Q: My wife and I have never seen Hells Canyon, and as avid hikers, want to hike some of the trails there.
Yet everything, and I mean everything, I have read on hiking there mentions rattlesnakes, which I am terrified of encountering.
Is the chance of an encounter with a rattlesnake that common, or is it more something to be aware of?
Any favorite trail there of yours?
JOHN DREW, via email
A: Ive hiked and rafted Hells Canyon lots of times in the spring and fall and I only heard a rattlesnake once. I dont recall ever seeing one.
I was standing on a rock scouting some rapids when I heard a buzz. The fact that I could hear it over the sounds of the rapids meant it was pretty close.
I flew off the rock and back onto the trail. Never saw the snake.
By being careful and alert, your chances of meeting up with a rattler are fairly slim. They want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them.
You can avoid rattlers by looking well ahead down the trail. They like being on a warm rock or trail when the mornings still cool.
Dont go looking in piles of rocks or wood.
Step onto logs and rocks, not over them they may be under the edges of logs or rocks in the shade.
On hot days, be careful in shady, wet areas along the river. Dont go bushwhacking.
On warm nights, dont go walking too far from camp in the dark when nature calls.
By the way, my wife and I love hiking Hells Canyon in late February and in March.
We like that time of the year because the rattlers and ticks are not out and the poison ivy hasnt leafed out yet.
The temperatures are pleasant in the 50s and 60s during the day and around 35 to 40 at night.
My favorite trails include the 6-mile trail from Pittsburg Landing to Kirkwood Ranch. The historic ranch, operated by the U.S. Forest Service, is a neat place to base camp and hike up and down the canyon.
You get there by heading up U.S. 95 to just before White Bird and taking the Pittsburg Landing Road (Deer Creek) over to Hells Canyon.
The trail goes from the Upper Pittsburg Landing trailhead upriver on the Idaho side of the Snake River to the ranch.
An easier hike in spring is the mile-long trail on the Oregon side of the Snake River below Hells Canyon Dam.
Its an easy day hike. You get there by driving Idaho 71 out of Cambridge and following the road past all the reservoirs to Hells Canyon Dam.
OK, there are plenty of rattlesnakes in Hells Canyon, but your best bet for avoiding them is to do early spring hikes.
WARM LAKE MOOSE
Q: Twenty years ago, I was lucky enough to get a cabin in Paradise Valley at Warm Lake.
We used to see many moose and babies during the summer and winter. It has been 5 years now without a sighting. Can you tell me what happened to our amazing moose population? Is the reduction in population directly related to the reintroduction of the Canadian wolf?
JACKIE MEYER, via email
A: I checked with Idaho Fish and Game on this and heres what biologists in the Wildlife Bureau had to say.
The moose population at Warm Lake was not high enough to begin with because it lies on the fringe of good moose habitat that is found north of the Salmon River.
However, there were enough moose in the area for the F&G to offer some hunting permits.
The agency recently closed moose hunting in the areas due to a remarkable decrease in moose sightings and sign. So, youre observations are right. Biologists said this does coincide with the establishment of wolf packs in the area, but there is not concrete evidence to support that conclusion.
SKI AREA HUNTING
Q: I was hiking up at the Shafer Butte area near the Superior and Bitterroot chairlifts. What are the rules for hunting inside the ski area?
M.J., via email
A: Most of Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area is on U.S. Forest Service land in the Boise National Forest.
Folks I talked with at the Forest Service said there are no restrictions on fall hunting in the Bogus Basin special-use permit area.
There is a federal law regarding the safe discharge of a firearm around buildings, campsites, roads or other developments.
If you are planning to hunt around the ski area youll want to be very sure of where your bullet or shot is traveling. You dont want to damage chairlifts, buildings or other equipment in the area.
You also need to realize that people are hiking and mountain biking in the area.
By the way, the base area is privately owned by Bogus Basin and off limits.
WEAR A LIFE VEST
Hey Zimo! Thanks for your articles this summer on the importance of wearing the right boating/surfing gear.
As longtime canoeists on flatwater, whitewater and on expeditions, we respect the need to wear it. Its like putting on a seatbelt; we just wouldnt feel right without it.
You might suggest a person try to put on and fasten a life jacket in deep water in a swimming pool or calm pond.
Its difficult. Then add an overturned boat and cold and turbulent water.
It may not be the law for those over 14 to wear a PFD, but its very risky not to.
JOHN AND ANNE OLDEN, via email
Hey Zimo! We stopped at Brownlee Campground off of Idaho 71 and found a nice arrangement of pine cones and moss on the picnic table with trash bags tucked under a rock.
It said, Welcome, by Regan.
Arent people nice?
KAYLA, via email
TAKE POOP BAGS HOME
Hey Zimo! How about the dog walkers on the Boise Foothills trails who take doggy bags with them and then leave the bag and its contents on the trail for someone else to pick-up?
Who are these really classy people anyway?
ROD MULDER, via email
Zimo Note: Im seeing more and more of this, too. They must think theres a Foothills Poop Ranger who spends all day going around picking up their poop bags.
Its not that hard to carry the bags to the nearest trash can.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors