Off the Beaten Path: Summer Alternatives to Skip the Crowds 

Insider tips for summer escapes

If recent temperatures pushing three digits, talks of the wildfire season and warnings of the impending drought haven't tipped you off yet, consider this your official heads up: summer is upon us.

Before you know it, kids will be out of school, you'll be trying to figure out if shorts are proper work attire and the hum of air conditioning units will fill the air. And while summers in Boise are lingering affairs, if you're not careful, another one will pass you by before you get a chance to appreciate the season.

While your instinct might be to rush out to everyone's favorite summer standbys, slow down. Sure, hitting the Boise River, heading to an Outlaw Field concert or taking in the latest summer blockbuster are appealing, but there are alternatives to fighting the crowds of people who have all come up with the same idea.

For our annual Summer Guide issue, we here at Boise Weekly have created a list of seasonal activities that are a little more out there, so to speak. Whether you're looking to escape the city, hear some music or have an adventure, there are plenty of options if you're willing to broaden your horizons.

Usually, giving away secret spots is grounds for capital punishment among groups of friends or family, but we've decided to risk it. This is by no means a complete list, but it's a good starting point for exploring more of this Boise summer.

--Deanna Darr

Deadwood Lookout

First the good news: We're about to share one of our favorite camping hideaways, less than one hour away from downtown Boise. Now the bad news: You're out of luck if you want to stay there in 2013--it's completely booked.

We must admit to some serious reluctance to tell you about this one, because it will make it all the more difficult to grab a 2014 reservation, but you can keep a secret, can't you?

Perched high atop Idaho County's Deadwood Mountain is Deadwood Lookout cabin, built in 1934 and refurbished--several times--over the decades into a 360-degree glass enclosure, providing an awe-inspiring panorama at an elevation of 8,200 feet.

The 14-by-14-foot, one-room cabin was built to serve as a fire lookout but has been open to the public since the 1970s, although visitors need to remember it can still be reclaimed by the Emmet Ranger District at the last minute.

Deadwood Lookout is available from late June through mid-October, so make your reservation early for the next year's season through recreation.gov.

One of the highlights of staying at Deadwood is reading the entries of a diary that visitors have filled over the years with some pretty bizarre tales of massive thunderstorms that rocked the mountain--more than a few read like a last will and testament but be assured, everyone has survived to tell the tale of the night they spent on Deadwood.

To get there, take Highway 55 to Banks, make a right on Banks-Lowman Road and turn off Forest Road 555, leading you on a rather perilous drive up the mountain. Don't think about visiting without a reservation though. About halfway up the mountain there's a gate, restricting access to guests with a secret code--good luck turning around. Once you're past the gate, you can drive right up to the cabin.

But keep your eye on the road, dumbass, no matter how spectacular the view.

--George Prentice

Cableboarding

When the heat of summer sets in and you are soaked in sweat, there's only one reasonable thing to do: Get thee to a watersport.

The most obvious thing to do is catch the bus from Julia Davis Park and plop your keister into an inner tube on the Boise River. One problem: Your keister may well emerge with frostbite by the end of the trip. Same problem if you head out to Lucky Peak Reservoir to go boating.

But if you want warmer water, and something a little more athletic, the place to get thee to may well be in Caldwell. Wake Central Cable Park in Caldwell, to be specific.

The 5-foot-deep man-made lake dug out of a gravel pit isn't the most scenic water facility around, but the water is pleasantly warm and cableboarding is a great way to spend a summer day.

For the uninitiated, cableboarding is wakeboarding, but without a boat. Two high towers stand at either edge of the football field-sized lake with motors working a tow rope on pulleys. The ropes then haul wakeboarders back and forth across the lake. When boarders reach one end, they simply lean back into a carve and ride back in the other direction.

There are jump and grind boxes that experienced riders can huck off of, but it's a great place for those new to the sport, as well, because the high angle of the tow rope naturally pulls a rider to their feet, making it easier for newbies to learn.

