Boise Peak

Looking down Hulls Gulch to Boise and the Treasure Valley

We have only been back from our trip to Peru for a few days but Sandy already had to leave again today. She was flying to the midwest to spend a few days in Madison with her parents. Then she would attend an Engineering Management conference in Chicago - she was presenting a workshop on global development. Then she would spend a few days in Chicago with Shannon. Then she would be heading back home and it would be time to pick up Abby from the breeder. I had to admit that I was glad that it was her taking off again so soon and not me. She is a tougher traveler than I am.

She had an early Sunday morning flight. I dropped her off at the airport at 6:15 am. That gave me an early start to do whatever I wanted to do with the day. The forecast was great - sunny with a high of eighty degrees. I wanted to do a hike. Unfortunately I had gained weight over the winter, but between the long hikes and the high altitude on our Peru trip, I had lost some of it and was feeling strong at the end of the trip. I wanted to keep going and continue to improve my conditioning. I still have almost the whole hiking season left this year. I know, that's backwards. I was supposed to be training so that I could do well on the Peru trek, not using it as a conditioner for hikes for the summer. But I'm weird.

Lower Hulls Gulch was full of Syringa - the state flower

My plan was to park near the end of Eighth Street and hike up Hulls Gulch, then along the Boise Ridge road all the way to the top of Boise Peak. This was an ambitious plan. I have wanted to hike up Boise Ridge from town to reach its summit at Boise Peak (6525 feet) for a long time. Today I would give it a shot.

Years ago I used to hike in Hulls Gulch. There is a nice trail maintained by the BLM. It was a good early season hike, open in the spring long before the high mountains of central Idaho like the Sawtooths and Pioneers were clear of snow. But in 1996 there was a major fire in the Boise foothills. It swept through Hulls Gulch. I remember hiking the trail the spring of the year after the fire. The area was completely destroyed. There was no vegetation. Everything was ash and dead trees. After that hike I had not gone back to Hulls Gulch. Until now.

By dropping Sandy off for her flight I got an early start. I drove to the end of Eighth Street and started up towards Hulls Gulch. As soon as I was out of the housing developments the pavement ended. About a half mile past the end of the pavement there was a parking lot and a trailhead for Lower Hulls Gulch. It looked like a good place to start. I was on the trail a few minutes before 7 am.

Slopes covered in blue Bachelor's Button

I started by taking the trail up Lower Hulls Gulch. Even though it was early there were people on the trail. Most of them were runners. There were also some mountain bikers. I was the only hiker.

It was a very pretty walk. I was surprised at how many flowers there were. So many in fact that my allergies were really giving me a bad time. There was a lot of syringa, the state flower. In much of Lower Hulls Gulch there was so much Bachelor's Button that it turned the slopes blue/purple. Quite an impressive show.

It was a long hike up Hulls Gulch. The morning was cool and part of the time I was in the shade. I was hiking slowly but steadily. None of the stop every ten minutes that we had in Peru. I made steady progress. After about three hours I had hiked through Lower Hulls Gulch and the main part of Hulls Gulch and reached the upper trailhead. I sat down on a rock and took a five minute break, my first, and had some water and a snack.

I was impressed by the change. The last time that I had hiked Hulls Gulch in the late nineties it had been trashed by the fire. Today I had to look really hard to find any evidence of the destruction. The area had completely recovered. Hiking is good in Hulls Gulch again.

Different colors of Bachelor's Button

From this point I was hiking on the road. It was easy enough. The road was wide and well graded. But every ten or fifteen minutes I was passed by a trail bike. Or ATV. Or both. Or several of both. They made a lot of noise. They spewed out exhaust fumes. And they left a choking cloud of dust which hung in the air for several minutes after they passed. I tried to be open minded. I really did. But about half an hour after starting to hike the road I really, really disliked the people who were on their trail bikes and ATV's. I hate to be elitist but I wanted to scream at them to get off their asses and just walk. I have to admit that I don't understand the attraction. Sometimes when I fly I get a nightmare scenario - the kid behind you who spends the entire flight kicking the back of your seat. But it seems that some people go to great effort and expense to ride trail bikes where the entire time they are beaten and slammed by the bike. I don't really see the difference.

I tried to ignore the dust and just kept climbing up the road. The views, when it was clear, were spectacular. Eventually I reached the forest at the top of the ridge. This was a different problem. There was a lot of underbrush. I couldn't see very far. It was not obvious where Boise Peak was. I figured as long as I was heading upward that I was ok.

Stack Rock on a distant ridge from near Boise Peak summit

I continued along through the forest. Eventually the road that I was following ended. The mountain rose above me, but it didn't seem to go very far. I headed off cross country and climbed toward the top. I reached one rocky outcrop but it turned out to be a false summit. I continued upward and reached the highest point in the vicinity. It was a lot like the summit of Grizzly Peak in Oregon - in the forest and no views. Maybe this year is my year for unimpressive summits. I sat down for a longer break. But after a few minutes the bugs started to converge. This was the only time all day that I had any trouble with them. I ended up staying only ten minutes. I noticed that as I looked to the north, there seemed to be a slightly higher rise about a quarter of a mile away. If I was truly diligent I would have headed for it. But I had no desire to bushwack cross country all that way just to stand on a slightly higher spot that had no view. I was content with the point that I had reached. It was a long way and a lot of work to reach it. It would be even more hard work to get back and I wanted to save some energy for the return trip. My GPS hiking app had said that I was 9.5 miles from the trailhead. I had a lot of work to get back to the car!

Blue flax along the trail

It was a long hike back. It took 4.5 hours to hike 9.5 miles to the summit of Boise Peak. It took me 3.5 hours to hike down, a short cut making it only 8.5 miles on the return. But it was a long hike. First the hike through the forest on Boise Ridge. Then down the road to the upper trailhead, getting passed by lots of trail bikes and choking on the dust. Then a hike through Hulls Gulch. Althouh it was a beautiful spring day, I didn't see a single person in the main part of Hulls Gulch. Finally I reached Lower Hulls Gulch. Now there were lots of hikers and mountain bikers again. I was getting pretty tired. But I made it to the car. It was eight hours and twenty minutes from when I had left. Eight hours were hiking. Probably twenty minutes were my rest breaks. I used a GPS app on my phone (MapMyHike) for the first time and it said that I had hiked 18.2 miles and done over 3000 feet of elevation gain. A good days work!