The One Where the Cleggs Try to Take a Hike

This weekend, Zach and I talked about it and decided it would be a good idea to go for a drive, get out of town, find a nice trail somewhere for an easy hike.

It sounded like such a good idea at the time.

North Fork of the Boise River, at Short Creek Trail head

We didn’t want to go to any of the foothills trails in Boise because we’d heard how crowded they’ve been lately with people trying to get outside more. We’re still practicing social distancing and didn’t want to add to deal with the crowds or having to wear masks. Zach has a book, The Hiker’s Guide: Best Easy Hikes Greater Boise, that told of an easy hike not far from Idaho City called Short Creek Trail. What the book described was not exactly reality.

Eleanor’s happy place is the outdoors.
Zoey won’t admit it, but she’s always happy after some time outdoors too.

After an hour long drive to Idaho City, we had to proceed another eighteen miles on a dirt forest road. This road wasn’t in too bad of shape, pothole-wise, but it was narrow, and there were a lot of big trucks and campers coming back down it at speeds well above the 15 mph limit. Did I mention the frequent switchbacks with blind curves? I did spot what I believe was a Yellow Warbler flying along parallel to the road for a moment. This was exciting for me, as one of the things I was looking forward to the most with this hike was exploring my budding ornithology hobby. Finally, we spotted a small sign on the side of the road marking the start of the trail. There was just enough of a shoulder to park one vehicle, which we used.

The trail goes parallel along the north fork of the Boise river, in the Boise National Forest. The book mentioned that there was a lot of “up and down” but that the overall elevation gain was very small and the trail was only a mile long. It gave it an easy rating. What it did not mention was this: those ups and downs were quite steep. The actual trail is very narrow (only about one foot in some places, otherwise eighteen to twenty-four inches) and right on the edge of steep cliff leading directly down to large boulders and the Boise river.

Zach coming back up after going down the side of the cliff toward the river to rescue the sunglasses that fell off my head when I was trying to take some pictures. You can see exactly how narrow and literally on the edge of a steep cliff the trail is.

We got about fifty yards down the trail, where it dead-ended at a creek feeding into the Boise river. When I say “creek” I mean it was about fifteen feet across, looked to be up to two feet deep in places, and was flowing very swiftly. No sign of any sort of bridge ever having existed at any point in time (and indeed, no signs of any type). Okay, now what? That was a long drive for a very short hike!

Just before the watery dead-end, there’s an offshoot of the trail that goes about fifteen feet, over a downed tree until, at the end of it, there’s a fallen tree that crosses the creek. Now, this tree does not just lie straight across the water. No, it is wasting away in a “V” shape, requiring one to first walk downhill nearly into the water before then going back uphill in order to get across. Oh, did I mention the near end of it was also swarming with fire ants? And that we had with us a newly-two-years-old toddler and a five-year-old with balance and coordination issues? Spoiler: we decided to cross it anyway.

Where Alden is standing is the beginning of the fire-ant-covered log bridge

Somehow, we managed to make it across without anyone falling in the Boise river (although Eleanor had a rather alarming wobble as she first started across). We then hiked for nearly the whole length of the narrow, up and down trail. The river was beautiful, and we saw several varieties of wildflowers, but surprisingly few birds. The biggest highlight was the osprey we spotted several times, eventually even finding it’s nest. There were also wild strawberry plants flowering along the sides of the trail. Zach and Zoey both spotted a lizard at some point. Alden found a small bird’s nest.

Then Zach shouted, “Alden! Hold still!” and frantically removed a large TICK from his HEAD. I would like to interject here that, while I know there are ticks in Washington, I spent my entire childhood, adolescence and young adulthood going on frequent and sometimes prolonged camping trips, involving many hours out in the woods, hiking and playing, yet never once before this day had I ever so much as seen a tick. Now here we were, on our first real Idaho hike, and there were ticks. On my children. At this point, yes, I did make the obligatory “corona with lyme” joke as I tried not to lose my ever-loving mind and disintegrate under the crushing anxiety. By the end of the hike we had removed at least five or six ticks from Alden, Eleanor and Dinah’s heads and were frequently scratching our own heads in paranoia.

osprey preparing for takeoff

On the hike back, we saw the osprey several more times, witnessed a bird that I suspect was a ring-billed gull glide quickly along over the river, and spotted a likely spotted sandpiper across the river. I got a couple semi-decent photos of the osprey. By the time we returned to the van, we were all hot and worn out and grateful for our seats. We made the return trip down the windy, bumpy, narrow dirt road (spotting a Ruffed Grouse along the side of the road!) and stopped at the head of it to use the disgusting toilets provided there (good thing I take baby wipes everywhere, because there was no toilet paper of course).

Dinah found a “walking stick” and was plodding along at the world’s slowest pace with it, like a tiny old lady with a cane, until we could convince her to give it up.

The adventure didn’t stop there, though! Oh no! Dinah had been fussing quite a bit while we made our way down the forest road, which we chalked up to her being overly tired. She’d had only a forty-five minute nap in the van on our way out, and had woken up earlier than usual that morning. Within minutes of getting on the highway, though, she really started complaining. Begging us over and over, “Down! Me down! Please! Pleeeeease!” She was crying and inconsolable. I tried distracting her with snacks and toys but nothing was working. I was about to resign myself to having to listen to her fuss the whole way home when a thought struck me, that I verbalized out loud to Zach, “I wonder if Dinah gets carsick.” I kid you not, within less than one minute of this statement, Dinah vomited all over herself in the car seat. Zach pulled over at a viewpoint pullout and we commenced cleaning up the vomit as best we could with baby wipes and paper towels. We’ve known Zoey gets car sick since she was about eighteen months old and we went through a similar experience on the road in southern California for my cousin’s wedding (oh the fun vacation memories of trying to wash vomit out of a car seat cushion in the hotel bath tub and then laying it over the air conditioning unit to try to dry it). Ever since then, we’ve carried children’s dramamine tablets in the car with us and give her one before long or windy car rides. We got Dinah to chew up one of the tablets so it could start working while we were cleaning up her seat.

It was at this point that we saw the bald eagle and osprey sparring with each other directly over our heads. Never mind the children on the edge of the dangerous cliff, get me my camera! I got a few terrible photos of the eagle (I didn’t have time to adjust any settings and the lens was dirty from the cap falling off into the dirt earlier), but I was feeling much more satisfied with our trip all of a sudden. We had seen the one bird we had really been hoping for! And all because Dinah puked!

Terrible photo of the bald eagle, directly over our heads

Our bird watching and cleaning allowed sufficient time for the medicine to start working for Dinah, and we had an uneventful rest of our trip back. We stopped for fast food for our late dinner and, after eating, Zach took Alden and Dinah upstairs for a quick bath and final tick-check. Zoey and Eleanor grabbed their towels and robes and were going to get a shower in the downstairs guest bathroom so that they could quickly progress to watching the Taylor Swift concert that had aired earlier in the day (thank goodness for TiVo).

Enter: the next adventure. After our 6.4 earthquake a couple weeks ago, we had been inspecting the house for any damage and I had noticed a crack – almost more of a bulge – in the living room ceiling, in the corner above our TV. The corner directly below the kids’ bathroom. The past week, I’d been having a lot of trouble with the tub not draining properly.

I went upstairs for something – I don’t even remember what or why now – and came back down to find Zoey standing on the coffee table under the TV, holding her towel against the ceiling and telling me, “Mom! The roof is leaking!” Her quick thinking probably saved our electronics and DVD collection. We quickly determined that is was the drain from the kid’s bathtub. I sent the girls to go shower in the master bathroom while Zach opened up a hole in the ceiling to find the source and I got Alden and Dinah into bed. I then had to empty the tub by lugging buckets of the water to the master bathtub.

By the time we got the leak controlled, the tub emptied, and the kids all in bed (no concert for the girls, they had to settle for watching it the next day), we were exhausted. But I still had to clean vomit out of the car seat, which led to also vacuuming out the van full of trash and abandoned food scraps (kids are gross, y’all).

So that’s what happens when we try to plan a nice family outing. Honestly, I’m not even sure how I feel about the day at this point. On one hand, so much stress and exhaustion, both physically and mentally. On the other hand, the river and wildflowers were really beautiful, there wasn’t another person in sight besides our family, and I saw several new birds I have never seen before. And a bald eagle! I think I’m gonna call it a wash. And now I’m going to go have another glass of wine because just reliving it all while writing about it is wearing me out!

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