But cableboarding is not only easier than wakeboarding, it's much, much cheaper. A trip to Wake Central will set you back roughly $26, which includes equipment rental--far, far less than the cost of a powerboat and a trailer to haul it. You can also get multiple-trip passes, lessons or rent the whole facility out for a party.

But hey, if you prefer getting frostbite on a crowded river surrounded by students from Boise State University hollering, "take off your shirt," then by all means, carry on. But we'll be spending our days shredding in Caldwell.

Get more info at wakecentralboise.com

--Josh Gross

Drive In Movies

The list is heartbreaking. Boise Drive-in: closed. Broadway Drive-in: closed. Meridian Drive-in: closed. Of the 40 once-thriving Idaho drive-in movie theaters, three out of every four are now lonely parking lots.

Once upon a time, there were more than 4,000 drive-ins in the United States. As of March, there were 357, 10 of them in Idaho.

The Gem State still has more outdoor screens than Nevada (two), Oregon (four) and Washington (six). But by this time next year, the number of drive-ins is expected to drop even further since Hollywood's major studios have decided not to produce any more 33-millimeter films, opting instead to shift to digital. Since most of the drive-ins in Idaho--and across America--only have projectors that can show 33-mm, this summer may see the last picture show at scores of outdoor venues that are seminal summer destinations.

But there is a happy ending at the Parma Motor-Vu off of U.S. 95, which has showcased everything from Mary Poppins to Harry Potter for more than 60 years. In fact, the Parma Motor-Vu, which owner Karen Cornwell calls her "pride and joy," has recently installed digital projection equipment, allowing her to show all of the latest releases.

"I recall my own children growing up out here," said Cornwell, who now has six grandchildren helping out at the snack bar and at the admission booth.

They all hope to live happily ever after, with many sequels to come.

--George Prentice

Eagle Bike Park

While Boise has assumed a more urban facade, the capital city and its Ada County neighbors have remained protective of their access to the outdoors. Downtown development aside, the Treasure Valley is still a place where residents treasure their outdoor recreation, whether it be fishing in the middle of town or hitting the trails out your back door.

While the Ridge to Rivers trail system crisscrossing the Foothills is a popular escape, the mountain bike trails and amenities at the Eagle Bike Park are a little less known.

The park is a haven for bikers, and its close association with the city of Eagle--it sits within the Eagle Sports Complex--means it's one of the few bike parks in the nation that is free to the public.

Here are the specs: The park includes a terrain park featuring 8-foot drops, a pump track, a dual slalom course and a 3.25-mile downhill course. Its extensive single-track trail system combines six miles of cross-country terrain and an additional five miles of trails uphill from Dry Creek Cemetery, all running through picturesque hilly, high desert country populated by songbirds, sage and wildflowers.

Home to numerous mountain biking activities, the park has hosted Whip Off events, open houses, bike parts swaps and races, including the Idaho State Cyclocross Championships.

Keeping the terrain up-to-date and well maintained is the Boise Area Mountain Bike Association, which works closely with the city of Eagle to realize the group's vision for the park. Since its inception in 2010, it has focused thousands of volunteer hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure a lease from Ada County for the lands on which the park rests, organize and promote events, and keep the trails looking good.

--Harrison Berry

Disc Golf

It's said that golf is the best way to ruin a nice walk in the park. Considering how crowded the courses at Ann Morrison and Julia Davis parks can get during summer, the same can be said of disc golf.

But there's no reason you have to spend your peaceful summer day of relaxation swearing under your breath for the party of 28 with zero aim to clear the next hole as you wipe goose poop off your flip flops. Instead, you can spend it clutching your chest and gasping for breath as you bushwhack up a mountain to the next hole, which is as wide open as the Idaho skyline.

Boise's least centrally located but most worth-the-effort disc golf course is located smack at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area.

Beginning at the condos at the upper lodge, the 18-hole course has two nine-hole loops that wind through the woods and ski runs for a lengthy and challenging game that is a scenic delight.

The course is open from June-October and has bathrooms available at the Pioneer Lodge, as well as camping available at Shafer Butte should your game run a little longer than you planned.

