Outdoors Blog

Get an in-depth look at our three newest wilderness areas from ‘Outdoor Idaho’

Most Idahoans will never explore the three new wilderness areas created by Congress last year — despite their location right in the heart of our state. They’re just too remote.

So the crew of “Outdoor Idaho” set out to show people what’s in the White Clouds, Hemingway-Boulders and Jim McClure-Jerry Peak wilderness areas — and why Congressman Mike Simpson fought so hard to protect them — for a one-hour show that airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on Idaho Public Television. The title is “Beyond the White Clouds.” It won’t re-air in the next few weeks, so be sure to set your DVR if you want to see it.

Along the way, “Outdoor Idaho” crew members climbed Castle Peak in the White Clouds, Ryan Peak in the Boulders and Jerry Peak to the east of the Boulders.

The White Clouds are a popular recreation area, but most of the Hemingway-Boulders area is rarely visited and the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak area is even lesser known. The Jerry Peak area was protected largely because of its value to fish and wildlife.

I joined “Outdoor Idaho” for a four-day journey into the Hemingway-Boulders. We hiked across the wilderness area, spending three nights along West Pass Creek and one day climbing Ryan Peak (11,714 feet). I wrote about the experience in a series of blog posts. Here is the final installment, which contains links to the other stories.

(Our climb to the top of Ryan will be featured in this show. Above, you can watch part of my interview and some scenes from the climb.)

On our last day, we ran into a trio of hikers at West Pass who were on their way to climb Kent Peak. It was the first time that I saw a person who wasn’t part of our group on the trip.

“I love the solitude,” Hannah Beane of Ketchum said. “I feel like this is what the real Idaho is all about. ... You really feel like this wilderness is your own when you travel back here.”

All of us on the trip were amazed by the scenery in the Hemingway-Boulders — the view from the top of Ryan has to be among the best in the state — and the rugged terrain that makes much of the area inaccessible to the masses. Much of our hiking was done in areas with no visible trail. The hike from the Ketchum-area trailhead to West Pass — the stretch with the best trail — is 4.7 miles with 3,174 feet of elevation gain.

“Wow, this is big country,” Bruce Reichert, the host of “Outdoor Idaho,” said as we made our descent from West Pass toward Ketchum. “I don’t want to leave.”

(Rocky Barker took a trip into the White Clouds wilderness this past summer. Read about that here.)

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The Forest Service and BLM are seeking public comment on the draft wilderness management plans for the Hemingway-Boulders and White Clouds wilderness areas. A series of public open houses will be held Monday in Challis (5-7 p.m.), Tuesday in Stanley (noon-2 p.m.) and Tuesday in Ketchum (5-7 p.m.). Comments can be sent to comments-intermtn-sawtooth-nra@usda.gov or Sawtooth National Forest, 2647 Kimberly Road East, Twin Falls, Idaho 83301. It’s requested that comments arrive by Jan. 5.

Among the items included in the draft plan: Campfires would be banned above 9,000 feet, with limited exceptions.

City Club honors wilderness advocates

A little more than a year ago the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill became a symbol of how we can engage together and find solutions among people of many viewpoints. Honoring that accomplishment and spirit, the City Club of Boise is recognizing two of the partners who made that bill a reality after more than 40 years with City Club’s Stimpson Award for Civic Engagement.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and Idaho Conservation League Director Rick Johnson will receive the Stimpson award at a City Club lunch forum Dec. 9 at the Boise Centre. The two men will share the story of how they came together and how the bill creating 275,665 acres of new wilderness was finally passed unanimously and signed by President Obama.

For 2016, City Club is celebrating its 20-year history as an organization dedicated to promoting dialogue, practicing civil discourse and providing access to newsmakers. This year’s Stimpson Award and forum is the capstone event in the City Club’s yearlong Civility Project.

The lunch forum begins at 11:45 a.m. in the new fourth-floor east ballroom at the Boise Centre. Registration is required; deadline is noon, Wednesday, Dec. 7. To register, visit cityclubofboise.org.

Rocky Barker