Getting to the trail can be the toughest part

If you don’t know us well or haven’t heard, John and I are now coworkers in Boise, ID.  We were both sick of our previous jobs and wanted a different lifestyle than what we had in Silicon Valley.  

Before moving to Boise, our new employer flew us out for a 5 day home-finding trip.    After flying into Boise a 9:30 am on Saturday, John and I decided to place an offer on a house 6 hours later.  It felt as crazy at that sounds, but we’d already been to Boise on two prior visits, so our area of interest was pretty defined.  When the offer was accepted and settled by Monday afternoon, when had several days left to explore.  

One edge of Boise sits next to high-desert foothills and there is a ski resort 30 minutes from downtown, but for true mountains, the locals trek a couple hours north to Lakes Cascade and McCall, or three hours east to Sun Valley.  With a few trail recommendations from my new manager and a guidebook, we set aside one day for a trip to McCall.  When we woke up that morning, Boise was 95 and sunny, but McCall was predicted to be 60 with intermittent thunderstorms.  I had packed a couple of light-weight base layers, but John didn’t pack anything but t-shirts.  There was discussion of getting John a base layer in Boise, but due to laziness and the shear number of jackets and base layers at home, we didn’t bother.  

A great thing about living in a state with 1.5 million people: heavy traffic does not exist, and sections of highway are 75 mph.  Most of the drive was a bit slower because it follows a winding route along a river, but it was really beautiful.  Outside of Lake Cascade, the sky became really dark and it started to rain, but we decided to continue on to McCall to check out the town and food recommendations from my manager.  The rain was starting to subside once we reached McCall, but at 5000 ft, it was 45 degrees out and John still didn’t have proper clothes.  We wandered into a few hiking/biking stores in town, but we couldn’t find anything on sale.  That was when we discovered the thrift store.  All proceeds went to the local pet shelter, making the decision to look inside even better.  John scored a women’s Adidas jacket for $4.50. After stopping at a recommended coffee shop, we were ready to find a trailhead. 

We drove south of McCall and found the dirt road that would take us 7 miles to the trailhead.  Initially the single-lane road was flat and driving over the dirt didn’t feel unstable.   About 2 miles in, that quickly changed.  One side of the road dropped off 10 feet, the road began to roll up and down, the mud became worse, and John had to navigate turns.  The rental car, a Hyundai Elantra, began to to slide and the anti-lock brakes engaged.  I didn’t feel my life was in danger, but I really didn’t want to call our new employer and explain why we needed a tow truck and how we caused extensive damage to the car.  I’m guessing they would have questioned our judgement.  Thankfully, a turn around opened up, and John was able to get us back to paved surfaces.  

It was only midday and this part of Idaho has sunlight until 9:45 pm in midsummer.  We weren’t ready to give up on hiking yet.   I browsed the guidebook until I found an appealing trail on a “well-maintained” access road.  A few miles north of the town center, I heard John mumble “Shit, I think I’m going to get pulled over.”  We’ve been told the $85 ticket from a McCall speed trap is part of becoming a Boise resident.  Yippee.  

Eventually we did make it to the gravel access road, but a mile short of the trailhead, the Hydundai was stopped by a downed tree.  The road was wide enough to turn around and park on one side of the road.  No problem, maybe it just went down in the recent storms, although I didn’t smell freshly broken wood.   At the 4th downed tree, I began to question how often “maintenance” occurs.  That said, the BLM and other Idaho agencies have a lot of ground to cover: there is more public land in Idaho than any other state in the lower 48.  There were 50+ trails in our McCall/Cascade guidebook.


Here is the Hyundai parked on the side of the road.  I’m sure Hertz had fun washing it off.  The view of snow capped peaks was amazing even from the access road.   Just 2.5 hours north of Boise, and we had completely left 90 degree heat and brown foothills we’d been running in the day before.   

John and I had become very soft living in the Bay Area and never escaping work to into the Sierra.  We didn’t account for the weather change in the mountains, and we’d also forgotten that late June means melting snow.  A few feet in from the trailhead, the trail had become a mountain stream.   We picked our way through rocks and drenched grassy areas until we almost lost the trail entirely at one point.  I was concerned about my feet getting wet in the cold weather, but 50 feet later, the trail turned, went uphill, and no longer served as a stream.  Our hike was cut short of the intended peak due to another storm system rolling in, but we made it to a saddle was a great view of peaks all around us.  Our first trip into the Idaho mountains was well worth the time, thrift store jacket, anti-lock brake testing, and $85 speeding ticket.


 Blue skies here, but it didn’t look good on the other side. 



2 thoughts on “Getting to the trail can be the toughest part

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