Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Shoofly Oolites - A Geologic Wonderland in the Owyhee Canyonlands!

The author poses for a pic at the Shoofly Oolites. (courtesy Steve Schaps)

Guest Column
By Steve Schaps

The Shoofly Oolites are a geologic wonderland located about 60 miles southeast from Boise near Grand View, Idaho, at the foot of the Owyhee Canyonlands.

This location is probably the closest you can come to hiking on the surface of Mars. The hike is 1-3 miles in length. 

It is both dog friendly and kid friendly, so you can bring either one or both. This is a great place to bring kids or grandchildren. It’s about an hour’s drive from Boise, and a far less snowy or icy drive than if you were heading to the mountains to the north.

One of the main reasons to visit the Shoofly Oolites is the educational opportunity for kids and adults to learn about this geologic wonderland.

Oolites, known as “Egg Rocks,” are rocks made up of small round calcium carbonate deposits (not sand), which look like tiny BB-sized eggs. The Shoofly Oolites are one of the largest outcrops of Oolites in North America and possibly the largest freshwater Oolite accumulations on earth.

These Oolites were deposited in beach/shoal environments along the sides of ancient Lake Idaho around 2-5 million years ago in the Pliocene Era. Lake Idaho was in a large closed basin like the Great Salt Lake is today. It stretched from Eastern Oregon across most of the Snake River Plain, from Boise to the foothills of the Owyhee Mountains.

Most of the Treasure Valley’s groundwater and farm fields are in Lake Idaho deposits. It’s one of the reasons that the area has such abundant groundwater and agricultural resources.

Courtesy Steve Schaps 

The Shoofly Oolites are unusually thick, very homogeneous, and create an interesting area for a hike and geologic field trip. You can take home a few pieces of Oolite rocks, if you like. Bring a big. They are a bit crumbly.

The Oolite road-side stop is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It includes a few educational interpretive signs and a parking area.

There are lots of weird and interesting rock formations to see. The kids love this part … there are all kinds of caves, holes, arches and bathtub features to explore. A game of hide and seek, anyone?   

The Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology will be leading a geologic field trip to the Shoofly Oolites on April 16. Go to for more information.

There’s also a historic cemetery located one-half mile up the road that you can also explore.

How to get there:

·      Take I-84 east toward Mountain Home

·      Go right at Exit 74, Simco Road.

·      Follow Simco Road south for about 20 miles.

·      Turn right on Idaho Highway 167 and follow that to Grand View. Stock up on gas or any supplies at the Grand View quick stop.

·      Go left on Highway 78 and go east for about 2 miles to a Y-junction.

·      Veer right on Mud Flat Road, the Owyhee Backcountry Byway, a paved road to begin with, and follow that for about 9.5 miles. The Oolite BLM site is on the right. GPS coordinates are 42.837128/-116.121980.

Courtesy Steve Schaps 

Steve Schaps has a bachelor's and master's degree in Geoscience. He worked for over 30 years as a geophysicist in Houston, Texas. He's retired now. He's lived in Idaho for six years. Steve is also a volunteer at the Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology. 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Have you reserved a backcountry yurt yet? How about river permits? Campgrounds for next summer?

Great views of the Boulder Mountains, north of Ketchum, can be seen from the Tornak Hut,
owned and operated by Sun Valley Trekking.   

Hi all, 

The deadline is drawing near for the Four Rivers Lottery if you'd like to try to draw a permit to run the Middle Fork of the Salmon, Main Salmon - River of No Return wilderness section, Selway River or Hells Canyon. 

Applications must be turned into by Jan. 31. 

The odds of drawing seem to be getting worse every year. But some way, somehow, your friends might get a permit, or you might be able to pick up a cancelation through

One things for sure ... if you do draw a permit, you will become everyone's best friend practically overnight! So don't delay in getting your applications in on time. 

Reserve a hut for backcountry ski/snowshoe trips

It used to be pretty easy to book backcountry ski hut/yurt trips in Idaho, but now it's become so popular that you almost have to book them one year in an advance.

Looking back at my outings for winter fun, yurt trips always stand out as one of the best things to do. Go play in the snow during the day and then return to the comfort of a yurt or ski hut, crank up the wood stove and enjoy a fun time in the evening with your friends out of the wind and cold weather.   

Here are the main places to go: 

Idaho City Park and Ski yurt system — There are six yurts to choose from: Banner Ridge, Elkhorn, Skyline, Stargaze, Rocky Ridge and The Hennessy. In my experience, the best skiing is at Banner Ridge, Stargaze and the Hennessy. Make online reservations at the IDPR website or call 888-922-6743.

