Thursday, December 21, 2023

A few ideas for Christmas-New Year's break in SW Idaho - skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and hot springs!

The scene at the top of Deer Point Chair on Thursday afternoon in the sunshine. 

Hi all, 

Mother Nature has been quite stingy when it comes to delivering the snow so far this year. Ullr the Norwegian snow god may very well still be in a deep sleep!

So that makes it a little more difficult to find things to do this Christmas-New Years holiday break. Here are a few outdoorsy ideas that I've been thinking about:

  • Downhill skiing at Bogus Basin, Brundage, Sun Valley or Tamarack. All four resorts are open 7 days a week. Check on the latest conditions and see what runs and lifts are open to make your choices. 2-3" of new snow are forecast on Friday PM/Saturday. Sunny skies are forecast on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 
    • I skied the front side of Bogus on Thursday, and Ridge and Showcase seemed to have the most continuous snowpack thanks to snow-making and north-facing slopes. Bogus may reopen the backside this weekend. Warm temperatures above the inversion are making things challenging. It was 44 degrees up there today. Felt nice! 

    • Sun Valley just opened the Warm Springs side of the mountain with top-to-bottom skiing. The River Run side of the mountain was open to start off the season. 
      People skiing on lower Warm Springs when the new lifts opened
       on Wednesday. (Courtesy Sun Valley)  

    • Brundage is waiting for more snow before opening the new Centennial quad chairlift, but it's operating 7 days a week with the Bluebird Express, Bear Chair and bunny hill. 
    • Tamarack is running the Summit chair for 1,000 verts on the upper story of the mountain and the Discovery beginner chair.     
  • Go find your own hiking adventure on snowshoes, snow boots or hiking shoes and trax for gripping in the ice. Head for a mountain pass where you can find access to your own adventure. I saw that Mores Creek Summit has a snow depth of 17 inches as of today, 2 less than several days ago. It's been warm up there too ... 44 degrees today. I've seen people hiking Mt. Cervidae over by Lucky Peak (go early when the trail is frozen)  
  • All-weather trails on Ridge to Rivers trails or my expanded list of all-weather trails in the region. My list includes Bruneau Dunes State Park and Eagle Island State Park trails. 
    Gold Fork Hot Springs on a quiet day. 

  • Go soaking in a hot springs ... Gold Fork is accessible by vehicle (vax cards are required), you need a snowmobile to reach Burgdorf (rentals can be arranged in McCall), and there are others to consider such as Zims near New Meadows, Miracle Hot Springs near Hagerman, Mundo Hot Springs near Cambridge and the Springs in Idaho City. Reservations are required for many of these developed hot springs. And then there are other primitive springs such as Kirkham and Bonneville and others in the Boise National Forest. 
There you have it! Hope everyone has a marvelous Christmas holiday! Here comes 2024! 
- SS  

Thursday, December 14, 2023

My 2023 Edition: 15 Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her

Hi all, 

Christmas is just 10 days away! It's time for my annual Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsy him and her.

1. Prosmart heated vest for him or her $109.99. Really! 

2. Socks - Lots of color, designs and patterns, Smart Wool comfort made in the USA. Everyday Compression to support people standing on their feet, and it doesn't take 3 men and gorilla to put your socks on. 

3.  Camping lantern for your campsite. Saw this one that looked pretty cool. It's a rechargeable model with a USB port for charging your phone. Capetronics is the brand. $27.99

4Lights for your bike, your head or your body. The Bontrager Ion 200-1000 human light ($100) looks like it could light up the trails as if you're on a professional movie set. Available online via Idaho Mountain Touring. 

5. Ski gloves - It's nice to have several pairs that work for various tasks such as driving, xc skiing or snowshoeing (thinner weight), and alpine skiing (warmer). I have a pair of the Hestra Heli-Insulated gloves pictured here ($155), and man are they nice! Always keep my hands warm! Mine are mittens with a trigger finger. For xc skiing and lightweight use, look in the work glove section of May Hardware in McCall or a local Maverick service station.

6. Snowshoes - It takes a lot of time and money to master the art of skiing or snowboarding, but just about anyone who can walk can strap on a pair of snowshoes and do great! It helps to bring a pair of ski poles for balance. There are many different brands available. Price range: $50-$150 for snowshoe-pole combo sets. You might be able to find a new or used pair at the Boise Outdoor Gear Exchange. Chris from IMT recommends these super-light TSL snowshoes with Boa closures. They're made out of carbon fiber. Prices range from $69 and up. Nice gift for a serious snow-shoer, but they also have kids models priced right at $39.95.

