Wild Greg and I have many things in common, but our sense of adventure is NOT one of them. On the ‘cautious-to-adventurous scale’, I fall well toward the cautious end, whereas he seems to intend to die in some happy accident. Still, I am convinced he would rather I not die a horrible death. Thus, knowing I will be taken care of, I often go off on excursions with him – like on the family’s second annual hike in the snow. Okay, okay. I didn’t go on the first one. I wanted to see how it went. But I went this year … after some coercion. The goal was to find The Crooked River Trail, supposedly off of Highway 21 in the Boise National Forest, somewhere beyond Idaho City. (click on any photo to enlarge) (see the video at the bottom for combo slide show/movies of the hike)
Daughter number 4, Natalie, had corroborated with Wild Greg on this destination for her 20th birthday celebration. They had a map and did not seem much concerned with the temperatures falling from a balmy 16°F in the valley to 9°F as we gained altitude. Natalie had invited older siblings and their spouses (knowing that some needed to stay home with tiny babies), and we ended up with a party of 7. As we began our drive, they all vacillated between encouraging me and teasing me that they had never abandoned more than a couple of people on previous desperate snow hikes…
To get to our destination, we traveled north on Highway 21, out of Boise, up through Idaho City, and beyond about 20 miles. There was barely any snow until we got past Idaho City; then there was a lot. They were following a forest service map (Boise National Forest). A couple of campgrounds shown on the map near Crooked River were spotted along the road. Things were looking hopeful. We took a short break at a snowmobile parking lot because it had a decent outhouse. It would be the last thing like civilization we would see for a few hours.
Everyone was excited when we saw a road sign clearly indicating Crooked River Trail at the next turn. We were deflated when we found the road blocked by 3 tall, packed snow barricades. It may have been from snow plowing the main road. The map indicated there would be a mile or more of road before the trail head, so Wild Greg took his bearings (I don’t have any), and kept driving. He hoped to intercept the trail at another point.
Up a ways more, there was another, unblocked side road. Still the snow was fairly new and compactable. Even in the 4 wheel drive Suburban, there was a feeling that we might get stuck at any moment. Wild Greg was not deterred. He was looking for parking, but the usual roadside options were not available due to snow filled ditches. Finally, he picked a spot that barely left room for another vehicle to pass. He cheerfully mumbled something about the Suburban possibly being stuck when we returned, and proceeded to lead us to the Beaver Creek Trail head. It was camouflaged by the abstraction of snow drifts. The trail itself was well covered with snow, but was partially marked by footprints of previous hikers, whom we never saw. I got the feeling I should have packed more snacks.
The Beaver Creek Trail was surprisingly easy to hike. In fact, we ran for a while. In spite of being snow covered, narrow, moderately slick, and prone to cave on the down side, it was actually pleasant. When Wild Greg and his occasional accomplice tested the ice over portions of the creek, I just focused on the trail ahead of me and kept walking. They stopped to play on logs criss-crossed across the creek at one picturesque mini-canyon. Natalie slipped off of her log and dipped a foot in the water. She said she didn’t get wet enough to get cold and Wild Greg made a no diving rule. We kept hiking out.
After about 45 minutes, we reached another road at the end of Beaver Creek Trail. The snow on the road was groomed, so someone apparently came out there once in a while. I wondered if we were done. I should have known better.
The rest of the gang, including Wild Greg, threw snow frisbees, made music on the large culvert pipe that went under the road, and examined ice designs under the ice of the creek bed. I sat and rested on a sunny rock and took some photos. Soon, Wild Greg signaled that we should all head a certain direction on the road. He was understandably proud of himself when, around the next bend about 20 feet along, we came upon a sign for entering the Crooked River Trail.
Crooked River was 3-4 times wider than Beaver Creek. I was relieved to see that no one was testing the ice on it. We could see the water flowing through some fissures in the snow, but it was down a steep embankment and it was difficult to tell where the water line was with the thick blanket of snow. The trail was much the same as the previous and the sun made the snow sparkle. I was staying warm, even my nose, so I didn’t register any complaints.
When we came to a crossroads type of trail sign, indicating trails in a few directions, this seemed to stimulate a desire for some off-trail exploration. Without consulting me, they all started trekking up a random steep hill. Really, I’m only using the word ‘steep’ where it is appropriate. There were no footprints on this hill, except theirs that I was following. They got quite a ways ahead of me. I wondered if there were any packs of hungry wolves around.
They all rested at the top while I literally crawled up the side of the mountain. I was feeling for traction with my feet and grabbing any bush or embedded rock I could with my hands. A couple of kids came down to give me pointers, then scampered back up the incline like rabbits. The dog came to check on me, being a herding dog, but everyone yelled at her since she has a history of sending me flying on hikes. This time she only nuzzled me.
Another peak beckoned them all. I didn’t hear it call, but they did. I followed out of a strong desire to not be left alone or be labeled a spoil sport. Fortunately, the mountain top gave a level view of another mountain top across the way. Wild Greg expressed satisfaction at the height achieved.
I gazed apprehensively down the mountain I had just climbed and realized that gravity would not necessarily be my friend. But, the next thing I knew, the rest of them were sliding down on their sitters. When the furrow was formed, I was invited to try it. Down I went, several of them spotting me at the end to make sure I stopped in a safe place. Of course, the kids were inspired to go up and down a few more times.
When we finally proceeded further down the mountain, to begin our return trip, there were a few more short slides. There were also a couple of narrow creeks to hop over. In the snow, it was hard to tell if I was jumping onto anything solid. A couple of kids hung back with me and the leaders checked on us once in a while.
As we re-entered the Beaver Creek Trail, it seemed like shadows were lengthening. I had really lost track of time. Knowing the sun can go down quickly in the mountains, I was determined to keep up a good pace, but my calf muscles were starting to cramp. However, we soon moved into more open areas where the sun was bright. All in all, I was doing well for having spent half of the previous month sleeping off the flu.
I was guardedly happy to reach the car, remembering that it might be stuck. We all piled in, but after a couple of maneuvers, we all piled out again. I was positioned in the driver’s seat, while every one of them found a point of contact with the front hood, except daughter number 5 who pushed on son number 2. With the gears in reverse, I gently pushed on the gas pedal as they all heaved with every ounce of strength. Not a budge. Three more tries and we finally got traction. I managed to brake before backing into the snow on the other side of the road. They all got back in and discussed the statistical probability of that having succeeded.
Wild Greg took over the driving again. I begged him for a cheeseburger. We found Donna’s Place in Idaho City, which gave excellent service, yummy burgers, good chicken, fries, and onion rings in spite of it being 3:30 PM. Nice ending to a not overly stressful adventure. Would I do it all again? Oh, probably, if someone twists my arm.
(This video is on vimeo.com, but you can find other funfitnessafter50.com videos on youtube at: Fun Fitness After 50 on YouTube)