Wherein we finally demonstrate for Alexis that Boise is French and that not all of my shortcuts are … oh, wait, nevermind.
“This is where everyone looking for it on their GPS will now end up,” I say with a smirk as we pass a subdivision under construction, apparently to have the same name as the historic site we’re heading toward.
Bonneville Point was part of my first conversation with Alexis when we met him at the home of his first host family last summer. His English wasn’t good then and I don’t know if he understood I was promising to eventually take him to a “famous” French site just up the hill.
Almost a year later, we’ve finally crawled up a bumpy Jeep trail that follows the path of the old Oregon Trail from Boise to a site atop an eastern hill where the French Captain Bonneville and his troops are said to have cried “les bois!” (the woods!) at seeing trees for the first time in several days of desert marching. Thus Boise was named.
We were always amused when watching French movies with Alexis at his complaints over inaccurate subtitles. Historic markers are no exception.
“That’s wrong!” he says of the French “voyes” spelled two different ways on two different signs around the site.
There isn’t a lot to see at Bonneville Point and soon we’re back in the Jeep, down the other side of the hill, and zooming along Blacks Creek toward the mountains.
“Those dark spots all over the road aren’t rocks,” I say to the back seat as I check the rearview mirror and slow to a stop so they can see what I’m talking about.
Brenna screeches when she sees the spots are moving, swarming — giant Mormon crickets. It’s the same reaction I remember from her big sister Laura about fifteen years ago along Rocky Canyon Road.¹
“Keep going!” Brenna pleads. We have the doors off and she worries the crickets might jump in. (Scaring your kids is an important right of parenthood.)
“There used to be a bald eagle’s nest down there,” I say pointing down to a stand of trees below where we’ve stopped high above the South Fork of the Boise River. Hunter and I spotted it once.¹ We see no movement this time, though.
Brenna seems to have missed Alexis more than she let on. She has been clinging to him since we picked him up. We’re all sad this will be our last outing with him.
“These smell nicer than our flowers at home,” I say to Jessica. A light breeze swirls a mix of delicate scents around us, some earthy like sage and others sweeter.
We were surprised to hear that Alexis “got in trouble,” as he put it, on his recent photography class trip to the Olympic Peninsula. He finished high school in France last year so it’s irritating to hear he was perhaps treated like a ten-year-old, especially when we know him to be such a sweet guy.
He says “it’s fine” when Jessica promises to unleash her usual motherly wrath but we also notice it’s one of the first things he told us about today — so maybe not perfectly fine.
Every parent knows the bittersweetness of kids getting older. We’re proud to see the personalities they develop and things they accomplish but wistful when we can no longer intervene to prevent hardship or unfairness.
“I think they’re trying to move it,” I say of a boat we’ve slowed down to watch. It’s spinning circles in the water next to a logjam, making as much wake as it can, but the logs aren’t moving, not even a little. It reminds me of a few yard projects.
The route we’re driving today is a kind of standard motorcycle loop that always has the Y-Stop in Prairie, Idaho as its rest stop apex.
The front of the Y-Stop is a small store and the back, past the coolers, is an even smaller restaurant area. We aren’t here more than once-a-year but we know the drill.
“Is anyone cooking?” I ask the grey-haired man behind the counter. It’s sort of like the Idaho Hotel in Silver City. Or the Sourdough Lodge near Lowman. Or the J&E up north in Clarkia. Just because the door is open and there’s a restaurant doesn’t mean someone is around to cook for you.
A smile forms on his deeply lined face as he answers, “oh yeah … me!”
That’s the usual answer, if memory serves.
Unlike months past, Alexis needs no help with the menu — double jalapeño bacon burger, no holds barred. He even foregoes the use of fork and knife, making me wonder if France will accept him back.
Brenna spreads her usual cadre of “friends” across the table, each imbued with her own abundant personality.
We are making good time so after lunch I opt to find a Jeep trail I noticed on the map that should connect Strawberry Loop Road to a campsite I once stopped at near the northwestern Lava Mountain trailhead. I think it will be a fun detour.
“Those hurt my hands sometimes,” Jessica explains of her reluctance to hop out and open the stretch wire gate ahead. Ever since she volunteered to open a bunch of them once,¹ I like to imply it’s her duty.
The dirt tracks along the foot of Lava Mountain don’t disappoint. We breathe in the smell of pine as we pass through the dappled shade of tall evergreens.
“I think we’re almost there,” I say with a nod at some outcrops. “Those rocks look familiar.” Increasing aspens and skunk grass are also like the campsite I remember.
A minute later, the road disappears at a wall of brush. Sporadic ATV tracks continue but even they had to push through brush. We scout ahead on foot to see if breaking a few branches might get us through. Not this time.
We retreat to the main dirt road to follow Long Gulch over to the Middle Fork of the Boise River. It’s a beautiful drive even with a bit of backtrack.
It isn’t nearly as bad as being a follower in a motorcycle or ATV group ride but the Jeep without the top and doors can get a bit dusty. We have a nice patina when we pull into Willow Creek Campground to cool off along the river.
High spring flows have left nice sandbars on all the rivers.
It feels nice to wade into the water and wash off the layer of dust. At least for some of us.
We bid adieu to the neat little campground by the water and continue alongside the river-cum-reservoir. It’s a busy place today.
I could repeat my peeve about inexperienced backroad drivers — I’m glad they keep to speeds that are safe for them but it would be great if they also followed the tacit rule to pull aside when someone comes upon you, instead of blithely dusting them out for miles — but of course I won’t do that.
starPhoto by Alexis
The record winter snow we got to experience with Alexis turned into record spring flows and dams reaching their limits. It has been about ten years since Arrowrock Dam had to open its spillway. I’ve never seen it.
Once home, I fire up the air compressor to blow dust out of the Jeep. With no doors or top, it’s pretty straightforward. I send clouds billowing towards the neighbors’ houses.
“Are you coming out back?” Brenna asks (impatiently it seems) when finally I finish and am inside to set a few things down and grab a drink.
“I’ve been cleaning the Jeep,” I snap at her. “I just finished. Give me a minute.”
When I step out back I see why Brenna was excited for me to get there. I feel bad for snapping at her.
Jessica, Kayla and Nick got me a sweet yard throne they’ve set up beside the pond with beer in a frozen mug and my tablet on a small table. It’s like a recliner with a built-in shade umbrella. It’s pretty awesome. It will be a nice place to work (I work from home).
I sit in my new throne and watch a soccer game unfold. Europe (Nick from Poland, Alexis from France) versus America, girls versus boys, it’s the same match-up either way. America doesn’t do well.
“Next year I’ll need a sceptre,” I suggest to whoever will listen, feeling ebullient from a day made delightful by family and adventure.