Thursday, June 22, 2023

Grand Ronde River's velvety green canyon shines once again on a 4-day trip in June

Steep-ass hike from our camp below has quick dividends - big views and flowers galore

Hi all, 

The Grand Ronde River in Eastern Oregon is one of my all-time favorite springtime getaways in a wilderness setting. 

Last year, we had a good trip at flood stage, 13,000 cfs, but we had to endure lots of torrential rainstorms - all under the comfort of my killer tarp, I might add. 

But this year, we had beautiful weather, with highs in the 70s and just a few random thundershowers while in camp. We did a 4-day trip on June 12-15 from Minam, Ore., to Powatka Bridge (Wildcat canyon), covering about 39 miles. The Minam Store ran our shuttle for $170. Easy to set up online. 

Wendy and Huck on Day 4, a little cooler than the previous 3 days. Background shows
the aftermath of a wildfire in 2021.   

The Grande Ronde is a great choice in the spring because the countryside is soooooooooooooooooooo velvety green and beautiful, the river flows are high enough to cover the rocks and make navigation really easy, and wildflowers are blooming everywhere. Self-issue permits are easily obtained at the put-in, and there are dozens of sweet forested campsites to chose from as you float the canyon. 

In terms of difficulty, the Grande Ronde is rated Class 2-3, which is pretty low key on the whitewater scale. For our trip, we had about 5,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of river flow, allowing you to scoot along and clock river miles with ease. Just put the oars under your knees, kick back and sip a beverage while enjoying the scenery and wildlife along the way. 

The Minam Store also has rafts and gear for rent if you'd like to do your own trip. 

From Boise, it takes about 4 hours to get to the put-in -- 3 hours via I-84 to La Grande, and an hour on two-lane paved roads to Minam, a little roadstop next to Minam State Park, a gorgeous place to camp the night before you launch, if you wish.

One of our favorite campsites 

One of the neatest parts of floating the Grande Ronde is staying in those beautiful, grassy riverbank campsites amid ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees. On night #2 of our trip, we stayed at a scenic campsite that's easily as cool as some of the best camps on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Picture a large grassy meadow, a big kitchen area shaded by large trees, a steep hike up a ridge behind camp, and lots of wildflowers.

Here are a few other pics from our trip ... 

Up near the top of the canyon, about 1,000 vertical feet above our camp.
With Keith and Ann from Portland. Gorgeous views, gentle breeze, and bird song. Below, Huck is still climbing mountains at age 11. 

I had the privilege to appear on KTVB-TV Channel 7 on the 4 p.m. news Wednesday to share some tips about hiking, information about my Boise Trail Guide - 95 Hiking and Running Routes Close to Home, and camping this summer. 

Have a great weekend! 
- SS 

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Camas Lilies blooming at Centennial Marsh, morels popping, and ski areas opening soon

Photo by Steve S.

Hi all, 

Beauty is surrounding us this spring with colorful wildflower blooms, verdant mountains everywhere and rushing water in streams. 

One of those memorable scenes is the camas lily bloom at the Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh near Fairfield. Fields of the lavender flowers carpet the landscape for as far as your eyes can see. It's also a great place to see songbirds, water birds and birds of prey. See post on Southern Idaho Tourism for details. Easy day trip. 

Upper meadow bloom, looking north from the highway 

Watch out for the weather on Friday, if you're planning to get out and about ... looks dicy! High chance of rain, hail, you name it! Similar forecast for Saturday, but more afternoon than morning, according to the National Weather Service.  

I'm seeing that the morels are popping right now in fire zones burned last summer like the Four Corners Fire area near Cascade. But truth be told, I don't want to hear about it! Been too busy to get out foraging myself, so that's been driving me nuts! Be sure to get out soon while the picking is good! I've been wondering how the picking is in the Moose Fire zone near Salmon ... has to be productive, too! 

I've been curious when our local ski areas will be opening for the summer season. You won't have to wait too much longer! Here's what I discovered: 

  • Brundage Mountain Resort opens Friday, June 16 for summer operations. Lift-served hiking and biking available, yoga sessions and more. Summer concert series starts on July 7. See band lineup to the left. See event calendar for more details.  

  • Tamarack Resort opens for summer operations on Saturday, June 17. Tam has lift-served hiking and biking, waterfront boat, kayak and SUP rentals, and a zip line course. See events calendar for details on summer activities, live music and more. 

