NOTE: 52 Tales 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 visit 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.
February 15: Another great day for a walk. The weather was continuing to warm. The river was flowing fast and full. It was not as sunny as our last walk, but we beat that rain forecast for the rest of the week and next. So much to appreciate.
February walk #2
Plantation River neighborhood access trail to Willow Lane Athletic Complex. 2.75 miles.
Front pack. Jog stroller. Possibly bike accessible depending if you mind slightly rugged riding, but avoid snowy or muddy days. Parts of the trail that I normally would go on are closed in the winter to protect bald eagles. Starting in March/April you can make a longer loop through the protected area, reducing the backtracking you do.
Getting there by car: From State Street head south on Plantation River Road. It’s located about halfway between Pierce Park Road and Collister. A George’s Cycle shop is at this intersection. Follow Plantation River Road, pass the median, and continue about ⅛ mile into the neighborhood. On the left is a trail access path between two houses. Plantation River Road dead ends with a turn around a little further down, so you can drive on, turn around and park on the same side of the street as the trail. This might seem like a strange place to start a walk if you don’t live in this neighborhood, but it happens to be the closest river access from my house. When we were looking for for the easiest biking routes to the greenbelt, this was where we ended up. Since then, I have had some really special walks from here, so it is one of my favorites. You can park at Willow Lane Athletic Complex and do a similar loop, but it’s just not as charming. And, when I have parked there in the winter in the past, the parking lot was a serious landmine of goose droppings. Park and walk at your own risk!
Trail directions: The main entrance to the trail is an unassuming little thoroughfare located between two houses. Head down that path to reach the greenbelt and turn left. Walk the paved greenbelt trail all the way to Willow Lane Athletic Complex. As you are passing the ball fields on the left, there is a large parking lot on the right. Go into the parking lot and head towards the far west corner where there is a sign that says “Enter Here”. Beyond it you will find a gravelly path. Follow this for a ways until you reach the utility house buildings. At the utility house closest the greenbelt there is an exit back to the paved section. Follow the trail back towards your car. Before you leave the greenbelt at the neighborhood access spur, go stand on the bridge and check it out. There are beautiful views up and down the river.
Our walk: I wanted to get out there early in the week so I wasn’t scrambling on a Saturday like I was last week. So, on a slightly overcast, but nonetheless lovely Wednesday, we headed to the trailhead for a short jaunt. I took Jenas in the frontpack, although I would have rather strollered it. Our stroller walk last week felt so light and free. She’s 10 months old now and getting heavy! But part of this section of trail is a bit rugged and the baby gets thrown around too much in the 4-wheeler. Plus I wasn’t sure how muddy or icy it might be on the off-road trails.
We followed the neighborhood access trail to the green belt and turned left. To the right the trail crosses a bridge over the river and then continues on the south side towards Glenwood Boulevard and all points beyond. It’s worth walking onto the bridge to check the river out. We did this at the end, but we started our walk we heading east.
Off we set down the peaceful wintery trail. Much of it was the same as it’s been the last few weeks: bare trees, gray, cold day, birds here and there, and fewer people. One big exception was the river. We could see and hear that the river was running high and fast. Some section of riverbank were inundated, and the water seemed to be barreling down the river channel, creating cresting water and large riffles along the way. It’s sound and speed were a powerful reminder that the river is wild and deserves respect, even when it runs through a city.
This overflow is not surprising since the massive snowfall of December and January is starting to melt. If you are out there with kids this month and on through the spring, keep a close eye on them. It may even be a good idea to stay away from the water. As I’m writing this, a week later, parts of the greenbelt have flooded and make travelling certain sections either harrowing or impossible. This section of trail should be ok, but be careful out there. Closed and problem trails will have warning signs posted by the City of Boise. You can also “Like” Boise Parks and Recreation on Facebook to get updates.
After admiring the raging waters I got a sweet picture of baby Jenas at the river, and then we passed this little guy in his own little squirrel haven. I’m not sure this feeder was meant for him or the birds, but he was still there when we passed this feeder again on our way back! He wasn’t about to hold back.
There were plenty of birds to see and hear. It’s funny how one section of trees along the trail will be nearly silent and others positively bursting with sound and activity. One bramble in particular was full of a host (official collective term) of house sparrows (?) chirping and hopping away. You can often find large flocks of birds in brambles such as blackberry or wild rose. We stopped to listen several times along the route to figure out just who was making all that racket. Among the birds I saw were dark-eyed juncos, a northern flicker, american robins, magpie, mallards, Canada geese, pine siskin, house sparrows, and a pied-billed grebe.
I am pretty sure the sparrow I saw was a house sparrow. I could differentiate it as a sparrow for sure. Some other birds I only recognize as LBBs (little brown birds). The Boise Field Guide to Birds has several sparrow species, and the group I saw looked like house sparrows. I’m not going to mark it on my list though until I can confirm its identity for sure.
Unfortunately no bald eagles. Although I was tempted to take the winter trail for a better walk and to look for our majestic national bird, I resisted. Signs warn about negatively impacting wintering bald eagles if you use certain trails at this time of year. I’m hoping to get a good sighting somewhere along the greenbelt before the season is over.
Speaking of birds, I love it that my baby is fascinated by Canada geese, their honking, their flying, their flocking. To some of us these birds are common to the point of peskiness at times. To my baby, every flyby is worthy of notice.
This walk has some nice bridges. I don’t know why every bridge I see feels special and scenic. I take lots of bridge pictures. If you are walking with kids, or just feeling youthful yourself, the bridges with vertical railings are great for making noise. Pick up a stick along the walk and drag it along sides of the bridges. It makes a beautiful joyful ringing sound. Fun! Or maybe it’s just me?
Just at the west end of the Willow Lane Athletic Complex we passed the bike track where it is fun to see kids and adults attempting to jump the hills in the warmer months.
We continued on past this and the softball and soccer fields on the left. At the far end of the complex is a large parking lot to the right. If you turn into it and head to the far corner there is a big sign that pronounces ‘Enter Here’.
It’s not a road, or a trailhead either, but I guess they mean walkers with babies as much as anyone when they say that. The beginning of the path here is not quite clear, but there is a real path beyond. I always prefer to create a loop rather than retrace my steps, so on we ventured. I have to admit that I haven’t seen any other walkers out there this winter and it makes me a little bit uneasy to be out there with my baby. To top it off, today there was some sort of box truck parked at the back of the parking lot, and as I walked by a worker appeared to be pulling a tent out of the brush, and another was dragging a plastic bag. I’m not sure if maybe people had been camping there illegally and the city was clearing the camp. So, yeah, hmm. I’m not selling this particular loop very well! But my point is, if you get uneasy on certain parts of the trail, take a grown-up buddy with you. I’m sure it is really fine – there is another entrance/exit along the trail and two well-maintained utility houses are at that end. Just do what makes you feel comfortable.
We made it to the other end just fine and were back on the paved greenbelt. We retraced our steps towards the car, over the bridges, under the bare trees, along the speeding river. When we got back to the turn-off for our car, we went just a bit further to the river crossing bridge and enjoyed the view in both directions. There were ducks and a grebe eating a fish, more great riffles, and some interesting information about Boise’s history. Definitely worth the few extra steps.
It was another enjoyable outing. Being by the river with my baby is the best.
Other things to think about:
Nature Study with Kids. The bare trees and high river flow of my last couple of walks got me thinking, do kids know why there are no leaves on some trees in winter? Do they know why the river is flowing so fast right now? How about asking them and then talking about some basics of the seasonal tree cycle and the water cycle. They are both part of the foundation of everything we are lucky to see and experience along the greenbelt.