Over the last winter, I decided to invite my oldest niece to spend some time camping in Idaho. I wanted to show her what it’s like out here, and to give her an introduction to backpacking as well. Now that I’ve discovered backpacking, I wish that I’d known about it sooner, so I figured it would be good to introduce her to it as a teen. 

My original plan had her flying in and then getting driven out that same day, but her dad preferred that she be on a direct flight, so I changed it to having her come in the day before I had originally planned. For that first night, I booked us a room at a hotel, and another hotel night would come on our last night in town before she flew out in the afternoon. 

So, she flew in on Wednesday night, and I brought her over to the hotel. I had chosen it based on price, and I regretted it once I saw the actual location. I thought it would be run down but nice. It was rundown and not very nice. Survivable, yes, but I decided that night to cancel the second night I’d reserved and rebook in a different hotel, more expensive if necessary, for Sunday night. We went out to get some food and stopped by my apartment afterwards. I did want her to see why we weren’t going to be staying at my place, and I also needed to pick up a loaner shirt for her so she would have a synthetic shirt for the backpacking portion of the trip. Ambrose and I are very serious about safety in the woods, and that means no wearing cotton! 

Neither of us slept very well at the hotel, but we got through the night and got up with enough time to get breakfast at The Griddle before going to Boise State for a college tour. Yes, she’s just a rising freshman, but I think it’s never too early to start seeing yourself at college. I know her dad wants her to go to college, so I thought it would be good for her to take the tour and learn a bit more about what college could be like. Being a fourteen year old, she protested a bit, but went along, which was all I asked. She even seemed to enjoy the tour a bit, especially as it was ending, even though the shoes she wore were getting uncomfortable. I may have undersold the size of the campus to her… 

After that, we had one more task before us. She had flown out with acrylic nails that she’d gotten to celebrate 8th grade graduation, and we needed to get those off before going into the woods. I had to call around to a few places, but I finally found a place with an opening early in the afternoon. We headed over, after a stop at a grocery store for some necessities (like a phone charger). We got lunch at a nearby deli and then got her nails off. 

Then it was time. Into the woods we went. 

I warned her that we’d be running out of cell service at some point, but I wasn’t sure when exactly. It depends a lot on which carrier you have and she’s got a different one than I do. But I knew that it would run out, if not right after Mountain Home, then before Pine and Featherville for sure. Luckily, she did have downloaded music to share, so I got to listen to Hamilton for the first time. I wasn’t sure that I’d enjoy it, because I don’t tend to listen to musicals very much, but I absolutely enjoyed it. It was a lot longer than I expected, and we didn’t even finish by the time we got to the first night’s camp at the Willow Creek Transfer Camp outside of Featherville. 

I chose the route that I did, taking 84 to 20 to the Pine/Featherville Highway, so that she would be gradually eased into the woods. An interstate, then a highway, then a much narrower, but still paved road, then the dirt road. I was a little concerned when we reached the turn off for Willow Creek, because someone had put a sign up about a family reunion and I worried the site would be full or crowded. Then I saw that the main Willow Creek campground, which was not where we planned to stay, was closed for renovations. That might push more people to the transfer camp where I did want to stay. 

But luck was with us; the family reunion looked to have claimed some spots outside of the formal transfer camp, and only one other group was at the transfer camp itself. We claimed a spot and started working on getting the tent and chairs out and ready. She helped unload and with getting the tent up. Then, to take a break, I acceded to her desire to go swimming. There was a nice little bend of Willow Creek that offered safe water, and she changed into sandals and swimsuit. I decided to just use my underwear, because I was pretty sure that we wouldn’t be spending much time in the water. I know Idaho water, and it is freezing cold. It’s full of snowmelt and runs from high elevation mountain springs. But that’s something you’ve got to experience for yourself to truly appreciate, so down to the creek we went. 

The sun was nice and hot, so I wasn’t worried about us getting too cold. I stripped down and used a log to get myself over to the water, immersing my legs, but not going any lower. The chill of the water turned my legs red almost immediately. My niece entered the water and exclaimed at the temperature. We did NOT end up staying in that water for very long. 

After that we finished getting the tent ready by pumping up the air mattress and getting the blankets inside for insulation. I decided to leave the rainfly off for the night so we could see stars through the mesh. I also introduced her to the down blanket that has kept Ambrose and I warm many a night, Stinky. Stinky lives up to its name, but at least the smell is more like dirt than anything disgusting. And it does a great job of supplementing the sleeping quilts and keeping body heat in. And to think, Ambrose wanted to throw it away at one point! 

I made dinner for us, putting too much water in the rice, but it worked out okay. I keep forgetting that Minute Rice has a 1 to 1 ratio of rice to water, so I did 1 cup rice to 2 cups water. But having a bit more water in one’s food is not a bad thing when out in the woods. Staying hydrated is important. 

We watched some download episodes of Unsolved Mysteries during dinner. Once we retreated to the tents, we played some games while waiting for it to get dark outside, since it’s easier for her to sleep when it’s dark. We played some drawing games, singing games, hand clap games and cell phone games (those that didn’t require internet since there was definitely no service where we were staying). I did communicate to Ambrose and to her dad via a satellite communicator, but it was limited to text. 

When it got dark at long last, we talked some, and eventually dropped off to sleep. In the night, both of us took turns stealing Stinky. . . 

Willow Creek Transfer Camp got a new pit toilet, fancy!

What a view from the tent.

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