The next morning, we found out that those of us leaving Wednesday were being offered an opportunity to explore rather than do trail work. That was just us three lottery winners, myself, Ambrose and a lady named Pam. We would be heading north this morning to check out an old homestead and maybe hike up some side trails. 

The morning was overcast, but the rain held itself to mere drizzles through the morning. My body was sore, and I was glad that I didn’t need to take any tools with me on this hike. Just a trekking pole and my cameras. 

The digital camera came in handy to figure out whether or not we had seen a goat up on the canyon walls high above. We never did see a goat, but we saw a LOT of not-goats. Including a whole herd of elk across the river that we got to see slowly move up a draw and out of sight. 

But that was after we’d hiked a ways from camp, getting out of sight on the overcast morning. Though even if there hadn’t been clouds, the sun wasn’t going to be showing over the canyon walls for hours yet. 

We kept our eyes peeled for poison ivy patches. The men who had hiked this way the day before said that there weren’t any big ones, but we found a patch that required careful navigation to avoid getting touched while staying on the trail. We also found some lovely vistas and enjoyed fun company. Although Ambrose and I hadn’t met Pam before, she felt like a kindred spirit. 

Both Pam and I would randomly break into song, and she was quite surprised at the number of songs that I knew that aren’t of my era. I told my dad about that later, because it is entirely thanks to him that I know most of those songs. They are the songs that I sang with my dad while he played guitar. Not to mention I ended up with an absolute love of music that has led me to continue to acquire songs into my repertoire. 

The homestead wasn’t too far of a hike, and we got there in time to have an early lunch on the porch. I had to go dig a hole first, and when I got back I just had to go inside the old home. (It was open and available for self guided tours.) The interior had clearly been used by animals, but was relatively intact. I mean, I wouldn’t want to live there, but it could be made livable if one weren’t too picky. I really liked the old newspaper ads lining the walls. I wanted to stay and take careful pictures of the whole room, but I limited myself to just a few. 

I also climbed the ladder to the loft, with the utmost care. The ladder was built into an interior wall and seemed steady enough, but that’s no reason to take chances. I didn’t actually enter the loft, just poked my head up enough to see a large pile of debris in one corner. Definitely an animal home up there. 

Pam had gone off exploring, so I sat myself down on the porch and managed to pull a hamstring. Not a bad pull, but it put me off doing any extra walking for the trip. Pam really wanted to hike up the creek a ways, and I did too, but not with my leg going wonky. I’ve learned to baby minor injuries out there so as to prevent them from changing from the annoying category to the serious category. 

But I was disappointed that Pam and I couldn’t go exploring, and I thought she would too. Ambrose and I continued to wait for Pam to come back from her solo exploration in the vicinity of the homestead, but then he got impatient. I followed him a bit when he went to look for her, but then turned back to sit on the porch. It wouldn’t do for Pam to come back and find neither of us!

Of course, moments after Ambrose disappeared from sight, Pam reappeared. We waited together for Ambrose to reappear, and I explained that my leg meant we were turning back for the day since we weren’t supposed to be going off by ourselves. She took it with grace. 

When Ambrose returned a few minutes later, we headed back to camp. I was hoping that the rain would hold off until we were able to get into shelter, but the skies were mysterious in their intent. 

As often seems to be the case, the hike back was faster than the hike out. But we did see a few things that had escaped notice the first time out. There was an egg on a rock that slowed us down enough to see that there were a whole lot of cactuses growing in among the grass.  I was shocked that I hadn’t seen them on the way up, because there were just so many once I knew to look. 

Camp was quiet when we got back a bit after 1 pm. Ambrose went to our tent to take a nap. Pam and I went to the big warming tent to hang out and read. I hadn’t brought a book, but there was one in the big tent that seemed available. It was 5 Kids on Wild Trails: A Memoir, and I really need to find another copy so I can finish reading it. It reminded me, in some ways, of my own writing style. Very personal. 

After a bit, Pam left the tent and I stayed. Not long after that, the precipitation began. Not rain this time, oh no. This is Idaho. We got some ice falling from the sky, maybe snow. Pam called it graupel, which was a new word to me and I love it now. It didn’t last long, but it did encourage Pam and I to start up the woodstove in the big tent in case folks started coming back from working the trail cold and or wet. 

And, not long after we started the fire, the crew did start trickling in. Though no one was soaked like the day before, folks were still happy to be able to come into that warmed up tent. As people trickled in, I heard the trip leader talking about a formal meeting session that we were all expected to take part in. It was essentially a board meeting for ITA with us lottery winners are guests. And our task, as guests, was to try and provide outside perspectives that the board members might not think of. 

That meeting involved everyone but the cooks; which really meant everyone, because the cooks tonight were the folks from Cambridge who had rafted in, rather than the trip cook. We all sat in the big tent, with Ambrose impressing folks with his ability not only to sit on the floor, but to get up from it. I mean, he was offered a chair, but that wouldn’t let him show off, now would it? 

The trip leader passed out handouts which had some interesting statistics on the trips that had been done in prior years, including information like how many people had been on various trips, where trips were being offered in the state and more. The discussion was focused on how to grow ITA without overwhelming their infrastructure. The ITA is still a pretty lean operation, so expansion needs to be undertaken with care. There was also some talk about how to make the weekend trips a bit more… hmmm… intentionally about community I guess is how I would express it. No one wants enforced fun necessarily, but being able to provide socialization opportunities around the trips is part of what brings volunteers back. 

