NOTE: 52 Tales of Local Travel is a weekly post about walking the local greenbelt river trail. The greenbelt is a local treasure with unlimited opportunities for exploration and enjoyment. A trip to the greenbelt is always full of wonder and discovery, two hallmarks of a successful travel experience. Doing novel things near where I live is one of my creative travel strategies. This post 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? There are amazing things in your backyard too.
January 12: Well the winter weather in Boise has subsided, but it’s left some crazy evidence in its wake. School was closed again today due to icy roads and sidewalks. And there is a buildup of snow on streets that is making getting around for our everyday activities quite the sloppy, crunchy adventure. City and private tractors and bulldozers were out in force today to help clear the roads, but that didn’t stop Snowpocalypse 2017 from affecting our weekly walk. Here’s what happened:
January walk #2
Kathryn Albertson Park, .89 mile loop. About 2 miles total if you walk all the paths.
Front pack or stroller accessible. Bicycles are not allowed in the park. Usually this wide paved trail is an easy ramble for walkers. The park was designed to attract birds and wildlife and create a peaceful place to enjoy nature. It’s almost always exactly that! Today it was more treacherous than I’ve ever seen on any greenbelt trail due to the ice.
Getting there by car: From State Street head south on Americana Blvd.(16th street). Continue past River Street and Shoreline and cross the river. The next traffic light is between Ann Morrison and Kathryn Albertson parks. Turn right into the Kathryn Albertson parking lot. There are plenty of spots.
Trail directions: The main entrance to the trail is to the right of the giant lettered stone monoliths. There is a main loop and then a trail with a couple of spurs that bisects the loop. I usually like to walk all the paths while I’m there. This time we did the main loop with a little jog towards the Eyrie gazebo (the first structure you pass) and back to the entrance.
I consider this park a part of the greenbelt even though it does not have off-street trail access to the river. Official bike paths go right to the park entrance from the greenbelt. It is also among the Ribbon of Jewels, the series of parks named for prominent women in the community. These parks are connected by the greenbelt corridor. It is possible to get to the Boise River from Kathryn Albertson park easily, however you will have to cross busy Americana Boulevard. I would love to see a pedestrian only connection from the greenbelt to Kathryn Albertson someday. Perhaps it could be similar to the connection at MK Nature Center, where there is a bike rack, to safely stow bikes while taking in the walking paths.
Our walk: We originally set off for our weekly walk with the intent of starting at a little access trail on a residential street off of Plantation River Drive. This entrance brings you right to the trail just west of the Willow Lane Athletic Complex. However, have I mentioned the recent snow in Boise? Well the accumulation on the roads and sides of the roads was substantial, and on this street, like others, parking was impossible. Not only that, a giant tractor bulldozer was in the process of clearing the snow on the road and shoulders. Parking anywhere would have prevented the bulldozer from accessing all areas of the street. Not wanting to irritate homeowners desperate to have their street cleared, we changed plans and headed to Kathryn Albertson park, usually one of my favorite winter walking spots.
Unfortunately, not today. I normally love the flat easy trail, the variety of birds, frequent sighting of deer, and the open grass, trees and pond. Children can let loose a bit running in the grass. There are little sweet surprises around every corner. It’s nice. Today however, the ice on the trail was treacherous and relentless. With a baby on my front, and my older daughter in sneakers accompanying me, it was among my more stressful walks I have had on the greenbelt.
But we were intrepid and weren’t going to let a little winter weather stop us.
It was immediately apparent that this walk was going to take some work. Luckily, it was a bright sunny day and the sky was brilliant blue. The snow was white and sparkling, so that did create happy feelings. There were not too many people, and we quickly had our first wildlife sighting…a couple of bunnies foraging in the underbrush. Even though we were stealthy trying to get their photos, they were completely unharried by our presence. They’re just a little bit used to people. We couldn’t get as close as they may have let us because of the thick crusty snow on either side of the trail. In this same area we saw a couple of squirrels rummaging among the rose hips of a wintering bush. As well as deer tracks. There were deer tracks in several places along the trail, and we had to be content with that, as the deer apparently had other places to be while we were there.
I see deer here almost every time I come. A couple of years ago, my SO and I were walking along an old utility access road at the back of the park, and nearly ran right into a whole herd of deer including a large, protective buck. It was snowy and foggy so we were watching our step a bit. Visibility was low, and they seemed to appear out of nowhere. Many of the does were resting in the grass. The buck had big enough antlers, and was watching us intently enough, for us to be wary of him. Also we didn’t want to frighten them into moving, so we turned back. It was pretty amazing to come upon 10 + deer assembled like that.
The weather on our walk this early January day was relatively warm. 32-34 degrees while we were out there. The last walk we took was in 11 degree weather. In fact, it felt so warm that I didn’t wear a jacket and baby Jenas went without her bunting, but stayed warm the whole time. The photos of the frozen pond and icy/snowy conditions belie how comfortable it felt temperature-wise.
The beautiful thing about the greenbelt, and nature in general, is that even though it was a bit icy and walking had to be done very cautiously, I’m still glad I got me and my girls outside enjoying the wintery day. Anytime is a good time for a greenbelt walk.
Other Things to Think About
Maps: There is a map and information about Kathryn Albertson park available on the City of Boise website. If you visit the park often or are the type of person who enjoys learning in depth about a place, it has some interesting information. I recommend checking it out.
Nature Study with Kids: This trail can be super sweet with kids. What child is not excited to see rabbits munching, deer bounding, squirrels chittering, turtles sunning, and birds in all manner of activity? I know I am. Children can observe the behaviors of the animals they see and count the types of animals they come across. Take a pair of binoculars to see what is happening out on the lake. In the far Rookery gazebo, there is a cross section of the largest Ponderosa pine in the world. Kids can count the rings and compare the trees age to their own and make other observations about what trees are like on the inside. There are also numerous interpretive signs to read and share with them. There are large open grass areas where kids can run and tumble, but beware of goose poop at certain times of year. And there are rocks and features at certain places that kids can climb and play on. Be careful about letting them play among the giant stone letters. My daughter got into a yellow jacket nest behind one of them when she was younger and came out with several yellow jackets biting her. It was traumatic for her and me! Don’t let that deter you from enjoy all the rest of the park though. It’s a great place for children to expand their wonder in nature.
Other Times of Year: This trail is beautiful for a low-stress outing almost any time of year. There is an abundance of wildlife to admire. There are trees to shade part of the trail when it is sunny. When the water is not frozen the fountain near the entrance is running. This is a park to visit any time of year when you need a gentle nature infusion.