7. Alphabeing camping lounger. Great for car-camping, river trips, etc. $39.98 
8. Patagonia trucker hats - Chris at IMT: These are Red Hot!- every age loves them -- men, women and kids.

9. Headlamp - For outdoorsy folks, it's about as easy to lose a headlamp as it is to lose a pair of socks. Especially if you're a family of outdoorsy folks ... everyone borrows your headlamp and it never comes back! You can snag a headlamp for $25-$50, and it has great value for your camping trips, night hiking, river trips, backpacking, even for use around the home! My favorite brands include Petzl and Black Diamond. Get a bright one and you'll appreciate it! My latest Black Diamond model runs on 4 AAA batteries and it's really nice and bright.

10. Dog accessories from Ruffwear. How about an insulated coat for your pup? $79.95. Those things are so danged cute!

11. Guidebooks! - Ha! Always a thoughtful item in the stocking or under the tree ... my guides are available of course, from Boise Trail Guide, Owyhee Canyonlands, Paddling the Payette, updated for SUPers, and Boise Road Cycling Guide, plus my biography on the great champion for birds of prey Morley Nelson, Cool North Wind, in memory of all of his achievements related to the creation of the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Plus I recommend Matt Leidecker's guides for the Sawtooths, White Clouds and Middle Fork Salmon River.

12. Capilene tops, long underwear - For any outdoorsy person who's active, getting out and exercising several days a week, you can quickly run short of tops and bottoms after they get pitted out and pitched into the laundry. So it's nice to have a deep supply of different tops especially ... lightweight, midweight, expedition weight, etc. These items typically run $25-$75. REI and Patagonia make gear with lasting value. Take a look at smart wool, too. 

13. Buck knife or Swiss Army knife - These items also have a way of disappearing. But especially guys appreciate having a knife handy for all sorts of things. A single-blade Buck knife is really sleek and cool, and the multi-tasking Swiss Army knives are always a hit. Boise Army Navy has a great selection of knives.

14. Hydro Flask - Previously known as a water bottle, the hydro flasks available today can be used for drinking coffee on the go, taking a long a nice hot cup of tea or hot chocolate on an outdoor outing, or actually packing plain old water. Hydro Flask is a brand by itself, but there are many other brands that make quality stainless steel insulated cups and containers. Pricing is in the $10 to $25 range or more. 

15. River Gear - Pick up some accessories or a new SUP, hard-shell kayak, inflatable kayak, canoe or raft at Idaho River SportsCascade River GearAIRE in Meridian,  or Boise Army-Navy.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
- SS  

Steve talks about his weekly outdoor tip on 94.9 FM The River on Friday mornings with Melissa Dawn at  about 7:40 a.m. Please listen in!

Thursday, December 7, 2023

How to stay alive Outside - guest column by Wendy Wilson


Wendy on the East Fork Owyhee River ... 

A recent book by Boise author Emma Walker, titled Dead Reckoning, Learning from Accidents in the Outdoors, is a remarkably easy read on a frightening subject.

Published by Falcon Press in 2021, it beat the Mission Impossible film with the same title by two years. The book won’t be made into a major movie, but it gives a big-picture view of snow safety, river safety, desert and high-elevation travel. I recommend it for a fast tour of everything you might need to know before going outside in Idaho.

Reading this 209-page book won’t make you a wilderness guide, but it is essential reading for a weekend warrior like me. Walker provides excellent insights into assessing general risks in the outdoors and touches on very scary and specific information about traveling in grizzly bear country (some in Idaho) and anticipating the habits of mountain lions (essentially anywhere in Idaho).

Like all of us, Ms. Walker started young and dumb. She relates her close calls with death stoically and without pride. Plus, her many years of experience with the publication, The Snowy Torrents, has given her the curiosity to collect real data to summarize the real risks we all face out there. That combination creates something of a bittersweet wisdom.

Author Emma Walker

The book doesn’t offer much information about the signs of hypothermia – often considered the most frequent cause of death in the outdoors. Growing up as a Midwesterner myself, I can easily rattle off the progression from shivering to impaired coordination (using the “walk-the-line” sobriety test) to heart failure in profound hypothermia. A good summary can be found at if you want the refresher course.

