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 20: Trail Therapy
Out we headed for our weekly walk, and once again trail conditions were less than ideal. I tried to park at one of my favorite trail access points again this week, and it was still too snowed in. Along the trail where we could park, there were still patches of ice, which makes me nervous, especially with baby in the front pack. There was slosh and slush, and standing water in spots. It was beautiful, but not how I envisioned things when I decided to walk the greenbelt every week. And I had the fleeting thought, maybe this wasn’t the right year to do this.
But then the trail revealed its treasures. I hit a section cleared for walking. I noticed the blue sky, and the reflection of winter trees in puddles. I saw a wood duck, which is always a joy for me. They are not so rare, but for some reason it always feels special. And things kept getting better from there.
January Walk Week 3
Veteran’s to Simplot, 1.4 mile loop, opposite direction from Week 1.
Front pack, jog stroller. Bikes and 4-wheeled strollers not recommended because a portion of the loop is unpaved.
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, stay on the paved path, which will lead into the trees and to the green-railed bridge. Cross the bridge and shortly you will meet up with the proper greenbelt trail. Turn left and follow the path past the lake and along the river until you are almost to Esther Simplot Park. At the end of the lake on your left you will see a gravelled trail that heads back along the other side. Follow this along the embankment and through the trees. You will eventually come out to the clearing where you will see the wooden bridge and your car again.
Our walk: Baby Jenas was once again in the front pack. There was too much ice, slosh and muck on the trail for a stroller. Plus, I must admit, having my baby snuggled against me, warm and cozy amidst the snowy day, fuels my sense of hygge and delight in the mysteries of the world around me. (hygge: the Danish art of coziness and appreciating small joys http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-year-of-hygge-the-danish-obsession-with-getting-cozy) So I enjoy the front pack this time of year. But, I did see two families arrive just as I was leaving, removing babies and strollers from their cars to brave the trail. It appeared as if they were able to push them okay, with a little extra maneuvering in some places. It is doable. Just not preferable.
Baby was in her bunting, but we didn’t need and extra hat or mitten socks this time. It was relatively warm.
Last week our walk at Kathryn Albertson Park was totally icy and challenging. I even fell once. Luckily I landed on my knees and not on baby, and no one got hurt. I was kind of fearing the worst again as I started out on this walk. There was ice and I did slip a bit. And there was mush. Lots of it. And even standing water. It wasn’t quite idyllic.
But then…I saw the wood duck. For some reason, it always feels like Christmas when I see a wood duck. My eyes get big. A goofy, delighted smile takes over my face. Wood ducks have ornate coloring and really chiseled looking patterns. Green, red, yellow and brown markings are separated by white space. Male wood ducks have definitely evolved to be noticed. Even the females, with their distinct white tapered eye marking, look special. They get their name because wood ducks nest in cavities in mature trees, and are among the only waterfowl that can perch on branches, due to claws on their feet. They are distinctive in every way. As it paddled its showy self through the water I thought, wood duck one, ice and slosh zero.
I was trying to notice every little thing. The mirroring of the trees and sky in the puddles. The pops of color among the white and gray. That the river was flowing freely now, where the last time it was iced over.
As I was speculating on lines of footprints on the residual ice along the river banks (what could it be? raccoon? duck? human?) my answer came into sight. And it was carrying something in its mouth. Down to the water padded a little brown mink, contending with a defensive crayfish. It sat by the water for a while, the mink trying to eat the crayfish, and not getting very far. Those pincers doing their job. I have seen minks before, but usually they are scurrying to hide, and with their dark fur they blend into the landscape. The icy background provided a great visual contrast to the mink and crayfish and I was able to get a good look. Mink two. Ice and slosh zero.
I saw other wildlife as well. Rounding a corner I came across a great blue heron standing statuesquely in the lake shallows. I flushed out three common mergansers from a little pool among the ice on the lake. I always thought the mergansers with the rust colored feathery heads were the males. Because they seem to me to be the more flamboyant. But those are in fact the females. The males have a blackish-greenish head. They both have the same long orange bill. I saw a couple of unremarkable ducks dabbling near the trail, and only when I zoomed my camera in could I tell that one was not a mallard female as I expected, but a gadwall. My first gadwall positive ID.
The snowy vistas, the wildlife, a blue sky and the sounds of the river flowing again made for a beautiful outing. And this little sleepy walk buddy kept me feeling all hygge inside. Lesson learned: it’s ALWAYS a good day to get out on the greenbelt. It has the capacity to delight my spirit every single time.
Other things to think about:
See the Week 1 Greenbelt Walk article for more information about bird guides, greenbelt maps, and enjoying nature with children.
Local Wildlife: If you want to learn more about the greenbelt wildlife, the City of Boise website provides natural history information on many of the species found around Boise. I had to drill down to the eNature guide to identify the mink. They also provide a portal to the State of Idaho species catalog to learn about everything from spiders to bats and more. http://parks.cityofboise.org/vo-learn-teer/boise-parks-community-education/nature-guide-for-boises-parks/
And bring your binoculars. There is so much to see out on the lake and river. And in the sky. I had a zoom camera, which helped. But having binoculars would have made a difference in what I experienced. Next time.