Thursday, April 27, 2023

OMG! Five days of 80 degree weather moving into May! Five outdoorsy ideas for Spring!


Hi all, 

For the first time this spring, we've got a wave of really nice, sunny warm weather coming our way for multiple days in a row! In the Boise Valley, I'm seeing high temps of 80 degrees 5 days in a row from Saturday through next Wednesday. Wow! What a change! 

Now we can stop whining about the long, cold, snowy, icy winter, and look ahead to springtime outdoor activities! 

Here are my Top 5 ideas: 

Arrowleaf Balsomroot beginning to bloom in the Hillside to the Hollow Reserve 

1. Hit the trails! Go hiking! Lower to mid-range trails in the Boise Foothills are stellar right now. See the Ridge to Rivers web site for maps and ideas of where to go. Trails in the Owyhee Front Range and Wilson Creek area in particular would be perfect as well! 

The Owyhee River - Pruitt's Castle 

2. Plan a spring desert river trip on the Owyhee or Bruneau River with friends, if you have experience and your own equipment, or book a trip with an outfitter. Here's a list of outfitters who run the Jarbidge/Bruneau canyon and the Owyhee. 

See my post about the 2023 River Outlook for IOGA. With deep snowpack, this is an excellent year to do a trip on the Owyhee or Bruneau when the season will be longer than usual!      

3. Tackle the Boise Grand Slam Peaks - hike to the top of four mountains nearby - Cervidae, Kepros, Shaw Mountain and Heinen Peak. With this warmer weather ahead, I'd expect the wildflowers to start popping and those hikes should be fantastic! One thing's for sure, they're always a workout! See my post about hiking the Boise Grand Slam Peaks

Leslie Gulch 

4. Go self-support camping in the Snake River canyon, Succor Creek State Park or Leslie Gulch areas in the Owyhee Canyonlands. 

5. Go biking on the Greenbelt, do a nice long road bike ride, or take your gravel grinder bike for a spin on the Owyhee Backcountry Byway. Do something kind of epic and enjoy the sunshine!  

Have fun! Don't forget the sun screen! 
- SS  

Thursday, April 20, 2023

New guidebook features 80 dog-friendly hiking trails, urban walks and parks in the Treasure Valley

Watson on Charcoal Gulch trail in Idaho City.
(all photos courtesy Matt Clark and Diana Burrell)

Hi all,

Boise friends Matt Clark and Diana Burrell have created a new hiking guidebook for dog lovers in the Treasure Valley area.

Titled Treasure Valley Dog Hikes and Walks, the book details over 42 hikes, 14 urban walks and 25 dog-friendly parks within 90 minutes of the Treasure Valley.

This is what Matt and Diana have to say about their new book:

“We love hiking with our rescue dogs, Watson and Berry. We have every hiking guide about trails and urban pathways in and near the Treasure Valley. Generally, the only dog-related information in the guides is whether a trail was on - or off-leash, so we occasionally found ourselves on trails that were not well-suited for our four-footed hiking pals. With the number of dog lovers in our area, we knew we weren’t alone in our search for the best dog friendly trails.

“Watson and Berry inspired the trails, paths, and parks featured in Treasure Valley Dog Hikes and Walks. They made us think about the kinds of wildlife you’ll see, availability of shade, whether the tread is too jagged for paws.

“On hikes, we made notes on whether there’s enough water nearby? Is the access to water easy enough for Watson’s arthritic hips (he’s nearly 14)? Is the hike long enough for Berry to get her zoomies out (she’s part border collie)? We avoided heavily travelled motorized and mountain bike trails (a speeding bike, a blind corner, and an off leash dog can be disastrous for everyone).

We follow Stueby's Outdoor Journal and always appreciate Steve's all-season approach to finding adventures. We wanted to do the same for dogs and their people so they can enjoy outings year-round. Berry and Watson have added their perspectives to many of the trails, paths, and parks in the descriptions. With their help, and after many miles of exploration, we identified 42 hikes, 14 paths, and 25 dog-friendly parks that inspire human-canine bonding and adventure for all ages, energy levels, and seasons.

Matt Clark with the pups on the ParkCenter pedestrian bridge. 