Sun Valley Trekking — They’ve got yurts that are pretty close to the highway, such as the Boulder Yurts, which work great for less-experienced skiers/snowshoers, young children or seniors and other yurts and ski huts that are farther into the country. All of them are well appointed and well maintained. Tornak, Bench Lake and Coyote are my favorites. Reservations: Sun Valley Trekking or 208-788-1966.

Payette Powder Guides — The Lick Creek yurts at the top of Lick Creek Pass are located next to oodles of big-mountain powder skiing terrain. Book a trip with Payette Powder Guides and you'll get a snowcat ride to Lick Creek Summit and a ride back at the end of your trip. Having snowmobiles at your disposal is a good thing because you can ride to where you want to ski, expanding options. Reservations: Payette Powder Guides or call 208-634-6793. PPG also offers avalanche courses during the winter.

Galena Lodge — There are four yurts at Galena and all of them are relatively close to the parking lot (less than an hour ski/snowshoe into the yurts). That’s a bonus. If you like to skate ski, cross-country ski or snowshoe, you’ve got a world-class Nordic cross-country ski system right outside the door with 50 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails and 25K’s of marked snowshoe trails. Galena Lodge serves warm lunches and it has a full suite of services for cross-country skiers, including lessons, waxing and tune-up services. Check with Galena Lodge 208-726-4010 for pricing and availability.

Sawtooth Mountain Guides — High above the Williams Peak yurt, you can rip 2,000 verts of powder from the Skiers Summit back to the yurt. That run always puts a big smile on my face. Williams Peak is very popular and it’s booked solid each winter. Sawtooth Mountain Guides or 208-774-3324.

How about reservations for the McCall Winter Carnival, coming up on Jan. 27-Feb. 5. Lodging properties in McCall typically book up a year in advance. Maybe you could find a cabin rental through, AirBnb or VRBO? See the McCall Chamber site for more information on the Winter Carnival. 

How about reservations for your favorite national forest campground? Go to and get that buttoned down for next summer ... or the summer after that?
- SS 

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Five all-weather trails to enjoy when the foothills trails are muddy in Boise

Steve on top of the Bruneau Dunes. The state park is south of Mountain Home. 

Hi all, 

You've seen those horrible pics from Ridge to Rivers about people mucking up the trails and causing lasting damage! 

Sometimes I wonder if people are doing that on purpose, or if they just don't know there are alternative places to go walking, running or biking in the winter. 

When you see conditions
like this, turn around and 
head for an all-weather trail. 

Ridge to Rivers has a list of all-season trails that you can consult at times like this. 
All-weather trails have extra sand and gravel on the surface to absorb moisture and provide a pretty bomb-proof compacted surface. 

The weather this weekend will be on the warm side for mid-January, with a high of 49 degrees on Friday, 52 degrees Saturday, and 47 degrees Sunday. There's a chance of rain each day. 

So the lower R2R Trails are going to be muddy and best left alone! 

Here are some alternatives where you can go on a walk and not worry about causing damage on a muddy trail. You can enjoy yourself GUILT-FREE!

1. Boise River Greenbelt - Pick a loop walk/ride or an out-and-back and enjoy the views of the Boise River while you get some fresh air on a paved trail. Pick a part of the Greenbelt that may you haven't visited before! 

2. Eagle Greenbelt Loop - Do a loop walk/ride starting from Bardenay on the west end of the Eagle Greenbelt and go east three miles to the pedestrian bridge, cross the bridge and circle back around to the start. You'll have to walk/ride along Eagle Road to connect to the north channel greenbelt to finish the loop. There's an ample shoulder and places to avoid traffic.

Watch for bald eagles when you're walking/riding along the Boise River.  

3. Eagle Island State Park - There are trails along both channels of the Boise River in Eagle Island State Park that have suitable sandy/rocky surface for walking. People ride horseback out there too. 

4. Harrison Hollow All-Weather Trail in Boise Foothills - It's a short out-and-back hike but a very pleasant one on the Harrison Hollow All-Weather Trail. One mile out to the end of the all-weather section in the bottom of the gulch; one mile back. Park at the trailhead near Highlands Hollow Restaurant. 

