We invite the neighbor girls to join us for a hike atop America’s tallest sand dune. We hope to hit the sweet spot between spring mosquitoes and the summer swelter. Oh, and to avoid wind. Wind is a killer on the dune.
Cow pies dotting Simco Road are the first sign of unusual traffic ahead. Soon we see cowboys on horses flagging traffic while others drive cattle alongside the road.
As we continue past the little cattle drive, one of the three girls in the back plays “The Duck Song” from her phone and I learn a new favorite tune. Somehow I totally missed this when it was new. But now I’m totally in.
The three entertain each other well enough to limit the are-we-there-yets to maybe half-dozen times before we arrive at the small lake across from the mountain of Bruneau sand.
One of my favorite outdoor experiences is finding a place I believe will excite the kids or inspire childlike wonder. It’s a joy to see the girls lit up and energized by what they’re seeing.
We are only a minute from the Jeep and the girls are finding sticks and enclaves with imaginary purposes. It seems like what childhood should be.
It is still early in the year and some low lying parts of the path are under water — just more adventure. It reminds me of a little misadventure I had with Brenna and Hunter out here late one night about five years ago. I’ll have to tell you about that sometime.
A girl with a family coming from the other way has spotted an insect nymph in the shallow water. “I don’t want to leave,” she says. “It’s so cute.” I’m not sure I share her notion of “cute.”
Past the water, the path ends at the sand’s edge and we begin quickly to climb, steeper and steeper. We rise into wind that is steady but only strong enough to lift a thin layer of sand to form a kind of indistinct horizon, a blurry edge.
We know how suddenly kid legs can become “tired” when hiking so we call for them to come “this way” rather than burn energy picking up each stick and looking at each mound on our way up. We’re pretty much ignored, though.
Somehow the girls’ legs grow tired and they decide they’ll crawl the last bit to the top. But when they get too low they’re punished by that thin layer of blowing sand. Keep going, ladies!
Wind across the top is surprisingly strong. The layer of blowing sand is maybe knee-height here. The girls are startled by its prickle on their bare legs.
“Don’t sit!” we caution when Alexa plops down. “It will blow in your face.”
“Can we slide down?” the girls want to know. They’re eager to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
“When we get to the other end,” I answer. I think they’re going to find it more work than fun and need them to keep their motivation for now.
The same force that seems to erode the dune is also the cause of its existence, its creator. Swirling, seemingly random powers combine to form something unexpected, singular and resolute.
Life is often like that, I think.
“Alright,” I announce. “You can try sliding down anywhere you like.” We’ve reached the other end of the dune.
It works about as well as expected.
The girls take an interest in … well, I’m not even sure what. Some sticks? The path is clear so I continue on a while before pausing to make sure they’re coming. After a minute, an older couple comes into view carrying the girls’ jackets and shoes so their hands can be free to hold both ends of a large branch.
“Oh jeez,” I mutter.
I hear something about a “souvenir” while having a chuckle with the couple then give a definite “no” to the girls.
“Find smaller souvenirs,” I suggest.
I steer the girls to pretty pebbles along the lake shore for souvenirs in lieu of the large branch left behind. They seem pleased with the alternative.
“Can we dump out our shoes when we get to the Jeep?” the neighbor girls want to know.
“Yes, for sure,” we answer.
Thanks neighbor parents for trusting your little ladies to us for an afternoon. I think they had a blast. Now we can let you in on the several times our Bruneau Dune trips became misadventures.