“We aren’t dog trainers or veterinarians, but we have learned some lessons the hard way. Always carry extra water—dogs can overheat quickly. Not all dogs who are off leash should be off leash, and even the best dogs can have bad days. We even learned how to get our 80-pound dog off a mountain four miles from the vehicle when he became lame.

“We hope our tips in this guide will help others from having to learn the same hard lessons. The introduction to Treasure Valley Dog Hikes and Walks includes advice on appropriate dog (and human) gear, safety, and trail etiquette and helpful “in-fur-mational” tips are scattered through the guide.

“Our goal with this book is to help dog lovers and their Best Furry Friends (BFFs) have a “paw-some” time together in nature while being good stewards of the land and respectful trail users. Now grab that leash and get going—your BFF is waiting!

Where to buy the book: Treasure Valley Dog Hikes and Walks is currently available at both Rediscovered Books locations, all three Flying M coffee shops, both Co-Op locations, Boise REI, Idaho Mountain Touring, Shu’s Idaho Running Company, and Telaya Wine Company.

A portion of the sale proceeds from the book will be donated to local organizations that remove dog waste and perform trail maintenance on many of the trails and paths in this guidebook.

Thanks to Matt and Diana for creating  another important information resource for your outdoor bookshelf! 

Diana and Matt out on an Idaho adventure. 

- SS 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Lower Boise Foothills trails finally open for hiking and biking! 3 hikes/rides to explore!

A bearded Steve at the summit of Shane's Trail on an April mountain bike ride.

Hi all, 

With the dramatic turn from winter to spring weather for a couple of choice days last weekend - featuring high temperatures in the mid-70s - the trails in the lower Boise Foothills dried up and now they're ready for hiking, biking and trail-running. Finally! 

In many years, the trails in the Boise Foothills have dried up in late February to early March, but because of the long, cold snowy and icy winter we had in 2022-23, spring is coming late! 

And that's OK! 

Boy, it felt great to get out and ride my mountain bike on Saturday morning! It was still on the cool side, but when I saw that Ridge to Rivers had given the lower trails the green light, I was ready! I rode from Camelsback Park to Crestline and Sidewinder and took Red Cliffs back. The trails were bone-dry the whole way. 

I saw hikers, mountain bikers and runners everywhere. As the day got warmer, I have a feeling that the trails got even more busy! 

Central Ridge trail in Military Reserve

Man, it felt good to climb, get my lungs and heart pumping in the red zone, and enjoy another one of my favorite gravity sports on the way down!  

Remember that it's only mid-April, and we'll be subject to more rain and even some snow.  Pay attention to the Ridge to Rivers trail reports on Facebook if you're in doubt. 

For my outdoor tip of the week, I'm recommending three hiking and biking loops in the foothills. After a snowy surprise Thursday morning, it's supposed to be a really nice weekend Friday-Sunday with High Pressure aloft, mostly clear skies and warmer temps each day through Sunday. High temps are 56 degrees on Friday, 65 Saturday and 75 on Sunday. Now we're talking! 

And then the weather goes to hell on Monday-Tuesday of next week. So get out and enjoy it this weekend when you can!

Sharing the trails respectfully with others is important in the foothills. Thank you! 

Before we get into the rides/hikes, a couple of reminders: 

1. Be a good trail ambassador! "Be Kind" when you're out using the trails, share the trails respectfully with others, and smile and say "hi" when you pass by people. A little bit of courtesy goes a long way! 

2. If you're mountain biking, remember that all uphill traffic has the right of way. If you're coming down and you see people coming up, stop, step off the trail and let them pass by, no matter if they're walking, running or biking.

3. If you come up behind someone and need to pass, say something like "coming up" and let them know you're coming so they can step off the trail for you to pass.  

4. Polecat Gulch is changing back to counter-clockwise direction this year. You'll see the signage out there. I preferred riding it clockwise, but oh well. I do like how the one-way direction on Polecat has reduced conflicts and, no doubt, collisions. It's a tight, narrow singletrack in places on steep side-hills without much in the way of sight lines. The one-way trails are safer. 

5. Stay off muddy trails. I already covered that above, but I'm saying it again. If things are wet, go for a road ride or ride the Greenbelt. 