But I’ve certainly done many of the dumb things that are the main subject of this book: not having a map; not checking with locals about current conditions before starting a wilderness trip; not having a viable back up plan for an accident; not heeding a weather report or a storm warning.

I survived this lack of situational awareness in part with elementary map and compass skills from the Girl Scouts of America and basic canoeing instruction from the American Canoe Association. Many Idaho outdoor adventurers don’t even have that much training to start with. For them, I suggest at hard look at the “Lessons Learned” sections in each chapter of Dead Reckoning.

She summarizes each chapter with a variation of her theme  – know where are going, know your own limits, make your own decisions, and turn around before it is an emergency.

I love her somewhat personal stories about backcountry psychology, such as the boyfriend that justifiably leaves because she was so addicted to out-of-door adventures. The rush of fear that makes a person write their mother’s phone number down for potential rescuers to find. She tells great stories demonstrating how social pressure and being overly committed to a goal can cloud better judgment.

Walker’s book is, at best, as an easy way to learn the amazing facts on how to avoid backcountry accidents. For example, all skiers should read Chapter 7 on how to not die by an avalanche.

  • Use or the Sawtooth or Payette Avalanche Centers to research backcountry conditions before you go. Most accidents happen on days of “considerable” danger because people don’t go skiing out-of-bounds so much on days of High or Extreme danger. So be especially cautious on days with Considerable danger.
  • Always have everyone use rescue gear. You would think everyone uses peeps, shovels and probes, but 40% to 67% of the time, avalanche victims had none or inadequate rescue gear.
  • Insanely, more than 10% of avalanche fatalities were solo travelers. Don’t ski alone. Talk with your partners about avalanche risk, be cautious and stick together.
  • Be ready and aware. Most people who die from slides die immediately from trauma or within 15 minutes from suffocation. Be ready to act fast.

After reading Emma Walker’s book, Dead Reckoning, the words “people die out there” seem a little less unpredictable. The risk is always there, so it is good to know the odds.

The book is available at the Boise Public Library (as soon as I return it), Amazon and probably in local area bookstores. Thanks Emma!

Wendy Wilson

Wendy is a lifelong outdoors woman and conservationist who has lived in Idaho for over 35 years. She has ventured on many outdoor trips in the hinterlands of the Northwest Territories and Alaska, and she was a river guide on the Owyhee River. She is Steve's life partner. 


Thursday, November 30, 2023

Here comes the snow in Idaho! Tips on where to go this weekend ...

Hi all, 

Well, it seems like it's been taking forever, but here comes the snow!

Turning the page to December on Friday, three back-to-back storms will move into Idaho and dump copious amounts of snow statewide. Bogus, Brundage and Tamarack are all forecast to get 20" + of new snow by Sunday.

Weather forecasts seem to be holding true so far. NOAA is predicting that Brundage, Bogus Basin and Tamarack will get between 24-30" by Monday. Since the storm has a Northwest flow, it will not hit Sun Valley as hard, where less than 10" are expected through Monday.

Here's how the snow map looks on the Idaho Daily Snow.

No matter how you slice it, we should get hit hard by the weekend storms. 

Due to the lack of substantial snow up to now, Bogus, Brundage and Tamarack will be opening limited terrain on Friday and this weekend. Here's what I know so far: 

Bogus Basin will reopen this weekend on Saturday, Dec. 2, and Sunday, Dec. 3, 9 am to 4:30 pm. Adult lift tickets cost $49 (plus tax). Front side terrain park will be open plus the Showcase run. Deer Point Express and Coach chairlifts, Easy Rider, and Explorer conveyor lifts will be in operation. Go to Bogus Basin for more information. 

Brundage Mountain is opening the Easy Street chairlift on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2-3, from 9 am to 4 pm. Lift tickets are $5. Smoky’s Bar & Grill will be open from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm both days, and guests will be treated to 50% savings on all rental gear in the Fall Line Shop. 

Tamarack Resort is opening for a Winter Preview on Friday, Dec. 1 on the beginner hill serviced by the Discovery Chairlift. Operating 9 am to 4 pm. The lift accesses freshly groomed slopes with mini-terrain park features. Lift Tickets are $15 for non-Boundless Pass holders!! The Discovery lift and the Tamarack Village area will be open through Sunday, Dec. 3.    

Just so you know, the timing of the storms is such that they come in Friday-Sunday. The biggest snow totals are expected on Saturday and Saturday night. The most optimistic forecast is that Bogus Basin could get 28" by Sunday, Brundage 30" and Tamarack 22" by Sunday. (source:

That's good news to build the snow base and get the mountains in skiing/riding shape for the winter of 2023-2024! 

