This is the first in a weekly series on walking the local greenbelt trail. The greenbelt is definitely a local treasure with unlimited opportunities for exploration and enjoyment. Doing novel things near where I live is one of my creative travel strategies. This describes my experiences in my own area. If you live somewhere else, what local treasure/s can you explore and enjoy with your children to enrich your life and help satisfy your travel craving?
January 7: Well 2017 in Boise started out pretty rough and wild. Record setting snowfall. Day time temperatures as low as -5. School closed all week. Roads and parking lots barely passable in some places. The snow has been amazing and beautiful! But with the routine way out of whack, it’s taken until the last day of the week for me to get out there for a weekly walk on the greenbelt. We did squeak in there with week 1 of 52 though. Here’s what we discovered.
Veteran’s to Simplot, 1.4 mile loop
Front pack, jog stroller.
I do not recommend bikes and 4-wheeled strollers because a portion of the loop is unpaved. In other conditions a jog stroller may work on this trail, but with the snow accumulation this week, I would recommend front pack, or possibly a sled!
Getting there by car: From State Street head south on Veteran’s Memorial Parkway. Turn into the Veteran’s Memorial Park entrance, but rather than veering left towards the playground, turn right (technically N. Stilson Rd) into the parking lot near a copse of trees. This parking area serves as a trailhead of sorts.
Trail directions: Head out along the trail to the right of the trees from the parking lot. A paved (or snowy) path makes the way clear. A short distance in you want to cross a wooden bridge to your right. Once across, head off to the left through the open field and find the trail that winds among a stand of trees.The path through the bare trees was lovely on a wintery day. It’s also a good choice in the warmer months due to the cooling and shading action of the trees.You come at at the lake, then follow the embankment between that and the city canal. There are benches and tables all along the way until you reach the greenbelt just at the entrance to the new Esther Simplot park. When you reach the paved greenbelt, turn right and head back towards Veteran’s Memorial Parkway. You will reach a green metal bridge and cross that to your left, then head back towards the wooden bridge and your car.
Our walk: When Jenas and I headed out for Veteran’s Memorial Park, one of our favorite winter walks, it was very snowy. Boise had received 15 inches in the previous 2 weeks and with temperatures remaining low, it continued to pile up. Luckily for the most part, the trail itself was shallow and compacted. Snow boots were required though.
We headed out with baby in the front pack. I often prefer to take her in the front pack in the winter so that she will stay warm. In any case the trail would not have been accessible in a stroller on this day. With the temperature at 11 degrees, I turned her facing me in her carrier to protect her little cheeks and nose from extra wind chill. Her face still did get a little cold, but the rest of us was toasty warm.
When it’s so cold and snowy, snow boots and hat for yourself are pretty much required if you want to enjoy the walk. I was completely comfortable. My baby goes in a bunting with clothes underneath so it’s like a full-body coat layer. Even with a sock and bunting layer, her feet can get cold because they dangle away from my body. Here’s how to remedy it: put baby mittens on her feet. They stay on really well and I think they are more useful on her feet than her hands, which are covered in bunting and closer to both our bodies.
The trail was a haven of really white and lovely snow, with only occasional evidence that dogs had been there. Otherwise it was quite pristine. Sometimes it takes a place like this, away from the brown and muddied street snow, to appreciate lingering winter weather.
And it was peaceful. The crunch of my feet walking in the snow seemed loud out there. The baby fell asleep for about half the walk, so for a time I was in my own private landscape.
We did see, and sometimes hear, mallard ducks, Canada geese, a pair of common mergansers in flight, even a brief glimpse of a kestrel darting through the trees. Some of the water birds had found standing water, but others were resting on the mostly frozen river and lake. Yikes, they made me cold just looking at them. Trying to get a closer look at a congregation of ducks sitting in a water pool, we startled a great blue heron out of the canal. It took off ack-acking loudly, then circled above us a couple of times before we moved on along the trail. Great blue herons live in Boise all year round and assemble in large nesting rookeries in the spring. Personally, I always love to see them. They are large and majestic both standing and in flight.
There were a few other people enjoying the chilly day once I got to the greenbelt-proper section. A cross country skier glided along the other side of the river. There were a few walkers and runners, including possibly part of the Boise State men’s running team? They chatted animatedly while they ran, and were dressed all in blue and orange gear.
The walk was amazing. I loved getting baby Jenas outside. It felt great, and reminded me why I love living in a diverse climate where we get snow most years. Hope you get out there soon and often too!
OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Birding: If you’re not much of a birder, it’s easy and fun to learn more. The Boise Department of Parks & Recreation has a bird book for sale that includes 99 species of local birds. It costs $8.00 and it’s awesome to have when you’re walking the greenbelt. I have been noting my own personal Boise bird sightings in the book by putting the date and location the first time I see a species. It would be good activity for children too. Pick it up at the Parks & Recreation Department office located at Ann Morrison Park.
Maps: Get your own map of the Boise Greenbelt to scope out new trail routes at the Parks & Recreation office as well. This only includes the Boise Section of the greenbelt. For system-wide information, get an Ada County Bike Map from the ACHD office at 3775 N Adams Street in Boise.
Nature Study with Kids I will mostly be taking my baby on walks. If you go with older youngsters, there are lots of things for kids to look for. Are there any tracks in the snow? I saw a dead squirrel and tried to sleuth out its cause of death. In this case I couldn’t tell. But, often tracks will give you a good topic for nature speculation, and don’t always require dead squirrels! There are some epic wasps nests on this walk, visible when the leaves are gone. Birds nests can also be seen during the winter. I can imagine observing these with children and then researching their questions at home. For example, what do wasps do in the winter? You can also make simple games of observing the landscape. Can they find really straight trees or really crooked trees? What colors can they see when everything seems to be covered with white? Asking questions and helping them notice what is there can increase their sense of wonder outside.
Other Times of Year: In the summer this trail is great because the trees will shade much of your walk, and you can go in the direction that will keep the sun out of your eyes once you hit the greenbelt. For toddlers and up, bird watching, fishing, sand and water play, and playground structures can be found along the trail and at each end at Veteran’s Memorial Park and Esther Simplot Park.