5. Bruneau Dunes State Park - Climb to the top of Bruneau Dunes and enjoy a big view of the Snake River Plain.   

Have fun! 
- SS 

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Dan Noakes releases 5-part docuseries "Ghosts of the Frank" after skiing across the Frank Church Wilderness

Dan Noakes hiking up a ridgeline in "The Frank" (courtesy Dan Noakes)

Hi all,

I'd like to share an amazing story about Dan Noakes, a Donnelly outdoor adventure athlete, who recently skied across the 2.3-million-acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Solo.  

Noakes did the 110-mile wilderness traverse in 12 days, from the Johnson Creek Road near Landmark and Warm Lake over to Challis. 

I felt that his journey was super impressive and wanted to share it with my friends and followers.
Please see the news release that I put together with Dan, published today: 

Ghosts of the Frank:

Dan Noakes of Donnelly creates 5-part video docuseries
on rare Solo Winter Traverse
of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness

DONNELLY, Idaho – (Jan. 5, 2023) – Dan Noakes, an avid and accomplished backcountry skier who resides in Donnelly, is releasing “Ghosts of the Frank,” a 5-episode docuseries on YouTube about his rare, solo winter traverse across the 2.3-million acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, today on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.

Through his solo winter adventure in one of the most remote places in the lower 48 states, Noakes gained a great appreciation for the people who once lived, worked and died in “The Frank.”

Traveling along the Middle Fork Salmon River (courtesy Dan Noakes) 

“Ghosts of the Frank” takes viewers on an emotional experience as Noakes combines backpacking and skiing in efforts to connect with his father from whom he was separated during his formative years due to a divorce. The remoteness of the trip in “The Frank” also caused Noakes to ponder what it would have been like for Salmon River pioneers to eke out an existence amid an ocean of mountains many miles from civilization.

Noakes says his solo traverse across the Frank was a “death-defying feat,” done by very few, that tested his mental limits. “It’s a fine line between thriving and surviving out there. If you cross that threshold into the surviving territory, you can go down very quickly. To be totally candid, I actually did fear death on this trip. I feared getting hurt, getting caught in an avalanche, and my equipment failing, all which could be fatal. I would wake up in the mornings and say to myself, “I will make it home, maybe.’ “

Noakes started the 110-mile trip by the South Fork of the Salmon River near Warm Lake. He finished near Challis. It took him 12 days of winter overland travel (hiking/skiing) while carrying a backpack with all of his food and gear to reach his destination.

One can feel very small as a human being amid the enormity of "The Frank." 

In less than a decade of living in Idaho, Noakes has tested his extraordinary outdoor skills by summiting and skiing all nine of Idaho’s 12,000-foot peaks. He created a 10-part part video series on that accomplishment titled, “The 12ers.” In 2018, Noakes backpacked the length of Idaho on the 950-mile Idaho Centennial Trail in less than two months, doing much of the trip solo. He produced a video on that journey as well.

Some of the wisdom that Noakes has learned from his journeys include:

1. "When you find out that your own two feet can take you hundreds of miles, then you realize anything is possible. That is also a metaphor for life.”

2. “Welcome to Idaho! Did you know this was in your backyard? One of the most interesting places in the U.S.”

3. “Connection. Connect with the people and places in your life. In the act of connecting, you will find stories and purpose that you didn't think of before.”

Dan found some deep *pow*! (Courtesy Dan Noakes)

“Ghosts of the Frank” goes beyond skiing and Noakes’ personal life. As part of the docuseries, he examines the controversy of the Forest Service’s decision to burn down cabins as it acquired private lands inside the Frank in the name of wilderness preservation. The film leaves the audience to answer for themselves if the mainstream Wilderness narrative has silenced the whisperings of the ghosts that still roam in the Frank Church today.

Video link:  
Scheduled publication: Jan, 5, 2023 at 6:00am
Noakes YouTube Channel:

“Ghosts of the Frank,” created by Dan Noakes, USA, 2023, 5 Episodes


Be sure to watch the 5-part docuseries. You also might want to watch the 10-part video series he did on summiting and skiing all of Idaho's 12,000-foot peaks! 

Trip map: 


This week, I also worked on PR for the Middle Fork Outfitters Association to get the word out that a new transportation service is much needed for Middle Fork Salmon and Main Salmon River trips this coming summer. Caldwell Transportation is bowing out of the business, and a new company is needed to step up! 

See more in this in-depth Channel 7 report: 

If you know of anyone who might be interested in the Salmon River transportation situation, please have them contact Colin Hughes, with Hughes River Expeditions,

Thanks for reading! 
- SS