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Mountain Biking with a Smarter Dog
- Posted On
- Jul 21, 2015
- Yellowstone Activies
by Jerry Painter
Sunny is an old dog, but he knows some tricks.
He was following behind me as I rode my mountain bike down the Sidewinder trail on the southwest side of Kelly Mountain east of Ririe on Saturday.
This fun non-motorized trail switchbacks in long, serpentine fashion down the hillsides to keep the grade reasonable for up or downhill travel. I tried not to blast too fast down the trail. I didn’t want to lost him or discourage him. But each time I stopped to let him catch up, he was not far behind and on a couple of occasions, he was even ahead of me. Turns out he was cutting the switchbacks as if he were following me on a downhill ski run.
When he was younger, he would try to follow me exactly on the trail (and ski run) and would always be left behind. Older, slower legs call for smarter route finding and now he’s actually faster.
Saturday was the perfect time to be on the Sidewinder trail. With lots of clouds, the temperatures on the southwestern-facing trail were moderate. Normally, this would be a morning or evening ride during the heat of summer.
The trail is accessed from the Stinking Springs trailhead parking lot, less than a mile from the turn off the paved Heise Road on to the Snake River Road. There are two trails that start here, the Stinking Springs and Sidewinder trails. Both are about a little less than 3 miles long. Some bikers head up the Stinking Springs trail and return down the Sidewinder trail or go up the Sidewinder trail and back down the Sidewinder trail.
Going down Sidewinder is just plain fun – it’s what mountain bikes were made for. The Stinking Springs trail is a multi-use trail allowing motorized use. It’s probably a good trail to avoid if there’s heavy traffic.
These trails meet at the top of the mountain and connect into trails that follow along the ridge and into the northeast side roads and trails.
For a longer ride, some will start at the trailhead and ride back to the paved Kelly Canyon road and up to the ski resort, then to the top of the mountain via the service road, then down from the top via the Sidewinder Trail. This involves a lot of road travel which can be avoided by using a shuttle car.
So now we’re into the huckleberry picking season. Favorite areas to pick the tiny, tasty purple berries include the Kelly Canyon area for quick trips, the Big Hole and Snake River mountains for other hiking destinations, and of course the Tetons, Sawtooths and Wind River ranges for backpacking trips. These last destinations are usually more into August for ripe berries because of their higher elevation.
If you’re into decadent food treats on a hiking/backpacking outing, here’s one that my family has tried in the past with delicious results: Bring along some graham crackers (or other favorite cookie) and a small tub of whipped cream cheese. When you find a patch of berries (raspberries or huckleberries), pick a couple of handfuls. Smear the cookies with cream cheese and top with berries for a mouthful of fresh cheesecake. Your kids may never see backpacking the same way again.
While afternoon thundershowers in Idaho Falls may be a refreshing change of pace, they can be game-changers in the higher elevations. Last week’s storms dropped snow and hail in the Tetons – some of it turned into verglas ice on some of the rocky areas. The park service climbing rangers are recommending caution on some of the scrambling areas and climbing routes.
“Storms continue to roll through the Tetons creating and maintaining alpine conditions like snow, ice and verglas,” the park ranger notice said. “In periods of extended, unsettled weather such as we’re currently in, it’s important to continue studying the past, present and future weather conditions. What fell as rain or snow may quickly turn to verglas. What is iced up today could be dry tomorrow. Remember that rockfall hazard increases with precipitation. Keep an eye to the sky, stay mindful that conditions are constantly changing up high and come prepared for anything.”
Originally published in the Post Register on July 23rd 2015