The days are short and crisp, the overstimulating hubbub of summer has dissipated, and it is now time to look toward winter's recreational offerings, right?
Perhaps for some, but with the smoke and heat of 2012's middle months, many Boiseans feel like Mother Nature cheated them out of thoroughly enjoying many of their favorite outdoor haunts.
With surrounding wildfires now mostly extinguished, the window for recreation has opened wide. It's time to dress down and saddle your fat-tired friend for some long hauls through the area's rapidly changing foliage before the cold hand of winter tightens its grip.
There's nothing quite like a cool fall tour to clear your head before winter.
Boise boasts some of the best mountain biking in the country, but many folks are privy to only a limited sample of Southwest Idaho's numerous trail and two-track offerings. The Hulls Gulch, Military Reserve and Tablerock systems are the most popular; however, many lesser known rides exist within a stone's throw of town. Some can even be done on a touring or cyclocross bike.
Here are some excellent opportunities to get out and ride as the temperature drops--but always be aware of the shorter days and potential for inclement weather.
Geographically centered between Avimor on Highway 55 and Bogus Basin lie myriad trails offering a whole different experience from the most popular trails. Getting up in the trees (and farther from town) particularly this time of year makes for more technical riding and more apparent wildlife.
While many of these trails are part of my secret stash--I would be strung up if I were to share them in this forum--I can say that the riding around the back side of the Bogus Basin Nordic Center is exceptional. Early season snow can make this area a bit hit or miss.
Bogus' wide-open two-track takes you around the resort's lower points, with options to climb to the summit or descend to the Placerville neck of the woods if you want to venture farther north. If you head this way, be prepared for a very long ride home or have a shuttle extraction arranged in advance.
On the east side of Bogus, adjacent to Deer Point, lies the bulk of the Boise Ridge Road, Eagleson Summit and several long descents to the more popular Ridge-to-River trails. From the Ridge Road, you can access Corrals, Hard Guy and Trail 4.
If you elect to stick to the saddles all the way from Bogus to Aldape Summit, the predominantly coniferous cover opens up with many nice outcroppings of deciduous trees peppering in a few vibrant reds and yellows along the way. Take some time to appreciate some of the Treasure Valley's best panoramic viewpoints.
The Trail 4 system takes you down to Three Bears, Sidewinder or Lower Hulls Gulch --or you can hit the bomber ride down Eighth Street. Rocky Canyon Road also brings riders back to town expediently, with the additional option of peeling back onto the R2R system at the eastern fringe of Shane's Loop. Look out for ATV users this far up the hill, and be sure to use proper trail etiquette on single track.
Private property prohibits access from Aldape Summit to Lucky Peak (the actual peak), so if you want to try something new in the northeast hills, you will have to either befriend a rancher or head toward Harris Ranch and Highland Valley.
Just before where the former Hilltop Cafe/Kodiak Grill used to be lies Highland Valley Road. It is a dusty one-lane track to the treeline with a few nice options for exploration and incredible hilltop views.
If you stick to the beaten path all the way to the summit, you will find yourself at Lucky Peak and the Idaho Bird Observatory. During certain times of the year, you will be treated to thousands of songbirds, owls and hawks in their migrations.
The five-mile trek is steep but well worth it for the view. If you are hesitant about a long, steep ride, about halfway up, the road forks and can take you back down toward Harris Ranch and a few shorter trails and tracks.
The Idaho City area offers many excellent ride options as well. If you like dirt roads and want to make a day out of things, you can venture out Grimes Creek, Clear Creek, or head toward Placerville and Garden Valley. If you are a single-track fiend, check out the old Idaho City Excellent Adventure race course, which starts and finishes in town near the U.S. Forest Service airport.
For longer weekend tours, you can't go wrong with the Weiser River Trail, Silver City, the Hot Springs Country surrounding Garden Valley and Boiling Springs, or the South, Middle and North Forks of the Boise River between Atlanta, Mores Creek Summit and Anderson Ranch Dam.
Always pick up a map before hitting the trail or road, and pack for flats and mechanical failures, especially in the more remote locations. If going solo, always let someone know where you are heading and make sure you check the forecast and trail conditions before heading out.