My advice would be to get out and play in the snow this weekend if you like snow! Just even going sledding or boot-hiking in new snow would be fun! Maybe go get a Christmas tree! 

Outside of the ski areas, the snow will be piling up above Idaho City as well. But you might give it a little time ... checking on the Mores Creek snotel site, the current snow depth at Mores Creek Summit is 2" as of Thursday. Could be over 10" by Saturday afternoon! 

All of the Idaho City Park and Ski Areas won't have enough snow for grooming yet, but they could be a fun place to go boot hiking or snowshoeing. Might be deep enough for xc skis by Sunday? 

Just so you know ... the weather is supposed to warm up and snow levels are projected to go up to 6,500 Sunday night to over 8,000 (above the summits of  Bogus, Brundage and Tamarack by Monday night. The snow levels are forecast to rise to over 9,500 feet by Tuesday night. Geez!  

So that could cause melting and snow-loss after waiting for a big storm this weekend. Not to be a Debbie Downer or anything, but a head's up! 

So there's your weather report for what will be the first major snowstorm of the winter! 

If you stay in town, be sure to stay off muddy trails in the foothills. Stick to all-weather trails or the Greenbelt. Watch for updates on the Ridge to Rivers Facebook page. 

- SS

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Steelhead in the Boise River Friday! Party in the park at Bogus, plus hiking and biking in the foothills

Steelhead! Courtesy IDFG 
Hi all, 

This unseasonably nice weather we've been having in Boise and Southern Idaho will continue through tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 17), and then we've got some rain in the forecast on Saturday night, and Sunday looks OK but quite a bit cooler with some rain in the morning and windy conditions in the afternoon. 

So Friday looks to be a great day to get out and enjoy hiking or biking on your favorite Ridge to Rivers trails or the Boise River Greenbelt. I am hoping to ride the Sidewinder-Fat Tire-Trail #5 loop in the afternoon. 

On Friday, Idaho Fish and Game will be stocking 250 steelhead in the Boise River in the usual locations - Glenwood Bridge, Americana Bridge, Broadway Bridge, West ParkCenter Bridge, and Barber Park. 

That'll be an awesome opportunity to catch a nice steelhead from the Snake River in Hells Canyon. Bag limit is 2 per person per day. See more details here

Low Tide terrain park event
last year. (Courtesy BB)

On Saturday and Sunday, Bogus Basin will open its Explorer Terrain Park for skiers and riders. Lift tickets are free on Saturday. There’s a special event on Sunday, "The Gathering - Party in the Park 2023" from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lift tickets are $10.

I hope the rain/snow mix forecast Saturday night turns to all snow by Sunday morning to have a fresh coating of snow on the terrain park. You could always drive up there and see how you like the conditions to join in on the fun. 

On Saturday, the weather forecast is for partly cloudy skies and a high of 56, so that should be fine for hiking and biking in the foothills. 

A couple of other possibilities for trails to explore: 

  • Hawkins Loop Trail, off of Bogus Basin Road. This 5.7-mile loop will be closed on Dec. 1 for the winter, so you've only got a few more days to check out that directional trail, if you haven't already. See more details about the Hawkins Loop Trail here
  • Freddy's Stack Rock Trail - Start at the pullout on Bogus Basin Road at about mile 10, cruise over to the Freddy's Stack Rock-Sweet Connie junction, and do the Freddy's loop. That's a great ride and a significant hike. See my previous post about that mountain bike ride when the new connector trail from Bogus road to the Freddy's-Sweet Connie jct. opened in 2019.
    L-R, Doug, Steve, Jim and Mack on Stack Rock. 
  • Five Mile-Watchman Loop - Start at the end of pavement on Rocky Canyon Road and do the 10-mile Watchman Loop; or start at the Five Mile Creek Trailhead and do a 6-mile loop up Five Mile Creek, then climb Watchman, descend and drop out on Three Bears back to the trailhead. The 6-mile loop usually takes about 3.5 hours hiking. The 10-mile Watchman Loop usually takes about 2 hours of riding time. 
There you have it! 

Have a great weekend and a nice Thanksgiving! 

- SS   

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Three Boise Foothills hikes provide elevated views of the city to see fall colors


Hi all, 

An Arctic blast of cold weather hit us this week, plus some snow in the mountains, so it's going to be a chilly weekend even in Boise. 