Now for the recommended hikes/rides: 

1. Best for hiking: Kestrel-Red Cliffs Loop -  Camelsback - Kestrel-Crestline-Red Cliffs Loop - Distance: 5 miles. Rated moderate for hikers and runners. Rated intermediate for biking. Hiking time, 2-2.5 hours; Running time: 55 minutes; Biking time: 45 minutes. This is a popular loop with hikers, runners and bikers. Start at Camelsback Park off of Heron and 13th Street in North Boise. Head over to the trailhead in the east side of the park, and follow Owl's Roost Trail on the right by the ponds. Follow Owl's Roost to the Foothills Learning Center area. Turn right at the junction with Kestrel, and climb Kestrel to Crestline, it's about .6 miles of continuous climbing. Turn left onto Crestline, climb a short abrupt hill, and then watch for a left-hand junction with Red Cliffs in less than a half mile. Turn left onto Red Cliffs and enjoy a fun descent for over a mile back to Hulls Gulch. Follow Hulls back toward the Foothills Learning Center, cross 8th Street, and take Chickadee Ridge back to Camelsback Park.

Map of Kestrel-Red Cliffs loop from Steve's book, "Boise Trail Guide" 

2. Best for hiking or biking: 
Jumpin' Jeepers Figure-8 Loop - 6.75 miles. Rated moderate with strenuous sections. Rated intermediate for biking. Hiking time, 2.5-3 hours; running time, 1:20; riding time, 1:10. This is one of my favorite rides in Military Reserve that connects to Shane's Trail. It's an equally nice run or hike. The name comes from the Boise Police Dept. shooting range at the end of Mountain Cove Road. The unexpected blast from a gun might cause you to jump out of your skin! (It's an archery range now, thank goodness!). 

To start, go to the main trailhead on Mountain Cove Road, after the sharp right-hand corner. Take the Toll Road Trail #27A to #20 Ridge Crest and climb to the top of the hill. Turn right on Central Ridge Trail and climb at a moderate pace to Shane's Junction. Take Shane's #26A to the left, and climb to the top of Shane's. You've climbed 1,000 feet over 3+ miles. Give your puppy a drink and a snack. Descend Shane's for less than a mile, turn right on the Shane's Loop and return to the Central Ridge-Bucktail-Shane's jct. Take Bucktail downhill and enjoy the big GS turns as you wind across a big downhill on a large flat. Bucktail drops into the Central Ridge alternative trail. Go right and then left on that and it'll take you back to the trailhead. It's a great view of Idaho's Capital City as you cruise downhill on that sagebrush slope to the trailhead.

Map of Jumpin' Jeepers Figure 8 Loop from Steve's book, "Boise Trail Guide"

3. Best for hiking or biking: Polecat Gulch Loop - NW Foothills. This area was a key new 834-acre open space reserve purchased by the City of Boise in 2002 with funds from the 2001 Foothills Levy. It opened up a great system of trails in an area that had been previously unaccessible because its private land status. The trails in Polecat are more moderate than many in the foothills, so that's another draw. This area also is home to albino mule deer. I've seen them myself!

How to get there: Take Hill Road to N. Collister in NW Boise. Turn north on N. Collister and proceed to the Polecat Trailhead at the end of the road. There is a restroom in the parking lot.

The Polecat Gulch "finger" loop as I call it in my guidebooks, Boise Trail Guide and Mountain Biking in Boiseis approximately 6 miles long. It circumnavigates the whole gulch. I call it a finger loop because the trail snakes around little ridges that extend like a finger from the top of the gulch. It takes about an hour to do the loop on a bike, 1.25 hours for trail-runners, and several hours if you're hiking.

Huck's about to take flight on a windy spring day in the Boise Foothills.

There you have it! 

A couple of other things going on this weekend: 
  • Spring skiing at Bogus Basin. Lift tickets are available online if you don't have a season pass. 
  • Rivers are rising, if you haven't noticed! Experienced kayakers and surfers are enjoying the play waves at the Boise Whitewater Park and the Payette River would be fun, too. The South Fork and Main Payette are definitely running at boatable levels and rising! 
- SS