The hike on the Ranger Station Creek Trail in Idaho started like any other hike, you know, the kind where you have absolutely no idea where the trail head is, and then you have absolutely no idea how long the hike is or even the change in elevation. It also ended like any other hike, where you show up back at the start and feel accomplished. It turns out, it’s those middle pieces that make this experience quite unique.
I chose to hike the Ranger Station Creek Trail which is just past Garden Valley, about an hour outside Boise. I guess the only parking offered is across the street at the ranger’s station?! So, that’s where I parked. Luckily, I was safe to park there on a Saturday.
Immediately the trail began to climb. Now, I don’t know about you, but I look forward to those awesome trail head signs that list the basics, like how long the trail is. But of course, the sign leading the way lacked even that much information, so when I began to climb I mustered up as much enthusiasm as I could as I ventured into the unknown. Quickly my breath was the only thing I could hear, aside from gun shots! Yes, you read that right. It turns out the trail head is less than a mile from a shooting range, but it’s far enough away that there isn’t a problem, hopefully…
Near the very start I discovered something in nature that I’ve never seen before, and I hope that any readers who have any idea what I found will clue me in. It seems to be some sort of fancy egg sack stuck on a rock? Is that what we’re seeing?
Once I found the good omen, which I considered the egg sack thing to be, I knew my hike wouldn’t be like any other. It gave the me umph I needed to keep trecking up the mountain.
Then, not long after that I came across another cool site. Granted, it sort of freaked me out at first, the sound that is. I kept hearing almost like a crunch sound, and I was wondering if something was coming up the trail the other direction. When Nick and I visited Big Bend National Park earlier in the year, bears came up our trail, and I didn’t even hear them; luckily Nick did! So, the sound gave me the heeby-jeebies along with the coolest flashback (haha). Well, turns out it was just a woodpecker! Go figure!
And then I climbed some more! It’s good I wanted a good workout for the day and also that I planned to stay around for awhile, because I just like to be mentally prepared for big climbs, and I had NO idea about this one! The thing about climbing a mountain is that at some point you get higher and higher, and so without previously considering it as I climbed, I came across the treeline. Just as the gun shots from below became louder as they traveled over the mountains, the photography opportunities really opened up!
And just to know that I was still on the trail, I was given a trail sign. Awesome! Of course, there wasn’t any other info, but at least I wasn’t lost (at this moment…).
And lo and behold, a real sign! I had reached 1.5 miles. Gosh, it sure seemed like it should have been further than that, but I’m sure my elevation change was at least 1,000 feet by this time.
Once I passed this mile marker, then it all went insane! Throughout the whole hike, the air was dead silent, you know except for the occasional gun shot. But really, it was amazingly quiet. I could hear a leaf rattle, and then all I could hear were crows. Yup, apparently the crows really like to hang out around the 1.8 mile marker line. At this point, I really got the heeby-jeebies. You see, I recently read a book titled Three Among the Wolves by Helen Thayer. It’s about a couple who live with their dog alongside the wolves in the artic. Aside from being an amazing read, I learned that wolves and crows have a symbiotic relationship. Apparently crows find dead animals and lead wolves to them, because wolves can break an animal’s hide, which crows are unable to do, and so they work together to eat. I also read recently about there being wolves in the mountains above Boise. It’s a bit of controversy actually, and recently there was talk about allowing people to hunt them. (Are we living in the stupid age again?!) Anyway, I was happy to know there were wolves, but I was also happy to know they were quite far away, until they weren’t. At least I thought they weren’t. This is what happened….
I saw a small heard of white tail deer, you know the Bambie kind, go jumping on by me. It was absolutely amazing, and at the same time I heard crows. Now, I’m not stupid, and I’ve learned a thing or two now. I know that crows like to lead wolves to prey. Perhaps they have that kind of relationship with other animals as well. Either way, I don’t know, but at that moment I prayed for whatever God is out there. At the same time, I picked up the only weapon I could thing to find. Of course, I didn’t just bend over and pick it up, I kind of nudged it up so I didn’t look like prey to any predators out there.
So once I had my weapon (and I kept thinking about that stupid bear mace I never did buy), I was set. Well, now that I had a physical reminder of my fear setting in, and those damn crows quacking up a storm, I decided that perhaps it was time to call it a day. I didn’t have any idea how long the trail was anyhow, and every mountain I climbed just led to more mountains. Therefore, I turned around…. and then it got really weird!
Within 5 minutes, I was on the wrong trail; I was dumbfounded! How could I simply turn around and be on the wrong trail? I kept trying to convince myself I was wrong, even when I didn’t quickly pass the mile marker sign. It wasn’t until I started hiking along a ridge that I knew I was in trouble. I was higher up the mountain than I had previously been, and the scenery was way different. That tree was supposed to be over there, not over there, and where did that log come from? It’s amazing how quickly we can memorize our surroundings.
Finally, after making it to a point that I could no longer mistake as my original trail, I turned around again and hiked back to where I came from, back into the crow and predator territory. Nothing like trying to escape the wrong way! At least I got another good workout in as I trudged back up the hill.
After a short while I came across this arrow. How had I missed that before?
So, once I found the arrow and looked at that path for the other trail, I felt like I was home again. What most worried me was being lost in a place with no phone reception. Recently I helped out a friend who is training her dog to do search and rescue. I went and hid, and another dog on the team used “air scent” to come find me. Well, he walked by me so many times and didn’t see me, that I worried about ever getting lost. Granted, he was in training, but that’s all I could think about when I was lost on the wrong trail. I was planning on packing it in for a couple days.
But luckily I was back on my way down. I felt so happy. I recognized the logs, the trees, the path, and the strange humanly shaped crap that was in the middle of the trail. Now, I squat and peeped just inches from the trail, but I wouldn’t just crap in the middle of it. Sheesh people!
On the way down, I ditched my aweseom weapon-stick about halfway down, and then I came across another cool site that astounded me.
About three hours, roughly 4 miles, at least 1,000 feet elevation change, and many photos and stories later, I found my car. It was a hike to remember!