Depending on your score, disc golf at Bogus Basin may still turn out to be the best way to ruin your nice death march through the wilderness. But at least you'll be able to proceed at your own pace without the risk of stepping in goose poop. Just watch out for bears.

--Josh Gross

The Springs at Idaho City

Hot springs seem to bubble forth from every nook and cranny across Idaho's mountainous landscape. But pools differ most in amenities, with the no-frills Skinny Dipper Hot Springs providing a much different experience than resort-style springs.

Falling firmly in the latter category is posh hideaway The Springs at Idaho City. Located approximately 40 miles from Boise, the newly renovated resort offers a relaxing soaking experience year-round.

Dip into a main 40-by-80-foot pool, heated to 104 degrees Fahrenheit in winter and 85 degrees in summer. A nearby 16-foot soaking tub is warmed to more than 100 degrees. There's also a water deck spouting jets of cooler water to escape summer temperatures. In winter, the 20-foot deck surrounding the main pool is heated by the same natural hot springs that feed the pools themselves.

The pools are complemented by spa amenities and a steam room, with casual meals and adult beverages available on-site.

Those creature comforts are far different from the site's humble, historic roots. Originally a stopoff during Idaho's early gold rushes, the property offered a place for miners to thaw out as The Warm Springs Baths. Bathers started taking advantage of the waters as far back as 1862--long before Idaho achieved statehood.

After demolishing the long-standing home adjacent to the pool, new owners initiated an extensive process of renovations, including reforesting parts of the property and construction of a new facility where the springs' original wood structures stood. Owner JP Properties Idaho City, LLC reopened the resort as The Springs in February, transforming the property into a swanky getaway.

Reservations are necessary to ensure a spot at the popular resort--and the new policy makes sure the pool is never overcrowded. Check the website, thespringsid.com, for hours and schedules for the regular adults-only hours.

--Andrew Crisp

Great Garden Escape Concert Series

While the Idaho Botanical Garden is synonymous with big summer music events like the Outlaw Concert Series, its smaller, weekly Garden Escape series is one of the best-kept secrets in town when it comes to outdoor music.

The Outlaw Concert Series draws thousands to the Garden for big-name national artists throughout the summer, but the smaller weekly Garden Escape series is a low-key alternative, where audiences sit within the garden, picnic and listen to largely local musicians in an intimate setting.

Every Thursday night from June through September, IBG hosts evening concerts in the Meditation Garden near the center courtyard. Audiences spread their blankets and open their low-backed chairs to enjoy wine and a picnic dinner while the band plays on--offering everything from classic rock and blues to country and big band over the course of the summer.

Those who come straight from work can buy dinner from Willowcreek Grill, which will be on hand each week with food, wine and beer.

This summer, concerts begin on Thursday, June 20, with Pilot Error and run through Thursday, Sept. 19. Artists scheduled to perform during the season include Hillfolk Noir, Blaze and Kelly, Steve Eaton, Poke, Douglas Cameron, Boise Straight Ahead and the Fabulous Chancellors.

Regardless of who's playing that night, concerts inevitably end up in an impromptu dance party, with people of all ages showing off their moves. And while alcohol is available, this is an all-ages event.

Admission is separate from standard IBG admission (the garden stops taking regular admission at 4 p.m. on concert days) and costs $7 for IBG members, $10 general, $6 for kids ages 5-12 or free for kids younger than 5.

Advance tickets are available online, but most concertgoers wait to buy them at the gate.

Check out the full list of performers online at idahobotanicalgarden.org.

--Deanna Darr

Greenbelt Bars

Biking the Greenbelt in the thick of summer is more work than it seems. Cyclists have to dodge dawdling dogs, super-sized strollers and colossal cracks in the pavement, all while navigating a thick cloud of mosquitoes and mopping up the rivulets of sweat streaming from under their helmets. Hard work like that deserves a reward. A cold, frothy reward.

Here's Boise Weekly's ideal Saturday afternoon Greenbelt bike ride/bar crawl that's equal parts sweat on your forehead and sweat beading down the side of your glass.