The cold weather also assists in accelerating the change in seasons and magnifying fall colors in the Boise Valley. For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending three hikes close to home where you can enjoy some fetching views of the City of Trees and the wide variety of colors visible as far as the eye can see! All of these are kid-friendly. 

Hike #1 - Buena Vista Trail, Hillside to the Hollow. Difficulty: Moderate. Start either at the Harrison Hollow trailhead by Healthwise or behind Hillside Junior High along Hill Road. Buena Vista Trail has a very nice and moderate contour as it winds across the outer-front of the Boise Foothills, and it feels like you can reach out and touch the community below. Yet, you're at least 500 vertical feet above the city, so it's a great vantage point! If you do an out-and-back walk on Buena Vista, you'd cover several miles over an hour or so. 

Spring shot of Harrison Hollow looking down at the city.

Hike #2 - Central Ridge Trail, Military Reserve Park. 
Difficulty: Moderate. Start at the Military Reserve trailhead where Mountain Cove Road bends sharply to the right going west into the foothills. There's a large parking area on the right and a trail map. You can start by walking along the Mountain Cove trail along Freestone Creek for about a mile or so. Then, you can turn to the right and climb up on Central Ridge to that initial summit. Then walk south down the backbone of Central Ridge back toward the trailhead. On Central Ridge Trail, it looks like you're going walk right into the State Capitol building and downtown Boise. Kind of a cool selfie opportunity before you drop down to the trailhead. Travel time for this one would be 1-1.5 hours at a leisurely pace.

Great views of the city from Valley View Trail 

Hike #3 - Seaman's Gulch Loop. 
Difficulty: Moderate. Start at the Seaman's Gulch Trailhead off of Seaman's Gulch Road and Hill Road in West Boise. You have the option of hiking a short loop for 1 mile, or you can hike a longer loop for 3 miles with more views. In my Boise Trail Guide, I called this route "Seaman's Gulch Double Loop." The trails contour nicely across the landscape; you never have to work too hard to climb uphill. 

Short loop: Follow the left-hand fork of Trail #110 and climb to an initial ridge. Bear left at the top on Phlox Trail #112. That'll bring you back to the trailhead. 

Longer loop: Follow the same directions to start with, but once you reach the initial ridge, take Valley View Trail #111 as it wraps around the front of the Boise Foothills, super close to the edge of the city. Once the trail loops around the hills, it ties into Phlox Trail on a ridgetop, and you can head back to the trailhead on Phlox. The longer loop is 3 miles and features 500+ feet of vertical gain. Travel time is 1.5 hours. Take your time and enjoy it! 

All three of these hikes and 92 more are featured in my Boise Trail Guide: 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home. The book is available at, Idaho Mountain Touring, Boise REI, and Rediscovered Books. 

Melissa Dawn will be giving away a free copy of Boise Trail Guide on 94.9 FM The River tomorrow (Friday) morning at approximately 7:40 a.m. Tune into my radio gig, and you can call in to win the book.

Have a great weekend! 
- SS 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Last blast of gorgeous fall weather this weekend! Time to get after it!

Payette Rim Trail in McCall 

Hi all,

We've been blessed with gorgeous fall weather recently, and my main outdoor tip this week is to get out and ENJOY IT NOW! 

The weather is making a sharp turn next week toward colder and potentially winter-like conditions in the mountains. So this weekend is the time to capitalize on an outdoor outing, whatever works for you! 

I rode the Payette Rim Trail loop this afternoon in McCall to soak in the colors and enjoy a ride that always gets my heart, lungs and legs pumping! The aspen trees and the tammies are turning golden simultaneously right now, so that's a pretty sight to see in the fall low-angle sunlight.

Tammies glowing everywhere! 

After climbing for the first half of the ride, you drop into a singletrack trail that winds along through a series of flattish tree-lined benches above Payette Lake. Today, the sun had warmed from 38 degrees F in the morning to 70 or 75 at that moment. Pure blue sky above the Payette Crest Mountains and a mirror of that cobalt blue sparkled below on Payette Lake and Little Payette Lake.

As I descended on the rocky, snaky singletrack, the tammies and aspens were most brilliant approaching Bear Basin. Those colors should hold through the weekend. 

There's the moose. 

I jumped a bull moose on my ride today! That was a charge! A big black moose, but only a 2-year-old or so, didn't have a big rack. I flushed it out of the woods as I came down the trail. It ran across the trail and doubled-back to look at me like critters often do. We stared at each other for a few minutes and then he wandered off. Glad I didn't run into momma and her calf!         

