April 7: I was happy to get out for a walk on the greenbelt on an overcast warmish Friday. Being outside is always good for the soul. And it was our first walk of the month out there. With the high flows coming from Lucky Peak Reservoir making a total mess of the greenbelt, there are only 11 miles officially open of the 50+ path miles stretching all the way from Lucky Peak into the City of Eagle.
We decided to get out there and take our chances. And while I can’t entirely explain what we were thinking, we went without looking at the greenbelt closures map. Someone had mentioned to me that the Veteran’s Memorial Park and westward part of the trail was open—but I should have gotten details. There are several different routes here, and the one we chose left us high and dry. It was still lovely out there. Of course, it’s the greenbelt. But we had to turn back twice (!), trespassed on a section of trail that was dry, but officially closed, had our first loop-failure (meaning that we mostly backtracked on the way back to the car), and I had a cranky teenager on my hands. Not to worry. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
April Walk #1 Veteran’s Memorial Park to Esther Simplot Park
2.99 miles Stroller. Front pack. Backpack. Bike. There are a couple of trail options here that are unpaved and may be difficult for pushing a stroller. If you are going to explore a bit, consider using a front pack or backpack instead. At each end of the trail you can play. Hit the playground at Veteran’s Memorial Park or splash in the water at Esther Simplot Park in the warmer months. In between, there are a couple of great walks through trees and along the river where it is easy to leave the city behind. There are bathrooms at both parks open year round.
Getting there by car: From State Street head south on Veteran’s Memorial Parkway. The park will be on your left. Turn left into the park entrance just past the open space at the southern end of the park. 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 path makes the way clear. A short distance in you will cross a wooden bridge to your right. Once across, continue along the path and down to the creek, where you cross a green bridge. On the other side you will meet up with the greenbelt path. Turn leftt and follow until you arrive at Esther Simplot Park. Once there, you can:
- stay and enjoy the trails and amenities at the park;
- walk to the metal trestle bridge at the far end, cross the river, and head to the right back towards Veteran’s Memorial Parkway where you can cross the traffic bridge back to your car;
- make a sharp left at the lake right before Esther Simplot Park and return along the lake and through the trees;
- or you can return the same way you came.
We did a little of each on this walk!
Our walk: My baby daughter, teenage daughter and I headed off to Veteran’s Memorial Park on a pleasant Friday after school, to check out what part of the trail was open here, and what was flooded.
I had done this walk twice back in January. Once when it was deep in snow and extra scenic. Again when ice covered much of the trail and it was slow going. What would it be like with this new warmth and spring growth? On someone’s suggestion that this part of the trail was open when so much of the rest of the greenbelt was flooded closed, we headed out to this stretch of greenbelt again. Oh my gosh, it was pretty out there.
It was positively park-like in sections that aren’t technically parks. Grass was everywhere glowing vibrant green. Trees were well along on their mission to bring forth new life this spring. Leaves, petals, stamens and pistils, catkins and pops of color were everywhere. You can’t help but be in a great mood out there. …unless you’re a teenager. Yes, this girl was complaining for the whole, entire, walking by the river affair. I wasn’t going to let it spoil my mood though.
And, much as I was hoping that the advice I got about the trail being open here was good, alas. Starting at Veteran’s Park, much of this trail was closed. Even just headed out, hardly nearing the river, we saw greenbelt closed signs.
At the first wooden bridge we were warned away. As there are a couple of different routes past the bridge we crossed and looked to see if any of the trails might be technically open. Nope. All technically closed. So herein lies the dilemma. Follow the advice of the mayor and stay away from the greenbelt? Hit the scattering of short greenlighted sections along the greenbelt and pull there-and-back walks where we can? Or go explore and face high water when we come to it? Of course I’m not about to do anything unsafe with my 2 girls as companions. Still, it feels wrong– like flouting authority and setting a bad precedent, especially for my teenager. Closed or do not enter sign? Doesn’t apply to me. It’s not a great message to send. Also, I really do believe in protecting natural areas. While the trail closures are mainly about human safety, somehow disregarding closures feels like doing the greenbelt a disservice. I love the greenbelt and don’t want to put our access or it’s resources at risk in any way. Having made a goal to walk the greenbelt every week makes the decision-making to cross or not cross trail closed signs all the more tricky. Although I felt and do feel guilty about going around closed trail signs, we continued on through Veteran’s Memorial Park and onto the greenbelt.
The trails through Veteran’s Park were passable. The outlet creek that flows under the green bridges was up to the height of the bottom of the bridges, but not overrunning them. The lowest point in the greenbelt pathway just beyond the creek was nearly flooded, but sandbags and a river just short of flush with the height of the path kept the trail walkable. So far our gamble was paying off. We walked on and headed up the path.
It was clear and beautiful all the way up to Esther Simplot Park. I couldn’t believe how green and pleasant it was. Why had I never noticed the picnic tables out there before? Where had all this grass come from? It was simply lovely. I wanted to sit and picnic by the river right here, right now.
Well, even if we had had snacks, my teenager would not have had it. Picnic? Bah.
We walked on and made it to Esther Simplot Park. There were a number of people here enjoying the day. Someone was fishing. Some kids were boulder hopping. There was even a camera crew on one of the higher outlooks filming what seemed like a music video. It’s great to see how used and how loved this newest Boise city park is. And it hasn’t even seen its first summer yet.
I had decided that I wanted to try a loop I haven’t written about yet. Once at Simplot Park, you can cross the metal bridge over the river, turn right and head back down the path along the other shore. This section is a bit industrial. There is an old sandworks business and several Garden City industries at the edge of the trail. And, you have to cross over at Veteran’s Memorial Bridge to return to your car, which can be trafficy. But, every section of the greenbelt has its charms and I wanted to include this loop in my weekly walks. Unfortunately, it was not to be. See exhibit 1. Standing water on the trail.
Much to my teenage girl’s frustration, we had to turn around. Back through Simplot Park. Pit stop at the bathrooms. And try a new tack. I wasn’t ready to take the straight route back.
At the west end of Simplot Park there are two trails, one on each side of an embankment through Boise Cascade Lake. We had walked loops on the leftmost trail already, so why not try the right? In my mind it was worth exploring. But, not too far along we asked a fellow pedestrian if there were flood closures up ahead. Sure enough, yep. We turned back again. I was still game to try to create a loop somehow. My sweet, but miserable teenager was at her wit’s end and was completely unwilling to try anything except going back the way we came at this point. Ok. I have to listen to other people’s needs sometimes too. We walked back through the pretty riverine parkness of the greenbelt, crossed the green bridge, and made it back to our car.
It wasn’t the most satisfying walk I’ve been on. It’s a bit frustrating not to find a through route. Turning back the way we came feels like a fail. Also, honestly, I love my sweet girl, but she was pretty sulky as only teenagers can be.
Nevertheless, I am so glad we went. It felt great to walk and be outside. After snowy and icy adventures in this spot, I was delighted to see it springing out. And, children need time in nature, using their bodies. Whether they like it or not.
The water levels are set to increase as this post was being written. It will be the second highest flow rate recorded since Lucky Dam was built. Who knows what the greenbelt will be like with even higher water. Will there be more inundations? More closures? As of now, looking at the greenbelt closures map, there is only one potential officially open walking loop left. That’s our goal for the coming week: to walk the last remaining greenbelt loop. Will it still be there tomorrow? Remains to be seen.