Hunter and I trailer to the Eighth Street trailhead then ride the rest of the way to the ridge and Eagleson for his first overnight trip off the motorcycle. We see a skink, sit around a fire, sleep and ride home through some difficult mental terrain.
I have observed before that rural riding is joyful to the extent it reels me back from any regrets (the past) or anxiety (the future) into the sights, sounds and smells of the present moment. Sun, wind, flowers and trees surround a focus on balance and speed.
As I rode with Hunter, whose attention is inherently fixed on the moment, I realized that ride enjoyment sometimes requires a second perspective: being able to laugh right now at the funny story these present difficulties will create.
“I want to camp” Hunter kept saying when I’d asked what kind of ride he’d like to do next. He has only ridden a few times and is not street legal so I’d gone myself the week before¹ to scout nearby overnight options.
To get past the street legal thing, we trailered to the Eighth Street trailhead² where my little car would spend the night. We stopped at Albertsons on the way for essential camp items: marshmallows, hot dogs and a couple boutique, blue cream sodas, highly recommended by Hunter, that we drank on the bumpy drive up.
Going up Trail Four¹ during last week’s reconnaissance mission reminded me that its climbs are likely more than Hunter is ready to tackle. So instead of going that way, he took the lead up the Eighth Street Extension dirt road until, after some miles, I realized I needed to take the lead to show him how to stay right. Crazy kid!
After reaching the ridge we stopped at the top of the Humpty trail so I could ask Hunter if he’d like to go down it or stick to the road.
“Stay on this one,” he answered, pointing at the road.
I wanted to take the trail so I confirmed, “stay on the road?”
It was a good choice. He ended up loving the bumps and turns on Eagleson.
After I setup the tent on a knoll some ways off Eagleson I suggested to Hunter, “why don’t you collect some wood and I’ll dig out a fire pit.” We set upon our separate tasks until a pile of branches lay next to a ring of granite stones lifted from locations all around, to the chagrin (excitement?) of many ants.
Lifting up one stone near a large boulder I was surprised to see a bright blue snake. I’d never seen such a thing. “Hunter, come look at this,” I called. “There’s a blue snake under this rock!”
I lifted the rock a second time and Hunter caught a glimpse before it disappeared into the brush — a slithering flash of brilliant blue.
Searching later I discovered we’d seen not a snake but a skink. “Western Skinks are unique among Idaho lizards in that they are covered with smooth, cycloid scales. These scales give Western Skinks a very glossy appearance. Western Skinks have a somewhat long, slim body and a tail that may be a bright blue color.”²
They aren’t rare but it was like nothing we’d seen before. Fun.
Once we were setup for a fire I handed Hunter my six inch camp knife. “Use this,” I said. I figured he would be glad for the job of carving roasting sticks. At home he has limited access to sharp things but out here we’re men.
“We need to wait until we have some nice coals,” I reminded Hunter again. He was ready to cook our bratwursts in open flame.
The paper dry wood was soon reduced to glowing embers. We pushed plump brats onto the finger thick skewers Hunter had fashioned and began the process of contortions meant to maximize cooking heat while minimizing face heat.
The sky opposite the setting sun, spread wide before our campsite, blushed pink as we sat by the fire eating our well earned dinner.
After dinner, Hunter was eager to pursue that art which remains elusive for our kids: toasting a marshmallow without burning it.
While he worked on those, I watched contrails set afire by the setting sun followed by an encore of twinkling stars.
After eating, we sat around the fire and watched the sky for activity — shooting stars, satellites. When I came back from gathering a little more wood, Hunter wanted to make sure I noticed he’d written my name on one of our stones.
“I see the Little Dipper!” he exclaimed after gazing at the sky a while longer.
I looked where he was pointing but couldn’t find it. I was happy to see him excited. “Yeah, that’s cool,” I told him.
In our house, Hunter is the notoriously squirmy sleeper. It turned out my concerns about how we’d do in the two-person tent were unfounded, though. We slept into late morning. I let Hunter get a small fire going to burn trash while I heated water for coffee and oatmeal.
All riders fall into mental quagmires. One or two slip-ups and you might get tense and start second-guessing yourself which only causes more mistakes. Hunter ended up in that quagmire as we headed home from camp. Too hard on the gas then too hard on the brakes put him repeatedly into the dirt. I felt bad for him.
I hoped a Trail Four descent would be fun for him but it didn’t turn out that way. When I saw him increasingly discouraged I tried to bring him around to that future-self perspective — not fun now but we’ll laugh about it later — by talking up a rocky part of the trail called “Devil’s Slide.” I thought he might be excited to do something badass.
It didn’t seem like it worked until I heard from my wife, Jessica, that she’d heard all about Devil’s Slide when the two of them were next together.
Good job Hunter. There can be a lot of joy in the moment but sometimes you have to shift your perspective to see it. That’s riding. That’s life.