Fetching views of Payette Lake from the trail.

All of the hiking and mountain bike trails in the greater McCall area would be a great call this weekend, as would be the Ridge to Rivers Trails in the Boise Foothills, Wilson Creek in the Owyhees, the Sawtooths in Stanley or the Wood River Trails in Ketchum.

You will encounter rocky features on the Rim Trail. 

A few Outdoor notes: 

  • Chemical treatment to eradicate quagga mussels on the Snake River in Twin Falls has run its course, and now the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and partner agencies will be closely monitoring and testing the water to see if they eradicated the mussels. Some portions of the Snake River below Auger Falls have re-opened. See the ISDA quagga page for the latest information.         
  • The McCall ski swap is this weekend Oct. 20-21 at the Payette Lakes Middle School. 
  • Boise Ski Swap is on Nov. 3-4 at the Expo Center at the Western Idaho Fairgrounds.
  • See my post about Idaho El Nino winters and Idaho Winter Preview on 

- SS 

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Anna Gorin has got Idaho mountain fever! She's up to 160 Idaho summits and counting ... someone to watch!

Alpine Peak, Sawtooth Mountains, with Sawtooth Lake below. (all photos by Anna Gorin)

Hi all,

Anna Gorin has Idaho mountain fever. 

A Boise photographer in her young 30s, she pursues big hikes in the Idaho mountains, bagging peaks at a blistering pace. She might climb three mountain peaks in a week, or even a day. She’s scaled 53 mountain peaks so far in 2023, and in 2021, she notched more than 70 Idaho peaks. Overall, she’s notched over 160 high points in Idaho.  

“I love getting out in nature and seeing beautiful views, plus the accomplishment of climbing to the summit,” Gorin says. “I love the alpine scenery, alpine meadows full of glowing wildflowers, and the snow-capped mountains make my heart sing.”

Gorin is on track to join the lists of the most accomplished peak-baggers in Idaho who have climbed more than 300 high points or more. Who knows, at this rate, she might even reach 500.

“Anna not only has a talented photographer’s eye for composition but also a climber’s eye for finding the best lines up mountains, said Tom Lopez, a prolific mountain-climber and author of “Idaho: The Climbing Guide.”   

Galena Peak - what a view! (Courtesy Anna Gorin)

Like me, Lopez has noticed that Anna Gorin is making significant tracks in Idaho's high country. For my outdoor tip of the week, I wanted to introduce Anna Gorin as someone to watch in the outdoor scene, if you haven’t noticed already! I recommend people pay attention to Gorin’s trip posts on the Hiking Idaho Facebook group. I’ve enjoyed reading about her trips and seeing her scale mountains on trails I haven’t experienced before, despite the fact that I’ve spent the last 40 years trying to cover every square inch of Idaho’s backcountry.

Gorin’s energy for exploring Idaho’s mountains is infectious just by the quality of the photos in her posts (she carries a good camera with her on trips), and the raging enthusiasm exhibited by her friends in her summit photos. She’s got a core group of 10-15 friends who go frequently. They’re clearly in great shape and having a great time, but you know that they felt their thighs and lungs burning on the climbs just like any other human being. But they had the gumption and perseverance to reach the summit.

Being goofy on Gunsight Mountain (Courtesy Anna Gorin)

They’ve also got the gusto to bag new peaks as often as possible, putting in late night drives on the bookends of trips to reach the mountains from Boise.

“I like to vary it between McCall, Stanley, Ketchum and Fairfield, depending on the weather. I enjoy going to see new places.”

Just on the spur of the moment, Gorin said her top 5 favorite Idaho peaks are:

  •      Standhope Peak in the Pioneer Mountains (elev 11,878 feet). “The view from the top was epic!” she says.
  •      Johnstone Peak in the Pioneers (elev 9,879 feet). “Sometimes the smaller mountains have better views of the peaks above.”  
  •      Elk Ridge in the Soldier Mountains (elev 8,551 feet). “It’s so pretty up there. That one has a great effort-to-reward ratio."
  •      He Devil in the Seven Devils Range, Hells Canyon (elev 9,400 feet). She saw mountain goats up there.
  •      Kelly Peak in the Sawtooths (elev 9,321).  “That peak has extensive views of the southern part of the Sawtooths.”

