Howl at the Moon 

Outdoor sports shine by starlight

Starlight, star-bright, what activity should I do tonight? Outdoor sports nuts are seen regularly throughout the day, but night rides, runs and fishing? I thought only extremists did that. The most outdoorsy I've gotten during late night hours has been to hike up to some hot spring and break into a six pack. Little did I know, Boise has a plethora of pickings for nighttime sports fixings. Say that 10 times fast and put some headlights on your bike. You're all ready to rock and roll with the big boys now.

There's no question that Boise has built a reputation on being a haven for outdoor recreation. Everyone knows the community and surrounding areas are a hotbed of activity. From mountain biking to snowboarding, fly fishing to kayaking, the Boise area can meet the needs of any adrenaline-pumped enthusiast and gear junkie. Head out in almost any direction and you'll see them--bikers, rock climbers, runners, river rats. They're everywhere; loading up on carbs at Lucky 13 or heading down at neck-breaking speeds out of the foothills. But anybody can do this during the day. It takes a special breed of hardcore enthusiast to do these sports at night.

Mountain biking group "Team Heinous" likes to do it with the lights on or off. Team members ride in daylight through the summer months and in winter by the light of the silvery moon (with aid from their trusty bike lights). They can be found every Wednesday night throughout the dark winter months at the Highlands Hollow Brewhouse, where they meet at 5:30 p.m. and head out for a couple hours, riding between 15 and 20 miles. The team of roughly 15 riders takes shorter rides in winter because of the cold.

"I think there's more heightened awareness (in riding trails at night). It's a good alternative to going to the gym or staying at home," says Heinous team member Rob Mitchell. "It's a great way to get out and enjoy the trails." When asked what kind of special gear or supplies are needed to keep riders safe Mitchell responds, "The big expense is a nice light. A quality light will cost from $200-$450 for the top-end 24-hour race light. Some riders use two lights, a handlebar-mounted one and a helmet-mounted one to see around corners and bends in the trail. A flashing taillight should also be used on the bicycle seat post or attached to the camel back for riding up dirt roads like Rocky Canyon or 8th Street."

But does danger have to be your middle name before you'll chance a nighttime trail ride? Search local blog postings about night riding and it seems that wildlife poses the most danger. One reported incident of nighttime trail dangers discussed a group of mountain bikers who were run down by a herd of deer. Another blog posting reported an encounter with a mountain lion. Mitchell says that while he's seen deer on the trail, he has never personally been "run down" by any, adding that he finds it noteworthy that Team Heinous riders usually suffer more crashes in the daylight summer rides than during night winter excursions. He says this is possibly because they might ride more slowly at night, but definitely because the night rides demand more personal awareness of their surroundings.

Another group that meets weekly is the Boise branch of the infamous international running group, the Hash House Harriers. And because they run the same time year-round, at 6:40 p.m., winter runs are dark and cold.

A "drinking club with a running problem," Boise's H3 is known for running around in costumes singing rugby songs. But what is less apparent is that the Hashers are truly a community of serious runners and friends. Meeting every Monday night, runners follow the English tradition of "hares and hounds," with runners acting as the dead or live hares and hounds. Trails are "hash marked" and usually run anywhere from three to five miles long.

Former Hash Master Jeff Ulmer, AKA Bag Balm, is dedicated to his chosen family of Hashers, but during office hours he wears the hat of race director for the City of Trees Marathon Association, Inc. Officially the two groups are not formally affiliated. But unofficially, if you're a Hasher, you're probably running in or volunteering for the marathon or one of its nine running events every year.

Although they meet weekly to run, drink and have fun, a lot of Hashers are out training every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday as well. Ulmer adds that despite their reputation as a drinking club with a running problem, they're also a "serious group of runners who don't take running too seriously." Around 18 Hashers are competing in an Iron Man triathlon this year. Current reigning Hash Master John Weeks, AKA "Tommy Fullfigure," also chimes in that Hashers would do anything for their hash brethren. Whatever the stereotypes are about Hashers, first and foremost, they are a running community of family and friends, who through running events put on by the City of Trees Marathon Association, give to local charities, provide support and training to their serious marathon runners--in addition to providing a little color and humor while they're at it.

So maybe you're into something a littler slower paced than weekly running and biking groups? Cast your line into the dark waters at the CJ Strike Reservoir for some nighttime sturgeon fishing. Cat fish are a big draw there, too. Travis Bosworth, assistant manager of Meridian's Sportsman's Warehouse fishing department, says night fishing is a "great excuse for socializing." Bosworth admits to preferring fly fishing over conventional fishing with bait and a bobber, but says he encounters plenty of folks who like to head down to the river banks to camp and fish all night long with a nice cold beverage in hand.

Whatever your speed is, be it riding a trail under the stars, running after a human hare or kicking back by the river with your buddies and your rod and reel, Boise has starlight activities to spare. These groups don't slow down for winter, so why should you? Get the lead out and start howling! AWWWOOOOOO!

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