as of Thursday afternoon ... in McCall, we've gone from nearly clear skies and sunny weather this morning to more smoke haze and less healthy conditions outdoors in the afternoon.  

Weekend forecasts are calling for mostly clear conditions Saturday and Sunday in McCall, Stanley and Ketchum/Sun Valley, with more of a northerly airflow, and still very warm temperatures in the high 70s and mid-80s. But all of that depends on how the fires burn in the coming days between now and then and where the smoke plumes go.  

One thing we do know is that you'll want to avoid the Four Corners Fire zone west of Cascade, and points north of Ketchum from Baker Creek to the Sawtooth Valley because of the Ross Fork Fire, now burning more than 30,000 acres in the Sawtooth Range. See article in the Mountain Express about that blaze.  

Area closure map for Ross Fork fire 
Be aware that the Ross Fork Fire has closed a number of trailheads in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. See news report with full list of the closures here

If you want to avoid smoke altogether, you might consider heading up to Silver City in the Owyhee Mountains. I've detailed several hikes and bike rides in that area in my blog and Owyhee Canyonlands guidebook. 

Sawpit Mountain Loop - 8.5-mile hike, rated moderate to strenuous. Start and finish in Silver City. See my post and article in the Idaho Press with details about that hike. This hike is featured in my guidebook on the Owyhee Canyonlands.  

Jim Young on the Silver City Skyline Tour (SS photo) 

Silver City Skyline Tour
- This is a 16.8-mile advanced mountain bike loop that circumnavigates the Silver City Valley on the ridgetops and mountain tops above ... super scenic ride! See my post with details and a map about that ride.  

A cool volunteer opportunity is coming up in the second half of September to sweep and check on trails and camping areas in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It's a collaborative project led by the Idaho Conservation League, the Sawtooth Society, Idaho Rivers United, the Sawtooth NRA and more! See flier below for signup info. 

I also just blogged about ICL's Wilderness Steward program ... that may be something else people would like to get involved in next year.  


Thursday, September 1, 2022

Trip report on Lower Salmon River + last-minute ideas for Labor Day outings

Lounging in camp with a glass of red wine apres dinner with Phil and Anna of Portland.

Hi all, 

We felt blessed to enjoy 7 days of bliss on the Lower Salmon River last week with our kids, Boise friends and Portland friends. 

For me as a Dad, it was cool to have my son Quinn (25) guiding his own raft on the Salmon River for the 3rd time and my step-daughter Elena (28) guiding her own raft for the first time. They both did great! 

The Lower Salmon is often a great fallback choice for people who have their own rafting gear. When we don't draw a permit for the Middle Fork Salmon River or the Main Salmon River River of No Return section, we often schedule a trip on the Lower Salmon instead. A self-issue permit is required by the BLM to run the Lower Salmon. You can fill out the form at the boat-launch at Hammer Creek. 

Sweet sunset on Night 3 in between rain storms. 

Our group of 12 took the whole week off from work, so we slept at the Hammer Creek put-in on Aug. 21, and launched the following morning for a 6-day, 50-mile trip. On Saturday at noon, we meet a Hammer Down River Excursions jet boat to shuttle our rafting gear to Pittsburg Landing. We also had our vehicles shuttled from Hammer Creek to Pittsburg Landing by All Rivers Shuttle Service in Whitebird. That's a lot of extra shuttling, but it saves a lot of time getting back to Boise. Plus we like to support the local businesses! 

Hammer Down and All Rivers Shuttle do a great job! I'd highly recommend them. 

The Lower Salmon could be a good bet for Labor Day weekend, but honestly, it likely will be busy as hell! You might pick another time to do the trip this fall. It'll be doable through mid-October.

Elena and her beau Chris Parri play in the sand.

Quite honestly, I've lost count of how many times I've floated the Salmon River, but maybe since I didn't do it last year, I really appreciated my time on the river this year. We were unplugged for 7 days. No cell phone coverage anywhere possible. That's always a bonus! 

Trip highlights: 

Rain!!!??? We got rained on for much of Day 1, which was a very pleasant surprise ... the temperature dropped like 20 degrees for that storm! Got more rain on the evening of Day 3, another pleasant surprise. That led to a cooler day the following day as well. 

Rapids: All went smooth. Everyone had a good run through Snow Hole Rapids, the only Class 4 drop on the trip. Everything else was read and run. Always go left, left, left in China Rapids. 

: We got several new camps we liked with shade, and we nailed Whitehouse Bar on Day/Night 3. That's one of the most awesome campsites anywhere on the Salmon River. HUGE double camp and sand bars. Also blessed to get my favorite shady camp above Blue Canyon on Day/Night 5. 

Cooking: Share the duty, is my motto! We had the perfect number of cook teams for 6 dinners, so we split that up such that each team cooked one dinner and the next breakfast the following morning. Once you're done with cook duty, you're done for the week. Everyone pitches in to do dishes. 

Quinn Stuebner and Jim Baskin 
on the jet boat ride.

My meal on Night 1 was Surf & Turf, wild salmon and Tritip, side of cauliflower, onions, and potatoes. Took a while for a 4-pound Tritip roast to cook on the grill! But that was a hearty dinner to kick things off! Blueberry pancakes and bacon for breakfast the next morning. Now you're ready to roll and make some miles on the river!!!! Stueby is ready to crack the whip. I'm kind of known for that.  

Well, enough about our trip ... here are a few thoughts on outdoorsy outings for Labor Day weekend: 

Before we get into camping ideas, Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain and Tamarack Resort all have some fun stuff going on this weekend, and the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic at Ann Morrison Park runs through Sunday this weekend.  

Drew and I got to go on a balloon ride with Randy Ashton of Boise this morning! Way cool! 

  • Trinity Mountains - Go camping, day-hiking or backpacking in the Trinities. I recommend driving there via Featherville. Head for Big Trinity Lake, the trailhead and general dispersed camping area. It's definitely worth backpacking into the high mountain lakes to get away from the car-campers and enjoy some good fishing!

  • Cascade area - Stolle Meadows and Landmark are my favorite camping areas in this neck of the woods. There are tons of primitive car-camping spots in both locations, east of Cascade, off the Warm Lake Highway. 
  • Lick Creek area in the Payette National Forest 
  • McCall area - Camping, hiking and backpacking in the Lick Creek area NE of McCall should be fabulous. Some of the nice mountain lakes up there include Box, Snowslide, Duck, Hum, Enos and Thirty-three lakes. Pick up a Payette National Forest map or a McCall Adventure Map to get the details for access. Also, check my blog from earlier this summer on five easy-to-access kid-friendly mountain lakes in the McCall area. 
  • Stanley area - I'm sure the Stanley area will be hopping with lots of campers at Stanley Lake, Redfish Lake, Pettit Lake and points along the Salmon River. It's still one of the most beautiful spots in Idaho!  

    North and Middle Forks of the Boise River ... car-camping mecca
  • Idaho City area - The North and Middle Forks of the Boise River work great for car camping. See my post from last week.  
Also, Labor Day weekend is chock full of big sales at your favorite outdoor retailers in the Boise area. If you're staying in town, great time to save money on summer outdoor gear in close-out sales.