Gorin grew up in Boise. She didn’t really experience the outdoors that much as a kid. Her parents home-schooled her; the family went to Stanley maybe once a year. She went to Willamette University for college, majoring in art. She launched a photography business after returning to Boise from college, and she’s been doing that for over 10 years now. She does portraits in outdoor settings for clients and landscape photography. See more at

Anna knows where to find the beauty of Idaho ... Packer John Mountain with her beau, John. 
She also is dabbling with mountain biking. 

How she got into hiking:
In her mid-20s, Gorin started hiking in the Boise foothills, scaling Table Rock, riding the Boise River Greenbelt, things like that. She joined some meet up hiking groups and 20-30 age groups to meet people to go hiking with. A friend convinced her to climb Mt. Borah, Idaho’s tallest mountain, in 2017. She had climbed Mt. Olympus in 2012, which she recalled being quite challenging. It was her first official peak.

After summiting Borah, she was blown away by the roof-top view. “This is an amazing mountain," she thought. "There’s nothing else higher anywhere around me. This is so cool!”

“I loved that feeling, and that drove me to climb more mountains,” Gorin says.

Trip planning: She uses a wide variety of resources in planning her trips, including hard-copy national forest and topo maps, interactive Forest Service map, Caltopo maps online, Google Earth, Tom Lopez’s “Idaho: A Climbing Guide,” Lists of John, and mountain-climbing notes from John Platt, who was a person cut from the same cloth as Anna, but probably more of a technical climber than she wishes to be.

Climbing ridge tops has rewards in terms of big views. But it's hard! 

She also uses, Summit Post, and more online resources. She spends a lot of time planning trips to understand the challenges ahead; she checks on trail conditions; she checks on weather and snow levels before she goes. She recommends lots of advance planning for a safe journey. But even with all the planning, things can become challenging!

“I also enjoy the puzzle of getting places,” she says. “Sometimes it can almost be like a problem-solving game to figure things out or thrash through the brush while cross-country hiking to find our way to the top.”

Next time you’re online, watch for Gorin’s stunning photography of Idaho’s mountains and trip notes. You might just discover some new places to explore!

-    - SS

Fishhook Point, Sawtooth Range (courtesy Anna Gorin) 

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Fall colors are popping in the Idaho Mountains! Time for a scenic drive!

Aspen groves light up the mountains in Upper Reynolds Creek, Owyhee Mountains. 
Photo taken Oct. 5 by Steve Stuebner. 

Hi all,

Fall colors are popping everywhere in the mountains right now. What better way to enjoy the colors than to take a scenic drive? Better yet, combine the drive with a hike or mountain bike ride to see things more up close and soak in the scenery. 

I recently traveled from McCall to Boise, and the aspen trees are lit up, the cottonwoods are turning yellow, and the shrubs are glowing orange, yellow and red, particularly at higher elevations.

Courtesy Anna Gorin on Facebook. Road to Packer John Mountain in Smith's Ferry.

To enjoy the colors, I'm recommending five scenic drives. Click on the links to see the scenic byway detailed descriptions via VisitIdaho:

1. Payette River Scenic Byway - Take Idaho 55 north to McCall to enjoy fall colors along the North Fork of the Payette River and in the Boise and Payette National Forest. Once in McCall, keep going north on Warren Wagon Road toward Upper Payette Lake and Burgdorf Hot Springs to see even more brilliant colors. Bring a swimsuit and towel to enjoy the natural geothermal hot water at Burgdorf. The hot springs won't be accessible by vehicle much longer until snow shuts the road and turns it into a snowmobile highway. That usually happens in late November. Stop for lunch in McCall -- there's a great sushi place as well as multiple other venues with sandwiches and burgers.

Sawtooth Valley (courtesy

2. Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway - Idaho 21 and the Banks-to-Lowman Highway. I saw full mountainsides glowing red this week from tip to tail near Grand Jean and Lowman.

3. Sawtooth Scenic Byway - The Sawtooth Valley is at a higher elevation and thus, the colors are happening big-time right now. Following Idaho State Highway 75 through Ketchum-Sun Valley and then over Galena Summit into the Sawtooth Valley should be spectacular. Do the big loop by combining the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Highway on Idaho 21 from Boise with the Sawtooth Scenic Byway on the way home, going from Stanley to Ketchum and then back to the Treasure Valley via U.S. 20. Stop for lunch in Ketchum. There are many great restaurants to choose from. I personally like the Pioneer, Whiskey Jacques, and Lefty's.

