Leave Custer Motorway and Yankee Fork a backcountry experience

The Land of the Yankee Fork State Park between Stanley and Challis is a really cool scenic drive rich in history, scenery, camping and fishing.

I had an opportunity to drive the Custer Motorway, a dirt road through the mountains between Challis and Sunbeam Dam, a couple of summers ago. It's way out there.

The area is part of the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is taking comments from the public to develop a master plan of the area. The plan will guide the agency in development and management of the area for the next 20 years.

Cool gift idea: Idaho state parks pass

Annual passports to Idaho’s State Parks are on sale now and make great holiday gifts.

The $25 Annual Idaho State Park Passport allows one vehicle and everyone in it unlimited day-use visits to all Idaho state parks through Dec. 31 of the sticker year. Second vehicle passports also are available.

A look at snow in the backcountry

WATCHING FOR EVERY BIT OF SNOW

As you know, Roger and I have been on a snow watch. Every bit of snow counts day by day.

Here's a Web site from Dr. Paul Collins, the Idaho Statesman's outdoors medical columnist. Paul's a backcountry pilot and clued us in on the Web cams at the Flying B and Root ranches way out in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness of Central Idaho.

Not much snow in the backcountry yet, just like at area ski resorts.

Check out the Web cams:

backcountry Web cams

A good year for salmon and steelhead

The 2008 dam counts at Lower Granite ended late last month, and it's a good time to review our anadromous fish runs. Lower Granite is located downstream from Lewiston and is the last dam the fish cross before reaching Idaho, and nearly all the fish counted at Lower Granite end up in Idaho.

We hear so much doom and gloom about Idaho's salmon and steelhead runs that sometimes it's good just to let the numbers speak for themselves.

Here are the 2008 totals.

Steelhead: 172,332
10-year average: 151,598
2008 wild steelhead (included in the total above) 42,823

Chinook: 89,384

Backcountry is getting a little bit of snow

OK, Roger started it. The snow watch. He started talking about snow and got me to wondering, too.

This is the time of the year, if you're a snowmobiler, skier or snowboarder, you're looking to the mountains.

When I looked out the window this morning and saw the rain I started wondering about the high country.

I checked out all my backcountry sources, and sadly, most areas didn't get much Tuesday.

Here's a glimpse:

Atlanta Summit, 7,580 feet, 1.5 inches new; 6.4 inches total.

Banner Summit (between Lowman and Stanley, 7,040 feet), .5 inches new, 6.7 inches total.

Ski areas are getting snow, I think

Brundage and Bogus are both reporting snow on their mountains. I'm not sure about Tamarack and Sun Valley. The information on their Websites is a little confusing.

Tamarack is showing a fogged in summit with some snow, but its temperature report is 36 degrees and it doesn't say if it's currently snowing. Sun Valley has a series of photos that show sunny, snowy and bare. Huh?

I was hoping to give you some one stop shopping for information whether this storm is bringing rain or snow to the resorts, especially since we're all eager to see some snow up there.

You can still go fishing

You may not be able to go skiing or snowshoeing, but you can still go fishing.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will stock 19,000 pan-sized rainbow trout in waters around southwest Idaho this month. Some of the best places for fishing are the Boise River, Eagle Island Pond, ParkCenter Pond and Wilson Springs Ponds.

Good fishing. Here are the details:

Boise River (Boise), 4,000.

Boise River (Eagle to Middleton), 3,000.

Caldwell Pond No. 2, 500.

Eagle Island Pond (Eagle), 1,000.

Marsing Pond, 500.

McDevitt Pond (Meridian), 500.

Merrill Park Pond (Eagle), 500.

2008 wolf mortality could double 2007 tally

According to Idaho Department of Fish and Game, 136 wolves are confirmed dead so far this year with still a month remaining, which compares with 77 dead wolves in 2007.

Most of the increase was in legal kills. Government hunters killed 87 wolves so far in 2008, and another 13 were legally killed by others under federal rules. Thirty-seven more died or were killed by other causes.

Lost again on the Snake River

Fog hit the Snake River again Sunday as we went out duck hunting.

We launched from the boat ramp, this time armed with GPS units, as we headed out into the foggy darkness. All was going well for about 10 minutes until we crashed into a bank, clogged the motor and drifted downstream and got lost. There were lots of weeds in the river that continually clogged the intake on the jet motor.

Luckily I had the boat ramp and our hunting spot programmed in the GPS units. We were able to find our way back to the boat ramp (almost full circle) and then to our hunting spot.

Mountains look strange this time of the year without snow

Snowless mountains.

It's pretty shocking to be at 5,000 feet in elevations in the mountains of western Idaho and find no snow on the ground in the last days in November. It's also shocking that they are probably going to look the same during the first days of December.

We were up in the mountains around Council Friday cutting our yule tree. The forest roads are frozen but snowless. I remember past holidays when we'd be in knee-deep snow looking for a trees. In fact, we'd have to park at the bottom of the hill and hike or cross-country ski in to get a tree. Not this year.

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