While you're still presentable, start the afternoon off at Cottonwood Grill's happy hour, which runs from 3-6 p.m. and offers $3 wells, house wines and Payette Pale Ale or Mutton Buster Brown. Cottonwood's patio is a perfect shady respite to gather energy for the hazy afternoon ahead.

Meander back to the Greenbelt and head west for a long stretch. Cross the bridge at Main Street to the opposite side of the Boise River and hitch your ride outside the Riverside Hotel's Sandbar Patio Bar and Grill for a refreshing libation under a sea of cooling misters.

Get back on the Greenbelt heading west, cross over the 36th Street Pedestrian Bridge and continue heading west. Pass through Veteran's Memorial Parkway and exit on Lander Street, which will spit you out at the State Street staple, The Lift. Settle into a seat on The Lift's grapevine shaded patio and partake in a cold brew or two.

After your spirits have been Lifted, make your way back to the Greenbelt for a short spell before veering off onto Lakeharbor Lane. Pedal around the pond to The Drink, a complex featuring a sports bar, an Irish pub and a lakefront Tiki bar, where you can sip a fruity cocktail under a grass-lined bar floating on the water.

Once you've had your fill at The Drink, saddle up your two-wheeled steed and pedal along the Greenbelt to Les Bois Park, where you can top off your booze-fueled afternoon with another vice: gambling. Gates open at 4 p.m. and races start at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

--Tara Morgan

Silver City

If 2013 has a theme word, it would be the challenging-to-pronounce "sesquicentennial." Between the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Idaho Territory and Boise's 150th birthday, all eyes have been turning to the past this year.

But understanding what life was like in the early days of Idaho doesn't have to be limited to historic photos. Less than two hours from the Treasure Valley is a living, breathing history lesson: Silver City. It's a place where time may not have stopped, but it certainly took a vacation.

The historic mining town in the Owyhee Mountains was once one of the busiest places in Idaho, back when the silver mining industry was booming in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But when the mines dried up, so did the town. Unlike many other mining towns, Silver City managed to hang on--but only just.

Only a few hardy souls remain in Silver City, and most are summer-only residents who operate a handful of stores and museums. Visitors who tackle the dirt road south of Murphy can check out the remaining original buildings and ponder how the Idaho Hotel is still standing. The hotel is open during the summer for those looking for rustic accommodations.

Sinker Creek Outfitters offers horseback tours of the town, but for those willing to do a little exploring on their own, there's plenty to find in them thar hills. Follow the slag heaps to find abandoned mines and ramshackle houses that are slowly dissolving into the ground--just be careful, abandoned mines and holes in the ground are not a place to wander without paying close attention.

Camping is the lodging of choice for most overnight visitors, and there's plenty of public land for those who want to pitch a tent. OHVs (off-highway vehicles) and motorcycles buzz many of the back roads, but there's still plenty of room for exploration.

Find out more about Silver City offerings--as well as when the road opens for the season--at historicsilvercityidaho.com.

--Deanna Darr

Urban Foraging

Currants, plums, lavender, blackberries, rose hips, miner's lettuce, rosemary. Those are just a few wild edibles that dot the Boise map at fallingfruit.org, a comprehensive website that compiles maps from foragers nationwide.

The Boise Urban Foraging guide is a treasure trove for those seeking to collect some of nature's forgotten bounty during the fertile summer season.

Though most urban foragers will give you a smirk and a shrug when you ask about their favorite places to pluck plump blackberries from a thorny bramble or fill a basket with tiny, tart plums, fallingfruit.org features little red dots marking spots where you can collect these edible treats.

If you're new to the foraging foray and want to sleuth out your own spots, the Boise River is a good place to start exploring. Tiny black and red currants line the banks of the river early in the season, which then give way to wild plums and eventually blackberries as the summer rolls on.

And if you find something that's not on the map, share the info at fallingfruit.org, which is open for anyone to edit.

As it says on Falling Fruit's website: "Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained sidewalks and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food."

--Tara Morgan

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