Wood River Valley aglow (courtesy VisitSunValley) 

4. Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway - Take a big drive from Grand View to Jordan Valley, Oregon on this scenic byway on backcountry dirt and gravel roads. It's about 100 miles and full day's drive to cover the byway. Beyond the BLM online guide, we provide all the details on this scenic drive in our popular guidebook, The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure Guideby yours truly and fine arts photographer Mark Lisk. There are restaurants and services in Grand View and Jordan Valley. Make sure you top off your gas tank before venturing off into the Owyhees!

Wendy along Jordan Creek in Silver City.

5. Take a scenic drive to Silver City in the Owyhee Mountains. The aspen trees are turning color in the quaint mining ghost town, located near Murphy. There are places to go hiking and mountain biking in Silver City. Details are available in The Owyhee Canyonlands - An Outdoor Adventure GuideTo reach Silver City, go south of Nampa on Idaho 45 to the Snake River and junction with Idaho 78. Turn left to head for Murphy and watch for a signed right-hand turn to Silver City. It's paved road for a while, and then it turns to dirt. Pack a lunch and enjoy the day!

Have fun!
- SS

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Please heed warnings to stay off the Middle Snake River! State authorities are working to contain, eradicate quagga mussel larvae

Quagga mussels coat a boat propeller in Utah 

Hi all, 

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) has confirmed the presence of quagga mussel larvae in the Middle Snake area between Shoshone Falls and the Centennial Waterfront Park below the Perrine Bridge. These findings mark the first time a rapid response plan has been put into action to eliminate quagga mussels discovered in Idaho waters.

This is something we all hoped would never happen. Like other Idaho boaters, I've been dutifully purchasing my invasive species stickers each year to support the statewide watercraft inspection program run by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. Multiple boat-check stations across the state inspect hundreds of watercraft each year. They often intercept fouled boats from Lake Powell, Lake Mead or other places that have been invaded by quagga mussels.  

Watercraft inspectors hot wash a boat in Twin Falls. 

Somehow, someone launched a watercraft fouled with invasive mussels at some point in the Middle Snake region in recent weeks. They could have started an outbreak that could cost the state and others millions of dollars if the quaggas take root, multiply and destroy the river ecosystem.  

The introduction of quagga mussels poses a major threat to Idaho. All hands are on deck to contain and control the invasive species. Quaggas can quickly spread and clog pipes that deliver water for drinking, energy, agriculture, recreation, and a variety of other uses. These mussels also negatively affect fish populations and wildlife habitat. The mussels are highly competitive, persistent, and can create monocultures that will eliminate Idaho’s diverse biological landscape.

Even things like duck decoys and fishing waders need to be contaminated.

Gov. Brad Little and the ISDA are overseeing a swift response to the problem in coordination with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Twin Falls County Commissioners, the mayor of Twin Falls and more. In the meantime, the Middle Snake River has been closed to public use. It’s imperative that the public stay away from the river while further water testing is done, and treatment plans are developed, officials said.

What can you do to help?

  •  CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY ALL WATERCRAFT AND ITEMS THAT GO IN THE WATER – This situation is reminder to anyone who has watercraft or items you put in the water to be vigilant in practicing the steps of CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY before putting your watercraft or item back in the water. This includes boats, kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, oars, waders, boots, lifejackets, fishing gear, buckets, nets, and other items. Visit for information on CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY.

  • If your watercraft (including kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, boats, and others) has been on the Snake River in the Centennial Park area of Twin Falls in the past 30 days, please take it to an ISDA hot wash station in Twin Falls for proper treatment. Conveyances (items like duck decoys, waders, fishing tackle, etc.) should also be taken to a hot wash station. DO NOT attempt to decontaminate watercraft yourself. De-contamination requires a hot wash at 140 degrees F. 

  • Stay out – Closures are in place in and along the Snake River until further notice as the investigation in the area continues. The public’s cooperation in staying out of the impacted area is crucial to the success of our efforts. For current closure information, visit

  • Chemical treatment starts next week - Another reason to stay away from the river and let the professionals do their work.  

How can you stay updated?

Visit to sign up to receive updates with the latest information.

For more information about the quagga mussel issue, go here:

I have my fingers crossed that chemical treatments will eradicate the quagga larvae in the Middle Snake region. Even if there are some short term impacts to other species, it's hugely important to keep these invasive mussels out of the Snake River and all other water bodies in Idaho. 

Please do your part! 


- SS