  • Bogus Basin opens for summer ops on Friday, June 23. They have lift-served biking and hiking, music on the mountain, music on the patio, yoga, guided nature hikes, the glade runner, climbing wall, bungee trampoline, gem panning and summer tubing. food and beverage on the patio and more. See summer event calendar for details. 

Have fun! 
- SS 


Thursday, June 1, 2023

Spring green up and wildflowers are spectacular right now! Three hikes where you'll enjoy nature's beauty in Boise

Quinn Stuebner on the trail to Mt. Kepros, lit up by lupine and arrowleaf balsamroot. 

Hi all,

After the super long and cold winter, the spring green up and wildflower display in the hills surrounding the Treasure Valley has been spectacular! 

I hope you've been out to see it! If you're looking for more destinations with flowers in bloom, here are six suggestions close to home in the Boise area: 

  • 5 Mile - Watchman Loop, Boise Foothills - 6-10-15 miles. Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. Hiking time: 2.5-3 hours if you hike up 5 Mile to Watchman and drop out back to Rocky Canyon Road by the 5 Mile parking area on the Three Bears spur. It's a beautiful walk with water in 5 Mile Creek for the puppies. 

  • Watchman - Three Bears bike rideThis is still one of my all-time favorite rides in the Boise Foothills. After you make the initial climb to Watchman, when you come around a corner into the next draw, the whole mountainside is blooming with arrowleaf balsamroot. Gotta see it. 
  • Start and finish at the bottom of Rocky Canyon Road for the 10-mile version of this ride. Or start from Military Reserve Park for a longer version that clocks in at 15 miles. Vertical gain 2,500 feet. Rated advanced. Travel time: 3 hours. Start in Military Reserve. Take the Mountain Cove Trail along Freestone Creek to Ridgecrest #20 and climb to Central Ridge Trail. Climb Central Ridge to the Bucktail junction. Go straight, climb a short distance and then contour over to Rocky Canyon Road on Shane's. Climb Rocky Canyon Road to the Five Mile Trail and Creek. Climb Five Mile to Watchman. Follow Watchman across the foothills and go left at the junction with Three Bears/Curlew Ridge/Trail #6 and follow Three Bears down the spine of Curlew Ridge (super fun downhill with one technical section) back to Shane's Junction. Descend back to the bottom of Military Reserve however you like ... I always have to ride Bucktail and cruise the super-cool GS turns.

    Courtesy Matt Clark 

  • Station Creek Trail, Garden Valley - This is also one of my all-time favorite hikes in SW Idaho. Just saw some pics on Facebook from Boise friend Matt Clark, and the green meadows under the Ponderosa pine trees are aglow with color with multiple wildflower species in bloom! The Station Creek hike is featured in my book, the Boise Trail Guide: 90 Hiking & Running Routes Close to Home. I rate it "moderate" in terms of difficulty. It's a sweet singletrack that climbs 1,300 feet over several miles to the top of the ridge overlooking the broad valley. It's a 4.5-mile hike round-trip. Travel time is 2+ hours. Pack a lunch for the top. If you have time, I highly recommend climbing Bald Mountain, located just above the ridge. You'll add maybe 45 minutes to an hour to the trip, round-trip. Plus, always better views from the top of peaks. 

    The trailhead is about 1:15 from Boise on the Banks to Lowman Road. Take ID 55 to Banks, turn right to Garden Valley. Proceed past the town of Garden Valley to the Garden Valley Ranger Station. Station Creek Trail is directly across the road from the station. There's parking there but no rest room. 

    On the way down from Mt. Kepros peak ... the trailhead is way the heck off to the south! 

  • Hike Mt. Kepros, one of four Boise Grand Slam peaks. It's a 10-mile, moderate to strenuous hike, but worth the effort. Travel time: 4-6 hours. Doing the hike in May and early June, the flowers are spectacular! Trailhead is off of Black's Creek Road, east of Boise on the freeway. See details on directions and highlights along the way in my post on hiking Mt. Kepros.   

Outdoor notes:

Noteworthy events going on this weekend:

  • Big water blowout on the Salmon River in Riggins, Saturday, June 3. The Salmon is running 47,000 cfs as of Thursday at Whitebird. Gonna be big! 
  • Eagle Rec Fest at Eagle Island State Park, Saturday, June 3. Free entry to the park! Great place to take the kids for some fun activities! Plus there's 5 miles of trails at the park, ponds and other things for the kids to play on. 
  • Snake River Raptor Fest - Saturday, June 3, 12-5 at the Indian Creek Winery in Kuna. 
Have fun! 
- SS