Ambrose had some suggestions during the discussion. I had a thought, but didn’t get a chance to bring it up in the large group. I did bring it up to one of the board members, but who knows if he was going to remember? My thought was related to how the ITA rates projects on their website so volunteers have an idea of what they’re getting into in regards both to work and hiking. I thought that compiling a list of hikes in various areas of Idaho that could be then assigned a rating. That way folks wouldn’t just be looking at a “level 4” hike, but could look at what other hikes are considered “level 4” in their area and be able to give those a try before deciding if they are up to it or not. I’ll have to resubmit that suggestion somewhere, just to make sure it wasn’t forgotten. 

After the meeting, we got to go get spaghetti, salad and garlic bread from the kitchen tent for dinner. I was pretty pissed at my body for not feeling like eating a thing. I had to skip out on the garlic bread because I wasn’t putting any more yeast in my body if I could help it. And I took meager portions of the spaghetti and salad, because I knew my appetite wasn’t up for it. 

And part of my lack of appetite was definitely because I wasn’t drinking enough water, so I got ready to fill my bottle up. And then I made a cranky pants mistake and told Ambrose I didn’t need his help using the 6 gallon container to fill my water bottle. To be honest, I could have used it, but I didn’t want him to have to put down his hot food and let it get cold while helping me. He may have gone off in a huff to the tent after that. He definitely went to the tent and went to sleep, which seemed like a good idea for him since he didn’t even wake up when I made my way to the tent to sleep a couple hours later. 

I didn’t mention the little tiff to anyone else; I just told everyone Ambrose had gone to bed early. I’m not always good at choosing not to disclose every little detail, but sometimes I get it. I don’t know if Ambrose got to partake in the dessert or not, but I sure enjoyed it. The Cambridge couple had baked us a dutch oven chocolate cake. I think German chocolate, because there was the coconut frosting. The cake was delightful, though I could have done without the coconut in the frosting. Something about the texture of dried coconut doesn’t appeal to me. But the flavors were good and the cake was amazing. 

I stayed and chatted for quite a bit in the big tent, but not much later than dusk. I like to get in bed before it gets too cold outside. That way I’m bringing some warmth into my sleeping quilt instead of trying to warm up both myself and my insulation. I had a good night’s sleep thinking about going home the next day, and getting one step closer to purchasing my house. 

The next morning was pretty chill for us. We needed to be ready for the boat when it got here, around 10 in the morning. We got up, packed up all of our stuff, and then got around to eating breakfast. Most everyone else got their tools and started hiking out to the day’s worksite up Little Granite Creek. A few remained behind; a couple women wanted to wait for the woman who was coming in on today’s boat, while others’ duties simply didn’t include the trailwork part. The Cambridge couple had already taken off with their boat down the river. 

Our boat was going to be a jet boat, because we needed to go upstream to get back to our vehicles. I was hoping that with just four people on the return trip that I would get a better chance to take film of the trip. I wanted some memories of those rapids! 

The wait wasn’t all that long. It seemed like no time before we were hearing the motor of the boat approaching. We went down to the shore with our gear and waited for it to be in position. I filmed some of that, while the two boat operators pulled in and secured the boat. Once it was secured, everything happened very quickly. The one woman came off with her gear, then our gear went onboard and then we went onboard. 

Once onboard, we had to get life jackets on and pick a place to sit. This boat was much smaller than the one we came in on (it didn’t need to be big without all the gear and people!), and the driver sat in front rather than in the rear. So, I hesitated for a moment when the driver asked if anyone wanted to sit in the jump seat up front. I waited to see if anyone else wanted it, but no one did. I wanted it. I really, really wanted it. He was just about to let the other operator have it when I spoke up. I got to sit right up front next to the driver with a spectacular view. 

It’s hard to describe how excited I was to be sitting up there, GoPro clutched in one hand while my point and shoot camera sat on my lap. I figured the point and shoot wouldn’t get much – not through windows/spray and while moving. But I had high hopes for the GoPro to record a lot of the fun about to take place!

While I had anticipated the fun of watching the water, I hadn’t counted on the pilot giving us all a good amount of information about the river and its current, high water flow. Steps would need to be taken if the water flow got much higher. A few times, he slowed the boat so that we could take pictures of the rapids and a goat hanging out high on the eastern cliffs. 

I took a lot of video, but I haven’t gone through and made anything of it yet. It’s on the list! The trip itself took about 30 minutes, and by the time we reached the dock, I realized I had made a mistake. While the sun hadn’t been out when we left, it snuck over the canyon wall soon after we left, and while it wasn’t shining directly at me, it was shining directly at the water. My face felt hot, and I was pretty sure I’d gotten a bit of sunburn. 

From the dock, one guy volunteered to drive his truck down so that we could all get our gear driven up instead of carrying it up ourselves. The distance between the dock and our car wasn’t that great, but a great deal of it was uphill. We had a choice of the steep road or a staircase. The gear went into the back of the truck and we hiked ourselves up. Ambrose and I both changed into car clothes, and said our goodbyes. Then we climbed into the car, and I drove us, along with the woman we’d given a ride to on the way out, all the way home to Boise. 

I think that Ambrose and I may go on other Idaho Trails Association trips together. We both appreciate Idaho’s trails and like to contribute to their upkeep. But we will never again be relying on meals provided by other people. We need to eat a specific way to stay healthy, and that’s that.

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